Tuesday, April 25, 2017

2016 Movies from Worst to Best



It always seems like there are not very many war movies coming out these days, but when I looked back at 2016, it turns out there were more than twenty that were released. In fact, most of them I had not even heard of until I started this project. I saw #10, 9, 8, 3, 2, and 1 in theaters when they came out. Granted, most of them did not make it to theaters, but that is still an acceptable amount of war movies. It’s just a shame that more of them were not good and only one of them was very good.

18. Dad's Army - “Dad’s Army” is a sequel to the beloved Britcom. In this extended episode, a comely German spy masquerading as a journalist (Catherine Zeta-Jones for God knows what reason) is determined to ferret out the location of a D-Day preparation site. This could change the outcome of the war. All she has to do to ensure that Germany wins the war is to dupe the Home Guard of Walmington-on-Sea. She does this by flirting with the two leaders of our bumbling crew of geezers and geezer-brains. Comedy hijinks ensue and guffaws result if you are a septuagenarian who refuses to admit the original series was not all that funny and thinks a remake was an excellent idea. Sorry, elderly Brits, this movie is a steaming pile of crumpets. F-

17. U,S.S. Indianapolis: Men of Courage- If you watch a movie starring both Nick Cage and Tom Sizemore, you are an “Audience of Courage”. This “based on a true story” flick attempts to do justice to the men of the ill-fated USS Indianapolis. As anyone who has seen “Jaws” knows, the Indy was sunk by a Japanese sub after delivering the atomic bomb to the “Enola Gay”. Sharks feasted on the survivors. The movie feasts on our eyes. While fairly accurate, the acting and pitiful effects dilute the historical significance. F  Netflix Instant

16. Beyond Valkyrie: Dawn of the Fourth Reich - “Beyond Valkyrie” has one thing in common with the Tom Cruise movie. I’ll give you a hint – it’s not Tom Cruise. If you want to see Cruise’s excellent take on the attempted assassination of Hitler, make sure you do not put the word “beyond” on the front of your Netflix request. This “sequel” has something to do with a mission behind enemy lines to rescue a plotter. Straight-to-DVD action and acting take your mind off the mindless plot. The reason why this movie is slightly better than USS Indianapolis is it has only Tom Sizemore in it. F

15. Sniper: Special Operations - Continuing the trend of bad actors making bad movies, this movie stars Steven Seagal. Part of the venerable “Sniper” franchise (try saying that out loud at a film festival), this episode has our heroes trying to rescue a Congressman being held hostage by the Taliban. Meanwhile, a laconic sniper (Seagal) is holed up behind enemy lines in need of extreme rescuing. Bang! Bang! Boom! Boom! USA! USA! You get what you expected. D

14. Guernica - A cynical, hard-drinking journalist (how original) hooks up with a government censor (opposites attract) for a romance set in the terror bombing of a Spanish city during the Spanish Civil War. Tragedy and romance – a war movie staple. Supersize to love triangle. Evil Soviet (not Nazi, at least) and the Red Baron’s son. Plus plenty of bombs! The actual bombing inspired Picasso to paint a famous mural that is on the opposite end of the artistic spectrum from this movie. But it does set the tropes in an obscure historical event and Nick Cage, Tom Sizemore, and Steven Seagal are nowhere to be found, so it is not the worst war movie of the year.  D

13. Operation Chromite - If you weren’t so focused on America’s role in the Korean War, you would be aware of a mission by South Korean commandoes to steal the plans to the mine fields off Inchon. By watching this movie, you will still be totally in the dark about Operation Chromite, unless it was slap-ass crazy. This is a below average Korean combat-porn movie. What makes it stand out is the usual gonzo Korean leading man has been replaced by a Liam Neeson as Douglas MacArthur. He actually does an acceptable overrated military genius. Unfortunately, the movie does not do an acceptable rendition of Korean combat-porn. You don’t have to be drinking to be drunk by the end of the movie.  D

12. Sniper: Ghost Shooter - How does the Sniper franchise manage to put out two movies in one year? That is like two Star Wars in one year. In this entry, our snipers (plural because more is better and essential at this stage) are tasked with defending a pipeline in the Middle East. There is a jihadi sniper who is better than all of them and he has their coordinates somehow. Don’t worry, their plus/minus will be reversed big-time in the climactic snipe-off. And our designated focus sniper has gone through his redemption arc from refusing to shoot a kid to killing for our cause. And he gets the hot spy babe. Stick around to the end to get your fill of jihadi slaughter. C- 

11. Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk - How genius is it to contrast the home front to what went on with our troops in Afghanistan? How about if we throw in a what-really-happened-in-the-incident scenario? Okay, but what if we film it in some radically different cinematography that distracts from the plot? To tell the truth I was not distracted from the plot because I saw this movie in the boring regular format that forced me to concentrate on how lame the plot is. If you don’t want your movie to be a disappointment, why would you set it in a Dallas Cowboys game? C-

10. Allied - “Allied” is a high wattage WWII espionage/romance that greatly improves on “Shining Through” but still requires a lot of suspension of belief. It is a movie for the masses who want to watch two beautiful people (Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard) ooze sexual chemistry. The plot developments deftly connect the dots in ways unknown to the real world. Not bad, just forgettable. C

9. The Free State of Jones - “Free State” is another sincere effort to bring a forgotten historical event to the nonreading public. During the Civil War, a county in Mississippi refused to go along with secession. They were led by a charismatic anti-planter named Newton Knight (Matthew McConaughey). The movie is more of a biopic than a war movie. It is competently done and relies a lot on McConaughey’s star power to overcome its piousness and civil rights activism. And it is admirably accurate. The big problem is it is too long and insists on covering the anticlimactic Reconstruction period. C

8. Hyena Road - This is a movie that highlights the involvement of the Canadian army in Afghanistan. Did you know the Canadians killed a lot of evil jihadists there? Paul Gross (of “Northern Exposure” fame) brought this “based on several incidents that could have happened” story to a couple of screens in Canada. The action is decent and the romance is female-appealing, but the movie is average. C Netflix Instant

7. Jarhead 3 - The third in the series and the second to not grace a theater. “Jarhead 3” is not a cult classic. It is a competent actioner and better than could be expected. It is not in a league with the similarly plotted “13 Hours”, but if you have seen that movie and want more ass-kicking and a happier ending, see this one too. C+ Netflix Instant

6. Siege of Jadotville - It was a good year for obscure incidents. This movie highlights the heroic efforts of a green unit of Irish peacekeepers in the Congo when it was going through the usual African turmoil. The men are led by a commander who is unflappable and a quick learner. Unfortunately, they are besieged by a horde of warriors tempered by French mercenaries. Throw in slimy politicians and you have a movie that is micro (the siege) and macro (the United Nations efforts). The action is cyclical and similar to “Zulu” although clearly inferior. The historical accuracy is high. B- Netflix Instant

