“The 15:17 to Paris”: the three American heroes at the Thalys Train Attack star in their own film on their own book

Clint Eastwood’s new film, “The 15:17 to Paris”, based on the collaborative autobiographical book by Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos, Spencer Stone, and Jeffrey Stein, “The 15:17 to Paris: The True Story of a Terrorist, a Train, and Three American Heroes”, adopted for screen by Blyskal, tells the story of the 2015 Thalys Train Attack from the viewpoint of the three soldiers, who act in the film.  This itself is remarkable.  All three now are recognized as film professionals in Hollywood. Wikipedia documents Skarlatos as an Army National Guard soldier and Stone as a former airman.  Stone was somewhat injured in the attack, but more seriously wounded in a civilian incident in California in 2015, but fully recovered from both.

The film starts by showing Ayoub El Khazzani (Ray Corasani) boarding the train due to leave Amsterdam station at 15:17 and preparing his weapon and soon the attack starts. The film then shifts to the backstories of the three friends who wrote the book and who played the most critical roles in stopping the attack. At first, I was not sure that this presentation style would be particularly effective, because the attack seemed to proceed so quickly. But the violent section, near the end of the film, depicts the time that it took the three young men (and a few other passengers from France and Britain, one badly wounded) to stop the attack runs about fifteen minutes, until the train reaches a station in northern France and the police arrive.

The three young men were boyhood friends in Sacramento, CA, in a Christian parochial school.  The movie has a prescient scene where a history teacher asks everyone if they would know what to do in a real emergency. The film shows the practical problems of enforcing discipline for teachers and principal (something I had issues with when I worked as a substitute teacher in a public school system from 2004-2007). The film tends to emphasize the problems of Stone the most, raised by a divorced mom and he seems to have serious hyperactivity and ADHD.  But he does a generous heart and likes to help and rescue people. The film skips ten years.  He is shown overweight (Jeffrey would have had to regain the weight to make the film) and works out to shape up. He joins the Air Force with the idea of becoming the equivalent of a green beret, but “fails” some of the vision test. He winds up in medic training, and disturbs Air Force instructors with unusual reactions when there is a false alarm at an Air Force base in Houston. But, ironically, it turns out that his emphatic instincts may have saved everyone later on the train.

Skarlatos (who “restrained” the suspect)  is shown serving in Afghanistan by Skype. He presents himself as an extremely stable person, and  with probably the most impressive physical appearance of the three.  I know a young man who looks (and behaves) a lot like him and is about 6-6 (“College Hunks” size) but who I believe is in grad school rather than playing pro sports (which is what you would expect from appearances).  In the film, Sadler, the African-American, seems to be the geekiest, going past any stereotypes.

In August 2015 the friends get together and sightsee Italy, with impressive photography of the Coliseum in Rome and then of Venice.  Then they go to Berlin and are shown the location of Hitler’s final bunker on a bicycle tour. Curiously, Berlin isn’t listed as a filming location (the indoor scenes were shot in Georgia) but some of the scenes looked like Berlin, which I visited in May 1999. They visit at least two bars.  The first seems familiar from my visit (it might be in Amsterdam), and the second is a wild disco.  In fact, in Berlin I visited two gay bars. One had a lounge where patrons were entertained by a friendly cat who would sit in their laps. The second was the Connection Disco, which had a mock concentration camp in the basement (which might seem in bad taste).  I remember meeting a graduate student there who had grown up in East Germany.

The young men apparently traveled to Amsterdam from Berlin without incident (I’ve done that flight myself – when I went in 1999 and 2001 I effectively had air passes rather than Eurailpass, which offers first class).  They then board the train in Amsterdam, and find the first class section. The film shows many shots of the Belgian or northern French countryside with windmills.  Then the event happens.

One detail is that Ayoub’s rifle jammed as Stone charged him (at least as the film shows it).  That seems incredibly lucky for Stone and all the passengers.  Apparently Ayoub claims (as a defendant waiting trial in France) that he only intended to rob passengers and was not a terrorist, but if he didn’t pay, how did he sneak onto the train and get past the conductor.?  Just hiding in the restroom?

