There used to be a French school called L’Institut Jeanne d’Arc in Frederiksburg just west of Copenhagen.
On March 21st 1945 the British carried out a bombing raid on the Gestapo headquarters in the commandeered Shell building in Copenhagen, at the request of the Danish resistance. This in spite of the fact that Danish prisoners were held on the top floor as a human shield. One of the planes in the first wave hit a telegraph pole and two 500lb bombs carried by the aircraft were torn off and exploded, killing twelve civilians. It crashed into a garage near the French catholic school in Frederiksburg. The other airplanes in that wave successfully unloaded six bombs into the Shell building, killing 6 of the prisoners. Unfortunately the second and third waves were confused by the smoke and flames resulting from the crashed Mosquito airplane, and thought that was where their target must be. Apart from 3 aircraft, all the Mosquitos dropped their bombs on the French School.
In the school were 529 people. 482 children, 34 catholic nuns, 8 civil teachers and 5 parents or workers. 86 of the children and 16 adults, mostly nuns, were killed, and 67 children and 35 adults were wounded.
The Danish movie currently showing on Netflix, The Bombardment, is about this event. I’ve seen a lot of movies I’ve really enjoyed since I stopped reviewing, but until now had not been moved to recommend any. This one is absolutely worth your time. It isn’t about the pilots, who get about 10 mins of screen time if that, but about some of the civilians we meet prior to the event, who we see coping during it and the aftermath. And mostly, it’s about the kids. Wonderful acting from all involved. Hard not to fall in love with little Eva played by Ella Josphine Lund Nilsson or laugh with Rigmore played by Ester Birch, and feel compassion for Henry (Bertram Bisgaard Enevoldsen) who becomes mute after seeing a distressing event prior to the bombing. The adults are not too shabby either, with a sterling cast showing us distinctive characters that have an emotional impact as you follow their lives.
Of course it’s impossible to ignore the parallels to what’s happening to Ukraine, nothing really changes in our human endeavours to kill each other and the planet we live on.
If you have a lily on your liver or your heart is inclined to faint this is probably not the movie for you and Netflix still have several cheesy romcoms for your amusement, none of which I’ve seen. But for those of you made of stern stuff this is a must-see. Also FYI the version on Netflix is not dubbed, there are subtitles, but the trailer on Youtube is dubbed.
Yes I know it’s Tuesday, but a title is a title whatever the day.
This will be the last review for this year, as life has got a bit too busy and the 365 takes priority until the end of this year at least. But we’ll go out with a bang of sorts.
This week on Sunday, sees the 20th anniversary of 9/11, and there have been many, many documentaries about it and a fair few movies as well. This week we have been watching a six part series on National Geographic, entitled 9/11- One Day in America. Directed by Daniel Bogado a British Paraguayan documentary maker in association with the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. You would think with all the previous documentaries there would be nothing different to show or say about it all, but you would be quite wrong. Bogado and his team have eschewed using any narration, reconstruction or visualisation, the whole thing is archive footage, more than I’d ever seen before, including building 7, the Marriot hotel, the Pentagon, and new interviews with survivors and relatives or friends of those who died on the day.
Bogado in an interview with Nat.Geo. – ” “I watched as many documentaries as I could to see what was already out there. I didn’t see the point of just doing something that had already been done. But I didn’t see anything that was like what we were doing. What we were doing was a series, which gave it a much wider canvas. What it allowed us to do was to play the archive long. We didn’t want to do illustration – we wanted to do immersive.”
I can’t recommend this highly enough. Yes it’s sometimes harrowing, and brought me nearly to tears, but also it’s uplifting in the stories told by those on the ground, the quiet heroes and the survivors. I also recommend reading the interview with Bogado HERE.
Phil has the DVD of the Oliver Stone Movie World Trade Center, (2006) starring Nicholas Cage and Michael Pena as Sgt John McLoughlin and Officer Will Jimeno respectively. They are both real people, Port Authority Policemen who were trapped under lots of heavy rubble after jumping into an elevator shaft in the concourse between the towers, when the North Tower collapsed. Also Officer Dominick Pezzulo (Jay Hernandez) is trapped with them and tries to free Jimeno as his legs are being crushed by a concrete block, but when Building 7 collapses is killed by falling debris.
The movie tells the story of their rescue by two marines, David Karnes (Michael Shannon) and Jason Thomas (William Mapother) and a paramedic Chuck Sereika (Frank Whaley) and NYPD ESU rescueman Scott Strauss (Stephen Dorff). The movie also covers the effect on their families, Maria Bello as Sgt McLoughlin’s wife Donna, and Maggie Gyllenhaal as Jimeno’s wife Allison. The actors put their hearts into it and you can’t ask for more than that in a ‘real life’ movie.
Jimeno was rescued first, having been trapped for 13hrs, and McLoughlin who was even more severeley injured after 22 hours, they were the 18th and 19th people to be pulled out alive. They both had many surgeries and McLoughlin in particular was put into a coma for 6 weeks and ended up having 27 operations. They are both retired, and received the Police Medal of Honour. There’s a lovely scene at the end of the movie where they give a Bar-B-Q for all the people who helped them, and the real guys are attendees in the scene.
Of course it’s an Oliver Stone Movie so there’s always controversy, with people accusing him of pursuing a conspiracy theory, but he didn’t, there’s no sign of anything political, it’s a straightforward story of what happened to these guys. The Marines were both played by white actors when in fact Jason Thomas is black, and Stone’s excuse for that was that they hadn’t realised he was black and had already started filming so carried on with Mapother. McLoughlin, Jimeno and their wives were heavily involved in the making of the movie, with Donna saying “We got involved because we felt it needed to be done accurately. We wanted to do the right thing and I think the filmmakers wanted to do the right thing too.” Officer Pezzulo’s wife Jeanette was not happy about the movie, nor was she happy with McLoughlin and Jimeno, which is a shame, I think they did a great job. The movie does not show that the 2 marines and the paramedic were the only ones trying to rescue the chaps for a full 20 minutes before the ESU men showed up and they were not involved in the making of the movie, so felt a bit shortchanged, but I get why Stone condensed it and I did feel their heroism was catered for.
The documentary has an episode covering the rescue, and Jimeno, Sereika and Thomas all give their accounts, and we were surprised how well Stone did keep to the facts. Also the amazing scenes of the destruction in the movie look just as real as the footage of the time. All in all a Top Notch endeavour by everyone involved.
I would think that most of my regular readers can pinpoint where they were on that morning, I was scrubbed up assisting in a TKR (Total Knee Replacement) operation in Theatre 4 St.Albans City Hospital when someone came in and told us what had happened, we got through the op and then hightailed it to the coffee room to watch events as they unfolded, all of us in shock at the magnitude of it all. And although it was America, and in particular New York which took the hit, the ramifiactions were worldwide, and everything changed that day.
