016 – Dodging a nuclear bullet – one madman takes on another (An editorial)

Almost astonishingly lost in all of the follow-up to the violence in Charlottesville, and the totally clueless response of the bigot-in-chief, was the status of the crisis with North Korea.  Really, how ridiculously astounding is that?  The world is pushed to the brink of a nuclear war and the following week no less, that does not even merit a blip on the news radar.

There can be no question that it has been a very good thing to see Kim Jong Un backed off (perhaps temporarily, but at least for now) on his nuclear threats.  The world lucked out … on this occasion.  The important thing now will be to recognize this narrow escape for just exactly what it is … and not to let it somehow lend any type of credibility to the human abomination who still holds the office of President.

For one moment, consider what transpired in order to make this happen.  Trump was more than willing, almost giddy, to threaten North Korea and thereby to clearly risk the deaths of up to 60 million people or more, including hundreds of thousands of Americans.  Why would he be willing to do that?

  • Because he is such a master strategist?  Hardly.
  • Because he was absolutely sure that Kim would blink?  No way.

The clear answer to that question is that he weighed the benefits to Donald Trump personally and decided that risking millions of lives (not his own, of course) was completely outweighed by the potential political and personal benefit he thought he could achieve by the perception that it was he alone who was willing to call Kim Jong Un’s bluff.

Thank God that this appears to have turned out well for now, but if there ever was a situation where the right thing happened for absolutely the wrong reasons, then this was it.

Here is what Senator Lindsay Graham said in the lead up to all of this …

016 - Dodging a nuclear bullet - Lindsays comment.jpg

I absolutely believe those were Trump’s words, and his feelings.  Since he felt there was no real risk to the continental United States, he had no reservation whatsoever in playing world-class Russian Roulette with all those other lives.  By the way, it was indeed “millions” of lives at risk to die – not just thousands.

His base will no doubt predictably tout this as an “I told you so” moment.  “See, we were right all along about him.”  I would expect nothing less from them.

But to everyone else who is not completely invested in finding any way at all to justify their vote for Trump, this should not  be considered a triumph in any way, shape or form.  More than that, it is yet just the latest proof (or it was the latest until this past week) of just how irrational and totally self-centered this man really is.

Republicans have been shown on many occasions that Trump has only one guiding principle – what is best for Trump.  They have seen time and again that loyalty is an absolute one way street with him.  Cross him, in his mind, even just once and he will throw you under the bus quicker than you can say Kim Jong Un, or General Pershing.

Well, all of humanity was just given that same stark lesson.  Trump was blithely willing to throw millions of people under the bus, but this time … this time … it miraculously turned out OK.

The question must be, how long will we allow this man to be in the position to be able to make that type of decision ever again?

016 - Doging a nuclear bullet - scent of incompetence

 

Solace (A movie review on DVD)

Released in Theaters

  • Dec, 2016

Ratings

  • 26% – Rotten Tomatoes Critics
  • 44% – Rotten Tomatoes Movie Goers
  • 72% – Roger Koehler

Starring

  • Anthony Hopkins, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Abbie Cornish, Colin Farrell

Directed by

  • Afonso Poyart

Roger’s Review

I did not look at this movie’s ratings on Rotten Tomatoes prior to us seeing it recently on DVD.  In this case, even if I had, we would have likely watched it anyway because of our mutual enjoyment of one of the lead actors.  More on that a bit later in this review.

While I do not consider Rotten Tomatoes to be the Holy Grail when it comes to movie decision making, it is pretty rare that the ratings from both  the professional critics and the viewing audience differ so greatly with my own assessment, and in this movie’s case, from my wife’s assessment as well.

We both enjoyed this movie, and it kept our interest right up to the end, with a generally fulfilling ending.  Contrast that with the meager 26% approval given to it by professional critics and the less than stellar 44% given to it by movie goers.  I guess most of them were not particularly Jeffrey Dean Morgan fans.

