Saturday, January 17, 2015

25th Hour

Year 7, Day 17 - 1/17/15 - Movie #1,917

BEFORE: OK, so Ed Norton carries over from "The Bourne Legacy", for Film #2 of what I think will be an 8-movie stint, but only 7 of them will be in direct succession, and I need to save one for linking between two other chains.  Those are the breaks, but it will follow in a couple days - I tried arranging these films 18 different ways, and there was no way to get all 8 Norton films together without breaking the chain somewhere else. 

I saw the Norton-a-thon coming together over a year ago, and there was always a reason to wait for one more film - oh, I'll just wait until I get a copy of "Moonrise Kingdom".  You know what, maybe I should wait until some channel runs "The Grand Budapest Hotel".  Well, if this is the last year of the project, I need to clear out all the inventory.  All the Ed Norton films must go, and this is the week.

THE PLOT: Cornered by the DEA, convicted New York drug dealer Montgomery Brogan reevaluates his life in the 24 remaining hours before facing a seven-year jail term.

AFTER: I came up through NYU film school, during the late 80's when Spike Lee was just hitting his stride, and he was revered at my university, having graduated with a Master's Degree just 3 years earlier.  So they made us watch his thesis film, "Joe's Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads", and I just didn't get it.  It was just a bunch of people in an urban barbershop talking, who cares about that?  Boring boring boring.  

Then "She's Gotta Have It" hit big, and by the time I graduated, "Do the Right Thing" was in theaters, and I started to think the guy might - MIGHT - have some talent.  But "Do the Right Thing" had two problems, as I saw it.  First off, it was a very talky-talky picture, except for a burst of action at the end.  Secondly, all that talky-talk seemed to be about racism, and that would be fine, except he chose to display people of all races and colors shouting every single possible racial epithet, in order to make his point.  The theory was, I suppose, that you had to get a dialogue going by showing how bad the problem was - but the thing is, if you stoop to the lowest level, you're going to turn off a lot of people in the process.  

We've all heard the expression "fight fire with fire".  But if you think about it, it's a terrible suggestion.  You shouldn't fight fire with fire, you fight fire with water.  Or by taking away it's oxygen, or it's source of fuel.  But firemen don't come to a burning building with hoses that spray fire, now, do they?  So I always felt that fighting racism with more racism just maybe wasn't the best way to go.  You want to show how bad race relations are in NYC?  Fine, but why can't you do that in a more adult way?  Like, err, Gandhi?  No, wait, bad choice.  Like Martin Luther King or other prominent peaceful protestors?  

So now it's 25 years after "Do the Right Thing", and I've watched a few more Spike Lee movies, like "Summer of Sam", "Crooklyn" and "Inside Man".  But watching "25th Hour" sort of seemed like a return to form, in that the film is very talky-talky, and there's a bit where Norton's character looks in the mirror and talks to himself, spouting every possible racial epithet, being mad at blacks, whites, gays, Muslims, Hispanics, old people - hey, at least he's an equal opportunity hater.  But as I've said several times this week, the more things change, the more they stay the same.  

I didn't think it was OK for Mookie to hate Italians, or Korean deli-owners, nor was it OK for the Italians and Koreans to hate back.  You want to improve this city?  Find a way to break the chain, send a positive message.  How about a film where everyone in the city learns to live together?  The epithets sound even worse coming from a white man in tonight's film, it's like the black director's opinion about who white people hate, and why.  OK, so the character eventually realizes that his anger is misplaced, and in the end he's the one to blame for his situation.  Still not OK, because all those racist thoughts came from somewhere - and if that was a narrative fake-out, why even have it in the film at all?  Racism won't end if people keep giving it a voice.  

It's worth noting that this film came out in 2002, and there are several references to the 9/11 attacks.  The film opens with a shot of the giant beams of light that shine on the anniversaries, and one character has an apartment that directly overlooks the WTC site - the long, lingering overhead shots of the construction equipment are there to send a message.  Is it a coincidence that the phrase "towel-headed camel jockeys" turns up in the film?  Great, now there's a permanent record of how racist some people became in the years right after the attack.  

