October 16, 2015, - 3:23 pm

Wknd Box Office: Bridge of Spies, Steve Jobs, Goosebumps, Crimson Peak

By Debbie Schlussel

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Of the new movies debuting in theaters today, the best of the bunch is a scary movie aimed at kids.

* “Bridge of Spies“: I didn’t like this movie for several reasons, primary among them the belittling of the dangerous conduct of a Soviet spy, the softening of Soviet human rights abuses, and the blatant moral equivalency of the U.S. and the Soviets portrayed in this film from the first frame. The movie begins with an onscreen statement of moral equivalency between the United States and the Soviet Union. And we were never equal. The statement says that during the height of the Cold War, the United States was afraid of the Soviet Union, and the Soviet Union was afraid of the U.S. It goes on to say that each country was fearful that the other was going to acquire and use nuclear weapons. You see, in the world of Steven Spielberg (who directed and made this movie happen), the Soviets were “just like us.” I guess he forgot that his own grandparents left Russia, where they were confronted by intense anti-Semitism.

The movie makes little to no mention of the legion Soviet human rights abuses, but for one scene showing the shooting of East Germans trying to climb over the wall separating them from West Germany and a later scene showing American kids easily climbing over walls with nothing happening to them. That is the extent of the “moral high ground” of America versus the Soviets as expressed in this movie.

As I’ve noted in the past, including in my late father’s eulogy, my late father, H.L. Schlussel, MD, an ophthalmologist was connected with a family of colleagues in the Soviet Union in the late ’70s, the Poltinnikovs. Dr. Isaac Poltinnokov and his wife and daughter, all three of them ophthalmologists, were fired from their jobs, after they applied for visas to go to Israel. Thereafter, they were forbidden by the Soviet State to have jobs, and they had no money for food, housing, and heat, in the bitter, bleak cold of Siberia. They were also not allowed to accept money from donors–this was outlawed as “parasitism” by the Soviet State–so they were unable to pay for these things. My late father, Of Blessed Memory, created fake medical situations of the eye, wrote them down, sent them to Dr. Poltinnikov, and paid him for his “consultations” on these fake cases. Dr. Poltinnikov finally got to go to Israel, but alone. His wife and daughter died–one of them committing suicide after non-stop KGB harassment of them, and the other dying of starvation out of fear the KGB was poisoning their food. Nothing like this or any other Soviet horrors was shown in this movie. Not even close. Again, they are “just like us,” in the world according to Spielberg.

Also missing from this movie is any mention whatsoever of Soviet spy Rudolf Invanovich Abel’s involvement in the enemy spy ring passing U.S. atomic secrets to the Soviets. Yes, he was tied to the operation that involved the Rosenbergs, who were executed for treason, as Rudolf Abel should have been. But none of Abel’s activities here are mentioned in the movie. In fact, his trial is quickly skipped over, as well as his appeal. What we are primarily shown is the trumped up “heroics” of James B. Donovan, a liberal Democrat insurance lawyer (Tom Hanks), who once assisted in prosecutions of Nazis at the Nuremberg Trials and is pressed into service to represent Abel in his federal trial. Donovan loses the trial but successfully gets the judge to sentence Abel to life in prison instead of death. Then, Donovan decides to pursue an appeal to the Supreme Court on Abel’s behalf and loses, but not before his law firm, the police, and average American citizens are attacking him and his house and telling him he’s the most hated man in America. Many of the actions in the movie are meant to invoke current images of Islamic terrorists and their lawyers (Spielberg said so in interviews), with us evil, unsophisticated, bigoted Americans in the wrong for opposing Islamic terrorists and their lawyers’ tactics in court. By the way, Abel is the nicest, most fabulous guy in this movie. Because, hey, all Soviet spies stealing our nuclear technology were the most classy of people, right?

