The Cold War

The Sum of All Fears

Year: 2002
Directed By: Phil Alden Robinson
Written By: Daniel Pyne, Paul Attanasio (screenplay) Tom Clancy (novel)

RYAN’S REVIEW

I have never been a fan of the Jack Ryan movies, and I’ve never read any of Tom Clancy’s novels. I probably should though because they must be good. They sure won’t let the character die out of films as they’ve been trying to make him the American James bond for like thirty years including four different actors to play the part. This movie features the third Jack Ryan played by Ben Affleck who hadn’t yet seen his fall and rebirth in the industry back in 02. This movie made it into the collection much like Street Kings did, it reminded me of a TV show I loved. I am a huge 24 fan and this movie always reminded me of it.

It may have been a bit of a stretch to compare this movie to 24. While there are certain elements that do compare by and large it doesn’t. The Glossy haired Ben Affleck version of Jack Ryan is certainly no Jack Bauer, but nobody really measures up to Jack Bauer. He’s the greatest as far as I am concerned. It’s like the God of Action came down and had sex with a regular woman and made Jack Bauer, half God, half human, all action.  Ben Affleck isn’t an action guy at all in this movie. I never watch these Jack Ryan movies but I’ve been under the impression they were action films. I must have been wrong about this, Affleck’s Ryan just asked how to use a gun.

I thought Jack Ryan was an action hero but he turns out to be more of a political hero that gets lucky in moments of action. And here I was comparing him to Jack freakin Bauer, how embarrassing. It takes brains as well as brawn to fight the good fight and this Jack Ryan has the former if not the latter to go along with it.

Now I’m just confused, if this movie didn’t remind me of 24 then why do I own it? I think I saw this movie possibly 15 years and hundreds if not thousands of movies ago. Sometimes reaching them in the collection is like going on an adventure of rediscovery. I’m about halfway through the film now and haven’t yet discovered what it was that I had forgotten about it but it’s been an interesting if not slow film.

Ah there it is, what intrigued me most about this movie when I first saw it. Nazis turn out to be the bad guys and they pit Russia and the US against each other. A nuclear bomb going off in a Baltimore stadium so soon after the tragedy on 9/11 was a bold move. That must have been what reminded me of 24. Although the bomb would have never endangered so many innocent people on Jack Bauer’s watch.

It’s interesting in this movie how quickly the Cold War comes back to life. I have always found that conflict fascinating. One of my favorite movies is Dr. Strangelove and once upon a time when I was a student teacher I designed a whole lesson plan around the film. The Cold War was a conflict that never really got around to any action and so many on both sides were itching for that action. I think this movie shows an interesting scenario for how things would have unfolded under similar circumstances.

I think I have figured out why I added this movie to the collection. I think it was back when I was in college, studying history. Its portrayal of the Cold War roaring back to life was most likely what I liked about it. There, mystery solved and now I can sleep easier at night without a meaningless mystery needling the back of my mind.

This is a cool movie and it has only gotten more interesting as it has gone on. Despite Ben Affleck’s ridiculous hairdo he manages to hold up well in this excellent cast. James Cromwell is a great choice for President and Morgan Freeman has always made everything he was in just a little bit better. I like Liev Schreiber as the real spy. There is also a nice cast of background characters to support these bigger names.

So to sum up everything this movie was not at all what I thought it was but it’s been fun rediscovering what it was that I first found interesting about it. It’s vaguely like 24 if 24 was about the bureaucrats and not the action guys on the ground. I find it funny I that I was wrong about why I owned this movie but those are the little laughs I can only enjoy myself. If you come by this movie it’s worth your time. Not the best movie but interesting enough.

