The Siege of Jadotville

Some time ago, in the early sixties, Belgian Congo, located smack bang in the middle of Africa, moved towards independence. Not everyone was thrilled with the idea. For one, a sizeable group of people living in the mineral-rich province of Katanga(uranium) wanted independence from independent Congo, while  the original colonizers, the Belgians, wanted no independence at all. Both being the enemy of their enemy, they went for one of those curious alliances that defy logic and Katanga was declared independent. To make sure it retained it’s independence Katanga was supplied with an army of mercenaries. French ones, given by De Gaulle, so the movie tells us.

The new government of Congo under Lumumba tried to conquer the state of Katanga by force. Since the west and the UN seemed lackluster in their support, Lumumba turned to the Soviets for aid. With the cold war edging towards a new high Congo seemed to become a battle ground where east and west could fight the cold war by proxy. So the United Nations stepped in with the aim to prevent this from happening or to control the damage.
(which it did in hindsight).

 

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In this complicated political scene a company of Irish soldiers gets ordered to take control of a place called Jadotville as part of their UN Peacekeeping mission. Unfortenatly, we are not informed why that particular place. It gets hinted at that it is an important location, but what are the orders?

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What orders?

The movie does spend some time on the background of the incident, but when it comes to the main part of the movie, we are clueless. What are these guys doing there anyway?

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The compound consists of a few buildings. Wisely enough the commander has his men dig trenches. Which is following the sage advice: dig in dammit!

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After some preliminaries, we get to the meat of the movie, which consists of an hour of battles scenes. There is little time for anything else but explosions and shooting. Character development is the first victim in this movie.

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The French dude. He is the honorable enemy. Who is he anyway? 
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Allrighty.. I just killed like three hundred of your men with no loss of my own. No hard feelings, right.
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That is the enemy. Figures in a landscape.

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The second victim is, of course, the truth. Politicians are not to be trusted and leave noble soldiers to fend for themselves.Reality is probably more complex and given that the movie spends some time on background, but not enough to flesh out the characters  we are never given an insight into the complex  political background and motives of the persons involved. In fact, the movie would have done better with leaving this part out entirely and not painting those involved in this tense complex political situation in a bad light with such rough brushstrokes. It is easy to point the finger at them politicians.  A more noble and heroic movie would have shown how hard the job actually is.

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O’Brien being appointed by the UN Secretary. O’Brien’s career as an international politician was broken in Congo/Katanga incident.
He is the bad guy.

 

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And there you have it. Katanga’s prime minister Thombe doesn’t think well of the UN.

 

.The siege of Jadotville isn’t really a good movie. Its main flaw is a lack of character development. Except for the commander, everyone is forgettable. But even as a historical insight into the events it leaves much to be desired. The same old story can be found here: untrusty politicians are selling out the noble soldiers. There is simply no time taken to delve into the complex world of cold war politics, but just enough to lay the blame with the usual suspects. The issue isn’t that there is someone to blame, the issue is that a good movie would show how a person choose his path, not because he is an untrusty bad person, but because that was his best choice, according to him at that time.

But even as a war movie it lacks the quality of say: Karthoum, Zulu, The Alamo, The lost battalion, Saving Private Ryan or the defense of Arnhem bridge by Frost in A bridge too far.
It is just a boring sequence of heroics that get to be unbelievable.

The siege of Jadotville rightly salutes the  company of Irish soldiers who ended up in a bad situation at a bad time, but it dishonors them at the same time by making a complex situation easy by laying blame by the politicians for betraying them. I know this is a hugely popular thing, but you can’t just do away  history because you dislike politicians. It would have been a better movie if it had just not taken that path but had given the politicians their due.  Politicians are people and they sometimes have to make hard choices. It would be a great movie that takes that into account.

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Movie rawr: Requiem for the American Dream

It is hard to level criticism at a documentary that has the famous Noam Chomsky as spokesperson in it. Who am I to naysay a man who knows more, has experienced more, means more and has more written all over? But this, in a strange manner, works both ways. When a documentary is out to proof something accepting it because Chomsky says so sets us up for a fallacy called speaking from authority. But before continuing on: what is the documentary about anyway?

