Nothing Lasts Forever Review

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You take his family. He’ll take your life.

 

Nothing Lasts Forever Review

Written By Roderick Thorp

Year Published: 1979

Genre: Action/Drama

Page Number: 188

Wrong Spoilers Right Time

Since you’re all likely into the post-holiday blues by now, let’s try and continue that theme with the novel that inspired the  beloved holiday classic, “Die Hard.” Yes, you heard right, the book “Nothing Last Forever” was eventually adapted into “Die Hard”.  While the basic plots are the same there are some differences. In “Nothing Last Forever” Joe Leland (not John McClain) elderly former cop, turned private detective, turned private security consultant goes to Los Angeles to visit his daughter Holly Genaro while she attends her office Christmas party at the Klaxxon oil company along with her children. While the employees celebrate the year especially their multimillion-dollar bridge deal with Chile, a ruthless gang of German terrorists take over the building leaving only Joe free. He decides to put his lifetime of skills to work and defeat the terrorists. While the big points are the same in both the book and movie, almost everything else is different.

While it has a smaller body count and better writing than most of its contemporaries “Die Hard” is an action movie thru and thru. “Nothing Lasts Forever” however, is a hardboiled detective story with a lot of action; this is the biggest change between the two. While John McClain is frequently pissed off in “Die Hard” he’s a ray of sunshine next to Joe Leland. Like any hardass old ex-cop worth his fedora, Joe has very little nice to say about anything. Joe’s not in L.A. for more than ten minutes before he starts saying that the city looks like a shaved cat and he pegs Holly’s boss and co-workers as assho#$s soon after he meets them (he right of course, but that doesn’t make him sound any less bitter). The grim tone lasts during the entire book and is especially prevalent at the end.

Like any hardass old ex-cop worth his fedora, Joe has very little nice to say about anything. Joe’s not in L.A. for more than ten minutes before he starts saying that the city looks like a shaved cat and he pegs Holly’s boss and co-workers as assho#$s soon after he meets them (he right of course, but that doesn’t make him sound any less bitter). The grim tone lasts during the entire book and is especially prevalent at the end.

The novel is told entirely from Joe’s viewpoint and this leads to big character changes. While “Die Hard” has an excellent cast of supporting characters, “Nothing Lasts Forever” saves all its characterization for the main lead and the main villain. This changes to the hero’s and villains are what help keep the book unique. In “Die Hard” the so-called terrorists were actually just a band of thieves while in “Nothing Lasts Forever” the terrorists are exactly what they seem. In “Die Hard” the contrast is between the high-class European thieves and their blue collar American enemy while in “Nothing Lasts Forever” the battle is very much age vs. youth.

In “Die Hard” the so-called terrorists were actually just a band of thieves while in “Nothing Lasts Forever” the terrorists are exactly what they seem. In “Die Hard” the contrast is between the high-class European thieves and their blue collar American enemy while in “Nothing Lasts Forever” the battle is very much age vs. youth.

While it is mentioned once that the terrorist leader Anton Gruber comes from a wealthy background what is more often remarked on is that some of the terrorists are barely older than teenagers in contrast to the sixty-year-old Joe Leland. The book is much darker due to this change especially since half the terrorists are women. This is one of the best changes as it makes the rank and file terrorists much more unique and memorable.

What was especially surprising to me was the lack of overt politics in the book. It’s not that politics are totally absent from the book but for a book published during the cold war it’s surprising to see nothing about communism or the Soviet Union. This is even more surprising given that Anton Gruber is said to have begun his career in crime with the German Marxist Baader-Meinhof gang.

I’m torn on this, while I’m no fan of political rants it would have been interesting to add another difference between Joe and the terrorists especially since the ending reveals them to be quite justified. While I am happy the main villain got more back-story Anton Gruber simply can’t compare to Alan Rickman’s utterly superb turn as Hans Gruber. But  villains are nothing without an interesting hero to go against and Joe Leland brings a lot to the table

Joe Leland first appeared in “Thorp’s previous novel “The Detective.” Fortunately, the events of “The Detective” are recapped in the begging of the book and don’t effect the events of the book except by explaining how the main character’s background. Joe Leland is a former WW2 fighter pilot, turned police detective, turned private detective, turned security consultant. He gained fame from solving a controversial case during his police years, only to find out many years later a private detective that he arrested the wrong man. While this case also revealed massive amounts of municipal fraud, the ones responsible escaped punishment.

All this plus the divorce and later death of his wife along with his estrangement from his daughter and grandchildren have left him with a very cynical and world-weary mindset. All this trauma and experience makes Joe a man who thinks a lot but says little. While this allows a huge incite into what Joe’s history and thought process, it also has a downside.

This is one of the few novels where I feel like we learn too much about a character. Joe will flashback: to the end of his marriage, the history of his daughter, security conferences, and even old romances. While everything we learn is interesting and informative, sometimes it comes out of nowhere and disrupts the story. Fortunately, these little asides never come in the middle of anything and aren’t very long.

