Hoover vs. The Kennedys: The Second Civil War (1987, directed by Michael O’Herlihy)

The year is 1961 and the young and dynamic John F. Kennedy (Robert Pine) has been elected president.  While the rest of the nation waits to see how Kennedy will lead, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover (Jack Warden) is convinced that he will continue to do what he’s always done.  As he explains it to his aide and only friend, Clyde Tolson, Hoover is a longtime friend of President Kennedy’s father, Joseph (Barry Morse).  Hoover knows how the Kennedys made their money and he also knows that the Kennedys probably stole the election.

Hoover quickly discovers that John F. Kennedy isn’t going to be like the other presidents under which he has served.  Kennedy appoints his self-righteous brother, Robert (Nicholas Campbell), as attorney general and Robert immediately sets out to make Hoover’s life unbearable.  When Hoover brings the brothers evidence that civil rights leader Martin Luther King (Leland Gantt) is not only associating with known radicals but that he also cheats on his wife, John and Bobby just laugh at him.  While John pursues an affair with Marilyn Monroe (Heather Thomas) and Bobby tries to reign in the FBI’s excesses, Hoover continues to collect information for his files and schemes to outlast both Kennedys.

Hoover vs. The Kennedys was a made-for-TV movie, one of the many films that have been made about the conflicts between the Kennedys and J. Edgar Hoover.  Since a good deal of the film is made up of Hoover and the Kennedy Brothers snapping at each other on the phone and then telling their closest aides about how much they dislike each other, it seems hyperbolic to call their relationship the “second civil war.”  Though the film does go as far as to suggest that Hoover didn’t make much of an effort to investigate the background of Lee Harvey Oswald, it doesn’t go any further when it comes to the theories surrounding John Kennedy’s assassination.  As well, the film is one of the rare ones to not speculate that Hoover and Clyde Tolson were more than just friends.  Instead, Hoover vs. The Kennedys concentrates more on all of the scandalous stories surrounding the Kennedy brothers.  The mob connections.  The womanizing.  The arrogance.  It’s all recreated here.  Perhaps because this was a Canadian production, Hoover vs The Kennedys doesn’t portray anyone positively.

The acting is a mixed bag.  Nicholas Campbell is believably abrasive as Bobby while Robert Pine was several years too old to be a convincing JFK.  Heather Thomas is an adequate Marilyn Monroe while Leland Gantt comes across as too emotional to be a believable Martin Luther King.  (In Gantt’s defense, the movie does not seem to know what to do with the character of King, treating the civil rights icon like a prop to be trotted out whenever some Hoover/Kennedy conflict is needed.)  The film’s best performance comes from Jack Warden, who plays Hoover as being a puritanical hypocrite who knows that, no matter who tries to push him out, he’s not going anywhere unless he wants to.  Hoover outlasted several presidents and Warden portrays him as being the ultimate political survivor.

As far as Kennedy films are concerned, Hoover vs. The Kennedys is okay but it doesn’t offer up anything new.  Some of the most important roles are miscast and the movie never goes into much depth, beyond repeating all of the usual rumors.  Jack Warden’s a good J. Edgar Hoover, though.  The movie is not easy to find but it has been uploaded on to YouTube.  And, if you can’t find the movie, you can always order the novelization off of Amazon.


Playing Catch-Up With The Films of 2016: Alice Through The Looking Glass, Gods of Egypt, The Huntsman: Winter’s War, Me Before You, Mother’s Day, Risen

Here are six mini-reviews of six films that I saw in 2016!

Alice Through The Looking Glass (dir by James Bobin)

In a word — BORING!

Personally, I’ve always thought that, as a work of literature, Through The Looking Glass is actually superior to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.  That’s largely because Through The Looking Glass is a lot darker than Wonderland and the satire is a lot more fierce.  You wouldn’t know that from watching the latest film adaptation, though.  Alice Through The Looking Glass doesn’t really seem to care much about the source material.  Instead, it’s all about making money and if that means ignoring everything that made the story a classic and instead turning it into a rip-off of every other recent blockbuster, so be it.  At times, I wondered if I was watching a film based on Lewis Carroll or a film based on Suicide Squad.  Well, regardless, the whole enterprise is way too cynical to really enjoy.

(On the plus side, the CGI is fairly well-done.  If you listen, you’ll hear the voice of Alan Rickman.)