This documentary is trying to make the case that there is some kind of conspiracy to kill democracy and the American dream. It is not a documentary trying to give you an insight in the theories of Chomsky for instance or trying to give you an overview of his career. In fact Chomsky, being a linguist, is treading outside his area of expertise. We are in the land of economics, politics and power-mongers in general. Which doesn’t mean that he has noting valid to say, but it is really a pity that what he seems to have revolutionized isn’t being talked about or used. Linguistics, the use of language, is a powerful way to shape the world around us for it is the way we get to know the world. You can read books like 1984 or How to read Donald Duck to get an idea. Mind you that me naming them doesn’t mean that I agree with the contents, it merely to give you examples.

The documentary is split in two logical parts. One part has figures and charts that show how the divide between the rich and the rest of the country dramatically changes over the decades. It shows how all kinds of restraints and controls on banks and other financial institutions have been done away with. It shows how the labor unions declined and so on. It tries to make the case that power is getting monopolized. And this all commented upon by Chomsky. And there is nothing wrong with this as far as I can determine.

It is the second part however that made me pause. It is where the documentary and Chomsky try to suggest that all of this is deliberate and aimed at undermining democracy and the American dream to the benefit… of who actually and planned by whom?
And here is the weakness of the documentary which is profound. Who are those people, Chomsky? Only a flimsy piece of evidence is given, which is where Chomsky strongly suggests that Alan Greenspan admitted in an open inquiry to promoting worker insecurity. I was baffled at this, for what use is a conspiracy that openly reveals itself and thus admits to being one? And as a matter of fact, it wasn’t what Chomsky said it was. And Chomsky was even challenged on this back in 2014, but he didn’t bother to correct himself and even repeats it in this documentary but now in a sly way.
The documentary first has Chomsky say it was designed. Then it shows Greenspan concluding worker insecurity  kept the wages low and an excerpt of the rapport is given and then Chomsky immediately says in the next shot that it is deliberate again. Thus suggesting again strongly that it was a deliberate policy. It took me a few minutes to google this how Chomsky tries to misuse this. Down below is a link where Chomsky in Counterpunch says it was imposed. You can google the internet too.

Here are screenshots from the documentary

22 minutes into the documentary

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Chomsky stating it is deliberate(designed)
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Chomsky pointing at Greenspan
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Here Chomsky is at his slyest. Running implies he was in on it. But it also doesn’t imply direct involvement. He can can always claim he didn’t mean to imply Greenspan planned it.
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Read the the whole paragraph. ‘Considered surprising.’  ‘Less than predicted.’ ‘Atypical.’ Greenspan is making observations and they are not as many would have expected(Greenspan probably wants to pass himself off as smart by suggesting others are surprised but he is not. Oh the irony for now he is open to Chomsky’s accusation. Had he said: it surprised me as well, Chomsky would have had no case to make. Well almost not.).
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Probably but you still have to proof it was deliberate and planned.
The documentary in this part reveals to be another conspiracy aimed at promoting the idea that yet another version of the Illuminati is at it again, only now they are so vague that we do not even get to know who these people are(was it Greenspan?), what they do and how they do it. Chomsky talks unopposed and no criticism of what he says can be found in this documentary. It is preaching for the choir. It is propaganda.
Chomsky strikes me as a man walking in a forest who hears a tree topple over and concludes that a private company is out to wreck nature because the tree must have been cut down by a man, and that man can only work for a company and companies only do stuff because they aim at enriching themselves at the cost of anything else and therefore it is a deliberate way to wreck nature.
Upon investigation however it could very well be that the tree toppled over because it was old and decrepit. You can probably think of yet another explanation.
Alas this documentary doesn’t give room for alternate explanations and this damages the whole purpose. For what would be the upshot of Chomsky’s arguments? That a nefarious group of people plans this? Hence: get rid of this group and all will be well?

Chomsky shoots himself in the foot. For he has to twist language to vindicate his believes which is really shameful for a man who has been a linguist. Twisting words in one case with intent discredits everything else that is said for I do not have the time to fact check everything. And now? What can I trust you to say truthfully? I would almost say: shame on you, Chomsky and those who made this documentary and didn’t bother to check and correct. You did everyone(including yourself) an extreme disservice.

Sources for  Chomsky’s claim that it was planned(by Greenspan?)