5. Anthropoid - If people still don’t know the story of the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, perhaps this seventh rendition of the story will do the trick. The movie tells the tale of the two Czech special operatives who took out the Nazi bigwig in the streets of Prague. Naturally , the two have to find romance. Although the strained attempt to appeal to the female audience is a weakness, the movie is noteworthy for its recreation of the assassination in real time. Then it adds the siege of the assassins in a church that sates your need to see many Heydrich peons blunder into bullets. B

4. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot - This is a Tina Fey vehicle set in Afghanistan. It is based on the experiences of Kim Barker. It is our most recent addition to the war journalist subgenre. In that respect, it maintains the usual clichés of hard-partying, cynical reporters trying to scoop each other. The film is surprisingly not political and actually is pro-military. If anything, its message is that the war is just a mess. The cast is top notch and has Margot Robbie as a slutty news bunny. Fey is very good. There is some good action and interaction between the journalists and the military. It is a dramedy with the snarky humor you would expect from Fey. B

3. 13 Hours- This is a Michael Bay film that is not a load of hooey. It tells the story of the military contractors that defended the State Department and C.I.A. personnel in Benghazi after the killing of Ambassador Stevens. It falls into the “last stand” subgenre. The action is intense and although the body count is enhanced, the movie sticks to the facts for the most part. Amazingly, it does not weigh in on the controversy and did not become a Republican propaganda film. It is red meat, not for Hillary-haters, but for war movie lovers. B

2. Hacksaw Ridge - Why did it take so long for Hollywood to tell the story of Desmond Doss? Doss was a conscientious objector who won the Medal of Honor for his efforts in saving the wounded during the conquest of Okinawa in WWII. It is better as a biopic than as a war movie. Andrew Garfield is fine as Doss (although not worthy of an Oscar nod) and his religiousness is not overplayed. The movie is an accurate take on Doss’ life, but that is diluted by the ludicrously over the top combat. The juxtapositioning of standard biopic with combat porn is whiplashing. The action is Korean style and has some LOL moments for anyone familiar with what combat is actually like. But that is what the public wants and at least they learn about a legit war hero. B

1. Rogue One - The latest Star Wars movie is the best in years and ends a string of disappointments. I consider it to be the third best installment after the first two. It is also the most war movieish of them all. In fact, the final battle is one of the greatest ever filmed. The plot has a variety of well-worn themes like the vengeance-minded lead (refreshingly a female this time), the quest by the motley crew of rogues, the multi-faceted battle. And the return of one cinema’s great villains. What’s not to like? 

There were several movies that I was not able to track down. I am confident none of them would have made the top five. If anyone wants to make a case for any of them, feel free.

The Yellow Birds
Railroad Tigers
The King’s Choice
Alone in Berlin
Sand Castle
Land of Mine
Chosen
Kamp Holland
Harlem Hellfighters

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Picture, Quote, Movie- April 23, 1917


 "We haven't the proper facilities to take you all prisoner! Sorry! ... We'd like to, but we can't accept your surrender! Was there anything else?"

WHAT MOVIE?  "Takatakatakataka" means "you're dead" in this movie.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

OVERLOOKED GEM? Sniper: Ghost Shooter (2016)



                “Sniper: Ghost Shooter” is the sixth in the sniper porn Sniper series.  The series goes back to 1993 and had some pop in the early days with the starring of Tom Berenger.  Alas, he is no longer a participant in the series.  This movie could have used him.  It was directed by Don Paul and he brings the same talent that resulted in “Starship Troopers 2”.  Basically, if you enjoyed that direct-to-DVD opus, you will enjoy its kin.  And if you have seen both of them, then you are like me and have an obsession to watch every war movie ever made and/or you do not have much of a life.

                The movie opens with Muslim terrorist music.  Actors wearing Halloween jihadist  costumes have hostages on a beach.  Out in the open to facilitate snipers.  The terrorist leader insists on a boy behead one of the hostages.  A redemption arc begins as Brandon (Chad Michael Collins) can’t bring himself to take the shot.  Someone else has to … and misses!  For cinematic reasons, the multiple sniper teams had not picked targets and all fired at once.  The jihadists run around like chickens with their heads cut off.  The snipers slaughter them and bring in a gun ship for overkill.  Some of the dead revive themselves to be killed again as the body count exceeds the original total of terrorists.  It’s that kind of movie.

                The team is given the mission of security for a pipeline in the country of Georgia.  Their first task is to protect an oil tycoon who is coming to the site.  What genius decided that the best way to protect him is by stationing sniper teams along the route in?  Sure enough, the convoy gets ambushed by an Afghan baddie named Gasakov and they can’t do squat.  In fact, they lose two of their own to a “ghost shooter” who somehow has their coordinates.  Brandon gets exiled to the mountains for questioning the mission.  This gives him the chance to meet a charismatic local named Mashkov (Ravil Isyanov) who has a similar back-story of not being able to shoot a child.  Small world.  Brandon joins Mashkov’s crew in an Alamo style defense against Chechnyens.  Many men will die so Brandon can get off probation and the movie can be longer.

                Brandon goes rogue (is there any other way to go?) to meet Gasakov and find out who the mole is.  He thinks Gasakov will tell him!  Somehow he discovers that the ghost sniper is tapping into their drones to get the coordinates.  Sniper series meets drone warfare.  Now it’s back to the power station for an even more epic Alamo.  Going into the fourth quarter, our snipers are getting their asses whipped.  That is about to change. 

                “Sniper: Ghost Shooter” is typical sniper porn.  The set pieces are just excuses for slaughter.  It is a little unusual that the enemy are doing most of the sniping until the end.  In fact, our guys do not snipe an enemy at the power station until the 1:30 mark of the movie. They make up for this deficiency in the final act.  Hell, the Colonel (Dennis Haystert) gets to kill some hajjis.  Hopefully you like your sniper movies without realistic tactics.  Team leader Maj. Miller (Billy Zane) sure doesn’t care about tactics.  That might explain the high mortality for his personnel.  Speaking of rates, the ratio of deaths to woundings is incredibly high.  No doctor was needed for this movie.  But then that simply makes it a war movie.  The plot tends to be a bit redundant.  There are two last stands.  They fail to get the ghost shooter twice.  Brandon rolls down a hill twice.

                On the nonsnarky side, the movie is actually not a bad time waster.  The acting is fine and the cast is not bad.  Hastert can not appear in an embarrassing movie.  The females have the biggest balls and one of them gets to die.  Some of the other deaths are unpredictable, too.  All the characters are stereotyped, but fortunately underdeveloped.  Brandon sucks all the development out of the script.  He gets to screw up, go rogue, romance the hot blond spook, and find redemption.  The Bin Laden wannabe is lame, but Mashkov is cool.  The Ravil Isyanov fan club (of which I am a member) should be happy with his performance.  It’s his best work since “Defiance”.

