February 21, 2014, - 5:11 pm

Wknd Box Office: 3 Days to Kill, Pompeii, In Secret, Like Father Like Son, Omar (Palestinian Propaganda Alert)

By Debbie Schlussel

I liked two out of five new movies which debut at theaters today. But I really liked only one of them.

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* “3 Days to Kill“: If you like writer/director/producer Luc Besson (of the Taken, Transporter, Nikita, and other movies), you will like this. It is sort of like “Taken” – read my review (though not nearly as good, but good enough). I did. It’s fun, light, filled with action and suspense. And it’s a nice mindless escape from reality. It’s also quite funny. The bad guys get theirs. My only objection is the usual one these days: the villains are these silly, nebulous Slavic types who are evil for murky reasons, because Hollywood now completely blackballs the topic of Muslims as terrorists or villains (even though that’s stark reality). It’s ridiculous and the Slavic villains are stale and yawnworthy.

And while I’m not normally a fan of Kevin Costner, at age 59 he looks terrific in this movie, better than I can remember ever seeing him look. This is probably the start of a series of action movies with him as the CIA character he plays here. And he’s perfect in the role, far better than the other aging Hollywood ’80s stars who’ve tried to reclaim their stardom from that era.






Costner is Ethan, a successful, reliable CIA assassin, who never fails to take out his target. But now he’s sick and finds out it is terminal cancer. He’s given three months to live. Ethan, who hasn’t been much of a father in his teen daughter’s (Hailee Steinfeld) life or that of his wife (Connie Nielsen) is estranged from them. But, with the news of his cancer, he decides to get out of the business and return home to them. When he gets back to his Paris apartment, he finds that it is occupied by a family of squatters from Africa. And just like in America, he learns he cannot get them out until after going through a long eviction procedure. The Paris police also tell him he must wait until April even to start that process because France protects squatters from eviction during the winter. So Costner reunites with his wife and daughter and moves in with them.

But, while he thinks he’s retired from the CIA, a bombshell CIA handler (Amber Heard, Johnny Depp’s new fiancee) who works for the CIA Director says he must kill “The Wolf,” an underworld Russian arms dealer who sells weapons to Syrians or Syrian rebels (since they’re both bad guys, I lose track of these things nowadays). She gives him shots of an experimental drug that might save him from the cancer in exchange for the kill (plus a check for $150,000).

The rest of the movie is Costner trying to be a father to his daughter all while trying to get to The Wolf. He tries to endear himself to his teen daughter, save her from her reckless behavior, and be a father in her life, which is charming. And he’s also involved in shooting and car chases and also torture and beating of suspects. It’s a somewhat violent movie (though not that violent relative to most of the movies out there).

This movie’s not a masterpiece, but it’s fun and a great weekend escape. And it’s never boring.

TWO-AND-A-HALF REAGANS
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Watch the trailer . . .

* “Pompeii“: I missed the screening of this because it was at the same time as the screening for “3 Days to Kill,” and I chose that. I made the right choice. But I went wrong in choosing to go to the late night showing of this, last night, so I could review it for you. This is absolutely awful. I was bored to tears. And it was extremely cheesy and pointless. As I struggled to stay awake and sit through this, I could hear Nancy Kerrigan wailing in my head, “Why? Why?” Why, indeed. What a bleepin’ waste of time. So glad I didn’t throw more money down the toilet and spring for the 3D version. Normally, I would have been annoyed by the two guys sitting behind me constantly mocking the movie and its dialogue and laughing endlessly. But it actually made this absolutely unbearable movie a little more tolerable. Those guys should have walked out on this movie. I wish I had.

The story: a “beautiful” princess (Emily Browning) of Pompeii is returning from a visit to Rome, when she falls in love with a Celtic slave (Kit Harington) who spares her horse from suffering after an injury. On her return to Rome, she is endlessly pursued by a Roman senator (Kiefer Sutherland), who slaughtered the Celtic slave’s entire family and most of his city-state. But she loves the slave and they escape together, after he’s forced into fighting in the coliseum and wins. However, as they try to escape, Mt. Vesuvius keeps erupting and Pompeii is engulfed by lava and they are all killed. The end. Who cares? I certainly did not.

The movie is filled with endlessly cheesy lines and repetitive–repetitive to the nth degree!–scenes of the princess trying to escape with the slave, of the Roman senator pursuing her and trying to destroy him, and the volcano blowing and its lava flowing.

