Monday Movies ~ 1st Feb 2021 (1)

Our first offering this week comes from Phil, who wanted to re-visit Hacksaw Ridge (2016). It’s a biographical war movie and tells the true story of Desmond Doss, an American 7th day adventist who signs up to join the US Army and ends up being the first conscientious objector to be awarded the Medal of Honour for deeds above and beyond the call of duty as a medic during the Battle of Okinawa.

The plot starts out showing the family circumstances of the Doss family. We briefly go back in time to 1925 in Virginia where they live, and Desmond (Andrew Garfield) nearly kills his younger brother during a rough play fight. His Mom Bertha (Rachel Griffiths) is supportive and loving, but his father Tom (Hugo Weaving) rules with a whip, and is suffering from PTSD from the 1st WW as he lost all his pals he went to war with. 15 years later and Desmond takes an injured man to hospital where he meets his future wife, Dorothy (Teresa Palmer), a nurse, and he becomes interested in medical matters. They get engaged to be married just before he signs up for the army after the attack on Pearl Harbour to serve as an army medic. He arrives in Fort Jackson to undergo basic training, and at first all goes well as he excels physically, but then it comes to weapon training and he refuses to have anything to do with a gun, and also refuses to train on Saturdays as that’s his religious thing to do. Sergeant Howell (Vince Vaughan) Doss’s platoon commander, and Captain Glover (Sam Worthington) try to have him discharged for psychiatric reasons but after seeing a shrink it’s determined that his religious beliefs don’t amount to a mental illness. Doss carries on with his training but has become a pariah to the rest of the trainees. Howell and Glover give him onerous extra duties and the trainees beat him up badly one night trying to get him to leave of his own accord, but he refuses to name his attackers and carries on regardless.

At the end of basic training the platoon are given leave, and Des is supposed to be going home to marry Dorothy, but instead he is arrested for insubordination for not doing the weapons training and put in a cell. Glover and Howell try and convince him to plead guilty so he can leave the army without charge, but he refuses to compromise his beliefs. During the subsequent court marshall, his Dad bursts in with a letter to the court from a Brigadier General who was Dad’s commanding officer in WW1. The letter informs the court that Desmonds pacifism is defended by the US constitution, so the charges are dropped, Desmond and Dorothy get married, then he’s shipped off to the Pacific theatre with the 77th Infantry Division. His unit ends up on the Maeda Escarpment otherwise known as Hacksaw Ridge, where, during the initial fighting, he saves the life of one of the guys he trained with, Smitty (Luke Bracier). The next morning the Japanese launch a huge counter-attack and the Americans have to fall back. Smitty is killed and many of the platoon are injured on the battlefield including Sergeant Howell. The rest of them make it down the cliffs but Desmond stays behind and rescues the injured giys one at a time, lowering them down by rope and praying to save ‘just one more’ each time he returns to find another injured soldier. All in all he rescues 75 men. The unit below are amazed at how many are being sent down. The next day Desmond rescues Howell and they both escape from the Ridge. Captain Glover apologises to Desmond for thinking him a coward, and tells him that the men won’t go back up there unless Desmond goes with them, of course he agrees, but not until he’s finished his Sabbath prayers. With reinforcements they return to the ridge and they push the Japanese back. Some of them pretend to surrender but it’s an ambush and Desmond deflects grenades away from Glover but is hit by shrapnel himself, and then lowered back to base. At the end the movie shows photo’s of Desmond receiving the Medal of Honour from President Truman.

This was an amazing movie and I didn’t mention at the start that this was directed by Mel Gibson. What a tour de force by him. He used minimal visual effects preferring to keep things as real as possible. Andrew Garfield (arguably the worst spiderman ever) put his heart and soul into this and wonderfully conveyed the essence of Desmond. There’s an interview with Desmond on the bluray extras and he seemed such a lovely guy, but we already know that from watching Garfield’s performance. Teresa Palmer is becoming one of my favourite actresses, recently saw her in Cut Bank and Message from the King and she always aces the part, here she is feisty, sweet and luminous. Vaughan and Worthington don’t put a foot wrong. I think actors tend to rise to the occasion in true war stories, they certainly did here. Weaving and Griffiths only had small parts, but owned them well.