Chomsky stating that it was ‘imposed’ by Greenspan in Counterpunch.
http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/02/28/on-academic-labor

Actual text of the report:
http://www.federalreserve.gov/boarddocs/hh/1997/february/testimony.htm

Invesitgation by politifact & social coldstream
www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2014/jul/21/facebook-posts/social-media-meme-says-alan-greenspan-said-insecur

social.coldstreams.com/2015/11/09/appeal-to-authority-assertion-of-false-quote-alan-greenspan-did-not-say-this

A detailed examination by the New York Times of the role of job insecurity at the time
http://www.nytimes.com/1997/02/27/business/job-insecurity-of-workers-is-a-big-factor-in-fed-policy.html

Movie rawr: Contact

 

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Oh the earth.. and look that is the sun..

After spending a third of a trillion dollars Ellie, played by Jodie Foster, finds herself at the other end of a worm hole. That is to say: back on Earth. It took her 18 seconds to do so.

Earth, inhabited by moronic creatures called humans, has just found itself to be the target of practical joker living on a planet orbiting Vega or thereabouts. Thereabouts cause that planet was probably just a relay station. It send them humans an instruction manual for building a device nobody on Vega or thereabouts could afford to build, hoping them dumb humans would do it. And they did. In fact, they made even two of them. How stupidly funny is that.

To their great embarrassment one of those earthlings appeared so they had to sent it back with some garbled message that would have the slow witted creatures pondering stuff for the rest of their pathetic existence and leave the rest of the universe well alone.

What is next? Ellie asks her dead daddy, the guise the alien has assumed for her convenience(and not Adolf H, which would have been funny). Well, we sent you back without a shred of evidence and nobody will believe you. And we erased all the tapes, and the audio and anything that could proof we exist. How about that? It will be just like.. a religion! You feel right at home!

Fine with me, Ellie says. For we have found out that Ellie doesn’t believe in gawd.. but she does believe in something after having had her trip to another world. So she has become a spiritual person so she can have intercourse with the religious guy named Palmer Joss without feeling ashamed about it. (In hindsight the painful look on her face when she kisses Palmer might very well be because Foster was a closeted lesbian, which by Jove would at least have made the movie more interesting if Ellie had been too. Nuke them straight people! )

So the whole movie, aptly named Contact, was about finding an excuse for the atheist (assumed closeted lesbian) Ellie to have (straight) intercourse with the Christian Palmer(who isn’t gay). Two third of a trillion dollars spent on matchmaking and brain reprogramming.. Does this movie get closure that way? Perhaps it does.

The more I think of this movie, the lower my scoring. The biggest part of the movie turns around a conflict between science and religion, in which the latter means: the Christian faith of the American kind. 95 percent of the humans are religious someone says to atheist Ellie, which is why she doesn’t get selected to go to Vega at first. She could have replied: but only a third of them are Christian. So who will it be? A Christian volunteer? A Muslim one? A Jewish? A Buddhist? Which religion shall be required? And if it will be Christian, which of the ten thousand denominations? The catholic one? Oh and did I tell you about my sexual orientation? Only 4% of the female population confesses themselves to be lesbian. And how about white vs black vs Asian? What race shall represent earth?  And what country? But we just skip over those shall we.. cause, darn it, this is America and there is just one American gawd and that is the white Christian one and no other exist!

And the American atheist gets to finally go after the designated white American Christian dude and the first alien device gets blown to smithereens by an equally white American religious nutcase cause them Americans prefer their own American atheist to go after all in their secretly build religious nutcase free intergalactic American travelling device version two, so they can adorn the alien property with an American flag. Only they forgot to give her one. Or that atheist is just as unAmerican as McCarthy would have us believe..

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Isn’t space nice without humans?

The nicest part of the movie is the beginning sequence, in which we see no humans at all. The camera travels backwards from the planet into outer space. Cool that! In between there are some more nice shots of desert landscapes and some sequences about the planets. As long as there are no humans in it, the movie is actually nice.

Jodie Foster, how I like her, is at her worst here. She seems constantly on the brink of a nervous breakdown, about to scream or about to cry. Why did they send that nervous wreck to the aliens? No wonder they returned her without any evidence so they will not send another one. Cause them humans are just too stupid to get that travelling through wormholes mucks with space and time. But you know.. Einstein is dead and with him all the brilliant scientists have died out.. Stephen Hawking? Never heard of the guy. Carl Sagan? Wasn’t he a script writer for sci-fi movies? Higgs? Penrose? Witten? Just a bunch of loonies.