Long, slow, boring. Skip this.

TWO MARXES
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Watch the trailer . . .

* “In Secret“: Oy vey. This long, slow, boring movie, based on an 1867 Emile Zola novel, is like nails scratching a chalkboard or chewing on tinfoil. Yuck. It’s dark and depressing, but not in any meaningful or entertaining way. And I could have done without the stupid masturbation scenes, too. When I first saw the matronly actress who co-stars in this, I thought, “Wow, this woman looks like the lion lady [the wealthy New York socialite who had so much plastic surgery, her hideous face looks like a lion].” But, then, I realized, “Oh, it’s Jessica Lange.”

The Olsen Twins’ sister, Elizabeth Olsen, now the overrated darling of indie flicks, stars as Therese, a French girl, whose mother has died. Her father dumps her at the home of his sister, Madame Raquin (Lange), who raises her along with Raquin’s sickly son, Camille (Tom Felton). She forces Therese to marry Camille. Yup, her first cousin. They move from the French country to a dark Paris shop that Raquin runs. They love on top of the shop. Therese is very unhappy and unfulfilled in the loveless marriage to her sickly first cousin. Soon, though, she meets and falls in love with Laurent (Oscar Isaac) and begins a sexual affair with him. Laurent convinces Therese that they should murder Camille, so they can be together. But after they drown him and get married, they are completely unhappy because Therese cannot handle that they murdered her husband. Meanwhile, they must care for Madame Raquin because she is sickly, cannot speak or feed herself, and is confined to a wheelchair. Eventually, they kill themselves. The end.

Why did I sit through this? Only so you don’t have to. The best I can say for this is that it had a good moral message: don’t murder. Thanks, Hollywood, for the tip.

Just awful.

THREE MARXES
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Watch the trailer . . .

* “Like Father, Like Son [Soshite Chichi Ni Naru]“: This is a Japanese movie with English subtitles. Most of the Japanese movies they screen for us range from good to very good, and this one isn’t bad either. The movie has an interesting premise. An upper (or upper middle) class couple learns that their son was switched at birth with a working class couple’s son. The son they believed was theirs and whom they’ve raised for six years is not their son by birth. The idea isn’t new. I recently reviewed a pro-Palestinian propaganda film made by Jews, “The Other Son” (read my review), which had the same premise. But this movie explores the situation in a much more realistic, meaningful way. I could have done without the classism and class war propaganda evident in this film, though.

The professional, workaholic father is portrayed as a snob who dislikes the working class father and his way of life. The upper class father is portrayed as largely absent and consumed by work and too much of a perfectionist and demanding father. The working class dad is fun, the kids love him, and he can fix anything. The working class family is fun-loving and close. The kids take a group bath with the dad. The upper class dad is cold and not as close. On the other hand, the working class dad is constantly trying to game the system. He charges meals and anything he can to the hospital that is blamed for the switch of the sons. The families eventually choose to have each others’ sons try out short stays with their real families as they ponder whether or not they should switch to their real birth sons for good.

While I didn’t like this stark, stock contrast, I did like that the movie showed the importance of a loving father in kids’ lives. And that, in the end, is the message of this thoughtful and entertaining movie. My only other reservation with this movie is that it was a little slow and long. They could have cut at least a half hour from this. I don’t think I’d pay ten dollars to see this, but I would rent/Netflix it.

TWO REAGANS
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Watch the trailer . . .

* “Omar“: I’m not surprised that this slow, boring, poorly-written Palestinian propaganda film is nominated for an Academy Award at this year’s Oscars telecast. But, even as propaganda, it fails miserably and isn’t too effective. I’m not too concerned with it. The movie shows us that Palestinians are lying, conniving pieces of crap who cannot be trusted, especially by each other . . . and then they blame the Israeli (and kill him) for their own murders and betrayals. If that’s their attempt at propaganda, good luck with that, although I’m sure those who hate Israel will see this as a fabulous movie and take from it whatever they can to bolster their agenda. The pro-HAMAS/Hezbollah ADC is hosting private showings of this crappy movie all weekend. While the movie shows the main character climbing up and down a rope over the fence Israel installed to keep terrorists out, the main character is, in fact, a terrorist who helps murder an Israeli soldier. And it demonstrates why Israel found it necessary to build the fence.