Although this movie was released in theaters for a relatively short run in Dec 2016, we did not see it until August of 2017 on DVD.  The main reason we checked it out (from our local library) was because both my wife and I like one of the lead actors – Jeffrey Dean Morgan.  We have actually seen a number of movies of his, for exactly that reason.  I know that actors tend to make some klunkers now and then, and some of the more brutally honest of them will simply tell you that they just wanted the paycheck.  But so far, we have enjoyed most everything in which we have seen Jeffrey Dean.

  • Deborah’s first memory of him was in a recurring role in TV’s Grey’s Anatomy back in 2006-2009.  We both saw him again in the short lived TV series Extant, with Halle Berry in 2015.  For us, perhaps his most memorable TV role was in The Good Wife  where he guest starred for two seasons with Juliannea Margulies.  For quite some time, I thought that he was the movie actor Javier Bardem.  As the following pictures show, there is quite the resemblance.  (Jeffery is on the right)

solace - javier and jeffrey.jpg

Back to this movie, Morgan plays an FBI agent Joe, who, along with his female partner Katherine, are trying to solve another in a growing list of serial killings.  Joe is being pressured to solve the case and, to do so, he contacts an old friend John, played by Anthony Hopkins, who had helped him solve some cases in the past with his psychic abilities.  Hopkins character had recently backed away from his work, however, because of his being distraught over the lingering death of his daughter who had finally succumbed to cancer.

John reluctantly agrees to help Joe and Katherine with the case.  Katherine is skeptical of John’s supposed abilities, but it is her partner’s call, so she goes along with it – reluctantly at first.

Colin Farrell does not appear until very near the end of the movie but he has a very crucial role.

solace - abbie and jeffrey.jpg

I will tell you that, besides the psychic ability of John, the movie does involve more than just a bit of the supernatural, if you will.  That might be a turnoff to some viewers, and from reading some of the reviews, that appears to have been the case.  But in our case, that did not detract from our enjoyment of the film in the least.

Since the movie is no longer in theaters, it’s not like you will be investing a lot to take a chance on this movie, and I do recommend it.  The price is certainly right if you can find it on Redbox, or even better yet, if you can find it in your local library as we did.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan roles which we have personally seen or plan to see …

  • Grey’s Anatomy (2006-2009 – TV)
  • Extant (2015 – TV) with Halle Berry
  • The Good Wife (2016 – TV)
  • The Losers (2010 – theater) – not yet seen but on our list
  • The Resident (2011 – theater)
  • Heist (2015 – theater)

Official movie trailer …

 

Rotten Tomatoes reviews …

https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/solace

solace - arrest.jpg

015 – What makes me think a movie is bad? (Oh my God – A non-political editorial!)

What?  A Pearl editorial and it has nothing to do with politics?  Actually, come to think of it, the subject of this post can only very loosely be categorized as an “editorial”.  But hey, it’s my blog, and I’ll categorize it as I see fit … so there!

In my most recent movie review post, regarding Valerian, I very clearly indicated my displeasure with that movie, even going so far as to give it a place in my all-time non-Top 10 list.  I think that I provided a number of somewhat coherent explanations as to why I was so dissatisfied with that movie.

But it also got me to thinking.  Just what precisely does or does not a movie need to do in order to incur my reviewing wrath?  When I first started writing reviews, and emailing them to friends and family years ago, I was sometimes asked if I had ever thought of trying to write movie reviews avocationally, if not professionally.  My internal answer to that question usually involved my feeling that I just felt hard-wired, it seemed, and predisposed to like at least something about almost any movie I would see.  I never felt like that was a very good starting point for a career as a professional movie critic.

In addition to that feeling, if I ever did review professionally, I would likely see many more movies, and certainly many of those would not be movies that I likely would have chosen to see if left on my own.  Whenever I have gone to see a movie to date, it has almost always been because I felt that there was at least something that attracted me to it.

So what are some of those terrible movies that I have seen in the past?  Given my age, I will have to go back quite a few years for most of them, so some of you may well not be familiar with them

Billy Jack.  This was the original movie with Billy Jack in the title which was released in 1971.  However, this was not the first movie that contained the character of Billy Jack.  That distinction belongs to the 1967 movie Born Losers.