In May, 2001, I took the Chunnel train (shown in Tom Cruise’s “Mission Impossible”, 1996) from Paris to London   I remember we did have to go through security to get on that train (months before 9/11). At the time, I recall that foot and mouth disease was a big controversy. When I returned back to the Continent, I took a different Chunnel train to Brussels station (shown in the film) , and I recall clowns performing in the station.  The Amsterdam station is interesting in that it is only about ten miles from the airport, and when you fly to Schiphol you take a double-decker orange and blue train to the station.

Again, it’s interesting that the three young men launched film careers after the incident. They would easily fit into casting of my screenplay “Epiphany” with material from my three DADT books, if it ever got “money” ($30 million would help – that’s what this film cost).

Amsterdam Central Station, wiki.

Name:  “The 15:17 to Paris”
Director, writer: Clint Eastwood, Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos, Anthony Sadler
Released:  2018/2/9
Format:  2.39:1
When and how viewed:  Angelika Mosaic, Fairfax Va., 2018/2/10, Sat. afternoon, fair crowd
Length:  94
Rating:  PG-13
Companies:  Warner Brothers, Village Roadshow
Link:  official 
Stars: 4/5  ****-     ($30 million cost)

(Posted: Saturday, February 10, 2018 at 7:30 PM EST)

“In the Fade”: German film shows neo-Nazi terrorists attacking Muslims

In the Fade”, (“Aus dem Nichts”, directed by Fatih Akin, story by Mark Bohm), certainly makes a statement (with some facts at the end of the film in the rolling credits) that terrorism, especially in Germany, can be directed at Muslims, by neo-Nazis.

The film unfolds as a rather compelling three-part drama.  Part 1, “Family” presents our heroine Katja Sekerci  (Diane Kruger) getting married to a Kurdish immigrant Nuri (Numan Akar), and raising their son. We learn that Nuir has been in jail for drug offences, but seems now to have an accounting business helping other immigrants in the Turkish section of Hamburg. In fact, the very first shot in the film shows Katja protecting her son crossing the street from a speeding driver.  She describes her husband as “agnostic” (raised as a Muslim), or, essentially, secular and now westernized or assimilated.

Suddenly, as she goes to meet her husband at the office, she learns that the office was bombed, and that the husband and son are gone, bodies burned beyond recognition. The police suspect it to be an organized crime hit, but the case takes a turn when a dad turns in a German neo-Nazi couple, the Moellers (Ulrich Brandhoff and Hanna Hilsdorf), based on bomb-making evidence in his farm.

Part 2, “Justice”, the middle of the film, presents the courtroom drama and trial. But the prosecution’s case is undermined by Katja’s own drug use, which undercuts the credibility of her testimony.

So Part 3, “Revenge”, has a vigilante Katja in Greece, tracking down the couple on the Mediterranean coast through gumshoeing the Greek Nazi party.  Here the film makes a disturbing point: she can learn how to make a pressure cooker bomb from the Internet (just like the Tsarnaev brothers). At one point, an alert bird, sparrow-like but attractive, ironically spoils her plans.  (Wild animals know a lot more than we think.)   But it is not too much of a spoiler to say that the film’s conclusion is apocalyptic and shocking.

The film is distributed in the US by Magnolia, but had major studio distribution in Europe from Warner Brothers, with big production support from Studio Canal and The Match Factory.

I’ve been in Hamburg once, in 1972;  it was my first stop on my first trip to Europe at age 29.  I remember the Hotel Phoenix, almost on the waterfront.

The film won the Golden Globe for best foreign language film (German).

Hamburg panorama (wiki).

Hamburg after WWII bombing (wiki).

Name:  “In the Fade
Director, writer:  Fatih Akin, Mark Bohm
Released:  2017
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed: Landmark West End, Washington DC, 2018/2/3, almost sold out
Length:  118
Rating:  R
Companies:  Magnolia, Warner Brothers, Studio Canal, The Match Factory
Link:  official
Stars:  3-1/2 out of 5  ***#_

(Posted: Saturday, February 3, 2018 at 9 PM EST)

“12 Strong: The Declassified True Story of the Horse Soldiers”: if we knew enough to pull this off, why didn’t we stop 9/11?

12 Strong: The Declassified True Story of the Horse Soldiers”, based on the book “Horse Soldiers” by Doug Stanton, directed by Nicolai Fuglsig and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, is a large historical war film, available in Imax, about the initial American intervention in Afghanistan right after 9/11.