I should note that it’s perhaps inappropriate to call this a “Palestinian” movie, as its writer and director, Hany Abu-Assad, who was born in Nazareth, ISRAEL, holds an Israeli passport and Israeli citizenship. He comes and goes to Israel as he pleases and Israel has idiotically given him money for his crappy pro-Palestinian, HAMASnik propaganda films. As you’ll recall, his “Paradise Now” was also nominated for an Academy Award and promoted and glorified Palestinian Muslim homicide bombers. And Israel helped fund that, too. As I always say, who needs Bin Laden Studios, when the State of Israel funds all of the worst anti-Israel, anti-Semitic propaganda films? And you have to ask whether or not the Oscars have officially recognized all of Israel as “Palestine,” since the “Academy” says this movie is a film from “Palestine.” Abu-Assad’s birthplace of Nazareth is within Israel’s “Green Line,” and Assad is still an Israeli citizen, NOT a Palestinian Authority citizen. Hmmm . . . sounds like the Academy Awards have embraced the Map of Hate–you know, the one with no Israel.

Omar is a Palestinian terrorist in a terrorist cell. His smaller group of three–himself, his friend Amjad, and Tarek (who is the older brother of the girl Omar loves, Nadia)–is part of a larger terrorist group. Tarek is their leader and the three train in shooting and other operations as they plan to murder an Israeli soldier. One night, the three of them carry the operation out, murdering an Israeli soldier who is standing at a distance at a border checkpoint. But Israel is on to them and arrests Omar. In the Israeli jail, a man I instantly knew was an Israeli operative poses as a fellow imprisoned terrorist and gets Omar to talk. Omar talks just enough to implicate himself in the murder he conspired to commit. The Israeli handler uses that to get Omar to agree to serve as an informant. But Omar double-crosses the Israeli and is re-captured. He agrees again to serve as an informant (and betrays the Israelis again).

Omar knows there is another informant and it isn’t him because he tricked and lied to the Israelis and didn’t really inform. He learns that his friend Amjad is an informant and informed on everyone to the Israelis. Amjad lies and leads Omar to believe that Amjad impregnated Nadia, so Omar says they must tell Tarek she’s pregnant with Amjad’s kid. When they tell Tarek that, he tries to honor-kill Amjad, but Amjad and Omar kill him. Then, Omar gives his blessing to Amjad to marry Nadia, even though she was the woman of his dreams and his goal was to marry her. Two years later, Omar learns that it was all a lie. Not only was Amjad an informant to the Israelis, but he tricked Omar into thinking he impregnated Nadia, so he could steal her away from Omar. In fact, he hadn’t impregnated her. To get his revenge, Omar kills his Israeli handler. Yup, blame the Jews!

Oh, and by the way, Amjad does a (bad) Marlon Brando impression. I suppose that’s supposed to make him a more “endearing” terrorist and whitewash the murder of the Israeli soldier he shot. Nice try, no cigar. (And, BTW, Brando was a Jew-hater just like these guys, but at least he never murdered the Jews.)

Like I said, the movie is awful, boring, and silly. If this is were Palestinians’ best attempt at propaganda, they would be losing. Sadly, it isn’t, and they aren’t. allahuFUBAR.

FOUR ARAFATS PLUS TWO OBAMAS PLUS TWO MARXES PLUS A TWO BIN LADENS
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Watch the trailer . . .

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31 Responses

I saw 3 Days to Kill and thought Debbie’s review was perfect. The film is “light” and “fun” as she writes, and actually it’s my favorite action film so far this year (all two months of it).

Kevin Costner is as lethally efficient and ruthless with the bad guys as any Steven Seagal, so there’s some wry, black humor here as comic or heart-warming domestic scenes are juxtaposed with bodies that pile up. That might not sound all that great, but it works well because Costner is so funny (playing both to type and against it as a nonchalant CIA tough-guy assassin).

The story is politically incorrect as we expect from Luc Besson: the bad guys are Middle Eastern Arabs rather than American gun nuts or greedy Russian capitalists, and when African squatters move into Costner’s apartment, the police insist absurdly they can’t be ejected because “it’s too cold in the winter and there’s a law against it.” Talk about political incorrectness: there’s even a line when Costner comments “Father knows best.”

