Thursday, November 16, 2017

John Oliver: Conservatives and Trump use Russian techniques

In this funny video Emmy Award winning satirist John Oliver demonstrates that President Trump and conservatives use Russian techniques in public debate. And folks, it's not good. Because we're not getting at the truth but are being driven by fear and anger. In the HBO video below, Oliver highlights the three Russian techniques that conservatives and Russians use. Caution: The video contains language and jokes that are mature in nature. Just so you know, the techniques are: 1) Discredit the press; 2) Use of "what about-ism?" and 3) trolling. They are all un-American in their use.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Only a moral military can stop President Trump from launching nukes

Here's more for the argument to impeach conservative President Donald Trump.  The blonde hair, orange skin demagogue can unilaterally launch nuclear missiles.   For example,  Trump is mad that Denmark is happier since they have universal healthcare.  Hey, that's socialism to him and his right-wing buddies.  He decides to nuke them for embarrassing him.  Trump does have narcissistic personality disorder.  (The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, Edited Dr. Bandy Lee, 2017)

What could stop him? The moral courage of a soldier. They can disobey an immoral order. ( Huffington Post) Let's just hope it doesn't look like the opening scene in WarGames (1983) where two Air Force officers are faced with the decision of launching nuclear missiles. (Video below.)

The Foreigner review

Adapting a film from a novel can present special problems. Books may not be cinematic. And sometimes, novels can have too much detail that makes it difficult to cram into a movie of two hours long. That seems to be problem with The Foreigner , actor Jackie Chan's latest film.

Jackie Chan plays Quan, a former Vietnamese special forces soldier. who has a "particular set of skills."   After the Viet Nam war, he's now living in London as an owner of a gay fundamentalist Baptist bakery.  No.  I'm kidding about the bakery.  He runs a Chinese restaurant.  While taking his daughter to a  dressmaker, she's killed by a bomb set off by a group called the "Authentic IRA."

Quan wants answers.  So he confronts northern Irish government official, Hennessey.  (Pierce Brosnan)  Hennessy's got a bunch of secrets, one of them was that he was a former member of the IRA.  Quan follows Hennessy back to Ireland and "pressures" him for information about his daughter's killers.

Chan's age makes him perfect for this old soldier.  His fighting style and stunts are slower and less Buster Keaton.  Chan gets to show his acting chops as weary and depressed warrior.  Pierce Brosnan gets to let his Irish accent hang out.  He's not Bond, James Bond here.  His Hennessy is both practical and conniving.

There's one big problem to this film.  It's David Marconi's script.  You see it's adapted from a novel by Stephen Leather, The Chinaman.   I'll admit I didn't read the 1992 book.  So, I've got to make some assumptions.  First, let's hope the title of the book is satirical. Because being a Chinese American, the term "chinaman" is racist because it was used by bigots as an early racial epithet. But I digress. I'm presuming that the book had much more detail about the political atmosphere of the conflict between the IRA and Great Britain since it was written during the times of armed conflict. That makes turning the novel into a two hour movie difficult. It's hard to put all the political and personal details into a two hour film. Plot threads in The Foreigner are not explained or merely hinted at without any context. For example, people are killed with little or no context. The result is confusion and it makes you not care. This makes the movie an empty experience.

Director Martin Campbell who directed Brosnan in the entertaining Bond movie Goldeneye (1995) which also starred Brosnan has made a dull movie. That's hard to believe with Chan and Brosnan.    But given the screenplay, it maybe less of his fault. I mean the climatic confrontation between Quan and the terrorists takes place in cramped apartment. How about a foot chase culminating with Jackie Chan taking down the bad guys mano a mano?

The Foreigner is a strange action movie about IRA terrorism being that the threat of terrorism to Great Britain  today comes from those that adhere to a philosophy of radical Islam.  But perhaps that's not political correct.   This current threat of terrorism would have been more interesting.  Or the filmmakers could have fleshed out nebulous and confusing plot threads.   Either one would have made The Foreigner a better movie.   As it stands here, The Foreigner is not boring but not great.  The grade is B Minus. 


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Thor: Ragnarok review

Does Thor: Ragnarok signal the end of the superhero movie? I say this because I remember the Adam West Batman (1966) movie and the eighties Flash Gordon (1980). Those two films were not serious. Both were campy. And both weren't particularly funny but just goofy. The problem was that they tried to straddle total comedy and some sincere nod to the source material. We would not get a good Batman film until Tim Burton's Batman in 1989. With the large amount of comedy in Thor: Ragnarok, will anyone take Thor or any superhero movie seriously in the future?