Joe’s checkered past also make’s him a ruthless mofo during the course of the book. Due to his security consulting experience Joe is familiar with Gruber’s past and he absolutely despises him and all his followers. He’s much more brutal in dispatching them, even to the point where he has one at gun point and just because he’s suspects they young terrorist is about to go on a righteous rant Joe shoots him in the neck and tosses his body off the roof. Joe’s kill’em all attitude is explained by his conflict fueled past making him a more violent person and his fear that if the police lay siege to the building his loved ones will be collateral damage. While Joe isn’t as likable a character as John McClain he’s definitely entertaining and you’ll be rooting for him by the end. This ruthless attitude culminates in a massively different ending for the book.

While “Die Hard” is a simple tale of a lone hero struggling against murderous thieves and an incompetent police department “Nothing Lasts Forever” in true noir style is much more gray in its morals. I was defiantly a fan of this change as it’s both interesting and great discussion material. It’s often brought up that Joe may be doing more harm than good in fighting the terrorists and the ending brings that into focus.

On route to their final showdown, Gruber tells Joe that his gangs’ plan was to take the tower hostage due to the bridge being a cover for selling arms to the murderous, U.S backed Chilean government (Google Augusto Pinochet if you want to know more about that). They planned to execute the C.E.O as an example to other corporations then take the six million dollars in the company vault and dump it out the windows returning it to the people. After this, they would escape with no deaths but a heartless corporate snake. While it’s possible that Gruber is lying, later evidence reveals that the bridge was a front and the executives, including Holly were in on the whole thing.

Speaking of Holly she doesn’t fare nearly as well as John McClain’s wife, after Joe and Gruber’s climatic showdown a mortally wounded Gruber grabs Holly by her new watch and they both topple out an open window to their deaths. Joe then mercilessly executes the surviving terrorists and dumps the money out the window anyway. While this end was absolutely crushing it fit with the rest of the book and further called Joe’s actions into question. While it’s certainly not as fun as “Die Hards” ending it’s definitely more interesting.

While “Die Hard” is an essential action classic that should be watched by everyone who is even marginally interested in good action, the book is quite different. Anyone going into the book expecting the same story as the movie will be very disappointed, especially by the very different tone. However, if you’re a fan of complex noir stories (which I am) you’ll definitely find something to like about “Nothing Last Forever”

F.A.Q’s

Did I like the book: Yes

Would I read it again: Yes

Would I buy it: Yes

Two fish run into an underwater concrete wall what do they say: Dam

 

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Boyhood Review

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Life Itself

 

Boyhood

Director: Richard Linklater

Stars: Patricia Arquette, Ellar Coltrane, Lorelei Linklater, Ethan Hawke

Year Released: 2014

Genre: Drama

The Life of Spoilers

            Famous French director Jean-Luc Goddard once said that “The cinema is truth twenty-four times per second.” I’ve always believed that the exact opposite was true. After all, most movies are about things that did not or cannot happen. Even if that old familiar disclaimer “Based on a true Story” is used, it just means that instead of the story being a hundred percent fake they’ve managed to shoehorn in a tenth of the true story. This is especially true whenever age or the passage of time is used. How many times has the viewing public been asked to believe that an actor in their twenties or thirties is a “kid” or that ten years have passed despite everyone’s appearances not changing? This lack of realism isn’t necessarily good or bad, it’s just one of the realities of moviemaking. Though, for every rule, there must be an exception.

“Boyhood” is that exception. In 2002 Director Richard Linklater undertook a nearly unbelievable task, he would tell the story of a boy’s childhood in real time. To everyone’s surprise (including mine) Linklater pulled it off. Filming in bursts over a twelve year period, “Boyhood” is a one of a kind movie. Before anything else is said, I have to dedicate a metric ton of respect to everyone who stuck with this film over the dozen years it was filmed. Extra special thanks (with a cherry on top) has to go to Ellar Coltrane who plays our titular boy and Lorelei Linklater who plays his sister. These two kids put the most awkward years of their lives up on the big screen and kept going with the movie despite not having any contract that would force them to keep going (stupid De Havilland Law).

Eagle-eyed readers will notice that I haven’t been talking about “Boyhoods” plot much, and that’s because the movie’s plot is life itself. The story (if you could call it that) revolves around Mason Evans Jr. and his middle class, single parent Texas family and the ups and downs of their lives. Aside from his mothers divorced status and her poor taste in men (she seems drawn to a bunch of drunk assh&%$) Masons life isn’t much different than yours or mine. Mason clashes with authority figures, finds mentors, discovers his passions, dates girls, experiments with drugs, forms his own personal viewpoints and eventually heads off to College.

That’s one of the main complaints about “Boyhood” it’s so close to reality, that it’s not interesting anymore. While the perils of his mothers’ abusive boyfriends add some danger and excitement to the story, the thing that got me invested was seeing a glimpse of my own past. This allowed me to put myself in Mason’s shoes even though we lived different lives (seriously if you grew up during this time prepare for a massive nostalgia rush).