The movie has also Blofield in it. He is named Hadden. Hadden is a deus ex machina. When the plot grounds to a halt, he steps in with a lotta money and gets it floating again. So Sagan, writer of this marvelous trash sees salvation come from the upper 1% of the upper 1% of the upper 1%. It is the gawd of monies that makes the world go round and the atheist go to Vega.  Jup.. the movie is almost brilliant. But there aren’t any cats in it though so it remains almost.

At the end of the movie Ellie is back were she started: in command of a large array of antennae listening to the universe. Did anything happen in between? Apparently not. It was all a dream probably or maybe she got back to another Earth in another universe? Isn’t that her once deceased dad in the background walking toward her over a pearly white beach? What was it all about? Well, we see her looking up at the night sky showing a milliard sparkling stars. She has become that spiritual person in which the scientist and the religious fanatic have become one. I feel at peace with the universe now. I am not alone anymore.. So let’s depart with that gooey feeling. Yuck..

I give it a five out of ten.

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Movie thoughts: Taxi Driver

 

The scene

A man has his arms crossed across his chest. He stares into the camera. He challenges an unknown adversary: are you talking to me? Are you talking to me…? Whom else would you be talking to?

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Taxi Driver is about a man who returns from a foreign war to eek out a living  as a taxi driver. He lives in a crummy apartment, without any friends or family in a city that is as distant to him as it is to anyone else. He works in an underpaid job driving random people around.  He doesn’t mind who. As a taxi driver he just transports them.. but he never gets to know them.He is a  man isolated from the world.

He tries to connect to people, but soon enough when he interacts his inner strangeness surfaces to undo any approach. He will not connect.

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The whole movie gears to a point.. and at that point we still are not certain what will happen. And when violence finally erupts we might see a hero being made or a villain, but we as watchers know his inner thoughts: he  is just a pistol-shot away from being either a villain or a hero. It is a close call.

Taxi driver is a great movie as it explore the estrangement of  man  alone in a city.The story of this lonely man is well told and supported by music. The cinematography is great. Helped by the scenes of the city. A must see for the story and the combination of music and scenes.

Here some mood scene.

 

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Movie thoughts: Beasts of no nation

The scene.

 

Three young boys stand on the edge of a water basin. The fist is saluting repeatedly  the second one. The second boy tells the third one that he is training the first one to be a warrior. Less than 50 feet away of their comrades executes an enemy soldier.

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War used to be a man’s business.
I don’t  mean to write this in a melancholic way. Like something has been lost and should be shed tears over. For me it is an observation from history. A matter of  historical fact. History used to be my business a long time ago. Specifically warfare..Until I got fed up with it. I threw out all my books, but I kept one. It is called: Warfare in the Classical World.
It tells me that a warrior of the Greek age had to carry around armor that weighed something like 60 pounds. Not something a mere boy could carry to or on the battlefield..It requires a grown up man to do so. Mind you a modern day soldier still carries a hefty weight around, but if need be.. he can do without it in battle.

Modern warfare has been a kind of equalizer. That is to say: any man, when properly trained, could fire a gun that kills any other man. .And since no armor could stand up to a gun in the end, it inevitably caused the downfall of those who were privileged to afford armor. Back in those days personal wealth could provide protection in the days that knights ruled the battlefield. Common wealth provided the lowly citizen with the power to undo that. A beggar could kill a knight with something as cheap as a gun. And a lot of beggars could kill the few knights at random by using a lot of guns.

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History shows a few key moments. The battle of Arsuf; where crossbowmen ruled the field, or the battle of Agincourt where long-bowmen dominated, but more in evidence are the movies Kagemusha.. where the samurai are defeated by firearms and  The Last Samurai, that is about the final defeat of the samurai at the hands of a regular army equipped with modern firearms.

When it is possible to arm mere beggars with guns to defeat an army, it wouldn’t be illogical to arm mere boys to do the same.

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And that is what movie Beasts of No Nation is about.

Here is a movie that, without reservation or pastiche, just shows the bare truth. In modern times you can even arm a boys to kill men. And what is more: they would be better at it because sense is only developed a later age. Hence at that age.. there is no sense.. and without sense they can arbitrarily kill anyone without any reservation. You just point the finger.

