The Ugly American

September 21, 2018

ugly

Internet Movie Database          Movie Review

From the novel of the same name by William Lederer and Eugene Burdick.

Mr. Otter brought this home, and we watched it. He had read the book, which I hadn’t, and I knew nothing about it except the current usage of the phrase, which is Americans going to other countries and behaving like complete assholes.

So this is about a fictitious Southeast Asian country named Sarkan, that has a northern half that has become Communist, and they and the Chinese are trying to take over the rest of the country…sound familiar? Yup, it’s Vietnam; I figured that out after about ten minutes, it’s really obvious. Brando is the new ambassador, sent there to make sure the new road through the country that the Americans are building (“Freedom Road”) goes through, after some sabotage halts construction.

Brando’s character has a close Sarkanese friend who is being led astray by those darn Communists, so that’s a huge plot point with much political talk, and he is also friends with two Americans who run a hospital for children that is much needed and appreciated.

Eventually it all goes pear-shaped, mostly due to misunderstandings and the machinations of those doggone Communists, and the Americans have to leave. Not really a spoiler, it’s obvious where the plot is going.

This was pretty heavy-handed, but since it was made in 1963 about current political events, that’s not surprising. I was surprised, though, when I was talking to Mr. Otter a few days later- he used the phrase Ugly American, and I said, I assume that movie is where the phrase came from, but Brando wasn’t what the phrase means now, he really appreciated the country, tried to follow the customs and respect the people, but was misinformed.

Mr. Otter said no, the eponymous Ugly American was the American doctor, who the local people considered to be ugly although they loved him anyway. Huh? Really, said Mr. Otter, I read the book, it was him.

O-kaaaay. So there you have it.

If you like heavy-handed political drama, or seeing history from the contemporaneous point of view, this is your movie. But be warned, Brando is already in mumble-mode in 1963, it was sometimes very hard to understand him.


The Professionals

September 21, 2018

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From the novel A Mule for the Marquesa by Frank O’Rourke

Four guys who specialize in fighting and weapons are hired by a Very Rich Guy to get his wife back after she’s been kidnaped by Mexican bandits.

I love Las Vegas. I don’t do the usual Vegas stuff, much- I love the bookstores, the Neon Museum, and places like that. I also love the two parks nearby- Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, and Valley of Fire State Park.

Valley of Fire is gorgeous, and many movies have been shot there…but this movie is special to them, because not only did the movie company build a road out to the White Domes, where the did a lot of the shooting, but there are pieces of the set still there that you can hike to.

So Squirrel Lady and I were in Nevada, and stopped at this State Park. We were going to take this hike, but when we got to the Visitor’s Center, on the white board where they list current information it literally said, Hiking: NOT RECOMMENDED. It was over a hundred degrees there at the time, so I can see why they said this…so we drove and looked at stuff, but did not hike.

When I got home from this trip, I had a free evening, so I rented this from Amazon and watched it…and you know, it was pretty good!

The plot is one of those 60s ‘bad guys are good and good guys are bad’ revisionist Western plots…but there were good people in it (Lee Marvin, Burt Lancaster, Robert Ryan, Woody Strode actually playing a main character instead of getting killed in the first ten minutes, Ralph Bellamy and- wow, I just saw this- Jack Palance playing the bad-guy Mexican bandit who’s causing all the trouble. And Claudia Cardinale as well. Kind of a 60s Western go-to list of actors.

The story was good, with lots of action and some humor. The ending was predictable but well done. And it was cool to see how much of it they did shoot in VoFSP…I recognized a lot of the landscape.

So go there, then rent this…you’ll be glad you did!

 


Ant Man and the Wasp

July 12, 2018

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Ant-Man is back! Under house arrest for helping out the Avengers in Germany, but still needing to save the world…or at least a little part of it. Joined by the volatile Wasp, and up to amusing business as usual.

This is the ‘bumbling superhero’ type of movie, and while amusing, is not really my cup of tea. Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly are good, the plot moves well, there are great special effects and some surprises (including the traditional Marvel added scene in the end credits, DO NOT MISS THIS) but it was just funny hijinks with not really much at stake.

And…I know the Marvel universe is full of pseudoscience, but in many of the movies they try to make the pseudoscience make sense in the context of the movie. In this one I felt like they would throw around some science-y sounding words and then MAGIC! Something would happen and I would just be expected to go with the flow. I got really tired of this after a while: OMG (science sounding words) we better (more science sounding words) (MAGIC HAPPENS) because (science sounding words).

So yes, the story was amusing, I kinda like the “bumbling but it all turns out ok” way that  And-Man operates, sure. But not the best Marvel movie ever.

Except the tardigrades, aka water bears, who were ADORABLE. Aaaawwwww.

