Monthly Archives: August 2016

War Dogs

Movie:  War Dogs

Rating:  3 1/2 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:   It is Miami Beach in 2005, and 22 year old David Packouz (Miles Teller) is scuffling along trying to support his young beautiful wife Iz (Ana de Armas).  He has quit or been fired from six jobs since he dropped out of college, and is eking out a living as a masseuse for $72 an hour when he can get a client.  Suddenly, his life is changed dramatically when childhood chum Efraim Diveroll (Jonah Hill) comes back to town.  As they reminisce about high school capers, Efraim offers David a job working for him, in his new company called AEY.  Turns out Diveroll had figured out how to make a nice living by accessing the Dept of Defense procurement offers, and was putting in bids for small business contracts and winning enough of them to make a good living.  But with additional help, Diveroll figured they could make a play for bigger and more lucrative contracts.

Soon David and Efraim were indeed quite successful, and enjoying the fruits of their labors with matching porsches and luxury apartments in the same building.  David and Iz have a baby, and the future looks very bright indeed.  But then they reach for the brass ring, a contract worth multi millions of dollars, and bids are submitted by many big arms companies.  The contract is referred to as the Afghan Deal, and would provide U.S. support to Afghan troops against the terrorist threats in Afghanistan.  In order to make a plausible bid, the two young men realized they needed to enlist the support of a source who could provide scarce ammo and weapons at a low cost to them, which brought them into an unholy alliance with the notorious Henry Girard (Bradley Cooper).  With Girard’s contacts, AEY wins the Pentagon contract for the Afghan Deal, and soon they are dealing with all the details and problems associated with any major contract with ties in foreign countries.

This movie is interesting on several levels.  For one thing, it is based on a true story which was published in a book entitled Arms and the Dudes.  In terms of the acting in this film, it is very good.  Miles Teller is a rising star, and Jonah Hill plays a complex and colorful character with real gusto.  Bradley Cooper is a rarity in Hollywood, as he play a minor but key character in this story, and is mesmerizing in his few scenes.  Few mega stars are willing to branch out and play supporting roles while on the top of the ladder in the film industry.  Look for Ana de Armas’s star to rise.  She is about to appear in another major film Hands of Stone this month.  Bottom line:  this is an compelling story that will hold your interest to the very end, and afterwards you will wonder what the heck has been going on with procurement practices for weapons deals in our country.

Dialogue Nuggets:  David – “My name is David Packouz, and I am an international arms dealer.”

David – “When life kicked me, I stayed down.  But not Efraim, he kicked back.”

Efraim – “Everybody is fighting for the same pie, and ignoring the crumbs.  I live on the crumbs.”

Efraim – “Bush opened the floodgates in Iraq.  It’s a f*cking gold rush!”

David – “They call guys like us war dogs.  It was meant to be derogatory, but I kind of liked it.”

Captain Santos, U.S. Army, to David – “I’m in the ass-crack of the world defending your freedom, and I have to work with you shitbags?”

David – “Our entire business was riding on the word of an 11 year old translator.”

Efraim – “David, we’re gunrunners.  Let’s go run some f*cking guns!”

Captain Santos – “You drove through the Triangle of Death?  Great f*cking job!”

Henry Girard was a legend.  When they hung Saddam Hussein, it was said Henry sold them the rope.”

Weird Cameo – The real David Packouz is in the film very briefly in a scene as a singer.




Hell Or High Water

Movie:  Hell Or High Water

Rating:  4 1/2 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:   Times are pretty dang tough in Midland, Texas.  The economy has tanked all over West Texas, businesses have closed, and ranches are being foreclosed on.  Specifically, the small spread owned by brothers Toby Howard (Chris Pine) and Tanner Howard (Ben Foster) is about to get taken by the local bank unless they can miraculously come up with $43,000.  Toby is a n’eer do well with no steady job and no prospects, with an ex wife and two teenage sons to support.  Tanner is recently out of prison, and definitely not likely to find a good paying job any time soon.  The clock is ticking, and the family land is almost a memory….