What struck me most watching the documentary and the movie, was the incredible kindness of strangers during those first hours, I don’t know if they were democrats or republicans, but they were black, and white, and asian, mexican, all nationalities young, and old. Helping each other to escape, survive. And the first responders, the firemen, ambulancemen, medics, the police working their butts off to try and help people, save people, dig through dangerous rubble, all the while hugely traumatised by the event, by the loss of their comrades, The amazing heroic actions of those men, told by the people they saved with teary eyes but steady voices and so much gratitude. Bogado has done an exceptional job of showing the humanity that came out of the tragedy.
Nearly 3,000 people died that day, 90 countries lost citizens in the attacks, and more after because of breathing in the toxic powdered concrete, and severe injuries were sustained by many people. The ripples outwards are uncountable.
20 years, and now this is just a history lesson to a generation who were not born when this happened, though it doesn’t feel like that to me. And I wonder if something like this happens now, in this era of hatred for people from other lands, other beliefs, other political ideologies, where it’s every man for himself and ‘sod you Jack, I’m alright’, if the selflessness and sublime humanity that 9/11 engendered, is also consigned to the past.
Monday Movie reports is produced by Fragglerocking Inc, and may or may not be back at some point. Or something else will turn up in it’s place, who knows? Not me at least.
We’ve gone a bit retro this week, digging back into our DVD’s and Blurays, so there’s a chance these will be familiar to you dear reader. First up is Phil’s choice….
Directed by the much revered Paul Verhoeven, it’s set in a dystopian future Detroit, on the brink of financial and social collapse. Due to these circumstances and the resulting rise in crime, the police force has been handed over to a private mega-corporation, Omni Consumer Products (OCP). The movie starts out in the OCP boardroom, where the vice-president Dick Jones (Ronny Cox) is demonstrating a large robot, the ED-209 a law enforcement droid, which is supposed to replace policemen. It malfunctions and exterminates a board member quite spectacularly. This allows an ambitious junior executive, Bob Morton (Miguel Ferrer) to push his own idea of Robocop to the Chairman – known as The Old Man (Daniel O’Herlihy), by-passing Dick Jones, who is none too pleased about that. Pretty sure everyone knows the story of how Sgt Murphy (Peter Weller) was horribly killed, converted into a programmed cyborg, and then regained his humanity whilst chasing down the bad guys. Edward Neumeier the writer, wanted to satirise the business culture of the 80’s, noting the aggressive American response to Japanese influences, and that a 17th century Japanese book – The Book of Five Rings- on effective killing was a big hit in Wall Street. The idea of Robocop came to him while he was learning film techniques on the set of Blade Runner, and his inspiration from mature comic books gave the story it’s platform.
The ED-209 made me laugh, especially when it fell over and squealed like a girl. Obviously a stop-motion model when it moved, it was the tech they had back then, and model makers are still making scale models of it in Model shows today, so it’s well loved. Weller got the part over other actors considered (Arnie and Rutger, Tom Berenger) as he was a smaller chap, had martial art skills and actually wanted the part to work with Verhoeven. He was the best choice in the end. The gory violence is so over the top it becomes funny, as it was intended to be by Neumeier and Verhoeven, but we never lose sight of the journey Murphy-Robocop-Murphy is on, and the scene where he visits the home he used to share with his wife and son, who have left, and remembers happy times, is so poignant.
Phil Rating:- a classic movie, an original story, there was nothing like it at the time. Great special effects and an exceptional robot in ED209. Top notch!
Fraggle Rating:- It was nearly as much fun watching Phil watch this than seeing it myself.
Directed by Ron Howard, Backdraft tells the story of a Chicago fire department who are putting out the fires of a serial arsonist and focuses on two brothers, Lieutenant Stephen “Bull” McCaffrey (Kurt Russell) and Probationary Firefighter Brian McCaffrey (William Baldwin) and also Inspector Donald “Shadow” Rimgale, (Robert DeNiro) who is an arson investigator trying to track down the arsonist. The brothers are estranged, and there’s a fair bit of sibling rivallry going on, with both wanting to honour their Dad Captain Dennis McCaffrey (also Kurt, briefly) who died in a fire when they were little boys. Bull is separated from his wife Helen (Rebecca de Mornay) and Brian is picking up again with an ex girlfriend Jennifer Vaitkus, (Jennifer Jason Leigh) who also works for Alderman Marty Swayzak, (J.T.Walsh) who has supported fire department budget cuts for nefarious purposes. Scott Glenn plays the part of Senior Firefighter John “Axe” Adcox, who worked with the brother’s Dad, and is like an uncle to the brothers. Donald Sutherland has a small but effective part as Ronald Bartel, an imprisoned arsonist who set the fire that killed Dad McCaffrey. That’s it for spoilers just in case anyone hasn’t seen it!
Fraggle Rating:- I loved this movie back in the day, I have a thing for fires and explosions and this was full of them. The sound they give to the flames is amazing. The main actors went to Chicago’s fire training school to learn firefighting for real so they did look the part, but fire fighting professionals did note that how the fires depicted in the movie are not true to life as mostly you can’t see for smoke. But that’s fine by me, who wants to sit through 1 & 1/2 hours of watching smoke? The story is just another take on needy social services being cut by government departments resulting in a more dangerous and less effective service which then engenders an over the top revenge response, so nothing new there, but kudos though as they didn’t give it a Hollywood Happy Ending. The fires were brilliantly done, amazing! Did I say that already? 😊
Robocop 2 1990
The Magnificent Seven. 1960
No need for plot I think, we’ll go straight to the rating!
1960! I saw this as a kid, and remember it so well! Which is bonkers as I have a really bad memory for movies, it’s why I can rewatch them and not realise I’ve already seen them. Regular readers will know I had to see this again after watching the (inferior) Magnificent Seven 2017 I did last time out. (review Here). It was a complete joy to see it again. All my ‘heart-throbs’ from back then in one place, Yul Bryner with that walk he did, Steve McQueen with those eyes, Charles Bronson with those lips, and James Coburn with that cool dude attitude. Sigh. Anyway, it’s held up well considering it’s 60 years old. Of course you couldn’t get away with any of it these days, ‘white saviours’, diminished lady rôles, and diversity issues such as a Mexican – Chico- played by the German Horst Bucholz, and a Mexican old man played by Russian Valadimir Sokoloff (great name) but back then they could and they did. Eli Wallach (another diversity issue) as the baddie bandido ripping off the fruits of the mexican villagers labours with his bunch of swarthy ne’er do wells. The script is hokey, the actors in lesser parts over doing it (as did ol’Horst), but seeing Bryner, McQueen, Coburn and Bronson doing their cool cowboy thing again, well, it was magnificent! 😊
Mission Impossible III(2006) and Mission Impossible Fallout (2018)
We are currently doing (and re-doing some of) the Mission Impossible Movies, somewhat out of order but other than a few follow ons you can guess at, it doesn’t really matter in which order you watch them. I’m not going to do plots as I’m reasonably certain everyone knows from the TV series let alone the movie franchise, that Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt, and his bunch of merry men and ladies form the IMF (Impossible Mission Force, and not the International Monetary Fund) are duty bound to save the world by wearing latex masks and doing death defying physical feats. We have only these two on DVD and BluRay, and whilst Fallout is superior in terms of film & sound quality and a more cohesive directing style (Christopher McQuarrie for Fallout and J.J.Abrams for III) the action is terrific in both movies. What is more interesting, at least to me, is that in watching ‘the making of’ special features on both of these, all the CGI we thought had been done, actually wasn’t, and whatever you think of Cruise’s acting abilities, his committment to keeping it real is 100%. There are reoccurring characters throughout the series, Simon Pegg as Benji Dunn starts out in III,as does Michelle Monoghan as Julia Meade-Hunt, Ethan’s wife and ex-wife to be) Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa Faust an ex MI6 operative who started her run in Rogue Nation which we’ve yet to see. Special mention goes to Ving Rhames as Luther Stickell who has been in all the MI movies to date. If you like action movies the MI series should be up there near the top of your list purely for the amount of innovation and skill the crew and cast go through in order to bring the quite gob smacking set pieces to your screens. When Tom Cruise is dangling from a helicopter at a great height, he actually is. These movies are all the better for not using green screens, and nice that people still want to make actual movies and not rely on a computer program for the good bits.