The covert operation in eastern Afghanistan comprised some CIA operatives but mainly US Army Special Forces, Green Berets, Operational Detachment 595.   It achieved a major victory against Al Qaeda in about three weeks, helping buttress the Northern Alliance, which Sebastian Junger’s subsequent books, articles and films would cover. The lead is Captain Mitch Nelson, played by Chris Hemsworth, with the laconic Michael Shannon playing CWO Cal Spencer.  The main NO ally is Gen/ Abdul Rashid Dostum, played by Navid Negahban.

The film starts with the history trail of terror attacks, going back to the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, followed by Kenya in 1998, the USS Cole in 2000, and then 9/11.  The film shows 9/11 as seen from a special forces base in Kentucky (I thought it would have been Fort Bragg, NC).  We see it only after both towers and the Pentagon have been hit. During the morning hours, many observers expected over 10,000 civilian dead in NYC.

The politics of the engagement seem to be the point of the film.  All this happened before Bush addressed the nation on a Sunday afternoon in early October 2001. Dostum makes the point that once the Americans are there, they will be perceived as cowards if they leave, or enemies if they stay. Nelson has to deal with the reality of playing one warlord against another, when some warlords were more concerned about their competitors than they were about the Taliban, with its fanatical religious fundamentalism. Nelson, before the final battle scene, makes the point that the special op (at the time SCI Top Secret) is necessary to prevent more 9/11’s on the homeland.  Yet if the Bush administration knew enough to put together this operation so quickly, why couldn’t it prevent 9/11?

The film was shot on location in New Mexico, apparently just north of Albuquerque.  I visited the area, specifically the Lama Foundation north of Taos, in 1980 and 1984.

The film is a 2018 release, and apparently is not part of the 2017 awards season.

I still remember that in 1958, in ninth grade, when we studied the middle east in geography, I chose Afghanistan for my report.  How prescient.

Northern Alliance Picture, December 2001, Wiki.

Name:  “12 Strong: The Declassified True Story of the Horse Soldiers”
Director, writer:  Nicolai Fuglsig, Doug Stanton
Released:  2018/1/19
Format:  2.35:1 IMAX
When and how viewed:  Regal Potomac Yards. 2018/1/25, fair mid afternoon audience for a weekday
Length:  129
Rating:  R
Companies:  Warner Brothers, Black Label Media, Jerry Bruckheimer Films
Link:  official

(Posted: Thursday, January 25, 2018 at 9:15 PM EST)

“The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima”: was she an angel warning us?

The 1952 film “The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima”, by John Brahm, is of some special interest to me right now, with my own fiction project.  The film, in “Warnercolor”, predates the religious spectacles that would start a year later with “The Robe”, when Cinemascope would introduced;  this film is in the old 4:3 aspect.  And it looks a little hokey by modern standards.

The film opens in 1910 with the revolution and establishment of the First Portuguese Republic, which was definitely authoritarian, with mixtures of fascism and communism. Most notably, it as anti-Church.

Fast forward to 1917 when the Catholic churches have been begrudgingly allowed to reopen. Three grade-school-age shepherd children one day in May encounter, in a dry thunderstorm, an apparition hat seems to be the Virgin Mary or some related angel. The angel warns them to say their rosaries and to be careful but to return regularly.  Media accounts often maintain that she was the Virgin Mary.

The family and local priests try to get the kids to remain quiet, but word gets around and soon pilgrims start to arrive to the hill to see the angel again, especially in October.  The kids are arrested and jailed and terrorized, and told they will be responsible for the deaths of their families (a common tactic of totalitarianism). But Hugo (a very hairy-chested Gilbert Roland) gets them out of jail, and the authorities cannot stop the pilgrimage, which assembles in another storm in October 1917. The angel appears and warns everyone that a second great war may happen even though the current World War will end soon.

The Sun comes through the cloud as if it were going to burn up the landscape and then recedes. This conclusion reminds me of the end of a short film “Anton Bruckner’s Ultimate Finale” (Dec. 3, 2016) where an angel or extraterrestrial appears over Vienna with blazing light, burning off a young man’s chest hair in the very last shot.

The style of writing in the script, however, emphasizes simple, almost naïve Christian faith and loyalty to the authority of the Church, with no respect for independent thinking — this stands in contrast to the stark warning of the film.

The film has an epilogue in 1951, showing the modern day church and grounds at Fatima, which I visited myself in April 2001.  The grounds are massive, and various pilgrim groups appear.  There are unusual candles in large quantities.

