Thursday, June 29, 2017

Miracle in the Andes

Alive
Director: Frank Marshall
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Josh Hamilton, Vincent Spano, Bruce Ramsay, Danny Nucci, Illeana Douglas, John Malkovich
Released: January 15, 1993


I was not familiar with this true story of a plane crash carrying a Uruguayan rugby team and their friends and family until the movie came out twenty years after it happened. My parents saw it and my mom told me about the cannibalism (oh, we'll get to that later!) I saw the movie a few years later and recently revisited it when I saw it was on Netflix Instant. 

When watching it the first time, when I was in middle school (or high school....I don't remember), it didn't even occur to me that the majority of the actors were caucasian Americans (there were a few Hispanic actors) playing Uruguayans. Now I didn't really have that much of a problem with that as I understand that this was an American production, but still, you're not fooling anyone that Ethan Hawke isn't from South America! I also understand why they're not speaking in Spanish because, again, this is intended for American audiences, but it is weird that this is a South American rugby team and they're all speaking in English...I thought the same thing when I saw that movie about the Chilean miners who were trapped underground and they were all speaking in English too. But seeing as that they had two survivors from the actual plane crash as technical advisors, if they didn't have a problem with it, then neither do I. But it's just so weird.

A small plane (Uruguayan Flight 571) is carrying 45 passengers across the Andes (though the movie was filmed in the Canadian Rockies) to Chile where they will have a rugby match. The 45 people include the rugby team, their family and associates, and five people made up the crew. The date is October 13, 1972, and yes, that just so happened to land on a Friday. (I only know that because Wikipedia told me). The weather is foggy, never a good mix with flying through the mountains on Friday the 13th! Because of the horrible visibility, the tail and the wings broke apart from the fuselage when the plane clips a mountain peak. The plane is still flying, though, with a huge hole, and the unfortunate people in the back are ripped out of the plane along with their seats. I can't even imagine what they were thinking, or the people who were sitting at the front who knew they were inevitably going to crash.

The plane crash lands hard and goes skidding very fast down the snowy mountain. In a way, they were lucky there was so much snow...that probably saved them. It's a bumpy and terrifying ride, but it eventually comes to a stop. Seven people died from falling from the aircraft and another five people died from the crash, including the team's physician, ironically, which would be nice to have one what with all the injuries the survivors have obtained...some much more worse than others. Two of the players are medical students and help assist the wounded. They are able to do this as they only have a few minor scrapes and bruises. The co-pilot is still alive, but has blood all over his face and begs for one of them men to get his gun for him, but he tells him he can't be a part of it. The pilot eventually dies during the first night as well as three other passengers, including a woman who had her foot caught under one of the seats and kept wailing in agony until one of the players told her to shut up or else he'll punch her face. When he learns that she died that night, he feels horrible for being so mean to her. The twenty-seven survivors have laid out the bodies in the snow and the team captain, Antonio (Vincent Spano) has taken charge. The captain's name was actually Marcelo Perez, but I learned that they changed all the names of the dead out of respect. I'll get to how he perishes later.

There is only wine and chocolate (for celebrating a victory when they win the match, I suppose?) for food and they ration it out to one capful of wine and a square of chocolate for all the survivors every so often. They sleep in the fuselage and huddle around each other for warmth and block the gaping hole by stuffing it with the luggage. I got so cold watching this movie! I had to turn my A/C off and put on my zip up hoodie and get my bedspread. There's a scene where we see one of the survivors has frostbite on their feet. This movie shows how Mother Nature (especially in the Andes!) is brutal.

Ethan Hawke plays Nando Parrado, a rugby player whose sister and mother were also on board. His mother died in the crash and his sister has horrible injuries. She is still alive, but not doing well. Nando is unconscious and doesn't wake up until the second or third day. He learns about his mother's death and does his best to keep his sister alive, but she will eventually die from her injuries a week later.

