Fans’ Opinion on Sean Connery as Bond

FANS’ OPINIONS ON SEAN CONNERY AS BOND

“No post-Connery Bond in his debut performance has shrugged off comparisons to his predecessors as successfully as Craig does in Casino Royale: before the movie is even halfway through his Bond is far more his own man than those of Lazenby, Moore, Dalton, and Brosnan were by the end of their first Bond films.” 

“A splendid casting choice, Craig has a physicality that only Sean Connery and perhaps George Lazenby could approach.”

“I don’t think he (Daniel Craig) can overtake Connery as Bond for me, but he’s already running a damned close.”

I do not understand this. Are all James Bond fans in love Sean Connery? Are we all expected to accept the idea of him as the best James Bond as a matter of fact? I hope not. Because it is an opinion I have never shared during my thirty-four years of watching Bond movies.

While watching a commercial for the recent Bond movie, “CASINO ROYALE”, the announcer declared Daniel Craig as the best Bond. A relative of mine nearly jumped out of his seat and cried, “Sean Connery is the best Bond!” as if it were a matter of fact. I could only look away in amusement.

One reason why I have never accepted Connery as the best Bond is the fact that he was not the first actor I had seen in the role. And if I had, I still doubt I would have accepted him as the best Bond. Although Roger Moore was my first Bond (I first saw him in “LIVE AND LET DIE”), very little time had passed before I saw Connery as Bond television for the first time. From what I had seen of Moore on the movie screen and Connery on television, both seemed to be very effective as James Bond. But only different. To this day, I have never been able to decide between the two who was my favorite Bond. And when movies like “ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE”, “THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS” and “GOLDENEYE” became popular with me, I found it increasingly difficult to choose any actor as the best Bond.

I am not saying that Sean Connery was a lousy James Bond. He obviously made a very good Bond. But after watching most of the Bond films over the past six months, I simply found it hard to accept the idea that he was the best actor to portray Bond. Quite frankly, I found myself equally impressed with those that followed – George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig. For years, I have never had a “favorite Bond”, so to speak, until Daniel Craig’s debut in the role. Do I believe that Craig was the best Bond? No. But he has quickly become my favorite.

As for Connery, I was especially impressed by his performances in “FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE” and “THUNDERBALL”. He seemed to be at his most human in those two roles. And in 1971’s “DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER”, he seemed to be at his funniest. But honestly . . . I have never viewed him as the best James Bond. I certainly do not believe that his debut as Bond was the best. And I do not think I ever will. In fact, his debut (in “DR. NO”) is my least favorite Bond debut. His performance seemed . . . mixed. Uneven. In some scenes, his performance seemed very smooth and professional. At other times – especially in Jack Lord’s company – he seemed wooden.

He never really came close to the literary Bond penned by Ian Fleming. Both Dalton and Craig deserve that honor. Not that being close to the literary Bond mean much to me. Frankly, I could not care less how an actor portrays the 00 agent, as long as he gives a good performance, deal adequately with the action sequences and create his own style as Bond. Connery had created his own style – a mixture of rugged machismo and a touch of sophistication. But machismo seemed to dominate Connery’s Bond.

I don’t know. Perhaps many Bond fans – which seemed to be dominated by men – feel that machismo is the ultimate expression of a man. Personally, I do not agree. But we are all allowed our opinions. In adopting a machismo persona, Connery immediately created his own style of how to portray Bond. But the reason why I cannot give him credit as the ultimate Bond is that the other actors have managed to create their own style, as well. Why should Connery be given credit for something the other five actors have also managed to achieve?

But why do fans insist upon declaring Connery as the best Bond, as if it were a matter of fact? Some might point out that most Bond fans prefer Connery. I admit that it does seem to be the case that Connery is the most popular Bond actor. But I am the type of person who does not believe in the old term – ‘majority rules’. Especially in regard to art or entertainment. Hell, most Americans in the mid-19th century believed there was nothing wrong with enslaving African-Americans. But just because most accepted this opinion as fact, does not mean they were right. And I must say the same about Connery’s performances as Bond. Even if most fans accept him as the best James Bond, does not mean they are right. In the end, it is subjective. I only wish that many of these film critics and fans stop declaring Connery as the best Bond . . . as if it were a matter of fact. Would it really kill for them to add – “in my opinion”?