But here's the thing - most New Yorkers DIDN'T turn anti-Muslim as a result, in the same way that French people aren't hating all Muslims right now.  Because we know that terrorist actions are performed by individuals, not by entire races.  Oh, sure, there was some flap over a mosque being built in downtown NY, but that's another thing that just ended up pointing out the people who couldn't tell the difference.  It helped us identify where the racists were.  

This film manages to pick up some speed in the last half hour, but it's a long, slow slog to get there.  I just have to question the choices made, in focusing on a drug-dealer's last day before he goes to serve time.  I mean, what's more interesting, the drug-dealing itself ("Scarface", "American Gangster") or the introspection afterwards?  What's more exciting, seeing a guy serve time ("Shawshank Redemption", countless others) or hearing a guy talk about what it's going to be like?  This ends up being one of the worst violators of the "Show, don't tell" rule.  It's all talk and (almost) no action.

NITPICK POINT: I'm pretty sure they don't let you drive yourself to prison upstate.  Something tells me that most of the time you'd already be behind bars in a holding cell, or else they'd send someone to come and get you.  I'm guessing it's not like driving to a hotel and checking in.  

Also starring Philip Seymour Hoffman (last seen in "The Master"), Barry Pepper (last seen in "The Lone Ranger"), Rosario Dawson (last seen in "Alexander"), Brian Cox (last seen in "RED 2"), Anna Paquin (last seen in "X-Men: Days of Future Past"), Tony Siragusa, Isiah Whitlock Jr., with a cameo from Patrice O'Neal.

RATING: 3 out of 10 Russian mobsters

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Bourne Legacy

Year 7, Day 16 - 1/16/15 - Movie #1,916

BEFORE: So, funny story, I think I finally got my DVR problem fixed.  If you recall, my brand-new DVR for TV shows was on the fritz (though the older one I use for movies remained just fine) as it kept recording children's shows I hadn't programmed, and each morning it would delete the shows recorded from the previous night that I wanted to save.  I missed the Golden Globes and had to dub everything else to VHS the night it aired.  I finally got a tech to come to the house (after threatening to cancel my service if I got stood up again) and he noticed right away that the new DVR was a "whole house" DVR, and asked me if I had the multi-room service plan.  I don't and I thought, "Great, here's another thing Crime Warner Cable's going to try and sell me," but the DVR was apparently trying to connect with my other DVR, and when it couldn't find it, it settled for someone else's.  So that explained why it seemed like I'd been getting extra shows - it was from someone else's DVR, possibly down the block or across the street.  And they were seeing MY programmed shows, and probably deleting them each morning, and wondering where THEIR kids' shows went.  The tech put a filter on my DVR to stop the interference, and thus took it off of "multi-room" or in this case, "multi-house" mode.  

Jeremy Renner carries over from "Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol" (aka Mission Impossible: The Colon's Finally in the Right Place") and that'll do it for him, he's handing off to Edward Norton.  I'll discuss the hold-up in programming the Norton chain tomorrow.

THE PLOT:  An expansion of the universe from Robert Ludlum's novels, centered on a new hero whose stakes have been triggered by the events of the previous three films.

FOLLOW-UP TO: "The Bourne Ultimatum" (Movie #692)

AFTER: You know what would be cool?  If someone could write a screenplay that assembled all these cool "loner" spy characters into a super-team, in the style of Marvel's "Avengers" film.  You could have James Bond come to America and recruit Jason Bourne, Ethan Hunt (or Jack Reacher, whichever), Jack Ryan, Bryan Mills from "Taken", and so on.  It would never be possible, of course, because the rights fees alone would take up half the budget, then you'd have 4 or 5 actors each looking for a $20 or 30 million payday.  But it's fun to dream. 

