The Unnominated: Johnny Got His Gun (dir by Dalton Trumbo)

Though the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences claim that the Oscars honor the best of the year, we all know that there are always worthy films and performances that end up getting overlooked.  Sometimes, it’s because the competition too fierce.  Sometimes, it’s because the film itself was too controversial.  Often, it’s just a case of a film’s quality not being fully recognized until years after its initial released.  This series of reviews takes a look at the films and performances that should have been nominated but were, for whatever reason, overlooked.  These are the Unnominated.

The 1971 anti-war film, Johnny Got His Gun, tells the story of Joe Bonham (played by Timothy Bottoms).  When America enters World War I, Joe enlists in the Army.  He leaves behind his small-town life.  He leaves behind his patriotic father (Jason Robards) and his loving girlfriend (Kathy Fields).  As he leaves, everyone tells him that he is doing the right thing to protect democracy.  Joe’s a hero!

Joe expects war to be a glorious affair, one that will make a true man out of him.  Instead, he’s hit by an artillery shell while huddled in a muddy trench.  Though he survives the explosion, he loses his arms and his legs.  He loses his face.  He’s taken to a field hospital, where the doctors say that, though he’s alive, he’s incapable of feeling or thinking.  He’s left alone in a room and is occasionally checked on by a sympathetic nurse (Diane Varsi).

The doctors are wrong.  Joe can think.  Even if he can’t see where he is now, he can still remember the life that he once had and the events that led him to the hospital.  The film switches back and forth, from the black-and-white imagery of the hospital to the vivid color of Joe’s memories and fantasies.  In his mind, Joe remembers his father, who encouraged him to go to war and perhaps was not the all-knowing figure that Joe originally assumed him to be.  (The film makes good use of Jason Robards’s natural gravitas.  Like Joe, the viewer initially assumes that Robards is correct about everything.) Joe also imagines several conversations with Jesus (a stoned-looking Donald Sutherland), who turns out to be surprisingly mellow and not always particularly helpful.  Jesus suggest that Joe may just be naturally unlucky and he also suggests that Joe perhaps keep his distance from him because, sometimes, bad luck can rub off.  Joe, meanwhile, wonders if he could be used as a traveling exhibit to portray the futility of war.  When Joe finally realizes that a nurse has been checking on him, he tries to figure out a way to send a message to both her and the military that is keeping him alive in his captive state.  S.O.S. …. help me….

Johnny Got His Gun is based on a novel by Dalton Trumbo.  The novel was first published in 1939, at a time when the debate over whether the the U.S. should get involved in another war in Europe was running high.  At the time, Trumbo was a Stalinist who opposed getting involved because Germany and Russia had signed a non-aggression pact.  After the Germans invaded Russia in 1941, Trumbo and his publishers suspended reprinting of the book until the war was over with.  Needless to say, this was all brought up in the 50s, when Trumbo was one of the more prominent writers to be blacklisted during the Red Scare.  On the one hand, Dalton Trumbo does sound like he was more than a bit of a useful idiot for the Stalinists.  On the other hand, if you’re going to suspend the printing of your anti-war polemic, it should definitely be because you want to help defeat the Nazis.  In the end, what really matters is that Johnny Got His Gun is an undeniably well-written and effective book, one that works because it eschews the vapid sloganeering that one finds in so many works of left-wing literature and instead focuses on the emotions and thoughts of one human being.

The book was later rediscovered by the anti-war protestors of the 60s, which led to Dalton Trumbo directing a film adaptation.  The film is a bit uneven.  Dalton Trumbo was 65 years old when he directed the film and there are a few moments, especially in the scenes with Sutherland as Jesus, where he seems like he’s trying a bit too hard to duplicate the younger directors who were a part of the anti-war moment.  However, the scenes in the military hospital are undeniably moving.  The hospital scenes are shot in a noirish black-and-white and they effectively capture the stark horror of Joe’s situation.  Left alone in his dark and shadowy room, Joe becomes the perfect symbol for all the war-related horrors that people choose to ignore.  He becomes the embodiment of what war does to those who are scarred, both physically and mentally, by it.  The scenes where Diane Varsi realizes that Joe is aware of what’s happened to him and that he can still feel are powerful and emotional.  In fact, they work so well that it’s hard not to wish that the film could have done away with the fantasies and the flashbacks, despite the fact that Timothy Bottoms gives an appealing performance as the young and idealistic Joe.