This movie is long, slow, and boring at nearly 2.5 hours. When it finally starts moving, the movie is already halfway through, and that’s when we get to Donovan’s secret trip to East Germany to negotiate a trade of Abel in exchange for Francis Gary Powers, an American pilot who was shot down over Russia. Donovan also wants the release of an American grad student who was studying economics in East Germany and was captured by the East Germans. But the CIA position is that the trade is one for one because the agency doesn’t want to jeopardize the pilot’s freedom for a student who knowingly and willingly did the idiotic thing to go and study among the Soviet-backed East German Communists. That’s a position I agree with, but, of course, those of us who don’t want to rescue Americans that do dumb things and visit enemy countries (and then get captured) are “extremist,” “intolerant,” and “unAmerican.” And that’s how the CIA is portrayed here. Oh, and by the way, typical of Hollywood, all the drama of the negotiations for the prisoner exchange are trumped up from what really happened–you know, in order to make the movie “exciting.”

While the movie makes Donovan out to be some sort of great hero, it doesn’t tell you that he had the chance to kill Fidel Castro by giving him a poison-laden diving suit, but declined and foiled the operation by giving his own suit to the human rights abusing dictator. The movie does mention in a post-script that Donovan was enlisted by the CIA and the federal government to negotiate on behalf of the Bay of Pigs families.

Yes, the movie is beautifully shot and chock full of dramatic orchestral music–and, yes, it recognizes a largely unsung man in contemporary U.S. history. But it’s a slog. I struggled to stay awake in the slow first half (and briefly lost the battle, missing nothing). And I can’t recommend a movie that, for the most part, makes us out to be morally equivalent to the brutal, totalitarian Soviet dictatorship . . . and makes their spies out to be swell guys.

Sorry.

TWO MARXES PLUS TWO OBAMAS
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Watch the trailer . . .

* “Steve Jobs“: The other day, while waiting for an associate at Chase Bank to help me, I had nothing to read but the thick volume on the bank’s history. It was so dry, uninteresting, and snooze-inducing that I quickly closed the book and stopped that pointless exercise. Unfortunately, sitting through this movie, I felt like I was kidnapped and held hostage by the corporate biography of Chase again, but the word, “Apple,” and the name, “Steve Jobs,” were inserted instead. I don’t know how they managed to make the life of an exciting and inspirational corporate genius and idea man like Jobs into a snoozer, but they did. What was just over two hours seemed like more than three. The movie is too much “inside baseball” stuff, concentrating on corporate minutiae nobody really cares about. Do you really care about who voted for what at which board meeting and then had to leave the fancy lounge at the airport to save his job? Yaaawn.

The filmmakers bought the rights to the Walter Isaacson-penned book on Jobs, and it’s hard to believe that out of that vastly interesting read, the filmmakers focused only on what a jerk Jobs was to his employees and his illegit daughter and babymama. Yes, I know he initially denied paternity and didn’t handle it in the most fatherly and responsible way, but did I need to be hammered over the head with “Steve Jobs is a jerky sperm donor!” two-by-four for nearly the entire movie? There was much more to this guy, and all we saw was that he was an awful person, a bad father, and a whiny b-tch. It was very one-sided. And it takes place only on three separate days of Jobs’ career in computers. That’s it. Just three days. It doesn’t give a picture of anything. But, when Jobs died, there was too much adulation–it was way over the top–and now the pendulum is swinging back in the other direction.

Making things even worse was the casting of Jobs. Irish/German actor Michael Fassbender’s accent constantly reared its head, while Jobs was born here and had a markedly American accent. On top of that, Fassbender looks nothing like Jobs until the last third of the movie, which takes place in Jobs’ black mock turtleneck era. So, it just wasn’t believable. And the filmmakers, as well as Jobs’ former friend and partner, Steve Wozniak, admit that they made up much of the dialogue and scenes in the movie.

