Figure 1 – Don’t Look Up poster

I really like movies, if you couldn’t already tell. I enjoy watching them alone, in a crowd, or just with my wife, the Beautiful & Talented Lynne Taylor Fahnestalk (unpaid plug!). I enjoy many kinds of movies, and have watched all kinds, from RomComs, to Westerns, war movies, kids’ movies, feelgood movies, historical dramas, comedies, mysteries, noir and—you guessed it—genre (science fiction, fantasy and that mysterious type called “sci fi”) movies. A day hardly goes by if I’m at home when I don’t watch (or rewatch) a movie (or two). When Lynne and I were first married, back in the dawn of time—when you went to the video store to get movies if they weren’t on TV (our local store was Rogers’ Video)—we had whole weekends when all we did was binge. I daresay I’ve seen a few thousand.

And I have a quirky visual memory; I can almost always tell—usually from one image, any image—what a movie is if I’ve seen it within the last 20 or so years (sometimes if I’ve ever seen it). I think it goes with my trivia memory; I’m very good at trivia. Remind me to tell you sometime about my ex-seatmate at BOBJ/SAP, Robert Slaven (the five-time Jeopardy champion), and the trivia challenges we used to have at work.

Lynne and I used to have a “thing”—if I walked into a room with a TV that was playing a movie she would yell “Stop! What movie is this?” (after muting the audio) and I’d have to turn away from the TV and name the movie. I could usually do it. (And clips from movies are on TV enough that I can often do it with movies I haven’t seen.)

That doesn’t mean I’m a reviewer on the level of Gene Siskel or Roger Ebert, though. They can look at a movie and tell you that the director was channeling Buñuel or Ray or Kurosawa in that scene and give you all sorts of pithy information about the scene, the director, the cinematographer, and so on. I’m not that kind of reviewer. I know who those people are, and have usually seen some of their films, but I’m a lot shallower than that. I know whether I like the movie or not; whether it worked for me; whether the acting was convincing; the sets, the dialogue, the SFX, etc., but that’s about all. I just love watching someone’s imagination become as real as the screen can make it—and these days, the movie people can make anything they imagine look real, thanks to computer SFX. (Although I have a soft spot for, and still love, the old “practical” effects, cheesy though they may be in today’s computer graphic free-for-all.)

So when I review a movie you probably won’t become an instant movie expert from my reviews; with luck, you’ll figure out (if you’ve read my reviews before and know what I like) whether you’ll like it or even want to watch it. And I do drop in a tidbit or two about the movie, the stars, the director—if I know any—from time to time. So, if you’re still with me, here goes!

Don’t Look Up (Figure 1) is not a new movie, but we didn’t watch it in 2021 when it came out; someone we know made a negative comment so we postponed our viewing. And now I’m sorry I did. The main stars/protagonists are Jennifer Lawrence (“Kate Dibiasky”) and Leonardo DiCaprio (“Randall Mindy”); both are playing fairly nerdy scientist types. She’s a Ph.D. candidate in some astronomical/physics discipline and he’s a full professor; they’re both working on the big telescope at a Midwestern university, when she notices something, which turns out to be a comet on a collision course with Earth. This thing’s core is (if I remember rightly) 5-7 km wide, which means that a direct hit would be an extinction-level event. After confirmation with various other scientists, Mindy and Dibiasky decide to try to alert the President of the U.S. (Meryl Streep) so that the U.S. can try to destroy or divert the comet. They have about 9 months.

Besides the three mentioned the movie has a number of stars, major and minor (see what I did there? Someone slap me!), like Cate Blanchett, Tyler Perry, Jonah Hill, Ron Perlman, Timothée ChalametAriana Grande, Kid Cudi, Himesh Patel, Mark Rylance and Michael Chiklis. Of course they are entirely unsuccessful in getting anyone to listen to them; by the time the movie’s done you’ll be quite aware that the comet and Earth’s destruction aren’t really the subject of the movie. The real subject could be something like global warming, or a global pandemic, or how effing stupid social media and their adherents are (or can be), and so on. It’s a funny, disturbing look at something that could actually happen—and has, in fact, already come about, if you forget the comet. Don’t forget to look for a post-credits scene, to drive the point home. I’d say if you missed it, go for it.