                The Sniper series began in 1993.  I can remember that some of my high school boys were really into sniping back then.  Little did I suspect their demographic would spawn a franchise that would get to a sixth installment (with a seventh due this year).  I am not much into these penis enlargement exercises, but “Sniper: Ghost Shooter” is not bad.  It is a time waster that does not leave a bad taste in your mouth. 


GRADE  =  C-

Friday, April 14, 2017

Picture, Quote, Movie #9


QUOTE: “Aim small, miss small.”

MOVIE?  The main character in this movie was a warrior/poet who essentially gave the advice of the quote to his firing squad.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

DUELING MOVIES: USS Indianapolis movies



                The sinking of the USS Indianapolis is perhaps the most horrific incident for the U.S. Navy in WWII.  The Indianapolis had delivered the atomic bombs to Tinian and was on its way to the Philippines when it was sunk by a Japanese submarine.  The survivors were in the water for four days and were decimated by sharks before they were spotted and rescued.  The post- script was the court-martial of Captain Charles McVay III for not zig-zagging and not abandoning the ship quickly enough.  The combination of tragedy and courtroom drama is perfect for a war movie.  And there have been two attempts at bringing the story to the screen.  The first was a made-for-TV movie entitled “Mission of the Shark” (1991) starring Stacy Keach.  In 2016, Hollywood weighed in with “USS Indianapolis:  Men of Courage” starring Nicholas Cage.  Did either do justice to the men of the Indianapolis?

                The Cage movie begins with “the following is based on a true story”.  Ah, the old “based on” claim.  Viewer beware.  If that was not enough of a warning, the first scene doubles down.  The Indianapolis is attacked by kamikazes off Okinawa and Capt. McVay (Cage) is on the bridge yelling “fire!” to his batteries.  What a hands on captain he is!  In a terrible CGI scene, one of the kamikazes hits the ship.  Meanwhile, in a smoke-filled room, a group discusses the need to destroy Hiroshima with an atomic bomb.  Kill every man, woman, and child.   “Radioactive fallout” is mentioned which is prescient since even the Manhattan Project scientists were unclear about this effect.  A fast ship should be sent on a “suicide mission” to deliver the bomb to Tinian.  Nick Cage talks to his wife’s portrait.  This is our first warning that we are getting the bad Cage.  Thankfully, this is not a biopic and we will have to suffer through command and tar characters.  A military love triangle is introduced as two buddies are in love with the same girl, but the fiancé of the two is unaware.  If you think both will survive to duel for her, you have never seen a military love triangle depicted in a movie.  At this point, all optimism (or delusion) about quality is erased by the appearance of Tom Sizemore as crusty Chief Petty Officer McWhorter.  That’s right, this movie has bad Cage and Sizemore.  Why do the producers hate us?

                The ship returns to San Francisco to repair and take on a mysterious box.  Someone asks if it has anything to do with the Manhattan Project.  I guess historians referring to the atomic bomb development as top secret was an exaggeration.  The ship is in port so we must have a night on the town scene, but since this is a modern war movie, the clicheish fight is not between sailors and soldiers, it is between a white sailor and a black sailor.  Hollywood diversity!

                On the trip to Tinian, McVay decides that the doctrine of zig-zagging is a waste of time because the Japanese subs have “kaiten” (human torpedoes) that can outrun any ship.  Apparently McVay thinks the Japanese no longer use regular torpedoes.  A meeting with the I-58 awaits.  The I-58 is a hard-luck boat that has had little success in the war.  That is about to change.  Along comes a fat juicy target sailing blithely along in a straight line.  The torpedoes result in hilarious chaos.  All the main characters hit the water, including the black fighter who rescues his antagonist.  War brings enemies together.  Or war movies do.

                The survivors are in several groups in the water.  Besides the sharks, they have to deal with lack of food and water.  Some become delusional.  Some are suicidal, like members of the audience at this point.  McWhorter has a leg wound which means Sizemore has to play pain.  Come on sharks!  There is a hated officer who insists on a cushy seat in a life raft.  Someone has to break the shark monopoly on villainy.  Eventually the few are rescued, but not us because there is that pesky trial that we were promised.  Here is one case where you will beg for a title card post script.

                In case you haven’t figured it out, this movie is terrible.  It is very disrespectful of the men who were on board the Indianapolis.  They deserved better.  I suppose if you know nothing about the event and you do not care about historical accuracy, you might get something out of it.  But there is no way you will find it entertaining.  Unless you are big fan of current Cage and Sizemore.  Or you find “Sharknado” to be a documentary.  Or you watch it as a comedy. It could be argued (over a six pack) that it is one of the funniest war movies ever made. 

                The dialogue is trite.  The plot is lame and riddled with clichés.  The cast is weak and the acting is what you would expect from a cast that is headlined by Cage/Sizemore.  At least there was no pressure on the rest of the actors.  Besides, how would director Mario Van Peebles even recognize good acting?
               
                “Mission of the Shark” begins with McVay (Keach) arriving at the five year reunion of the crew with some trepidation.  We then flash back to 1945.  The Indianapolis sails for Tinian with a box on deck.  McVay mentions kaiten as the excuse for not zig-zagging.  However, when the ship is on the way to the Philippines, McVay orders the cessation of zig-zagging due to the darkness of the night.  Like the Cage movie, this one intercuts with the sub’s actions.  When the torpedoes hit, there is made-for-TV chaos which are less laughable compared to straight-to-DVD chaos.  The effects are very cheap.  The survivors are divided into four groups.  One of them has Doctor Scott (Richard Thomas).  This film completed his vaunted war trilogy (“Red Badge of Courage” and “All Quiet…”)  and made him the rare actor who has appeared in war movies set in the Civil War, WWII, and WWII.  Another group includes this movie’s dickish villain.  Kinderman (Don Harvey) is a malcontent who believes it is every man for himself.  The shark attacks are ridiculous and consist of fins causing the men to thrash about.  Some of the men drink salt water and go crazy.  Not every man is a hero.  Some of the deaths are poignant.  And some are unpredictable.  This movie is not as funny as the other.
 
                “Mission” also concludes with the court-martial.  There are some interesting differences.  In both films, the surprise witness is I-58s Captain Hashimoto.  In “Mission”, he claims that if the Indianapolis was zig-zagging, it would have forced him to maneuver to get off a shot.  In “Courage”, he testifies that zig-zagging would not have made a difference.  Oddly, in "Mission",  he confesses this to McVay when they meet after the trial.  McVay does not ask him why the hell he did not mention that on the witness stand!