Fraggle Rating : Top Notch action entertainment.
Once Upon A Time in Hollywood (2019)
I’ve seen all of Mr.Tarantino’s movies, with the exception of Django, and for me this is his finest and most nuanced piece of work. Set in Hollywood and L.A in 1969, it concerns a fading character actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double and best pal Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) as they navigate a changing film industry. At this point in time The Manson Family were living in an old movie lot called Spahn Ranch, and though the murder by them of Sharon Tate et all is not a thing in this movie, the fact that we meet Manson briefly, and his followers, puts that thought in the back of your head. I hadn’t read any reviews or spoilers before seeing this movie (though not sure how that happened!) so I’m not going to do too much of what happens as it was much the better for not knowing. Tarantino has beautifully recreated Hollywood in the late 60’s, the cars, the clothes, the scenery, all lovingly filmed, it is a feast of memorabilia for the eyes. A cornucopia of excellent actors have cameo’s, Michael Madsden, Kurt Russell, Zoë Bell being frequent collaborators on Tarantino movies, and Damien Lewis, Dakota Fanning, Al Pacino, have small parts which they nail. Tarantino has Rick Dalton living next door to Sharon Tate (a luminous Margot Robbie) and Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha) although Polanski is a bit part and her pal Jay Sebring (Emile Hersch) stays with her whilst Polanski is off directing a movie somewhere in Europe. Tarantino takes his time with his main characters, Dalton, Booth and Tate, and the actors give him great performances, with Pitt winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting actor, well deserved it was too. Special mention must go to Brandy the dog and really there shoud be an Academy Award section for mutts in movies, Brandy would be well up in the running! There are a lot of laughs along the way throughout the movie, and yes there is some Tarantinoesque violence but only at the end of the movie, and it’s a cathartic kind of violence that makes the world the movie is set in, a better place than it actually was.
Fraggle Rating: I can’t recommend it highly enough.
The Magnificent Seven (2017)
If you are a film maker or a knowledgeable movie buff, you can call yourself a cineaste apparently, a term I learnt reading proper eminent movie critic’s blogs/reviews. I would imagine most cineastes would tell you the movie Seven Samurai (1954) directed by Akira Kurosawa, is on or near the top of their all time best movie lists, and didn’t or doesn’t need a remake. Luckily I’m not a cineaste just an enthusiastic punter, so I’ve not seen that epic movie, or laud it beyond any other. Also luckily John Sturges decided to take Seven Samurai and turn it into an epic Western, starring Yul Bryner, Steve McQueen, James Coburn, Robert Vaughan, Charles Bronson et al. Now THAT was a western that didn’t need remaking, and I will be re-watching it shortly, but today we have a remake of the remake directed by Antoin Fuqua, who was inspired by Shinobu Hashimoto’s writing- a frequent collaborator with Kurosawa. Denzil Washington has been in a couple of Fuqua movies, ‘Training Day’ and ‘The Equaliser’ remake, and takes the Yul Bryner type part in this version of the seven. I do like Washington in most things, and he does a steady job here. Chris Pratt was chosen for the Steve McQueen type character when Fuqua offered him the part he sang ‘Oh Shenandoah’ to the director who exclaimed ‘He’s it, he IS Steve McQueen’. Well that’s patently not the case as Mr. McQueen is pushing up daisies. He’s not in Steve McQueen’s league here, or anywhere else I suspect but he does a competant job and is the main ‘light relief’. Ethan Hawke takes a similar part to Robert Vaughan and he’s the standout for me in this movie. Fuqua was very politically correct by hiring a diverse cast, substituting the original Hilario (Jorge Martinez de Hoyos) with a young widow played with gusto by Haley Bennett. James Coburn’s part is taken by Byung-Hu Lee and Manuel Garcia-Rulfo takes over the Brad Dexter part. The only actor I did think a bit strange was Peter Sarsgaard in the baddie rôle, he looked like he was high on some nefarious substance with rolling eyes all over the shop. The plot is very similar of course, but somehow the warmth and pathos of the original is lacking. The action sequences are well done, and no-one phones it in in the acting department, but there’s nothing new or innovative here and it just seems a bit pointless.
Fraggle Rating : a serviceable western, especially if you haven’t seen the original, but found I was haunted by the ghosts of Bryner, McQueen et al throughout, and that’s the one to go for.
Chernobyl 1986 (2021)
A while back we watched the excellent HBO 5 hour mini-series Chernobyl (2019) starring Jared Harris, covering the nuclear plant disaster and the political idiocy and tragic ramifications that followed. It covered the fallout of the events and the stories of its real heroes and victims in as faithful, informative and confrontational detail as the drama allowed. In answer to that the Russians have made their own movie about it, which has just turned up on Netflix and is a bit of a mixed bag really. The director Danila Kozlovskiy also is the main star, the fictional Alexy, who is a firefighter and has worked at the reactor. The movie starts out with him re uniting with an ex-girlfriend, Olga (Oksana Akinshina) and discovering he has a 10 year old son. Alexy comes across as a bit of a dick in truth, but very quickly we get into the explosion and Alexy becomes a bit of a reluctant hero. Somehow he manages to be at the scene of the reactor burn-out, then at the hospital, then in the evacuation of the nearby towns, then in the strategy meetings, and finally in the dramatic dive into the radioactive waters of the reactor to save the day. A fair amount of dramatic licence is used here, and the scale of the deaths, diseases and ruined towns which are to this day still radioactive to a dangerous degree, is barely touched upon. Surprisingly a few of the characters do blame the bureaucrats for the cutting of corners which compromised safety, but mostly the focus is on the heroics of the firefighters and Alexey himself. The movie does have it’s saving graces though, with Oksana Akinshina acting her socks off, and the scenes taking place in the reactor site are quite amazing, the soundtrack in particular is almost a character itself as you hear the groans and clangs of the collapsing structures and the wierd sounds that a nuclear fire makes.