They are killing machines…

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Arm boys with guns and guns and boys will rule you.. without mercy and predictability.Not because they are evil, but because that is how they are raised. They do what they do.. because they are boys.

Beasts of no nation shows this without reserve or pastiche. Without a message or anything. It just shows. It a well made movie.. and scary.

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http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1365050/

http://www.metacritic.com/movie/beasts-of-no-nation

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/beasts_of_no_nation/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Movie thoughts:The Kill Team

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2732932/

For who is unfamiliar with the name The Kill Team – we are, after all, not all American citizens -: it was given to themselves by a group of soldiers that were active in Afghanistan around 2010 and subsequently the name was taken over and spread by the media when these men were accused, arrested and convicted for crimes including pre-meditated murder during an incident known as the Maywand District murders(Maywand_District_murders)

The scene is set up well as we are introduced to the setting -Afghanistan in the first decade of the 21st century – then given some background on the soldiers in general and finally shift to the handful of individual soldiers that are the subjects of the documentary.

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In particular The Kill Team follows Adam Winfield, who had attempted to alert the army of The Kill Team’s existence prior to the Maywand incident. The actual whistle blower however was Justin Stoner. We should remind ourselves not to confuse Winfield with Stoner. The first made an attempt to alert the army, did not succeed, and then did not stop the murders from occurring. He was thus sentenced to prison and got an dishonorable discharge. Stoner did notify the army and thus the investigation was started on his instigation. He was dismissed with honorable discharge. I want to mention this because at first it seemed as if the whistle blower got punished for doing his duty.

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The documentary does an excellent job of portraying Winfield and his parents as they struggle with what he has become. We even get a moment where he cries over what has happened and tells us at one point that he once planned his own suicide. We get an in-depth view of the anguish of a man who knew what happened was wrong, what others did was wrong, what he did was wrong and did not stop it, mostly because he was unable to. It was a truly sad thing.

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But when the documentary wraps it up it feels like something is missing. In fact, besides the interviews and some spurious remarks about what happened to the key people involved, there is nothing that is lifted above the level of personal drama. Isn’t there a bigger picture?

Stoner sums it up at the end: Your job is to kill.You’re infantry.[] Well, why the hell are you pissed off when we do it?

And here the documentary fails. If soldiers are taught to kill and just kill regardless is that what we want them to do? And if we don’t, how come they do things that we don’t want them to do?
Would that not be a valid question to ask, explore and answer?

Here is a few quotes that gives us a startling insight in the armies way of thinking(see the wikipedia):

“Colonel Harry Tunnell’s (of the 5th Stryker Brigade) “inattentiveness to administrative matters … may have helped create an environment in which misconduct could occur.”

and

“The brigade, was reported to be “rife with lapses of discipline, misdirection and mixed signals about its mission.”

and

“As an Army, we are troubled that any soldier would lose his ‘moral compass’ as one soldier said during his trial.”

Does it mean that soldiers get bad when their commanders allow them to go bad? Is losing your moral compass the expected behavior when a lack of proper discipline releases a soldier from the leash that his superior keeps him in check with? Like a dog?
Does morality come with rank? And has a general more morality than a private?
Is that how we see people?

But if that explains it, why were those soldiers punished at all? I mean, without their commanders keeping them on the right track, they are bound to go off in the deep end as the reports seem to suggest. They lost their moral compass.Can’t they plead insanity(as in A time to kill) or perhaps a sufficient lack of amorality?

The kill team is a well made documentary but also one that leaves something to be desired. The documentary doesn’t spent much time on the bigger picture and keeps the camera focused on the personal drama of a few individuals, which makes for a gripping tale, but not much more and that is a pity. It would have been a lot stronger if it they had asked themselves: why did this come about? It tells you the who, the what, the how but does not address the why.

Sources:
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2732932/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maywand_District_murders
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Kill_Team

 

Review: Maleficent

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I often find myself among the cynical as it comes to movies, so when I see a movie that is heartwarming I suddenly know what I have been missing out.

Maleficent is such a heartwarming movie because it wants to make you understand the reason for the actions of the ‘evil’ person in an old fairy tale. It also incorporates a deeper tale as it shows the consequence of one (impulsive) action(the curse), which inevitably results in a series of actions that cause an inescapable result.