The first full day, they hear a plane but it is too cloudy and they know that if they can't see the plane, then it can't seem them. A couple days later, on a more clear day, they see another plane and start waving around brightly colored clothes. The plane dips one of its wings and they start celebrating, taking that as a sign that the plane saw them and is going to get help. I can't blame them for celebrating, I would also want to hope for the best too if I were out there, but there would also be a part of me wondering if the plane really saw the crash site. Everyone except for Antonio and Javier and Lilliana, a married couple with children back home (by the way, thank God there were no children on that flight!) are the only ones who don't eat the rest of the wine and the chocolates. In fact, Antonio doesn't know that they ate all their rations and is super pissed when he finds out. He tells them that the rescuers could be doing a land rescue and it could take days before they are reached. It turns out that the plane didn't even see them at all. I read on Wikipedia that the plane that crashed was white and it blended in with the snow, thus making it difficult for search planes to spot it.

At least a week has passed and there is no food left...or is there? This is the moment of the movie that everybody remembers. Not the horrific crash, not the dangers of being in the middle of the Andes, but the discussion of eating the dead. I can't blame them - the bodies, being in the snow are well-preserved and they do need to eat, because, what else are they going to eat? Remember, there are 27 people (maybe 26 at this time...it was hard to keep track) who need to eat. They do talk it over and how it will change them. Everyone reluctantly agrees they should do it except for Lilliana (played by Illeana Douglas). I would also say no. Not that I would feel like an evil person for eating another human beings; I do get that it's for survival, but my God! I just can't imagine humans tasting good (uh...maybe that's a good thing!) And they're eating them raw! Ughhhhhh! So disgusting! Eww! When we see the first person (Antonio, I think) cut into the rear end of one of the victims, the piece of flesh he eats looks like cold cuts. (I read that they used turkey jerky). It looks SO GROSS. I would seriously throw up. And the fact that they're eating people they know (and Nando specifically asks the others not to touch his mother or sister, which makes sense) makes it worse. If I absolutely was in this dire situation and had to eat a dead body to survive, I would want to eat someone I didn't know, for God's sake and wasn't a relative or close friend of mine. Guess I would have to eat one of the pilots! But then I would throw it up (I just know I would!) and would eventually die from starvation. I know I would die for a fact because they were stranded in the mountains for 72 days! From October 13 - December 23. A small transistor radio is found on the plane and they hear the news that the search effort has been called off, so it's up to them to get help.

The plane's mechanic survived the crash, but doesn't seem to be much help when he is asked about the radio. He says it needs batteries, which just so happen to be in the tail section. (You think the batteries would be in the cockpit). A few of the men decide to look for it and there's a scary scene where they are walking over a snow covered chasm and the snow falls and one of the men almost falls in the gaping hole, but he is grabbed by another and they form a human chain. Who knows if that really happened or if they added it in the movie. Something that really did happen was an avalanche that occurred in the middle of the night and killed eight people including the team captain, Lilliana (who eventually started eating the dead upon her husband's instinct), and the mechanic. It completely covered the fuselage and those lucky enough not to be completely covered by the snow, quickly started digging through the snow.

The search for the tail continues and this time it is found (along with a few dead bodies, still attached to their seats). The battery, however, is too heavy to carry back to the crash site, so it is decided they will return to the crash site and disconnect the radio and bring it back. Needless to say, it didn't work. Nando and Roberto Canessa (played by Josh Hamilton - he played Clay's dad on 13 Reasons Why if you watched that on Netflix) decide they're going to trek down the mountains to get help. It took them ten days before they finally reached help. In the movie, it is very rushed. Before they leave to get help, Nando (or maybe it was Roberto, I don't remember) gives one of the other men one half of a pair of red baby shoes and tells him that when the shoes are united, then that means they will have been rescued. Um...why are there baby shoes on that plane? There were no babies on that flight! (And thank God!) No way this happened in real life and they were doing it to gloss up the movie a bit, but, again, I ask, why are there baby shoes on that flight? That made no sense at all!