                I had seen “Mission” when it first appeared on TV and had remembered it as better than it actually is.  It is merely an average made-for-TV movie.  This is apparent in the acting and effects.  As blah as those are, they are superior to “Courage”.  Keach and Thomas are not at their best, but they run rings around (swim circles around?) Cage and Sizemore.  The plot is too cursory to do the story justice.  It merely touches on problems other than the sharks.  It introduces the theme that the brass were partly to blame, but does not pursue it much.  It takes less liberties with the truth and is a slightly better history lesson.  I don’t think the dead turned over in their graves as much as they did with the more recent movie.  It is boringly sincere.

                What does it say when after two movies about the Indianapolis tragedy, the best memorial to the crew is still Quint’s soliloquy in “Jaws”?

COURAGE  =  F-
MISSION  =  C-

HISTORICAL ACCURACY:  The USS Indianapolis was not the victim of a kamikaze.  But it was hit by a bomb dropped by a Japanese plane off Okinawa.  It was sent to San Francisco for repairs and there was given the secret mission.  The delivery was uneventful.  Because the mission was top secret, it was decided that the ship would proceed to the Philippines without escort.  McVay was not told that a destroyer had been sunk by a sub in the area and an ULTRA intercept proved there was a sub in the area, but notification was above McVay’s rank.  The I-58 was the sad sack ship depicted in “Courage”.  It had been in action since Pearl Harbor and had zero kills.  Ironically, it left for patrol from Hiroshima the day the Indy left from San Francisco.  McVay (who was the son of an admiral) declined to zig-zag due to the darkness of the night.  The ship happened to cross I-58s path and it had to do little other than fire six torpedoes.  It seems clear that if the Indy had been zig-zagging it may well have survived.  Two torpedoes hit and knocked out power and communications.  For this reason, the second charge of not abandoning ship with alacrity was unjustified. McVay could not contact the engine room so the cruiser continued to plunge ahead at high speed.  Ten minutes after the first explosion, McVay gave the order to abandon ship.  There was indeed chaos as fire and smoke consumed the ship.  The ship sank within twelve minutes of the first torpedo.  It did not break in two.  More than 300 men went down with the ship, but that left around 800 men in the water.  About 200 died by dawn due to wounds.

                Although a message from the I-58 was intercepted and decoded, the message was deemed fake and was not followed up on.  When the Indy failed to arrive on time, there was no concern.  Meanwhile the men were going through a hell that no movie can realistically depict.  It became the largest recorded encounter between men and sharks in history.  The dead were shoved away as food.  The wounded were shunned.  The screams were nightmare-inducing for decades.  But that was not the extent of the horror.  The days were sun-baking and sun-blinding and the nights were chilling physically and emotionally.  Life jackets were designed for only three days before getting water-logged and many sailors did not even have one, much less place in the sparse life rafts.  Some men drank sea water and became deranged.  There were some murders.  Some men simply gave up the fight for survival.

                On the fourth day, a PV -1 Ventura on routine patrol spotted one of the groups and called it in.  A PBY under Lt. R. Adrian Marks was immediately dispatched.  Outbound, Marks passed over the USS Doyle and radioed for it to follow.  When Marks arrived, he made the decision to land and become a large floating raft for survivors.  He saved 56 men.  The Doyle arrived a few hours later and subsequently several other rescue ships got to the area.  Out of 1,196 crewmen, only 317 survived.


                In November, 1945 the Navy needed a scapegoat and chose McVay.  He was court-martialed for not zig-zagging and not abandoning ship quickly enough.  The Navy covered up the fact that his orders said he could “zig-zag at his discretion, weather permitting.”  It also did not take the blame for not informing McVay of the warnings about a submarine in the area and for messing up the rescue.  Hashimoto testified that zig-zagging would have made no difference.  He was not a surprise witness.  McVay became the only ship captain to be court-martialed for losing his ship in WWII.  Soon after, Adm. Nimitz remitted the sentence and restored McVay’s rank.  He retired in 1949 as a Rear Admiral.  Although most of the survivors forgave their captain, some of the relatives of the deceased were harsh.  In 1968, McVay took his own life.  In Oct., 2000, Congress passed a resolution exonerating McVay and Pres. Clinton signed it.  

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Picture, Quote, Movie #8


“Are you quitting on me? Well, are you? Then quit, you slimy fucking walrus-looking piece of sh-t! Get the f–k off of my obstacle! Get the f–k down off of my obstacle! NOW! MOVE IT! Or I’m going to rip your balls off, so you cannot contaminate the rest of the world! I will motivate you, Private Pyle, IF IT SHORT-D–KS EVERY CANNIBAL ON THE CONGO!”

MOVIE?  This movie has a lame subplot of a Navy aviator  who is in love with a Nisei who is interned.

Monday, April 3, 2017

2016 WAR MOVIES


It always seems like there are not very many war movies coming out these days, but when I looked back at 2016, it turns out there were more than twenty that were released. In fact, most of them I had not even heard of until I started this project.  I saw #10, 9, 8, 3, 2, and 1 in theaters when they came out.  Granted, most of them did not make it to theaters, but that is still an acceptable amount of war movies.  It’s just a shame that more of them were not good and only one of them was very good.

18.  Dad's Army -  “Dad’s Army” is a sequel to the beloved Britcom.  In this extended episode, a comely German spy masquerading as a journalist (Catherine Zeta-Jones for God knows what reason) is determined to ferret out the location of a D-Day preparation site.  This could change the outcome of the war.  All she has to do to ensure that Germany wins the war is to dupe the Home Guard of Walmington-on-Sea.  She does this by flirting with the two leaders of our bumbling crew of geezers and geezer-brains.  Comedy hijinks ensue and guffaws result if you are a septuagenarian who refuses to admit the original series was not all that funny and thinks a remake was an excellent idea.  Sorry, elderly Brits, this movie is a steaming pile of crumpets.  F-

17.  U.S.S. Indianapolis:  Men of Courage -  If you watch a movie starring both Nick Cage and Tom Sizemore, you are an “Audience of Courage”.  This “based on a true story” flick attempts to do justice to the men of the ill-fated USS Indianapolis.  As anyone who has seen “Jaws” knows, the Indy was sunk by a Japanese sub after delivering the atomic bomb to the “Enola Gay”.  Sharks feasted on the survivors.  The movie feasts on our eyes.  While fairly accurate, the acting and pitiful effects dilute the historical significance.  F  Netflix Instant

16. Beyond Valkyrie-  “Beyond Valkyrie” has one thing in common with the Tom Cruise movie.  I’ll give you a hint – it’s not Tom Cruise.  If you want to see Cruise’s excellent take on the attempted assassination of Hitler, make sure you do not put the word “beyond” on the front of your Netflix request.  This “sequel” has something to do with a mission behind enemy lines to rescue a plotter.  Straight-to-DVD action and acting take your mind off the mindless plot.  The reason why this movie is slightly better than USS Indianapolis is it has only Tom Sizemore in it.  F