Fraggle Rating: Bloody Brilliant.

Monday Movies ~ 28/12/2020 (1)

Phil and I don’t do Christmas movies. I made an exception for Kurt Russell last year in The Christmas Chronicles, but did it on my own whilst ironing, and Kurt just about got away with it, but I don’t think Phil would have coped. This year, with it being all Corona-ry and doom and gloom we thought oh what the heck, lets have a bit of fun on Christmas day and do a Christmas movie. Off to Amazon Prime where (sadly) we chose Fatman (2020) written and directed by Eshom and Ian Nelms and starring Mel Gibson as Chris Cringle, aka Santa.

I’m not recommending this movie so there are spoilers, skip it if you intend to watch it.

The movie is billed as a dark comedy action film, and I can’t argue with that, it’s dark in places, funny in places and has a fair amount of action in places, but none of it gels with any coherence.

The plot has Chris Cringle living on a farm in Alaska near a town called North Peak. He runs a Christmas present shop and lives with his wife Ruth (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) and in a large underground workshop a herd of elves work at producing the Christmas presents. Chris’s income is declining due to children becoming more vicious (he comes home after delivering presents with a shotgun wound in his side). The government have an interest share in Chris’s business and 2 of their agents come to visit him with a military guy, Captain Jacobs (Robert Bockstael) in tow. They want Chris to take on a 2 month contract with the military to build parts for their F35 (I think) fighter jets. He’s not happy about it but needs the money so eventually agrees. The army turn up with security perimeters and the like to safe guard the work.

Next up we are looking at the life of young Billy Wenan (Chance Hurstfield) a rotten little rich kid whose father is away with his girlfriend in the Bahamas whilst Billy is at his lavish residence with a poorly Grandmother and a couple of maids. Billy has won his school’s invention competition every year so far, but this year becomes the runner-up to a girl classmate. Billy forges his grandma’s signature onto blank cheques in order to pay Johnathan Miller (Walton Goggins) his personal hit-man who works in a toy store. He pays him to intimidate the girl into telling the school she cheated at making her invention so she has to give her 1st place ribbon back, and Billy then gets the 1st place. Santa (as anyone who listens to Bruce Springsteen will know) knows if you’ve been bad or good so you better be good for goodness sake, and the rules are if a kid is bad he gets a lump of coal instead of a present. Well Billy gets his lump of coal and is not a happy Bunny at all. He gets on the phone to the hitman and contracts him to kill Santa. Miller is quite happy to accept the contract as he was let down by Santa when he was a young boy and wanted his dead parents brought back to life, which Santa couldn’t do.

Miller can’t find out where Santa lives as it’s all kept very secret, but eventually he tracks him down after shooting a few post office workers to get the information. He infiltrates the farm, killing most of the US Army guards and gets into the workshop. One of the elves discovers him and raises the alarm whilst Captain Jacobs evacuates the other elves just before Miller blows up the workshop. By now Santa has got his clothes on (he’d been having a canoodle with the Missis) and comes out to face off against Miller. There’s a shoot out that ends up with Santa and Miller both dead.

Then we go back to Billy, who is just about to poison his Grandma as she’s discovered someone has been taking money from her account and it won’t be long before she finds out it was Billy. But before he can accomplish this, up turns Mr and Mrs Cringle, because, as we all know, Santa is immortal, and therefore wasn’t dead, though looked pretty bad with an eye missing and using crutches. Chris gives Billy a stern talking to and warns him that if he returns to his evil ways, Santa will come back for him.

Chris and Ruth go home and start rebuilding the workshop with renewed enthusiasm. The End.

So Fraggle, & Mr.Fraggle what’s wrong with it?

Firstly. Phil wasn’t keen on the title, Fatman.. not a nice thing to call anyone and doesn’t fill you with festive cheer really, and Mel Gibson might be stocky, but he isn’t really fat, so it doesn’t even make any sense.