Gods of Egypt (dir by Alex Proyas)

I don’t even know where to begin when it comes to describing the plot of Gods of Egypt.  This was one of the most confusing films that I’ve ever seen but then again, I’m also not exactly an expert when it comes to Egyptian mythology.  As far as I could tell, it was about Egyptian Gods fighting some sort of war with each other but I was never quite sure who was who or why they were fighting or anything else.  My ADHD went crazy while I was watching Gods of Egypt.  There were so much plot and so many superfluous distractions that I couldn’t really concentrate on what the Hell was actually going on.

But you know what?  With all that in mind, Gods of Egypt is still not as bad as you’ve heard.  It’s a big and ludicrous film but ultimately, it’s so big and so ludicrous that it becomes oddly charming.  Director Alex Proyas had a definite vision in mind when he made this film and that alone makes Gods of Egypt better than some of the other films that I’m reviewing in this post.

Is Gods of Egypt so bad that its good?  I wouldn’t necessarily say that.  Instead, I would say that it’s so ludicrous that it’s unexpectedly watchable.

The Huntsman: Winter’s War (dir by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan)

Bleh.  Who cares?  I mean, I hate to put it like that but The Huntsman: Winter’s War felt pretty much like every other wannabe blockbuster that was released in April of last year.  Big battles, big cast, big visuals, big production but the movie itself was way too predictable to be interesting.

Did we really need a follow-up to Snow White and The Huntsman?  Judging by this film, we did not.

Me Before You (dir by Thea Sharrock)

Me Before You was assisted suicide propaganda, disguised as a Nicolas Sparks-style love story.  Emilia Clarke is hired to serve as a caregiver to a paralyzed and bitter former banker played by Sam Claflin.  At first they hate each other but then they love each other but it may be too late because Claflin is determined to end his life in Switzerland.  Trying to change his mind, Clarke tries to prove to him that it’s a big beautiful world out there.  Claflin appreciates the effort but it turns out that he really, really wants to die.  It helps, of course, that Switzerland is a really beautiful and romantic country.  I mean, if you’re going to end your life, Switzerland is the place to do it.  Take that, Sea of Trees.

Anyway, Me Before You makes its points with all the subtlety and nuance of a sledge-hammer that’s been borrowed from the Final Exit Network.  It doesn’t help that Clarke and Claflin have next to no chemistry.  Even without all the propaganda, Me Before You would have been forgettable.  The propaganda just pushes the movie over the line that separates mediocre from terrible.

Mother’s Day (dir by Garry Marshall)

Y’know, the only reason that I’ve put off writing about how much I hated this film is because Garry Marshall died shortly after it was released and I read so many tweets and interviews from people talking about what a nice and sincere guy he was that I actually started to feel guilty for hating his final movie.

But seriously, Mother’s Day was really bad.  This was the third of Marshall’s holiday films.  All three of them were ensemble pieces that ascribed a ludicrous amount of importance to one particular holiday.  None of them were any good, largely because they all felt like cynical cash-ins.  If you didn’t see Valentine’s Day, you hated love.  If you didn’t see New Year’s Eve, you didn’t care about the future of the world.  And if you didn’t see Mother’s Day … well, let’s just not go there, okay?

Mother’s Day takes place in Atlanta and it deals with a group of people who are all either mothers or dealing with a mother.  The ensemble is made up of familiar faces — Jennifer Aniston, Julia Roberts, Kate Hudson, and others! — but nobody really seems to be making much of an effort to act.  Instead, they simple show up, recite a few lines in whatever their trademark style may be, and then cash their paycheck.  The whole thing feels so incredibly manipulative and shallow and fake that it leaves you wondering if maybe all future holidays should be canceled.

I know Garry Marshall was a great guy but seriously, Mother’s Day is just the worst.

(For a far better movie about Mother’s Day, check out the 2010 film starring Rebecca De Mornay.)

Risen (dir by Kevin Reynolds)

As far as recent Biblical films go, Risen is not that bad.  It takes place shortly after the Crucifixion and stars Joseph Fiennes as a Roman centurion who is assigned to discover why the body of Jesus has disappeared from its tomb.  You can probably guess what happens next.  The film may be a little bit heavy-handed but the Roman Empire is convincingly recreated, Joseph Fiennes gives a pretty good performance, and Kevin Reynolds keeps the action moving quickly.  As a faith-based film that never becomes preachy, Risen is far superior to something like God’s Not Dead 2.