Their Finest

Leave a comment


Film, Mrs Cole. Real life with the boring bits cut out. Don’t confuse facts with truth, and, for Christ’s sake, don’t let either of them get in the way of the story.


Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton) heading through a bombed out London street in Their Finest (2016).

Last year many people saw Dunkirk. I did not. I did not watch many films in 2017, but of the films I saw, I think this one was probably the best. This film is basically a contemporaneous behind the scenes for Dunkirk, but 1940s style. While this current one is not seen as propaganda, the Dunkirk of Their Finest is made by the Department of Propaganda. The connections between cinema and propaganda, between movie studios and governments, and between men and women fascinate me. But beyond making me think, this film made me feel. Even the abridged light on facts propaganda film they made within this film brought tears to my eyes. I never thought of myself as a fan of Gemma Arterton, but I certainly am one now. And I knew that Sam Claflin could look handsome (see The Hunger Games: Catching Fire), but even with a blazer and glasses instead of shirtless with a trident he could captivate. Plus, Bill Nighy is a treat.


Escape from L.A.

Leave a comment

Ha! We thought you might try that, hotshot. That’s why the first clip is loaded with blanks. Bye bye, Snake. Good luck!


To be frank, I have never seen Escape from New York. Thus I cannot say that this was an unnecessary sequel, as much as it is an unnecessary film. I had forgotten that I had watched it until reading today’s chapter of Shea Serrano’s Basketball (and other things). Therein he drafted the 30 fictional basketball players and Snake Plissken made the list. The scene that qualifies him is where he has to make 5 buckets in 50 seconds. It is silly and capricious, and it exemplifies this film.

The highlights: Michelle Forbes as a cop named Brazen. I have always thought of her as Ensign Ro from “Star Trek: The Next Generation”. So it was nice to see her getting work. Also, Kurt Russell grimaces well in the film.

Wonder Woman

1 Comment


Really, specs? Suddenly she’s not the most beautiful woman you’ve ever seen?


For me the highlight (and lowlight) of this film came when Wonder Woman attacked the Germans within a town. During that scene I felt overjoyed with having a woman be the center of this, thinking, why not a woman? Finally, a comic book movie with a female lead. I had totally disregarded Catwoman and Elektra, because, why would I not? Even as a rare fan of Daredevil, and even of Jennifer Garner therein, I did not bother to watch Elektra. But it is 2017 and why the hell did it take this long to get here? In 1997 when Batman & Robin crapped its way into theaters, why did Hollywood declare comic book films dead? I point to Blade as evidence that comic book movies never went away—just DC Comics films—but even if you say that had been started before the Bat-Nipples flop, X-Men came out in 2000, so we had two years without comic books movie. Why did Hollywood not declare male superhero movies dead? Or white superhero movies dead?

Prejudices and stereotypes are why they did not. This film, directed by Patty Jenkins, and scripted by Allen Heinberg, plays with lots of stereotypes and expectations, stemming from perceptions of villainy, to politics, to fish out of water, and on. The best two surprises of the film were David Thewlis–Professor Lupin–as a very British bureaucrat and Robin Wright–Princess Buttercup–as Niobe, the greatest Amazonian warrior ever. This is a very good film.

Killing Them Softly

Leave a comment

What’s he gonna do, fold under questioning? If he does, they’ll kill him. If he doesn’t, they’ll figure he’s lying like last time and they’ll kill him. Either way, Markie’s dead. So why put the poor bastard through a beating? It’s a waste of time – not to mention a really unpleasant experience for Markie. Just put him out of his misery, poor bastard.

Ten years ago this is the kind of movie I would have adored. It has a great look to it. The actors in it are fantastic and each play distinctive people from the underworld. The story shows a bleak outlook for those types and includes a super cool assassin. Make Wong Kar Wei the director and this is an easy ****.

So this has Richard Jenkins as a guest star. My family’s movie club just discussed his classic The Visitor. Other than him there is vulgar screw up assassin James Gandolfini who is hunting the two screw up leads, the amazing Ben Mendelsohn—Director Krennic, Rogue One—and Scoot McNairy—always delightfully pathetic in Best Picture winners like Argo and 12 Years a Slave.

But Brad Pitt gets first billing because of course he does. With Andrew Dominik as the writer/director he strove for the amazing lyricism of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. He did not completely get it. Still, sometimes it is better to go for something different and not totally pull it off, than to make the same old crap. ****

John Wick

1 Comment


That “fuckin’ nobody”… is John Wick. He once was an associate of ours. They call him “Baba Yaga.”