The music score by Max Steiner is impressive, with choral passages that remind me of Vaughn Williams.

There are various Catholic churches around the world for which claims of miracles around Virgin Mary statues are made.  Two of these are in Aliquippa and Ambridge PA, north of Pittsburgh;  I visited the Aliquippa church briefly in 1989.  Another may be in Harlingen, Texas (near Brownsville), which I think I visited with the help of Southwest Airlines “peanuts fares” when I was living in Dallas, in 1980.  The Church generally does not verify these claims or continue to publish them.

Catholic churches and schools, to a Protestant, seem to have their own world. I can tell that from visits to an “Our Lady of Good Counsel” school in northern Virginia for “Chess for Charity” Sunday afternoon events in the past couple of years.

Fatima church and grounds today (wiki).

Aliquippa (wiki)

Harlingen (wiki)

Name:  “The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima”
Director, writer:  John Brahm
Released:  1952
Format: 4:3  WarnerColor (an old proprietary process)
When and how viewed:  Netflix DVD, 2017/12/29
Length:  102
Rating:  NA (probably PG-13)
Companies:  Warner Brothers
Link:  Washington Post 2007 article on the Miracle


(Posted: Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017 at 10 AM EST)

“Justice League”: in the DC Extended Universe, angels can be retroceded

Justice League”, the latest DC Comics movie, directed by Zach Snyder (who wrote the story with Chris Terrio) reunites the super-heroes of the DC Comics world, to repel what is a complicated alien invasion based on the “mother boxes”.

The details of the “DC Extended Universe” (DCEU) need not be resummarized here, as it is already covered in great detail on many other sites, as well as Wikipedia. But what strikes me is that the superheroes more or less correspond to the Christian idea of angels, who are supposed to be immortal, maybe.

Nevertheless, the film begins with a headline that Superman is dead. A superhero can at least be retroceded, perhaps, or maybe lose his or her “powers” and become mortal because of some moral or ritualistic failure. Superman (Henry Cavill) is resurrected, starting with exhuming his body (where as Jesus simply disappeared from the tomb)   At first he doesn’t remember who he is, but Lois Lane (Amy Adams) helps him recover.  Cavill gives a very different look to Superman, hairy chest and all, than did a younger Tom Welling in ten years of “Smallville”.

I guess the chief heroes are Batman, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Dianna Primce, Gal Gadot).  Ezra Miller plays Barry Allen, The Flash, and manages to make him look and act a bit like Marvel’s Spider Man.  He has an odd line about blood sugar suggesting diabetes.  In a late scene, he runs a sprint race with Superman, that reminds me of the “Timo v. Richard Harmon” race in 2012.  Neither of the later two actors has appeared in a comics movie (yet) as far as I know, but Harmon is nurturing his own horror project, “Crypto”, which I’ll be covering here in due course. Descamps has a sci-fi project called “Floating” that I’d love to see go somewhere.

In the second half of Justice League, the enemies attack the remains of the nuclear power plant, which logically would be Chernobyl in the Ukraine.  But the script says the facility is in “northern Russia”. The special effects with the sarcophagus get quite impressive. There are rumors about Russian facilities in northwestern Russia, around Lake Ladoga, which Finland and the Baltic states are quite nervous about. I wonder if the movie intended to suggest that Putin is the “alien enemy”.   The film does an impressive set of a Russian village and of the living standards therein.  Later, the movie moves us back to Kansas and Smallville.

The film was shot in regular 1.85:1 aspect ratio, which may make IMAX and DVD transfer easier.

Picture: Flint Hills, Kansas, my picture, 2006

Chernobyl sarcophagus, Wiki.

Lake Ladoga, wiki.

Name:  “Justice League”
Director, writer:  Zach Snyder
Released:  2017/11/17
Format:  1.85:1 Imax 3D
When and how viewed:  Regal Ballston Quarter, 2017/11/27, small auditorium, daytime, small audience
Length:  120
Rating:  PG-13
Companies:  Warner Brothers, Ratpac, DC Comics
Link:  official 

(Posted: Monday, Nov. 27, 2017 at 8:45 PM EST)

“Blade Runner 2049”: The 30-year reset; can synthetic people attract souls?

