Monday, March 11, 2013

Wknd Box Office: Emperor, Dead Man Down, Oz The Great and Powerful – Another US War Hero Gets Defamed By Hollywood

Here is an interesting article from reviewing some of the movies that came out over the past weekend. This follows this post about some of the movies from last week and THIS POST about some movies that have been released over the past few years that you might have missed! This all follows this post about guidelines to chosing good movies to watch yourself!

Wknd Box Office: Emperor, Dead Man Down, Oz The Great and Powerful – Another US War Hero Gets Defamed By Hollywood

By Debbie Schlussel

I can always tell when we’re getting closer and closer to the May start of the major movies of the year. It’s when the movies start to get better. And this weekend, I liked all three of the new offerings. But keep in mind that one of the “good ones” was good until I found out that it defames a great American soldier who served his country well in battle and got Hollywood crapping all over him in return.

* “Emperor“: I really liked this movie, until I went home and did some research, discovering that a major portion of the movie is not only a lie but a disgusting exercise in defamation against a World War II hero who is no longer alive to defend himself and set the record straight. The man who’s severely defamed here is Brigadier General Bonner Fellers, who served in both World War I and II and directed America’s psychological warfare efforts in World War II. Played by Matthew Fox (who is good in this role), he is the central character in this movie.

“Emperor” takes place just after World War II has ended. General Douglas MacArthur (Tommy Lee Jones–who is always excellent, even if he and I have had it out) is leading the efforts at rebuilding Japan and trying Japanese leaders involved in ordering the bombing of Pearl Harbor for war crimes. Originally, America has decided to leave Emperor Hirohito alone, but soon President Truman and the brass back at home decide they want the Emperor tried for war crimes and executed. Gen. MacArthur assigns Brig. Gen. Fellers the task of running the investigation and finding the evidence to hang Hirohito. But, as portrayed in this movie, Fellers feels that’s the wrong move, because the Japanese really respect and admire the Emperor. Fellers believes this would sow the seeds of rebellion and hurt any efforts at maintaining the peace and rebuilding Japan. The movie shows his investigation and his efforts to court Japanese officials in order to get to the bottom of things and save the Emperor from execution.

And, now, the giant lie: a major portion of the movie and its plot is focused on Fellers and his Japanese girlfriend from college. It’s at least half of the movie, if not more. The movie shows him spending a good deal of time on the job searching for his lost love. And the movie portrays Fellers as some sort of a traitor because of this, who compromised our war efforts by aiming our bombs away from important targets in order to save his girlfriend’s life. But none of that ever happened. In fact, there is no evidence in real life that Fellers ever had a Japanese girlfriend (although a cousin of his reportedly married a Japanese diplomat). There is no evidence whatsoever that Fellers ever aimed our bombs away from important Japanese targets during World War II. It’s just total fiction. The movie portrays Bonner as what I would call a “Nippon-ophile” (not sure if there’s a word for that so I made it up), who speaks Japanese and loves all things Japanese (because of this fictional girlfriend). I’m not sure if even that was true.

And as the movie ends, there are postscripts on what happened to each of those depicted in the film. The movie correctly notes that Fellers was demoted from Brigadier General to Colonel when he retired from the Army, making it seem as if he was demoted because of this disobeying of orders during World War II and mis-aiming of bombs and other weapons (which never happened). In fact, Fellers’ demotion in rank was a result of the military downsizing of the number of those holding the rank of general. It had nothing to do with his performance or any (fictional) disloyalty to America. His rank of Brigadier General was restored in 1948.

I hate when filmmakers pretend they are making a historically accurate movie, as this movie purports to–using real-life World War II footage and the real-life photos of the people portrayed within it at the end of the movie. I especially hate it when they do this by defaming a man who is a genuine hero and good guy and make him look like he was disloyal to this country, when he was anything but. This isn’t the first time Hollywood did that to a genuine war hero. See the defamation of Gene DeBruin–a genuine Vietnam war hero, who gave his life to save that of a fellow American soldier–in “Rescue Dawn,” which I noted in my review column on that movie.

The real life Bonner Fellers’ life was very interesting, more so than the falsehoods depicted in this movie. A military attache in Egypt, he made very detailed reports to his Army superiors, which were so vital that they were highly valued by the Army Chief of Staff. He was so concerned about security that he did not want his reports transmitted by radio, but his superiors insisted on it. And, as it turns out, his fears were well founded because the Axis spies intercepted his reports and used the reports to their advantage. Fellers earned a chest full of major medals for his service and went on to become active in American politics in an interesting way. He was active in the Robert Taft for President campaign and that of Barry Goldwater. He also worked for the Republican National Committee and was one of the early members of the John Birch Society. An interesting character indeed, but not in the way he was portrayed in this movie as some sort of pan-Japanese traitor.