So of course when the helicopters arrive, the baby shoes are reunited and everyone is rescued. Well, the remaining survivors are rescued. In the end, only sixteen out of the forty-five people who were on that flight survived the 72 day ordeal. It is pretty amazing that even that many people did survive!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Boston Strong

Patriots Day
Director: Peter Berg
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Kevin Bacon, John Goodman, Michelle Monaghan, J.K. Simmons, Melissa Benoist
Released: December 21, 2016


This movie is based on the April 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, which I'm sure everyone remembers as it only happened a mere four years ago. I thought I remembered everything about this incident, but apparently not because there were things in the movie that I found myself going, "Wait, I thought it happened this way!" or "Wait, I don't remember that happening!" But I'll get to those later. Mark Wahlberg (a native Bostonian as you all know) does not play a real person, but his police officer character, Sergeant Tommy Sanders is suppose to represent the everyman Boston police officer during this tragic event.

Everyone else, to my knowledge portray real-life people. Before the day of the Marathon we are shown the home lives of a few different characters. Even though they tell us the last name of the family/person we're viewing, I didn't know who any of these people were. I didn't remember the names of the terrorist brothers, but once I saw the title card say, "Tsarnaev residence", I knew it was them because I remember them being Russian and sure enough we see them along with the older brother's wife (played by Melissa Benoist...who I did not recognize until the interrogation scene because she wears a hijab and that was the first time the camera lingers on her. I guess I forgot that the wife was American). We see a young married couple and a young Chinese man who's attending MIT and showing his parents his new car via his phone. I had no idea who these people were and thought maybe they were victims of the bombing. Well, they were victims, but they weren't the ones who were killed by the bomb like I had thought. I had to remind myself who died because I only remembered the police officer, who wasn't killed by the bomb, but who was killed the following night by one of the brothers, and an eight year old boy died from the blast. Two other young women also died from the blast. Except for the police officer, there is no mention of the deceased by name and they don't have anyone playing them which I thought was a smart choice. The only mention of the deceased is when the young boy who died is covered by a table cloth from a restaurant and they are unable to remove him until they are sure there isn't any bomb residue on him. I'm sure this happened in real life (otherwise why would it be in the movie?) and I can't imagine being the parents of that boy who took him to see the Boston Marathon, but weren't able to take him home because two low-lives (one who has a young daughter!) took his life.

For two bombs going off, it is very fortunate that not more lives were lost that day. The majority of the devastation came from injuries, the severest being lost of limbs. The couple that is shown the night before the Marathon are actors playing a real life couple who both run the race every year and had to have their legs amputated. Saunders is near the finish line when both bombs go off (which were only 13 seconds apart...a fact I did not know) and his wife is also there because she had come down to bring him something. He will feel very guilty for putting her in harm's way, but she tells him it wasn't his fault. During all the commotion, the race is (surprisingly) still going on and runners are running into the confusion and they have to block the area.

John Goodman plays Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis and Kevin Bacon plays Richard DesLauriers, special agent in the Boston field and both head the investigation to find out what happened. You get a glimpse of what happened behind the scenes. It seemed to happen really fast because the bombing happened on a Monday and by Friday the older brother was killed and the younger one was caught. But we see the process of trying to find out who set off the bombs is a painstakingly slow as several people are scouring over security footage (and they used real footage) of every angle from where the bomb went off. Someone alerts the two men in charge when he sees footage of a young man in a white hat looking away from the camera (as though he knows a bomb is about to off) a second before everyone else does. They try to find other angles where they can see "White Hat" and Saunders tells them which business security camera to look up and they find a few more angles of him as well as him standing next to someone wearing sunglasses and a black hat and holding a backpack (the older brother) who they assume are together and are the bombers. Even though they have clear photos, they can't find them in the criminal database as they have no records. Now what I didn't know is that the FBI agent did NOT want to release the photos of the suspects because if they were wrong and they weren't involved, they would be raked over the coals by the public. He wanted more evidence that these were the bombers. They just wanted a little more time to figure out, but then it turned out FOX News (of course it was FOX!) got a hold of the photos and were going to release them in a few hours, so they decided they would go ahead and release them before the media did so they could get them out there their way.