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“BODY OF LIES” (2008) Review

”BODY OF LIES” (2008) Review

Based upon David Ignatius’ 2007 novel, ”BODY OF LIES” tells the story of a CIA operative assigned to track down a Middle Eastern terrorist responsible for a series of bombings in Europe. Directed by Ridley Scott, the movie stars Leonard DiCaprio and Russell Crowe. When I first saw the trailer for ”BODY OF LIES”, I thought it would be about a CIA operative in the Middle East that ends up clashing with his handler over an assignment. As it turned out, the trailer ended up being misleading. In the end, I had no choice but to sit back and see what the movie’s plot would lead me. Despite Warner Brothers’ very misleading trailer. 

Leonard DiCaprio portrayed a CIA operative named Roger Ferris. He is assigned by his handler, Ed Hoffman (Russell Crowe) to track down a terrorist by the name of Al Salim. Upon following up a lead, Ferris’ asset (who he has become good friends with) is killed in a car blast in a car chase and he is sent to Jordan. There, Ferris makes contact with Hani Salaam (Mark Strong), head of the Jordanian General Intelligence Department, or GID. Salaam tells Ferris to never lie to him. Hoffman finds an Al Salim safe house in Jordan and tells Ferris to conduct a surveillance operation on it. Meanwhile, Hoffman organizes another operative to conduct an operation without Ferris’ consent. The other agent screws the operation up and blows his cover after saying something compromising to a terrorist from the safe house. The terrorist takes off running, intent on relaying information that the safe house is being watched. Ferris chases him down and kills him by stabbing him, getting bitten by dogs in the process. Hani covers up the killing by passing it off as a robbery and Ferris accuses Hoffman of running “side operations”, telling Hoffman to lay off. Meanwhile, Ferris meets a nurse named Aisha (Golshifteh Farahani), who treats his wound. He eventually falls in love with her – an act that proves to have consequences later in the movie.

As I had stated earlier, ”BODY OF LIES” proved not to be about a clash between Ferris and Hoffman over a case. It proved to be about the deceptions perpetrated by those in the intelligence community, dedicated to the ”war on terrorism”. Unfortunately, the deceptions used by Hoffman upon both Ferris and Salaam ended up affecting the careful alliance established between the latter two. Even Ferris got into the game when he failed to inform Salaam about the con job he and Hoffman had created to flush out Al Salim. In the end, both Americans end up getting the surprises of their lives.

Despite my initial misgivings that I had been deceived by the movie’s trailer,”BODY OF LIES” turned out to be an intriguing and entertaining movie. Although the story’s three main characters – Ferris, Hoffman and Salaam – are supposed to be allies in the fight against terrorism and in the hunt for Al Salim, they spend more time in conflict against each other than against the story’s main antagonist. This especially seemed to be the case of Hoffman, who comes across as a manipulative and controlling man who keeps his secrets a little too close to his chest – to the detriment of Ferris. Screenwriters William Monahan (Oscar winner for ”THE DEPARTED”) and Ignatius, who also wrote the novel, created a pretty solid screenplay. However, I would not say there was anything exceptional about it – except for the finale. Perhaps the story’s lack of anything sensational had led to the movie’s failure at the box office. Or perhaps Warner Brothers’ misleading trailer was the real culprit.