While the almost three-hour running time will likely discourage some, I thought the time when by quickly and I can’t remember being bored during any part of “Boyhood”. Though I also don’t remember being particularly invested either. In that way the story was like life itself, you don’t even notice it while it’s happening. On the character side of things, everyone gave very natural and realistic performances which seemed to be part of the problem for some people. I’ll admit that Mason as a character doesn’t have much agency or effect on the story, which is completely fitting given his age. Remember, most people don’t have much say on what happens to them in the first couple decades there alive. Still, there were a few surprises like Mason’s sister being the more rebellious teen and that Mason Senior (Ethan Hawke) the divorced dad trying to start a music career would be more of a functional adult than mom (Patricia Arquette). While it isn’t really an issue for this kind of movie the camerawork is very good and the Texas scenery looks great.

“Boyhood” is a confusing film because it’s like life. There are a few great moments and a few bad moments but mostly it’s just normal. That’s not saying that it wasn’t consistently watchable, just that the story wasn’t as extraordinary as how the movie was made. I suspect that the making of “Boyhood” might be more interesting than the movie itself. Despite all of this “Boyhood” is a phenomenal movie that deserves respect for reaching for the stars with its premise. I encourage everyone to go see just so creativity is encouraged and you see how close a strangers life is to your own.

 

Did I like the movie: Yes

Would I watch it again: Yes but only with other people so we could discuss it

Would I buy it: Yes, but the deluxe edition so I could see all the extra stuff

Facts of Life: Your right hand has never touched your right elbow; imagine how sad it must be.

 

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12 years well spent

 

Mister Johnson Review

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English Man in Africa

 

Mister Johnson

Director: Bruce Beresford

Stars: Maynard Eziashi, Pierce Brosnan, Edward Woodward

Genre: Drama

Year Released: 1990

Proper English Spoilers

 

While most conquered peoples will hate their new masters, some will try to become them. These poor chumps end up having the worse time of anyone because nothing is more dangerous than a servant trying to be a master. In 1923 Africa had been well and truly conquered by various European powers, with Nigeria having been under British influence since 1885 until it was officially declared part of the British Empire in 1901. Some Nigerians rebelled but most just tried to continue their lives as best as they could under the new and confusing rules of a foreign power that had very little interest in understanding the society of the people who were now under their control. “Mister Johnson” is the story of one of those regular Africans trying to become an Englishman.

More specifically it’s the story of the titular Mr. Johnson (Maynard Eziashi), the friendly and helpful clerk, who serves as the assistant to the local district officer Harry Rudbeck (Pierce Brosnan). Johnson considers himself different from the other Africans, specifically, he considers himself an Englishman. I’m not even joking about this, Johnson dresses in a fine Savile Rd. suit with matching shoes, he always speaks English far more than he speaks his native language and he even refers to England as his home country.

Now Johnson is neither insane nor is he stupid, he just sees the world in a very simple way. While this is more touched upon in the novel “Mr. Johnson” is based on, foreign missionaries educated Johnson when he was a child. These missionaries hoped to “civilize” the “savage” African and gave him his Christian name. It was during this education that Johnson decides that a man was either savage (meaning African) or civilized (meaning English). Since Johnson himself was civilized, then he must also be an Englishman.

By the start of the movie, Johnson has gone into severe debt with his English Gentleman lifestyle. To his own detriment, Johnson lives in the moment and goes from scheme to scheme, always trying to stay one step ahead of whoever is after him. Johnson gets his big break when his boss Mr. Rubbeck mentions that his dream project, a road that would connect his township to the main highway has run out of money. Mr. Johnson takes this opportunity to teach Rudbeck about the way create money.

With his trademark, helpful nature, Mr., Johnson suggests that instead of building a new courthouse, just paint the old one and use the money on the road, instead of buying new uniforms for the colonial soldiers just patch up the old ones and use the money on the road. Now this turn of events can be taken many different ways. You could see it as the devious Johnson corrupting his gracious employer. Or, you could see it as Johnson becoming a true Englishman by exploiting the African people like Rudbeck and his friends. I prefer to think of it as just another sign of Johnson not thinking ahead. Johnson is simply focused on completing the road and nothing else and fraud is the best way to do it. Johnson will take this attitude with him throughout the entire movie and it will eventually lead to tragedy.

While “Mr. Johnson” is full of great performances, the standout is Mr. Johnson himself. Not only does he have a magnetic and charming personality but also he’s such a complex character that anyone who watches this movie will be pondering his motivations and mind state long after the movie is done. I see Mr. Johnson as someone who has bought into the message of colonialism. While the stated message of England’s domination of other countries was to “spread civilization” and “educate the savage natives”, the truth was that it all came down to money and power. The thing is, many of the people in the field carrying out this conquest fully bought into the idea of bringing civilization to the barbarians. While most of the Africans ignored the rhetoric and treated the British as the latest in a long line of foreign dictators, Mr. Johnson is the exception.