This movie is DARK, but tries to be a DARK comedy…or at least whatever the action version of a dramedy is. With that as its goal, it absolutely succeeds in making a bleak movie that has elements of those three genres. It also boasts a phenomenal cast.

For me the highlight was none of that though, it was just nice to hear some Russian again. That said, even with my Russian skills having atrophied for years, I disagreed with some translations. The first one is a literal translation issue. Right before John Wick–Keanu “The Matrix” Reeves”–succeeds in killing the target of his revenge, said target says the repeated line “It was just a fuck’n— [dog]”. Or so you Amerkantsi are led to believe. In fact he said one of the most rude phrases in Russian, иди на хуй. It is one of two ways in Russian to say “F You”. For those linguistically interested, it is phonetically idi na khuey. Literally translated that is “go to (the) cock”. The difference is huge. This was a final middle finger to one’s murderer, not emphatically shaking your hands/fists to express exasperation. The second translation harkens to my official quotation for the film. Baba Yaga (Баба-яга) gets called “the boogeyman”. Call me old-fashioned, but where I grew up and then learned about Slavic cultures Baba Yaga was an ultra witch with iron teeth who lived in a house that had three chicken legs, not the boogeyman. And the Russian Wikipedia article on the boogeyman is for Buka, not Baba Yaga.

That portion of the review may not be particularly relevant to one’s viewing choices, but it is what went through my head. On the other hand, a film’s message is often crucial to whether or not someone should watch a film. And the message here is an interesting one, whatever it is. Is it about relative morality? About codes of conduct? About group culpability? Even perhaps about the disadvantages of working for the Russian mob? Truthfully, I do not know what the directors–Chad Stahelski & David Leitch–or the writer–Derek Kolstad–wanted the message to be, but even for a dark movie this was troubling.

Please examine the facts, and keep in mind my 4 possible messages. John Wick gets rudely accosted by a young Russian, whom I referred to above as “target of revenge.” John Wick is depressed, since his wife, whom he loved deeply, just died. Target is offended by Wick’s lack of fear, and breaks and enters, beating the crap out of Wick and killing Wick’s new dog in front of him, before stealing his nice car and breaking the SUV. Target in movie logic, is now due a receipt for the bill he has rung up. We want to see him pay for being an awful human being. Now it turns out Target’s father was Wick’s Russian Mob boss Viggo. Viggo learns of this and tells Target that he is doomed because Wick is going to kill him no matter what. Viggo sends lots of guys to Wick’s house to kill him because Wick will not listen to him (about not revenge killing his son). Then there is about 90 minutes of Wick killing members of the Russian mob. Like dozens of people. Eventually Wick gets caught by Viggo and gets beaten up again, but is freed by Willem Dafoe, aka, Wick’s buddy who gets killed by Viggo later. After killing a dozen more people Wick gets the FU from Target, kills Target. Then he finds Willem Dafoe dead and goes to kill Viggo, who only killed Dafoe because Dafoe betrayed him and freed Wick. Wick then eventually kills more people, including Viggo. Wick finds new dog. The End.




Recap: Antagonists – kill one dog and one person. Protagonist – kills the population of Montana, almost entirely comprised of Russian mobsters, most of whom we do not know the names of. Also, he kills Target and Target’s Dad Viggo.

  1. Relative Morality – If all killings were equally reprehensible, then Wick is 50x the villain that Target is, so we must be flexible and judge the value of those slain, over the number of them. This is a very dangerous, non-utilitarian viewpoint.
  2. Code of Conduct – The Russian Mob, like super abusive samurai, have a code, that when violated ought to elicit an appropriate response. The neutral acts, like killing underlings, are permissible because those people stood in the way of justice via the ethics of that agreed upon code.
  3. Group Culpability – This one is also a dangerous message. This is the “we will kill their families” school of thought. This is thee rationale behind casting Nazis as villains in films because screw it, they are Nazis and they get no sympathy because the group they have chosen, is Evil. This could explain how Wick can be the protagonist and murder like a hundred Russian mobsters. Still, Wick was a member of the mob and a self-admitted horrible person with many deaths on his hands before his retirement.
  4. The Disadvantages of Working for the Russian Mob – This is my favorite of the possibilities. Viewing this through the prism of a cautionary tale, this film loudly and repeatedly states, DO NOT WORK FOR THE RUSSIAN MOB. No matter your power—great or small, or how out of the life you think you are, your life is forfeit and you will end up pathetic, unhappy, and dead. The best case scenario is to be a bouncer who chooses to “take the night off”, i.e. betray the mob, and move on to live another day without the haunting memories of dead pets. That guy also had just lost 60 pounds. Do the math.

