A COLLAPSING WORLD IN “SAN ANDREAS FAULT” – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP Tuesday: Fault

Last night, tired of the endless depressing, appalling, horrible news from around the world, Garry played a movie he had previously recorded.

San Andreas Fault is not merely a disaster film. It is every disaster film you have ever seen in one film. It’s earthquakes that will turn Kansas into the Pacific beach capital of the nation. It’s crashing buildings, towering infernos, the hugest Omigod tsunamis. We get to see the bravest heroes and most craven cowardice.

It’s all there. Everything you can pack into a movie is in this one. From CGI to humor (parts are so bad they are funny) to the end of the world, to the final line we all know is coming.

The crashing bridge

Every cliché from every disaster movie made in the past century are in this film.  I’m pretty sure we’ve seen all of them, but we’d never seen this one before.

I think it was originally filmed in 3D. Everyone said it was drivel, but it made more than $300,000 million at the box office, so clearly drivel sells well.

Crashing cruise ship

It certainly sold well at our house last night. When the intended second husband of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson‘s wife (Carla Gugino)  played by Ioan Gruffudd (aka “The Asshole”) abandons Rock’s daughter to her fate, trapped under fallen cement in a parking garage, it’s no less than you expect from the cowardly CEO of a major corporation.

Hollywood crashing

We know they are cowards because … well …that’s what they always do in the movies, right? Have you ever seen a brave, manly CEO stand up to anyone or anything outside a boardroom? Especially when they are trying to marry the hero’s ex-wife who we all know should be with the hero.

Even though The Hero can’t utter a coherent sentence (and probably hasn’t since he came back from The War) (insert name of war here), he’s a hero (with medals to prove it) and would never run. Not even when a million tons of water and a complete cruise ship is about to fall on his head.

The Rock watching everything crash

Ultimately, the family reconnects. The entire west coast is smoldering ruins covered by about half the Pacific Ocean. There isn’t a bridge, a building … nothing. Total, absolute devastation from Canada to Mexico.

Garry is giggling to himself.  Because he knows. I know. We both know. It’s coming. That final line.

The Rock (who is no longer the Rock), arm around his wife, his daughter  (having been saved by him of course), is gazing over the wreckage of the world and Garry murmurs sotto voce: “Now … we rebuild.”

[Beat. Beat. Beat. Pause about 3 seconds.]

The Rock says: “Now … we rebuild.”

Garry collapses into laughter. The last time he laughed that much was when Trevor Noah had Ben Carson on the show and Trevor did a better Ben Carson than Ben Carson.

Garry was still howling while the credits rolled. It was a perfect ending.

san-andreas-fault-with-dwayne-the-rock-johnson-000

We’d seen the world end. We’d see the best, the bravest. The worst. We’d seen the most depraved cowardice imaginable and in HD wide-screen. In our own living room, no less.

But now, we will rebuild. We have to rebuild … because … SAN ANDREAS 2 is coming! 

As the headline says, this will finally allow The Rock (who no longer calls himself “the Rock”, so you have to call him Dwayne) (it’s a long way from being ‘The Rock’ to being Dwayne) to punch an earthquake.

Then, we will rebuild.

WHITER THAN THE WHITEWASH ON THE WALL – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Whitewash

From “Oh! What a Lovely War” made and released in 1969, these are songs soldiers sang in the field.

Despite the awfulness of our current political days, the endless years of World War 1 were at least — in their own way — as bad or worse. They probably didn’t “feel” as bad because they weren’t coming from “better times” to worse ones, which Americans (at least) are doing. But it was a filthy war that killed off an entire generation of European men. It took until World War 2 for there to be enough men to fight again — a statement that should make you shiver.

The war was hideous and rather than being “the war to end all wars” became the war that started all other wars, many of which we are still fighting.

It was the first movie David Attenborough directed and it’s brilliant. If you can get your hands on it, watch it. Then watch it again and maybe do a little reading.

The horrors of the past are just lurking around the next corner of the road.

This is “Whiter than the Whitewash on the Wall”

And finally, the ending sequence that to this day brings tears to my eyes.

This is what we seem to be trying to repeat, but from our next war, we might not have a world from which to emerge.

Also, click here for the Roger Ebert review of the movie, “OH WHAT A LOVELY WAR” from 1969, which was just the day before yesterday, wasn’t it?

