Movie Review: Operation Finale

The new World War 2 movie “Operation Finale” is about the capture in 1960 of the architect of the “Final Solution” Adolf Eichmann during Germany’s dominance in Europe. Memories of the worst time in human history come back to all of us when we see movies like this one and for all of us the atrocities of the years 1939-1945 where 6 million Jews and 4 million other innocent civilians were exterminated, are beyond all comprehension. Its still hard to believe that the years 1939-1945 are less than 80 years ago rather than something that happened in ancient times 2000-5000 years ago. Adolf Eichmann was one of the few leaders of the 3rd Reich to escape prosecution to South America and this story is mostly about the intricate complexities of his capture in Argentina and flight back to Israel where he could stand trial for his crimes.

The problem with this film is the middle part where the group that was assigned to capture him were delayed with many problems and had to wait around in Argentina for many days for their opportunity to leave. This part of the movie dragged on way too long and involved conversations with Eichmann who did admit who he was, feeding him and even a scene where he had to go to the bathroom. All of this was not necessary and should have been mostly eliminated from this movie. This part seemed to be the part of the screenplay where they had to add filler to make the movie last 2 hours. The Rotten Tomatoes rating for this movie are a low 62% for the reasons I stated above. I thought the acting was good, mainly from the only named actor in this film, Ben Kingsley who played Eichmann.

I give a marginal recommendation to Operation Finale mainly because its about the history of the worst time in world history during World War 2.

A Tribute to Neil Simon

An excerpt from the IMDB page for Neil Simon’s biography summarizes his career very well:

Almost every one of his 30-plus plays, mostly Broadway comedies, has also been adapted into a motion picture– the greatest such achievement of any playwright/author, even surpassing William Shakespeare. As a result, Simon has received more Oscar and Tony nominations than any other writer in the history of show business.

Some years ago I read both of Neil Simon’s books Neil Simon’s Memoirs and Rewrites: A Memoir because for anyone who has ever had any ambitions to be a writer for movies or Broadway, Neil Simon, along with Woody Allen is just about the best there has ever been.

I was so impressed with the ups and downs of Simon’s life as a writer and the incredible number of hours and hard work it took to write and then re-write so many times for so many of his plays until he got the rhythm and the timing of each line – just right.

Show business is one of the toughest businesses there is and Simon went through his share of financial problems along the way of becoming one of the greatest writers of comedy of all time. He also signed away the rights to arguably his greatest play “The Odd Couple” too soon and for far less money that he should have gotten. Soon after the Odd Couple became a highly successful TV series in the 1970’s.

Simon’s personal life was extremely challenging, losing his wife of 20 years to breast cancer when she was only on her late 30’s – leaving him to raise his 2 daughters alone. One can only imagine how difficult it was go through something like that as he tried to move on with his life and career. Simon was married 5 times, including twice to the same woman and also to actress Marcia Mason.

Neil Simon died yesterday, August 26th at age 91 – and left the world with a body of work that is a standard for all writers who will follow. He will be greatly missed and his great works will always be admired and remembered.

A Tribute to John McCain

As I write this on August 26, 2018, senator John McCain died of brain cancer yesterday at age 81. There is no doubt to anyone except maybe Donald Trump and his idiotic comments before the 2016 election about McCain being captured that John McCain will always be one of the greatest American war heroes of all time.

I was greatly privileged to meet and speak with John McCain in mid-April of 2000; in the very beginning of the worst bear market this country had seen since 1929. None of us knew in April 2000 that this bear market would last 30 months and cause great damage to the financial health of the world.

McCain was at a book signing for this book “Faith of my Fathers” at a Barnes and Noble in Princeton New Jersey and after I waited my turn in line I remember feeling embarrassed when I said to him simply, “thank you for your service”. I remember it didn’t feel right to just say “Thank You”, because considering the incredible ordeal that McCain had gone through as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, just saying “Thank You” would never be enough respect that I could give to this great man. After signing my book, much to my surprise McCain started asking about me and what I do for a living and then the subject of the stock market that had just started to crash came up. I was so impressed with how much he cared about a total stranger like me who was just standing there in front of him for a book signing. His questions and caring about what I was going through was sincere and real. It was impossible to not like this man who had gone through so much in the service of his country and showed such great compassion to a total stranger.