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

Leave a comment


Hunt is uniquely trained and highly motivated – a specialist without equal – immune to any countermeasures. There is no secret he cannot extract, no security he cannot breach, no person he cannot become. He has most likely anticipated this very conversation and is waiting to strike in whatever direction we move. Sir, Hunt is the living manifestation of destiny – and he has made you his mission.

This movie was astonishingly favorably reviewed, and I just do not see it. It takes the plot of Mission: Impossible (1) and does it again. Which was also the plot of Spectre, for what it is worth. We get boringly competent Tom Cruise again, with his abs and snappy lines. We get Rebecca Ferguson who just has one of those faces/performances that makes you feel like you have seen her before, and I think that is a good thing. The returns of Pegg, Renner and Rhames were fine as well, but failed to take advantage of their true skills. I am especially glad Rhames got this paycheck.

So that is an average movie, but there are pros and cons. Alec Baldwin seems only slightly more interested in his role than One Take Tommy in Jason Bourne. At least the action, set in as dumb of places as planes and underwater computers, is good. And the resolution is smugly satisfying.

Independence Day



Good morning. In less than an hour, aircraft from here will join others from around the world. And you will be launching the largest aerial battle in the history of mankind. “Mankind.” That word should have new meaning for all of us today. We can’t be consumed by our petty differences anymore. We will be united in our common interests. Perhaps it’s fate that today is the Fourth of July, and you will once again be fighting for our freedom… Not from tyranny, oppression, or persecution… but from annihilation. We are fighting for our right to live. To exist. And should we win the day, the Fourth of July will no longer be known as an American holiday, but as the day the world declared in one voice: “We will not go quietly into the night!” We will not vanish without a fight! We’re going to live on! We’re going to survive! Today we celebrate our Independence Day!

Is there any other quotation I could possibly have gone with? Everything else was dependent on the actor’s accent or style. Try to imagine someone besides Jeff Goldblum Bill Pullman delivering those lines. NOTE I confused the poor lines that Goldblum had to deliver, and the spine tingling speech above! But dammit, Jeff Goldblum did the best he could. His performance was especially impressive considering what he was tasked with in the 90s.  For instance, how are you supposed to deliver a snappy comeback to elicit laughter following lots of deaths? Roland Emmerich will tell you how — like Jeff F’n Goldblum.

About Roland Emmerich…I do not know if he has a misanthropy problem, or if he just loves overcoming impossible odds through gibberish science problem. Here is what we know about Roland:

1. He loves blowing stuff up;
2. He loves landmarks;
3. He loves blowing up landmarks; and
4. He uses flash wipes, which are only ever appropriate when the Men in Black take away your memory.

You can imagine what scenes took place in this movie. Also, what is with those flash wipes? And why did he give Randy Quaid a “hero” theme in the score? If Randy merits his own theme, which he does not, then it should have been one with the hint of redemption, not a spoiler alerting hero one.

Here are the rest of my disjointed thoughts, presented chronologically:

Why does SETI not pick up the aliens until the ship is at the moon?
Great effect for the first appearance of the ships, awesome.
Good shocks, but cutesy.
Laughter after hundreds of thousands and maybe millions are dead. Why? Because this is supposed to be a fun massive death movie. Also, Roland Emmerich is an misanthrope who just wants to watch the world burn. I made this point above, but he likes to repeat stuff so I can do it too.
Why are the pilots so, for lack of a better term, d-bag-y?
Harry Connick, Jr. could not die fast enough.
How is Will Smith’s jet out of gas?!?
YES! Tank top plus flannel unbuttoned and untucked! In jeans without a belt! The single most 90’s look ever.
Judd Hirsch gets in the “nobody’s perfect” line as an homage to Some Like It Hot.
And lastly, returning to Randy Quaid — Flying while going through withdrawal is probably worse than flying drunk.

One last big footnote. Emmerich directed a movie called Stonewall in 2015. While it was not favorably received, there were no monsters (other than human ones) in the time that lead up to the Stonewall Riots in New York City, so why did he make this? I have no clue.

Older Entries