FLYPAPER (2011) AND FILM CRITICS – Marilyn Armstrong

A while ago, Garry and I watched what is I am sure among the lowest grossing movies of all time. I don’t say this lightly. In its theatrical run, it grossed exactly (according to both Wikipedia and IMDB) $1100, which even for us is not a giant sum of money. No, there aren’t any zeroes missing. That’s the real number.

This is not the lowest grossing movie ever. In 2013, Storage 24,  the British sci-fi/horror flick grossed just $72 (in the U.S.) after it was released for one day, on one screen. In 2012,  Playback cost $7.5 million to film but only grossed $264 — the lowest-grossing film of that year.

Still, the all-time loser is definitely 2006’s Zyzzx Road, starring Katherine Heigl which grossed $30. You can look this stuff up. You might be surprised at how many films lose money on initial release, though some make it up later when released to cable and DVD. The bigger the initial budget, the larger the potential for disaster, so despite these horrific numbers, many movies actually lost much more money.

Flypaper only cost $5,000,000 to make, so they only lost $4,998,900. For a Hollywood bomb, that’s small potatoes. The movie was universally panned. It opened in one movie house on two screens, then disappeared until it popped up on cable. Garry didn’t recognize it, so he recorded it on the bedroom DVR. A couple of nights ago, while I was reading in bed (my favorite indulgence), I noticed the bed was shaking. He was laughing. Really laughing. Garry doesn’t normally lay in bed laughing. He told me that he was going to save this one because he thought I’d like it. If Garry thinks its funny, it’s funny. He has a discerning sense of humor.

Flypaper is a good little comedy. Farce, if you like. A parody of bank heist movies plus a bit of slapstick, technobabble, and some fine explosions. The dialogue is witty, which is more than I can say for a lot of movies the critics thought were great.

I do not understand critics and often wonder if we saw the same movie they reviewed. Sometimes, I wonder if they actually saw the movie at all or they read someone else’s review and are just repeating what they heard.

Flypaper features Ashley Judd and Patrick Dempsey. It’s directed by Rob Minkoff. The writers were the same guys who created the characters from The Hangover. Rob Minkoff is known for co-directing The Lion King. So they’ve got their bona fides in order.

My first thought, as the credits were rolling, was that it reminded me of the credits for the Pink Panther. And, it turns out, the movie reminded me of the Pink Panther too, minus Inspector Clouseau. Okay, it isn’t Blake Edwards, but it’s the same sort of “What else could go wrong” humor. It’s not a great movie, but it is a good one and fun to watch. Certainly worthy of at least a straight to DVD presentation.

I would normally not write about it, but it’s gotten a bum rap: horrible reviews and no support from its studio. Showing it for a week in one theater on two screens, with no advertising or PR is not exactly a grand opening. It deserved better.

The reviews in IMDB and Wikipedia demonstrate whoever wrote them never saw the movie. The descriptions are wildly inaccurate. I guess anonymity is not always bad. I wouldn’t sign my name to that drivel either. Then again, I wouldn’t review a movie I’ve never watched or a book I haven’t read. Call me old-fashioned.

Critics heap praise on movies that are boring or worse. They pan movies that are creative, unique, and interesting. They apparently take special pleasure in negative reviews, the more vicious the better. Meanwhile, they glorify obscure movies in which no one will be interested. They seem to believe that a good movie has to be dull. Ditto books. “Literary fiction” produces the most boring books I’ve ever read.

There will always be people who love things that don’t make sense because they figure it must be full of secret meaning. I went to school with these people. Didn’t we all?

Flypaper is funny. We enjoyed it.  We laughed. A comedy should make you laugh. This does. It’s every bank heist movie you’ve seen with Murphy’s Law running amok. Everything that can go wrong does. Parts of the film remind me of Wily Coyote cartoons. You know something’s going to happen, but it doesn’t spoil the joke.

The pacing is appropriately frantic. The cast manages to keep straight faces. The dialogue is funny and well-delivered. You have to listen because good lines are easy to miss if you aren’t paying attention.

Our favorite bit of dialogue is between two of the older bank robbers complaining that they miss the good old days when all you needed was a gun and a brown paper bag. This in the midst of what could only be called the most catastrophically unsuccessful bank heist ever attempted.

The ending is predictable … or maybe not. It depends on how your mind works. If you bump into it on cable or somewhere, give it a look. It’s pretty good. Really. I’m not kidding. I did watch it, including the credits.

Available from Amazon on DVD, Blu-ray, and download, most people who actually watched it, liked it. I’m still trying to figure out why the critics were so negative.