I never thought I’d say this, but the hokey Ashton Kutcher Steve Jobs movie (read my review) was far, far better and looks like a masterpiece compared to this. This had no plot and just slogged along. The dialogue was way too overwrought, and the movie just wasn’t interesting.

The only person I thought stood out in this movie was Kate Winslet as Joanna Hoffman, who, according to this movie, was Jobs “right-hand man” throughout his corporate career. I thought she did a good job with the Polish immigrant accent. And that’s the best I can say for this bore.

Don’t believe the hype. This movie doesn’t live up to even a tiny fraction of it.

ONE MARX
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Watch the trailer . . .

* “Goosebumps“: I really enjoyed this movie, and it’s the relative best of the new offerings at theaters, today. But I was surprised that this was aimed at kids, since it’s kind of scary (although the real-life author portrayed in the movie does write semi-scary kids books). I know, I know–kids aren’t allowed to have a childhood anymore. But, for example, in one scene in this movie, a bunch of garden gnomes are trying to drag author R.L. Stine into a burning oven to kill him. It’s fine for teens, though. The movie is very funny, fast-paced, and, for the most part, tightly written. It’s also, as I mentioned, somewhat scary.

The story: Jack Black plays real life author R. L. Stine, one of the most successful authors of kids books (and books of any kind for that matter). In real life, he reportedly makes over $40 million per year and has sold several hundred million books, including the “Goosebumps” series depicted in the movie.

The story: Zach (Dylan Minnette), whose father has died, moves with his high school principal mother to the small town of Madison, Delaware, where his mother now heads the high school. Zach discovers Hannah (Odeya Rush, who resembles a younger Mila Kunis), a cute girl living next door . . . and her mysterious, weirdo father (Black). The dad forbids Hannah from having anything to do with Zach. But kids will be kids, and the two ignore her father’s advice and become fast friends. One night, Zach thinks he hears the father attacking Hannah, and he calls the police. Then, he sneaks into Hannah’s house and opens some locked manuscripts of Goosebumps books, releasing the monsters in the stories onto the earth and causing havoc. One of those monsters is a ventriloquist dummy villain, who opens all of the rest of the books, releasing all of the monsters, causing a major disaster, as the monsters will destroy the town and probably the world. Zach learns that the father is really author R.L. Stine, and together, they try to save the town.

There are some really funny lines (especially the R.L. Stine/Steven King “feud” stuff), and it’s a cute movie. Not a masterpiece, and the way it was “all tied up” at the end was too convenient. But, overall, it’s a nice escapist movie for the younger set, which I also enjoyed.

I saw this in 2D, and it was just fine. So you don’t need to spring for the 3D version.

TWO REAGANS
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Watch the trailer . . .

* “Crimson Peak“: I hated this movie. Another long, slow, boring trudge through ground that has been broken, rehashed, and re-vomited a million times, including the dumb, vile brother-sister incest thing. Um, old news. I feel like I’ve seen this plot over and over again. And the “scary” monsters–CGI black skeletons–weren’t scary at all. They were amateurish CGI and just laughable. On top of that, it’s just a dreadful, bleak waste of time.

The story: it’s the late 1800s, and a mysterious Englishman, Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), is in America, trying to get money from rich people to invest in his clay-digging machine. While in the process of seeking investors, Thomas romances Edith (Mia Wasikowska), the young daughter of a wealthy widower whose investment he is seeking. Then, he announces his quick engagement to her. The father sees Thomas and his raven-haired sister, Lucille (Jessica Chastain), as con artists, and he pays them off to break his daughter’s heart and leave town. But they kill the father, and soon Edith is married to the man. Then, she moves to England to the brother’s and sister’s creepy rural castle. The castle is a dump with rot everywhere, blood red soil leaking out of the floorboards, and a giant hole in the ceiling in the dead of winter. But love is blind, and Edith looks the other way, embracing the dumpy castle, despite its filth, very evident creepiness, and other unlivable maladies.