  • Billy Jack, as with most if not all of the movies in the series, was co-written, directed and starred in by Tom Loughlin. For those of you, who don’t know who Tom Loughlin was, basically think of Chuck Norris before Chuck Norris… WAY before Chuck Norris.  Heck, Billy Jack was even before Bruce Lee.

015 - Billy Jack.jpg

  • Billy Jack was a Navajo Indian badass, Green Beret Vietnam War veteran and martial arts expert who came home to right the wrongs perpetrated upon the Native Americans he grew up with. The movies dealt with Billy Jack coming home and kicking ass, going to trial because he kicked ass, and then later even being elected to Congress!
  • Here’s a TV reference for you with a link back to Billy Jack. Remember the TV series The Incredible Hulk, starring Bill Bixby?  In the opening credits, there was a scene where Dr. David Banner was speaking with the investigative reporter.  He tells him, “Mr. McGee, don’t make me angry.  You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”  I’ve often thought that was a bit of an homage to Billy Jack.  Often, before Billy Jack would kick ass, he would take off his signature hat, wipe his brow and with great exasperation say something like “You know I try, I really try to remain passive, and to control my violent temper.   But sometimes, sometimes … I just go berserk!”  at which point he definitely kicks some ass.

Here is a scene from Billy Jack where he goes berserk …

 

Here is David Banner warning Mr. McGee not to make him angry …

  • I clearly remember the first time that I saw the original Billy Jack. I was in the Air Force, stationed mainly in Washington DC in the early 1970’s.  It was a time where I was seeing LOTS of movies.  In fact, I kept track one year and my total for the year was well over 100 movies (which includes a number of movies I saw multiple times, such as Klute, which I will refer to again later in this post.
  • I remember feeling totally manipulated and almost dirty when I walked out of that theater. The movie shamelessly works the audience up into a lather with the gross caricatures created, and the humiliation foisted upon those poor Navajo kids.  Then in walks Billy Jack and you just can’t stand even having to wait at all for him to just make those bastards pay.
  • In addition to that, the movie was incredibly poorly acted. Loughlin’s actual wife, Delores Taylor, played his wife in this movie as well.  I’m sorry to say, but someone actually trying to act badly could not have done it more convincingly than Delores.

 

Walking Tall (1973).  This also was the original Walking Tall  with Joe Don Baker as Sherriff Buford Pusser (not  either of the remakes of this movie, by the same name, starring Bo Swenson in 1981 and starring The Rock in 2004).  (Geez, Dwayne Johnson has been making movies that long already?!)

  • Walking Tall told a supposedly true story which was very loosely based upon the real life Sherriff Pusser in Tennessee.  Think Billy Jack with a badge … eventually.  He comes home, also as a war veteran, to find his small hometown overrun by the scum boss of a local casino.  The casino is the centerpiece of gambling, drugs and prostitution that has made everyone in town afraid.

015 - Walking Tall

  • Not to worry because enter Buford Pusser who challenges the corrupt Sherriff after being acquitted of kicking ass at the casino, and becomes the new town Sherriff. After which he continues to kick ass again, and again.  In the original movie, Sherriff Pusser dies in the end in a mysterious single car crash as supposedly the real Sherriff Pusser died in real life.  I don’t remember exactly whether or not The Rock dies at the end of his remake.  I’m pretty sure he does not.  That wouldn’t be any way to treat The Rock, now would it?
  • This movie came out just the following year after Billy Jack and I probably had a hangover from my feelings about that movie. My reaction to Walking Tall  was very much the same as the reaction that I had to Billy Jack – I greatly resented having that same feeling of manipulation.

 

Fun with Dick and Jane (1977).  George Segal and Jane Fonda.

  • Once again, this is the original that was also, for some totally inexplicable reason, remade in 2005 starring Jim Carrey and Tea Leoni (of Madam Secretary).  I intensely disliked “Fun with Dick and Jane”, starring Jane Fonda and George Segal.   I’m pretty certain that I never saw the remake with Carrey and Leoni.
  • The advertising said “Bonnie and Clyde they ain’t”.  Damn right.  One of the things that made Bonnie and Clyde so successful is that Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway actually made those despicable outlaws somewhat sympathetic, albeit with the great help of a script that often bore no resemblance to reality.  On the other hand, I had no sympathy, empathy or connection whatsoever to Jane and Dick.
  • I only saw it once, and it is hard to remember now so many years later just exactly why I disliked it so much.  But I think I just found the lead couple to be so extremely unlikeable that it overrode any other feelings I had about the movie.