It’s a shame that John McCain never became President of the United States because just based on his integrity as a human being he would have been a great President. McCain was not elected the president because of timing. His time to be President was in 2000 when he ran against President Bush and for reasons that make no sense to me, failed to win the Republican nomination. When he ran again against Barack Obama in 2008 he was too old to endure the huge stresses to be the President. His decision to select Sarah Palin to be his vice president was a mistake in judgement based on desperation because he knew he was losing the 2008 election in the polls. Hindsight is 20-20 and they should have vetted Palin for much longer than just 90 minutes, but that is life. McCain defending Obama in a town hall when a woman said he was a Muslim and she didn’t trust Obama was typical of the man John McCain was.

McCain took his loss in 2008 with dignity and respect, just like he did everything else in his life of great service to this country. Rest in Peace my friend, you will be greatly missed.

Movie Review: A.X.L.

One can only speculate on how a movie this bad could ever be made. Large amounts of money spent on a screenplay idea that is ridiculous and downright stupid. In some conference room, probably in Malibu California probably about 2 years ago, some producers thought “kids love robots”, “kids love dogs”. What we need is a Robot Dog. Who cares about a screenplay or a story of any kind? We can delay the release of whatever we come up with to the critics so we can get that first weekend box office of parents and kids so who cares of the movie is garbage.

The new movie A.X.L. is pretty close to garbage, most especially the ending that makes absolutely no sense. There is AI software, a Robot Dog that will be used by the army, using technology that does not even exist. There is a teenage motorcycle racer that finds the robot dog and becomes involved with a young woman and the entire movie is a series of events that are all disconnected that result in one of the worst conclusions to a movie I have ever seen.

The Rotten Tomatoes ratings for A.X.L are a very low 25%, IMDB is a very low 4.6. This is one movie that should have went directly to DVD. One bright spot is actress Rebbeca Marie Gomez, who looks like she could be related to Selena Gomez and should have a bright future in movies, just based on her looks alone and despite appearing in this horrendous mess.

Miss this nightmare of very bad movie making, one of the worst movies of 2018.

Movie Review: Papillon

The movie “Papillon” is a remake of the 1973 classic film that starred Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman. The most important thing to know about this story is that it is not only true but it also demonstrated the inhumane cruelty that existed in France in 1931. It is correct to understand that any one who commits murder or any kind of violent crime do not deserve a country club when they are sent away to prison, but the conditions and the administration of prisoners in French Guiana were so bad its a miracle anyone survived there. Most amazing is the main character in this movie, played very well by Charlie Hunnam, not only survived living with the fact that he was innocent and framed for murder, but also spent 7 years in solitary confinement for trying to escape twice. Very often this confinement consisted of total darkness. Unlike other bad recent remakes of classic films like Ben Hur, released in 2016, this movie stands on its own as different enough that its not just a scene by scene retread of the original film.

I was also impressed with the friendship that developed between Papillon and another man who committed a while collar crime and had no business being in a prison like this, played by Rami Malek. On several occassions Papillon risked both his life and freedom to save his friend.

As far as the story I was most impressed with the incredible resolve of Papillon who despite facing more years of solitary confinement, kept trying to escape his extreme injustice of being incarcerated for no reason because he was framed for murder. This story is first and foremost about “mans inhumanity to man” when it comes to running a prison. While prison reform has seen some improvements over many years, it is still a very long way to be what it should be.

The ending of Papillon for those who have not seen the original is so unlikely that many would not believe it unless it was a true story. At the end of the movie talks about the book Papillon that was a best seller when it was released in 1969 and sold over 13 million copies. I have included a link to this book on this web site.

Unlike so many other remakes, Papillon was well done and good enough to receive a strong recommendation.

Movie Review: Alpha

The movie “Alpha” is very similar to the Disney movies in the past about our close relationship with dogs and in this case of this story a wolf. This story takes place 20,000 years ago and despite the prehistoric caveman times the human beings looked in far too good shape and wore clothing that looks like it was expertly made – almost like designer jackets, which of course makes no sense considering the time involved. Through a series amazing events that involve hunting buffalo a teenage boy is separated from his tribe and while trying to survive on his own, befriends a wolf who was also injured and separated from his pack. Some of the ideas here are far fetched and it seemed that some of the logistics did not make sense in some areas, but overall I thought this was a good example of a family movie, although some of the harrowing experiences are probably too intense for younger children.

Rotten Tomatoes gives this movie a rating of 86 and my rating is about a 75% – so I do recommend Alpha.