All at once the sleepy towns around Midland experience a crime wave.  It seems two jaspers in ski masks keep holding up branches of the Midland Bank, and make off with several thousand dollars with each score.  The robberies are well planned, well executed, and no one gets seriously hurt.  But law and order must prevail, and veteran Texas Rangers Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) and his partner Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham) are on the case.  Ranger Hamilton is not your average Texas Ranger.  A throwback to an earlier breed of lawmen who were hard as nails, Hamilton is irreverent, possibly a bigot, and definitely not concerned with following rules and regulations.  But with few clues and no witnesses who can identify the masked men, it looks as though it will take a stroke of luck to stop the bank heists.

This movie has got it all.  It starts out a bit slow, and the ultra depressing and mostly vacant area in West Texas makes you wonder if this story was ever going to get off the ground.  Then the complex characters of Toby and Tanner start to get us interested in what they are planning, and their adversaries, the two Texas Rangers are slowly but surely fated to intersect with the young bank robbers.  The small town Texas atmosphere is authentic, the characters are compelling, and the plot keeps us on edge to the very end to see how it’s all going to turn out.  Simply one of the best films of 2016.  One of the small films that deserves Oscar consideration for Best Picture.  A definite must see movie.

Dialogue Nuggets:  Bank Employee to Robbers – “Y’all are new at this.  I told you the money is in the safe.  Just leave now, and all you’re guilty of is being stupid.”

Old Cowboy – “You boys robbing the bank?  That’s crazy, you ain’t even Mexican.”

Ranger Parker to Hamilton – “You want to hear about these robberies, or just sit there and let Alzheimer’s run it’s course?”

Ranger Hamilton to Parker – “Maybe one of these bank robbers will want to have a gunfight, and I can avoid retirement and go out in a blaze of glory!”

Bank Manager to Texas Ranger – “What kind of bank would we be if we didn’t have surveillance video?”  Ranger – “A Midland bank.”

Indian Man – “You know what Comanche means?  Enemy of everyone.”  Tanner to Indian – “You know what that makes me? A Comanche.”

Toby to Tanner – “How the f*ck did you manage to stay out of prison for a year?”

Ranger Hamilton – “This guy wouldn’t know Jesus if He crawled up his pants leg and bit him on his pecker.”

Toby – “I’ve been poor my whole life.  It’s like a disease passing from generation to generation.”

Lawyer to Toby & Tanner – “Come hell or high water, be at the bank on Thursday.”

Best Scene:  You gotta love the feisty waitress at the small town diner.  You best be ordering the T-bone steak and potato.  Just saying.

Best Cameos:  Actress Margaret Bowman, the T-bone steak waitress.  Remember the old TV series Gunsmoke?  Buck Taylor, Marshall Dillon’s deputy, has a great role as a cantankerous old cowboy with a little bit of fight left in him.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot:  Where in the world did the Howard boys get those cars that they keep burying?  Just wondering….





Movie:  Anthropoid

Rating:  3 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:   In 1938 German troops occupied Czechoslovakia without a shot being fired.  The Nazi war machine was cranking up to seize all of Western Europe by 1940.  The Czech government in exile decided to strike a blow against their oppressors, and Operation Anthropoid was put in motion.  Two Czechs, Jan Kubis (Jamie Dornan) and Jozef Gabcik (Cillian Murphy), with the support of the British military, were parachuted into Czechoslovakia in December 1941.   Their mission was to link up with the local resistance movement, and assassinate SS General Reinhard Heydrich (Detlef Bothe).

The chance of success for this mission was low, and the risks extremely high.  Heydrich was known as the “Butcher of Prague”, and the reference was well earned.  Most of the underground resistance in the country was crushed, and civilians were routinely tortured or shot for little cause.  But Heydrich was the third leading Nazi in Germany, behind only Hitler and Himmler.  Plus the SS general was the leading architect of the “Final Solution” to wipe out all Jews.  So the operation was approved regardless of consequences.

The historical facts of Operation Anthropoid are well known.   After months of planning, the assassination attempt was made on May 27, 1942.  Although things did not go as planned, General Heydrich did die.  The Germans responded with unprecedented brutality, and 15,000 Czechs were killed in reprisals.  Still, the operation was the only successful assassination of a key German leader in all of WW II.