Leonardo DiCaprio once again proved why he has become one of the most talented actors of his generation. His Roger Ferris is a fierce, intelligent man with a sardonic streak a mile wide. He also has a talent for diplomacy, which is apparent in his dealings with Salaam and the Jordan Intelligence Department. Like Ferris, Russell Crowe’s Ed Hoffman is a fierce and dedicated opponent of terrorism. Unfortunately, he lacks Ferris’ talent for diplomacy and has a tendency to allow his arrogance to get the best of him. But I must admit that Hoffman is a fascinating character and one can thank Crowe’s superb acting and William Monahan’s writing for this. Crowe manages to hide Hoffman’s aggression, cold-bloodedness and arrogance behind a”good ‘old boy” façade that project a cheerful persona with a penchant for calling Ferris ”buddy”. Some of the movie’s more interesting scenes featured Hoffman giving Ferris cold-blooded instructions or advice on how to deal with the hunt for Al Salim, while interacting lovingly with his family. It was like watching compartimenlization at its most extreme.

The supporting cast included British actor Mark Strong as Hanni Salaam as the head of Jordan Intelligence. First impressed by Strong’s villainous turn in last year’s”STARDUST”, my admiration for Strong increased by his portrayal of the intelligent and strong-willed Salaam, who refuses to be intimidated by Hoffman and the CIA’s firepower in his demand for respect by his Western allies. Iranian-born actress Golshifteh Farahani gave a solid performance as Aisha, the no-nonsense and witty nurse with whom Ferris falls in love.

”BODY OF LIES” is not as exceptional as one might expect it to be, considering the two leads, the director and the screenwriters. It is an entertaining, solid thriller filled with interesting and ambiguous characters. Through characters like Salaam and Aisha, the movie manages to avoid the usual clichés about Middle Eastern characters. The best thing I can say about it – aside from the excellent acting – is the plot twist that surprised me in the end. It may not be Oscar material, but it is certainly not crap.

“Guilty Until Proven Innocent” [PG-13] – 2/3

“GUILTY UNTIL PROVEN INNOCENT”

PART 2

A disturbing image from that last hour on the Bridge replayed in B’Elanna’s mind, while she headed for Engineering. Had she just witnessed the impossible? At least what her mind and emotions considered the impossible. The idea of those two as a couple . . . Impossible! He was Maquis and she was Starfleet. There was no way that two people of such disparate backgrounds could form a successful relationship. At least B’Elanna hoped. 

“Hey B’Elanna!” Ensign Hogan greeted the half-Klingon after she entered Engineering. Like her, Hogan was a former member of Chakotay’s Maquis cell. His intense face lit up with excitement. “Did you hear?”

She growled back, “Hear what?”

Hogan followed B’Elanna to her office. “About Seska and Paris. They had a fight in the Mess Hall.”

“What?” B’Elanna stared at her subordinate. “Kahless! How in the hell . . . what happened?” Before Hogan could respond, B’Elanna spotted her close friend walking toward one of the consoles near the warp core. “Seska!” She rushed out of her office with Hogan right behind her. Both caught up with the Bajoran engineer. “Seska! What’s this I hear about you and Paris?”

Anger illuminated Seska’s blue eyes. “It’s nothing. We had a little spat in the Mess Hall.” By now, two other crewmen had joined the small group – another former Maquis named Mike Jonas and an attractive dark-haired Starfleeter named Sue Nicoletti.

“About what?” B’Elanna demanded. If Paris had insulted any former Maquis . . .

Seska heaved a large sigh. B’Elanna almost rolled her eyes. The former could be overdramatic at times. “It’s nothing,” the Bajoran insisted. “Just . . . well, Paris had made some comment about my time in the Maquis and I lost my temper.”

“Why would he do that?” Nicoletti asked, earning a glare from Seska.

B’Elanna, who was very familiar with her friend’s traits, added, “C’mon Seska. Give. I may detest Paris, but I also know you. You must have said something to piss him off.”

“All right,” Seska admitted. She punched a few sequences into the console. “I may have said something about what happened to him on the Banean homeworld.” B’Elanna responded with a shake of the head. “What? Don’t tell me that you sympathize with that scum?”

“I don’t,” B’Elanna replied shortly. “But you did start the fight, didn’t you?”

Seska opened her mouth to reply, but remained silent. Jonas added, “If you ask me, I don’t see why Janeway allows that murderer to roam free on the ship.” A scowl appeared on his usually placid face.