The only person shown being killed is Officer Sean Collier. Like the other characters the day before the bomb happened, we also get a glimpse into his life. I remember a police officer being killed by the suspected bombers, but I guess I thought it was from a shoot out. I didn't remember that he was sitting in his car in front of MIT and the younger brother came up to his car and motioned for him to roll down his window and when he did, he shot him and stole his gun. That's scary. The thing that shocked me the most from watching this was what happened next because I did not remember this AT ALL. In fact, I don't think I even knew about this until I watched the movie. This is when the young Chinese student comes into play. We see him in an earlier scene having dinner with a new friend and he's telling her what it's like living in a new country. I was wondering what he had to do with this story and this is when we find out. He's sitting in his car, looking at his phone, when the older brother comes up to his window and motions for him to roll it down. Both brothers hijack the car with their new gun and make Dun Meng, the young Chinese man drive them. This seems like a big part of the story, was it even in the news? How could I not know this happened? They make him get out of the driver's seat and into the passenger seat so the older brother can drive. As they're driving, they tell him that they bombed the Marathon and are planning to go to Manhattan and bomb Times Square. They also talked about 9/11 being an inside job by the government (now I love a good conspiracy theory as much as the next person...I am all about the JFK and TWA 800 conspiracies....but the 9/11 one, I never got that one).

Speaking of 9/11, we get a comment from a news reporter saying that the bombing is the worst act of terrorism in the U.S. since 9/11 and I'm thinking, "What?" Because it seems like that's a pretty big gap between 2001 and 2013, but then I realized all the 40 million shootings in those years weren't linked to terrorism groups...we just have a bunch of idiots who live in this country. Before the race begins, there is a moment of silence for the victims of the Newtown, CT school shooting and I had to remind myself that had only happened four months prior and in just a few short hours they would have their own tragedy. I've seen the Boston Marathon bombing be compared to 9/11 on a few occasions and aside from the terrorism aspect and when they shut down the city of Boston that day (like when they shut down all the airports), I've never really understood that. I was reminded more of the Oklahoma City bombing. I am always amazed at the amount of people who refer to 9/11 as a "bombing". There were no bombs involved in 9/11! Let me tell you a true story....the week after 9/11 happened, my school had a banner saying something along the lines to donate blood or money for the victims of the 9/11 bombing. And I see it and I'm thinking, Huh...I don't remember any bombs being reported. Anyway, I'm getting way off topic...

The brothers stop at gas station for snacks and this is when Dun Meng makes his escape. He has already pleaded to be let go and they can have his money and car and he promises he won't tell anyone, but the brothers refuse. You know that since they have already told him who they are and what they plan to do, that they have no plans to keep him alive once they don't need him anymore and you know he knows this. While the younger brother is getting snacks, the older brother has the gun in the side pocket of the car and is looking out the window. We see Dung Meng getting ready to escape. Now I just thought he had to open the door and that was it, but he also had his seatbelt on, so that gave the bomber notice that his abductee was getting ready to leave, but luckily Meng manages to escape and runs to a gas station across the street and screams at the manager to call the police. When the police arrive, Meng tells them he was abducted by the two brothers who were involved in the Boston Marathon bombing and his phone is still in the car an they are able to track them down. Saunders tells Meng that he was very brave to do what he did and I have to agree...if I had done that, I would have over thought it and would end up dead. Meng was just sitting in his car playing with his phone when he was hijacked and I told myself that I would NEVER just sit alone in my car while on my phone. Well, just a couple days after I saw this, I found myself in a parking lot with my phone trying to locate a place I was looking for. Now it was broad daylight, but I still locked my car! So starting now I will NEVER sit in my car, night or day, and look at my phone!

When  the police locate the bothers, they have a big shootout and many bombs are involved so right there the police knew that they had plans to bomb other places. This is when the older brother is killed, which I remembered. What I don't remember is that the younger brother ran over him with the car! He was aiming at the police who had gotten a hold of the older brother, but jumped out of the way when the car came towards them. He gets away and the next day is devoted to looking for him which I remember, especially since I watched it on TV when they had located him in the boat. That would be so scary to be the guy who owns the boat and find the one person everybody in the city is looking for is hiding in your boat! In the film, the owner of the boat notices something wrong with his boat and calls the police, but I watched a documentary about this whole ordeal and they interviewed the guy and he said that he actually went up to his boat and saw the kid (I think he was sleeping?) and then called the police, but in the movie, it's Saunders who discovers him.