I hate to say, “But other than that, it’s a great movie,” since the defamation is a major part of the movie, and it just isn’t true. But the movie–if you ignore the false, unnecessary love story–is in fact a good one otherwise. It’s interesting, and I think the portions of it showing the investigation of Hirohito and what happened with the Emperor are more accurate and an important and interesting part of post-World War II history. If you see this movie, just keep in mind that it is a travesty, a disservice to, and really a major crime against the reputation of Brigadier General Bonner Fellers, may he rest in peace.

If this well-acted movie hadn’t engaged in a major set of lies against Bonner Fellers, I’d give it THREE-AND-A-HALF REAGANS (and probably even FOUR REAGANS). But since it did and it’s the biggest part of the movie, I can only give it . . .


* “Dead Man Down“:I really enjoyed this movie, despite the fact that it is violent and bloody (and I didn’t need to see a scene of some filthy gangster having sex with a prostitute). I liked the story, which was unusual and different for standard Hollywood fare. And the thing that’s best about this movie is that it’s about revenge against scumbags who deserve it and also about redemption. There is no moral equivocation in this film. As you dig into the film, you soon see that in this the good guys are good and the bad guys are bad and get theirs. The movie is riveting, suspenseful, and a taut thriller. And, for women looking for a chick flick, there is also a love story at hand, too.

I can’t give up too much of the plot because I don’t want to spoil the movie, but here’s what I can say. Someone is targeting New York City gangsters in a gang led by Terrence Howard. We soon learn that the murderer is secretly a member of Howard’s gang, played by Colin Farrell. At the same time, Farrell spies a woman (with a scarred face, which she’s gotten in a car accident) across the balcony from his apartment, and she spies him. The woman is played by Noomi Rapace. Soon, they get together and find that they are both seeking vengeance (for legit reasons in at least one of the cases). But one of them becomes unwillingly entangled in the other’s story. I wish I could tell you more, but it would give a good chunk of it away.

The movie was not your typical thriller. It’s, in some ways, odd and weird. But odd and weird as in this movie make for a cool and interesting movie. It’s different. Yes, there are a few holes in the plot, the most gaping of which is a person trusting another on an important item, where such trust would simply not attach. But other than that, it’s worthwhile. A caveat: if you shy away from violent movies, this is not for you, even if–as in this movie–most of the violence is the good guys doing what’s just and right.


* “Oz the Great and Powerful“: While the story and plot of this movie are just okay, the visuals are fabulous and stunning and it’s worth seeing just for that. There are very few movies for which the extra price for 3D glasses is worth it, and this is one of them. The three-dimensional computer-generated graphics are a virtual binge of eye candy. It’s based on the L. Frank Baum books about Oz.

James Franco plays a magician in the early 1900s traveling circus or carnival. He’s a con artist of sorts and a womanizer who is on the run from a fellow carnie whose girlfriend he hit on. He runs away in a balloon which ends up in a tornado and lands him in Oz. When he lands in Oz he meets a good witch, played by Mila Kunis, but she is not necessarily what she seems. She and her sister, another witch played by Rachel Weisz, say that legend has it that a wizard will come to Oz and save them and the Emerald City from the evil witch. And, naturally, this con artist magician pretends he’s the Wizard who can perform the miracles of the legend. Soon, however, the faux-Wizard Franco meets the real good witch (Michelle Williams), and with her and a china doll and a monkey busboy, they help save Oz. The story is sort of like a prequel to the original “Wizard of Oz” movie, but not nearly as good. Not even close.

This movie was the largest of those financed by the Michigan Film Tax Credit boondoggle and was shot entirely inside a studio in Pontiac, Michigan, which is struggling to survive (sadly, the studio is financed by bonds from Michigan pension funds). While the movie is cute and has its funny moments, it’s not worth having Michigan small business and taxpayers give away $40 million to Hollywood (which they did). Also, while entertaining, it’s quite slow and a little boring and long. It’s also a little scary for young kids (but given the times, maybe not). Still, it’s not bad, has a great old Hollywood/1940s starlet feel to it, and it’s worthwhile if just for the stunning visuals. Make sure to see it in 3D.


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