“He’s Starfleet,” Hogan brutally explained. “What else is there to say?”

Hogan’s remark spurred a spirited response from Nicoletti. Her pretty face twisted with distaste. “Tom Paris is not Starfleet,” she said with great emphasis. “Not as far as we’re concerned.”

“What about his father?”

Sue shot back, “What about him? He washed his hands of Paris a long time ago.”

“Then how do you explain Janeway giving him the Conn? And letting him roam the ship, despite being convicted of murder? I even hear that Tuvok was ordered to exonerate him.”

It was B’Elanna who answered Hogan’s question. “Lieutenant Tuvok was ordered to investigate the murder, not clear Paris. And the Baneans have already planted memory engrams, forcing him to relive the entire murder from the victim’s point of view every fourteen hours. According to Harry, those engrams are frying Paris’ brains.”

A low whistle emitted from Hogan’s lips. “I guess Paris is getting a little payback, after all.”

“Huh!” Jonas grunted. “I still think he needs his ass kicked. Maybe some of us should do it, ourselves.”

“Hear, hear!” Seska cried. A smile curled her lips. “Maybe a little Maquis operation is in order.” She glanced at Nicoletti. The latter squirmed with discomfort. “Something wrong, Nicoletti? I would think you Starfleeters wouldn’t mind getting into the action, considering how much you detest Paris.”

Nicoletti looked away and returned to her duties. Seska sniffed. B’Elanna, as head of Engineering, decided it was time to nip Jonas’ idea in the bud. Even if she liked it. “There isn’t going to be any Maquis or Starfleet operation against Paris. So why don’t we all end this conversation now? I’m not ready to find myself in Chakatoy or Janeway’s bad graces. And I think neither are you.”

“What’s the matter, Lieutenant?” A smirk formed on Seska’s lips. “Afraid of losing your precious position as Chief Engineer?” Both Hogan and Jonas chuckled.

B’Elanna coolly replied, “Let me put it this way. Do any of you want to serve under Carey or another Fleeter?”

The idea seemed to have cooled the other ex-Maquis’ ideas of any “operations”against Tom Paris. Hogan and Jonas returned to their duties. Seska turned away from her task to face B’Elanna. “What was going on while you were gone? I thought I felt Voyager encounter phaser fire.”

B’Elanna told the Bajoran about Voyager’s encounter with several Numeri ships. “They tried to board us. I guess they didn’t care for any of us visiting the Banean homeworld. Chakotay . . . he had suggested we use an old Maquis trick to drive them off.” Her lips quirked into a small smile. “You know, the one we used against the Cardies.”

Seska returned her attention to the console. “I’ll bet Janeway snipped that idea in the bud.”

“Actually, she didn’t. She told . . .” B’Elanna paused, recalling the conversation between the red-haired captain and the First Officer. And the electricity that seemed to flow between the two. And electricity that hinted a future B’Elanna personally found unappealing.

“What did Janeway say?” Seska insisted.

The half-Klingon snapped out of her reverie, aware of a pair of narrowed eyes staring at her. She let out a gust of breath. “Nothing. Just . . . Janeway said that the trick was very old.”

Seska grunted. “I’ll bet that pissed off Chakotay.”

“Not really,” B’Elanna replied in a soft voice, recalling Chakotay’s expression. “In fact, he seemed . . . amused.”

The look on Seska’s face told B’Elanna that the former did not care for that description anymore than she did. “Hmmmph,” the Bajoran commented before turning away from B’Elanna. “Does that mean we’ll be encountering the Numeri again?”

Thankful for the change of subject, B’Elanna replied, “I suppose so. Especially if Lieutenant Tuvok and Janeway have to return to the Banea to clear up this matter with Paris.”

“Personally, I think Tuvok’s investigation is a waste of time,” Seska added in a sardonic voice. “Even if he wanted to, there is nothing he can find that will exonerate Paris. The man is a liar and a murderer. I say Janeway should wash her hands of him and toss him back to the Baneans.”

B’Elanna remained silent. How could she argue with the truth?