Johnny Got His Gun didn’t receive any Oscar nominations.  Should it have?  The 1971 Best Picture line-up was a strong one, with the exception of Nicholas and AlexandraJohnny Got His Gun was definitely superior to Nicholas and Alexandra.  However, Dirty Harry is definitely superior to Johnny Got His Gun.  (For that matter, Two-Lane Blacktop also came out in 1971 as well.)  But, even if Johnny Got His Gun didn’t deserve to be one of the five Best Picture nominees, it did deserve some consideration for its cinematography and Diane Varsi’s performance.  If the flashbacks and the fantasies were handled a bit more effectively, I would suggest that Jason Robards and Timothy Bottoms were worthy of consideration as well.

In conclusion, I should that 1971 was a good year for Timothy Bottoms.  Not only did he star in this film but he was also the star of The Last Picture Show.

Previous entries in The Unnominated:

  1. Auto Focus 
  2. Star 80
  3. Monty Python and The Holy Grail

Insomnia File No. 55: FTA (dir by Francine Parker)

What’s an Insomnia File? You know how some times you just can’t get any sleep and, at about three in the morning, you’ll find yourself watching whatever you can find on cable or Netflix? This feature is all about those insomnia-inspired discoveries!

If you were having some trouble getting too sleep last night, you could have taken some sleeping pills and allowed them to knock you out for a day or two.  Or you could have logged into Netflix and watched the 1972 anti-war documentary, F.T.A.

The year was 1971 and the United States was bogged down in a deeply unpopular war in Vietnam.  While protests continued in North America, the soldiers who were actually serving in Asia started to become increasingly outspoken about their own doubts about whether there was any good reason for the U.S. to be in Vietnam.  Often at the risk of being court-martialed, these soldiers started to make their voice heard through underground newspapers and by hanging out at coffeehouses that anti-war protestors had started near military bases.  “F.T.A.” became a rallying cry for these anti-war soldiers.  A play on the army’s then-slogan of “Fun, Travel, and Adventure,” F.T.A. was also said to stand for, “Fuck the Army.”

F.T.A. also stood for Free Theater Associates, an anti-war vaudeville-style troupe that spent 1971 performing at G.I. Coffeehouses.  The show was specifically set up as a parody of Bob Hope’s USO Shows.  Each performance featured music, skits, and a reading from Dalton Trumbo’s anti-war novel, Johnny Got His Gun.  Headlining the FTA show were actors Donald Sutherland Jane Fonda, comedians Michael Alaimo and Paul Mooney, and musicians Swamp Dogg and Holly Near.

F.T.A. is really two documentaries in one.  One documentary features the F.T.A. performances and follows the troupe as they travel to military bases in Hawaii, The Philippines, Okinawa, and Japan.  The other documentary features interviews with the anti-war soldiers who came to see the show.  They discuss how they feel about the prospect of dying in a war that none of them support and few of them understand.  They discuss how clueless the officers are.  Black G.I.s discuss the racism within the ranks and wonder why they should die for a country that discriminates against them.