Maleficent is a magical being wronged by Stefan, a human friend who abuses her trust. He desires to be king, and therefore he steals her wings. The irony is that he only steals the wings and does not kill her as he was asked to do, he cannot bring himself to do it. His actions are therefore at the one hand selfish, but on the other hand: he also shies away from outright killing Maleficent.
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But stealing what is dear to her, her ability to fly, makes her hate him. So she plots revenge and when her old friend Stefan, now king Stefan gets a daughter she shows up at the celebration in the palace to place a curse on the child: she will prick herself on a spinning wheel the day she turns 17 and fall asleep until a true love will kiss her. And since Maleficent does not belief in true love, she is sure that it will never happen.

And this starts the tale. For Maleficent keeps track of her cursed victim, who grows up to be a lovely young woman. It puts her in a dubious position because to fulfill the curse the girl has to survive dangers and therefore she feels the need to rescue her unaware and unwanted charge. And thus the wicked witch thaws towards the girl.
But alas the curse can not be denied and inevitably the tale proceeds towards it’s predicated ending. Now Maleficent no longer has to make sure that the girl survives, she wants to rescue her from the curse. But how to do it?
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I won’t tell you the end, but the story gripped me. You probably see the twist at then coming from miles away, but I still find it a nice one and for once: what does it matter. This is a fairy tale and a lovely story.

However I admit that there are some things wrong with the movie. For instance, instead of explaining the actions of an ‘evil’ person, the ‘evilness’ attributed to Maleficent is in essence shifted on the shoulders of king Stefan. Now he becomes the evil guy as he has stolen her wings and turns into an unreasonable, uncaring and hatefu tyrant. It is sad that could not have him act withing the understandable limitations of humanity in that he intended to do good, but he ended up doing wrong. Now he is just the new bad guy.

And then there is one thing that was no pushed far enough. At some moments the relation between Sleeping Beauty Aurora and Maleficent seems almost of a lesbian nature. It could have been played upon more deliberately in my opinion. This would have given the movie an extra layer. However, considering that a lot of people would not understand nor like it and since this is a Disney film I can understand that they went as far as they went but not one step further.

The drill down: Angelina Jolie plays a marvelous Maleficent in a heart warming story that gives a twist on a well known fairy tale. You end up with a smile and a tear.

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Movie review: Colombiana

I would contend that almost any story is a voyage – often a mental one, if not always – and not seldom expressed in a physical one, where the protagonists move from one place to the next as a mirror to their mental journey in which they travel from one state to the other. Just some movies I can name are obvious ones like The Lord of the Rings or Saving Private Ryan. There are less obvious ones like The Third man or the Edge of Tomorrow. And there are even reversed ones like were the main characters are in one place in the way of others travelling.

While the reason for the journey is actually not the most important part of the journey, it is important enough as it can even have a profound influence due to the state of mind a person is in when the journey starts. Colombiana is a movie where the main protagonist Cataleya is confronted by the violent deaths of her parents. Her state of being is one of assumed innocence: as a nine year old child she sits at the kitchen table of her home, dressed in a neath clean black and white school uniform as violence erupts around her. With a inward turned gaze in her big doe brown eyes she faces the main henchman, who walks up to her, sit downs and talks to her. It is almost a Tarantino moment.

Almost, as it isn’t. For Megaton shows himself to be the lesser of directors by ruining it. Had he started out with this moment it might have captured some of the tension and even made the next scene tolerable. The one in which the nine year old drives a knife through the bad guys hand into the table underneath, then runs through the house, jumps through a small window and descends several storeys while being chased by goons emptying their guns at her.

What young kid could keep her wits to pull off well considered actions after having experienced the mental shock of her parents deaths, those that triggers her screams for revenge? Only a seriously mentally disturbed one can: a psychopath that has no feelings. So was this presumable innocent child, about to turn into a vengeful assassin, already a cold hearted murderer to start with? Was she already a natural born killer?

It would have worked if that had been born out in the next part of the movie. We fastforward fifteen years after Cataleya has found shelter with her uncle and demanded to be turned into an angel of death by him. Apparently he has not only the means to provide her with the necessary skills and equipment, but also the will, as is born out by the ludicrous scene in which he pulls out a gun and shoots at random people and cars on a crossing to make the point that anyone can shoot anyone at random, but you can’t get away with it. Which he proceeds to do next as he walks out while the police cars drive past. What message that conveys.