* * * *

Tuvok came to the conclusion that he had finally arrived at the truth. Lieutenant Paris did not murder Dr. Ren. In fact, the volatile pilot was nothing more than a scapegoat of a more insidious plot.

Inside his quarters, the Security Chief sat on the floor with his eyes closed. Only he was not deep in another meditation session. Instead, his mind raced over the details and revelations he had unearthed during his investigation of Dr. Ren’s murder.

The widow of the murder victim entered his thoughts. Lidell Ren. One would say she was a very attractive woman, fully aware of her charms and ability to seduce. Lieutenant Paris seemed the obvious type who would find her attractive and act upon his feelings. However, Tuvok could not see the volatile pilot kill for her. Even Mister Paris was intelligent enough not to take such a woman like Mrs. Ren seriously.

A mind meld Tuvok had conducted with the pilot had revealed the latter’s belief in his innocence. Despite the engrams. And although the meld clearly painted Mister Paris as the perputrator, Tuvok found a few details questionable. First, the pilot had allegedly plunged the knife into Dr. Ren’s heart, which was located in the same spot as the Human stomach. Tuvok found it illogical that an offworlder like Mister Paris know the exact location of the Banean heart. He also noticed that both the pilot and the widow seemed to be the exact height in the memory engrams. Yet, after meeting Mrs. Ren, Tuvok noticed that he was taller than the Banean widow and Lieutenant Paris was taller than both of them. And there was the matter of the mysterious inscriptions included in the ex-convict’s memories. What did they mean and why were they included?

One last detail concerned Tuvok. To prove a theory, he had asked Captain Janeway to send Lieutenant Paris and Ensign Kim to the Banean homeworld in one of Voyager’s shuttles. The Numeri ships, to everyone’s surprise, went after the shuttle, instead of Voyager. Their actions not only confirmed Mister Paris’ innocence, but the identity and motive of the true murderer.

Tuvok’s eyes flew open. He tapped his combadge and suggested to the Captain that they make another trip to the Banean homeworld. And that Lieutenant Paris and Ensign Kim should join them.

* * * *

STARDATE 48606.41

“What was that you said to Tuvok in the Mess Hall?” Harry asked Tom. The two friends sat inside Sandrine’s, each enjoying an after-duty drink.

Tom took a sip of his bourbon and grimaced. Synthehol. Someday, he would have to find a way to replicate genuine alcohol. “I merely thanked him for helping me and told him he had a friend.”

“A friend?” Harry snorted. “Lieutenant Tuvok was just doing his job, Tom. I doubt he really believed you were innocent.”

“Maybe. But he didn’t naturally assume I was guilty, either.” Tom forced himself to take another sip. “Unlike many others on this ship. You know, when we first went to Banea, I had no idea I would end up as a courier for spies.”

Harry shook his head and swallowed a mouthful of brandy. Unlike Tom, he seemed to enjoy his drink. “Or have a dog exonerate you for murder. You were very lucky, buddy! Very lucky. Maybe this will teach you to be a little more circumspect about the fair sex.”

Tom gave his friend a hard stare. “Is this your way of getting back at me for that remark I made inside the shuttle, Harry?”

Dark eyes shined with innocence. Not very convincingly, as far as Tom was concerned. “What remark?” the younger man asked.

“You know. The one about you never finding romance with the wrong woman.” Tom’s eyes narrowed. “I was serious, Harry. It could happen to you. You’re only human and I wouldn’t dismiss the possibility if I were you.”

Harry responded with a knowing smile. “Knowing you Tom, you just might set me up with a woman like Lidell Ren. Just to make your point.”

Poor Harry. Tom shook his head. He valued the young ensign as a good friend and decent guy. But the latter also possessed an unshakable arrogance regarding his sense of morality. Just like any good little Starfleet officer. Tom also realized that many of the Maquis shared a similar sense of self-righteousness. How long would this morality last under decades in the Delta Quadrant?

Two crewmen passed their table. Starfleet, judging by the pips on their collars. They gave Harry a polite nod. And ignored Tom. “I can’t believe this!” Harry protested. “Tuvok had cleared you of murder and they still treat you like a pariah!”

