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Secret Weapons (1985)
Did these schools really exist?
It was widely believed that these schools actually existed. Whether they did or not, I do not know.
During my first visit to the Soviet Union in 1977 I met a girl who fit this description almost perfectly. I met her in Yerevan, Armenia. She spoke English so perfectly that I could not imagine that she was not American. She knew everything about America. She was about 20 years old. She accompanied me everywhere I went for three or four days. She waited outside my hotel for me, which was the Hotel Armenia, every morning. She said that she was a graduate from the Foreign Language Institute in Moscow and her teachers had been American. This explained her perfect accent. She had never been outside of the Soviet Union.
I do not even remember her name, except that she was beautiful and she DID NOT play chess. During that same visit to Armenia I met two other girls who were strong chess players (but who did not speak much English) and I was much more interested in them.
Was this girl I met a budding KGB agent? I do not know. Probably she was not but it made me a bit nervous to be spending time with a girl in the Soviet Union who spoke English as well as I do. I never even tried to get her into bed.
Shanhai bansukingu (1984)
I was an extra (only)
I was in this movie as an extra, along with many other Americans, but I do not know if my picture ever appeared there.
It was filmed in Ofuna and I mention it in my screenplay "Hard Times in Tokyo Japan".
Here is what my screenplay says about it:
"We thought you weren't coming. We've been calling all day. Your office said they didn't know where you were. Go to the dance floor and act like you're dancing with one of the ladies there.
"Sam goes to the dance floor. There he finds Tony, with his arms around a Japanese woman. They are supposed to be dancing in this movie. Sam finds a lady and starts dancing with her, to music. The dance floor is filled with couples dancing. About half of them are foreigners, American and European. This is a movie about the Japanese occupation of Shanghai before World War II.
"During the shooting, Tony repeatedly tries to fondle and feel up whatever Japanese woman he is assigned to dance with. The women obviously don't want to be fondled, but they also do not want to lose their jobs, so they try their best to tolerate Tony.
"Between shots, Tony speaks to Sam"
PLOT SYNOPSIS for Shanghai Bansu King (Shanghai Rhapsody) Shanghai, the summer of 1936. Shirou was on the way to Paris as the honeymoon with Madoka. He could marry her on one condition: he gave up to pursue the career as jazz musician. But he planned to stay in Shanghai to enjoy jazz life. When Madoka found out about it, they were already in trouble which made impossible to get out of Shanghai. They begun working in a dance hall, enjoyed jazz and freedom. But the war was coming near... (The term 'bansu king' in the title derived from 'advance king', which means a person who always gets advance of his/her payment.)
Shichinin no samurai (1954)
A minor controversy
Shichinin no samurai (1954) or Seven Samurai I watched Seven Samurai on PBS last night with my wife, who is Japanese.
Early in the movie, there is a conversation between two of the leaders on the bandits in which it is suggested that Samurai commonly rape the local women. I had never thought of this before and so I asked my wife whether the traditional samurai were considered to have the right to any woman they choose. She did not know the answer.
Later in the movie, there are two scenes of implied or suggested sex. Up in a secluded part of the hills, Shino lays on the grass thereby making herself available to Shichiroji, a young samurai. When he does not partake of this opportunity, she demands that he do what a samurai does and, failing that, she calls him a coward. Soon, something distracts them and they walk off, so nothing happens.
On the night before the climatic battle scene, she lures him into her hut. Here, it is obvious what happens. Yet, my Japanese wife doubts that anything happens, which I cannot understand. Upon leaving the hut after completing the foul deed, Manzo, father of Shino, comes home unexpectedly having been relieved of his guard duties temporarily and realizes that his daughter has been having sex with Shichiroji. He screams and cries, calling her a slut, a whore and other names, while his comrades in arms comfort him and tell him to worry more about the starving bandits who will be attacking the following morning. Later, other samurai congratulate Shichiroji on finally becoming a man.
In my view, this interpretation is so clear that I see no room for disagreement, yet my wife disagrees.
Any opinions? Sam Sloan
The Naked Mile (2006)
A Nice Movie
This is a nice movie. In most movies, all the people who have sex get killed and the only ones left alive are the virgins.
However, that is not the way things happen in real life. In real life, sex makes us happy and that is why we all do it.
So, in this movie, we have a happy ending that really is happy.
What I wonder is where they got all the extras from. It would be nice if there was a real college campus with all those beautiful babes. It must have cost a fortune to make this movie. Also interesting is the rescue scene where the hero is racing to save his girlfriend from getting fd.