This is best demonstrated through the conversation Mr. Johnson has with the crude and racist shopkeeper Sargy Gollup (Edward Woodward). After growing close to Johnson on a hunting trip, Sargy gives him an unfortunate compliment when he tells him that he’s, “Too good to be a Nig.” Johnson actually takes this racist jibe as a compliment and why shouldn’t he, Sargy mean it as one. Understand that Johnson isn’t some spineless servant taking Sargys abuse with a smile; he simply takes the comment to mean he is a true Englishman. Johnson actually knocks Sargy out when the have an argument later on something the other Africans would never attempt for fear of the consequences but Johnson would because he sees himself as Sargys equal. Here are two men that are unaware of any power plays being made in London, their mealy two men trying to civilize each other.

If anything frustrates me about this movie it’s Johnson’s superior Mr. Rudbeck. He starts off as a typically oblivious Englishman, who’s so wrapped up in his own affairs that he can’t bother to understand his own surroundings. In fact, one of the earliest schemes in the movie is Rudbeck explaining to the local Waziri that they cannon flog a woman for stealing. While the Waziri tries to explain to Rudbeck that this is how they’ve done things for century’s, Rudbeck tells him that flogging is now forbidden and that’s that.

While I’m hardly trying to push some kind of pro-flogging agenda, you have to realize that it comes across as monumentally arrogant for a foreigner to tell someone that they have to abandon centuries old customs, just because they say so. While Rudbeck does improve by the end of the move I wonder if he has really learned anything. He tries to help Johnson at his point of greatest need and even grants him his final request, but was this because he has realized the cruelty of colonialism or simply due to his lingering affection for his helpful assistant. Either way, the final shot of Rudbeck is a hunting one as he ponders for the first time in his life, what serving England really means.

F.A.Q’s

Did I like the movie: Yes

Would I watch it again: Yes

Would I buy it: no

Tips on how to get a smoking hot body: Get Cremated

 

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For he himself has said it, and it’s greatly to his credit, That he is an Englishman

 

 

Slacker Review

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Uh, yeah I was gonna put a caption, but something came up

 

Slacker

Director: Richard Linklater

Stars: The Whole Cast

Year Released: 1991

Genre: Drama/Comedy

So like Spoilers or you know… whatever

 

In 1989 armature Texan director Richard Linklater set out to make a film with little more than a 16mm camera and a twenty-three thousand dollar budget. From those humble beginnings, he created a film unlike any I’ve seen before. It’s a film with no main character and no real plot , but it still manages to be interesting. That movie is “Slacker” and talking about it means talking about its unique structure, “Slacker” begins by following a young man (played by Linklater himself) who arrives at an Austin bus station. This guy catches a cab home and regales his captive driver with a story of a dream he had. Once Mr. “Should Have Stayed at the Bus Station” arrives home (yes, that’s how he and the rest of the cast are listed in the credits) the camera stops following him and starts following someone he met in the street. “Slacker” continues on in this manner, following one of the many weirdoes in Dallas until the meet or pass by someone else and the camera decides to follow them.

This host of misfits include a disgruntled grad student (aren’t they all), a violent agitator giving out tee shirts (“Remember, terrorism is the surgical strike capability of the oppressed”), a group of guys symbolically destroying their stuff to get over losing their girlfriends (that never works guys, though admittedly when I did it, it was someone else’s stuff) and a woman who has faith in groups and describes then deconstructs half the arguments on the internet before the internet even existed (You know, that’s what I hate: when you start talking like this, like you just pull in these things from the shit you read, and you haven’t thought it out for yourself, no bearing on the world around us, and totally unoriginal. It’s like you just pasted together these bits and pieces from your “authoritative sources.” I don’t know. I’m beginning to suspect there’s nothing really in there.).

While “Slacker” is quite well shot for a low budget movie, the real draw in this type of film is the dialogue. If you haven’t figured it out yet, this movie is almost endlessly quotable and you’ll likely be remembering bits and pieces of it for months afterward. “Slacker also avoids one of the common problems of dialogue-heavy movies, the possibility that you won’t find the main character interesting, by not having one. This, unfortunately, can lead people to continue on watching even though they don’t like the movie just to see what happens next and then feel cheated at the end. My advice to any would-be watchers is to give this movie thirty minutes. if it hasn’t hooked you by then you should just cut your losses and turn it off.

Fortunately, I enjoyed “Slacker” a lot, even though I didn’t like all its characters. The conversations can range from funny to profound and I was actually invested in the stories of some of the characters. “Slacker” to me, is like wandering around a college town on a summer day and just enjoying meeting new people. So if you like strange conversations about strange topics by strange people (like me). Wake up at the crack of noon, pour yourself a bowl of cheerios and goof off with “Slacker”.