For the most part, the celebrities come across as being dilettantes.  With the exception of Swamp Dogg (who is obviously sincere in his concerns for the people that he’s performing for), the F.T.A. performers come across as being a bit too enamored with themselves and a lot of what we see of the F.T.A. Show seems to be more about impressing the activists back home than entertaining the G.I.s.  (Many of the skits reminded me of the worst of the Freedom School scenes from Billy Jack.)  However, the soldiers themselves are fascinating.  The soldiers discuss their anger, fears, and experiences with an honesty and an authenticity that is never less than compelling.  If nothing else, this documentary highlights the difference between people who are anti-war because they’ve experienced it firsthand and people who are anti-war because it’s the latest thing to be.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I’m a history nerd.  Seen today, F.T.A. is an interesting historical document, one that’s all the more fascinating because it’s a Vietnam documentary that was filmed while the war was still being fought.  As such, there’s no hindsight or attempts to mold the material into something designed to appeal to those looking back with either nostalgia or disdain.  Instead, it’s a time capsule, one that takes you back to a tumultuous time and allows you to experience it for yourself.  On that level, it’s a history nerd’s dream.

Previous Insomnia Files:

  1. Story of Mankind
  2. Stag
  3. Love Is A Gun
  4. Nina Takes A Lover
  5. Black Ice
  6. Frogs For Snakes
  7. Fair Game
  8. From The Hip
  9. Born Killers
  10. Eye For An Eye
  11. Summer Catch
  12. Beyond the Law
  13. Spring Broke
  14. Promise
  15. George Wallace
  16. Kill The Messenger
  17. The Suburbans
  18. Only The Strong
  19. Great Expectations
  20. Casual Sex?
  21. Truth
  22. Insomina
  23. Death Do Us Part
  24. A Star is Born
  25. The Winning Season
  26. Rabbit Run
  27. Remember My Name
  28. The Arrangement
  29. Day of the Animals
  30. Still of The Night
  31. Arsenal
  32. Smooth Talk
  33. The Comedian
  34. The Minus Man
  35. Donnie Brasco
  36. Punchline
  37. Evita
  38. Six: The Mark Unleashed
  39. Disclosure
  40. The Spanish Prisoner
  41. Elektra
  42. Revenge
  43. Legend
  44. Cat Run
  45. The Pyramid
  46. Enter the Ninja
  47. Downhill
  48. Malice
  49. Mystery Date
  50. Zola
  51. Ira & Abby
  52. The Next Karate Kid
  53. A Nightmare on Drug Street
  54. Jud

Body Slam (1987, directed by Hal Needham)

Music promoter M. Harry Smilac (Dirk Benedict) used to be a big deal in Los Angeles but lately, his ability to create stars appears to have left him.  He still has his Porsche and his car phone but he is also several thousand dollars in debt and he only has one client, a garage hair band called Kick.  No one wants to book Kick because no one wants to work with a known screw-up like Harry.

Desperate for money, Harry agrees to serve as the entertainment chairman for a stuffy candidate for governor.  It’s while looking for potential acts to headline a fundraiser that Harry meets Quick Rick Roberts (Roddy Piper).  When Harry sees Rick getting ripped off by a promoter, Harry assumes that Rick is a musical act and quickly offers to be Rick’s agent.  It’s only after Rick has agreed that Harry discovers that Rick doesn’t play an instrument and can’t sing a note.  Instead, Rick is a professional wrestler and, by singing him, Harry has now made an enemy of Rick’s former manager, Captain Lou Munaro (played by, you guessed it, Captain Lou Albano).

Now, Harry has to find a way to pay his creditors, make stars out of both Kick and Rick, and win the hand of Candace VanVargen (Tanya Roberts), the daughter of a wealthy political benefactor.  What if there was some way to combine rock and roll with wrestling?