We all know how the story ends and the perpetrator is caught. The movie ends with the real footage of David Ortiz giving his speech at the April 20, 2013 Red Sox game against the Royals and we see the Mayor of Boston, Ed Davis, and other people who helped make Boston safe. Then we see clips of the real life couple who lost their legs talking as well as a father and son who were separated (who were also featured in the movie). I really didn't think it was necessary to have these talking heads in there because it felt like I was watching a documentary and an entire new movie was starting. This should have been in the special features portion of the DVD. And believe me, there are TONS of documentaries on the Boston Marathon bombing to watch if you want to find out the many stories that come from it. I think having the baseball speech was the perfect place to end it, as well as have the in memoriam photos of the four people who lost their lives. 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Fallen Star

O.J.: Made in America
Director: Ezra Edelman
Released: May 20, 2016

Oscar nominations:

Best Documentary (won)


At a running length of seven hours and forty-seven minutes, this is the longest film to ever win an Oscar. I was surprised it was even up for an Oscar since it watches more as a miniseries than as a film. It was first shown as a five part miniseries on ESPN, but it also got a theatrical release which made it eligible for the Oscar. When it was shown at Sundance, there was only one intermission! What kind of bs is that? A nearly eight hour movie and only one intermission? At least there were two intermissions at other places it was shown theatrically. I watched it on Hulu and it took me about a week to get through it.

This movie chronicles the life of O.J. Simpson. Now when I think of O.J. Simpson, the first thing that comes to my mind is the Trial of the Century and that part of his life was a huge chunk of the film, but they also discuss his early life as a football player who became a beloved national symbol and then a superstar athlete and celebrity. I was in middle school when the murders occurred and a high school freshman when the not guilty verdict was read. I'm trying to remember if I even knew who O.J. Simpson was before all this occurred or if this was my first introduction to him because I honestly don't remember. It's possible I had heard of the name because I believe at that point he was a commentator for one of the big networks during football games so I probably heard it when my dad was watching football games and I was doing something else. By this time he would have played Nordberg in the three Naked Gun movies, but I honestly don't remember when I saw those and I'm sure I wouldn't have remembered him from them even if I had seen them before the trial. I'm pretty sure I was familiar with the name, but didn't know much about his life until the trial.

I would rank the O.J. Simpson Murder Trial as one of the most significant cultural events that ever happened during my lifetime. If you are old enough to remember this, then you remember what a big deal it was. And if you were too young/weren't born yet, this documentary is a great way to find out about it. In fact, there were many things I had forgotten or didn't even realize while watching it. (And some things I was reminded about earlier when I had watched the FX series The People vs. OJ Simpson).

They interview everybody and anybody who was involved in Simpson's life, whether it was his football career, personal life, or his trial. The only person they didn't get to interview was Simpson himself.

The first part of the documentary began with his college and professional football career, the part of his life I was the least familiar with. He played for the Buffalo Bills in the '70s and the documentary reiterates what an icon he became and how everybody loved him. Apparently he did some pretty impressive things during his football career, but I don't know anything about football. Being so well loved by everybody made it easy for him to transition into Hollywood. He was in a handful of films, but I've only seen/heard of The Towering Inferno and the Naked Gun movies. (And I'm pretty sure he was the one who started the fire in The Towering Inferno! (And yes, I made that joke when I reviewed that film.)) He was the spokesman for Hertz and I feel like I remember the networks showing these commercials over and over again because I know I've seen them, but they were first aired before my time. They interviewed the director or someone who was involved in the commercials and he said that since a black man was the star of the commercials, they had to make sure everyone else in it was white. This was in the late '70s - a different time for all!

There were lots of things I didn't know about Simpson that I learned in this documentary. I knew he was married before he met Nicole Brown, but I didn't know he had a daughter who drowned right before she turned two. I also didn't know his father was gay. And while I knew Nicole was younger than him, I guess I hadn't realized how large the age gap was, especially when they met. He is twelve years older than her and they met when she was 18, so he was 30 when he was going after an eighteen year old. Ewww. They interview a few of his friends from childhood and high school and they tell stories about how charming he was and how he could talk his way out of any situation.