Tom shrugged in an attempt to mask the slight hurt. “Forget it, Harry. The crew has other reasons to dislike me. Like my prison sentence and getting cashiered out of Starfleet.”

“How long are they going to hold that against you?”

A bitter smile touched Tom’s lips. “Forever? Hell, the Maquis practically hate my guts! I’m sure everyone is disappointed that I haven’t been executed. Or had my brains fried by now.”

The tavern’s wooden doors swung open, revealing B’Elanna Torres. “Oh great!” Tom muttered. “Look who’s here!”

The two friends watched the half-Klingon sauntered toward their table. She took one look at Tom and hesitated. Hostility filled her eyes.

“B’Elanna!” Harry cried, waving at the Chief Engineer to join them. “Over here!” Tom suppressed his disappointment, as B’Elanna walked over to the table and slid into the booth, next to Harry.

She flashed a quick smile at the young ensign. “Hey Starfleet.” A frown creased her ridged brow as she faced Tom. “Paris.” After ordering a glass of scotch from Sandrine, she asked, “You didn’t show up in the Mess Hall for dinner. Where were you?”

“Here,” Harry replied. “We decided to replicate dinner here at Sandrines. It was pleeka rind casserole night. What can you say?”

Tom added in a low voice, “I can think of a few choice words. But I don’t think they will make Neelix happy.”

His comment was met with an amused grin from Harry and a stony glare from Torres. Tom wondered if the half-Klingon had a sense of humor. Or maybe she had been under Chakotay’s influence too long. “Something bothering you, Torres?” he asked.

Her eyes glittering, the engineer shot back, “Yeah, the company.”

“That’s funny. As I recall, I was here first.” Tom gave B’Elanna an acid smile.

A wall of silence surrounded the trio. Then B’Elanna slid out of the booth, signaling her departure. Harry stopped her before she could leave. “Wait a minute!” he cried. “Where are you going, Maquis?”

“To find better company,” she growled, glaring at Tom.

“C’mon! Stay with us. This is suppose to be a celebration for Tom. For his exoneration.”

B’Elanna sniffed. “That’s not a reason for me to celebrate.”

“B’Elanna!”

Tom added in a curt voice, “Let her go, Harry. The last thing I need is to spend my free time with another one of Chakotay’s noble warriors. Especially one who still thinks I’m guilty.”

“I never said you were guilty!” B’Elanna shot back.

“Of course you did,” Tom retorted. “You just never said it to my face. I’ll bet you even told Harry.” The two engineers exchanged uneasy glances. Tom noticed. “Oh. I see you have.”

Harry turned to the pilot. “Look Tom, I’m sorry about that. I was talking with B’Elanna and Seska and it just came . . .”

“What are you apologizing for, Starfleet?” B’Elanna growled. She slid back into the booth. “At least you didn’t screw some married woman! Or get your best friend behind bars for two days!”

Tom added, “You forgot to mention it was for accessory to murder.”

Fierce brown eyes turned on the Chief Helmsman. “Everything’s a joke to you, isn’t it Paris? Someone always has to pay for your irresponsibility! Harry almost died after the Baneans interrogated him and yet, you laugh over the entire matter!”

“Hey! B’Elanna!” Harry protested. “Tom has already apo . . .”

However, the Chief Engineer’s tongue seemed to be on a roll. Tom noticed that Sandrine’s other inhabitants seemed interested in what she had to say. “Tell me Paris, did you laugh after you crashed that shuttle at Caldik Prime? Or when you sold the Maquis to the Federation?”

Caldik Prime. Torres’ comment brought up guilty memories of that infamous moment in his life. It also sparked a growing anger within Tom. Anger and resentment over her assumption that he had felt no remorse toward the deaths of his late friends. Like nearly every person he has encountered in his life, Torres made assumptions about his character without bothering to learn anything about him.