The film did a good job in recreating the dark days of WW II, and how difficult and frightening it was to live in an occupied country.  The story is an important one, and was well told.  Several areas could have been improved upon.  The film literally jumps into the story with the two Czechs parachuting into the country.  It would have served the story to preface it with why the operation was conceived and approved.  It bogs down a bit with the 5 months of observing the Germans and the planning of the assassination.  The actual attempt on May 27went by in a blur; it would have been interesting to dwell on that scene more.  Instead, much of the movie is devoted to what happened to the men who had parachuted into the country, and what became of them.  The action certainly picked up in the last 20 minutes of the film.  The movie is definitely worth seeing for the historical importance of the subject matter.

Dialogue Nuggets:  Czech Resistance Leader – “If you kill Heydrich, then Hitler will tear Prague apart.”

“It was the Allies who gave us to the Germans in the first place.”

“About taking our own lives.  Was he serious?”

“There are more guns out there than on the Eastern Front.”    

Florence Foster Jenkins

Movie:  Florence Foster Jenkins

Rating:  4 1/2 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:    In 1944 Manhattan, the citizens were starved for diversion as WW II raged on.  At the swank Verdi Club, Florence Foster Jenkins (Meryl Streep) and husband St. Clair Bayfield (Hugh Grant) did their best to provide entertainment for the patrons of the arts.  Whether putting on operatic skits requiring Jenkins to be hoisted in the air by unseen  stage hands straining to hoist the weight, or Bayfield hamming it up with monologues from Shakespeare, the couple were well known and influential patrons of the arts in New York City.

Had Florence Foster Jenkins sole interest remained as a benefactor to artists, she would have been universally hailed for her work.  Bur Ms. Jenkins yearned to sing in public; she had the soul of an artist, but alas, not the voice.  She took daily voice lessons from a renowned maestro, and gave performances at the Verdi Club to enthusiastic supporters, who chose to ignore her inability to stay on key for most of the songs.  Finally, Florence made the decision that she was ready to give the performance of her life, and fulfill her dream of singing at Carnegie Hall.  To prepare for this ultimate test, a pianist was hired to accompany Ms. Jenkins, one Cosme McMoon (Simon Helberg).  On October 24, 1944, Florence Foster Jenkins stepped out on the stage of Carnegie Hall, and fulfilled that dream

This is a wonderful story of true life individuals who capture our imagination.   They are flawed and fallible people, like all of us, and we find ourselves rooting for them to succeed.   The acting is certainly top drawer; Meryl Streep is virtually a lock to get her 20th Oscar nomination for this part.  And who knows, Hugh Grant may have found the elusive role to secure his first Oscar bid.  This is a fun movie that makes you laugh, then tugs at your heart strings.  One of the best films of 2016.

Dialogue Nuggets:  Florence – “With our brave boys fighting, music matters more than ever.”

Florence – “It is true a lot of singers my age are in decline, but I seem to get better and better.”

Cosme to Bayfield – “I think Ms. Jenkins may need a little more preparation before we give a concert.  She’s a little…flat.”  Bayfield (Incredulous) – “Flat?”

Florence – “I played for the president when I was 8 years old.  I had high hopes of becoming a concert pianist.” 

Bayfield – “I was a good actor, but I was never going to be a great actor.”

NY Post Critic – “Music is important, and should not be mocked!”

Bayfield to Cosme – “You’re going to play at Carnegie Hall.  How many people can say that?”  Cosme – “Oh boy, we’re going to die out there!”

Florence to Bayfield – “I’m afraid.”  Bayfield – “Don’t be.  They love you.”

Best Scene:  Watch for Hugh Grant to cut loose and dance to a rousing version of “Sing, Sing, Sing.”

In Case You Wonder:  Yes, that is Meryl Streep doing all her singing.  It takes a very good singer to pretend to sing that badly.  As for Simon Helberg of Big Bang Theory fame, he really is playing that piano.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot:   WTF was going on in that party scene where they had a bath tub full of potato salad?  Were potatoes considered a treat during war time rationing?  The mind boggles….