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.


Money Train

June 7, 2018

money

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Woody and Wesley are transit cops who have a boss (Robert Blake) who is a bastard and they get back at him by hijacking the subway car that carries all the money for the transit system.

Um, stupid people doing stupid things stupidly.

This is not to say that this movie was not mildly enjoyable; Woody and Wesley are both young and cute (1995) and JLo is ditto. The plot was okay, just unbelieveable enough to make me roll my eyes, which (being in the middle of apheresis at the Red Cross) was about all I could move.

Mildly amusing, a good way to pass the time, no great shakes.


7 Days in Entebbe

March 20, 2018

entebbe

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A ‘Inspired by True Events’ story about the hijackers who took a planeful of people (including a hundred Israeli citizens) to Uganda, and how the Israeli government sent special forces troops in to rescue them.

Mr. Otter and I went to see this; both of us, of course, were around when it happened, but considering that it was the month I graduated from high school, I wasn’t reading a lot of newspapers at the moment. But nobody at that time could miss hearing about it, it was a huge deal. And still is.

This movie…is not as good as we hoped it would be. I can’t speak for absolute historical accuracy, but they spent a lot of time trying to humanize the terrorists, which neither Mr. Otter nor I thought was either a good idea or very well done.

There was also a big plot thread with one of the soldiers and his girlfriend, who was pissed off that he wouldn’t be around to see her dance performance (really? Army guy is supposed to not follow orders to see your show?) and many cuts to the dance itself, which was an modernish thing that had us saying, Huh? Here is what Mr. Otter found out about it afterwards, because (good librarian that he is) he looked it up:

Mr. Otter: Apparently the first one is a piece about conformity among
the Haredim, which is supposed to somehow tie in to Israel’s tough
stance vis-avis the Palestinians. It’s a fairly famous piece, first
danced in 1990. The other piece is probably something about something,
too.

The second piece was during the credits, and was also a weird modern thing. And btw, this is not a reflection on the dancers, who were excellent; it just seemed out of place in a movie like this, especially with no explanation. I would have been happier with more politics and soldiering and less touchy-feely. I wonder if this stuff was put in specifically so that women would come to see an action movie?

This was okay, but not great. There was not enough tension, and the politics and public opinion were mostly told rather than shown…we were pretty nonplussed by the whole thing.


Ghostbusters II

March 1, 2018

ghost

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The Ghostbusters are back! and this time they’re working with Sigourney Weaver to stop a centuries-old evil guy who wants to return to life…

OtherOtter and I were hanging out and decided to watch a movie, which of course meant trying to find something we both had not seen lately and wanted to watch…this one fit the bill nicely. She had not seen it and it has obviously been at least 16 years since I have, since there is no review of it.

And it was fun! it’s not as funny as the original, of course, but then nothing is. The Ghostbusters have fallen on hard times and disbelief, Sigourney Weaver has been married and divorced and has a child but no husband, and there is a bad guy wanting to be reincarnated into her kid. Hijinks ensue.

This was, of course, dated…and watching it with a 20something, there were many times I said, you’ve never heard of (reference they just made), have you? Sigh. But we enjoyed it.

Not top of the list, but good for an evenings amusement.


Geostorm

November 7, 2017

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There is a grid of weather satellites controlling the weather all over the world…but of course things go horribly wrong…

I would normally put a SPOILERS warning here, because I’m going to give away the name of the bad guy (as if you can’t guess it from the cast list) so if you really care, stop reading. And do yourself a favor, don’t watch it either; really, you will thank me for this advice.

So yes. Climate change and all, so the nations of the world actually work together and put up a continuous sphere of satellites, controlled by an international space station, to control the weather.

So let’s allow this ridiculous premise, that anytime this century (much less soon) this would even be feasible, much less possible. The science police are out to lunch, and we won’t tell them.

The footage of this web of satellites doesn’t just have all of them in geosynchronous orbit…no, they are PHYSICALLY CONNECTED by lines of some kind of metal into a grid. Really? What kind of stupid is that, to think that that’s more believeable than just spacing them in orbit? Plus the space station is OUTSIDE this net, and shuttles go up and down. Could they have left a couple of big holes for this? no, the shuttle has to get through the spaces, which don’t really look big enough.

Then…the station was built under the aegis of, and control of, the US, but will soon devolve to the United Nations, and of course somebody doesn’t want it and is sabotaging the weather (over specific cities, we’ll get to that later) but has left clues and things so the Good Guys can Figure It Out. I’m tired of villains who are stupider than I am. And of course it’s Ed Harris, as soon as you see that he’s in the movie you know he’s the bad guy. Because Ed Harris.

And speaking of actors, how sad is it that it looks like 300, as awesome as it was, is probably the zenith of Gerard Butler’s career? And I say that not having seen most of the stuff he’s done, but now he’s in a high-budget dog like this? Sad. Just sad.

So yes, high budget. Really amazing sets and (at least in the trailers) mind-blowing special effects. Except…there were more or less 5 cities that got destroyed…and it was…well, not very exciting. Plus there was no indication that when each of these catastrophic events happened they would have repercussions outside the specific area of that one city, which was even more unbelieveable than the rest of this turkey. They were individual cities, and you saw cgi footage of stuff happening, but since there were no characters we knew involved, and the damage was limited to one tiny area, it was…just cgi.