Anyone who completely dismisses this film as just time-wasting fluff doesn’t understand the importance of subtextual cultural values. A film that promotes good fathering, reinforces masculine values, ridicules politically correct taboos and is NOT progressive-Marxist is a step in the right direction.

Burke on February 22, 2014 at 10:30 am

    I agree with you third paragraph.

    Meira on February 22, 2014 at 11:30 am

    Good fathering? How much good fathering can this estranged person “who hasn’t been much of a father” do in three months? I guess I’m too stupid to understand this subtextual cultural value.

    Little Al on February 22, 2014 at 2:44 pm

      Little Al, I understand your point that Ethan might be criticized for not being the best of dads because he’s been absent so much of the time (the movie, though, makes clear that this hasn’t been due to selfishness by Ethan; it’s that his CIA work has often kept him overseas).

      The story, though, dwells little on this absence by Ethan in the past. Instead it’s all about his teaching her to ride a bike (this is a very cute sequence of scenes); heroically saving her from a rape; showing good fatherly resourcefulness in finding her when she’s lost; making sure he remembers her birthday even though it jeopardizes his life (another funny scene); allowing her to put a ringtone on his phone that’s wildly inappropriate; being patient with her during her hair crisis; asking everyone’s advice about the finer points of handling her (including those he’s torturing); teaching her to dance when she’s nervous before the party; riding carousels with her; sharing favorite foods at favorite restaurants with her; cooking special dishes for her; being firm with her when she crosses the line (this is often hardest of all for a dad, of course); letting her boyfriend know his limits; etc. etc. I could go on, but you probably get the point: This movie contains more touching scenes about a father loving, protecting and bonding with his daughter than any twenty others.

      Of course, if you want to be a real curmudgeon, you go ahead and insist “BUT HE’S NOT A GOOD DAD BECAUSE HE WAS GONE SO MUCH! AAARRGHHH!” Then you can have your point of view and I, having seen the movie and understanding what was I think was the intention of Luc Besson, can have mine.

      Burke on February 23, 2014 at 1:09 am

        Burke, I will acknowledge you know more about the movie than I do. I don’t watch movies from the last few decades, with very rare exceptions, because of their degeneration.

        I guess you can’t get away from using language as an aid to your hostility, though. Whether it is using nonsensical postmodern language, or calling those you disagree with curmudgeons. But using terms like that, or terms like “arrrgh”, doesn’t make him a good father, unless you disagree with Debbie’s explicit comment that he wasn’t a good father. Of course, as I said to Meira, given today’s standards, perhaps he is, indeed, a good father.

        Little Al on February 23, 2014 at 8:37 am

          And Burke, being attuned to the humanities as you seem to be, you shouldn’t duplicate “was” in your final paragraph. Yes, a laundry list of good things that he did, somewhat contrived for such a short time period, but saying little about the emotional closeness that would be so much more important.

          And we all have our choice in jobs. He didn’t have to pick or stay in one that caused him to be away so much.

          Little Al on February 23, 2014 at 8:55 am

          Good, fair points on your part, Little Al. I can’t disagree with you in general. You appear to be both perceptive and decent, two values I wish were more common.

          I shouldn’t have let my irritation over the half-buried-but-distinct snideness of your first post–”I guess I’m too stupid to understand” (the postmodern jargon you pompously throw around)–affect my own response to you. As a result I caused you to say “Aargghhh!”, an unworthy and comically distorted paraphrase of your true words.

          I’m not excusing myself, but when I called you a “curmudgeon,” there was no hostility intended. I like and appreciate curmudgeons in general, particularly if they are decent as you seem to be, and think we need more of them to keep teens and liberals from running wild. When I called you a curmudgeon, I wasn’t making a pejorative value judgment but rather just trying to describe your general critical approach to this movie, an approach with which I happened to disagree.

          As for your criticism of the way I used the word “was” twice in an awkward way, that is certainly valid. That was a foolish bit of phrasing on my part, and you’ve humbled me in pointing it out.

          By the way, I love movies from the thirties, forties and fifties myself, just as you do, but I’ve noticed something about them which seems to elude many, and that is that there is an unfortunate subtextual cultural bias towards liberalism which affects their underlying values. I only wish Debbie would begin a blog about old movies in addition to the one she has about current films so I could help point this bias out.