15.  Sniper:  Special Operations -  Continuing the trend of bad actors making bad movies, this movie stars Steven Seagal.  Part of the venerable “Sniper” franchise (try saying that out loud at a film festival), this episode has our heroes trying to rescue a Congressman being held hostage by the Taliban.  Meanwhile, a laconic sniper (Seagal) is holed up behind enemy lines in need of extreme rescuing.  Bang! Bang!  Boom! Boom!  USA!  USA!  You get what you expected.  D

14.  Guernica -  A cynical, hard-drinking journalist (how original) hooks up with a government censor (opposites attract) for a romance set in the terror bombing of a Spanish city during the Spanish Civil War.  Tragedy and romance – a war movie staple.  Supersize to love triangle.  Evil Soviet (not Nazi, at least) and the Red Baron’s son.  Plus plenty of bombs!  The actual bombing inspired Picasso to paint a famous mural that is on the opposite end of the artistic spectrum from this movie.  But it does set the tropes in an obscure historical event and Nick Cage, Tom Sizemore, and Steven Seagal are nowhere to be found, so it is not the worst war movie of the year.  D

13.  Operation Chromite -  If you weren’t so focused on America’s role in the Korean War, you would be aware of a mission by South Korean commandoes to steal the plans to the mine fields off Inchon.  By watching this movie, you will still be totally in the dark about Operation Chromite, unless it was slap-ass crazy.  This is a below average Korean combat-porn movie.  What makes it stand out is the usual gonzo Korean leading man has been replaced by a Liam Neeson as Douglas MacArthur.  He actually does an acceptable overrated military genius.  Unfortunately, the movie does not do an acceptable rendition of Korean combat-porn.  You don’t have to be drinking to be drunk by the end of the movie.   D

12.  Sniper:  Ghost Shooter -  How does the Sniper franchise manage to put out two movies in one year?  That is like two Star Wars in one year.  In this entry, our snipers (plural because more is better and essential at this stage) are tasked with defending a pipeline in the Middle East.  There is a jihadi sniper who is better than all of them and he has their coordinates somehow.  Don’t worry, their plus/minus will be reversed big-time in the climactic snipe-off.  And our designated focus sniper has gone through his redemption arc from refusing to shoot a kid to killing for our cause.  And he gets the hot spy babe.  Stick around to the end to get your fill of jihadi slaughter.  C-  

11.  Billy Lynn's Longtime Halftime Walk -  How genius is it to contrast the home front to what went on with our troops in Afghanistan?  How about if we throw in a what-really-happened-in-the-incident scenario?  Okay, but what if we film it in some radically different cinematography that distracts from the plot?  To tell the truth I was not distracted from the plot because I saw this movie in the boring regular format that forced me to concentrate on how lame the plot is.  If you don’t want your movie to be a disappointment, why would you set it in a Dallas Cowboys game?   C-

10.  Allied -  “Allied” is a high wattage WWII espionage/romance that greatly improves on “Shining Through” but still requires a lot of suspension of belief.  It is a movie for the masses who want to watch two beautiful people (Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard) ooze sexual chemistry.  The plot developments deftly connect the dots in ways unknown to the real world.  Not bad, just forgettable.  C

9.  The Free State of Jones -  “Free State” is another sincere effort to bring a forgotten historical event to the nonreading public.  During the Civil War, a county in Mississippi refused to go along with secession.  They were led by a charismatic anti-planter named Newton Knight (Matthew McConaughey).  The movie is more of a biopic than a war movie.  It is competently done and relies a lot on McConaughey’s star power to overcome its piousness and civil rights activism.  And it is admirably accurate.  The big problem is it is too long and insists on covering the anticlimactic Reconstruction period.  C

8.  Hyena Road -  This is a movie that highlights the involvement of the Canadian army in Afghanistan.  Did you know the Canadians killed a lot of evil jihadists there?  Paul Gross (of “Northern Exposure” fame) brought this “based on several incidents that could have happened” story to a couple of screens in Canada.  The action is decent and the romance is female-appealing, but the movie is average.  C  Netflix Instant

7.  Jarhead 3 -   The third in the series and the second to not grace a theater.  “Jarhead 3” is not a cult classic.  It is a competent actioner and better than could be expected.  It is not in a league with the similarly plotted “13 Hours”, but if you have seen that movie and want more ass-kicking and a happier ending, see this one too.  C+   Netflix Instant

6.  Siege of Jadotville -  It was a good year for obscure incidents.  This movie highlights the heroic efforts of a green unit of Irish peacekeepers in the Congo when it was going through the usual African turmoil.  The men are led by a commander who is unflappable and a quick learner.  Unfortunately, they are besieged by a horde of warriors tempered by French mercenaries.  Throw in slimy politicians and you have a movie that is micro (the siege) and macro (the United Nations efforts).  The action is cyclical and similar to “Zulu” although clearly inferior.  The historical accuracy is high.  B-  Netflix Instant

5.  Anthropoid  -  If people still don’t know the story of the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, perhaps this seventh rendition of the story will do the trick.  The movie tells the tale of the two Czech special operatives who took out the Nazi bigwig in the streets of Prague.  Naturally , the two have to find romance.  Although the strained attempt to appeal to the female audience is a weakness, the movie is noteworthy for its recreation of the assassination in real time.  Then it adds the siege of the assassins in a church that sates your need to see many Heydrich peons blunder into bullets.  B

4.  Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot -  This is a Tina Fey vehicle set in Afghanistan.  It is based on the experiences of Kim Barker.  It is our most recent addition to the war journalist subgenre.  In that respect, it maintains the usual clichés of hard-partying, cynical reporters trying to scoop each other.  The film is surprisingly not political and actually is pro-military.  If anything, its message is that the war is just a mess.  The cast is top notch and has Margot Robbie as a slutty news bunny.  Fey is very good. There is some good action and interaction between the journalists and the military.  It is a dramedy with the snarky humor you would expect from Fey.   B

3.  13 Hours-  This is a Michael Bay film that is not a load of hooey.  It tells the story of the military contractors that defended the State Department and C.I.A. personnel in Benghazi after the killing of Ambassador Stevens.  It falls into the “last stand” subgenre.  The action is intense and although the body count is enhanced, the movie sticks to the facts for the most part.  Amazingly, it does not weigh in on the controversy and did not become a Republican propaganda film.  It is red meat, not for Hillary-haters, but for war movie lovers.  B

2.  Hacksaw Ridge -  Why did it take so long for Hollywood to tell the story of Desmond Doss?  Doss was a conscientious objector who won the Medal of Honor for his efforts in saving the wounded during the conquest of Okinawa in WWII.  It is better as a biopic than as a war movie.  Andrew Garfield is fine as Doss (although not worthy of an Oscar nod) and his religiousness is not overplayed.  The movie is an accurate take on Doss’ life, but that is diluted by the ludicrously over the top combat.  The juxtapositioning of standard biopic with combat porn is whiplashing.  The action is Korean style and has some LOL moments for anyone familiar with what combat is actually like.  But that is what the public wants and at least they learn about a legit war hero.  B

1.  Rogue One-  The latest Star Wars movie is the best in years and ends a string of disappointments.  I consider it to be the third best installment after the first two.  It is also the most war movieish of them all.  In fact, the final battle is one of the greatest ever filmed.  The plot has a variety of well-worn themes like the vengeance-minded lead (refreshingly a female this time), the quest by the motley crew of rogues, the multi-faceted battle.  And the return of one cinema’s great villains.  What’s not to like?  A

There were several movies that I was not able to track down.  I am confident none of them would have made the top five.  If anyone wants to make a case for any of them, feel free.