What we get in "The Bourne Legacy" is the story of Aaron Cross (not his real name?) which pales by comparison to that imagined super-spy story, or to the first three Bourne films, for that matter.  I found this extremely confusing overall, as I was never sure as they were cutting between the two stories whether they were cutting to flashbacks or not.  One story was Cross out in the mountains on some kind of training exercise, and the other was a bunch of people having meetings in a room about various CIA projects - a gross violation of the "Show, don't tell" rule. 

Even worse, the people in those meetings use a lot of project code names, like Treadstone and Black Briar, and how the heck am I supposed to remember those names from the other films, and what they were supposed to accomplish?  You know what, pretend that as a viewer, I don't happen to have a copy of those file folders that you do, and maybe explain a thing or two to me.  If you're going to have a lot of scenes with people talking in a room, maybe they should be saying some things that count as exposition.  Just sayin'. 

Everything is kept pretty mysterious, even the stuff with the green pills and the blue pills.  Oh, they explain at length why you should stop taking the blue pills and keep taking the green ones (or is it the other way around?) but they never say what's IN THE PILLS.  Again, not enough info and I start to lose interest, and then before you know it, my eyes want to close and it's nap time.  When I have to go to Wikipedia to find out what the plot was on the movie I just watched, it's not a good sign.

Also starring Rachel Weisz (last seen in "Oz the Great and Powerful"), Edward Norton (last seen in "The Dictator"), Scott Glenn (last seen in "The River"), Stacy Keach (last heard in "Planes"), Donna Murphy (last heard in "Tangled"), Corey Stoll (last seen in "Non-Stop"), Michael Chernus, Zeljko Ivanek (last seen in "The Words"), Dennis Boutsikaris (last seen in "W."), Oscar Isaac, Elizabeth Marvel, with cameos from David Strathairn (last seen in "The Notorious Bettie Page"), Albert Finney (last seen in "Skyfall"), Joan Allen, Frank Deal (also last seen in "Non-Stop")

RATING: 3 out of 10 Hellfire missiles

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

Year 7, Day 15 - 1/15/15 - Movie #1,915

BEFORE:  Up early this morning because the Oscar nominations were announced today, and my phone was going to be buzzing no matter what.  My boss was up for noms in two categories, animated short and animated feature, but was shut out this time around.  Hey, my job was just to make sure the films were ELIGIBLE, which I did.  I can't control the way people vote in the nomination process, and doing publicity to get more votes isn't my job, either.  Once the paperwork is in to make sure the films are in the running, it's in the hands of fate.

It's been a long journey to see this film - I remember this was one that didn't run on premium cable for a LONG time.  I guess some films want to milk every possible dollar from DVD sales and PPV before they allow the rabble to get a chance to see them.  I considered buying this in the $5 DVD store a couple years ago, but they wanted like $14 for it instead of $5.  I finally nabbed it during a free preview of the ePix channel last year.  Then came the problem of scheduling it, and since the Jeremy Renner chain is linked to the Edward Norton chain, that became problematic, which I'll discuss in the next day or two.

Yep, you guessed it, Jeremy Renner carries over from "Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters".

THE PLOT: The IMF is shut down when it's implicated in the bombing of the Kremlin, causing Ethan Hunt and his new team to go rogue to clear their organization's name.

FOLLOW-UP TO: "Mission: Impossible III" (Movie #350)

AFTER:  The "Impossible" Mission Force is back.  I put the words in quotes, because they always seem to find a way to make the mission work, so I guess it's never as impossible as they first believe.  My dad had a quibble over the holidays with the Boston newscasters who describe everything as "unbelievable" - yet their job is to report the news, which is made up of things that happened, so they should be very believable, otherwise, how could they have happened?  (Do you SEE where I get it from?)