Figure 2 – Operation Fortune poster

My second movie is one we’ve been waiting for, for a while—it’s a new Guy Ritchie movie. The full name is Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre. We’re big fans of Ritchie, whose past credits include The Gentlemen; Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels; Snatch; Wrath of Man; the two Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes movies, plus a few boners like one with Madonna, the name of which purposely escapes me. His movies, especially the ones dealing mostly with Britain’s underworld, are stylish, funny, well-acted, and generally “a splendid time is guaranteed for all.” Okay, he does mess up a bit. Operation Fortune is one of those misses, for us anyway. It stars Jason Statham, Cary Elwes, Josh Hartnett, Eddie Marsan, Hugh Grant, Aubrey Plaza and Bugzy Malone. It’s an anti-caper caper movie, sort of. Elwes and Marsan are the “controls”—both work for an unnamed British Ministry, with Marsan as the top boss (he usually plays a lower-caste dweeb of some sort, so this is a bit of a departure) and Elwes as the functionary who hires Statham and his crew “off the books.”

Seems there’s a “programmable AI” (called “The Handle”) which can get the user into any computer in the world (I assume it has to be connected to the internet somehow) and will be used to crash the world’s banking systems and put the world back on the gold standard within, I dunno, about 80 hours or so. (I’ve forgotten the exact time limit.) Unless, of course, Statham and his merry crew of misfits (including Hartnett as a very famous actor—hey, it’s a movie, after all) find it and take it away from the crew that has stolen it.

They are hampered by a different government crew, one led by “Mike” (Peter Ferdinando), who has interfered with other missions they’ve run and beaten them to a number of punches. But unless Jason’s crew succeeds, they won’t get paid. There’s a twist, of course, but you’ll see it coming long before it’s explained to the crew. The movie is all too slick, too facile and, quite frankly, a “paint-by-numbers” caper. We grew bored (Lynne earlier than I) because it had none of the standard Guy Ritchie touches. For me, the best actor was Hugh Grant, playing against his rom-com image, as a gangster—very reminiscent to me of Paul Anka in real life. (Sorry, Paul. You looked like a Hollywood gangster last time I saw you in something.) His character, Greg, is sort of like his newsman’s slimy character in The Gentlemen, but also different from that one. He’s a pretty good character actor, for my money. Anyway, the caper goes off by the numbers. My advice? Skip this one and watch any of the aforementioned ones—except the Madonna one.

Figure 3 – The Lake poster

We had no expectations from this Thai movie (the only previous ones from Thailand we’ve watched were the Ong Bak movies, which were extremely interesting to me) except that it was a horror movie with a big monster in it (Figure 3). For about the first third of the movie, my reaction was something like this: Thailand looks at S. Korea’s movies, like The Host (2006), and says, “Hey, we’ve got water, lots of it. We have the Mekong River, and we make movies too! Why don’t we remake The Host, but this time with a Thai monster?!” Fortunately, it diverged from that idea and became its own movie.

I was unable to get exactly who played everyone significant in the movie; there was a senior police official—for some reason, who wore an American paratrooper badge on his uniform, possibly Vithaya Pansringarm—and a young policewoman (possibly Sushar Manaying), neither of whose names (or character names) I was able to get for sure. IMDB was less than helpful on this. But some of the significant characters were Thanachat Tunyachat (“Keng”), Supansa Wedkama (“Pam”), and Wanmai Chatborirak (“May”). Here’s a short version of the story:
There appears to be an infestation of frogs on the Mekong River, and one night, while a fisherman and some other guys were out fishing for frogs, one guy notices a big egg on a sandbank in the river. He goes to pick it up, and big something out of the river eats him. Later, the fisherman disappears too. Later, a young girl (May) is sent to find her father, who is assumed to be recovering from being drunk last night—that seems to be what her father and uncle (Keng) do every night—but she doesn’t find him; instead, she finds an egg. Just like the other one; she takes it home, but her mother tells her to put it back. She argues, but takes the egg back to the river bank and sits there watching it, wanting to know what will hatch. She touches it with a faraway look in her eyes.

A large something, like a large scaly person with a vicious tail and lots of teeth charges out of the river and starts killing people right and left. May’s mother and uncle (Keng) hide and are able to run away.

Same old same old, right? Well, there are some definite clichés in this film, but it does diverge quite a bit from the usual premise; there is a psychic link between the monster and a man who is bitten. There are other things going on which I don’t want to give away; although the pace of this movie is very slow, it finishes by being something a bit different from the Korean movie. We both enjoyed it, and I look forward to seeing what Thailand can come up with in genre from now on. By the way, the film was co-directed by Lee Thongkham and Aqing Xu, and written by Lee Thongkham.

Comments? Anyone? Bueller? You can comment here or on Facebook, or even by email (stevefah at hotmail dot com). All comments are welcome! (Just be polite, please.) My opinion is, as always, my own, and doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of Amazing Stories or its owner, editor, publisher or other columnists. See you next time!

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