The Yellow Birds
Railroad Tigers
The King’s Choice
Alone in Berlin
Sand Castle
Land of Mine
Chosen
Kamp Holland
Harlem Hellfighters


Thursday, March 30, 2017

Picture, Quote, Movie #7


“Mandrake, do you recall what Clemenceau once said about war? … He said war was too important to be left to the generals. When he said that, 50 years ago, he might have been right. But today, war is too important to be left to politicians. They have neither the time, the training, nor the inclination for strategic thought. I can no longer sit back and allow Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, Communist subversion and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.”

WHAT MOVIE?  This movie has one of the wettest scenes in war movie history as our commando team comes ashore in fourteen minutes of storm effects with no dialogue. 


Monday, March 27, 2017

OVERLOOKED GEM? Jarhead 3: The Siege (2016)


       Once upon a time there was a movie about a sniper in Operation Desert Storm.  It was based on a best seller memoir entitled “Jarhead”.  The book and movie were noteworthy for depicting the boredom of modern warfare.  Anthony Swofford did not fire a single shot in the war.  Although totally realistic, the sequels have taken care of that deficiency.  No one wants to see a straight to DVD sniper movie with little sniping.  The two sequels don’t save ammunition.  “Jarhead 3:  The Siege” keeps the Jarhead name, but that is it.  It was directed by William Kaufman with a nod towards Hitchcock.  In that they are both directors.

                Corporal Albright (Charlie Weber) arrives at the U.S. embassy in “the Kingdom”.  It’s a quiet zone, but don’t turn off the movie yet.  Albright is introduced to his new mates and the sexy digital security director Olivia (Sasha Jackson).  He also meets the peacemonger Ambassador Cahill (Stephen Hogan).  Albright does not make a good impression when he goes cowboy on a training mission.  He gets a moderate ass-chewing and then a harsher one when he goes over his gunny’s head about a suspected terrorist.  No one believes him until the embassy comes under extreme attack.  The terrorists are led by a Bin Laden type named Khaled.  He is the leader apparently because while every one of his men is easy to kill, he is very difficult to kill.  He is a mastermind which is proven by the ease with which his men get into the embassy.  Cahill takes refuge in a safe room, but Cahill and the others go out to rip asses.  And there is plenty of ass-ripping.  First there is the initial assault,  then local government forces arrive as cannon fodder, then a technical arrives with more jihadis because the movie is running out of bad guys to kill.  (The director probably sent a truck to the market place to hire more extras midway through the filming.)  When the movie gets tired of the last stand, it morphs into a chase film, returns to a last stand, and concludes with the arrival of the cavalry.  Now that I think about it, this movie is a lot like a Western.

                If you have a craving for dead hajjis, this is the movie for you.  Once the assault commences, there are only a few expository breath-catchers.  Otherwise it is nonstop mayhem.  The violence is generic.  The good guys never miss and the ratio of dead to wounded is typical of combat porn.  At least, some of the deaths are unpredictable.  There is not enough reloading, but there is some. The acting is fine, even though Weber is wooden.  His rogue cowboy grows into leadership in the crucible of combat.  Yawn.  The other characters are a mix of stereotypes and relatively originals.  Cahill is not the usual sniffling bureaucrat.  Olivia turns out to be a warrior.  If she had been wearing a bikini during the chase scene, the movie probably would not have gone straight to DVD.  While Khaled is a stock character, he does get to present his side of the argument.  He is shut up by the end of the movie, however.



GRADE  =  C+

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Picture, Quote, Movie #6


“Now I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.” 

MOVIE?  The biggest star in this star-studded movie has a memorable scene where he stress-repeats the "Hail Mary".

Sunday, March 19, 2017

CRACKER? The Siege of Jadotville (2016)



                “The Siege of Jadotville” is the true story of a forcibly forgotten incident in the Congo Crisis of the 1960s.  It brings to light the last stand of an Irish UN peace-keeping unit.  It was directed by Richie Smyth based on the nonfiction book The Siege of Jadotville:  The Irish Army’s Forgotten Battle (2005).  The actor’s went through a boot camp, which given that this is the Irish Army, was probably as intense as Boy Scout Camp.  Sorry about that one, but the incident was the first time a unit of the Irish Army was deployed overseas.  One of the actors was the grandson of the Irish commander.  How is that for having a technical adviser on set?

                The movie opens with a title card that tells the non-professional historians in the audience that the situation in the Congo in 1961 was part of the Cold War conflict between the U.S. and Soviet Union.  Rather than spend the first thirty minutes of the movie explaining what was happening, it summarizes by saying that there was a struggle for control over the mineral-rich Katanga province.  Company A, 35th Battalion is being sent to keep the peace.  There is a pre-deployment scene in a pub to remind the non-humans in the audience that Irish like to drink.  The men are all green (and they are unseasoned) and are led by a military history buff Commandant Pat Quinlan (Jamie Dornan).  He gives a speech about how they will make Ireland proud.  By keeping the peace?  Low bar.

                When the unit arrives at Jadotville, since they are all Irish, no one mentions how similar the situation is to the movie “Zulu”.  Intercutting to the cinematic slimy politicians informs us that besides being sitting ducks that are ill-supplied, this will not be Boy Scout camp.  The local UN official Connor O’Brien (Mark Strong) implements Operation Morthor which is to get tough in Katanga.  This will be a tall order because Company A is not only poorly armed, but the local civilians do not want their protection and the mining company wants them out.  When the UN uses other forces to crack down on the Katangese government, O’Brien does not bother to tell Quinan that he has thrown a rock at a bee hive.  The bees are local warriors (doing their Zulu impressions) and French Foreign Legion badasses led by Rene Faulques (Guillaume Canet).  There is also a Simon Legree of a mine owner pulling the strings.  The strings involve sending swarms of cannon fodder across open ground with predictable results.  This being a war movie, each assault bumps up the last.  The French wait until the second attack to break out the mortars and the third to call in their air support.  These attacks require a cinematic load of ammo expenditure which is a problem since they were already low on ammunition.  And whiskey.