The Manchurian Candidate (2004)
Tiny Electrodes Control the Mind of a Candidate for Vice-President of the United States
US Forces on a routine patrol during the First Gulf War in Kuwait encounter a vicious firefight in which two US soldiers are killed, but the rest are led across the desert to safety.
The leader of the group that reached safety has won the Congressional Medal of Honor and is now a candidate for Vice President of the United States.
Another soldier who survived that same firefight is having dreams, terrible dreams, and in his dreams that did not happen at all and something entirely different happened.
He is dismissed as psychotic and a victim of the Gulf War Syndrome.
Yet, Denzel Washington, another survivor, realizes that he too has been having the same terrible dreams.
When Washington discovers a tiny electrode that has been placed under his skin, he realizes that perhaps the dreams are what really happened and what he thought had happened are just dreams induced by these electrodes. According to his dreams, what really happened is they were all captured by the enemy, who put these electrodes into their bodies and now has the power to control them.
When he realizes that the candidate for Vice-President of the United States also must have the same electrodes planted throughout his body and even in his brain, the plot becomes evident. The Candidate has become a robot controlled by Manchurian Global to take over the Government of the United States and then the world. When Denzel tries to tell the authorities about this, they decide that he too is a victim of the Gulf War Syndrome.
The candidate's manipulative and controlling mother, who is in on the plot, is brilliantly played by Meryl Streep. I remember Meryl Streep as a young ingénue. I never realized what a great actress she was until I saw this movie.
This is essentially a remake of a 1962 movie by the same name. In the original, they were all captured during the Korean War and sent across the border to Manchuria in China for brainwashing, hence the name.
I am sure that this movie did not help the candidacy of John Kerry when he ran for President. It will certainly be devastating to the candidacy of John McCain should he ever get the nomination, since McCain really was captured by the enemy. The Democrats will play this movie over and over again.
A novelist finds that as he writes his novel the events happen in real life.
The plot centers around a Nagamochi, which is a Japanese treasure chest. A woman goes shopping while her husband, who has to stay at home because he is sick, plays hide-and-go seek with the children. He hides in the Nagamochi. The children cannot find him and finally give up. When the wife comes home, she discovers to her horror that her husband has died of suffocation in the nagamochi.
This, however, is just the plot for a novel being written by a famous writer. Just before his novel is about to be published, it is banned by the government. Since it cannot be published, he burns his work.
The next day he reads the newspaper and discovers that an incident just like that which is described in his novel has really happened. He goes to find the woman and discovers that she has the same name as the character in his novel. This must be a coincidence because he has burned his work and nobody else had ever read it.
He cannot leave this poor woman abandoned, so he goes back and writes again. As he writes page after page, the events he describes in his book happen in real life.
The movie is slow moving and surrealistic. It seems to be a dream within a dream. This will never make it on prime time, but is is a great movie with high art.
Hatley High (2003)
A Great Movie about High School Chess
This is a great movie, long overlooked. A small town high school is nuts about chess and everybody plays The big showdown comes when a team from the Soviet Union is flown in to play the big match. The coach for Hatley High is a Soviet defector who defected during the last chess match between the two teams. The new Russian coach is a Russian nationalist, and the rivalry is personal.
On the night before the big showdown, the Russian team captain, Anya Petrovich, played by Ilona Elkin, seduces the Hatley High captain, played by James A. Woods, and tricks him by putting handcuffs on him and locking in the principal's office. When the Hatley High Captain does not appear for the big final match, the Hatley High team will be forfeited unless somebody can be pulled off the bench to play the big final game.
The creators of this movie could have used a real chess consultant. Many of the moves shown on the chess board are illegal. Black moves first in the first game and, although they use chess terms like Sicilian Defense and Budapest Defense, the moves shown on the board are nothing like those openings.
However, we can overlook these defects because this movie teaches us chess players important lessons about how a movie about a high school chess match can be made exciting and interesting to the general non-chess playing audience.
Jefferson in Paris (1995)
Historically accurate, as much as possible
I have written a book on this subject, "The Slave Children of Thomas Jefferson", first published in 1992, so I was expecting to find numerous errors. However, I could not find any. They seem to have made a special effort to make it as accurate as possible, so that a viewer will actually learn a bit of history.
This movie is really more about the history of France, than about the history of America. The French Revolution begins to unfold before your eyes, although the real revolution did not take place until after Jefferson had returned to America.
One problem is that the movie is not very exciting. No car chase scenes, for example. However, this is understandable since it would be difficult to make a film which is both historically accurate and a success at the box office.