Meanwhile, it turns out that the siblings are not only just as bad as Edith’s father believed they were, they are worse. A doctor (Charlie Hunnam), from Edith’s hometown in America, loves her and researches just who Edith’s new “relations” are, along with the help of a suspicious family attorney.

In the meantime, Edith lives and wanders the creepy castle and, despite encountering many guests, having a lot of bad dreams, and discovering pools of blood read sludge in giant vats in the basement, it takes her a while to suspect that something is very wrong. Yes, you could have seen this coming, along with everything else in this movie. It’s very predictable, derivative, repetitive, slow-moving, and just poorly done. It’s a mess.

Since it’s a period piece, a lot of attention to superficial detail has been paid. The costumes are beautiful, and the bleak, deserted environment is stark. You feel all of it and more. It’s just that the story doesn’t deserve it. It’s just that bad. And that seems to be the case in a lot of movies these days: gorgeous sets, costumes, and cinematography, but the plot: quite ugly.

And like many of these movies, this one is all style, with zero substance of note.

Skip this.

THREE MARXES PLUS AN ISIS BEHEADING
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Watch the trailer . . .

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19 Responses

Hooray.

I am so glad that you have the time and energy to do your movie reviews.

I look forward to reading your opinion about the new movies.

slp on October 16, 2015 at 6:03 pm

Debbie

Moral equivalency is nothing new for Steven Spielberg, who, if you recall, did pretty much the same thing in “Munich,” by equating the PLO, and its associated murderers, with the State of Israel. Sorry you had to sit through more of his pap, but I do appreciate the heads up.

And, by the way, I am a frequent visitor to your site and love it in all of its variety. Thanks for all you do, especially vis a vis the great enemy in Islam, its practitioners and their BS code of law. I will always back you.

Dennis on October 16, 2015 at 6:34 pm

Steven Spielberg is notorious for going off the rails, as he did in “Munich”. The Soviet Union, especially under Joseph Stalin, was quite duplicitous. It was happy to cooperate and actively assist the Third Reich before it itself was invaded by its erstwhile friends. The “Great Patriotic War” only had to be fought by the Soviet Union, due to Stalin’s bungling and short-sighted attempts to acquire territory. During and after the Second World War it took advantage of the weakness of Eastern European states by forcing Marxist governments upon them. This bondage persisted until 1989, when the collapse of the Soviet Union became imminent.

Worry on October 16, 2015 at 9:18 pm

While Jobs was brilliant, his philosophy towards computer operating systems was closed and exclusivist; his differences with Wozniak on that issue was what led to their split. I know someone who will not touch an Apple computer if his life depended upon it (his entry into computers began with the Apple II series, but once Jobs came up with the Mac system that was the end of that). What’s more, there are stories I’ve heard of failed and malfunctioning Apple computers that have been sitting in repair shop shelves for years (Wozniak is one such person). Jobs’ philosophy of razzle-dazzle as opposed to functionality viz his company’s computers is one reason why some have been saying that “Macs are for what you want, but PC’s are for what you need.”

As for this latest moral-equivalency exercise from Spielberg, let’s all remember that the Berlin Wall went up under JFK’s watch. And as I recall Debbie noting, as President JFK wasn’t all that much a prize. (And I seem to remember Hanks, too, harboring an overall philosophy of moral equivalence, if judging on his comments regarding WWII, more specifically the war in the Pacific against the Japanese.)

ConcernedPatriot on October 17, 2015 at 7:13 am

P.S. In a way, it makes sense this Jobs biopic would be so snooze-inducing, if one looks at the screenwriting credits – leftist Aaron Sorkin of “The West Wing” fame.

ConcernedPatriot on October 17, 2015 at 7:15 am

It’s always refreshing to read a concise, realistic review of the propaganda coming out of Hollywood. We decided never to watch any of these distorted movies until we read an unbiassed revview for ourselves. Anyone who publicly supported crooks like the Clintons and now HUssein, Barry Soetoro does not get a dollar of our meager fixed income, no matter how much a rave their movies get from the media. No wonder Americans are supporting low-budget movies of highest moral value today, as we also have done. Thank you Debbie for your integrity.