Dirk Benedict, Tanya Roberts, Roddy Pipper, and Captain Lou Albana, all appearing in a movie directed by Hal Needham?  Body Slam is one of the most 80s films ever made.  It’s not really a bad film.  In typical Needham fashion, it’s a loose mix of broad comedy and scenes designed to appeal to teenage boys and their fathers.  There’s a lot wrestling.  There’s a lot of spandex.  The movie opens with Harry ogling a woman in a bikini.  Body Slam knew who its audience would be.  Dirk Benedict gives a surprisingly nimble comedic performance and even Tanya Roberts has some deliberately funny moments.  Roddy Piper is likable as the steady and fair-minded Rick.  There’s nothing subtle about Captain Lou Albano’s performance but what else would you expect from a man wearing that many rubber bands?  As was typical of Needham’s films, some of the director’s friends show up in cameos.  John Astin plays a car salesman.  Charles Nelson Reilly plays a talk show host.  Billy Barty gets into an argument with Captain Lou.  Burt Reynolds is nowhere to be seen.

Unfortunately, not many people got to see Body Slam when it was originally released.  Body Slam was going to be Hal Needham’s big comeback film after the disappointing Megaforce but the film’s producers didn’t care much for the changes that Needham made to their script and they sued to keep the film from being released.  As a result, the film never got a theatrical release and it was instead sent straight to VHS, with very little fanfare.  It has since developed a cult following amongst old school wrestling fans.

Body Slam is a typically amiable Hal Needham film.  It’s nothing special but it’s enjoyable if you’re in the mood for it.

Book Review: Message From Nam By Danielle Steel

This is a review of another novel from my aunt’s big collection of paperbacks.

First published in 1991, Message From Nam follows Paxton Andrews as she grows up in the 1960s.  She goes from being an idealistic, Kennedy-inspired teenager in Savannah, Georgia to being a hardened and brave war correspondent in Vietnam.  Along the way, she defies the wishes of her wealthy family, who would rather that she live in a conventional life in Georgia.  She goes to college, she protests the war, and she eventually even gets to write a weekly column about the war and how it is effecting both the combatants and the folks back home.  She also falls in love with several different men, the majority of whom end up dying in Vietnam.  I guess that’s one of the dangers that you run into when you’re a war correspondent.  Eventually, the great love of her life also disappears in Vietnam.  Is he dead or is he just waiting for Paxton to come and find him?

So, I don’t know about you but when I think of an American author who could deftly capture the intricacies of American foreign policy and the turmoil of the late 60s and the early 70s, Danielle Steel is not necessarily the first name that comes to mind.  Steel fills the book with historical detail but it all feels a bit rudimentary.  Naturally, the book opens on the day of the assassination of John F. Kennedy and, of course, there are references to all of the other big events of the 60s but the book’s examination of those events don’t go much deeper than acknowledging that they happened and that Paxton was upset about some of them.  Even when Paxton goes to Vietnam, it’s an experience that’s pretty much interchangeable with what the reader might expect to see if they were watching a movie about Vietnam as opposed to reading a book about it.  There are no details that make the reader pause and think, “I bet that’s what it was really like.”  Throughout the copy of the book that I read, Steel continually referred to Vietnam as being “Viet Nam.”  Admittedly, I usually make the same mistake before autocorrect jumps in to help me out but, then again, I’ve also never written a novel about being a war correspondent in Vietnam.

I suppose Message From Nam was Steel’s attempt to show that she could write a novel that didn’t take place in a world of glamorous and glitzy rich people but the fact of the matter is that Paxton still comes from a rich family and nearly every man that she meets falls in love with her so this really isn’t that much different from a typical Danielle Steel novel.  Indeed, the novel could use a little glamour and glitz.  To be honest, the book works best when Steel stop trying to make history come to life in all of its gritty reality and instead, just embraces the melodrama.  When the book focuses on people declaring their undying love right before tragedy ensues, it works just fine.  Seriously, there’s nothing wrong with being a good romance novelist.

Blast From The Past: Engagement Party (dir by William Thiele)

Green Stamps were a little bit before my time but they sound like they were fun.  From what I’ve been able to pick up, apparently you could get green stamps at any store and then you could exchange them for various goods at the Green Stamps distribution center.  Apparently, the more you spent, the more green stamps you received.  At least, that’s how I think they worked.  As I said at the start of this paragraph, they were a bit before my time.

