Home

Charlie Wilson’s War

Leave a comment

***½

You know you’ve reached rock bottom when you’re told you have character flaws by a man who hanged his predecessor in a military coup.

Fully clothed Jane Liddle (Emily Blunt) next to her fully clothed father (Peter Gerety). 2007 © Pics.

Fully clothed Jane Liddle (Emily Blunt) next to her fully clothed father (Peter Gerety). 2007 © Pics.

Part of this movie should have been called Joanne Herring’s War! Julia Roberts’ Joanne Herring in some way helped Charlie Wilson become a Congressman and eventually helped convince a fellow Baptist Legislator whose consent Wilson needed. As for Charlie Wilson, for much of the movie Charlie Wilson—Tom Hanks, Forrest Gump—plays someone who is smarter than he seems and more engaged than he appears. But he also appeared to be a moderately powerful, moderately wealthy Texan douche bag. He was what America wanted President George W. Bush to be. A charmer who killed commies! But they still needed the assistance of an obese CIA Agent whose steals the show by being such a droll jerk. Watching Philip Seymour-Hoffman kill it in that role makes his death even more depressing, at least he got nominated for the best supporting actor Academy Award.

What a fucking ugly shirt.

Charlie Wilson (Hanks) and Gust Avrakotos (Seymour-Hoffman) in Wilson’s office with some delicious Talisker. © 2007 Universal Pics.

Thanks to the CIA the Afghans got US-bought Soviet weapons. Eventually they got stingers to shoot down those classic Soviet helicopters. It is in an exciting scene where some cocky Soviet soldiers are about to hit a village of Aghanis, but then those simple Afghanis shoot one of them down! The attitude seemed to be, the only good Commie was a dead Commie! As the years rolled by the numbers of helicopters shot down appeared on screen. They did not post the Soviet casualties from this escalation. Commie killing—I have a problem with that. The moral high ground, in which this film lives, relies on our sympathies aligning with the women and children killed by Soviet soldiers. But glamorizing the deaths of “evil” Soviets seemed inappropriately lighthearted in this semi-serious movie.

An MI-24 Hind, just like the ones used in Afghanistan and in Charlie Wilson's War.

An MI-24 Hind, just like the ones used in Afghanistan and in Charlie Wilson’s War.

For a better slice of the Soviet invasion into Afghanistan, I direct you to The Beast (of War). But before then I became aware of the Mujahadeen in the Bond film The Living Daylights. It is weird to watch this movie, since this was the first post-US invasion of Afghanistan that is set in pre-our war in Afghanistan. This tapped back into the days when the Mujahadeen were glamorous freedom fighters and not part of the Taliban. And this was filmed three years into the contemporaneously unending conflict.  Beyond that real life angle, the other thing that struck me as the film ended was just how short it had been. The story appeared to span for 5–6 years, but only took an hour and forty minutes. So thiswais just a well acted *** movie with an extra half star for Philip Seymour-Hoffman’s performance.

After thoughts: The naughty bits in this are the only part that indicated that this was also directed by Mike Nichols—Closer. And the clever political bits showed how this was adapted by Aaron Sorkin. On balance though, I had forgotten that they were involved with this film until I went to the IMDb page.

Advertisements

The Best Directors: A Series—Ang Lee

Leave a comment

I have only seen three Ang Lee movies, but they are all excellent romances in their own ways. The three I have seen are: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Lust, Caution, and Life of Pi.  Two of those are much more famous than the other.

Chow Yun Fat and Ang Lee on set of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Chow Yun Fat and Ang Lee on set of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon brought two of Hong Kong’s best action stars together: Chow Yun Fat and Michelle Yeoh. They provided the performances of their lives. The look of the film was amazing, as was the editing. Ditto for the music. And such amazing locations. Only one person can pull that all together…the director. This was the first foreign film I remember waiting for its American theatrical release. And it turned out to be the best film of 2000, and one of the best foreign films ever.

I do not remember much about Lust, Caution, but considering that it was about a romance/espionage between a Japanese collaborator (set in World War II China) and some fledgling resistance members it certainly was tense. Tony Leung is the married target and Yang Wei is the young spy who is meant to set up his assassination. Probably the best “adult” movie I have seen; and by adult I mean NC-17.

