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Hemlock Grove (2013)
too much in the way of gross out stuff
I actually thought the first season wasn't bad. But the second season, they really seemed to pull out the stops in terms of showing viewers stuff that is just disgusting and gratuitous. For me, the breaking point was
The old lady writing on the wall with her own crap. I don't mind stuff that is violent that is consistent with supernatural events or grotesque like transforming into a werewolf, but I really wonder why they had to show us something like that. What will they do in season 3 if there is one? Show one of the actor's shoes stepping down into dog poop and squishing it around in slow motion?
So I think I'm abandoning the show.
Dirty War (2004)
I thought that "Dirty War" was an extremely scary, very well-made thriller about a scenario that I pray to God doesn't happen in London, Washington DC, or anywhere else. Unlike another reviewer here, I didn't have any problem with the cinematography and high production values.
I do find myself wondering if any expert on radiation and "dirty bombs" has weighed in about the science of "Dirty War" (i.e. how plausible the scenario was). For myself, I found myself wondering if one thing that was not shown was people simply vomiting by the truckload from radiation sickness.
I also enjoyed the police hunt for the terrorists. I found the scene where the police discovered the second van and its dirty bomb to be unbearably tense (it reminded me of a similar scene in a similar American movie called "Special Bulletin" about nuclear terrorism).
I also appreciated the scene that showed the Scotland Yard officer in essence torturing one of the terrorists in a desperate attempt to get information about follow-up attacks. I know that purists in the National Council for Civil Liberties, Amnesty International, the Amnerican Civil Liberties Union would condemn such acts, but if something like this happened in real life in the USA, I would form a legal defense committee for the police officer and petition Congress to give him a medal.
The bottom line is that when the stakes are as high as shown in "Dirty War," the ends DO justify the means. I'm not happy about saying that, but if forcing a terrorist to talk would avert something so terrible, I'd enthusiastically support it. As someone once said, "The innocent have more rights than the guilty." On a final note, I did not have a problem with the "message" that there are "good Muslims" who despise al-Qaeda and everything Osama Bin Laden stands for (I just wish they'd be more outspoken). At least BBC and HBO had the guts to make a movie where the terrorists were actually cast out of reality as opposed to the fantasy neo-Nazis that Hollywood substituted for Islamic terrorists in "the Sum of All Fears." Anyway, I thought it was a great movie
Hotel Rwanda (2004)
the Blame Game
Hotel Rwanda did not live up to my expectations. It was a decent movie, but it just isn't in the same category as Schindler's List.
On the plus side, I thought that Don Cheadle and the rest of the cast did a fine job (although Nick Nolte was probably too old for the role that he played). I also thought that the movie depicted the Interahamwe militia in a chilling fashion. The most horrifying parts of the movie for me were the moments showing ordinary Rwandan Hutus being incited to kill the Tutsi "cockroaches" by Radio Mille Collines.
On the negative side, I thought the movie "disneyfied" what happened in Rwanda. What happened in that country for 100 days was surreal. Hundreds of thousands of innocent Tutsi, Twa, and moderate Hutus were brutally murdered. Friends and neighbors killed each other. Doctors killed patients. Patients killed doctors. Teachers killed students. Students killed teachers. And supposed "men of God" betrayed their parishioners.
Yet Hotel Rwanda shied away from depicting any of this. There was no scene like that in Schindler's List when the Nazis cleared out the Cracow Ghetto. We see the threat of violence, and we see the aftermath of violence. But we don't see the actual evil being committed. I think that one brief series of scenes depicting a massacre would have brought home the horror of Rwanda much more effectively than this movie did. Depicted (or non-depicted) as it is Hotel Rwanda, someone might think that there was some nameless force at work at Rwanda causing some people to act in a threatening fashion and randomly slaying others.
My second criticism is the blame shifting that the movie did. It has become popular to blame the West, specifically the United States, France, and a few other countries, for what happened in Rwanda. The logic is that we knew what was happening was genocide, yet we did nothing to stop it.
I was in the American Army at the time. Yet because I was over in the former Yugoslavia (where bad things were happening at a somewhat more leisurely pace), I was only dimly aware of what was going on in Africa. With ten years' perspective, I find myself wishing that we had intervened. Even a gesture as small as jamming "Radio Genocide" would have been something.
Yet I totally reject that my country is at fault for Rwanda. The bottom line is this: the Hutus and Tutsis did it to themselves. I am including the Tutsis in the blame game because the Tutsi regime in Burundi committed enormous crimes against the Hutus living there before the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Those killings had dire consequences for the Tutsis in Rwanda.
Assigning primary blame to people other than those who gave the orders to kill or were actually swinging the machetes is wrong for two reasons. First, it infantilizes the Hutus and Tutsis. They are human beings and have free will. Some of them did the right thing. Many more did not.
Second, who can really say that the UN, US, or any other country could have stopped what happened? I would be willing to bet had there been an intervention by US military forces, some of the people here and elsewhere who are loudly damning the US for inaction would be just as loudly damning the US for "violating Rwanda's sovereignty." Meanwhile people like John Pilger would be writing editorials accusing the US of trying to re-colonize Central Africa.
I feel no guilt about Rwanda. Yet I wish that we had intervened anyway because it would have saved lives. That would have been worth having to put up with anti-war demonstrations and idiotic statements like "this war is all about Congo diamonds, or uranium, or control of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest gorilla safari industry."
Smallpox 2002: Silent Weapon (2002)
Problem with the Lone Nut Aspect of the Story
I thought that this was a pretty good movie. I do have a problem with the origin of the outbreak apparently being a lone-nut, presumably some Christian fanatic who is carrying out some fantasy of bringing the grim story of the Revelations into reality.
I have no doubt that there are lunatics out there who would do just that if they had a chance. I just don't see how such an individual would procur any quantity of smallpox from a corrupt Russian scientist from the Soviet BW program.
What I think would be a much more plausible scenario would have been a group like al-Qaeda procuring stocks of a BW weapon with the help of some elements of Russian organized crime. Yet I can't help but think that the agent of choice would be something like Marburg, Tularemia, or weaponized anthrax. Those BW agents kill extremely fast and very dramatically but they aren't as unpredictably and explosively contagious.
The bottom line is that despite the anthrax letters, I am much more scared of an organized group like al-Qaeda sprinkling a couple of kilograms of weaponized, inhalational anthraw over New York City than the scenario described in this movie.
That being said, I do hope that the civil defense planners here and around the world, watch it and take note.
I think that it would have been much more likely ending to find a Koran with a verse from it underlined given the manifest terrorist threat that we face than a Bible. But something tells me that in this politically correct era in which we live, that would have been unthinkable --even though al-Qaeda would cheerfully wipe us off the map with any weapon they could field.