015 - Fun with Dick and Jane.jpg

  • This was all in spite of my great admiration for the film career (at least most of her films) of Jane Fonda. For example, I saw, in theaters, her academy award winning performance in 1972’s Klute over 10 times.  I have even seen Klute  in a double feature (along with Summer of ’42) three times – once back to back on the same day.  That’s right.  I watched a double feature twice in one day.  I was in that theater in the tiny town of Milford Delaware back in 1972 for almost eight hours!  God knows how much popcorn and soda I consumed that day.  Now if that sounds really weird to you … I can hardly disagree

 

Bewitched  (2005) starring Will Ferrell and Nicole Kidman.

  • I enjoyed the TV show (though I much preferred the original Darrin Stephens, Dick York). I even sort of enjoy Will Ferrell normally (think strategery), though he can get on my nerves a lot of the time.  But this movie just left me totally cold.  I’ve only seen this movie once and my fading memory is that it was just totally stupid and not particularly well acted either.  But I remember clearly that I absolutely hated it.  Come to think of it, I actually may have walked out of this one.
  • I did note on at least this movie, that the majority of film critics and audience goers seem to agree with me. The movie received a 25%/28% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

 015 - McClintoc-Bewitched-My Dinner with Andre.jpg

My Dinner with Andre (1981) starring character actors Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory.

  • I know that I actually walked out of this movie. Why I even decided to see it in the first place is a complete mystery to this day.  Almost the entire damn film is two guys talking with each other in a Manhattan restaurant.  As I recall, I found both of them to be full of themselves, and about as intellectually annoying as you can possibly imagine.
  • Actually, there may have been at least one other movie that I walked out of, but I have been wracking my brain trying to remember it, with no success. If I think of it before posting this article, I will include that one in this list as well.

 

McClintock (1963) starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara.

  • John Wayne was not the best of actors. He was beloved by many, but certainly not because of his acting chops.  But that has nothing to do with why I dislike this movie so much.  My dislike stems from only one solitary scene, in which Wayne needlessly and inexplicably kills a man in cold blood literally without thinking.  It was so bizarre and corrupt, and also so out of character, not only for Wayne’s character in this movie, but for most all of his other movie personas as well.
  • That’s it.  I have virtually no other memories of this movie.  But my memory of that one scene is so vivid, and caused such a visceral reaction for me, that it alone has earned this movie a place in my all-time non-Top 10 list.
  • I do have one caveat to this review. I am not entirely  certain that this is the movie in which Wayne thoughtlessly murdered that guy.  I know it was John Wayne, and it was a western (pretty safe bet there), but it may have actually been one of his other westerns.  But I will never know because I am not about to go back and watch any of his western films ever again.

I only saw Fun with Dick and Jane, McClintock, Bewitched  and My Dinner with Andre once, which was more than enough.  Whereas I have subsequently seen Billy Jack and Walking Tall at least once more.  In Billy Jack’s case, I saw it the second time years later and appreciated it in my second viewing for more of its campy nature.  It was so bad it was actually kind of funny.  I seriously doubt, however, that Tom Coughlin (the writer, director and star of Billy Jack) made it with anything but the most serious of intentions.

Given how I have gone into quite a bit of detail about Billy Jack in this post, including the You Tube video, you can probably tell that my opinion of that movie has softened a bit over the years.  But I can never remember ever since leaving a theater with such a feeling of real anger that I felt back in 1972 when I first saw Billy Jack.  For that, it retains its place in my all-time non-Top 10 list.

After having said Valerian would now make my all-time non-Top 10, in trying to come up with that list for this post, I can’t even think of 10 movies that would qualify.  I have listed six here, in addition to Valerian.

It would be quite presumptuous of me to consider a movie “bad” simply because I was not interested in the subject matter.  Therefore, I do not do so.  I simply avoid seeing movies that have subjects that don’t interest me.  Once again, that would likely create an obstacle for me were I ever to consider trying to review professionally.