His body grew tense. A low, deep anger resonated in Tom’s voice. “As far as I’m concerned, Torres,” he growled, “the topic of Caldik Prime is off limits.” The half-Klingon’s face paled suddenly. Harry stared at Tom, his mouth gaped open. “And as for your precious Maquis,” Tom continued heatedly, “I joined because I needed money.”

“Mercenary!” B’Elanna spat out in disgust.

Coldly, Tom replied, “If you say so. However, that didn’t stop the good Commander from recruiting me. And yet, from the moment I joined his cell, Chakotay and the others made it quite clear that I was nothing more than a mercenary and treated me like one. They never gave me a chance to prove otherwise.”

“What did you expect?” B’Elanna shot back.

“What’s the matter, Torres?” Tom snarled. “You don’t believe in giving someone a second chance? Isn’t that what the Captain and Chakotay did for you? Hey, I may not be the straight arrow type around Harry, Kes or the Captain. At least they gave me a chance to prove I was more than some good-for-nothing who was not worth their time. I can’t say the same for your precious Maquis. And if you expect me to feel guilty for how I came aboard Voyager, you’ll be holding your breath.” Tom slid out of the booth. “For a long time. Now if you’ll excuse me, this place has gotten a little too crowded for me.” Tom glared at B’Elanna before he marched out of the holodeck.

* * * *

The chatter inside Sandrine’s ceased to exist following Tom’s departure. Barely a soul made a sound, aside from one crewman who coughed. Too embarrassed to speak himself, Harry finished his brandy in two gulps. Then the chatter returned, much to his relief.

A familiar figure, Sue Nicoletti, approached Harry and B’Elanna’s table, carrying a glass of wine. “What was that about?” she asked, nodding toward the tavern’s doors.

“Nothing,” Harry replied. “Nothing at all.” He signaled Sandrine. The tavern owner appeared and Harry ordered another glass of brandy.

A trembling B’Elanna finally recovered from her bout of silence. “Just Paris deluding himself that he has something to be righteous about.” Her response produced a chuckle from Sue.

Harry remained silent, staring at the table’s wooden surface. “Maybe he does,” he mumbled darkly. The two women stared at him. “Let’s face it, Tom has made mistakes in his life, but he’s no murderer.” He glanced up. “And he’s not cold-blooded, despite what others may think.”

Nicoletti quickly returned to her other companions. A deep flush colored B’Elanna’s olive-skinned face. “Okay, maybe I was a little out of hand abut him being cold-blooded. But you can’t deny that he had no business messing around with that Banean woman.”

“He apologized about that, B’Elanna,” Harry retorted.

B’Elanna added, “And the Maquis? Can you blame us for hating him, after he sold us to Janeway?”

“What are you talking about? Tom had been in prison for nearly a year before the Captain recruited him! How would he have known your last position?”

Persistent to the end, B’Elanna retorted, “That didn’t stop him from accepting Janeway’s offer to help her find us!”

Harry immediately replied, “B’Elanna, in a way, Tom had no choice. The Captain had insisted upon bringing him along; even after he told her that using him to track you down would be useless.”

“Yeah, right,” B’Elanna mumbled. “I suppose Paris told you this.”

Harry stared at his friend through narrowed eyes. “It was the Captain who told me, B’Elanna. We were talking about how a Starfleet officer can utilize any resource. She realized that bringing Tom aboard may have been a shot in the dark, but she did it anyway. And that it all worked out in the end, with Voyager being stuck in the Delta Quadrant with a top-notch pilot like Tom.”

The half-Klingon opened her mouth to respond, but as before, was rendered speechless. Sandrine returned with Harry’s second brandy. He took a sip. “Look Maquis, Tom may not be the easiest person to deal with, but who is? You certainly aren’t. And I know I can be very irritating sometimes. Yet, look at us. We managed to become friends. So when are you going to give Tom a chance to become your friend?”

Dark brown eyes belonging to the chief engineer blinked. Harry looked away and returned his attention to his drink. For once, B’Elanna had no ready answer on the tip of her tongue. Perhaps his words had finally penetrated her stubborn brain. Make her realize that Tom Paris might be a worthy friend to have. Harry hoped so. Because he had no idea how long he can endure being torn between his two best friends.