Fraggle Rating: worth a watch for the Russian take on this and the brilliantly filmed radioactive underwater scenes and firefighting scenes. On Netflix where you can choose a horribly dubbed verson, or have it in Russian with subtitles, which is much better.
Here we go again wiith a swift appraisal of our latest batch of movies over the past couple of weeks.
Captive State (2019)
A Sci Fi movie directed by Rupert Wyatt and starrting John Goodman, Ashton Sanders and Vera Farmiga. The movie is set in 2027 in Chicago, which, like the rest of the world, is under the control of aliens who landed in 2019 and subjugated all humans. Well most humans because there is the resistance of course. The aliens are known as the Legislators and they conscript people to build underground bases for the aliens, that can only be accessed by government officials. John Goodman is Special Branch Commander William Mulligan tasked with finding the resistance, known as Phoenix, and Ashton Sanders is Gabriel Drummond, the young son of Mulligan’s deceased partner, and the brother of Rafe Drummond (Johnathon Majors) a member of Phoenix. Vera Farmiga plays Jane Doe, a prostitute running a brothel who has bugged her appartment in order to glean secrets from her governmental clients. No spoilers, but obviously it’s about taking the world back from the aliens.
Fraggle rating: well, it was OK though we were disappointed the aliens didn’t appear very often. It’s filmed to look dark and murky and really it wasn’t as exciting as you’d want a sci fi to be, but I can’t find fault with the committment of the actors. They haven’t re-invented the wheel here, but if you fancy riding the bicycle of alien invasion & resistance, there are worse choices you could make.
The Outpost (2020)
A war movie directed by Rod Lurie and based on the 2012 non-fiction book The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor by Jake Tapper. Starring Scott Eastwood, Caleb Landry Jones, Milo Gibson, Orlando Bloom amongst others, it recounts the Battle of Kamdesh in the constantly at war Afghanistan. In 2006, Combat Posting Keating was one of several US Army outposts established in Northern Afghanistan. Located in a remote valley surrounded by the Hindu Kush mountains, the base was regarded as a deathtrap; the troops stationed there faced regular attacks by the Taliban culminating in one of the bloodiest American engagements in Operation Enduring Freedom. The film tells the story of the 53 U.S. soldiers and 2 Latvian military advisors who battled some 400 enemy insurgents at the Battle of Kamdesh. Eastwood plays Staff Sergeant Clint Romesha a real person who was in the battle and wrote a book about it, and Landry Jones plays Specialist Ty Michael Carter also there at the time- he also has a cameo in the movie.
Fraggle Rating. An excellent recount of the battle, with all involved giving of their best. I felt old seeing Clint Eastwood and Mel Gibson’s sons in starring roles, both look and sound like Dad and though neither is quite as handsome, the acting chops are apparent . This is a Rorkes Drift situation for the Americans, and Lurie has been very careful to represent the situation faithfully, the film was praised by veterans, including those who fought in the battle, for its realistic depiction of warfare, everyday soldier life, and the looks of the base. The Battle of Khamdesh left 27 Americans wounded and 8 dead, and Romesha and Carter each received the Medal of Honour, members of what became the most decorated unit of the war. All good!
Wag The Dog (1997)
I chose this movie as it was mentioned in glowing terms by Eddie or Alex, can’t remember which. It’s a political satire black comedy, directed by Barry Levinson and stars Dustin Hoffman, Robert De Niro, and Ann Heche. The plot centres on a spin doctor Conrad Brean (De Niro) brought in by presidential aide Winnifred Aimes (Heche) to sort out a scandal with the US President as he’s been caught in flagrante delecto so to speak, in a cupboard with an underage girl and it’s two weeks before his next election is due. Brean decides the best thing to have to distract the American public from the scandal is a war. He meets with a hollywood producer Stanley Motts (Hoffman) to create the fictional war which is to be set in Albania, and this includes a theme song (enter Willie Nelson) and fake footage of an escaping orphan refugee (Kirsten Dunst). Dennis Leary is in as the ‘Fad King’ (wasn’t sure what he was doing for the movie and he talked at 90miles an hour so didn’t get much of whatever he said either), Woody Harrelson as a criminally insane Army convict, William H Macy as a CIA agent, and a few other famous faces pop up here and there. I won’t do spoilers but I will leave a link to Eddie’s review as he liked it more than we did.
Fraggle Rating. A clever movie still relevant in the fake news world we now live in, and as it coincided with the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky affair was often compared with all the shenanigans around that. Although we appreciated the cleverness we found the acting too cartoonish, Hoffman in particular seemed to be hamming it up, although he was nominated for an Oscar so what do I know? Heche seemed a bit OTT and De Niro more or less phoned it in. For a more in depth and worthy review visit Eddie here, https://film-authority.com/2021/06/09/wag-the-dog/ .
Sexy Beast (2000)
Jonathan Glazer could not have picked a better movie for his debut directing gig if he tried. A crime film starring Ray Winstone, Ben Kingsley and Ian McShane. Winstone plays retired criminal Gary ‘Gal’ Dove living high on the hog in a Spanish Villa with his wife Deedee (Amanda Redman). His best friend Aitch, and Aitch’s wife, Jackie live nearby. Not longafter the movie starts Ben Kingsley turns up as Don Logan, an old criminal associate and a complete psycho/sociopath and tells Gal he has to go back to London to do a job for the crime lord Teddy Bass (McShane). Gal tries to decline but things go tits up at the villa and he has to go to London to do the job. That’s it for spoilers!
Fraggle Rating. I can’t recommend this film enough, it really is a good watch. We’ve seen Winstone many times as a London gangster/criminal but this is his piece de resistance in our view. Kingsley knocks it out of the park in a part you would not expect from the esteemed luvvy, and the interaction between these two is electric. No idea why it’s called Sexy Beast, there’s no sex in it and no beast. There’s not much violence in it, but what there is is quite visceral, but also cathartic :).
That’s it for now, will be back in a couple of weeks with some more (hopefully) good movies!
My first on the list is The Evacuation (2015) also known as Come What May and En mai, fais ce qu’il te plaît; a French war movie. In May 1940 the Germans invade Belgium and France. In the village of Lebucquière, the prefecture recommends that the whole village packs up and leaves to avoid being overrun by the Germans, and head for the south coast. Paul, (Olivier Gourmet) the headman of the village is in charge and leads the group, and tries to maintain order, whilst his wife Mado (Mathilde Seigner) plays music and tries to entertain the group of villagers. Prior to them leaving a German anti-nazi activist Hans (August Diehl) finds short-lived sanctuary in the village with his young son Max (Joshio Marlan). But Hans gets arrested when the kid accidentally speaks in German and someone reports them. Max is taken under the wing of Suzanne,(Alice Issaz) a young teacher, and she scouts the route the villagers are taking. Hans escapes accompanied by a Scottish officer, Percy, (Matthew Rhys) whose entire unit died under German bullets, and tries to be reunited with his son.