Race plays an important part in this documentary as it did with the trial. They take the time to rehash the Rodney King beating and how that played a vital role in the trial. At the time, I was way too young to understand how it was connected, but this documentary it makes perfect sense. If you don't know, Rodney King was a young black man who was beaten by police and it was caught on video. This happened in 1991 Los Angeles. The police men were not held responsible and this incited outrage among the black community. I can't blame them; that was pretty infuriating. One juror member on the O.J. trial was interviewed and admitted her not guilty vote for Simpson was payback for that. His lawyers (especially Johnny Cochran) did a great job of making race the number one priority in a murder trial that I remember thinking at one point during the whole ordeal, Wait, weren't two people brutally murdered? It was really unfortunate for the prosecution that Mark Fuhram was the first cop to be on the scene and he had a history of saying some terrible, racist things. The defense team aka The Dream Team used that to their full advantage and ran with it. And it certainly paid off as we all know. The prosecution also made some very dumb mistakes, most notably the gloves. (Sidenote: I've recently just finished the first season of This is Us and every time I see Sterling K. Brown in a scene, I just shake my head and think, Oh, Charles Darden, why did you have O.J. try on the gloves?) Having him try on the gloves was so stupid! Of course they're not going to fit! Do you know how easy it is to try on a glove and make sure it doesn't fit? All you have to do is stiffen your hand. I've also heard he stopped taking his arthritis medication and that made his hand swell up. At least that moment gave us the great line, "If it doesn't fit, you must acquit!"

Even with that bone head move, I still puzzle over how Simpson was acquitted. Everyone and their grandmothers knows that he did it. I'm sorry, but you have to be stupid or in complete denial if you think he is innocent. Because if he didn't kill his ex-wife and Ron Goldman who was at the wrong place at the wrong time, then who did? The details of their gruesome murders are explained while very, very graphic photos are shown. Nicole was nearly decapitated because her throat was slashed so viscously. And let's not forget that Simpson had a record for domestic abuse and even spied on his ex once when she was with another man. Everyone interviewed in the documentary say they believe he did it or if they don't flat out say that he did it, they insinuate that they believe he did. EVERYONE. His (former) friends. His former manager. People from the defense team. The jurors.

The last part of the documentary goes into detail about how Simpson ended up in jail. Ironically, he got away with murder but he didn't get away with a robbery! This is schadenfreude at its finest. In 2008, he was sentenced to 33 years in jail for breaking and entering into a Las Vegas hotel room of a man who had a bunch of Simpson memorabilia from his football days. Simpson claims that all this stuff was stolen and wanted it back. (Is it considered a robbery if you're taking back stuff that was yours in the first place? Hmmm. Although he did take other stuff that wasn't previously his). They interview the guy who had the memorabilia and he said he went to the front desk and asked for security because he was "robbed by O.J. Simpson" and that everyone started laughing at him. To be honest, I would probably have had the same reaction. I would also probably have said an off-color joke like, "Well, at least he didn't kill you!"

Let's just pretend we're living in an alternate universe where Brown and Goldman were never murdered and O.J. Simpson was best known as being one of football's greats and the Trial of the Century never existed. If the Las Vegas robbery still happened in this timeline, no way in hell he is sentenced to 33 years in jail. He would have only had a slap on a wrist and probably would have to pay a fine. Even though a gun was involved, nobody was hurt and the whole thing was told as a dumb heist with a bunch of idiots.

But we don't live in an alternative universe and he wasn't sentenced to 33 years in prison for breaking and entering or robbing a man or having a gun, no he was sentenced to 33 years for murdering two people. How stupid do you have to be? He literally got away with murder (TWO murders!) and goes and does something stupid. Here's a lesson for you: if you get away with murder, don't do stupid stuff!

This was a very compelling documentary and I highly recommend it. You can find it on Hulu. Take a week and watch an hour every day. I learned a lot of things about Simpson's past and football days that I never knew. I also learned a lot about the Trial that I wasn't aware of or just forgot. There's so much in the documentary (obviously, it's nearly eight hour long!) that I only just scratched the surface with this review.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

7th Movie Montage



I have made my seventh overall movie montage! Please enjoy! And if you have missed any of my other movie montages, click on the "montage" tag and check them out! 


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