 

 


Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

July 12, 2018

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A prequel set in the Harry Potter ‘verse. Newt Scamander comes to the United States in the 1920s to help a rare creature, and gets involved with muggles (known as ‘no-maj’-es in the US, where magic is Not Allowed) and, you know, shenanigans. And lots of cute creatures.

I have pretty much given up on the Harry Potter oeuvre; I liked the books, plot holes aside, but by the fourth movie they were just sinking under the weight of having to condense ten hours or more of plot into a bit over two hours. Meh.

But I really like Eddie Redmayne, and this looked interesting, and I was going to be at the Red Cross for three hours with needles in my arms doing apheresis, so why not?

And it was ok verging on good. If this had been written as a standalone, it would have been better, but of course it’s going to have sequels that will set up the Harry Potter series and the political and dark magic underpinnings that preceded those books. So sure, whatever.

I liked the three principal actors- Redmayne, the girl and the no-maj sidekick guy; they worked well together and the sidekick didn’t just come off as an idiot and the butt of all the jokes; he was a pretty cool character in his own right, and I liked him a lot. Serious Honey Johnny Depp shows up briefly, about which I will say no more.

And…the sequel is coming out next year, and I’m sure there will be another one…and it will NEVER END.

So I’m pretty much done with these; not only do I get tired of waiting years to find out how the next installment goes (I’m looking at you here, George R. R. Martin) but the whole PORTENTOUS thing just blows this out of the water for me. It’s not deep. It’s not a huge revelation. It’s just a kids’ fantasy series, guys, so stop taking it all so seriously.

And now I better change my email address before the hate mail starts pouring in…


Deadpool 2

June 7, 2018

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The Merc with a Mouth is back, and just as rude and violent as ever.

I can’t talk a lot about the plot of this one without giving out a HUGE SPOILER…and for once, I hesitate to do so, more fun to see it played out.

I will say that Deadpool is great and funny and totally not PC. His enemy in this one is Cable, a warrior from the future, played by Josh Brolin (who now has a huge part in both the Marvel and DC universes, so go Josh!). Yes, his ‘buddies’ from the X-Men mansion are back as well, and they’re great.

And…I can’t say a whole lot more. But go see this one, if you liked the first you won’t be disappointed. Trust the Otter. (In fact, trust both of them…Mr. Otter was surprised to find that he liked this one too.)


Justice League Dark

April 26, 2018

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The first team-up of the sorcery/magic Justice League group.

Okay. So first, you need to know that I am a HUGE John Constantine Hellblazer fan. I have the whole 300 issue run in graphic novel form, and Son of Man was one of the three comics that made me start reading graphic novels again after a 30 year hiatus. I LOVE Constantine.

So when DC did “The New 52”, finally ending the 20+ year run of the original comic, and rebooted it as this Justice League Dark teamup, I was skeptical…and read the first several issues and ranted for days about how bad they were. Constantine’s character was WAY watered down from his original foul, mouthy, semi-evil bad boy origins, and being a team player is NOT on his list of job skills.

But I somehow got a copy of this movie recently, and thought, well, let’s give it a try.

And…you know…I liked it.

The story is the usual thing, mysterious evil stuff at work and who’s doing it? and let’s go a lot of spooky places and fight stuff and find out.

But the story was good; Zatanna wasn’t as annoying on screen as she is in print because hearing her cast spells is much better than reading it  (she casts magic spells by saying things backwards, which I find extremely distracting, and kind of stupid). I always like Jason Blood, because Etrigan (a demon who talks in bad verse) is hilarious, and the group worked well. Constantine was really pretty well represented here; they had to clean up his language A LOT, but he was still rude and mouthy, obviously hot for Zatanna, and not so much a team player as a ‘I’m going to do this, you can follow if you want’ kind of person.

I enjoyed this a lot! might go back and give the later comics another try…


Batman: Gotham by Gaslight

April 26, 2018

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From the graphic novel of the same name by Brian Augustyn

Batman and other Gotham characters are recast in a late 1800s Gotham City, and must stop a series of “Jack the Ripper” style murders.

I loaned several seasons of the truly excellent Gotham TV series to a friend and his teenage sons, and one of the sons got me this as a thank-you present. And they say millenials don’t do well with social interactions! A very thoughtful gift!

Anyway. I took this along when I went to the Red Cross to do Apheresis, and it was excellent for lying for a couple of hours with needles in my arms- interesting, well done, suspenseful and fun.

The animation was good- stylish but not overfancy. The characters were good too, and the whodunit ending was surprising, if you haven’t read the book (and I don’t remember reading it if I did, so I was certainly not expecting what happened.)

My only slight problem with it was the period setting, which was a mishmash of both British and American and several different decades of things, references and happenings.

But, to misquote another movie…”Forget it, Otter. It’s comic books.”

Worth seeing if you are (like me) a fan of Batman or Gotham.