The actors do a great job, there’s lovely cinematography by Pierre Cottereau, and a great score by Ennio Morricone. Directed by Christian Cabon who loosely based it on his mother’s evacuation experiences. Yes there’s CGI planes & battles, some eye-popping plot co-incidences and some soapy dialogue here and there, but there’s also a duck, and a big feel good factor ending.
Fraggle rating: Well I enjoyed it immensley, it has to be said it’s not as harrowing as perhaps it should have been based on the reality of the displacement of 8 million French people, and as one critic put it –If you ever wanted to see a wartime movie that feels directed by a kinder, gentler Michael Bay “Come What May” is right up your alley. It plays like a more cultured—and very French—version of “Pearl Harbour”. But I’m OK with that! It’s on Amazon prime under The Evacuation title.
Our next movie is Hunter Killer (2018) directed by Donovan Marsh and starring Gerard Butler, Gary Oldman and Common (real name Lonnie Rashid Lynn), and the late Micheal Nyqvist in one of his final rôles. This is an action thriller involving American and Russian submarines, and has a dastardly Russian Admiral doing a Coup d’etat and capturing the Russian President and trying to start a war by torpedoing one of his own subs as well as an American one, the USS Tampa. Navy Seals under the command of Lieutenant Bill Beaman (Toby Stephens) are given the task of rescuing the Russian president whilst Commander Joe Glass,(Butler) commanding officer of USS Arkansas investigates the Tampa incident. Nyqvist plays Captain 2nd Rank Sergei Andropov, commanding officer of the damaged RFS Konek, Gary Oldman plays the warmongering Admiral Charles Donnegan, Common is in charge of the naval command centre as Rear Admiral John Fisk, and Linda Cardellini is Jayne Norquist an NSA security analyst.
Fraggle rating:- Butler and Oldman, both have made some great movies, and both some duds, and this one falls in between. Nothing new in this plot really, it’s a serviceable addition to the genre, but as I found it whilst looking for Hunt For Red October, I’d advise you to watch that one instead. Again on Amazon Prime.
Next up we have Liam Neeson in Honest Thief (2020). Directed by Mark Williams, Neeson plays Tom Dolan, an ex-marine who has been robbing banks without getting caught for 9 years but turns over a new leaf when he meets and falls in love with Annie Wilkins,(Kate Walsh) a psychology graduate student working at a storage unit facility. He wants to give himself up to the FBI, pay the money back, do a short jail sentence and then get on with his life. Enter two corrupt FBI agents Agent John Nivens (Jai Courtney) and his partner Agent Ramon Hall ( Anthony Ramos), who for want of a better phrase f**k him over with the money and hurt his lady. Robert Patrick and Jeffrey Donovan play good FBI Agents Sam Baker and Sean Meyers respectively. No spoilers but I bet you can guess the rest of what happens.
Fraggle Rating :- It’s nothing new really for Neeson who is making a mint out of playing old tough-guy goody/baddie ex marines finding and killing people etc, but he gives a committed performance, as do the others, and at just 90 minutes you could do a lot worse. Amazon prime.
Onwards ever onwards then. Page Eight (2011). A British thriller for a change, and done in a very British manner, which is to say, no action, we’re talking cerebral thrills here. Produced for the currently beleaguered BBC, and was written and directed by David Hare with an excellent cast in tow. Bill Nighy, the quintessential Englishman plays long serving MI5 officer Johnny Worricker caught up in a tangled thread of misinformation and lies induced by the British Prime Minister, Alec Beasley (Ralph Fiennes). Michael Gambon plays Johnny’s Director General who is also his good friend Benedict Baron, whilst Rachel Weiss does a good job of being Syrian activist Nancy Pierpan The cast are impeccable with Marthe Kellar, Holly Aird, Saskia Reeves and Judy Davies all bringing their A game. No spoilers at all for this, you need to go in cold.
Fraggle Rating:- This is a little gem of a political intrigue movie that you need to keep your wits about you to follow but is worth the time. Billy Nighy is just superb, the plot believable and the ending doesn’t disappoint. This one is on Netflix.
Last but not least we have The Man in the Hat (2020). Another British Film, ostensibly a ‘comedy’ but really it’s more ‘light-hearted’ than outright funny, it made me smile a few times but I also was WTH? a few times too. It stars Ciarán Hinds in the titular rôle, and is set in the beautiful South of France. It is the directorial debut of composer Stephen Warbeck and has a kind of plot, though ‘plot’ may be too strong a word. It starts out with The Man (Hinds) driving through the French countryside in a Fiat 500 (old style) with a photo of a woman in the passenger seat. Whilst having dinner al fresco one evening he sees 5 men get out of a Citroën CV and throw what looks like a wrapped up body into the harbour opposite. They see him looking and start walking towards him so he scarpers, and the rest of the movie is about his journey. Kind of like a road trip/chase movie through France, but a very slow one. There is very little dialogue, and what there is is French with subtitles and a lot of what happens doesn’t make much sense, but I think that’s kind of the point. Stephen Dillane plays The Damp Man, Sasha Hailes is The Woman, and there’s a few cameo’s dotted about of people I don’t recognise.
This is what Warbeck says about it “The Man in the Hat represents an everyday man character who reflects that we all experience lives full of peculiarities and unexplained encounters. But as the film progresses, this sense of unfamiliarity evaporates and becomes a ray of positive light. “He is a very solitary character,” Mr Warbeck explains. “During the film we know something tragic or sad is happening in his life but little by little with contact he is warming up and rediscovers warmth in relationships with other humans.”In a way, The Man in the Hat is like a little island who reaches out and starts to contact other people.” And Ciarán Hinds I think sums it up best : “This won’t take too much of your time. And you don’t need to be blown out of your seats; you can just be a human being and watch this little journey and feel things. It has its own heartbeat, unlike anything else”
Fraggle Rating:- I enjoyed the scenery and for me the car was the star. I didn’t mind the whimsical nature of it all and just enjoyed the scenery and music and acting, but Phil would have preferred a proper plot I think as he kept saying he had no idea what was going on. Back to Prime for this one.
Thought I’d do a little catch up as I’ve been busy with the 365 over on the Universe Blog and I just know y’all are missing my Movie Monday reviews. We are still watching movies, so I’m going to do quick dash through what I thought about them.
Dead Presidents 1995 and Phil’s choice as he had it on DVD and I hadn’t seen it. Starring Larenz Tate, Keith David, Chris Tucker, Freddy Rodrigues, N’Bushe Wright and Bokeem Woodbine. It’s based partly on the real-life experiences of Haywood T. Kirkland (aka Ari S. Merretazon), whose true story was detailed in the book Bloods: An Oral History of the Vietnam War by Black Veterans by Wallace Terry, it chronicles the life of Anthony Curtis (Tate) and covers him from high school to the vietnam war and then home again to where he and his pals rob a bank. A well made film focussing on the experences of black veterans, well acted and paced, co-written, produced, and directed by Allan and Albert Hughes with skill and obvious passion. I imagine Spike Lee watched this and made notes for his Da 5 Bloods movie. I enjoyed this one much more. Fraggle Rating: underated and well worth seeing.