If the next part of the story would have told the journey of Cataleya’s demise as psychopath killer- but what psychopath would require the excuse for killing of deaths that occured 15 years ago- or ascension(or downfall) as a human being struggling to get away from her maimed past, it would have been a better movie. It reminds me of the movie Hannah, where Hannah is trained by her father to be that killer Cataleya’s is supposed to be, but while Hannah starts to change when confronted by the interaction with ‘normal’ humans, Cataleya doesn’t: she just has sex with them. For the four ‘intimate’ moments that she has with her lover has two with mainly sex in them. That is not character development, that is pandering to the male audience.

Megaton drops the ball twice. For without focusing on Cataleya as a person struggling with what she has become, he has to focus on the mayhem. But this is done is such a haphazard manner that the result is silly. In fact it commits the grievous sin of showing the director at work. For when Cataleya turns a corner and doesn’t run into a guard once or twice we might say that is sheer luck but if she does it all the time, including opening and closing grates just in time, fitting through ventilation shafts with ease and opening them without a hitch, this is the script being laid bare. That she can do the impossible is because the director wants her to, not because of luck or skill. And this makes a director a weak one. No good magician, and that is what a director is, shows how his tricks work: it takes the magic away.

Megaton develops nothing. Cataleya’s journey is rushed. Her targets are indistinct targets she and we could care less about, unlike the ones the Bride kills in Kill Bill, another avenging angel. And her skills are based on sheer luck, impossible powers and the stupidity of her opponents.

This movie has virtually nothing to show for it, except for one scene, the ones with the sharks, the acting of Saldana and James who do the best they can with a feeble script, and the song at the end: ‘Hurt’ by Johnny Cash. But that masterpiece can’t save this movie: it only underscores how weak it actually is.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colombiana

http://www.metacritic.com/movie/colombiana

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zoe_Saldana

Movie review: Best of Enemies

While Best of Enemies is a documentary it could have easily been turned into a movie as it views like a dramatic story that works towards a climax at the end of the ten head on collisions between the progressive liberal Gore Vidal and the (neo) conservative William F. Buckley. The exchanges are cloaked as debates with the intent to comment on the national conventions of both parties in 1968 prior to the elections, but are more like verbal brawls. They remind me of the Nixon vs Frost interview in the way it exposes the participants in full view of the television audience. But these are not interviews, commentaries , debates or exchange of ideas. These are dirty below the belt catfights of the most shameful kind.

The summit is reached when Vidal entices Buckley to fall into a trap and has him commit the worst of acts that ends all debates: to turn to threats of physical violence. It is the word cryptonazi that does the trick, foreshadowing the famous Reduction ad Hitlerum fallacy in a way: any debate ends when Hitler or Nazis become an argument in the discussion. When Buckley recoils from his own rage Gore gives him a supreme smile so thick with glee that it even shames his supporters: he has gotten what he wanted, that is: to expose the ‘real’ Buckley that lurks under the charming veneer: a lout, a ruffian and a brute.

But at what price?

After Gore carried away the flag in triumph, his initial victory turns into Pyrrhic one and overtime becomes a sound defeat for the nation, so the documentary has it. For these representatives of two opposing political worlds are not without influence, Vidal being a famed writer, essayist and commentator and Buckley  an important publicist and more or less one of the founders of the neo-conservative movement.

And their fight does not end with the last of the debates. Instead in extends up to the death of the two well into the 21st century. The distaste and hatred between the two men, is mirrored in the isolation of influential groups and do nothing to make that country more stable. It would go a bit too far to state that this debate is the root of all evil , but it shows for the public eye something that was already in the make: the rising antagonism between (neo)conservatives and progressives that hijacks a nation. As the documentary has it: coming into being are two worlds that hardly communicate(and hate each other).

It is hard to judge if the documentary is biased, but it states, and this is impression I got, that Vidal went into the debates with the sole intent to tear down Buckley and what he stands for. Buckley seems to have had less of a purpose, but he quickly geared up. Yet I got the impression that Buckley was the more honest person and more personally affected by the personal attack, than Vidal was. The latter struck me as a cold calculating bastard to be honest. But maybe this is because Buckley felt far more charming than Vidal was.
It is sad to know that one man can hate another so much, or hate what the other stands for so much, as to show that in the public eye.