NEXT MOVIE: Super 8 (2011)

The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

Year: 1962
Directed By: John Frankenheimer
Written By: Richard Condon (novel) George Axelrod and John Frankenheimer (screenplay)

RYAN’S REVIEW

It can be easy for us to forget sometimes that great things were done in the generations that preceded us.  Especially when it comes to an always evolving business like the movie industry.  I have grown up in the age of special effects and during an ongoing aggressive attempt to continue being creative and outdoing what was done before.  Yet, to the latter of those two, some things simply can’t be done.  This is a movie that seemed primed for a remake given the technology available today but when you go back and look at the original you see that nothing we could ever do today could even touch what was done before.  This is a political thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat up until the end and then blow you away.  It has been a long time since I saw the remake and I remember liking it quite a bit but when we viewed this one again I can’t imagine it even comes close.

I love a movie that captures the paranoia that went on in the country during The Cold War.  It’s something we can hear about all day in a history class but I don’t think the message is ever really driven home.  When you learn about The Cold War the focus is always on the big events such as The Cuban Missile Crisis or the wall that divided Germany.  What I think gets overlooked is how crazy the situation got at home, the paranoia driven into Americans for political purposes.  The character of Senator John Iselin is an obvious reference to Joe McCarthy.  He has a list of names of people working within the government who are actually communist and although he can’t figure out how many names are on that list it hardly matters when he is putting on his show for the media.  The messages to the public is very clear, to the point that people don’t ask “are there actually Communist working in the US government,” but “how many Communist are working in the US government.” I discussed the Red Scare during our recent review of The Majestic; it’s a very interesting and troubling chapter in our nation’s history.  This movie is a perfect example of how some political figures could use that fear tactic to their advantage and it’s true that some did exactly what John Iselin did, to a lesser extent.

I think the biggest flaw in this movie comes from the acting because there is a lot of bad acting to go around.  I thought Frank Sinatra was really hot and cold throughout the film.  Sinatra may have been one of the coolest guys to ever live but this film does not do much to showcase his acting talents.  In truth I haven’t seen enough of his films to make an honest opinion of his acting ability.  The thing that annoyed me most about him in this movie had to be lip sweat.  In the movie he plays a character that is a bit overwhelmed with stress and I think he often looks sweaty to convey that stress but I found myself wishing the guy would just wipe off his upper lip most of the time. I also found it really annoying how he kept going back to the dream when he was trying to tell everyone his suspicions about Raymond Shaw.  He is clearly frustrated that nobody will listen to him but who the hell takes a dream seriously? Maybe they held greater importance in the sixties and I’m simply unaware.  Nevertheless, while I didn’t think Sinatra was great in this film I did like his part and I do think Sinatra was great.  They have been talking about making a bio pic about him for years and I’m always waiting on it. The man led a storied life that eventually needs to be brought to the big screen.

I have never seen Laurence Harvey in another movie but based solely on his performance in this film I think he was really bad at his trade.  He plays an “unlovable” character in this film but I found him to be “unlovable” as an actor.  Nothing about his performance in this movie was believable and if the movie wasn’t so good all around I think it would have brought the film down.  My favorite part of his character was when he told the story about meeting the love of his life, because I found it so hilarious.  This “unlovable” guy, probably a virgin, is snake bit and alone on the shore of a lake.  This beautiful girl, played by Leslie Parrish, rolls up on a bike and just happens to have snake bite remedies on her.  She slices his leg, puts medicine in it, but doesn’t have a bandage to wrap the wound.  She takes off her shirt and wraps his leg before riding away in her bra to get him help. I find this funny because how could this guy not fall head over heels for this girl? There is already the “Florence Nightingale Effect” to think of but when a hot woman takes off her shirt and wraps your virgin leg with it you love that woman forever.