Ethan Hunt first needs to be extracted from a stint in a Russian prison, which in his line of work, pretty much counts as vacation time.  His team is then charged with breaking IN to the Kremlin, which is about as "impossible" as it gets, unless you have a bunch of nifty gadgets that haven't been invented yet for commercial use.  Unfortunately, their mission also serves as a cover for the film's villain to get what HE wants, and make the IMF look like they took that thing instead of him.

You can see how far spy movies have come in the last 30 years by comparing this film to "Never Say Never Again".  In the old days the villain would steal a couple of missiles, and these days you only need to steal the Russian launch codes and hack an Indian satellite.  Much easier, plus you don't get all irradiated and stuff.  But in the old days the villain would steal the missiles, demand money from the U.N. (or whoever) and then before the launch Bond would be there at the volcano-based lair to take care of things.  These days the villain skips Step #2 and goes straight to launching the missiles - I know, right?  Either he forgot to ask for the money, or the screenwriter did. 

The strength of the IMF lies in having a back-up plan, or being able to come up with one on the fly when the first plan falls apart.  For Ethan Hunt, this means scaling the outside of the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in Dubai, and the world.  It's funny, back in 1999 when they released "Entrapment", the tallest buildings were the Petronas Towers, and now the more things change, the more things stay the same.

Hey, at least this time someone remembered that when it's night on one side of the world, it's probably daytime on the other.  That scene in "Taken 2" when Neeson's character drives into the U.S. embassy (which is in Ankara, by the way, not Istanbul) during the day, then calls his contact back in the U.S. for help - his contact is playing a round of golf, and is also seen in daytime, when it should have been the middle of the night.  In tonight's film there's a nighttime party in Mumbai, while a missile is threatening San Francisco during the day - this makes much more sense.

NITPICK POINT: The M:I franchise is famous for those "false faces", those latex masks that make one person completely look another person - as long as that person is the same height, has the same build, and has an easy-to-fake accent.  In other words, it's a movie convention that just wouldn't work in the real world.  I think the Mythbusters debunked this when they had Adam wear a fake Jamie mask, and vice versa.  You can use all the make-up you want, and it's still going to look like a guy wearing a mask.  But that's not even my NP tonight (possible spoiler alert, so stop reading now if you haven't seen this...) it's the question of why Bad Guy #1 would wear a false face that made him look like Bad Guy #2?  What's the point of disguising himself as someone who's also going to set off the facial recognition software of the good guys?  Why not disguise himself as someone else, like a random guy on the street or an out-of-work actor?  You know, someone not wanted by the law.

Also starring Tom Cruise (last seen in "Oblivion"), Paula Patton (last seen in "2 Guns"), Simon Pegg (last seen in "The World's End"), Michael Nyquist, Samuli Edelmann, Lea Seydoux, Josh Holloway, Miraj Grbic, with cameos from Ving Rhames (last seen in "Entrapment"), Michelle Monaghan (last seen in "Due Date"), Tom Wilkinson (last seen in "The Lone Ranger").

RATING: 7 out of 10 iPhones

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters

Year 7, Day 14 - 1/14/15 - Movie #1,914

BEFORE: Yep, I ran out of Liam Neeson movies (that was fast) because I've got one open slot left in the January line-up, and I'm not wasting it on "Taken 3".  I've got plans to go to the movie theater one more time this month, and after finally watching the Golden Globes on YouTube today (because my DVR is still auto-clearing itself every morning) my choice of what to see is clear, hopefully within the next week, to fit in with my plans.  So it's Famke Janssen's turn to carry over from "Taken 3".  This film neatly bridges two spy franchises, so it goes here even if it doesn't fit in thematically - though it seems to be in the style of a modern action movie, so maybe it does fit.

THE PLOT: Hansel & Gretel are bounty hunters who track and kill witches all over the world. As the fabled Blood Moon approaches, the siblings encounter a new form of evil that might hold a secret to their past.