And it is sad that to see how people lap this up.

And this is probably the weakest part of the documentary. It doesn’t tell us much about the fanning of the hatreds. It never tells us that nobody had the decency to tell them to stop or that ABC gloated of this abject drama because of the soaring numbers of viewers. The documentary basically forgets about those large masses who were drooling over this live soap, showing the downfall of television as a serious means to inform and educate a nation. For when ABC got the most viewers with their entertainment, the other networks, with their boring serious distant coverage of the conventions lost theirs. And they saw what was happening and adapted: everything would become entertainment.

The documentary is one of the best I have seen and therefore quite unsettling. It not only concentrates on the debates themselves but glances at what happened before and how Vidal and Buckley fared after and gives us an impression of the participants. I would certainly recommend it, even if it is not a pretty sight.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Best_of_Enemies_(film)

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3518012/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gore_Vidal

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_F._Buckley,_Jr.

 

Movie review: Resident Evil: Retribution

Mister Anderson,

I know that you will never read this letter, but I feel compelled to write you anyway as you are the director of 3 out of 5 Resident Evil movies and thus in a large part responsible for the way the series has developed and is going to develop as you are about to release yet another one in the near future, at least that is what is being promised at the end of this movie.

I, being interested in stories in general, have been itching to ask you a question but before doing so I have to first establish a few things to make you understand the question better.
First let me admit that I never made a movie like you have, let alone made three movies and therefore are not aware of all the toil that goes into a movie. To be honest it seems like a daunting task to make one. Yet I am also a consumer of movies and as such I noticed a few disturbing developments about your works that must be brought to your attention, not only for your own sake, but especially for those who still endure in watching your products. Which made me prompt my question below.

A second thing that I might remark upon is that the movies have never been remarkable in any way and that nobody expects a Shakespearean experience here, although it would be nice if it just had a some of it, just a little part, but even a tiny little bit seems a tree too tall to climb for you. Therefore steady mediocrity has been the defining level of quality of the series, at least up till now.

And here we come to the heart of the matter. You see, most surprisingly the quality of you latest movie seems to have taken a downwards turn, a sharp one, we might say: a nosedive. Which is odd for someone who has been doing this for quite some time and should at least know better through experience. It seems as if you are getting a bit tired of it all.

Now having stated this, I need to back up my statements with examples and, given tons of examples to pick from, I will pick three as showcases of mishandling story telling that even a newcomer would have avoided.

The first is too much of everything.

There is unnecessary and mishandled exposition. Exposition is avoided in movies as it is telling something about the story which therefore yanks a viewer out of the story. Sometimes it is needed to establish the background quickly, like at the start of Star Wars for instance. Star Wars is a good example of properly handled exposition as it keeps it to the point and, most of all, it doesn’t let the protagonist do the exposition. But what do you do? Not only do you supply a lengthy exposition that is unnecessary as those who have seen the series already know and those who haven’t have no use for the lengthy speech, but most of all you have the main character Alice do it, which thus means that whatever dangers she is exposed to in this movie will not harm her in anyway. A bad bad mistake.

Then there is the three starts of the movie. It starts with a scene that has no bearing on the rest of the movie, except that it is the end of the previous movie. Then after that start we get another start. And then another before it finally takes off.

And the cast is bloated with too many people, some who have been killed in previous movies and thus reappear as ‘clones’ and in one example even three times over!. In fact there are so many actors that a lot of them get not enough screen time to establish a meaningful personality. Most are killed off shortly after, probably to avoid them becoming more interesting than Alice.

The second example is the lack of emotions displayed by everyone involved. Waves of zombies appear and nobody is shocked. People get killed and nobody bats an eye. A clone of an American woman wakes up inside a Russian underground station and gets shot at and for her it is all in a days work. Nobody cares, nobody screams, nobody curses and nobody gives a shyte. They go through the motions as if drugged. Nobody is even trying anymore.

A third thing is Alex Wesker who behaves like Mr. Smith from the Matrix movies. You have to make up your own anti-heroes and not copy them from other movies.

There are many many more examples of completely mishandling everything, but three is enough for the moment as it is time for the question:
Can you please, please sack your script writer? Because the current one sucks.. big time.*

 

*(for those not aware: Anderson is the script writer for all the Resident Evil movies(,