The saving grace for acting in this movie came from Angela Lansbury.  Though she played a wicked part she was absolutely amazing in the role and actually received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress for the part.  She didn’t win and that’s a shame because she was far and away better at acting than any of the stars who got top billing.  It’s been quite a while since I saw the show but I grew up with my mom regularly watching Murder, She Wrote and remember Lansbury mainly from her part on it.  That made her drastically different role in this movie seem even more compelling to me.  Janet Leigh actually got top billing for actress and I don’t think she played a bad part, just an unnecessary part.  Why was she in this movie at all? She has absolutely no significance to the film and I think she is only here because Sinatra needed a love interest.  She was a beautiful woman and although there is no reason for her in the film she is still nice to look at.

I am not overly familiar with John Frankenheimer who directed the film but I have seen one of his more recent films, RoninI thought that was an incredible movie and I liked what he did with this film although he may have been able to get more out of a few of his actors.  I specifically liked how in the film when we see the dream sequence from Major Marko it looks altogether different from the sequence we see when Corporal Melvin had the dream.  When Marko dreams it all the women are white and when Melvin dreams it they are all black. I think James Edwards was horrible in the scene when he wakes up but I liked that they two different characters dream things different through their own perceptions.  One thing that really did annoy me while watching the film was when Raymond accidentally hears his trigger in a bar and mistaken takes instructions to jump into the Potomac River.  When Marko is chasing him down it is obviously very cold outside because we can see the breath of the actors and the river does appear to be somewhat icy.  Yet, throughout the film we see all the characters sweating and at one point Raymond’s mother criticizes him for not having an air conditioning unit, implying that it is hot. This matters little but something about how it upsets the continuity seemed vaguely frustrating to me. Yet this movie leaves you with a bang.  Frankenheimer did an outstanding job putting together the film’s climax and delivering the big blow at the end.

With a current day remake around to grab today’s viewer’s attention I fear the original film might be forgotten behind it.  This is a mistake and I sincerely hope it doesn’t happen.  The remake, despite the efforts of those involved, does not even remotely match what this film was able to accomplish. It’s not even in the same league with this film and I now wish a remake had never been made at all.  It was watching the remake that eventually lead me to actually see the original but I have little faith there were others who went back to see what it was intended to be.  I you saw the remake and enjoyed it at all then this is a must see for you because it is better.  If you haven’t seen this movie or the remake then it’s still a must see because the movie is that damn good.  This movie is worth your time and if you are reading this I hope you seek it out and see it for yourself, you won’t be disappointed.

AMBER’S REVIEW

I had a hard time staying into this film. I guess it was because it was in black and white and for me just hard to follow. I felt like I kept getting lost. Overall I think I know what happened and I truly like the story. It’s always interesting to watch films about politics running amuck.

poster1This is a really cool poster. It is simple, direct, simplistic and quite pretty. Today the typography would look a lot different in the black and blue parts, but I really don’t mind the typography of the title and the cast names. I can’t think of any modern-day posters that use this much white space and I just feel that’s a shame. Today we have to fit in so much nonsense into these posters to try and get points across, when personally I feel like simplicity is the way to go. DaVinci once said that “Simplicity is the ultimate form of sophistication.” I agree.

 

NEXT MOVIE: The Manchurian Candidate (2004)

Red Dawn

Year: 1984
Directed By: John Milius
Written By: Kevin Reynolds and John Milius

RYAN’S REVIEW

The remake of this movie is only days away from release and I felt compelled to watch the original before it is forever tainted by an undoubtedly awful rendition.  I have always thought this was a really cool movie and I have been incredibly angry at the idea of it being remade.  This movie was a good idea but still a far fetched plot even as the Cold War was still going on.  To make a new version now just seems asinine and I will not be wasting my time with it.  An idea like this was the kind of thing you could only get away with in the 80s.  Today it is just a lazy attempt to make money by the studio.  The remake has actually spent some time on the shelf and the studio wasn’t sure what to do with it.  Perhaps this is because it makes no sense; there is no global scale war going on currently and no dangerous enemy out there hellbent on taking over the world. I implore anybody that reads this post to not waste your time on the remake.  Watch this movie because it is in fact worth your time.