 

 

F.A.Q’s

Did I like the movie: Yes

Would I watch it again: Yes

Would I buy it: Yes

What will you be doing when the revolution comes: doing what I do every day: Trying Not To Die

 

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This movie was arguing with idiots before the internet made it cool

 

Conspiracy Review

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Faces of Death

 

Conspiracy

Director: Frank Pierson

Stars: Kenneth Branagh/Stanly Tucci

Year Released: 2001

Genre: Drama

Spoiler Warnings for the Übermensch

 

If you’re looking for a film that shows how the worst acts in history are committed look no further. In 1942  the Wannsee Conference was held. during it, top Nazi bureaucrats led by Reich protector Reinhardt Heydrich (Kenneth Branagh) and SS senior leader Adolf Eichmann (Stanley Tucci), gathered in the Berlin suburb of Wannsee and decided the fate of six million lives in an 85-minute meeting.

“Conspiracy’s” plot is just that, a dramatic re-creation of a group of Nazi’s having a meeting and being introduced to the high commands final solution to the so-called Jewish problem. While the plot is extremely simple, this is still a fascinating movie. Everyone should understand that while this meeting was the official start of the Holocaust, the Holocaust as we know it (that is to say the organized mass killing of undesirables by the Nazi State) had been going on for quite some time before any meeting at Wannsee.

“Conspiracy” acknowledges this when Dr. Rudolf Lange (Barnaby Kay) commander of the SD in Latvia and one of the few active duty military men present at the conference, mentions that he “evacuated” 30,000 Jews in Riga by shooting them. This is all correct, as unorganized killings of anyone the Nazis deemed inferior had been going on since the invasion of Poland and organized killings were started soon after that. In fact, the early concentration camps were already up and running before any conference of any kind. The true purpose of Wannsee was to tell all the parts of the disparate Nazi bureaucracy, oh BTW we’re committing Genocide now, either get on board or get buried.

To me, the Wannsee conference was not just the confirmation of the Holocaust but also the reveal of the true face of Nazi power. Understand that while the Nazi ideology was built on antisemitism and white supremacy, that was hardly the only thing that attracted its millions of followers. Nazism was to create a Socialist democratic dictatorship that would dissolve the corruption of the old government and serve as a beacon of hope and order for all Europe. It was at Wannsee that these officials learned that it was not the state that had absolute power, only the Fuhrer, and his associates. This is best shown when Dr. Friedrich Wilhelm Kritzinger (David Threlfall) and Dr. Wilhelm Stuckart (Colin Firth) raise objections. Kritzinger wonders why the extermination of Jews is taking place despite Hitler personally denying that it wouldn’t. Stuckart, on the other hand, is more practical with his objections. He wonders how the laws separating Jew from Germans (which he created) will be maintained and how they will legally and righteously create a new Germany if they resort to Mass extermination.

Heydrich assures them both in no uncertain terms that, Hitler will continue to deny any mass extermination plots despite being aware of them from the beginning. Also, any legal or moral issues preventing the extermination of the Jews should just be ignored. It is with this simple announcement that both men learn that they are no longer living in a representative government of any kind and likely never have been. Heydrich also takes the extra step to privately let them know if they do not enthusiastically cooperate they will be dismissed (meaning killed) and replaced with someone who will. Despite the unspeakable evil being committed, I don’t know anyone who could defy a man whose had ordered the death of thousands, especially when defiance would mean certain death for you, your family and wouldn’t slow the upcoming slaughter in the least. Those at Wannsee learned that their Nazi empire was just that, a state totally controlled by Emperor Adolph the first and his knights the SS, while they were merely peasants with no voice and no choice.

“Conspiracy” would likely be as dull and formal as the real Wannsee conference if not for the superb performances of the entire cast. Especially chilling was Kenneth Branagh, who shows his Shakespearean skills as he infuses one of the worst Nazis in history with such a cold and terrifying menace, that it’s no surprise at all that he could terrify an entire room of bureaucrats into submission without even raising his voice. Amusingly Heydrich is one of the few in attendance that doesn’t operate under any illusions. While some of the others still hold to the fantasy of mealy deporting Jews from German lands, Heydrich knows that such ideas are absurd. He also considers it ridiculous that the assembled Nazis would be willing to oppress the Jews so much, but not want to take the final step and wipe them out.

Also worth mentioning is the sublimely sleazy Dr. Gerhard Klopfer (Ian McNeice) who has the dubious honor of being the most unpleasant Nazi in the room. Every word out of his mouth shows him to be a tactless assh&%$ who’s anti-Semitism is so extreme it even bothers his co-workers. Apparently, the real Klopfer was nothing like this but since Ian McNeice is so good a portraying scum bags, it’s no wonder they made the change. David Threlfall is excellent as Wilhelm Kritzinger, one of the few at the conference who seems to object to the proposed mass extermination plan but ultimately crumbles due to fear and a total lack of support from anyone else. The honor of the best speech has to go to Colin Firth whose speech on eliminating Jews according to the letter of the law is one of the best displays of the warped Nazi mindset in any film ever made. While “Conspiracy” is a grim film it is also a superbly acted recreation of one of the most important meetings ever held. For those wondering how a government could condemn millions to death, “Conspiracy” will show that it was done. That is to say, in a simple 85-minute business meeting, the banality of evil indeed.