In fact, just about everything I know about Green Stamps comes from watching Engagement Party, a 30-minute film from 1956, on TCM.  In Engagement Party, Carl Landis (Craig Hill) is the son of the owner of Landis Department Store.  Soon, Carl will be taking over the family business.  Unfortunately, the family business isn’t doing so well and, until Carl can figure out how to turn things around, Carl is reluctant to marry his girlfriend, Ellen (Gloria Talbott).

When Carl first meets Elliott Winston (Leon Ames), a friend of Ellen’s family, he rolls his eyes when Elliott mentions that he works for the people behind Green Stamps.  Carl is a frequent eye roller, largely because Carl is a jerk.  Carl explains that he considers Green Stamps to be a scam and there’s no way that he would allow them to be distributed in his store.  Elliott takes it upon himself to show Carl the error of his ways.

Basically, this is just a 30-minute commercial for Green Stamps but, from a historical point of view, it’s an interesting little time capsule of the world of 1956.  To me, the most interesting thing about this short film is the fact that Carl really is just a totally self-righteous jerk.  Why would Ellen want to marry someone who simply will not stop talking about how much he hates Green Stamps?  Get a life, Carl.  To his credit, Elliott Winston can barely seem to hide his intense loathing for Carl.  Even when Elliott’s being friendly, you can tell that he just wants to take a swing at him.

For your education and your enjoyment, here is a Blast From The Past….

Icarus File No. 7: Last Days (dir by Gus Van Sant)

From 2002 to 2005, director Gus Van Sant offered audiences what he called his “Death Trilogy.”  2002’s Gerry followed two friends as they got lost in the desert and it featured what appeared to be a mercy killing.  2003’s Elephant was a mediation on the Columbine High School massacre and it featured several murders.  Finally, with 2005’s Last Days, Van Sant ended the trilogy with a film about a suicide.

Michael Pitt plays a world-famous musician who is suffering from depression.  Though the character is named Blake, no attempt is made to disguise the fact that he is meant to be Kurt Cobain.  When we first see Blake, he has just escaped from a rehab clinic and is walking through a forest.  There are no other human beings around and, perhaps not coincidentally, this is the only moment in the film in which Blake seems to be happy.  He even sings Home on the Range, shouting the lyrics like a little kid.

When he reaches his home, Blake’s demeanor changes.  He walks around the house with a rifle and pretends to shoot the four other people — Luke (Lukas Haas), Scott (Scott Patrick Green), Asia (Asia Argento), and Nicole (Nicole Vicius) — who are sleeping in his house.  Later, when those people wake up and attempt to speak to him, Blake is largely unresponsive.  When a detective comes to the door and asks if anyone has seen Blake, Blake hides.  When a record company exec calls to tell Blake that it’s time for him to tour again and that he’ll be letting down both his band and the label if he doesn’t, Blake hangs up on her.

Who are the people staying in Blake’s house?  Luke and Scott are both musicians but apparently neither one of them are in Blake’s band.  When Luke asks Blake to help him finish a song, Blake can only mutter a few vague words of encouragement.  Scott, meanwhile, appears to be more interested in Blake’s money.  Everyone in the film wants something from Blake but Blake wants to be alone.  In the one moment when Blake actually gets to work on his own music, his talent is obvious but so is his frustration.  With everyone demanding something from him, when will he ever have time to create?  With everyone telling him that it is now his job to be a rock star, how will he ever again feel the joy that came from performing just to perform?   

As one would expect from a Van Sant film, Last Days is often visually striking, especially in the early forest scenes.  In many ways, it feels like a combination of Gerry and Elephant.  Like those previous two films, it is fixated on death but stubbornly refuses to provide any answers to any larger, metaphysical  questions.  Like Elephant, it uses a jumbled timeline to tell its story and scenes are often repeated from a different perspective.  However, it eschews Elephant‘s use of an amateur cast and instead, Last Days follows Gerry’s lead of featuring familiar actors like Michael Pitt, Lukas Haas, and Asia Argento.  Unfortunately, though, Last Days doesn’t work as well as either one of the two previous entries in the Death Trilogy.