                “The Siege of Jadotville” gets a lot of good will from me because it sheds a light on a sadly forgotten heroic action.  It needs the bonus points for historical accuracy and significance because it is otherwise an average war movie.  Most of it is average.  The acting. The dialogue.  There is little character development and it relies mostly on stock characters like the stoical commander, the slimy politician, the cocky enemy commander, the mustache-twirling mine tycoon.  The men of the unit are interchangeable and nameless.  Contrast this with “Zulu” and you can see more copying would have been better in this respect. There are lame attempts at banter and soldier life.  It does a fair job of intercutting between the boots on the ground and the politicians using them as toy soldiers.
  
                The movie has plenty of action, but it is not combat porn.  There are four separate combat scenes and they are competently done.  All of the attacks are frontal, so there is little variety other than throwing in the mortars and the air attack.  As I watched, I remarked at how lucky the Irish were in avoiding casualties.  This seemed out of place in a modern war movie, but I subsequently have found that the lack of Irish blood conforms to the historical facts.  A rare example of fidelity over volatility.

                In conclusion, I have a soft spot in my heart for movies that bring obscure, but worthy historical events to the screen.  I especially enjoy war movies that make me ashamed that the event they cover was not known to me.  But the shame is overcome by the enjoyment of watching a war movie about a historical event and not knowing the ending.  And I look forward to researching how true to the story the film is.  Often what I find is the movie has shined light on the event, but the script has been less than faithful to the truth.  “The Siege of Jadotville” has brought recognition to a heroic unit that had been largely forgotten.  Not just forgotten, but in some ways maligned by the few who knew about it.  This movie sets the record straight and sticks to the facts admirably.  So admirably that the movie is less entertaining for the people who do not care about the history.  Kudos for that.

GRADE  =  B-


HISTORICAL ACCURACY:  The Congo Crisis occurred between 1960-1965 after the Republic of Congo got its independence from Belgium.  Part of the crisis had to do with the secession of a mineral-rich region called Katanga.  UN Secretary General Dag Hammerskjold sent in peace-keepers, but refused to take sides.  Part of the peace-keeping force was Company A, 35th Battalion led by Commandant (equivalent to Major) Dan Quinlan.  The unit was mostly young men and this was the first time Irish troops had been used in an international  affair.  The 155-158 men were stationed at Jadotville and given the job of protecting the Belgian civilians in the area.  This was ironic because most of the locals sided with the secessionists.  Quinlan took steps to fortify his vulnerable position by digging trenches.  His unit was lightly armed and had only a few Vickers machine guns and 60 mm. mortars.  The siege was precipitated by UN diplomat Connor O’Brien who greenlighted a plan called Operation Morthor.  The mission was to take positions in Elisabethville belonging to the Katanga government.  The Katangese leader named Tshombe was ready for a fight and unleashed a force consisting of Luba tribesmen and Belgian, French, and Rhodesian mercenaries.  Their leader was a French Foreign Legionnaire named Rene Faulques.  The attackers used 81 mm. mortars and a 75 mm. field gun.  The attack started during an open-air Mass.  The warning was sounded by a sentry.  The Irish held off the attack with withering fire and dealt with the artillery with accurate counterbattery fire.  The siege lasted six days.  At one point Quinlan communicated “We will hold out until our last bullet is spent.  Could do with some whiskey.”  (This line is in the movie.)  Supplies were not forthcoming.  The one attempt at a helicopter resupply resulted in tainted water.  The defense was weakened by strafing and bombing attacks by a lone fighter jet.  Eventually, the Irish arrived at the point where they could not have withstood another assault.  Quinlan decided that continuing to battle would be hopeless, so he surrendered his men.  Unbelievably, not a single Irish soldier was killed and only six were wounded.  The besiegers suffered around 300 dead and about 1,000 wounded.  They were held as hostages for one month and then released.  They continued their service and then returned to Ireland at the end of their six month tour.  The Irish government played down the siege with the implication that the surrender had been unjustified.  No decorations were awarded to the numerous men that Quinlan suggested.  The unit was tainted and “Jadotville Jack” became a synonym for cowardice. The guilt weighed heavy over the years and the unit was given the Presidential Unit Citation in 2016.  Production of the movie may have had something to do with that.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Picture, Quote, Movie Quiz #5


"Are you smoking this sh-t so’s to escape from reality? Me, I don’t need this sh-t, I am reality. There’s the way it ought to be, and there’s the way it is.”

WHAT MOVIE?  This movie includes the most famous leaders of the American Indian Movement in its cast. They made this movie eighteen years after their involvement in the occupation of Wounded Knee in 1973. 

Sunday, March 12, 2017

WTF? Beyond Valkyrie: Dawn of the 4th Reich (2016)


                Each year I check on what war movies are being planned for the future.  Often there are movies that sound interesting on paper and I look forward to someday seeing them.  As I look back over the years, many of those intriguing titles never made it into production.  And some, unfortunately, did.  This leads me to wonder two things: 1.  Why do good movies not get made?  2.  Why do bad movies get green-lighted?  “Beyond Valkyrie” fits in the second category.  It was directed by Claudio Fah.  Remember that name.  He’s going to be big someday.  Or not.  The movie went straight-to-video which still means that it got further than a bunch of the titles I had been looking forward to.  Life is not fair.

                The movie begins with a title card that informs us that Germany is losing the war, but the Nazis are stockpiling something in East Prussia.  In England, “Operation Jedburgh” has the mission of going behind enemy lines to bring out a German officer who is part of Operation Valkyrie (the attempt on Hitler’s life).  The movie is unclear about why they need this guy, but don’t worry about it - the script doesn’t.  A below average CGI transport plane gets shot down and our four commandoes are on their own.  They are led by Capt. Blackburn (Sean Patrick Flanery) and include a crusty sergeant played by Tom Sizemore.  If you continue watching after Sizemore’s involvement in the movie, you are truly a war movie fan and/or a masochist.  Either way, keep drinking.
 
                Our quartet hooks up with four Soviets led by Maj. Kulkov (Pasha Lychnikoff).  There is a Mexican standoff before the Allies bond.  They are joined by a hot spy (actress Julie Engelbrecht in case you want to skip the movie and see just this scene)  who gratuitously shows her breasts to assure us we are watching a straight-to-video movie.  The band of brothers are trapped in a house by Nazis leading to a ridiculous shootout with the usual German mindless assaulters being mowed down. Think "Where Eagles Dare".  Then it’s on to rescue the good Nazi while being chased by the evil Nazi.  It all gets a bit redundant with prodigious expenditure of ammo.  The German soldiers are worse shots than Imperial Stormtroopers. 