FOLLOW-UP TO: "Into the Woods" (Movie #1,901)

AFTER: I was talking last week about the current trend of characters being two contrasting things - like a forensics expert AND a serial killer at the same time.  This movie seems to be full of that concept, maybe even too full of it.  They're witch hunters - who might also be descended from witches!  He's an evil troll - but he's also a helpful one!  This woman's a witch - but she's a GOOD witch!  It's sad when a movie gets so bogged down in its own mythology that it contradicts itself all over the place. 

Not that there's much explanation for things here - there are plenty of rules about what witches can do, and what witch hunters can do to kill them, but they're sort of revealed on the fly, so they feel like they change around all the time.  It's like those Dracula movies made by Hammer Films in the 1970's, which added all kinds of ways to "kill" Dracula, like drop him in a flowing river, or seal him in ice, which weren't part of the original "stake through the heart" plan.  But they could never really kill him off, because as long as the box office was good, they needed him back for the next one.  Or maybe a comic book is a better analogy, because they never really kill a hero or villain in the comic books without the next writer being able to figure out a way to bring them back.  

So in the end there's not really much story here, it just feels like a premise that wasn't really fleshed out, like your average "Saturday Night Live" skit that has a set-up, idles for a few minutes and then goes essentially nowhere - and the poor comedians are just treading water until the next commercial.   Here the characters just seem to be killing time until nightfall so there can be another fight scene.  Character development?  Never heard of it.  The movie has a title, right?  Let's just do that. And let's throw in all kinds of modern weaponry, like grenades and machine guns.  That'll be really "steampunk" and people will be so distracted by the great action and effects, they won't even notice there's no story.

Perhaps it just pales in comparison because I'm watching it just two weeks after "Into the Woods", which did a much better job of figuring out what makes fairy-tale characters click - what was Cinderella's motivation to run away from the prince?  Let's explore that.  Or what does it mean for Jack to invade a giant's home, steal his stuff and kill him?  I kept waiting for some great twist here, like in the original story where a young Hansel & Gretel killed the witch with the gingerbread house, maybe she was a nice witch who built her house to feed hungry kids, and H. & G. were bratty kids with ADHD or pyromania who roasted her in her own oven.  No such luck.  

Also starring Jeremy Renner (last seen in "American Hustle"), Gemma Arterton (last seen in "Quantum of Solace"), Peter Stormare (last seen in "8MM"), Pihla Vitala, Derek Mears, Thomas Mann, Rainer Bock.

RATING: 3 out of 10 milk bottles

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Taken 2

Year 7, Day 13 - 1/13/15 - Movie #1,913

BEFORE: Almost two weeks into Year 7, and I haven't made any progress on the watchlist, which is holding firm at 194 films.  That's partly because a whole new crop of films starts airing on the premium channels on January 1, apparently that's when distribution contracts start, and also I've had to keep up with TCM's tributes to Robert Redford and Neil Simon.  The Redford films have found a solid home about halfway down the list, but the Neil Simon films will probably be split up according to whether they star Jack Lemmon and/or Walter Matthau, or not.  Anyway at the beginning of April I'll have to review (and probably re-order) what's left.  I've decided to limit my intake from TCM's "31 Days of Oscar" to just three films, so that I stand a chance of making some progress in February.  

Linking from "Non-Stop", Liam Neeson carries over, and if you didn't see this one coming, shame on you.  And if you DID see this one coming, you may be starting to think like me.  I'd start to worry about that if I were you.

THE PLOT: In Istanbul, retired CIA operative Bryan Mills and his wife are taken hostage by the father of a kidnapper Mills killed while rescuing his daughter.

FOLLOW-UP TO: "Taken" (Movie #678)

AFTER:  Stand back, kids, I'm going to try and tie this whole crazy thing together.  Gandhi was quoted as saying "An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind."  And that's the reasoning behind "Taken 2" - tracking down the men who kidnapped his daughter in the first film meant he had to kill a LOT of people.  Bad people, to be sure, because we like our morality all white hat vs. black hat.  But one of those people had a father who's apparently a bigshot in the European underworld, and he comes looking for revenge.  