The original “Blade Runner” (1982), directed by Ridley Scott, based on Philip K. Dick’s novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sleep?”, had an interesting premise, that ranged far and due to happen soon, om 2019;  a blade runner would track down slave replicants who had stolen a space ship and “illegally” (Trump-like) returned to Earth to look for their creator.  I saw the original film at Northpark in Dallas.

The newer film “Blade Runner 2049”, directed by French Canadian Denis Villeneuve, was necessary to reset the calendar.  It starts out by showing up an eyeball, and then a huge array of solar panels in a very smoggy California desert, before a vigorous young LAPD detective named “K” (Ryan Gosling) tracks down rogue replicant Sapper Morton (Dave Bautista) and winds the hand-to-hand battle, tearing out walls in a remote desert house, before finding human remains.

The movie seem sets up is premise, which is geographically limiting. The older replicants were to be retired and eliminated, and the newer ones are integrated into society.  But soon K gets information on a missing veteran replicant Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), and discovers that replicants can actually reproduce.  K’s adventures lead him to a particular ogre, Nilander Wallace (Jared Leto), who sets up a demonstration of a holographic pregnancy surrounded by disembodied black crawling eyes as if they were partial creature remnants themselves.  (There was a horror film “The Crawling Eye” on “Chiller” in the early 60.s).  There is curious terminology that calls the new replicants “angels”.

K moves between the city, modern LA, and a work farm out in the Mojave Desert, where kids (“proles”) are trained in a massive work farm, to burned out Las Vegas (“Cibola” from Stephen King’s “The Stand”). There is a critical scene with the Luxor (where I stayed in 1997) in the distance), which is ironically across the street from the rampage on Oct. 1.  Coincidence?

Some of the scenes, with bizarre alien structures laid across the desert, are impressive, but most of the time in this film, you don’t really know where you are going. But it is the psychological composition of the people that gets interesting.  First of all, K has gradually come to realize that he is a replicant himself. He is told he has no soul by a supervisor (Robin Wright), and that some of his childhood memories were implanted digitally.

Yet, K seems psychologically intact.  He may have mild Asperger’s, but he is really quite likeable and self-aware, and seems to have a certain intellectual integrity that doesn’t require close involvement with other people. It’s almost like he is a kind of Alan Turning, or maybe “The Good Doctor”. He could be fine as your best friend.  Relationships with women turn out to be fantasy pieces with holograms, but why not.  He doesn’t seem inclined to reproduce, but has discovered that maybe he is supposed to. It’s not hard to imagine how this kind of film could have used a gay subplot.

The movie would beg the question, what really gives someone an identity?  If your memories could be transferred (like by a virus) to someone else’s brain, could you wake up perceiving yourself in that person’s body.  It would be a good way for a 70 year old to become 21 again.  With a finite list of souls, no one dies, and there is no need for reproduction.  But then you don’t do your part dealing with the entropy of the universe.  Inevitability of death is tied to life.

I saw the film at Tyson’s AMC in 3-D, having left Friday’s just before the Washington Nationals came up with their winning home run rally in the game I was watching on a plasma screen during dinner.

The film was produced by Columbia Pictures (and Alcon, and Scott-Free) and has plenty of references to Sony products. It is distributed by Warner Brothers.  The introduction dispensed with the trademark music and went right into the Hans Zimmer’s bizarre musical world of sliding scales (more dissonant than the 1982 score by Vangelis).   The music score often quotes Prokofiev’s March from “The Love of Three Oranges”

Previewers of the film were required to sign unusual non-disclosure agreements of certain spoilers, but they probably don’t matter much now.

Name:  “Blade Runner 2049
Director, writer:  Denis Villeneuve, DGC
Released:  2017
Format:  2.35:1, Imax, 3D
When and how viewed:  AMC Tysons 2017-10-7, evening, ample crowd
Length:  165
Rating:  R
Companies:  Warner Brothers, Columbia Pictures, Alcon, Scott-Free
Link:  WB

(Posted: Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017 at 4:30 PM EDT)

“Dunkirk”: Christopher Nolan’s abstraction of the duty to rescue others, as civilians rescue soldiers

Christopher Nolan loves to put moviegoers into alternate worlds and make them real, and indeed he makes the chilly blue-gray war seascape of “Dunkirk” become alien.