Last Days runs into the same problem that afflicts many films about pop cultural icons.  Kurt Cobain has become such a larger-than-life figure and his suicide is viewed as being such a momentous cultural moment that any attempt to portray it on film is going to feel inadequate.  No recreation can live up to the mythology.  The film itself feels as if it is somewhat intimidated by the task of doing justice to the near religious reverence that many have for Cobain.  As enigmatic as Gerry and Elephant were, one could still tell that Van Sant knew where he wanted to take those films.  He knew what he wanted to say and he had confidence that at least a few members of the audience would understand as well.  With Last Days, Van Sant himself seems to be a bit lost when it comes to whatever it may be that he’s trying to say about Cobain.  This leads to a rather embarrassing scene in which Blake’s ghost is seen literally climbing its way towards what I guess would be the immortality of being an icon.  One might wonder how Cobain himself would feel about such a sentimental coda to his suicide.

Last Days is a film that I respect, even if I don’t think it really works.  It does do a good job of capturing the ennui of depression and one cannot fault Van Sant for his ambition or his willingness to run the risk of alienating the audience by allowing the story to play out at its own slow and deliberate pace.  But ultimately, the film cannot compete with the mythology that has sprung up around its subject.

Previous Icarus Files:

  1. Cloud Atlas
  2. Maximum Overdrive
  3. Glass
  4. Captive State
  5. Mother!
  6. The Man Who Killed Don Quixote

Film Review: Gerry (dir by Gus Van Sant)

First released in 2002, Gerry tells the story of two men named Gerry, played by Matt  Damon and Casey Affleck.  

When we first see the two Gerrys, they’re in a car and they are driving through the desert.  Neither one is speaking but they both have oddly determined looks on their faces.  When they pull off to the side of the road, they talk about how they are finally going to hike the wilderness trail and see “the thing” at the end of it.  They start to hike.  In order to avoid a vacationing family, they step off of the trail.  Soon, they are lost in the desert.

The audience doesn’t learn much about either one of the men named Gerry.  It’s obvious that they’ve known each other for a while and that they have a close relationship but it’s never stated how they met or what they do with their time when they’re not lost in the desert.  Nothing is learned about their family or their jobs or their significant others.  Matt Damon’s Gerry seems to be the more confident of the two.  Casey Affleck’s Gerry seems to be prone to pessimism.  Damon’s Gerry tries to figure out the best way to find the highway.  Affleck’s Gerry climbs to the top of a rock and can’t figure out how to get down.  It’s tempting to try to use how the men react to being lost as a way to imagine what type of lives the two men lead outside of the desert but in the end, their lives in the real world are no longer important.  What’s important is that they are both now lost in the desert, walking under the burning sun and suffering from dehydration.

The film follows Affleck and Damon as they go from being amused at being lost to being desperate to be found.  The men go from joking to barely speaking at all.  When they first get lost, they climb to the top of a mountain to see if they can spot the path back to the civilization.  Soon, though, all they can do is keep walking forward and hope that they stumble across the highway.  Interestingly, the more lost the men become, the most beautiful the desert seems.  The mountains are often so majestic and strikingly formed that it becomes easier and easier to overlook the two men walking near them.

As we follow the two men, it’s tempting to wonder just why exactly they ended up getting lost.  Are they being punished for trying to conquer nature or was it just a case of random bad luck that led to them going in the wrong direction?  Is there a greater hand of fate guiding the Gerrys or are they responsible for their own misfortunes?  Does the tragedy at the heart of Gerry truly mean anything or is it just one of those things that people try to invest with deeper meaning because otherwise, they would be forced to admit just insignificant their lives are in the grand scheme of things?  Is there even a grand scheme of things?  These are questions that Gerry asks but doesn’t necessarily question.  The film ends with a cut to a blue screen, which is perhaps an homage to Blue, Derek Jarman’s 1993 meditation on life and death.  Like Jarman’s film, Gerry is meditation that searches for answers but admits that they may not be out there.