And that (aside from the predictability and the stupid science) was the problem with this movie- for a thriller and a special-effects disaster movie, it was kind of boring. The plot was not very good (at least  they tried to give an explanation for there being a self-destruct device on the international space station) and none of the characters was really more than stock- the smart girl with a gun who is in love with someone she shouldn’t be in love with, the maverick who built the thing who is going to have to die to save everyone except he won’t die, the bad guy who turns out not to be the bad guys because (surprise) Ed Harris is actually the bad guy, the maverick’s daughter who is in the movie SOLELY to try to make us care whether or not the maverick survives the self-destruct thing, etc. etc. etc.

Meh. Skip it. Not worth even watching for free.


Blade Runner 2049

October 12, 2017

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Bears some relationship to Philip K. Dick’s novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? But not much…

This otter is old enough to have seen the original Blade Runner in the theater. Yes, some people walking on this earth are actually that old. And what was released in the theater had a truly awful ending, which was rectified when DVDs were invented and we all went out and bought the Director’s Cut (which is the one to watch, kids, just sayin’).

And in fact, I have not seen it since I started this blog on January 1, 2002, so it has indeed been a while, although I think Mr. Otter watched it while I did something else and I saw the best bits over again.

Anyway. So Blade Runner is a very old classic movie, justly famous, well written, good actors, blah blah blah. Amazing.

And…now there’s a sequel.

So first: this review contains

SPOILERS

SPOILERS

SPOILERS

Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Mr. Otter and I had a rare afternoon together with nothing planned. We had heard many conflicting things about this movie, about half good and half bad. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a score in the 80s, though, which is usually a good sign. So we went to our local Emporium du Movies to see it.

And…hm. I liked the look of it, not quite as low-rent and filthy as the original, but they had a ton more money, and this time they had computers (the original Blade Runner was one of the last analog-effects movies that wasn’t purposely made without computers). The light, scenery, sets, everything was visually stunning.

The actors were good- Ryan Gosling, although he had an emotional range that went all the way from A to about D, was good in a part where he didn’t know stuff and was trying to find out. Robin Wright was great, I didn’t even recognize her, although I did recognize David Bautista. And of course there was someone else I recognized…but we’ll get to that.

And I am not at all a prudish Otter, but they sure threw in as many naked women as they possibly could. No men, just women. Hmpf. Although the scene where he started to have sex with both the prostitute and his computer lady was REALLY good.

The music was PORTENTOUS. Mostly I didn’t notice it, which is good (it’s always a bad sign when you notice the background music in a movie) but every now and then, it would get VERY MEANINGFUL to let us know that SOMETHING WAS HAPPENING. Especially toward the end of the movie.

I thought the first couple of hours (oh yes, this movie was TWO HOURS AND FORTY FIVE MINUTES LONG, this was one of the problems) was pretty good- the plot was good, everything was fine…then, when the scene moved to what I think was the remnant of  Las Vegas…it all went south.

It got PRETENTIOUS. And MEANINGFUL. And DEEP. And…just took itself WAAAY too seriously.

And Harrison Ford, reprising yet another famous role. I’m waiting for him to drive by in a souped up race car, 90 years old and trying to find the guy he’s supposed to be racing…that’s pretty much the only iconic role of his that he hasn’t done again lately…

Why couldn’t they just write a good sequel-ish script, make a good story and leave it at that? Why does this have to be a direct Harrison-Ford-involving, rewriting-the-original, spawning-yet-another-franchise kind of thing?

The two things they did right was that A) Gosling WASN’T the child of the replicants, and the reveal was very good, nice foreshadowing without giving it away; and B) the dog didn’t die. Because that’s always a deal-killer Chez Otter.

But seriously? This was WAAAAY overblown. And also, even though it was nice to see a movie that took some time with scenes and characters and all that, this needed an hour cut out of it. And I would volunteer pretty much the whole last hour for the chop, as well as the long loving pans over the computer-generated apocalyptic landscape. That was at least half an hour of movie time.

Yes, you probably need to see it if you loved the first movie. Enjoy it for what it is and don’t expect too much, and more importantly don’t be surprised when the third (of course there’s going to be a sequel, that was obvious) shows up.

But I won’t be in the theater with you, I’m done with this. I’m going home and watching the original over again.

 


The Men who Stare at Goats

April 8, 2017

mengoats

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Loosely based on the book of the same name by Jon Ronson

Several men are involved in the US Army’s attempts to make new-age and paranormal abilities useful in spying and combat.

I was at the Red Cross to do Apheresis, which means a couple of hours with needles in my arms, and I was looking for something amusing to watch, and this caught my eye…and boy, was it ever amusing. I was laughing out loud and all the nurses were coming over to see what was so funny.

The cast is stellar- George Clooney, Jeff Bridges, Ewan MacGregor and Kevin Spacey. Ewan MacGregor is a reporter trying to find out about a program that was designed to teach soldiers (or spies) to use mind power for various things, including making an enemy’s heart stop by staring at them (they trained on goats, hence the title). He tracks down Clooney, Bridges and Spacey, all of whom have history with each other, and he is led on a chase from one place to another as he tries to find out the truth.

This was actually a gem-well written, funny, full of great details. The military background is hilarious, and Clooney is so deadpan it’s amazing.

Trust the otter- use your mental powers to track it down, you’ll be glad you did.