The movie is certainly a departure from the usual focus on D-Day, showing the Dunkirk Evacuation as it unfolded in the late spring of 1940, 18 months before the US would enter WWII. The Battle of Britain would soon follow, with the air raids on London civilians.

But the film is also a morality play, about using a flotilla of volunteers and civilians who stepped up to the challenge of rescuing British, French, Belgian, and Canadian soldiers trapped on the beach in the frar north of France.  Call this more than radical hospitality, call it radical courage, but necessary.  The volunteers were needed because some of the waters were too shallow to accept regular British Navy ships.  We’ve seen the same spirit more recently after Hurricane Harvey with the “Cajun Navy”.

Nolan keeps the dialogue sparse and utilitarian. There is a particularly disturbing sequence where one soldier (Cillian Murphy) refuses to let the private boat that seems to have rescued him back into harms way to rescue more people, leading to complications leading to death of another soldier. A able civilian seaman (Bobby Lockwood) saves all.  The boat’s older skipper (is that Tom Hardy?) says about the soldier, “He may never be himself again.”  Later he says the only thing that matters is “Hope”. (In Corinthians it is “Charity”).

The incident is notable for savage Nazi air raids on safe harbors, including a Red Cross ship which sinks..  The movie has many impressive water scenes of men escaping drowning.

The music score by Hans Zimmer makes effective use of some of the material from Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations.

I saw this in an Imax presentation at AMC Tysons, with a presentation aspect ratio of about 2:1, it seemed.

Picture of evacuation (Wikipedia).

Name: Dunkirk
Director, writer:  Christopher Nolan
Released:  2017
Format:  Imax, variable aspect ratio, seemed to be about 2:1
When and how viewed:  Tysons Corner AMC, 2017/7/24, morning, moderate weekday audience
Length:  107
Rating:  PG-13
Companies:  Warner Brothers, Syncopy
Link:  official

(Posted: Monday, July 24, 2017 at 6:45 PM EDT)

“Wonder Woman: Rise of the Warrior”: who needs (cis, virile, manly) men anymore?

Patty Jenkins gave a passionate interview on, as I recall, ABC’s “Good Morning America” to explain her new DC Comics action film, “Wonder Woman: Rise of the Warrior”, from Warner Brothers.  She wanted to show a female heroine who was the equivalent of a Christ figure (my analogy), not “just” a Virgin Mary.

Indeed, the Amazonian society shown in the early 20th Century as the film starts seems to be all female (parthogenesis, perhaps), that doesn’t need men. The future wonder woman Diana (Lilly Aspell, then Gal Gadot as an adult) grows up as a warrior.  It looks like it came right out of the Burroughs Tarzan series, with women warriors.

There is some pagan mythology here.  Diana’s mother Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) wants to protect her daughter, who is determined to become a hero worthy of a future Star Wars. The overlord god Zeus loved mankind, but Ares considered man corrupt and let man play “survival of the fittest tribe” with increasingly destructive wars.  Finally, Antilope (Robin Wright) convinces Hippolyta that daughter Diana can become the comic world equivalent of a Navy Seal. (I recall Hippolyta as a name in high school.  A high school friend once mailed me a huge post card of little tunes and signed it Hippolyta.  I wonder if the card is somewhere in the attic.)

The story starts moving when  Diana rescues a British spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) from drowning. There’s a little skin shown here, and it looks like the encounter with her  laser-emanating “lasso of truth” costs Steve his chest hair.  Steve educates her about World War I, the War to End All Wars, or The Great War.

The remainder of the plot seems to deal with a desire of the British (David Thewlis) to make an armistice with Germany to stop the war, while a villain (Elena Anaya), with a mask to cover a burn-scarred face that would scare off crows and inspire Hannibal Lecter, concocts an unprecedented deadly poison gas that dissolves everything.

So here we have alternative fact history.  Wonder Woman and Steve’s interventions keep the Allies together until the Americans enter (although nobody gets into the politics of Woodrow Wilson, the draf, and his sedition laws) and in the end, England celebrates victory, only to brace for battles to come in two more decades, needing a wonder gay man (Alan Turing) to save them with “brains over brawn” (like “The Most Dangerous Game”)

This film has been popular in the gay community the week before Capital Pride.

Generally, I’m not as interested in the alternative comic book world presenting history as the real history itself.

The symphonic poem during the closing credits by Rupert Gregson-Williams was interesting.