                “Beyond Valkyrie” is not the sequel to the Tom Cruise movie that you were hoping for.  And this time they still don’t get Hitler.  What we have here is the classic straight-to-DVD bait and switch involving a title.  Of course, if you are fooled by the title, you get what you deserve.  And that means terrible effects, terrible acting, terrible dialogue… you get the idea.  Or I could have simply said you get Tom Sizemore. 


GRADE  =  F   

Friday, March 10, 2017

Picture, Quote, Movie Quiz #4


“When I go home people will ask me, ‘Hey Hoot, why do you do it man? What, you some kinda war junkie?’ You know what I’ll say? I won’t say a goddamn word. Why? They won’t understand. They won’t understand why we do it. They won’t understand that it’s about the men next to you, and that’s it. That’s all it is.”


What movie is this?  This is the only war movie I am aware of where a soldier carries a head in a bag.  For snacking.  And he's one of the good guys.


Sunday, March 5, 2017

Picture, Quote, Movie Quiz #3


“Keep the sand out of your weapons, keep those actions clear. I’ll see you on the beach.”


WHAT MOVIE IS THIS?   A lot of training on a stable runway to take off of a bobbing runway, all to spend half a minute over an enemy capital.

Friday, March 3, 2017

OVERLOOKED GEM? Dad’s Army (2016)


       When I was growing up my favorite TV show was “Gilligan’s Island”.  I am not proud of that, but I am not defensive about it either.  Everyone has guilty pleasures and “Gilligan’s Island” is one of my generations most common ones.  There has been much conjecture over the years about a remake.  Most would agree that while it is interesting to wonder who would play the iconic roles, the end product would be nothing short of a disaster.  Think “Flintstones” or virtually any other attempt to bring a TV classic to the big screen.  A recent attempt to buck the trend was “Dad’s Army”.  For my fellow Baby Boomers, “Dad’s Army” is the equivalent of “Hogan’s Heroes” for the British.  It appeared on the BBC from 1968-1977 and was very popular.  It ranks among the greatest British sitcoms.  The series is about the Home Guard in WWII and most of the characters are elderly British gents who are patriotically defending their island against a potential invasion or paratrooper drop.  The movie takes a typical plot and expands it into a feature film.
 
                The movie is set in 1944.  A Nazi spy is killed sending a message by pigeon.  The pigeon is subsequently shot down by some British lads who are hunting for Pvt. Walker (Daniel Mays).  Mays is the unit’s black marketer.  This way of connecting the unit to the spy is typical of the movie’s humor.  The rest of the characters are introduced via names on the screen which is the movie’s way of making it easy for its elderly audience to identify the new actors that are playing their old favorites.  To kill time before the espionage plot kicks in, the geezers are sent on a mission to recover a runaway bull.  1960s British slapstick ensues.  Meanwhile, the Nazis have green-lighted Operation Cobra which involves a lady spy infiltrating the Home Guard to determine the site of the D-Day build-up.  Rose Winters (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is masquerading as a journalist who is doing a story on the unit.  Since she is automatically the hottest bird in Walmington-on-Sea, several members of the group try making moves on her.  This includes Capt. Mainwarring (Toby Jones) and his second in command Sgt. Wilson (Bill Nighy).  She plays them for fools, which is not much of a challenge.  Mainwarring gets to be lead buffoon.   The movie uses the tired old gag where Rose convinces him that he looks more handsome without his glasses.  Tired pratfalls result. Naturally, the wives and women of the town feel threatened by the hottie.  As should all of Great Britain since this wily female spy is using these geniuses to find information that will win the war for Hitler.
 
                I am all for nostalgia.  Hell, I’m a History teacher.  And I have a soft spot for classic TV.  But that is mainly nostalgia-fueled.  I am not blind to the reality that the Golden Age of television is mostly pyrite.   I’m talking about American TV.  I am not as qualified to disrespect the BBC.  While a big fan of its crime and mystery dramas, I am less enamored with the sitcoms, with the obvious exceptions of "Monty Python" and "Fawlty Towers".  My favorite is "Allo! Allo!" which is ironic because it is also set in WWII.  David Croft co-created and co-wrote both “Dad’s Army” and “Allo!  Allo!”  I have seen every episode of “Allo!  Allo!”, but had seen none of “Dad’s Army” until I watched a couple in preparation for this review.  I watched the first episode and one of the most highly acclaimed episodes (“Deadly Attachment”) to get a feel for the show and to be able to compare it to the movie.

                I have to admit I was not impressed with the series.  In my opinion, it is greatly inferior to “Allo!  Allo!”, but I understand that humor is subjective and many would argue that “Gilligan’s Island” is sophomoric and “Hogan’s Heroes” is offensive.  Regardless of anyone’s opinion on the quality of the TV series, the movie could not have made many fans happy.  As a stand alone effort, it is terrible.  It just is not funny.  I did not laugh a single time and I generally am open to silliness.  The slapstick is lame and the feeble attempts at sexual innuendo (an art that BBC sitcoms have long mastered) are pathetic.  It is not even campy, which is the least you could ask for in an attempt to revive a dinosaur comedy.  The acting is embarrassing.  I felt sorry for a cast that was heavy with recognizable British B-listers.  It was not their fault, mind you.  Toby Jones is given the thankless task of caricaturing a caricature.  In the series, Mainwarring is portrayed as a well-meaning, if clueless leader wannabe.  In the movie, he becomes a dolt.  I find it hard to believe that the series’ fans were happy with this tweaking of the character.  The rest of the characters are more faithful to the originals, but second rate.  Since this is a modern remake, the women’s roles had to be enhanced.  Mrs. Mainwarring and her cadre are given a prominent role when in the series she did not even appear.  Most perplexing is the appearance of Catherine Zeta-Jones.  I doubt this movie gets featured on her resume.  If the idea was to attract an American audience – that was not going to happen no matter who appeared in the movie.  Talk about a movie that does not travel well.  Was she that desperate for cash?
 
                My take away from the viewing experience was one of sadness and I am not even a fan of the series.  I just know that there are many who are and as an Anglophile I wanted the movie to be good.  It isn’t.  But neither will “Gilligan’s Island”.  Some ideas are best left in the speculation phase.  I sure would like to see a movie based on “Allo!  Allo!”  Imagine what they could do with the sexual innuendo in the 21st Century.  I wonder who would play Rene.  Actually, I fantasize more about who would play Yvette.
 
GRADE  =  D-


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Picture, Quote, Movie Quiz #2



“You have to think about one shot. One shot is what it’s all about. A deer’s gotta be taken with one shot.”


What movie is this?  The lead in this movie did not have to act too hard because he had served in PT boats.  His co-star avoided doing that sort of thing.