The Mule 2018. Clint Eastwood produces and directs from a script by Nick Schenk. Also based on the true story of a New York times article by Sam Dolnick “The Sinaloa Cartel’s 90-Year-Old Drug Mule” about a WW2 veteran called Leo Sharp who became a drug courier for the cartel in his 80’s. Well this was fun, Clint has still got it and commands the screen even though he’s in his dotage now. Not sure how but he looks good even with that many wrinkles. Anyway it’s his movie though he’s ably assisted by Bradly Cooper on his tail as Colin Bates a D.E.A agent, Michael Pêna as Bates sidekick Trevino, Dianne Wiest as Clint’s estranged wife and a fairly small part for Lawrence Fishburn as Bates’s supervisor. Fraggle rating: Top Notch, especially for Eastwood fans.
The Alamo 2004. I’m sure someone out there will say this isn’t as good as the original Alamo movie made in 1960 starring John Wayne as Davy Crockett (perleeze 🙄🥴 blerk, I do NOT like John Wayne one bit) but Phil wanted the 2004 version as he really liked it so that’s what we did. No need to explain the plot I think, but just in case. In the 1830’s Texas had a revolution, small groups of Texians (that’s what they were called back then) gathered at a little town on the Mexican border called San Antonio where the Alamo compound is, and the Mexican army under the President Santa Anna came and killed them all. Dennis Quade plays Sam Houston, Billy Bob Thornton ~ Davy Crockett, Jason Patrick ~Jim Bowie and Patrick Wilson as William B Travis. I enjoyed this, the characters are well drawn and acted, and John Lee Hancock directs with a steady hand, giving the main characters room to breath. It’s a good history lesson too as we are ‘doing’ American History documentaries at the minute and it all ties in. Fraggle Rating: Good +++
Aquaman 2018. A D.C superhero movie that I hadn’t got round to. Well I have now and it wasn’t totally great, however it does have good points. Firstly it is stunningly beautiful to look at. The CGI under sea world building is easily as good as Avatar which sprang to mind straight away. Jason Momoa who plays him is well, how to put it, built like a brick s**t house as my Mum used to say, has a twinkle in his eye and gave a committed performance, as did Amber Heard as Princess Mera of Atlantis who wants to stop her brother King Orm (Patrick Wilson again) from going to war with humans and needs Aquaman (named Arthur Curry of all things) to step up, return to Atlantis and save the world. William Dafoe is phoning in a performance as the Vizier of Atlantis, and Nicole Kidman looks entirely out of place as a renegade queen who escapes atlantis, washes up at a lighthouse where the keeper Thomas Curry (Temuera Morrison) rescues her, falls in love with her, impregnates her and then shortly after has to be a single parent after Atlantian soldiers come to take her back to marry whoever she ran away from. Also Dolph Lundgren is in the mix as an ally King to King Orm. There’s plot holes, a daft script and some dodgy dialogue, BUT this is one of D.C’s more light hearted movies after the darkness of Batman et al, and it was a blast from start to brilliant finish. Fraggle Rating: A mixed bag but well worth seeing.
That’s it for movies!
As most of you who follow this blog also follow the Universe blog, you already know I’m doing a 365 weekly post over there, but other life still goes on of course, and I take photo’s of that along the way. Last Sunday was Mother’s Day here, and Phil’s lovely daughter popped over with an afternoon tea for Phil and I to enjoy for the day. So nice of her to do this.
We still have Sophie’s cats! It’s been over 3 months now and Sophie isn’t back until at least the end of May/beginning of June so we have a ways to go yet. They are a pain in the arse and a total joy depending on what mood they are in, and I can’t resist taking pictures of them.
I’ve been enjoying having a few non rainy days and getting out to take photo’s for the 365, and also found other things along the way.
I found these fragments on the coast. I think it’s a letter of heartbreak, or castigation, I can’t make it all out, but it’s on a broken plate or something. Strange.
The hedgehogs have woken up and are visiting every night now, but we’ve also had a little one that visits during the day, so managed to get a couple of shots.
Hedgehogs are not usually out during the day, and this one is quite small, but she appears to be well, eating, drinking and running about well, so we are not too worried.
And finally, Spring is happening, at last, and soon the Happy Eater tree will do it’s glorious display, I can’t wait for warmer times!
Having come across Kate Hudson in last week’s Deepwater Horizon Phil’s retro movie this week is Almost Famous (2000) A semi-autobigraphical movie written and directed by Crowe, who based it on his experiences as a teenage writer for Rolling Stone magazine. It starred Hudson, Billy Crudup, Frances McDormand and Patrick Fujit.
It’s 1969 and Fujit plays child prodigy William Miller, a misfit at school, and with a bonkers mother (McDormand) a professor who has led Billy to believe he’s 12 yrs old when he’s actually 11. She has banned rock music and pop culture in the house believing it has a negative effect on children, and her high handedness leads Billy’s sister Anita (Zooey Deschanel) to leave home and become an air stewardess. She leaves Billy her collection of rock music albums.
On to 1973 and influenced by the music Anita left him, 15yr old Billy aspires to be a rock-music journalist and writes papers for underground magazines. He is offered $35 by rock journalist Lester Bangs (Philip Seymour Hoffman) to review a Black Sabbath Concert, and from this point on Billy ends up writing for Rolling Stone (who don’t know how old he is).
Based on Crowes experiences on tour with Led Zeppelin, Poco, The Eagles, Lynrd Skynrd, The Allman Brothers etc where he lost his virginity, fell in love, and met his musical hero’s, Billy’s journey takes him on tour with a band called Stillwater, and the accompanying ‘band aids’, a euphemism for groupies, led by Penny Lane, (Hudson) and incorporating Anna Paquin as Polexia Aphrodisia (based on real life Penny Lane Trumball and her group of female promoters who called themselves the “Flying Garter Girls Group”).
We’ve seen this movie a few times now, and it never gets old or disappoints. There’s actually very little rock music in it, as it’s all about the characters. The tensions in the band between the lead guitarist Russell Hammond (Billy Crudup) and the lead singer, Jeff Bebe (Jason Lee), the relationships between Penny and Russell, Penny and Billy, Billy and Russell.. It’s expansive, it’s funny, it’s sad, it’s hopeful and it’s one of our favourite movies ever.
This will appeal to you if you were into music as a teenager, especially in the 70’s, and a true fan of any band, if you are nostalgic for going to gigs, reading the music press, sticking posters of your favourite band/singer on the wall, if you’re a parent of a teenager, if you were in a band in your younger years. Hudson is smart and sexy in Penny’s skin, Fujit is spot on as a clever but awkward teenager, finding his way through the highs and lows of being on the road. Crudup embodies the part of a rock god sometimes on, sometimes off the rails. Frances McDormand was great as the overbearing mother untying her apron strings, a small part she doesn’t over-egg. Seymour Hoffman also has a small but impactful part as the jaded rock musician.
Fraggle Rating: A complete joy of a movie, bloody brilliant.
