Going To the Movies

popcorn-boxMy earliest memories of going to the movies are of total chaos.  Imagine a large, old-fashioned movie theater on the main drag of my hometown during a Saturday matinee for grade schoolers.  The theater is packed.  There is a cartoon, an episode of a cliffhanger serial like Buck Rogers (to be continued the next week), then the main feature, often a black-and-white western.  The kids are not quiet.  When they finish their popcorn, they fold the box flat and sail it out over the crowded theater.  Soon the air is filled with gliding popcorn boxes.  The noise and chaos didn’t bother me at all.  Oh, but it was fun!

Yesterday I started watching the Stars Wars movie that is first in the series in chronological order.  I star-wars-textwas surprised how poor it was, dependent heavily on special effects and quirky characters.  The plot was as weak as day-old coffee and so lame that even the good actors couldn’t overcome the hackneyed dialogue.  I could only manage thirty minutes of the movie before turning it off.  There are a million better ways to be bored.

I often start a movie without finishing it.  A waste of money for sure, but also for me an indication that there are not many decent movies being made these days.  I’m not interested in movies based on comic book characters, so that excludes seemingly half the movies made these days.  Include the re-makes and there doesn’t seem much room left for original movies.

Going out to see a movie used to be one of my favorite things.  When I lived alone in Washington, DC and had yet to make any friends, I went to the movies at least once a week and enjoyed myself even if the movie wasn’t very good.  Now I never see a movie in a theater.  It’s not because there are no movies I’d like to see (not many but there are some),  it’s because the sound is often overwhelmingly loud, an assault on a person’s senses.   So I no longer subject myself to movie theaters.  I wait until I can get the DVD from the library or from the one-and-only, surviving DVD rental shop left in town.  I may never again set foot in a movie theater.

There is a lot of junk available on the internet.  Truly awful movies that exploit all possible human weaknesses.  I’ve gotten sucked in by too many such movies.  In my defense, I can say that I’ve rarely if ever finished any of the trashy movies, but I have to guard against temptation.




I watched two movies over the weekend, one that posed a difficult moral and ethical issue, the other that trashed the same issue in a gush of jingoistic nationalism.

Eye In the SkyI first watched Eye In the Sky with Helen Mirren.  Its plot involved a potential drone-launched missile attack on a house in a congested, urban area in Nairobi. At the moment of launch, surveillance intelligence revealed that two suicide bombers were in the house and about to proceed on their missions.  Surveillance also showed a young, innocent girl just outside the house.  The dilemma was whether to launch the strike that would abort the two suicide missions and likely save up to eighty lives but would likely kill the young girl, or cancel the strike and save the young girl but risk having the suicide missions carried out.  The movie shows that there is not an easy answer.  It doesn’t provide an easy answer.

London FallenThe second movie was London Has Fallen.  This movie begins with an actual drone-launched missile attack on the compound of a rich terrorist and arms dealer in rural Pakistan.  Surveillance clearly showed that there was a wedding in progress with many guests – children, women, innocents.  With no discussion, the attack is carried out and many innocents are killed.  The terrorist and his sons survive and plot diabolical revenge with an attack on London that plays out like a coup d’etat.  The Rambo-style hero rages unscathed through thousands of bullets, grenades, and rockets and eventually saves the day and rescues the U.S. president who behaves like a true American hero.  It was nothing more than jingoistic nationalism:  we’re the good guys, they are the bad guys, even though the initial missile attack was just as barbarous as the revenge-driven attack on London.  The issue of collateral damage from the first attack was never addressed.

I recommend Eye In the Sky.  It’s a simple plot that keeps you on the edge of your seat and starts you thinking.  Don’t bother with London Has Fallen.  Not only it is a gush of jingoism, the plot is unrealistic and illogical.  An embarrassing movie.

Helen Mirren(P.S.  Helen Mirren is 71 years old, way past the age of retirement in the U.S.military, but in Eye In the Sky she plays a very fit-looking colonel.  I think she’ll continue to entertain us with great acting for a long time to come.)