I can’t seem to come with up any particular common denominator which has caused me to dislike each of these particular movies so much, other than the obvious thematic similarity between Billy Jack  and Walking Tall.  I guess if I had to pick one common feeling, it would be the feeling of manipulation that dominated my reactions to at least three of these six, which includes Valerian.  As you can tell, I don’t like that feeling … at all.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets … Don’t Bother!  (A movie review)

Released in theaters

  • July, 2017

Ratings

  • 51% – Rotten Tomatoes Critics
  • 57% – Rotten Tomatoes Movie Goers
  • 15% – Roger Koehler

Starring

  • Cara Delavingne, Dane DeHaan and Clive Owen

Directed by

  • Luc Besson

For those of you who have read my reviews in the past, you should have a pretty good idea that I like going to movies, and I generally try to see the best in a movie – to at least try and find something good to take away from a movie so I don’t feel totally disappointed.

There have not been many movies that I have seen over the years that fit that latter description … but Valerian is damn close.

It is quite simply an Avatar  rip-off that fails on almost every level it tries to achieve.  Even if there had never been an Avatar, this movie would fail simply on its own merits – or lack thereof.

The movie is based upon a long running (1967-2010) French comic book series, Valerian and Laureline, which was apparently somewhat popular, at least in France, but never really caught on in the U.S.  That is something I can understand.

Valerian - comic book

We saw it in 3D, which added nothing to the movie.  The main plot of the movie is that a futuristic race of beings had their idyllic planet destroyed by a Federation general who did so knowingly in order to save his own ass.  The few survivors of that race are now in danger of being completely eliminated to cover up the general’s original sin.

To picture in your mind the idyllic race in this movie, simply think of the Na’vi – the race of incredibly tall beings in Avatar, who also had their existence threatened by humans.  Now go ahead and imagine the Na’vi, but without the extra height – the similarity is THAT stark.

Even the full name of the movie, which includes “City of a Thousand Planets” makes very little sense.  There is such a “city” in the story, called Alpha.  Think of the Death Star, from Star Wars, but with a lot of rough edges.  Alpha exists, and most events in the movie do take place inside it, but to add it to the name of the movie is a pretty transparent attempt to make the movie seem more potentially interesting than it obviously is.

As in the comic books, Valerian is the name of the male hero.  The heroine’s name is Laureline.  Both of those roles are played by pretty much unknown actors, Dane DeHaan and Cara Delavingne.

The director is a Frenchman by the name of Luc Besson.  His most notable prior accomplishments are the 1997 sci-fi film, The Fifth Element, and the Scarlet Johannsen sci-fi movie from 2014 – Lucy.  Apparently Besson was a long-time fan of the comic book series but thought that it would be too difficult to bring to the big screen.  That opinion changed when he saw the success of, and the technology employed by, Avatar.

The two heroes in Valerian – a young man and woman – are partners in a sort of secret service of the future government.  There is a love interest between the two of them that is very badly handled.  The girl was OK but I was rooting the whole way for her to finally realize what a waste the guy was … and to dump him.  You can probably figure out which way that relationship ended.

There are a number of disjointed side plots in the movie that basically made no sense and did really nothing to further the end result.  One of those involved cameos by Ethan Hawke as a psycho pimp, and Rihanna as an alien shape shifter and cabaret dancer whose name is Bubble.

I guess one of the things I’m most disappointed in are the ratings from Rotten Tomatoes.  Frankly, even a 51 from the movie critics and a 57 from the movie going public are grossly overstated, and I’m usually not personally that far off from them when there is basically a consensus between the critics and the public.  It is disappointing to read comments from critics such as “There may be similarities to Avatar and Star Wars” (Ya think?) and “The world created by Besson in Valerian is all his own”.   As I’m fond of saying as well when it involves almost all things Trump … “Gimme a break”.

So in summary, was this the worst movie I have ever seen?  No.

Does it now merit a place in my all-time top 10 worst movies?  In the immortal words of literary giant, Sarah Palin … “You betcha.”

Official Movie Trailer