The more I write know about movies, the less I understand critics.

“BEING THERE” – A MODERN DAY REVIEW – Garry Armstrong

Last night, Marilyn and I watched “Being There.” We hadn’t seen this comedy from 1979 in a long time, probably years. What a difference time has made!

I recall seeing “Being There” when it opened. I enjoyed the farcical Hal Ashby film about a mentally challenged man who somehow influences high and mighty power brokers including our Commander-In-Chief and his aides. It seemed like a Capra-esque flight of fantasy in 1979.  Couldn’t happen in real life. Our political leaders couldn’t be so naïve or vulnerable. We were caught up with Jimmy Carter versus Ronald Reagan. Many laughed at the notion of an actor becoming President.

It wouldn’t happen, we smart folks reasoned with our historical savvy. No way a B-movie actor, revered for his roles as a beloved college football player and pal to a chimp named Bonzo — no way that guy could become the most powerful political figure in the world.  So we smugly thought.

Being There, 1979 poster

Peter Sellers is “Chance.” AKA Chauncey Gardner, a middle-aged gardener. The simple-minded assistant to a wealthy man who dies at the beginning of “Being There.” We don’t know much about Chance except he apparently has the mental capacity of a child. He is a brilliant gardener and likes to watch television. Chance is a sweet-tempered fellow whose world revolves around tending the garden — and watching television. He can’t read or write. He just gardens. And likes to watch …. television.

Chauncey Garden walking through Washington DC

Through a series of farcical plot twists, Chance becomes the house guest of an elderly, dying business tycoon and political king-maker (Melvyn Douglas) and his capricious wife (Shirley MacLaine).  The new benefactors mistake Chance’s observations about gardening as metaphors for Wall Street and fixing what ails our government.

The President (Jack Warden), a close friend of the tycoon, thinks Chance — now accepted as the mysterious Chauncey Gardner — is his benign Henry Kissinger. Chauncey’s garden recipes become talking points for the President’s economic directive.

Peter Sellers & Shirley MacLaine in Being There (1979)

There’s one hilarious scene in the middle of the film where the Black maid who raised Chauncey from infancy — and knows he has “rice pudding between his ears” — rails at her friends and points out that “all you need to become president is to be white.” That was a joke in 1979. Not so funny these days.

In 1979, the movie plot seemed outrageous and outlandish. In those days,  many of us didn’t believe Ronald Reagan could be taken seriously. None of us conceived of him as what we called “a president.” We would have deemed it impossible. I still do.

As “Being There” reaches its conclusion, Melvyn Douglas’ tycoon dies. At the cemetery, as he is laid to rest, the tycoon’s pals and the President’s aides quietly share anxiety about the country’s future. They don’t think the President is strong enough to lead the country out of its economic swamp. There’s a final quiet agreement that only one man can save the country, the man with the savvy garden metaphors, Chauncey Gardner.

Closing scene

The man who would be President is seen wandering through the woods and into a lake, staking his umbrella in the water, perhaps divining a miracle. The end credits roll with outtakes of Peter Sellers laughing his way through many retakes of plays on words.

Marilyn and I laughed as the credits rolled by. Then, we looked at each other. Quietly. Very quietly. Through some bizarre upside-down ill-starred event, during the heart of a perfect political storm, Chauncey Gardner became America’s president after all. Not benign — and definitely not a gardener, yet surely as stupid and illiterate.

A gardener would have been a better choice. At least he could have grown a few roses.

“SAN ANDREAS FAULT” – THE MOVIE WHERE EVERYTHING HAPPENS – Marilyn Armstrong

Last night, tired of the endless depressing, appalling, horrible news from around the world, Garry played a movie he had previously recorded.

San Andreas Fault is not merely a disaster film. It is every disaster film you have ever seen in one film. It’s earthquakes that will turn Kansas into the Pacific beach capital of the nation. It’s crashing buildings, towering infernos, the hugest omigod tsunamis. We get to see the bravest heroes and most craven cowardice.

It’s all there.

The crashing bridge

Every cliché from every disaster movie made in this and the previous century includes a lot of movies.  Worse, I’m pretty sure we’ve seen all of them, but we’d never seen this one before.

I think it was originally filmed in 3D. Everyone said it was drivel, but it made more than $300,000 million at the box office, so clearly drivel sells well.

