Flop Friday: Thirteen Days (2000)

PG-13, 145 minutes, Drama

StarringKevin CostnerBruce GreenwoodSteven Culp

I remember the excitement my mother felt when she heard about a JFK movie starring Kevin Costner. The Bay of Pigs and politics and… and… talking. My mother was all thrills. And then, for some reason, they never went to go see it. Time went on and eventually my parents passed a VHS copy of the movie sitting on a shelf in a now closed Blockbuster. Suddenly the excitement came back. Back then they watched it. I didn’t.

Over time I’ve come to think of JFK as one of the worst Presidents we’ve had in the U.S. I didn’t grow up in that generation and his legacy is quite frankly shoddy–a rockstar leader whose claim to fame was instituting a retirement system that can no longer stand by itself and surviving a notable era of worldwide turmoil… Oh wait, he didn’t. Nevertheless my mother-in-law got ahold of the same movie and went into a tizzy over it.

Thirteen Days 2
“If I cross my arms, will I, er, uh, look less stupid, Jack?”

So this stupid movie is about stupid politicians stopping stupid bad guys from being stupid. Was that descriptive enough for you? No? Well then just think of the worst episode of J.A.G. imaginable and instead of Harmon Rabb, you have Mayor Quimby from The Simpsons playing Kevin Costner’s accent. That is Thirteen Days. If I haven’t lost you yet: it’s just a drama about the Cuban Missile Crisis.

And I hate it. Couldn’t you tell?

Apparently this movie is based on a book that I’ll never read. There are no less than three types of filming going on here: black and white, color, and… historical? Cuban? I’m not sure… They decided to pack this film with all kinds of historical data, right down to recreating recorded closed-door dialogues. So we’re given all kinds of historical accuracy here and really, that’s just about the best thing going on. Oh, and those black and white sequences? I read somewhere that they’re “chapter breaks” to introduce new sections of the story, but really they’re just disorienting.

Thirteen Days 3
“Boy, er, Jack, you are right there. I did look, uh, stupid.”

So can we talk about the bad accents? Or the underwhelmingly, er, “dramatic” forums? The chaotic pacing? The level of boring compared to the lengthy runtime? Look, this movie can hardly be considered good. As far as I can tell there is a swarm of zeitgeist surrounding it that the older generation seems to appreciate more than I. You’re better off watching J.A.G. because this movie sucks and reality isn’t exactly exciting.

Rating: Destroy on sight.

Watch: Don’t.
Don’t watch: *high five*



Unbroken (2014)

I’ve mentioned before that I was into World War II when I was younger.  Recently, it seems like I’ve been watching a lot of films related to the conflict.  I’m just not sure whether it’s a trend in the movie industry or if it’s my own interests that have led me here.  Surely I’m drawn to the era.  Some might see the men who served as the last generation of real men.  Others might talk about principals and religious foundation.  Some might just point how simple life was back then.  One thing is for sure: the war gave people focus and I find that determination admirable.

Louis Zamperini was a real life survivor.  His story begins with him turning his life from delinquency to the fame of an Olympic athlete.  With the onset of World War II, Louis joins the air force and is successful as a bombardier.  A long series of misfortunes befall Louis as his plane crash lands in the Pacific.  Surviving his ordeal at sea, he must then survive the rigors being of a prisoner of war.

Unbroken is a fine example of a film.  Director Angelina Jolie projects a grandness to the scene that opens up even the most confined spaces.  When you think about it–being confined to a plane then a lifeboat then a prison–the world should seem small.  Yet in this movie the world has an odd sense of possibility, especially since there is a new locale to visit about every fifteen minutes.  I would guess this is done to prevent the audience from feeling too depressed about the real conflict going on: a man is dying.

There’s grit to this movie, too.  The need to survive is real as you watch Louis call out to God for help, yet none seems to come… Except Louis keeps on living despite harsh treatment and even worse conditions.  That’s where the real struggle happens: worsening conditions.  I cannot imagine having gone through this.  Living for over a month at sea only to be captured, then have my living conditions progressively deteriorate.  Kudos are in order for the actors.  To prepare for the role they went on a limited diet, hence their genuine gaunt appearance.

One thing that made this story incomplete was not getting a good look at the life of Louise Zamperini after the war.  Thankfully, there is a bonus featurette that fills in the gap and I highly recommend that viewers give it a watch.  This is a great film that successfully grabbed my attention away from any distractions and kept me hooked until after the end.  It even has me tempted to read the book.  Give it a go and you might just find yourself in the presence of one of the toughest men to survive World War II.

Rating: Own it.

Watch it:  Manliness abounds.
Don’t watch it:  Because you hate all things good.

Quick Pick: Fury (2014)

R, 134 minutes, War

Starring: Logan LermanBrad PittShia LaBeouf

Earlier today I posted a war drama I didn’t like.  So I thought, why not post one that I do?

Fury follows Norman (Logan Lerman), a newly drafted recruit sent to fight in Europe during War World II.  His tank unit is assigned with protecting a crossroads from an invading SS battallion.  The road leading there is full of trials and Norman, a simple man uninterested in war, must learn to kill or be killed.

There’s nothing too technical to say about this film.  It’s a simple story of the misfortunes of war and the effect they have an on average person.  It’s overall tone is dark and builds up hope at the smallest moments normalcy, only to rip it to shreds.  The battles are intensely desperate, amplified by the use of real tanks (including the only functioning Tiger tank left).  And the music. Is. Amazing.  It manages to be beautiful and painful at the same time.  While some may find Fury hard to take, it remains a to-the-point story that’s not afraid of throwing punches.

Rating: Own it.