Charlie Wilson's War (2007)

Country: United States
Director: Mike Nichols
Starring: Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Amy Adams, Philip Seymour Hoffman
Writers: Aaron Sorkin (screenplay) / George Crile (book)
Music: James Newton Howard

Charlie Wilson’s War cops a lot of flack for being revisionist view of America’s involvement (or lack thereof) when the USSR invaded Afghanistan. It’s sort of along the lines (and of course this is a very simplified version) – the Mujahideen warriors who fought the Soviets, believed that the Americans idly sat by when the Soviets invaded. However this movie shows that the U.S. did take action, but an under the table action that wouldn’t draw attention, and cause the conflict to escalate to a showdown between the two super-powers. The thing is, the Mujahideen evolved into the Taliban, yep, those guys. One of the principal enemies in the war against terror.

The movie appears to be saying ‘Hey Taliban guys, I know you think Americans are the enemy, but in fact, they’re not. They helped you guys out – but just didn’t tell anybody’. I guess it is a pretty ham-fisted message. None-the-less, politics aside, Charlie Wilson’s War is a great film. I don’t think it is going to cause any terrorists to re-evaluate their war, but as far as entertainment goes, the film is top notch.

This is primarily because of the big name Hollywood stars in front of the camera. Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts and Philip Seymour Hoffman, do what they do best – entertain, in a movie that is briskly paced and thoroughly engaging.

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Charlie Wilson's War (2007)

From Hong Kong With Love

From Hong Kong With Love (Original Title: Bon Baisers De Hong Kong) is a film I have been trying to track down for years. It is naturally enough, a Bond spoof, and it features Bernard Lee and Lois Maxwell (which makes it an interesting curio for Bond fans).

I have never found an English version of it – but on Youtube, there is this French version. I have only watched the first five minutes (I have to hit the road today, and return to Melbourne), but the set up at least, is very easy to follow. Enjoy.

From Hong Kong With Love

The Glass Bottom Boat (1966)

Country: United States
Director: Frank Tashlin
Starring: Doris Day, Rod Taylor, Arthur Godfrey, Dom DeLuise, Dick Martin, Eric Fleming, Theo Macuse
Music: DeVol
Songs: ‘The Glass Bottom Boat’ by Joe Lubin, ‘Soft As The Starlight’ by Joe Lubin and Jerome Howard

Has the world changed so much in forty years? The Glass Bottom Boat is a lightweight romantic comedy that has dated badly. The fact that it has dated, is probably a sad reflection on the state of the world. We should be still able to laugh at Doris Day’s silly pratfalls, but today’s audience has seen all this before. This sort of shenanigans can be viewed on any night by watching re-runs of Bewitched or I Dream Of Jeannie – not that there’s any hocus-pocus in The Glass Bottom Boat – I am referring to the style of comedy. In fact there are a few very subtle similarities between The Glass Bottom Boat and I Dream Of Jeannie. First both of them are centred around NASA and the space program, and in Jeannie Larry Hagman’s character was Tony Nelson and in The Glass Bottom Boat Doris’ character is Jenny Nelson. Purely co-incidental, I am sure.

The film opens at sea, off Catalina Island. A Glass Bottom Boat carrying a group of tourists is sailing over the undersea gardens of coral and kelp. The tour guide, Axel Nordstrom (Arthur Godfrey) cheesily suggests that the tourists keep an eye out for mermaids. That’s the cue for Jenny Nelson (Doris Day) to dive into the water dressed in a mermaids costume, much to the delight of the passengers. But on this day, Bruce Templeton (Rod Taylor) is doing a spot of fishing in the area. His hook snares the tail end of Jenny’s costume and he reels it in. Rather unhappily, Jenny surfaces and gives Templeton a verbal spray. He is in a ‘no fishing’ area.

After a poppy animated title sequence, with Doris singing the theme song, we head to NASA headquarters and a press conference. It seems that Templeton is a big shot scientist and he has just invented a gravity device which will help astronauts in space. Also working at NASA as a girl Friday is Jenny. As she leads a gaggle of reporters through the facility, she gets her high heeled shoe caught in a grate. Who should happen along to help her? Templeton tries to assist, but she refuses to have anything to do with him after the mermaid incident. Strangely, Templeton becomes infatuated with this clumsy, hot tempered girl.

Jenny is in fact a widow and her only companion is a dog named Vladimir which stays locked in the house all day. Vladimir goes berserk when the phone rings in the house, so to give the pooch some exercise, Jenny calls the house about three times a day. When the phone rings, the dog starts to run around excitedly jumping over all the furniture. One of the security guards happens to witness Jenny’s calls and finds it all rather suspicious. She counts to ten and then says ‘that’s all for now Vladimir’. The guard thinks it is a code.