Crashing cruise ship

It certainly sold well at our house last night. When the intended second husband of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson‘s wife (Carla Gugino)  played by Ioan Gruffudd (aka “The Asshole”) abandons Rock’s daughter to her fate, trapped under fallen cement in a parking garage, it’s no less than you expect from the cowardly CEO of a major corporation.

Hollywood crashing

We know they are cowards because … well …that’s what they always do in the movies, right? Have you ever seen a brave, manly CEO stand up to anyone or anything outside a boardroom? Especially when they are trying to marry the hero’s ex-wife who we all know should be with the hero.

Even though The Hero can’t utter a coherent sentence (and probably hasn’t since he came back from The War (insert name of war here), he’s a hero (with medals to prove it) and would never run, not even when a million tons of water and a complete cruise ship is about to fall on his head.

The Rock watching everything crash

So. Finally. The family reconnects. The entire west coast is smoldering ruins covered by about half the Pacific Ocean. There isn’t a bridge, a building … nothing. Total, absolute devastation everywhere.

Garry is giggling to himself.  Because he knows. I know. We both know. It’s coming.

The Rock, arm around his wife, his daughter saved, is gazing over the wreckage of the world and Garry murmurs … “Now, we rebuild.”

Beat. Beat. Beat. Pause.

And THEN The Rock says: “Now, we rebuild.”

Garry collapsed into laughter. The last time he laughed that much was when Trevor Noah had Ben Carson on the show and Trevor did a better Ben Carson than Ben Carson. Garry was still howling while the credits rolled.

A perfect ending.

san-andreas-fault-with-dwayne-the-rock-johnson-000

We’d seen the world end. We’d see the best, the bravest. The worst. We’d seen the most depraved cowardice imaginable and in HD wide-screen.

But now, we rebuild. We have to rebuild … because … SAN ANDREAS 2 is coming! As the headline says, this will finally allow The Rock (who no longer calls himself “the Rock”, so you have to call him Dwayne) to punch an earthquake.

No cowardice allowed!

AND HELL’S COMING WITH ME … – Marilyn Armstrong

Wyatt Earp: All right, Clanton… you called down the thunder, well now you’ve got it! You see that?
[pulls open his coat, revealing a badge]
Wyatt Earp: It says United States Marshal!
Ike Clanton[terrified, pleading] Wyatt, please, I …
Wyatt Earp[referring to Stillwell, laying dead] Take a good look at him, Ike … ’cause that’s how you’re gonna end up!
[shoves Ike down roughly with his boot]
Wyatt Earp: The Cowboys are finished, you understand? I see a red sash, I kill the man wearin’ it!
[lets Ike up to run for his life]
Wyatt Earp: So run, you cur… RUN! Tell all the other curs the law’s comin’!
[shouts]
Wyatt Earp: You tell ’em I’M coming… and hell’s coming with me, you hear? …
[louder]
Wyatt Earp: And Hell’s coming with me!


Hell is definitely coming …

The dust rose from the desiccated, dusty road that is Main Street in Tombstone. The horses looked hot and tired. They had every right to be. It was godawful hot. In the sun, more than 125 degrees and I don’t care, dry or not, that’s like sitting in an oven. Add basting and soon, you could be Thanksgiving dinner somewhere.

Tombstone

I think when it isn’t quite as hot, you can ride the stage. When the temps are that high, it’s not good to stress the horses more than they are already stressed merely by pulling the coach. Slowly pulling the coach. It’s a pretty big carriage, though they are also huge horses.

Still, heat kills. It’s bad enough to make horses pull the stage in such weather, but to add the weight of passengers might be too much. Those big horses come dear, you know. The interior of the stage is probably pretty hot too.

As we wandered around the town, we bought souvenir tee shirts. One for me, one for Garry. Of course, we did. Wouldn’t you? They were pretty pricey, so we bought only two. We also bought some books. And a calendar. I think we would have bought the coach, the horses and maybe the saloon if we could have. We really liked Tombstone.

We also love the movie. I really don’t know how many times we’ve watched it. Often enough so we both know all the lines. the scenes. We laugh before it’s funny because we already know. So being in Tombstone was awesome. No, I mean it. Really awesome. As in “we were struck with awe” and also, we didn’t fall down with heat stroke, though I’m pretty sure we were pretty close to it.

Garry bought a tee-shirt that said “You tell ’em I’M coming…” and mine said, “And Hell’s coming with me.” You had to see us together to really feel it.

These days, our sense of justice has been so deeply damaged, we have returned to watching Westerns to get some of that old justice juice going.