 

 

F.A.Q’s

Did I like the movie: Yes

Would I watch it again: Yes but only with other people so we could discuss it

Would I buy it: Yes

Hidden secrets of the world: Nicki Minaj is actually a robot, created to be the ultimate pop star. She is, the Minaj-Bot

 

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129,412 lives per minute

 

 

Good Kill Review

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A Window into War

 

Good Kill

Director: Andrew Niccol

Stars: Ethan Hawke

Year Released: 2015

Genre: Drama

Running Time: 102 Minutes

You are now entering a Spoiler controlled Area

            What does it do to a man when his everyday job involves killing people he doesn’t know, for a reason that may never become clear in a position of total safety and comfort. “Good Kill” explores this in a new type of wartime drama. Major Thomas Egan (Ethan Hawke) is a soldier in an age where war has gone from, televised to digital, to fully remote. Due to the lack of pilot positions Maj. Egan is forced to give up his F-16 for an air-conditioned box in Las Vegas where he pilots drones. He hopes to get back into the pilot seat of a plane but his exceptional skill with drones leads his team to work top secret missions for the CIA. As the body count rises and the civilian casualties go from rare to commonplace, Egan’s relationship with his wife and children slowly begins to unravel.

“Good Kill” is a film where the focus is not on the plot itself but the characters, more specifically the main character. At its heart, this film is about remote warfare and how it affects the people being the controls and the nature of warfare itself. It’s no secret that soldiers coming back from warfare can feel disconnected from both their family and the world around them, but what happens when warfare and daily life become one in the same. While it would be easy to dismiss drone piloting as not being “real combat” the fact remains that despite how much of a video game it looks like when the trigger is pulled, real people die. This is the root of Egan’s breakdown, it’s not simply the stress or the drinking, or the long hours, or even the fact that his position makes him feel like a coward. But it’s the fact that killing people, whether they are terrorists or random civilian feels awful to anyone with a conscience. Even though Egan does his killing from a place of comfort and safety he has the unfortunate ability to clearly see, who he is killing and the aftermath of the attack. From the targets grieving wife and children to the funeral (which he sometimes, must also attack) the chaos of the battlefield does not protect Maj. Egan, he sees the results of every action that he takes.

Ethan Hawke gives an excellent performance in portraying a man who is suffering in silence. Hawke manages to perform the difficult task of keeping his emotions bottled up, but not so bottled up that the audience can’t see that they’re bottled up. The rest of the cast is mostly average with the exception of Bruce Greenwood as Egan’s commanding officer, who manages to be both a tough C.O and a sympathetic ear for Egan. Sadly it’s Egan’s fellow soldiers who provide the worse parts of the movie. During their lunch breaks, two of Egan’s squad debates the morality of their actions. Sadly this means yelling out the basic talking points that you’ve likely heard in any news debate. While this is sadly realistic (most people, really do just repeat what they heard on the news) it doesn’t make for interesting cinema. Despite these painful but brief interludes and the rest of the cast not being very interesting, the main focus of the story is on Ethan Hawke and he more held my interest. “Good Kill” is a moving drama that strikes at what it means to be a soldier in an age where you may not get bloody, but you still don’t feel clean.

 

  

F.A.Q’s

Did I like the movie: Yes

Would I watch it again: Yes but only with other people so we could discuss it

Would I buy it: No

What’s the most frustrating part of your day: When I go to the grocery store and try to buy one of those checkout dividers, but the lady behind the counter keeps putting them back.

 

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Welcome To The Kill Box

 

Blue Ruin Review

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A Man Must Dig Two Graves

 

Blue Ruin

Director: Jeremy Saulnier

Stars: Macon Blair

Year Released: 2014

Genre: Thriller/Drama

Running Time: 90 Minutes

This review isn’t crazy it’s just got spoilers

             How far does a man have to go before he can say that justice has been done? The fascinating new revenge thriller “Blue Ruin” asks that and many other questions as it gives us a new spin on one of the oldest stories, the story of a man seeking revenge. The man in question is Dwight Evens (Macon Blair) who appears at first to be another lost and broken homeless man, who lives out of his car on the beach. This all changes when a local police officer informs him that Wade Cleland Jr. (Sandy Barnett) has just been released from jail. At that moment a terrible change comes over Dwight, he packs up his battered blue car (one of the possible meanings of the title) and  goes to kill Wade Cleland. After a failed search for a gun, Dwight decides to just ambush Wade at his release party with nothing more than a pocket knife. Then in a twist that separates “Blue Ruin” from most revenge movies, Dwight actually kills Wade. This would be the finale of most movies, but in “Blue Ruin” it’s only the beginning, as new facts come to light and the lives of Dwight and everyone he knows spiral out of control.

