More personal craziness. Only two days after my son announced that I was to
be a grandfather, Lyndsey had a miscarriage, and I'm right back to square 1,
except with a very distraught son!
The Stone Merchant
Made in Italy with an international cast topped by Harvey Keitel, The
Stone Merchant is a "cautionary tale" about Islamofascism. The message is
that the West should stay on constant vigil against Islamic terrorism,
because 9/11 is only the beginning of the spectacularly violent acts planned
against the non-Muslim world.
Jordi Molla plays an Italian professor who studies Islamic terrorism, and
actually lost both of his legs to a terrorist attack on the American embassy
in Nairobi. As the film begins, his wife (Jane March) narrowly escapes a
terrorist attack on the Rome airport, and is so severely traumatized that
the proferssor takes her on a a vacation. In a case like this, where your
you take your wife to kick back? Maybe hiking in Utah? Sunning and boozing
it up in Acupulco or Perth? Someplace where the two of you can forget all
about Islamic militancy? That's you. This professor decides to take his wife
to Turkey, where they drive through remote locales until their car breaks
down and they are obvious Christian tourists stranded amongst ... well, I
think you can probably figure it out.
Harvey Keitel plays an Italian who sells precious gems in a touristy
section of Turkey, and the couple gravitates to him. In fact, Jane does
quite a bit of gravitating, in some ways not originally envisioned by Isaac
Newton. It goes without saying that Keitel is a secret convert to Islam, and
is using his connections and wealth to further the aims of terrorists in
Europe. His seduction of the professor's wife has some murky relationship to
his plan to explode a dirty bomb on a ferry in the Dover harbor, an act
which he pulls off successfully and which basically ends the story except
for a brief epilogue which involves some heavy-handed comments by the
professor to his class, thus giving the screenwriter a chance to speak his
own summary judgment through the professor's mouth. As you can imagine,
given that the lecturer has now lost both his legs and his wife to terrorist
attacks, his overview is not positive. He delivers his spiel and the film
Pretty cheery movie, eh?
The point of the film may or may not be correct, but whether you agree or
not, the film's execution doesn't justify your devoting any time to it. The
film is completely cardboard and one-sided, and the script is so paranoid
and so inartistic that it could have been written by Dick Cheney in his
underground lair. Salieri plays the slimy, oily head of the militants, and
the character is portrayed without any complexity as a single-minded
obsessive. He might as well be a moustache-twirling landlord who's tying our
heroine to a log in the sawmill, or perhaps more appropriately, a scheming,
murderous, scimitar-wielding villain from an Arabian Nights tale, except
that this evildoer is accessorized by a Koran and high tech weapons.
Keitel's character, being torn as he was between his duty to God and the
genuine love he came to feel for the woman he once seduced callously, might
have allowed a more balanced look at the cultural conflict which has gripped
the world, but the only regret Keitel showed was for the fact that his
masters in the terrorist organization wouldn't let him die with the woman on
the ferry. A couple of seedy-looking thugs dragged him away before the ship
could sail. I'm not sure why, since they killed him anyway!
To tell you the truth, I'm not even sure why the plotters needed Keitel
to seduce Jane March at all, because Salieri himself was actually on the
ferry, and he ended up exploding the bomb with a radio-controlled device. I
suppose that March was theoretically needed to provide a non-Arab to drive
the explosive-laden car onto the ferry, but that explanations hold no water.
Keitel was an Italian, ostensibly a Christian, presumably above suspicion,
and he was to die anyway, so why not just have him drive the car? Why did
the schemers need March? She just added another element which might have
gone wrong at the last minute.
Given the lack of nuance, the one-sided portrayal of Arabs, the lapses in the film's logic,
and the tacked-on love story which seems totally inappropriate in context, you're
going to have to struggle to find any good reason to spend your time on this
film - even if you are a strong Dick Cheney supporter and a die-hard Harvey Keitel
fan. It would be possible to make a good film with a similar message,
but it would have to be more thoughtful and complex than this one. It is
possible to make good liberal sermons and good conservative sermons, but it
is also possible to make bad ones on each side of the aisle, and this falls
into the bad group.
The IMDb score of 6.2 does indicate that the movie has an audience. It
elicits comments ranging from strong admiration to even more passionate
contempt, as you might expect from a propaganda film with such a
controversial viewpoint. I don't really see where the supporters of the film
have much of a case for recommending it, other than that they basically just happen to agree
with its paranoid sermon, and think that the film expresses their own fears
in dramatic fashion.
Very low C-, and that score comes with the adjuration that, based on the
IMDb comments, you will undoubtedly have strong feelings for the film either
way. Some find it to be powerful moviemaking which convey a necessary message,
while others are appalled by its shallow, stereotypical portrayal of the
* Yellow asterisk: funny (maybe).