The movie is “Tombstone.” It was shot in Tombstone, Arizona in 1993. They more or less rebuilt the town to make the movie and have kept it that way. It brings in tourists. We are exactly the kind of tourists for whom they are always waiting.

We would gladly have spent more money, but retirees don’t have a lot of spare money. And, to be fair, we own many, many tee-shirts already. I had settled for taking pictures and staying in the shade. No wonder they had covers over the sidewalks. Even for Arizona, that was a serious heat wave, but at least the shade made it possible to inhale.

We watched Wyatt and his crew clean up the west. They killed them all. The move is full length, but it always feels too short. Garry says that’s how you know a movie is perfect because you don’t want it to end.

I didn’t want it to end.

LYING, LIES AND LIARS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

Since Donald Trump entered the political scene, we’ve had to deal with lies and lying on a daily basis. You could say that our society has become obsessed with lying.

At first the news media were reluctant to call Trump’s untruths, ‘lies’. They felt that the word was too harsh and possibly biased. But as time has increased the number, the frequency and the egregiousness of ‘untruths’ coming out of Trump’s mouth, the media has changed it’s tune. Now they call his lies, ‘lies’. So we hear people talking about lies and lying every day.

In this atmosphere, we watched one of our favorite movies again and saw it from a different perspective. The movie, from 2009, is called “The Invention Of Lying”. It’s a Ricky Gervais masterpiece.

It couldn’t be more relevant to today’s culture of political lying. The movie has a very interesting concept. People in the movie’s world can only tell the absolute truth. They are incapable of lying, of saying anything that is not 100% true. They can’t even imagine the possibility of lying.

This leads to some interesting interchanges since everyone is brutally honest at all times. Examples of this phenomenon are: Secretary tells her boss he is a loser and she’s hated every day she has had to work for him. A waiter tells the customer “I don’t like you, so I spit in your food.” On a date, the leading lady tells the hero she won’t sleep with him or go out with him again because he’s not a good genetic match. She’s beautiful but he’s short, fat, and has a snub nose. She doesn’t want fat kids with snub noses.

A sign outside a nursing home says something like, “Depressing Place Where Old People Go To Die.”

Another side effect of total truth-telling is that there is no art, TV, theater or even novels. This is because art and fiction are forms of making things up. Saying things that are not 100% true. So the only entertainment is ‘readers’ reading history lessons on film. The history writers are each assigned centuries. They produce scripts depicting real events from that century. One popular movie was “Napoleon – 1812-1813.”

The hero of the movie, Marc, played by Ricky Gervais, suddenly realizes that he has the ability to say things that ‘aren’t’. He first uses his ability to lie to get money from his bank. He merely tells the teller that he has $800 in his account when he only has $300. The teller apologizes for the bank error and gives Marc the $800 that she now believes he has in his account. Whatever Marc said must be true, so it must be a computer error.

The movie ramps up the social commentary when Marc ‘invents’ religion. His mother is dying and tells Marc that she is scared. So, to make her less fearful of dying, Marc tells her that she’ll be going to a wonderful place where she’ll see all her deceased loved ones, she’ll be eternally happy and she’ll get her own mansion. Some hospital personnel overhears Marc’s conversation with his Mom and they believe everything he says.

The next day, there’s a huge crowd outside Marc’s house demanding more information about what happens when you die. Marc ends up inventing ‘a man in the sky’ who controls everything. He writes down ten rules about the man and the afterlife on two pizza cartons. It’s very interesting to see the changes in society and in the people once religion is introduced.

The genius of this movie is that while it’s a super high concept film, you really care about the main characters. You get drawn into the ‘love story’ at the core of the plot. The drama revolves around whether or not the beautiful and wonderful girl, Anna, played by Jennifer Garner, will overcome the superficial biases of the culture and marry her best friend. He’s the guy she rejected by saying that he would give her fat kids with snub noses.

This movie is a hidden gem. Lots of big stars today had small parts in the movie. People like Tina Fey, Rob Lowe, Louis C.K., Jeffrey Tambor, Jonah Hill, etc. Great casting!

I highly recommend this movie. We’ve shown it to a few friends and they are all blown away. They thank us for introducing them to something so well done and engaging. I hope we can create a cult of fans for this overlooked and underappreciated piece.

I hope you’ll watch it! You’ll thank me too! Since we live with non-stop lies from our leaders, it’s refreshing to spend two hours with people who can’t lie at all!