          Burke on February 23, 2014 at 1:47 pm

      Al, It’s a movie! Although the character can’t get back the years missed, he realized his error and tried to do better in the time he had left. THAT is a model for good fatherly behavior. People do change, particularly when faced with their own mortality but it’s more troublesome to me that we have to get our societal values from movies. Seriously? Why aren’t the good dads and moms for that matter, handing down this knowledge to the next generation?

      Meira on February 23, 2014 at 4:02 am

        Meira, he did it because he was dying. It wasn’t a choice where he had a lot of options. Possibly an ulterior motive, also. Like a rebellious kid who runs back to her parents when she needs money.

        And even given decent motives, is this the best example of family they could find. Perhaps, nowadays, it is.

        Little Al on February 23, 2014 at 8:32 am

Debbie, if the movie is portraying Syria being helped by Russia, don’t dismiss that completely. That is what’s happening. Islamists are the ultimate bad guys but they are not operating in a vacuum. They’re getting help from elsewhere and so is the “legitimate” Syrian government. As you say they are both the bad guys.

Meira on February 22, 2014 at 11:34 am

3 Days to Kill — an assassin named “The Wolf”?

We’ve heard about Wolf assassins before. All the “Lone Wolves”?

I suspect this name was chosen deliberately to subtly reinforce the idea that Muslim assassins are ‘lone wolves’.

Of all the names they could have chosen for an assassin, they chose this one. Not an accident, I suspect.

Little Al on February 22, 2014 at 12:34 pm

Maybe this question is obvious, but it deserves asking: Why does the Israeli government insist on funding enemies such as Hany Abu-Assad? A secret death wish?

Rocker on February 22, 2014 at 12:53 pm

Besson may have written it but McG directed it. I would put McG on Michael Bay’s level when it comes to directing which is mediocre at best. I’ll probably check this out when it comes to cable only because it has some quality actors in it.

Daniel Middleman on February 22, 2014 at 2:50 pm

McG directed the “Charlie’s Angels” flicks (surely better than the TV series) and “Terminator Salvation.” He may not be deep, but he’s always highly entertaining.

Rocker on February 22, 2014 at 4:31 pm

    Rocker, I just wanted to tell you that I agree with you and not Daniel Middleman in this particular case. I very much enjoyed Charlie’s Angels the movie and, like you, I considered the film better than the tv program (which I hated!). The movie was exuberant fun and didn’t grate on me like most comedies do. In fact, although I generally like Luc Besson, I think his writing is pretty uneven with some of his films downright painful to watch. So it was only when I discovered that McG had directed 3 Days to Kill that I felt reassured enough to go buy a ticket.

    So thanks for commenting. There aren’t many brave enough to stick up for “silly” films like Charlie’s Angels.

    As for Michael Bay, I don’t really like his stuff. He’s all special effects and explosions and predictable characters and story cliches and he doesn’t laugh enough–except on his way to the bank, of course.

    Burke on February 23, 2014 at 1:34 am

Hi, just throwing in my $0.02 here…
Anyone else get the feeling that they maybe they got Kit Harrington to be in Pompeii mainly or only because of his role as Jon Snow in the popular “Game of Thrones” TV series? Let me ask you this, Debbie: Ever see this much, where they try to recruit popular and successful actors/actresses into lousy movies to try and give the lousy movies a boost? (Be forewarned, Debbie, because Aaron Paul, a.k.a. Jesse Pinkman from “Breaking Bad”, is going to be in the upcoming “Need 4 Speed” movie next month.)
I’d also like to see the Japanese movie.

Craig on February 22, 2014 at 5:48 pm

The four Arafats killed “Omar” for me. Thanks Debbie.

Alan B on February 22, 2014 at 7:29 pm

Glad to hear about 3 Days to Kill. If it’s a Luc Besson movie I’m there. He makes such stylish, fun to watch movies. I own a ton of his movies on DVD.

Nice to see bim Amber Heard, Anne Heche 2.0. Love how she decides she’s not a lesbo after all.

Jeff_W on February 23, 2014 at 8:51 am

    Jeff W:

    I was really pleased to see what Amber Heard could do in “3 Days to Kill.” I first got to like her in “Drive Angry” and agree she’s a fantastic bimbo. (“I’m everybody’s type.”) Her role as cute-girl-turned-zombie in “Zombieland” was hilariously grotesque.