Of course, it happens while he's trying to enjoy some time with his ex-wife and daughter in beautiful, scenic Istanbul.  What could possibly go wrong?  But they couldn't have this guy's daughter kidnapped again, because that's been done, so the twist this time is that he's taken prisoner HIMSELF, along with his wife, and the daughter's the only one of the three NOT taken.  Clear?  So now we get to see him work his ex-CIA agent magic when he's right in the thick of things. 

But damn, wasn't the best part of "Taken" watching Neeson's character threaten those guys over the phone, saying he possessed a "particular set of skills"?  And that he'd find every one of them and kill them?  Yeah, there's nothing like that here, but there's a lot of Neeson screaming things like "Quickly! There's not much time!" and "Listen closely! Just do what I tell you!" One of his special skills is being a Mr. Bossypants, I think.  Well, I also possess a particular set of skills, they just happen to involve filing payroll reports before their deadlines ("Quickly!  There's not much time!") and getting film festivals to forward films and DCPs to the next screening ("Listen closely! Just do what I tell you!").  Yeah, it's much cooler when he does it.

What I do like about the "Taken" films is that Mills is depicted as someone who clearly knows what he's doing, and we also get to see HOW he does it.  A kidnapped CIA agent probably would do everything possible to discern his location, and take advantage of any opportunity for escape.  Again, I'm no expert on this stuff, but it's nice to see the wheels turning, the process and not just the result.

I'm getting to this film just as "Tak3n 3: The Takening" is hitting theaters.  I'm sure that "T4ken 4: 4 Reals?" and "Taken 5: Enou5h Already" won't be that far behind.  But based on the whopping huge plot element revealed in the COMMERCIAL for "Taken 3", I don't feel the need to rush to the theater to see it.  In fact, just knowing that little tidbit makes watching "Taken 2" sort of pointless now.  

Also starring Famke Janssen (last seen in "X-Men: Days of Future Past"), Maggie Grace (last seen in "Knight and Day"), Leland Orser (last seen in "The Bone Collector"), Rade Serbedzija.

RATING: 6 out of 10 ice cream sundaes

Monday, January 12, 2015


Year 7, Day 12 - 1/12/15 - Movie #1,912

BEFORE: Again, I apologize for the radical shift in theme - but is it, really?  After watching "Gandhi", I was sort of struck by how non-passively aggressive his "non-violent" resistant tactics were as he led the fight for Hindu equality and Indian independence.  And maybe there's a fine line between aggressive social tactics and terrorism?  I don't know, it's not for me to say.  

And let me point out, I do not advocate terrorism in any way, shape or form.  The recent attacks on media outlets in France are, of course, despicable.  But if you should hear about someone getting arrested after losing it in the Manhattan service center of Crime Warner Cable, well, then my blog might have to be dark for a few days.  (Don't worry, I'm kidding.)  (I think)

Linking from "Gandhi" was a challenge - direct linking was out of the question, given what's left on my watchlist.  But at least Ben Kingsley was also in "Schindler's List" with Liam Neeson (last seen in "Husbands and Wives").

THE PLOT: An air marshal springs into action during a transatlantic flight after receiving a series of text messages that put his fellow passengers at risk unless the airline transfers $150 million into an off-shore account.

FOLLOW-UP TO: "Flightplan" (Movie #1,542), "United 93" (Movie 1,537)

AFTER: Whenever I book a flight that's labelled "non-stop", I like to have a bit of fun with the ticket agent.  I say, as seriously as I can, "It stops at the end, though, right?"  They usually have to think about this for a moment before they see what I mean.  Really, the term is stupid, a flight that we call "non-stop" should really be "one-stop", and a "one-stop" should be "two-stop", and so on down the line. 