Secondly, the Army need a bunch of elves to make some sort of circuit board for the fighter jet? What exactly they were making isn’t really made clear, and it isn’t anything at all to do with magic so really they could have continued to have the circuit boards made by Exception PCB, who currently manufacture them for the USA’s F35’s in Gloucestershire, south west England. However, it is a Chinese owned company so maybe the Americans are pulling out of that- not sure, none of this is explained in the movie.

Thirdly. The army made the elves cut off the bells from their pointy shoes (I gasped in horror at this dear reader!) so as not to set off the army metal detectors, but a lone hitman manages to get in with shed loads of metal weaponry and takes out all the US Army soldiers, of which there are a fair few. Really doesn’t say much about the capabilities of the soldiers. We could not believe they’d be so useless, the metal detector obviously doesn’t work anyway and they didn’t have surveillance cameras or equipment so they could see what was going on and form a defence strategy. Poor show by the U.S.Army.

Fourthly, what is this movie trying to say? That kids aren’t excited by Christmas/Santa anymore so just want to shoot him down all the time? Not in our family that’s for sure. My grandkids were buzzing about it all. That if you can’t find enough work to support yourself best join the army? Not if they’re this useless I think. Be good or you’ll die? Clearly not true, plenty of bad men surviving in the world today.

Fifthly, Billy hasn’t seen his father in months and Dad is spending Christmas with his girfriend in the Bahamas. No mention of a mother so Billy lives with his kindly but wheelchair bound, oxygen snooting grandma. He is in a lush grand house and has servants who he is quite rude to. No parental guidance or chastisement here, no love or family normalcy, the kid is neglected and growing up feral even though he’s in a guilded cage. So Santa scares the bejesus out of him, doesn’t take any of his circumstances into consideration or try to help him become a better person, or at least put things in motion to help him, just threatens him to be good or else. It doesn’t work like that. He should at least get in touch with social services.

Sixthly, if your parents had died when you were a kid, would you really hold a grudge against Santa for 41 years for not resurrecting them for you and become a hitman? or would you have come to terms with it somewhere along the way and done the best you could with your life? No brainer there folks.

Seventhly, only a very brief scene with a couple of reindeer in their stable, and no sleigh being pulled through the sky by Rudolf and his fellow Reindeer!! Sorry but that is just plain wrong. And quite unforgiveable I think.

Can’t complain about the acting, Mel does a good job of being morose and depressed about how life is going, and is a serious badass Santa with guns. Jean-Baptiste is his calm and moderating wife. Goggins (seriously man, couldn’t you have picked a better screen-name??) is on the right side of cold blooded yet demented killer and the elves are super cute. The snowy scenery is nice, and there is a non-destructive instantly forgettable soundtrack. A bit like the movie really.

Fraggle Rating: Blerk. Watch The Christmas Chronicles instead.

Monday Movies ~ 31st August 2020

As we did Robert Bruce last weekend in Outlaw King, Phil was inspired to revisit Braveheart, which he loves, for his retro movie this week.

Braveheart (1995) was co-produced and directed by Mel Gibson, and he stars in the movie as William Wallace, a Scottish knight who became one of the main leaders during the First War of Scottish Independence in the late 13th century.

Spoilers included!

We’re back in Scotland, in 1280, and King Edward I (known as ‘Longshanks’ usually but Eddy 1 on this blog 🙂 ) has invaded Scotland. Willy Wallace is a young lad and his father and brother ride off to fight against the English and get killed, whereafter Willy is adopted by his Uncle Argyle and taken on a pilgramage through Europe where he becomes well educated and multi-lingual. (We don’t go with them.) Eddy 1 is played by Patrick McGoohan and he brings an insidious evil to the character. Uncle Argyle is played by Brian Cox, though is only in the movie for a couple of scenes.

We move on to 1297 and Eddy 1 grants his noblemen land and privileges in Scotland including ‘Prima Nocte’ which means the feudal Lord can have sexual relations with subordinate women, in particular, on their wedding nights. Willy is back in Scotland now, and falls in love with Murron MacClannough, ( Catherine McCormack ) so marries her in secret so she can’t be nabbed under the Prima Nocte thing. Unfortunately she falls foul of English soldiers who try to rape her, and tries again when she escapes the first time. But they catch her, and publicly execute her. This really upsets Willy, and he gets his clan and they slaughter the English garrison in their home town, and send another one in Lanark back to England.