    The bad news for you might be that Luc didn’t direct this film; McG did. There are some admirably authentic-looking explosions and a decent car chase, but nothing close to the hypnotically frantic fight choreography of some of Luc’s early work.

    Burke on February 23, 2014 at 2:43 pm

Burke, absolutely no substance in your 1:47 response. If you are working for the studio you are not doing a very good job.

Little Al on February 23, 2014 at 2:53 pm

    I don’t work for “the studio,” Little Al. That’s just a vile rumor that possibly Vivian has been spreading around because I don’t agree with her about Stanley Kubrick’s importance.

    Burke on February 23, 2014 at 5:05 pm

And yes, there was certainly leftist bias in the older movies. I find most movies from Communist screen writers to be distasteful, as I do those featuring the most prominent of the lefties, such as Paulette Goddard. All Quiet on the Western Front is another. (Although it is true that fascism was not really criticized in older movies, except for documentaries and a few newsreels, until after Kristallnacht.) Even the worst of the Communist movies, such as Mission to Moscow, at least didn’t criticize the United States.

But now we have not only the leftism, but the pandering to Islam. And while victims were subtly, or, perhaps, subtextually, portrayed in the older movies, it is much more blatant today, and the groups of victims have increased, it seems, almost exponentially.

At least in the old days, with a few exceptions, there was more hesitancy in portraying the United States as a basically nefarious or evil country. Those movies, as a rule, didn’t ascribe villainy to the CIA, the FBI, or the Armed Forces. Capitalists were baited, but not to the extent that it has been done in recent decades.

Little Al on February 23, 2014 at 3:10 pm

    I should, slightly, modify my 3:10 comment. In the 30s, Warner Brothers, at least subtextually, criticize fascism. Black Legion is an example.

    Little Al on February 23, 2014 at 3:25 pm

Now Burke, you know perfectly well that you like to bait some here (including me). I value your take on movies, though, as it is comes from a broad education (very rare for movie critics, who generally are just movie fans who end up getting paid).

At the risk of you calling me a “mushy moderate” again (which had most unfortunate consequences in the last movie review thread), I have no problem accepting both your claim based on subtext and Little Al’s rebuttal based on real life. In real life, Costner/Ethan would not be a good father. After all, that would have required him to be present in his daughter’s life all along. His choice of job no more excuses his absence than a married working mother’s choice of job (or her decision to work any job at all) would excuse her own absence. However, if we instead view this movie as propaganda in support of the idea that men, when they do father, can be very valuable in that role, then the movie does have value. The non-stop attack on men and fatherhood that came courtesy of feminism has had an unfortunate impact.

One reason I virtually never go to the movies is that this anti-male (and anti-white) onslaught is omnipresent. I will not even rent a video with skinny chicks beating up men, or men as buffoons, or having virtually any of the well-known black actors as leads.

skzion on February 23, 2014 at 5:25 pm

Burke, I’m well aware Besson didn’t direct. I didn’t say he did as I’m well aware Besson quit directing, even though he went back on his vow a couple times. Not sure why you pointed that out.

I’m not a McG fan, but hoping he comes close to the good job he did on the first Charlie’s Angels movie.

I caught Amber Heard in the ones you mentioned, along with Pineapple Express and Machete Kills. She’s fine, nothing special.

Jeff_W on February 24, 2014 at 12:36 am

Jeff_W, I had a feeling that you already knew he didn’t direct this one. My comment was really as much directed to anyone casually reading our exchange as it was to you.

You see a lot of good movies! (I sort of knew that already because I’ve read your comments on this site over the years.)
Like you, I also saw “Pineapple Express” (which I enjoyed a lot) and “Machete Kills” (which I despised).

She’s never distinguished herself much until this film, I agree. But I’ve liked her because I’ve liked the movies she’s chosen which have been unpretentiously fun to the point of being silly. This role is by far the most memorable of all she’s had.

Burke on February 24, 2014 at 11:23 am

Little Al:

I think you and Debbie are right to argue that this isn’t a film about what it means to be an ideal father. It’s more a redemption film about an absent father who’s attempting to make up for past wrongs. However, in the process of redeeming himself, Ethan does provide examples of good fathering.

As you point out, we as fathers make certain choices, and if we choose work which keeps us away from family, we can’t completely excuse ourselves on the basis that “My job made me do it.” I certainly agree with you there.