This movie may be a bit silly in its premise, but it is nevertheless about an actual real conflict.  That is more than can be said about whatever is hitting theater this Thanksgiving.  I think that this movie is historically significant despite its unrealistic nature.  It is a wild scenario that many people seriously feared throughout the Cold War. I don’t know what the hell the new Red Dawn is about but I know it is about nothing real or anything that actually matters.  This movie was a period piece that has no place in the twenty first century. In this movie we see young men having to face the realities of the world through violence, in an honest fashion.  This movie is powerful and important.  It was a travesty to even consider remaking it and I cannot believe that any studio out there is so desperate for ideas that they actually did it. Not only did they do it but they are banking on it as a holiday release and pushing it really hard with advertising.

This movie had a really superstar cast of up and comers from the 80s class.  Patrick Swayze in one of his finer roles plays the leader of the rebel Wolverines.  Charlie Sheen, in one of his tamest roles plays the dependable and loyal brother to Swayze. C. Thomas Howell probably plays his best part of any that he ever played. I love how ruthless and reckless his character becomes as the movie progresses.  Jennifer Grey and Lea Thompson were both very hot chicks that got gritty and grimy to play the badass girls of the Wolverines. I am a fan of Powers Boothe and liked what he brought to the film as the actual soldier who mentors the fledgling rebels. I also really liked the guy that played the Cuban Commander and how he began to struggle with his position in the conflict.  He becomes disheartened with himself as he realizes he has become the foe he used to face in the field himself. I like that they all fight to the last man and martyr themselves in battle.  I like that they win the battle but the war clearly goes on without them as the movie closes. I think these things add to the realistic nature of the unrealistic circumstances the characters find themselves in.

What I think made this movie really memorable is that it had balls, it was a ballsy story and it wasn’t afraid to kill off all of its stars one by one.  I can’t see this rehashed Hemsworth crap being anything more than a campy wanna-be movie. I like Chris Hemsworth, he was awesome as Thor, but I don’t like him enough to give this new movie a shot.  It’s just such a stupid idea that I can’t stand it.  I keep seeing this preview where Hemsworth says something like “This is just a place to them, but this is our home.” Well there are serveral reasons that is a stupid thing to say. First of all this the United States of F—ing America, it’s not just a place to anyone.  Secondly, there is no army currently threatening the world with war, no powerful nation anywhere capable of invading the United States.  Third reason is the the tacky tone added to the line that’s meant to inspire patriotism but just comes off as lame.  I implore you people to not waste your time this holiday with this madness.  It’s asinine, and this studio thinks you are stupid, they are practically stealing your money from you if you pay to see it.  I’m not sure which studio is responsible for this remake but they are literally banking on the idea that the audience is stupid, that we don’t crave something new and creative.  They looked at each other in some room and said “this movie may not be relevant anymore and the plot might no longer apply to the times but let’s make it again anyway and see if these idiots will pay for it again.” Don’t be that idiot and don’t waste your time with it.

Of course I will not be seeing the movie and if I am utterly and hopelessly wrong then feel free to comment and give me a piece of your mind.  If you have an itch to watch Red Dawn this holiday though I suggest you find a copy of the original and forget about what is hitting theaters. The 1984 version of this movie was awesome and I would recommend it to anyone.  This movie is definitely worth your time.

AMBER’S REVIEW

 I actually don’t mind this poster at all. It is intriguing, and that is ultimately the main goal of a poster. I like the color of the sky and the movement of the ovals in the background. Although I am not in love with the typography of the title, I think they were trying really hard so I will at least give them that.

Overall, not a bad poster. It could totally be worse.