Aussie Phil on October 17, 2015 at 9:27 am

Spielberg made several great movies early in his career, but it’s been pretty much non-stop moral equivalence and leftist tripe ever since. He makes a “Jurassic World” every few years, and then a bunch of leftist crap in between.

adam on October 17, 2015 at 11:53 am

Hello Debbie,

I am a bit confused re Spielberg’s movie, “Bridge of Spies”.

Is JAMES B. DONOVAN supposed to be WILLIAM JOSEPH DONOVAN aka “WILD BILL” DONOVAN? Wild Bill was the real life head of the O.S.S, i.e. the OFFICE of STRATEGIC SERVICES, the precursor to the CIA.

Is this movie a liberal interpretation, fictional fabrication of Historical events?

The book referenced below is one I had years ago in hardcover:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/oss-richard-harris-smith/1110846982?ean=9781592287291

Thanks for any additional information you can provide.

ps: I am not the “Dennis” noted above.

Dennis on October 18, 2015 at 4:49 pm

‘Bridge of Spies’ reminded me of the fiction of John LeCarre. Abel could not have been charged with treason as he was not an American. He was charged and convicted of espionage. Also, I’m pretty sure Spielberg’s grandparents fled Tsarist Russia not the U.S.S.R.

V: I noted they fled Russia. That they fled Tsarist Russia and not the U.S.S.R. is a distinction without a difference. The horrible anti-Semitism under each was the same and perpetrated by the same people. That was the point. DS

Vic on October 18, 2015 at 8:25 pm

Thanks for putting up the movie reviews, DS. They are the best ting about your blog. When are you going to get around to doing the movie reviews that you’ve missed due to your accident?

Charles Rector on October 18, 2015 at 8:37 pm

Please tell me that you will not inflict the Dan Rather movie “Truth” upon yourself.

Your toil and trouble in writing these reviews is truly appreciate it, but take care not to delve too deeply into the maniacal convolutions and tortuous logic of “Truth” (double sarcasm quotes).

Jerry on October 18, 2015 at 9:02 pm

I would not watch a Ton hanks movie if you paid me the $16 ticket (w/Fandango fee) plus $14 for refillable large Diet Coke/popcorn. I wouldn’t sit through one for $100.

I’ve despised him since “Bosom Buddies” and he is an overrated. over-exposed. bloated hack. And America adores him – go figure.

I wouldn’t pi$$ on him if he was on fire.

DS_ROCKS! on October 19, 2015 at 1:47 am

    I agree with you DS_ROCKS!on your Tom Hanks hate. Along with his buddy Steven Spielberg he’s become a slobbering liberal hack who loves the current dimwit in the White House. To me his movies don’t even rate a purchase from Wal-Mart’s DVD dust bin.

    Ken B on October 20, 2015 at 7:23 am

The Powers exchange was a ruse. Hollywood makes it up as does the govenment. That is not how it happened.

Panhandle- on October 20, 2015 at 1:53 pm

Debbie,
Thanks for all the truth you convey to us week after week.
We need more truth tellers.

Lynn

LYNN BRADLEY on October 23, 2015 at 2:16 pm

I had to attend the new Bill Murry movie with some friends. I really did not want to go and was I right. It was so boring. What has happened to Hollywood? What TRASH. I wasted $ on this garbage.

Fred on October 25, 2015 at 5:55 pm

Bridge of Spies was a moral equivalence piece of trash , I hope speilberg, katzenberg and geffin go bankrupt…..why didnt bernie madoff do the old grifter thing on them.

Hopefully under the trump administration , hollywood will renew itself.

PANCAKE RACHEL CORRIE on February 11, 2016 at 2:48 pm

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