Also, the movie does not actually show Thomas Jefferson in bed with either Maria Cosway or Sally Hemings. It is widely believed among historians that Jefferson slept with both women during his stay in Paris, but there is no real proof that either relationship occurred, and therefore the filmmakers wisely left that out.
The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005)
A Great Parody of the Old Were-Wolf Movies
Wallace and his faithful dog Gromit run a pest-control company which uses high-tech inventions as burglar alarms to summon them to gardens where rabbits have broken in and are eating the vegetables. The stakes are high, as the 500th Annual Vegetable Growing Contest is about to take place and the townspeople have grown huge pumpkins, carrots and other vegetables to compete in the contest. They fear that the rabbits will eat their prize vegetables before the contest takes place.
Wallace and Gromit do not kill the rabbits they have captured. Instead, they put them into pens and feed them. However, the problem is that the pens are full, so they seek another solution. Meanwhile, Lady Trottington, who is running the contest, has a suitor who seeks permission to shoot the beasts.
The next part of the movie cannot be fully appreciated unless one has seen the old were-wolf movies starring Lon Chaney Jr., such as The Wolf Man (1941). Wallace has invented a mind altering machine. When the moon is full, the machine will alter the minds of everybody attached to it. Since Wallace loves cheese, he attaches himself and a rabbit he has captured to the machine. The plan is that the rabbit will now love cheese instead of vegetables and therefore can be released without endangering the gardens.
The machine seems to work as the rabbit no longer loves carrots but loves cheese instead and is therefore released. What Wallace does not realize is that he has created a giant were-rabbit, who goes through the town eating all the gardens. Now, as in the old Lon Chaney movies, the townspeople gather with pitchforks and torches, trying to kill the were-rabbit to save their gardens before the vegetable growing contest. Where is the Were-rabbit and how can Wallace and Gromit stop him? This is a great movie. My four year old daughter loves it. Transfixed, she watched the whole thing twice. I did not understand the movie at first and that is the reason why I am writing this description.
This is a remake: The original version was much different and better.
I have seen this movie twice on In-Flight Movies on Thai International Airways flights from Bangkok. It was a low-budget film but with a great story line. I think that the title was simply "Kick Box".
The plot was: There are two brothers. One brother is the World Champion Kick Boxer. However, in a fight to defend the world championship, he is severely injured. He is put in a wheel-chair and cannot box any more.
His brother wants to gain revenge, so he goes looking for a grandmaster to teach him Thai kick boxing. After a long search, he finds the Grandmaster of Kick Boxing living as a recluse far out in the jungles of Thailand. At first the grandmaster denies that he is the right person. Then he says that he does not box any more. Finally with great reluctance he agrees to teach him kick boxing.
There follows months of rigorous training. Finally the brother decides he is ready and leaves.
We soon find out why the grandmaster was so reluctant to box any more, even denying who he was. The same boxer who severely injured the brother has been searching for the grandmaster too. He finally finds him in the jungle, they fight and the grandmaster is killed. The brother returns to find his teacher dead. Now the brother goes searching to gain revenge against the kick boxer who both injured his brother and killed his teacher.
I finally got around to seeing this movie today in DVD format. However, there were major, major changes from the original version I saw as an in-flight movie on Thai International Airways. The changes are so big that it is almost a different movie. Here are some of the changes: The Viet Nam War veteran Winston Taylor part does not exist in the original. There is no such person.
The female lead MyLee does not exist in the original.
The only female in the original is the hooker who the elder brother is taking into a hotel. The hooker in the original is a different girl and more beautiful.
All or almost all of the actors are different. The bad guy Tong Po is a different actor in the original. In the original, that part is played by a very mean looking black man. He kills three people unnecessarily, and is killed himself in the end.
The trainer in the original is a different actor. He is a much younger man who merely wants to retire from fighting, so at first he pretends not to be that person. We later learn that he is hiding from the Tong Po character who wants to hunt him down, kind of like in the old western movies where the two fastest gunslingers in the west want to battle each other to see who is the fastest.
The final fight scene does not take place in an arena in front of a paying audience. Rather, the final fight takes place in the jungle and it is a fight to the death.
With all these changes, one must wonder if it is really the same movie. Yet, it is clearly the same. The earlier part up to the point where the defeated and injured elder brother is taken out and left on the street is virtually identical to the in-flight movie I saw.
The movie I saw was very primitive. It looked like it had been shot with a home movie camera. What I suspect is that some Hollywood producers saw the original I saw, realized its potential and purchased the rights and remade the movie completely.
I still prefer the original. Perhaps they should go back and find the original if it still exists and remake THAT movie.