“Blue Ruin” is subtly different from its first frame. Not only does it not have any opening credits but it also throws the audience into Dwight’s hobo life without any explanation of who he is. Most of the film is like that, instead of explaining things; it relies on the audience to figure things out for themselves. Some people might get confused by this, but I could follow it and I think anyone who pays attention won’t have any trouble

What’s also different is the subtle tweaks “Blue Ruin” puts on the typical revenge story. Most revenge movies go like this: main character guy’s Family/Friend’s/Second cousin twice removed gets killed/raped/kidnapped and the killers avoid punishment so main character guy must now use/learn badass commando ninja skills in order to f#$% up the lives of the poor dumb basta#$% who messed with his loved ones. These usually star someone who looks like a badass so it won’t be too much of a stretch when he slaughters a dozen people. Take the “Death Wish” the granddaddy of revenge films for example. The main character in that movie is supposed to be a simple architect, but because he’s played by Charles Bronson, the jump from grieving family man to ruthless vigilante is easy for the audience to accept because Charles Bronson could look like a badass even if he did the whole movie in a dress.

“Blue Ruin” takes every critical part of the revenge move and warps it. Dwight’s family has been hurt but the killer was caught and punished. While Dwight does go on a rampage of revenge, he begins and ends it as nothing more than an especially clever homeless guy without any combat skills. Most important is how Dwight looks. In the begging of “Blue Ruin” despite sporting tattoos and an impressive beard, Dwight never looks tough; he just looks sad, lost and confused. Then after he cleans himself up he looks like a suburban wimp who couldn’t be less threatening if he tried. All these factors help create one of the rarest things in a film, realism. I actually found myself being believing “Blue Ruin’s” story and for a guy who’s seen as many movies as me, that’s a rare occurrence.

Fortunately, “Blue Ruin” doesn’t only need to rely on just its story. The acting is good overall, but the special focus should be given to Macon Blair who manages to communicate Dwight’s broken spirit from his first scene to his last. “Blue Ruin” is shot very well and it’s clear that the cinematographer knows how to frame a shot right and present a long take without overdoing it, sadly this is a skill that’s vanishing in modern films. While “Blue Ruin” isn’t an action movie when the bloodshed does start it’s quick, brutal and fit’s the movie’s tone perfectly. “Blue Ruin” is a rare thing, a movie that provides a new spin on a classic genre without being obvious about it. That alone is a good  reason to see it, but even without that “Blue Ruin” is tense tragic and very engrossing.

 

 

F.A.Q’s

Did I like the movie: Yes

Would I watch it again: Yes

Would I buy it: Yes

Put a new twist on an old joke: A man goes to see a Psychiatrist. He tells the Psychiatrist that he’s overwhelmed with life and he doesn’t know how long before it will be before he hurts someone he knows. The Psychiatrist tells the man “you should go see Pagliacci the clown, he’ll cheer you up.” The man starts to look very embarrassed and the Psychiatrist asks him what’s wrong. The man says “well I’m really starting to regret strangling that clown I met on the way over here.”

 

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Paybacks a Bitch

 

High Rise Review

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A lot can happen in forty stories

Director: Ben Wheatley

Stars: Tom Hiddleston

Year Released: 2015

Genre: Thriller

Running Time: 119 Minutes

Spoilers From This Point On:

            “High Rise” takes place during the 1960’s in an ultramodern apartment building that provides its residents with every modern convenience. As the tenants spend more and more time isolated from the outside world, they eventually revert to brutal and primitive tribalism, with each group or social class jealously hoarding recourses while viciously attacking anyone perceived as an outsider. The actual plot is a bit random, due to the strange nature of the story and the fact that the movie is more about the building as a whole than any one character or storyline.

Still of the many people in the high rise and the ones we spend the most time on are: Dr. Robert Laing (Tom Hiddleston) a university professor of psychology who serves as our de facto main character and who slips into madness as the high rise slips into anarchy. Richard Wilder (Luke Evans) a liquor swilling, foulmouthed, perpetually horny, lower class cameraman, who is determined to ascend to the top floor of the building and confront the high rises architect, by whatever means necessary. Anthony Royal (Jeremy Irons) the architect of the high rise who was crippled in its construction. He considers the high rises he has built to be his greatest works and observes the chaos with the detached eyes of a scientist, even as his own family descends into savagery.

I think I enjoyed “High Rise” a bit more than others, due to the fact that I read the book that this movie was based on and got quite a bit of background on the ideas that went into its creation. The book and the movie wears both its English values and its 60’s era fears on its sleeves and a better understanding of English values and the attitudes of that day, will help you understand a very weird movie. The most important thing to remember is that of all the things engrained in the British mindset, conformity and classism have the most influence. This was especially true in the 60’s and “High Rise” reflects this. The high rise is divided by class and the higher up you are in the building the higher your class is. There is competition between the floors for resources even before the collapse (blackouts and water shortages are common) and each floor is quick to blame the one above or below it for all the trouble.

Despite the carnage most characters are so interested in keeping up appearances, that they seem totally in denial. Many residents keep going to work even as bloody warfare breaks out because after all, what would the neighbors think if you started slacking off. I’m completely convinced that most of the high rise resident didn’t even want to become modern day cavemen; they’re just going along with the crowd.