Name:  “Wonder World: Rise of the Warrior”
Director, writer:  Patty Jenkins
Released:  2017
Format:  2.35:1, 3-D, Imax
When and how viewed:  AMC Courthouse Plaza, Arlington,, 2017/6/8, late, moderate audience
Length:  141
Rating:  PG-13
Companies:  Warner Brothers, DC Comics
Link:  official

(Posted: Friday, June 9, 2017 at 2:45 PM)

“Collateral Beauty”: this time, personal grief and metaphysical meditation don’t mix so well


Name: “Collateral Beauty”
Director, writer: David Frankel, Alan Loeb
Released: 2016/12
Format: 2.35:1
When and how viewed: Regal Ballston Common, 2016/12/16
Length 97
Rating PG-13
Companies: Warner Brothers, New Line Cinema, Village Roadshow Pictures
Link: official site

Collateral Beauty” (directed by David Frankel and written by Alan Loeb) is the third straight film here dealing with the loss of a relationship, and unusual ways to deal with the grief (two of the three settings are straight). But this movie, from its billing by Warner Brothers and New Line, seems to aim to replace “The Tree of Life” (2011) as a mystic mediation. It falls far short. It doesn’t goes as deep into the cosmos as Terrence Malick would take it.

Will Smith plays Howard, the president of a Madison Avenue agency (although most of the film seems shot in Brooklyn) lecturing his staff about the three components of life: Love, Time, and Death. He has this hobby of setting up domino waves to fall. (Model trains would sound so much more constructive).

Three years later, he’s in deep depression, over the loss of his daughter to a brain tumor. He lives alone in a Brooklyn efficiency, without phone or Internet or friends. He’s behind in rent. He writes letters to those three components of life The board of the company wants to have him declared incompetent, and hires private detectives to tail him for evidence.

They also hire his subordinates to break into his mailbox to steal the letters, and to impersonate the three Characters as actors. (Sounds like a “Retake”). Soon we learn of the losses of some of the other characters, especially Simon (Michael Pena) who has his third bout of multiple myeloma after two remissions.

There’s an all star cast, comprising Edward Norton (“Primal Fear”, “The Illusionist”), Helen Mirren, Keira Knightley, and Naomie Harris.

The orchestra music score by Theodore Shapiro sometimes echoes a passacaglia theme resembling Hans Zimmer’s music for “Inception”.

The film, to its credit, does dramatize the emotional intensity of interpersonal loss, something I have never experienced this way (but then again, there is “Manchester” to compare this to).

(Posted: Friday. Dec. 16, 2016 at 7:15 PM EST)

“Sully”: “duty” meant protecting the lives of New Yorkers on the ground as well as in his plane


Name: Sully
Director, writer:  Clint Eastwood (based on book by Chesley Sullenberger)
Released:  2016/11
Format:  2.35:1 or Imax
When and how viewed:  Angelika Mosaic, 2016/9/9, afternoon, fair audience
Length 96
Rating PG-13
Companies: Warner Brothers, Village Roadshow, Ratpac
Link: official 

Sully”, directed by Clint Eastwood (who composed some original popular music for the film) and written by Todd Lomarnick presents Tom Hanks in the eyes of a “man of action” hero, pilot Chesley Sullenberger (using his book “Highest Duty”), who saved the lives of 155 passengers on a USAir flight that endured bird strikes on both engines on Jan 15. 2009 as it was leaving La Guardia, by landing in the icy Hudson River.  This was five days before Obama’s inauguration.


The top-level plot concerns Sully’s vindication himself against the bureaucracy of the FAA and NTSB, for not trying to return to La Guardia or to Teeterboro, when post flight recovery suggested that one of the engines was still working.

On a narrative level, the film justifies his judgment, by showing dreams of the possible plane crashes into residential buildings in Manhattan or Queens that could have occurred, and final simulation, which Sully tweaks at his “trial” also makes the point.

Yes, it’s interesting that Warner Brothers releases this film on the 15th anniversary of 9/11.  But we get from the metaphor what Sully means by duty.

Aaron Eckhart looks scrubbed as the co-pilot Skiles.  Remember what happens to him in “Thank You for Smoking” (2005)?

Angelika also presented a 4-minute short film “Floaters” by Foster Huntington, about surfing.

(Published: Friday, September 9, 2016 at 9 PM EDT)