* White asterisk:
Blue asterisk: not mine.
No asterisk: it probably
Catch the deluxe
version of Other Crap in real time, with all the bells and whistles,
Levottomat 3 (2004) is the third and final Levottomat film, and is sometimes
known as Addiction. A quick look at IMDb will leave you expecting a very bad
film. IMDb readers currently have this at 3.1, but this is after a massive campaign
that originated in Finland to get it into the 100 worst of all time, so
703 of the 1,280 who voted scored it the minimum "1." A backlash seems to have caused 86 perfect
10s. There are no external reviews, and the internal IMDb comments, while all negative, don't seem to
show any agreement on what the problem was. Some blame cast, others script,
others direction, and one even blamed product placement. I had no idea what to
expect, but the unpopularity of this film ended up being a trivially easy matter to explain. It is a
suck" film, but the drug is sex. In other words it's a "sex sucks" film. That's
not a theme with a large ready-made audience.
Mi Groenlund plays a successful advertising exec who's married to an architect, and
living in a nice home with their two perfect kids. Her husband is something of a
workaholic, but is also a caring husband and father. She barely notices because
she is addicted to sex, and has had numerous one night stands. By the time we
join the story, she is out of control. She is given a new account at work,
to help promote a new book by a sex therapist, who encourages her to seek help in her sex addiction group, but of
course Mi has not hit bottom and won't listen. "Her next time will be her last,
and she is getting a handle on it." Before she gets honest, she is discovered
and will likely lose her family and husband, her job, and nearly her life when
she finally picks up a sicko.
It's easy to see why the film provoked so many negative reactions. First, the
film as no insight. Even with the sex therapist for exposition, the script never
examines what has made Mi the way she is. Second, the film is a real
downer with no entertainment value, unless you are entertained by watching
someone ruin her life. Third, it skimps on female nudity. Fourth, there are many
jump cuts that make the film seem like it is stuttering.
Bottom line? It is a "sex sucks" film with very little sex, no bright spots,
and nothing to teach us.
This is a D.
With a theme of sexual addiction, you would expect lots of nudity and
simulated sex, but this is not so. Mi Groenlund does show breasts and buns frequently, and
Jasper Paakkonen as her lover does a lengthy full frontal, but other minor
characters could have used some exposure, both in screen time and in nudity.
Notes and collages
Force 10 From Navarone
...when I was 13 years old I went to Finland, my parents' homeland, for six
weeks in the winter. For those unacquainted with Scandinavia in regards to
sunlight, winter days are about 4 hours long if twilight is considered DAY.
I recall two things from that trip: 1) I found a reindeer leg (which was
really neat for a 13 year old boy;) and 2) I bought from the local
bookstore every English-language Alistair Maclean novel they had in stock.
"Force 10 from Navarone" was one of those books (along with "The Guns of
Navarone" and "Ice Station Zebra" and "Puppet on a Chain" and "Fear is the
Key," all of which also became films.)
I thank Alistair Maclean for keeping me from going insane that long dark
Oh, and Barbara Bach is hot ... this concludes her series.
Un especial de películas de politica
española sobre el tema del terrorismo y la organización terrorista ETA.
Son películas basadas en hechos reales de la reciente historia de España.
El equipo de rodaje ha sido el mismo en las dos películas.
"El lobo" (2004) está inspirada en
la historia de Mikel Lejarza (Eduardo Noriega), alias Lobo, el agente de
los servicios secretos españoles que consiguió infiltrarse en ETA entre
1973 y 1975 y provocó la caída de una cuarta parte de la militancia etarra
de la época, unos ciento cincuenta activistas y colaboradores, incluyendo
a los miembros más destacados de sus comandos especiales y a la cúpula
dirigente del momento. La infiltración de Lejarza, conocida como 'Operación
Lobo', supuso un mazazo a la organización en un momento en el que sus
acciones se estaban convirtiendo en la excusa perfecta para que los
sectores más involucionistas del régimen de Franco se decidieran a tomar
el poder y bloquear el futuro democrático que ansiaban los españoles. La
aventura del Lobo consiguió frustar el primer plan de fuga masiva de
presos etarras de la cárcel de Segovia y una sangrienta campaña de
atentados indiscriminados, con los que ETA pretendía demostrar su fuerza
en la agónica coyuntura del régimen y provocar al Ejército para asegurar
su supervivencia a través de su estrategia Acción-Represión-Acción. La
operación constituyó el mayor éxito policial contra ETA hasta la fecha.