Movie Review: Puzzle

The new movie “Puzzle” is a low budget movie about the decisions we make in our 20’s that may cause us, because of money, obligations and family – to not realize our full potential or ever have the chance to figure out who we really are. For many of us, there is not enough money or time to find ourselves by going to a college that fewer can afford and some find themselves later in life unhappy about the choices they made in their youth. In the case of this story, Agnes is a wife in her early 40’s of a mechanic with 20 sons about to go to college, who finds herself trapped in a lonely boring life familiar to far too many married women. Through a random gift of a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle, Agnes finds that she is not only good at putting jigsaw puzzles together, but in is fact a rare genius at pattern recognition. As random as the shape of the puzzle pieces, Agnes buys another puzzle in New York City and through a flier at the store, becomes partners with another puzzle expert and their collaboration blooms into Jigsaw puzzle contests – who even knew there was such a thing?

Puzzle is a high quality low budget movie that has a great message and symbolism, and was engrossing throughout the entire 2 hours. One of the great speeches in the movie was by Agnes puzzle partner Robert, played very well by Irrfan Khan. He says, “Life is random and most of the time completely out of our control. With Puzzles, we are completely in control and when the puzzle is completed, we know we made all the right choices”. Anyone who sees this movie may have a strong desire to buy a 1000 piece puzzle and try to put it together, and this has always been a fun hobby for many people.

I strongly recommend Puzzle for its message, symbolism and quality of acting.

Movie Review: Crazy Rich Asians

First and foremost, the new movie “Crazy Rich Asians” is all about money. Its about super rich Asians who live in Singapore who after many years of being super rich, have forgotten or never knew what it is like to have little or no money, or a bad job sitting in a cubicle or doing what you don’t want to do, because you do don’t have enough money to walk away. The story is about a young couple in love, about to get married but the woman is not from a wealthy family, she is the product of a single mother who struggled for many years to make enough to survive. Unfortunately in many, but not all cases, people who have a great deal of money let it all go to their head and look down on people who are not rich, as if they are not good enough to associate with and definitely not to marry their son – basically the plot of this movie. The mother of the young Asian man does not approve of his girlfriend and some of the scenes between his girlfriend and his mother I thought were extremely well done.

I thought this movie dragged on in a number of places, was somewhat funny in others and was too much like a soap opera for my liking. The Rotten Tomatoes ratings for Crazy Rich Asians is a very high 92% and I do recommend it for the message – but not so much for the overall story.

Past Movie Review: The Verdict

In terms of a great legal drama, in my opinion “The Verdict”, released in 1982 is the best ever. A brilliant screenplay by David Mamet and a story about the real life world of bad people and money against working class hard working people and a pregnant woman who was the victim of medical malpractice. In 1982 the critics were calling this great movie a Rocky story for the legal profession. I consider this one comment the best summary about what this movie is all about. Doctors who worked for a church owned hospital in the Boston area made a series of egregious errors when a pregnant woman was admitted and she went into a coma and was irreparably brain damaged. Through lies, payoffs and legal cheating, the rich law firm hired to defend the doctors cared less about the woman in a coma, only about the reputation of the hospital and the amount of money they would be paid.

This movie stars Paul Newman and without a doubt it was his best performance in a career where he won only one Oscar for “The Color of Money” and was nominated 7 times. Why he did not win for this outstanding performance as Frank Galvin, a down on his luck alcoholic lawyer is a travesty. The lead lawyer of the law firm defending the hospital is James Mason in an outstanding performance as the rich head of a law firm who would do anything to win a case, regardless of the circumstances. The direction of this film by Sidney Lumet is also great and one scene that stands out is a key turning point in the film was told wordlessly in an overhead shot where Galvin just backed up on a street looking at his friend in disbelief over what he just heard him say about his girlfriend. This is genius screenwriting and film making because so much more can be said by just actions and no dialogue.

The Verdict is an outstanding film that should seen by everyone.

Movie Review: Mile 22

The new movie “Mile 22” is easily one of the worst of 2018. There is no story line or recognizable screenplay here, just a series of disconnected scenes that are never explained or transition, and are nothing more than excuses for action or explosions or both. A movie is never an excuse for only action scenes and Mile 22 is so bad that even Michael Bay, who invented this type of rapid fire film would say Mile 22 makes absolutely no sense. The only bright spot within this very bad 2 hours is the presence of probably the best movie Martial Arts expert in movie history Iko Uwais – who has some scenes of realistic fighting that are extremely impressive. The best examples of this type of realistic Karate that I have ever seen are within the 2 movies “Raid: Redemption 2011” and “The Raid 2 – 2014”.

Other than Iko, this entire movie is a total mess and should be thrown out of all theaters – hopefully by this Monday. To make this movie even worse – the end of the film uses the “explain what happened cleanup scenes” at the end that attempts to make up for the fact that no measurable story was told for 2 hours. The Rotten Tomatoes rating for this bad movie is 20% – and I would have given it a 5% rating. Run from Mile 22, because it is a screenplay disaster.