Thor: Ragnarok takes place after Thor: The Dark World. (2013) And if you didn't see that movie or The Avengers (2012), you may not get some of the jokes. So, I'm going to spoil a little of those two movies. Anyway, we find Thor (Chris Hemsworth) fighting a big horned creature who says he is going to destroy Asgard. And if you saw the prior Thor, you know that Loki (Mr. Taylor Swift.. er. Tom Hiddleston ) has taken the form of Odin, the ruler of Asgard and is ruling in his place. Thor exposes the ruse in a funny scene if you saw the prior Thor. Loki tells Thor that the real Odin (Anthony Hopkins) is on earth.

The two travel to earth. They find him. And for some reason he dies. This we are told will lead  to Hela (Cate Blanchett) coming back.   She's the power hungry sister of Thor who wants to rule Asgard, and of course,  the universe.  That's when all Hela breaks out.  She easily defeats Thor and destroys the Mjolnir.  What's that you say?   You don't know what a Mjolnir is?   Geek alert.  It's Thor's mighty hammer.  Anyway, she sends Thor and Loki to the planet Sakaar.  Thor is forced to play in gladiator games for The Grandmaster.  (Jeff Goldblum?!)   The rest of the movie is about Thor's attempt to get off the planet and save Asgard.   On the planet he reunites with  the  big green guy aka The Hulk that you see in the trailer.

There are two actors having a lot of fun in this movie.  It's Cate Blanchett and Jeff Goldblum.  Blanchett really hams it up as the all powerful villain.  Goldblum  is a cross between his Dr. Ian Malcolm from Jurassic Park (1993) and Dom Deluise's Nero from History of the World,  Part One.  (1981)  Chris Hemsworth and Mr. Taylor Swift, um...  sorry about that, Tom Hiddleston  know that they're in a silly superhero movie and they deliver their lines and jokes with  hidden winks at the audience. 

The screenplay by Eric Pearce, Craig Kyle and Christopher  Yost  is subversive when it comes to the comic book superhero movie.  These guys aren't playing it dark and serious.  There are a lot of jokes many of which are self-conscious.   Director Taika Waititi goes along with this approach.  He knows how to stage a joke and uses bright  neon colors as the palette for the movie .  The Dark Knight this is not. Their collaborative effort has led to very humorous movie.

Thor: Ragnorok is an entertaining and funny film.  Just don't take it seriously.  The grade is B Plus.

Where's the radical feminist outrage for Thor: Ragnarok?

In a scene from Thor: Ragnarok,  there is a shirtless Chris Hemsworth as Thor. He's really cut as they pointed out in the first Thor movie. Beefcake for the ladies and gay guys. You remember the brouhaha for Star Trek Into Darkness's Alice Eve underwear scene? I got in a big fight with a radical feminist and political correct types who accused me of being evil for defending Star Trek's playful sexuality. And I'm a liberal. Well, radical feminists where's your outrage over the shirtless Hemsworth? Isn't that objectification? Yep, the silence is is deafening.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House review

Sometimes a film will premiere before a real life event which echoes the subject matter in the movie. That happened with The China Syndrome (1979) a movie about a nuclear plant meltdown. Its debut occurred twelve days days before a nuclear power plant accident happened at Three Mile Island, Pennsylvania. Now comes Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House, a film about the Watergate scandal. Just in time for the Trump-Russia scandal.

It's May, 1972. The film opens up with FBI deputy associate director, Mark Felt (Liam Neeson) telling President Nixon's White House counsel John Dean (Micheal C. Hall) and his other men that the FBI has kept secrets and that they are safe with the FBI. Then legendary and controversial Director, J. Edgar Hoover dies. This leads Felt to order the destruction of Hoover's personal files which contain a bunch of dirt. What dirt? The movie doensn't tell you but it's done before President Nixon's people can get it.

In June 1972, burglars break into the Democratic National Committee's headquarters at the Watergate hotel. Some of the perpetrators have FBI and CIA employment histories and are connected to President Nixon's  campaign.  Acting FBI director. Patrick Gray (Marton Csokas) seems to be under pressure from the White House and Justice Department to clear Nixon and wrap up the investigation before the FBI can get  the truth out.   Felt decides to leak to the press, specifically reporter Bob Woodward  (Julian Morris) of the Washington Post.  He becomes a secret source called "Deep Throat."  Meanwhile Felt must deal with the disappearance of his daughter and his wife Audrey's (Diane Lane)  depression.

Movies based on real life people and events often take dramatic license to tell the story.  There are reasons.  Time issues.  But more importantly, dramatic license allows filmmakers to make a movie that is more cinematic giving it more drive and tension.    As long as the the film is substantially correct, I don't see a problem.

Mark Felt:  The Man Who Brought Down the White House  really needed more dramatic license.  Peter Landesman's script and direction are stodgy and pedestrian.    The film does not show the audience the stakes or the danger of what Nixon was trying to get away with.  As a result, the performances  of the cast were pretty  much dry with the exception of Diane Lane's Audrey.