Outside of work hours, Jenny fills in her time with night courses at the local college. She studies everything from ceramics to map making. She is also studying creative writing. Templeton sees Jenny’s writing abilities as an opportunity to drag her into his life. As his new gravity device (Codenamed G.I.Z.M.O.) is about to launch him into the ‘big time’, he wants Jenny to act as his biographer. This entails following him around all day.

At this point, you’re probably thinking this doesn’t sound very ‘spy’ – it sounds like ‘schmaltzy’ romantic comedy – and you’d be right. But now the spy stuff starts. Templeton’s intends to hold a party at his swinging, hi-tech bachelor pad. After a security check by the CIA, Templeton’s plans go into action. Hired to install a P.A. system to pipe music throughout the house is Julius Pritter (Dom DeLuise). As Pritter connects the wiring, he has a little accident with a banana cream cake which Jenny has brought to the house.

Pritter is in fact a dirty spy, and as he recovers from the banana cream cake incident, he ransacks the house searching for Templeton’s top secret equation. Inside Templeton’s jacket pocket, he finds a mathematical equation scribbled on a piece of paper. Pritter produces a miniature camera and takes photographs of the information. Next link in the spy chain is Theo Macuse. Pritter hands over the microfilm at a carnival shooting gallery. As each of the spy sequences takes place, the music changes to big ‘bombastic’ Bond style music.

The villains of the piece, transmit the equation to their superiors, but the signal is intercepted by the C.I.A. The blame, naturally enough as you would have guessed, falls on Jenny. After all, as Templeton’s biographer, she has access to the latest advances and secrets that NASA has developed, and she has been making coded telephone calls to a man named Vladimir.

At the end of the day, the The Glass Bottom Boat is a lightweight affair. But it does go to show how pervasive the James Bond influence was. Even America’s favourite light comedienne, who at the time of this film’s release was entering her eighth consecutive year as a top 10 box office draw, felt the need to make a spy film. Okay, it isn’t a hard core spy film, but none-the-less it features spies, more gadgets than you could poke a stick at, and a glamorous leading man and lady. Now if you’re a fan of Doris, and to a lesser extent, Rugged Rod Taylor, you’ll find a lot to enjoy in The Glass Bottom Boat. Although the film isn’t a musical, Doris sings a couple of numbers, including a brief comical snatch of Que Sera. However, those seeking sixties Bondian style thrills will be sadly disappointed.

The Glass Bottom Boat (1966)

Austen Tayshus: Phantom Shuffle

Uploaded to youtube by: guelfenbein

October is the month of the Skeleton Suit! Or Skeletons, Skulls and Bones, and in a month long celebration, The Mysterious Order of the Skeleton Suit is checking out the Skeletons in their closets.

For an up-to-date direct connection with the Minions of M.O.S.S. check out the home page, or for you youngsters, you can follow the Facebook Fan Page or the Twitter feed.

Austen Tayshus: Phantom Shuffle

Napoleon Doble: @ 4DK

My knowledge of Filipino cinema is admittedly poor. I have heard of the Tony Falcon, Agent 44 series, starring Tony Ferrer, but I have never actually seen one. At least sixteen films featuring Falcon were made (possibly more), from 1965 till 1980. As many these films were little more than imitations of Bond, very little effort was made to preserve these films for future generations. They were banged out quick, then pushed around the market, hoping to generate as much cash in as short of time as possible. The films were then neglected and left to rot. As such many of these films are lost to us forever. The prints that do survive are scratched and faded and barely resemble their former colourful and psychedelic selves.

Then there was Weng Weng, the diminutive star of For Your Height Only, The Impossible Kid and D’Wild Wild Weng. I have seen and attempted to review For Your Height Only, but apart from that, I am still rather ignorant of Weng Weng’s career.

Then there’s Dolphy. Once again, I am sad to confess that my knowledge of Dolphy is limited to a few posters from films in which he parodies James Bond. But James Bond wasn’t the only sixties spy who was parodied. Napoleon Solo and The Man From UNCLE also came under fire. Once again, the intrepid cinematic explorer, Todd from Die, Danger, Die, Die Kill, has ventured into the unknown, macheted his way through the dense Filipino jungles and dug up Napoleon Doble and the Sexy Six.

Here’s a snippet

Surviving examples of Filipino pulp cinema from the 1960s are so few and far between that it’s always exciting when one turns up — even though, admittedly, I was less excited about the prospect of actually watching Napoleon Doble and the Sexy Six than I was by the mere fact of its existence. Like the previously reviewed James Batman, Doble is one of many spy spoof/action comedies from the period that starred the (still!) massively popular comedian Dolphy, and, having seen James Batman, I felt that I had already pretty much gotten what those movies were all about… more

Napoleon Doble and the Sexy Six, is not exactly the type of tribute that UNCLE fans would want or expect, but it is out there, and a reminder of just how popular UNCLE was across the world in the 1960s.

I forget where I found these Dolphy posters on the net many months ago – but I thank the person who uploaded them – they are a great visual timecapsule of films that are almost forgotten.

Napoleon Doble: @ 4DK