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

Year: 1964
Directed By: Stanley Kubrick
Written By: Stanley Kubrick, Terri Southern, and Peter George (book)

RYAN’S REVIEW

This is one of the greatest comedies of all time, even after almost fifty years.  It is a culturally significant and satirically clever movie that happens to be hilarious as well.  It has been so long since this film has come out that the situation the film depicts might be strange to young viewers unfamiliar with the Cold War.  I urge any of them to learn from this film as it mocks a very real and serious situation in our nation’s history.  When you watch the movie you have to really allow yourself to get sucked into it.  Absorb yourself in the story to get the most out of it.  It is a film that requires your attention because it is easy to get lost in a story about an unfamiliar time.  I have been struggling for years to get Amber to actually pay attention to this film and appreciate how great it really is.

The Cold War was one of the most ridiculous conflicts in the history of the world and it left the entire planet in a precarious situation for a long time.  It is a conflict that every rising generation needs to learn about so that we all understand the pointlessness and risk of the arms race and theories like Mutually Assured Destruction.  This movie is perfect for conveying the danger the world faced and the madness behind it all.  When I was in college I actually designed a lesson plan for a history class on The Cold War that centered on this movie.  The main problem with that would be getting teenagers to pay attention to a black and white film like this.  There would need to be a lot of background info to go over in order for them to understand but that is where most of you teaching points start.  I believe the easiest way to get young kids to understand history is giving them something like a film that they can relate to and understand better.  Teaching around films in this fashion gives you plenty of opportunity to convey important information to them while keeping them interested in the topic with a film.  Films are never historically accurate but that only gives you more opportunities to stop the film and explain how it really was.  The problem with this idea of using movies in history class is that history classes in this state are required to be taught to the test at the end of the year.  That kind of system really limits what teachers are able to do and rushes them to fit too much history into too short a time.  Hopefully the powers that be will one day learn the folly in such a system.

Stanley Kubrick is a legendary director with an incredible track record.  He is also quite the perfectionist which led some people to wonder if he was mad but it always made his films better.  He read something like fifty books about nuclear war before writing the screenplay for this movie.  That’s part of what makes it such a historically and culturally significant film because it so accurately mocks the realities at stake.  This movie only got the green light from the studio if Peter Sellers agreed to play four parts and he got the king’s ransom for his contribution to the film.  Receiving roughly fifty-five percent of the film’s budget in payment.  Peter Sellers played the part of the British liaison officer, the President, and Dr. Strangelove and his performances carry the film.  Sellers was supposed to play the part of the B-52 pilot as well but twisted his ankle or something like that and they had to cast a new role.  The part ultimately went to Slim Pickins after being turned down by the likes of John Wayne and Dan Blocker.  Slim Pickins gave one of his most memorable performances and will live on in infamy because of his role as Major TJ “King” Kong.  George C. Scott, better known for playing General Patton in Patton, was sensational as General Turgidson.  He is specifically does a good job of conveying the paranoia and insanity that had a voice in some of the high level meetings of the time.  “Mr. President! We cannot allow a mine shaft gap!” That line is one of my favorites in the film, it is so funny. Sterling Hayden does a great job of keeping a straight face while he speaks complete nonsense.  He fits the part perfectly as the longtime military man that has ultimately gone mad.

This movie was originally supposed to come out in November of 1963, but when JFK was assassinated it didn’t seem like the right time for this kind of dark comedy. It was pushed back until sometime in 1964 before actually being released. It is one of the most well received movies in history and considered one of the best comedies of all time. This movie is referenced on a regular basis in the media world so it will always have an incredible legacy.  With a movie like this I don’t think I need to vouch for it because this is a movie that speaks for itself.  Let yourself get drawn in and pay close attention to everything that is happening and you will see the value of this film.  It is a great classic film that I always enjoy watching.

AMBER’S REVIEW

Ryan’s right, I really can never seem to get into this movie. I know it is supposed to be really great, but for some reason every time we watch it, I find myslef wandering away or not paying attention. I don’t even know what the movie is about, so I really can’t give it a review. It’s a a classic, so I say yes watch it, I am just not sure if you will like it or not.

 

NEXT MOVIE: Dumb and Dumber (1994)