Como consecuencia de su trabajo como infiltrado, la organización conde-nó
a muerte a Lejarza, empapeló el País Vasco de carteles con su fotografía
bajo la leyenda "Se busca", el Lobo se vio obligado a cambiar de identidad
y de rostro, y a desaparecer sin dejar rastro. La historia del Lobo es la
de un hombre utilizado y destrozado por los servicios secretos de la
dictadura que intentaron eliminarle en mitad de la operación y que tuvo el
coraje de salvarse por sus pro-pios medios y continuar con su misión. Su
huella fue tan profunda que en la actualidad los comandos que parten hacia
España para realizar atentados aún reciben una bala de reserva para matar
En su palmares cinematográfico cuenta con dos premios en la 19ª
edición de los premios Goya:
- Mejor montaje: Guillermo S. Maldonado
- Mejores Efectos Especiales: Abades, Pascual y Lorenzo
This begins a two-part special on reality-based films about Spanish politics
and history, specifically on the subject of terrorism and the
terrorist organization known as ETA.
"El Lobo (The Wolf)" (2004) is inspired by the history of Mikel Lejarza
(Eduardo Noriega), alias The Wolf, the Spanish intelligence agent who was
able to infiltrate the ETA between 1973 and 1975 and caused the
destruction of a quarter of their operation. Operation Wolf constituted the
greatest police success against ETA up to that time. Lejarda brought
down about one hundred
fifty activists and collaborators, including the most outstanding
members of his special commandos and their leader.
Oddly enough, the 150 men arrested were considered political prisoners
and were all eventually released by Juan Carlos when he became king.
Lobo's operation destabilized the terrorist organization at a time when
its actions where becoming a perfect validation for the most conservative
arm of the Franco regime to take full powers and stop the progress of
democracy in Spain. The film takes place during Spain's turbulent and
sometimes repressive 1970s struggle to convert from fascism to democracy,
and portrays the government with little more sympathy than the terrorists.
The Wolf's personal story has a mysterious conclusion. Because of his
betrayal, ETA sentenced Lobo to death and covered the whole Basque country
with wanted posters of the traitor, hoping that their supporters would aid
in his capture. He could not turn to the government for help because they
had coerced him into working for them in the first place. As a result Mikel
had to change his name and face and disappear without a trace. The memory of
El Lobo is so vivid to the ETA that its members still, to this day, carry
around a bullet bearing his name so they can kill the traitor if they ever
The film was nominated for five Goya Awards, and won two of them, for
best editing and best special effects
La Isla del Diablo
When Captain Murphy is attacked by two thieves, an unemployed sailor
named Bob (Eduardo MacGregor) recovers the captain's money. In return, the
captain hires Bob to work on his ship. In a storm, they have to abandon
their vessel and their lifeboat is rescued by pirates. With the support of the cook
who drugs the crew, they escape with two sisters (Miriam Cramer and Erica Satterwhaite) to
"The Devil's Island." The pirate captain pursues the group to the island,
where a tribe of cannibals worships a monster and protects a treasure.
And it's every bit as good as it sounds.
The producers tried to do a 1920's adventure movie in 1994, and if
you are going to do that, the least you can do is make it better not worse. Most of the actors can't act and the effects are laughable, I can't recommend this one at all,
but at least they included some nudity, probably to get distribution.
The Comedy Wire
Tuesday, the CIA released hundreds of pages of internal documents in which
various top CIA officials admitted some of the worst things the agency has
done. Among them: wiretapping American journalists, reading mail sent between
the US and Russia and China, breaking into the homes of ex-CIA employees, spying
on anti-war protesters, testing LSD and other mind-altering drugs on unwitting
US citizens, and plotting to kill Fidel Castro.
* Let's hope they were as incompetent at all those other
things as they were at killing Castro.
A study by savings experts at the Children's Mutual of Great Britain
found that the Tooth Fairy is a victim of major inflation. The average kid now
gets more than $2 per tooth, over five times what his parents got, for a 500
percent inflation rate in 25 years. Last year, the Tooth Fairy paid out a total
of $40 million (US) in Britain. A study spokesman said, "The generosity of the
Tooth Fairy has accelerated rapidly - and shows no signs of abating."
* Or maybe the Tooth Fairy pays out so much because
British kids lose a lot of teeth.
Next week, a ban on smoking in pubs will go into effect across Britain, but the
owner of the Wellington Arms pub in Southampton is fighting back. Bob Beech
made a deal with the tiny Caribbean island of Redonda to declare his pub as
their British embassy. If he can get that past UK authorities, that means his
pub would officially be on Redondan soil, so not only would guests not have to
follow the British anti-smoking law, but they wouldn't have to pay the British
tax on beer.
* They could just spend that money in the casino.
* The bad news for the pub: Redonda's official currency is dried jellyfish.
After a lawsuit that dragged on for 11 years, Elton John was awarded $500,000
(US) compensation for four marble statues of Greek gods he bought from a French
antique shop that claimed they were by a famous 18th century Italian artist.
They turned out to be recent, cheap copies made in China.
* 11 years? What about the statue of limitations?