Most recently he made Life of Pi.  When I say made, I mean, he directed and produced it. This is only the second time in his career that he has done so. The first time was in the above-mentioned Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. As impressive as the best foreign film of the 2000s and best NC-17 film are, telling the story of a young Indian man stuck with a tiger on a boat was a coup. It was a beautiful film and a terrifying one. He leaves it up to the characters in the film and to us the audience to decide if we can believe in a miracle enough to justify our faith in Pi. I did not wait to see Crouching Tiger and now I wish I had not waited to see Life of Pi. These have been so good that I might have to go and watch his mid-2000’s classic Hulk. Or Brokeback Mountain. One or the other.

With Great Power: The Stan Lee Story

Leave a comment

***

I don’t know what the universal conception of creator is. Steve definitely felt that he was the co-creator of Spider-man. That was really, and once he said it I realized that it meant a lot to him, that was fine with me. So I said, “Fine, I’ll tell everybody that you’re the co-creator.” But that didn’t quite satisfy him. So I sent him a letter, I put it in writing, To whom it may concern: This is to state that I consider Steve Ditko to be the co-creator of Spider-man, or something like that. And I said you can show this to anyone you want to.

I went into this with a relatively closed mind since I recently recalled the stories of how Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster got screwed over by DC Comics when they created Superman. But in that story they eventually got credit. The unknown travesty is the story of Bill Finger, who actually created Batman. So with them in mind I started to watch a documentary about the man who allegedly created the Fantastic Four, Spider-man, The Hulk AND the X-Men. Merely by talking about the importance of Jack Kirby and then crediting Steve Ditko with co-creating Spider-man—after Kirby failed to make a puny enough looking hero. If you like Stan Lee, or want to hear about his/Marvel Comics’ climb to prominence over 80 minutes, then this is the documentary for you. Since those things appeal to me, I liked this. I enjoyed all of the clips from interviews from famous actors, directors and more comic artists/writers. There was a sufficient amount of time for his wife, but only one fleeting shot of his not particularly popular comic “Stripperella.”

Changeling

2 Comments

***

I am not running away from anything! Least of all my responsibilities! I am even taking care of that boy right now, because I am all he has! What worries me is that you have stopped looking for my son!

Asher Axe as David Clay and Michael Kelly as Detective Lester Ybarra in Changeling, © 2008 Universal.

Asher Axe as David Clay and Michael Kelly as Detective Lester Ybarra in Changeling, © 2008 Universal.

Back to back Clint Eastwood films for me. I thought this one would be better than Invictus, but this one was only pretty good. Most of the performances are very good, lots of credit to the actors who had to deal with Eastwood, with the possible exception of John Malkovich who portrayed himself in this one, but with crazy 1920’s hair. I agree with the consensus that Anjelina Jolie was excellent in this film. She portrays Christine Collins, a mother whose young son is kidnapped while she is at work and what ensues is a tale of her travails with the horrible 1928 version of the Los Angeles Police Department as they fail to produce her actual son and then lock her up for making trouble.

Reverend Gustav Briegleb–John Malkovich, 2008 © Universal.

Reverend Gustav Briegleb–John Malkovich, 2008 © Universal.

The movie does not drag after the climax, but it just continues on and on. 1930. 1932. 1935. Perhaps that is a metaphor for the suffering that Ms. Collins had to endure with her son. One thing that I can add to this movie is how similar the justice systems in the US and in the USSR were. For instance, the USSR claimed for about 60 years to never have had a serial killer. In fact, their forensic scientists posited that it was a western capitalist problem, or some such. I learned about that through the novel Child 44, and the *** movie Citizen X.

Best of 2013

Leave a comment

1. Captain Phillips
2. Frozen
3. The To Do List
4. Rush
5. Man of Steel
6. 42
7. Star Trek Into Darkness
8. Iron Man 3
9. Unfinished Song
10. Her

Worst movie (that I saw) this year: Broken City.
Worst Oz movie: Oz: The Great and Powerful.

Third Best Comic Book Movie this year: The Wolverine.

This has been a fascinating year for women in cinema. Some of the best had barely a woman to be found, like Captain Phillips and Star Trek Into Darkness, and to a lesser extent Her. It was an imperfectly romantic year that did not hide the pain of poverty and oppression with films like Unfinished Song, 42 and Elysium, each of which included important women. In the wins column there are the female directed/written films that threw our social expectations in our faces with The To Do List and Frozen.