Eddy 1 orders his son Eddy 2- played in wonderfully foppish manner by Peter Hanley – to stop Willy by any means necessary. Meanwhile Willy is on the rampage! With his best pal Hamish (Brendan Gleeson) by his side, Willy rebels against the English, and lots more Scottish guys come and join him. Willy leads his army into battle and wins the Battle of Stirling then gets as far as York where he destroys the city, kills Eddy 1’s nephew and sends him his severed head.

Wallace goes and sees Robert the Bruce (Angus MacFadyun) to enlist his help and he says yes, but Bruce’s Leprosy riddled Dad ( a barely recognisable Ian Holm) wants him to submit to the English as he wants his son to be King of Scotland. Meanwhile Eddy 1 sends Eddy 2’s missis Princess Isabella of France (Sophie Marceau) to negotiate with Willy. Really this is a distraction so another English Invasion force can land in Scotland. Izzy of course becomes enamoured of Willy and ends up sending her maid to him to inform him of the new invasion force. Wallace asks all the lords and Bobby Bruce to come and assist him in fighting them off, and in 1298 Eddy 1 leads the invasion force, and we then get to the Battle of Falkirk. Eddy 1 has bribed a couple of the Scottish lords Mornay and Lochlan , to leave Willy, and then as the Scots lose and the battle is over, Willy finds that Bobby Bruce has been fighting alongside the King! Bobby is unhappy at what he’s done, and tells his Dad he’ll never fight on the wrong side again.

Willy gets his revenge on Mornay and Lochlan and they die rather badly. Willy then commences a guerilla war, aided by Izzy with whomst he has an affair . In 1305 Bobby arranges a get together with Willy in Edinburgh, but unbeknownst to Bobby, his Dad has arranged the capture of Willy, and he’s hauled off to London. Bobby disowns his Dad, and Isabella whispers in the ear of the dying Eddy 1 that she’s pregnant by Willy, and his bloodline will be wiped out.

Poor Willy is brought before magistrates, refuses to submit to the king, and ends up being hung drawn and quartered. It’s a harrowing end for him.

Finally, in 1314 Bobby now the King of Scotland, and his army are at Bannockburn, in front of a ceremonial line of English troops, where they are supposed to be accepting formally, English rule. But instead, Bobby turns round, invokes Willy’s name, and leads his men to victory and freedom from English rule. (That didn’t last, sadly, and they are still stuck with us, but they keep trying to get away, so maybe one day!)

So that’s the story. Of course it’s not totally historically correct, and why would it be? It’s based on a poem “The Actes and Deidis of the Illustre and Vallyeant Campioun Schir William Wallace” by a 15th century Scottish poet ‘Blind Harry’, and the script writer Randall Wallace (no relation!) used it to write the story. Isabella in real life was only 3 when the Battle of Falkirk happened and hadn’t met Willy let alone had a canoodle. Randall Wallace in defending his script has said, “Is Blind Harry true? I don’t know. I know that it spoke to my heart and that’s what matters to me, that it spoke to my heart.” So history doesn’t much matter when that happens I guess 🙂 . And really it didn’t, this movie won a shed load of Oscars, Mel won for Best Picture, Best Director, Randall Wallace best screenplay, John Toll for best cinematography – it was a glorious looking movie, and the landscape of Scotland looked fab, the mud and the dirt was real. And the music was quite hauntingly beautiful, even if you don’t like the movie, the soundtrack is worth getting on CD, (oops no-one does that now, I mean stream it or whatever!) composed and conducted by James Horner, with the London Symphony Orchestra.

Critic responses mostly good :- Rotten Tomatoes, “Distractingly violent and historically dodgy, Mel Gibson’s Braveheart justifies its epic length by delivering enough sweeping action, drama, and romance to match its ambition.”

Chicago Tribune’s Gene Siskel – “in addition to staging battle scenes well, Gibson also manages to recreate the filth and mood of 700 years ago.

I’d agree with both.