I never got the impression of the risk and need for Felt to leak information to the Washington Post.  Yeah, Felt talks about that no one stops an FBI investigation and a metaphor on how corruption can bring down a government.  But what is required here, is the importance of a free press and the leaker who believes she or he is doing something right.  It's all done to get the truth out.  Thank God for the First Amendment's protections of a free press.  And it's even more relevant now with the specter of President Trump looking to either fire Special Counsel Bob Mueller or pardon himself out of the Russian scandal.  If those things happen then the only way the truth gets out is through the press.

This film could have used a little "corn."  There should have been a discussion about the free press and the need to expose Nixon..  A "no man is above the law" speech would have been helpful for dramatic purposes.  Daniel Pemberton's score was too much musical wallpaper.  Themes would have  given the film more emotional weight.

Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House is earnest, relevant and important but it's also arid.  One can hope there will be a better movie about Felt made in the future.  The  film to see about Watergate is All the President's Men.  (1976)  The grade is B Minus..   

Friday, October 27, 2017

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women review

Did you know that the creator of the comic book Wonder Woman was a feminist man? Or that he had a sexual relationship with two women? How about the fact that he also created the first lie detector machine? Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is the fascinating film about this man Professor William Marston and his two loves, Elizabeth Marston and Olive Byrne.

We meet Professor William Moulton Marston (The Hobbit's Luke Evans) about the year 1946  as he is being interrogated by Josette Frank (Connie Britton) of the Child Study Association for his controversial creation, Wonder Woman. She's upset with the comic book's sexual and bondage themes. Marston defends his work. This interrogation becomes a framing device similar to Cervantes defending his story in Man of La Mancha. The movie flashes back to a time where Marston is teaching psychology and his DISC theory regarding human behavior. (DISC stands for Dominance, Inducement, Submission, Compliance) Watching his class is his wife, Elizabeth. (Rebecca Hall) Also  attending is a student, Olive Byrne. (Bella Heathcote)

Marston finds himself enraptured with Byrne. He wants her as a research assistant. Elizabeth immediately sees the sexual attraction that Marston has for her but agrees to allowing Byrne work for him. Their initial work is the development of the lie detector. During the testing of the device all three discover that they have feelings for each other. This leads to a polymorphous relationship.

After losing his job, and with Byrne having given birth to a child, Marston finds   the need to support this growing family,   But first, he's got to stop by a local lingerie store which is also a front for a bondage group.  Well , maybe he doesn't need to shop for lingerie and um... ropes but it turns him on.  This leads him to introduce his wife and lover, Olive to some light bondage.  Add that with  his feminist views,  the feminist inspiration from the women in his life and voila, Wonder Woman.  He takes the idea to DC Comics and they agree to produce a comic.  So, you know where the Lasso of Truth comes from.  Don't tell the kids.

The performances of Luke Evans, Rebecca Hall and Bella Heathcote are superb.   They all have chemistry with each other, sexual and emotional.  Evan's Marston is an idealist.  He wants to use the comic book of Wonder Woman to indoctrinate the youth of America to feminism.  His passion for feminism is matched by his love for his women.  Hall's Elizabeth is a woman who's been educated as a lawyer by must endure sexual discrimination.  She's tough but there's also pain in her performance.  Heathcote's Olive has a lineage to feminism and liberal ideas.  In real life, Olive Byrne was the niece of feminist Margaret Sanger.  Bella Heathcote shows a devotion to those ideas.  But more importantly, she exudes a telepathic performance.  It may seem that Olive is the submissive of the three but she radiates a sexual aura which dominates Elizabeth and Marston.

Writer and director Angela Robinson has created a film that may accurately depict the three and if  it doesn't I applaud the ideas of the movie.   Granddaughter Christie Marston  argues that Elizabeth and Olive were not in a sexual relationship but were more like sisters.  (Hollywood Reporter)   The relationship of the three was certainly radical for the time and it would be frowned upon now.   But this unconventional family is actually conventional in its goals.  If Wonder Woman was going to defeat evil by love (Boston University article) then why can't love exist in a family of two women, a man and children?  Why can't that love defeat fear and bigotry?   Robinson's scenes of the Marston family with evening dinners and playing with children are loving, happy and beautiful.  You root for this family.

As for the sex between the three, Robinson projects some of her ideas.  First, she physically depicts the lovemaking with hand-held camera shots.  There's a slight shake to the picture.  This depicts the emotional, nervous and sexual energy between the three.  But what about the bondage?   Isn't it the objectification of women that radical feminists decry about?  No.  It's consensual.   Robinson seems to show that it is the women who are in charge here.  It's a sexual power that motivates men and women.

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is a warm, loving and yes, family movie that just happens to have a polymorphous relationship with some bondage thrown in.   Radical feminists, feminists, comic book fans and movie lovers should see this film.  The grade is A.