This is the last Monday Movie post for the forseeable future, I have a few things going on I need to give more time to, so this is one of the things that has to give way for now. I hope those of you who read some of my posts went on to see and enjoy some of the movies I wrote about, or at least enjoyed reading about them.
Phil’s choice this week is another based-on-a-true-story movie, this time an oil rig disaster, Deepwater Horizon (2016). Directed by Peter Berg, it’s produced and stars Mark Wahlberg and also Kurt Russell, John Malkovich, Gina Rodrigues and Kate Hudson.
The Deepwater Horizon event happened in 2010 as the rig is getting ready to drill off the Louisiana coast. When Chief Electronics Technician Michael “Mike” Williams (Wahlberg) and Offshore Installation Manager James “Mr. Jimmy” Harrell (Russell) land on the rig after 3 weeks shore leave, they find out, and are not happy about workers assigned to test the integrity of recently completed cement work being sent home before they carried out a cement integrity test, on the orders of BP rig supervisors Donald Vidrine (Malkovich) and Robert Kaluza (Brad Leland). They’re trying to save money and the drilling start is already 43 days overdue. Jimmy rips Vidrine a new one, and demands integrity tests to be carried out before he’ll allow the drilling to go ahead. What he doesn’t know is that the cement is breaking up, and the integrity pressure tests makes matters worse. Eventually, the whole lot fails and sets a chain of events in motion that leads to the rig blowing up spectacularly, and the sad loss of 11 of the crew on the rig.
This was a really well done movie. It could have been exploitative but Berg’s direction is spot on, showing the panic and gruesome ordeals the crew have to go through as well as picking out the heroism and sacrifice of some of them. Wahlberg has come in for a fair bit of criticism in his career but he plays this straight and does a cracking job. The script gives him and his colleagues working men’s banter and it all feels really natural. Kate Hudson as Mike’s wife Felicia has a smaller part, a fair bit of it Skyping on the computer screen Mike has in his workroom, but is integral to giving the audience an emotional attachment. They wise~crack and tease each other mercilessly but the love shines through. Kurt Russell is as cool as always, and does the steely eyed bossman Mr.Jimmy proud. There’s an amazing scene when he’s blown out of the shower and flung around his quarters when the blowout happens, and the make-up department must’ve had a field day with his face to show his injuries. Malkovich as the snidey cost cutting Vidrine makes you want to punch his lights out, but he does have a strange accent I couldn’t place. The camera work was stupendous and cinematographer Enrique Chediak pulled out all the stops to film all the chain reaction pieces and then the final explosions.
The blowout and subsequent explosions are crafted well with no obvious CGI though there must have been some. I do know they made a ginormous set 85% scale recreation of the rig inside a giant two-and-a-half million gallon water tank to make it feel realistic. Of course they did Hollywood it up a bit, in the movie Mike rescues Andrea Fleytas (Rodrigues) the rig’s Dynamic Position Operator, and they jump off the top of the rig into the sea to escape the burning deck (upon which no boy stood 🤪🥴) when in real life just Mike jumped, Andrea had fallen out of a descending life raft into the sea. But Mike Williams was a big part of getting the movie done right and on the set as a consultant. Whatever liberties they did take, the survivors and families were happy with the result, and Berg emphasised that he was focussing on the men who were just doing their jobs. The bad decisions made by the BP men are not glossed over, and at the end of the movie we are informed that Vidrine and Kaluza were the only two people prosecuted for their actions and were charged with eleven cases of manslaughter. In reading newspaper articles about movie versus reality, the movie makes a good guys bad guys situation between Transocean – the company that lease the rig to BP, and BP itself, but in real life there were faults on both sides, it wasn’t so black and white. You also see clips of the testimony of the real Mike Williams and at the very end a notice saying “the blowout lasted for 87 days, spilling an estimated 210 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. It was the worst oil disaster in U.S. history.” I think at the time more was made of the dreadful oil pollution and loss of fishermens livelihoods etc than the actual people who were on the rig, and this film redresses the balance a bit and gives testament to the heroics of the men who saved their fellow workers.
Fraggle Rating: A must see.
Our second movie is also based on a true story, and is Netflix’s The Dig (2021). Directed by Simon Stone, it tells the story of the 1939 excavation of buriel mounds at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk, and the incredible anglo-saxon treasure trove of grave goods, as well as a buried ship. It is an amazing story and as a Time Team addict I’d been looking forward to this, though did wonder if it would be boring for Phil.
The wonderful Carey Mulligan plays Edith Pretty, a widowed landowner in Suffolk who hires Basil Brown Ralph Fiennes, to excavate some hilly mounds on her land. Basil takes the job after a bit of salary wrangling. He accidentally gets buried in one whilst digging when a trench collapses on him, and is dug out by Edith and her servants and survives. He starts another mound and finds iron rivets from a ship, which means the site would have been for someone of great importance, your average Joe doesn’t get a ship’s buriel on land! In the meantime, whilst Basil is getting his rivet checked out, Edith is off to London for a hospital appointment, and it turns out her heart is severely damaged from having rheumatic fever as a child, and she’s not long for this world. She keeps it quiet, but looks progressively ill throughout the movie. A prominent local archaeologist James Reid Moir (Paul Ready) wants to get in on the dig and Edith sends him packing, but when news of the discovery gets out, Charles Philips, (Ken Stott) a Cambridge archeologist turns up and requisitions the dig by order of the Office of Works as the dig is now of National Importance. Philips brings in a team including Peggy Piggot (Lily James) who in spite of being taken on because she is small and light, finds the first anglo-saxon treasures, and Basil finds a Roman gold coin. Philips wants to send the treasure to the British Museum, but in effect Edith owns it all, and she decides to keep it safe at her home, bearing in mind the war is just beginning, and London is likely to be bombed. In the end she does decide to gift it to the museum with the provisor that Basil gets the credit for the find.
That’s about all you need to know plot wise. It sounds dull but it really wasn’t at all, Phil thought it was brilliant so that’s my yardstick. The beauty of this movie is the how Stone moves the story forwards at a gentle pace yet keeps your attention. Mulligan and Fiennes give their characters a connection, a love of place, the past and the future and a mutual respect. A tiny hint of a romance that could have been if circumstances were different, and passes. Basil’s wife May is his stalwart supporter and though a small part Monica Dolan makes a good impact on the movie. Basil is gruff, taciturn and proud, but suffused with the need to dig into the earth and find the past, Edith is sharp, intelligent and had been thwarted from attending University by her father, and Mulligan shows her deteriorating health with dignity. Edith has a son Robert (Archie Barnes) who’s a sparky little lad who takes a shine to Basil which is reciprocated. There’s a side romance that didn’t really need to happen, Peggy and Edith’s cousin Rory Lomax (Johnny Flynn) have a one night stand as Peggy’s husband Stuart (Ben Chapman) is having what I assume is a bromance with one of the other diggers, but it doesn’t last long as Rory has to join the RAF the next morning. It didn’t happen in real life at all. But that’s my only gripe really, it’s beautifully filmed, and England looks gorgeous through Mike Ely’s cinematography. Lovely soundtrack by Stefan Gregory that underpins but never overwhelms the movie.