As I mentioned earlier, I do consider it a mitigating circumstance in the film that it was Ethan’s work that took him away from his family rather than selfish lust or simple business workaholism on his part. Furthermore, the film has a conservative feel to it because it never shows the CIA acting corruptly, so I think we can also assume that his job for the government in assassinating bad guys was of help in maintaining national security. You’ve discussed in some of your other comments the overwhelming anti-Americanism which saturates most films today (and I agree); the fact that the CIA isn’t pilloried in this story is actually pretty exceptional.

Incidentally, the film includes a short epilogue where Ethan is at a picnic with his family a year or so after the story’s main events. He’s given up his job at the CIA and is shown with his wife and daughter being relaxed, caring, humorous and authoritative just as a good dad should be. I think this epilogue was included partly to counter suspicion viewers might have had that Ethan’s sudden decision to return to his family was just simple whim.

The film, then, isn’t any kind of idealized portrait of a perfect father, but it does include many examples of good fathering. Also, we should keep in mind that this is an action comedy and not a serious domestic study and so allow for a collapsed time period and certain exaggerations in the story (this is related to Meira’s point above). So many films show fathers who are wimpy and clueless, but this film shows Ethan at various times properly engaged, at other times appropriately strict, mostly patient, and always conscientious in improving himself in the difficult parental art of setting boundaries. This is a film for fathers who may have not been perfect in the past but who want to be better in the future.

Burke on February 24, 2014 at 12:30 pm

Little Al:

Good point about the name “Wolf” (2/22/14 at 12:34) I don’t think the character names in the film were chosen randomly either. The other assassin’s name–”Albino”–also caught my attention. My hunch is that this character type and name was lifted from the albino villain in “Foul Play.” This earlier classic 1978 comedy-action film starring Goldie Hawn and Chevie Chase had exactly the same combination of comedy-thriller tonal elements as Besson’s new movie. Calling the new villain “Albino” was a perfect minor homage, and if many people didn’t get the reference, at least there was one who did.

Burke on February 24, 2014 at 12:59 pm

Skzion (Feb 23 at 5:25):

So happy to see you commenting this week! As I’m sure you realize, I’m always interested in your point of view–particularly about movies, of course, since that what this site’s all about, but also other topics as well.

I had to laugh seeing your reference again to “The Mushy Middle.” I have a hunch you’ll be repeating this phrase that I casually included in last week’s discussion thread for years to come, just as Frankz will probably still be bringing up “autodidacts” in the year 2030. Just keep in mind that when I used the phrase, I specifically made a point of naming John Mill as a primary representative. This so-called “Mushy Middle,” then, obviously isn’t isn’t any sort of “Stupid Middle” or “Lazy Middle,” since Mill was the smartest, most coherent, least corrupt and most influential English philosopher of that century. (And you know by now how much I admire English philosophers–especially Eddie B, naturally, but the others, too.) Therefore, it must have been a very high compliment I was intending to suggest you were a part of that particular group–just as it was a similarly high compliment when I called Little Al a “curmudgeon” just a couple days ago.

As for my supposed “baiting” (which term I know you didn’t intend as an insult, by the way), this used to be thought of as “friendly badinage” and once was more highly valued when conversational playfulness was more in style. Maybe I can support this fading art and custom’s revival a little?

Some of the points you make in this recent 5:25 post of yours are ones I believe I address in my own comments to Little Al just above (12:30).

More later.

Burke on February 24, 2014 at 2:05 pm

Harold Ramis:

Very sad about Harold Ramis. I’m a great fan of his. He was a huge comic talent and also a conservative influence in Hollywood. My favorite works of his were “Groundhog Day,” “Year One,” and the various scripts he wrote and directed for “The Office.” He’s also famous for many other scripts, such as “Ghostbusters” where he satirically tore into the EPA. Imagine something like that coming out of Hollywood these days. No way. Another line from “Ghostbusters” frequently quoted is the one where he said, “We better do this at the university. If you go outside the college, your idea actually has to work”–a jab at ivory tower foolishness and waste.

During the eighties, the most famous comedians in the country–Harold Ramis, Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Bill Murray, etc.–were just funny. They weren’t necessarily conservative or liberal; they certainly weren’t so hard left as they eventually became (of course Bill Murray eventually was adopted as a darling of the progressives, but he wasn’t that way when he began).

Burke on February 25, 2014 at 12:03 pm

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