Back in the day, they used to have a thing called "locked room mysteries".  These were stories where someone would be found dead in a room, locked from the inside, with no apparent way in apart from the door, and some clever detective would need to determine how the person was murdered if there was no access to them.  The modern day equivalent of this type of story seems to be action films set on planes - the most recent being "Flightplan", which was itself a sort of riff on the Hitchcock film "The Lady Vanishes", which was set on a train.  "La plus ├ža change, plus c'est la meme chose", as the French say.  The more things change, the more they remain the same.

I've done a couple of airplane/action movie chains, watched the whole "Airport" series, and then in 2013 took on everything from 9/11 movies to "Red Eye".  As if flying across an ocean weren't stressful enough, worrying about terrorism and planes that seem to vanish, and whether someone on board might have a cold or a peanut allergy, this film throws every problem you can imagine at our hero, an air marshal.  Someone is texting him threatening to kill a passenger every 20 minutes, even though ground control has checked out the passenger list, and everyone seems clean.  Also, his cover is blown, and the other air marshal on board might be in on the plot.  Which would only be a problem if air marshals carried guns and were trained to suspect everyone.  Oh, wait. 

To make matters worse, every action that he takes only makes the outside world believe that he  is hijacking the plane HIMSELF.  Plus, after taking several overt actions to determine the identity of the real terrorist, a number of the plane's passengers decide to band together in one of those "Let's roll" type mind-sets that seemed so heroic on 9/11/2001, but unknowingly leads to more confusion and misplaced actions in this particular case.  All in all, that's a pretty shameless and despicable nod to the post-WTC world order.  

It's also a long way to go to force a character to admit his own shortcomings, to get a man to a place where he has to lay it all out on the line, just to prove his intentions are good and that he is who he says he is.  (In this sense, the film also resembles "Flight", in addition to "Flightplan".) Implying that an air marshal COULD be a terrorist, just because life's kicked him around a bit, well that's a knock against the whole system we've got in place, and without it, we've pretty much got chaos.  Yes, I realize that someone (within the film) was trying to take down the whole system and prove that our in-flight security is nothing but an illusion, but what practical goal does it serve to make that point in a larger sense, outside the film?  

And using text messages on the screen to advance the plot?  It's already trite and corny, and please, Hollywood, don't ever do it again.  Something tells me, though, that we haven't seen the last of this trend.  I'm sure there are NITPICK POINTS a-plenty to be made about people using cell phones on planes - first we were told that we couldn't use our phones at all because the plane would crash, now they say you probably can, or you have to pay them a fee for the wi-fi.  You know what?  I'm not going to be that guy, and I won't give the airlines an extra dime - I turn off my phone when the plane starts to taxi, and I don't turn it on again until it's landed again and we've made it to the gate.

Also starring Julianne Moore (last seen in "The Shipping News"), Scoot McNairy (last seen in "Killing Them Softly"), Michelle Dockery, Corey Stoll (last seen in "Midnight in Paris"), Linus Roache (last seen in "The Chronicles of Riddick"), Nate Parker, Lupita Nyong'o, Anson Mount, Omar Metwally, Frank Deal.

RATING: 5 out of 10 drink carts

Sunday, January 11, 2015


Year 7, Day 11 - 1/11/15 - Movie #1,911

BEFORE:  So, you may wonder why I'm watching this film today, since it doesn't fit in thematically with the rest of January's programming.  A film about a man who promoted non-violence sandwiched in between a James Bond film and tomorrow's action-based film.  Truth is, I've tried to program this film before, like after "Iron Man 3" or "The Dictator" for the Ben Kingsley tie-in, and for a while it was next to "The Iron Lady" and "The Queen" for the British empire/bio-pic connection, and it doesn't really fit in anywhere, so this is just as good a place for it as any.  

Since "Gandhi" was the Best Picture winner for 1982, let it serve as a reminder, then, that Oscar season is upon us - the 2014 nominations will be announced this week, and TCM has released their schedule for their "31 Days of Oscar" programming.  Things are looking up because I've already seen the majority of the films on their list, and right now there are only three films I'm looking to add.  Two are not Best Picture winners but are films I've been waiting for, and the third is 2011's Best Picture winner, "The Artist".  (What took so long for some channel to run that?)