Despite its faithfulness to the book (which is impressive, given how weird and random the book can be) “High Rise” is not a perfect adaptation. In the novel we never find out what causes a pair of death that begin the high rises slide into anarchy. In the move however we know exactly what caused it, thought to the movies credit this knowledge gives us an important plot point. A lot of people will be turned away by “High Rises” strange story, bizarre visual style and schizophrenic plot. Fortunately I’m a fan of weird stuff like this so I loved every bizarre thing the movie could throw at me. While the wall to wall weirdness will be too much for some people I hope those interested in a more unconventional story will give this a chance. After all fears of human desensitization due to isolation are alive and well, with the internet now making it so that you never have to leave your home, every house can be a high rise.

 

 

F.A.Q’s

Did I like the movie: Yes

Would I watch it again: Yes

Would I buy it: No

Look deep inside you self, what is it that you see: There are couple lungs and a stomach; I don’t recognize the other stuff. Meh, it’s probably just taking up space.

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Meet The Neighbors

Sansho The Bailiff Review

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A tale as old as Time

Sansho The Bailiff

Director Kenji Mizoguchi

Stars: Kyōko Kagawa/Eitarō Shindō/Yoshiaki Hanayagi

Year Released: 1954

Genre: Drama

Running Time: 2 hours 4 Minutes

The Tale of Spoilers

 

How much does one person have to go thru before they can find justice? You’ll be asking yourself this during every minute of “Sansho the Bailiff” the heartbreaking tale of struggle and survival in ancient Japan. After the governor of the province of Tango tries to lower taxes and lessen military conscription, his superiors, disgusted with his kindness and mercy have him banished to a minor post in the boondocks of Japan. Before leaving he tells his son Zushio (Masahiko Tsugawa) that, “without mercy, man is like a beast. Even if you are hard on yourself, be merciful to others. Men are created equal. Everyone is entitled to happiness”. Sadly happiness is not in the cards for this young man. When he and his mother Tamaki (Kinuyo Tanaka) his sister Anju (Keiko Enami) meet a seemingly good Samaritan, they are soon betrayed and kidnapped and then sold into slavery.

The children are separated from their mother and are forced into the service of the ruthless Bailiff Sansho (a Bailiff is in charge of a lord’s manor) a merciless thug who works his slaves from dawn till dusk and brands anyone who angers him with a hot iron. The two children almost give into despair until Taro (Akitake Kōno) Sansho kind son encourages them by saying that their fathers’ teachings were wise and that they should grow up strong so they can escape. Sadly after ten years of servitude Zushio (Yoshiaki Hanayagi) has lost hope and become a brutal enforcer for Sansho, while Anju (Kyōko Kagawa) still holds on to hope. Anju’s spirits are lifted when she gets word from another slave that her mother may still be alive on Sado Island, which she takes as a sign that they should escape.

The flight from slavery will be filled with triumph and tragedy as our humble heroes experience the greatest of joys and the worst of sorrows. “Sansho the Bailiff “is a superb movie, I say this without hesitation because it actually managed to tug at MY heartstrings, and I spent good money to have my heart replaced with a freakin icebox. I had heard that “Sansho the Bailiff” was one of the greatest films ever made in Japan and I wasn’t disappointed. Despite the fact that the story is hundreds of years old (it was passed down orally for generations until finally getting into print and later becoming this movie) and, it is still relevant today, especially in America where the wounds of slavery are especially deep.

It is a simple tale of humanity and hope in the face of overwhelming oppression and despite a few flaws I loved every minute of it. Director Kenji Mizoguchi is one of Japans most respected filmmakers and “Sansho the Bailiff” shows all his skill. Especially odd was his focus on both the poor and women in a historical setting. While Zushio gets the most screen time, all his successes are helped by the sacrifices of the women n his life. To wake a movie focused on women in such a male dominated country as Japan is impressive but even more impressive is “Sansho the Bailiffs” art design

According to the DVD commentary “Sansho the Bailiff” was made to be a showcase of traditional Japanese arts. The soundtrack uses classical Japanese music and the scenes were made to look like traditional Japanese artwork. The result is a film where most of the scenes look like they could be framed and put into a museum. The entire cast gives superb performances that show such raw emotion that the language barrier is simply not an issue. This may be due to the high standards of Mizoguchi who would make actors skip meals and run laps if they didn’t look tired or hungry enough. The few flaws I could find were mainly in the story. Remember how Sansho’s kind son comforted our two orphans. Hope you liked him because that character never shows up after that. Also, there are a couple leaps of logic and absurd twists of fate, in the grand tradition of Charles Dickens and Horatio Alger. Meaning a poor person jumps social classes due to a simple act of kindness being repaid a hundred times over. Fortunately, everything else about this movie is so good, it’s easy to ignore any flaws it might have, and I recommend this one for absolutely everyone.

F.A.Q’s

Did I like the movie: Yes

Would I watch it again: Yes

Would I buy it: Yes

What are your thoughts on marriage rights: People should be able to get married in any state they want whether Solid, Liquid or Gas

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Life is Fragile