I did wonder why they never show the amazing treasures found in the grave, only a glimpse here and there. But the more I thought about it this movie wasn’t about the treasure, it was about the people who made it happen and their desire for history and knowledge.
Fraggle Rating: Bloody Brilliant.
Further reading: I’ve followed a Professor of Archaeology’s blog for a long time, Professor Howard has a brilliant blog and often relates TV programmes such as Walking Dead, The Last Kingdom, Vikings and others to mortuary practices in real life archaeology. He wrote about this movie here, and did a much more indepth review of it with a lot of thought provoking comment. Worth a read if you’re a nerd like me. 🙂
If you’d like to see the actual treasures they found, the National Geographic has some good photo’s and a brilliant one of the ship, HERE.
Our second movie this week I chose from the Netflix library after reading a review over at Keith’s movie blog. Skyfire (2019) is China’s first big-budget disaster film. Written by Wei Bu and Sidney King it is directed by Simon West who gained his action chops directing Con Air. The Expendables, The Mechanic etc, and put them to great effect for this movie.
The plot is basic, Jack Harris (Jason Isaacs) has built the first phase of his theme park & hotel complex on a volcanic Island. As you do. The Volcano does what volcanos do, and the movie is all about how the characters survive (or not) when it blows. There are some quaintly acted relationships going on, Li Xiao Meng (Hannah Quinliven) is a volcanic expert working on a way to predict lava flows, who is estranged from her Dad, another volcano scientist Wentao Li (Wang Xueqi) but must come together to save the people on the Island. Shawn Do and Amber Kuo playing an engaged couple who help Meng and Li, they have a lovely underwater scene, fully clothed of course! The movie is mostly Chinese spoken, with subtitles, and the script is a bit hokey at times, or at least the translation is. The CGI is phenomenal, if you want to know how a volcano blows and how lava reacts then this is the movie for you, they did a great job of making it look real. The characters have an old fashioned feel to them, respect for your elders, chasteness before marriage, politeness to all and the like, but it was charming and quite refreshing. Even Isaac’s character, ostensibly the ‘baddy’ for building there in the first place and then ignoring the warning signs pointed out to him, turns out to have redeeming qualities in the end. Sometimes cliched, only a little bit derivative, this is a thoroughly enjoyable movie and family friendly, a bit like Jurassic Park but with a volcano instead of dinosaurs. Apparently it’s to part of a trilogy if it does well, and I hope it does as I’d like to see where they go with this next.
Fraggle Rating: High Octane Entertainment for all.
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.
Our first movie this week is Phil’s choice. The Angel (2018) an Israeli/American spy thriller. Directed by Ariel Vroman. It’s based on a non-fiction book telling the true story of Israeli spy Ashraf Marwan, an Egyptian Official of very high rank.
The background to the movie, is the 6 day war of 1967 when Israel conquered large areas of land including the previously Egyptian land of the Sinai dessert.
Our movie starts in 1973, when we see Ashraf (Marwan Kenzari) fly into Rome airport with suitcases that can’t be searched as he has diplomatic immunity. Outside the airport. he meets a couple of Arab terrorists and delivers to them the suitcases and we see they contain a couple of RPG’s. We leave that scene just as the terrorists are about to fire the rockets at a commercial airliner leaving for Israel. We then go back to 1970 when Ashraf is living and studying at a university in London. He is married to Mona (Maisa Abd Elhadi), the daughter of President Nasser (Waleed F. Zuaiter) , (who doesn’t like Ashraf one bit) and they have a son. At a family dinner Ashraf and Nasser disagree on how to proceed with the Israeli conflict, with Ashraf advocating diplomacy with the help of America as peace-brokers, and Nasser believing that would upset the Russians who support them. Ashraf overhears Nasser telling Mona she should divorce her husband. He is angry and humiliated and it gets worse when he finds out that Nasser, who pays for the couple to live in London, is having him followed when photo’s of him on a night out drinking and dancing with an actress, Diana Ellis (Hannah Ware) are sent to Mona. In a fit of pique he decides to telephone the Israeli embassy and give information to the ambassador, Michael Comey, but whoever answers the phone won’t put him through unless he gives his name. He reluctantly does so, but then still is given the bums rush, so he hangs up. Ashraf and his family are recalled to Cairo when Nasser dies, and Anwar Sadat (Sasson Gabai) becomes president. Ashraf works his way up the political ladder to become his right hand man.
The Israelis have not forgotten about him though, and back in London reach out to him. He’s given a Mossad handler, Alex (Toby Kebbell) and that’s where I’ll stop for spoiler sakes. The rest of the movie is about his relationship with Mossad, and the informations that he gives to them regarding Egypts plans to reclaim the Sinai.
This was a fascinating movie. Very well done, very well acted by all concerned, and they didn’t mess about with history, though the double-agent part is unsubstantiated. Not shown in the movie, the real Ashraf died in a fall from his 5th floor appartment in London, and was at least the third Egyptian living in London to die under similar circumstances, all of whom had ties with the Egyptian security services. He is the only man to be recognized as a national hero in both Israel and Egypt.
Fraggle rating: Very good and fascinating spy thriller based on real events.
My choice this week has been brought about by our recent spate of lady action heroines. In ‘Ava’ a couple of weeks ago we saw Geena Davis as the Mother of Jessica Chastain’s Ava, and was reminded of a greatly enjoyable movie she starred in back in the day, ‘The Long Kiss Goodnight’ (1996). Released 25 years ago and also starring Samuel L Jackson it was directed by Renny Harlin who knew a thing or two about action having done Die hard 2 in 1990 and Cliffhanger in ’93. The plot revolves around Davis’ character Samantha Caine, who suffers from amnesia having been washed ashore 2 months pregnant 8 years prior. She has a chap and a little girl and is a schoolteacher in a small town. Although she’s paid P.I’s to try and find her old self, nothing has turned up so far, and she’s now down to the cheapest one she can afford Mitch Hennesy (SLJ). Then she is spotted on TV as part of a Christmas parade, and recognised by some bad guys, at the same time as Hennesy’s assistant comes up with some information that can help find out who Samantha Caine really is. Hennesy and the bad guys turn up to Sam’s house at the same time and off we go with lots of action and derring-do. No spoilers for this one, in spite of it’s age it’s much more fun to go in blind. This is a cracking action movie, and has held up as well as if not better than some of todays offerings. They didn’t have as much CGI back then so a lot of the explosions and stunts are done for real. The cast obviously had a blast making it, with Brian Cox, Patrick Malahide, David Morse and Craig Bierko having substantial parts, but are they good guys or are they bad guys? Mostly though it’s Davis and Jackson who you keep your eyes on. There’s a great chemistry between them and the dialogue is snappy, cool and funny. The 2nd half movie is set in Niagara Falls so some pretty cool scenes of them along the way. All in all a good way to spend a couple of hours. Don’t just take my word though, SLJ has stated that The Long Kiss Goodnight is his favorite movie to watch which he has been in!