Edward Fox carries over from playing "M" in "Never Say Never Again", and that was the best linking I could find, given the films that are still on my list.  I had to go pretty far down the cast list to find a link, but it's not as low as I've ever gone.   And after tonight's film, I'll have seen 70 of the 86 Best Picture winners, with another two on the watchlist.  I have to decide now if I want to try for the rest. 

THE PLOT: Biography of Mohandas K. Gandhi, the lawyer who became the famed leader of the Indian revolts against the British rule through his philosophy of nonviolent protest.

AFTER: Well, Gandhi has shamed me from beyond the grave.  Here I was yesterday, ranting about my inferior cable service, and that's clearly a First World problem.  Along comes this movie to remind me that people live in the Third World, with entirely different problems, also known as actual problems, like racism and oppression and struggling under the yoke of colonial Imperialism.  

I admit that before I watched this I knew very little about Gandhi - hey, I'm not a historian, I work in the film business.  If a movie hasn't been made about something, it's probably not important enough for me to learn about, right?  So there are many things I wondered about Gandhi - like why is his first name sometimes listed as "Mohandas" and sometimes "Mahatma"?  And what the heck is non-violent resistance, anyway?

Turns out it's a lot like passive aggressiveness.  That's not really accurate, and it's a little snarky on my part, and I should really try to turn the snark down tonight, it's a serious film.  The religious philosophy of "turn the other cheek" gets taken to the extreme, if you can imagine protestors shoving their cheeks right into their oppressor's faces, pretty much asking to get hit.  So that's really more like aggressive passiveness, if you ask me.  I mentioned the other day how I thought that suicide was the ultimate passive-aggressive move, and now I think a hunger strike is a close second.

I also didn't know that Gandhi spent time in South Africa as a young lawyer, which is where he led his first protests against inequality - I didn't know so many Hindus and Muslims lived in South Africa, either.  Hey, if this film sends me to the web to learn more about the man and his times, then it's had a positive effect.  

I think today's protestors could learn a lot from this film.  Remember those "Occupy Wall Street" people?  A bunch of entitled hipsters sitting around to accomplish...what, exactly?  Plus, they were among friends, had their cell phones and iPods for entertainment, and were surrounded by take-out restaurants.  Why couldn't they have followed Gandhi's example and gone on a hunger strike?  I would have even volunteered to stand guard and make sure they weren't receiving food in any way, because it's only through true suffering that people can enact social change. 

Gandhi also favored religious unity, seeking out the commonality in the Hindu, Muslim, and Christian religions - it's a heck of an idea, and one wonders if much of the world's troubles could be lessened if more people would tolerate all religions.  Or just get rid of all of them, I'm good either way.

This is a tough one to rate, because it's a very long film, and not always "entertaining" in the traditional sense, but of course it's an important film about an important subject.  But if I'm being nitpicky, there wasn't much context of world events, for example when they talked about the war going on, I wasn't sure if they were referring to World War I or II - but then again, they probably didn't call World War I by that name at the time, because who knew?

Also starring Ben Kingsley (last seen in "Ender's Game"), John Gielgud (last seen in "Secret Agent"), Trevor Howard (last seen in "Mutiny on the Bounty"), Martin Sheen (last seen in "The Amazing Spider-Man 2"), Richard Griffiths (last seen in "Hugo"), Nigel Hawthorne, Candice Bergen (last seen in "The In-Laws"), Amrish Puri, Roshan Seth (last seen in "A Passage to India"), Saeed Jaffrey, Athol Fugard, Geraldine James, with cameos from Daniel Day-Lewis, Bernard Hill and John Ratzenberger (last heard in "Planes").

RATING: 6 out of 10 registration cards