Gerry was directed by Gus Van Sant, an experimental director who also has a side gig directing mainstream studio films.  Gerry is a bit of an interesting hybrid.  On the one hand, the format is definitely experimental and Van Sant often goes out of his way to alienate the audience.  On the other hand, the film itself is an example of the power of old-fashioned movie star charisma.  Most people who watch this film will watch because it features Matt Damon and Casey Affleck.  Damon and Affleck are the reason why most viewers will be willing to tolerate a 7-minute shot of the two Gerrys stumbling through the desert.  Would the viewer still care about the Gerrys if they were played by the two unknowns who Van Sant cast as the school shooters in Elephant?  

Gerry may be an enigmatic and visually striking film that is full of intriguing questions that can probably never be answered but, in the end, the film does make one thing very clear.  Never underestimate the importance of casting a star.

I Watched Retreat To Paradise (2020, dir. by Brian Brough)

Last night, I told Tubi that I wanted to watch a movie about tennis.  It recommended Retreat to Paradise.

Retreat to Paradise is about Jordan (Casey Elliott), a pro tennis player who injures his shoulder in a car accident.  He and his manager, Neal (Brian Krause), retreat to Fiji so that Jordan can work on his shoulder without being harassed by the press.  (Are reporters not allowed to go to Fiji?)  Ellie (Melanie Stone) is the latest of the many physical therapists that Neal has hired to try to help Jordan’s shoulder heal.

Ellie soon discovers why all of Jordan’s other therapists have quit.  He’s a terrible patient and he feels so guilty about the accident that he doesn’t even want to play tennis anymore.  Even though Jordan denies it, he would rather let his shoulder keep deteriorating until he can’t even move it because Jordan doesn’t think that he deserves to be a success.  Ellie not only has to help Jordan conquer his physical pain but also help him come to terms with his mental pain.  She not only forces him to exercise but she also gets him to open up and discuss his past and the accident that left him injured.  Of course, with Neal’s encouragement, they start to fall in love.  But Jordan’s agent, Regina (Jaclyn Hales), is also in love with Jordan and she comes across a secret from Ellie’s past.

The main impression that I got from watching Retreat to Paradise was that Fiji is a really beautiful island.  Retreat to Paradise was shot on location and the island scenery is the best thing about it.  The story’s sweet but predictable and there’s never any doubt that Jordan and Ellie will get together, even if they don’t like each other when they first meet.  Jordan is handsome and Ellie is pretty but the two actors playing them don’t have any real chemistry.  They fall in love but they also barely kiss.  Retreat to Paradise earns its TV-G rating.  For a movie that was recommended to me because I wanted to watch something about tennis, there wasn’t much tennis in Retreat to Paradise.  Fiji is so nice to look at that it nearly makes up for all that.  Jordan has the right idea.  If you need to retreat to paradise, retreat to Fiji.

Music Video of the Day: We Are by Ana Johnsson (2004, directed by Antti Jokinen)

Today’s music video of the day comes from the soundtrack of Spider-Man 2.

While Ana Johnsson and her band wake up with the neighbors and move the furniture across the floor, clips from Spider-Man 2 are shown.  This video highlights that, even more than as an action or comic book movie, Spider-Man 2 was originally advertised as being a love story.  Doctor Octopus was driven made by love while Spider-Man got a chance to show his love for Mary Jane Watson.  That might seem pretty simple and obvious today but, in 2004, a comic book movie trying to deal with actual human emotions was a big deal.

This music video was directed by Antti Jokinen, who has gone on to find great success as a feature film director in his native Finland.