Alan Partridge

Leave a comment

Who’s your alpha papa? Normally I would say that has to be Steve Coogan in 99% of circumstances where he is involved, but Colm Meaney—Chief Miles O’Brien from “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and “Star Trek: Deep Space 9″—just out mans him so hard in this. I would hope that everyone reading this is intimately familiar with Steve Coogan’s classic fake talk show from the 80’s called, “Knowing Me, Knowing You.” If that sounds like an Abba song that is because the music on the show is almost exclusively Abba covers. I believe that it was the the most influential program on “The Office.” As Alan’s BBC show spirals downhill from episode 1-6 he ends up losing his coveted celebrity. Next we see him in the late 90’s in Norwich where he is trying to hold himself together with a younger girlfriend and even less self-awareness. That show was calling “I’m Alan Partridge.” His catch-phrase was “Ah ha!” from the lyrics of Knowing Me, Knowing You. If you have not seen any of that then you probably have also not seen The Trip where Coogan plays an asshole version of himself, but at one point when all alone looking over a beautiful expanse of nature he yells it.

Pat Farrell (Colm Meaney) and Steve Coogan (Alan Partridge), 2013 © Baby Cow Films.

Pat Farrell (Colm Meaney) and Steve Coogan (Alan Partridge), 2013 © Baby Cow Films.

If the above paragraph has not made it clear yet, I am incredibly biased when it comes to this movie. To put this into comic book nerd terms, the existence of this film elicited the same level of excitement as the Professor X & Magneto epilogue to The Wolverine did for me. Or for theater types that Idina Menzel voiced the ice queen in Frozen.

The terrifying sight of Alan Partridge with a gun.

The terrifying sight of Alan Partridge with a gun.

Regardless, the story was a pretty simple one and was a very television-Partridge one, plus a gun. He and Meaney play the old guard at a radio station that was bought out by some British version of Clear Channel. Partridge tries to save both of their jobs, but when he realizes that it’s either him or Meaney. Soon Meaney has been fired and has returned to the station with a double barrel shotgun and a hostage situation ensues with him insisting that Partridge act as his intermediary with the police. I laughed very hard at several points in the movie, but I do not know how much of that I brought to the table. Even without that it would still be a solid *** movie with easily accessible laughs.

***½

You can keep Jesus Christ. That was Neil Diamond… truly the ‘King of the Jews’.

Also, his beleaguered assistant, Lynn, was amazing. She is so dowdy and browbeaten, while managing to remain upbeat. Well done, Felicity Montagu, well done! I leave you with her picture:

There's Lynn (Felicity Montagu) in Alan Partridge.

There’s Lynn (Felicity Montagu) in Alan Partridge, aka Alpha Papa.

Accuracy in…300

2 Comments

With the new 300 coming out soon, I thought that now would be a good time to tackle the accuracy of Zack Snyder’s adaptation of Frank Miller’s glorious, oversized Spartan story.

All art drawn by Frank Miller and inked by Lynn Varley, © Dark Horse Comics 1998.

All art drawn by Frank Miller and inked by Lynn Varley, © Dark Horse Comics 1998.

“Based on a true story” I suspect that Herodotus used those words to describe his “Histories.” While that written during the 5th Century BCE, Frank Miller saw a movie version of these events called The 300 Spartans first. Thence Miller took some liberties into crafting this five issue masterpiece. With the size of the panels—see above—and the minimal dialogue—also, see above—the whole story takes about 20 minutes to read. But it is a glorious 20 minutes. The movie contains every scrap of the comic book within it, yet to call the movie wholly accurate would be incorrect.

Dominic West's "I'm getting stabbed" Face, © 2006 WB.

Dominic West’s “I’m getting stabbed” Face, © 2006 WB.

Lena Headey’s Queen Gorgo is stabbing a character whom I do not remember from the comic, Theron–Dominic West, the traitorous senator. Their whole relationship might have occurred nowhere in the comic book. But 300 was probably not long enough without at least one of them being more. More characters on the Spartan side get more dialogue and what not. Oh, and the soundtrack for the comic book was non-existent.

Older Entries