END OF PART 2

“MIRACLE AT ST. ANNA” (2008) Review

 

“MIRACLE AT ST. ANNA” (2008) Review

Based upon James McBride’s 2003 novel and directed by Spike Lee, “MIRACLE AT ST. ANNA” told the story about four black soldiers of the all-black 92nd Infantry Division who get trapped near a small Tuscan village on the Gothic Line during the Italian Campaign of World War II, after one of them risks his life to save an Italian boy. The story is inspired by the August 1944 Sant’Anna di Stazzema massacre, perpetrated by the Waffen-SS. 

Before I saw the movie, I came across a few reviews of the film. Needless to say, it either received mixed or bad reviews. Many critics either found the movie’s plot incoherent or seemed turned off by Lee’s message about the racism encountered by African-American troops during World II. After seeing the movie, I must admit that I also have mixed feelings about it.

Personally, I had no problem with the plot. It started with a the murder of an Italian immigrant by a black U.S. Postal Service in December 1983. Due to the investigations of the New York Police, and a rookie journalist portrayed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the postal worker is revealed to be one of the four American troops who find themselves trapped near the Tuscan village. This same veteran is also discovered to have a piece of Italian sculpture in his possession. As I had stated earlier, most film critics found the plot confusing. Aside from certain scenes that I felt should have been deleted, the plot turned out to be perfectly coherent to me. What Lee did was take certain subplots that focused on the four troops, the inhabitants of the Tuscan village, the Nazi’s search for an AWOL German troop and a group of Italian partisans; and drew them together to form the finale of the movie’s mystery surrounding the veteran-turned-postal worker and the Italian sculpture. I must admit that aside from a few scenes, Lee did an excellent job in bringing this all together.

And the director had a good, solid cast to help him bring this movie together. Derek Luke (“LIONS FOR LAMB” and “ANTWONE FISHER”) and Michael Ealy were especially impressive as the disciplined and tightly coiled Aubrey Stamps and the cynical and slightly bitter Bishop Cummings – who vie for the attentions of a local Italian woman named Renata, portrayed by Valentina Cervi. Laz Alonso gave a solid performance as the Puerto Rican corporal Hector Negron, forced to keep the peace between Stamps and Cummings. I was also impressed by Pierfrancesco Favino as Peppi Grotto, the leader of the local partisan group. Like many other child actors I have noticed in recent years, Matteo Sciabordi surprised me with an excellent performance as the young Angelo Torancelli, who befriends the four soldiers, while trying not to remember the horrible massacre at Sant’Anna di Stazzema. At first I was slightly wary about Omar Benson Miller’s performance as Sam Train, the private who first saves young Angelo in the film’s first half. He came off as rather raw and inexperienced to me. But further along into the film, his performance improved. And I realized that his performance had never been at fault. Only the screenplay written by author McBride. Miller had the unfortunate bad luck to slough his way through some pretty horrible dialogue, early in the film.

Speaking of the dialogue, it turned out to be one of the aspects of the film I barely found tolerable. At least in the movie’s first half hour. I wish that Spike Lee had discovered this lesson a long time ago – never hire the author of the novel you are adapting to write the screenplay. Producer Dan Curtis had also failed to learn this lesson when he hired author Herman Wouk to write “THE WINDS OF WAR”screenplay. As much as I enjoyed how the movie’s plot developed, there were some scenes or pieces of dialogue I could have done without. For example:

*Axis Sally’s attempt to demoralize the black troops crossing an Italian river – despite the scorn heaped upon the dear lady by the black American and German troops alike, I must have spent at least five minutes squirming in my seat. Ugh!

*Private Train’s determination to convince his companions that the young Angelo is blessed with some kind of divine gift. Honestly, his dialogue drove me crazy. James McBride should have been ashamed of himself.

*Sergeant Stamp’s speech about the difficulties of being an African-American soldier during the war

*The flashback featuring the four soldiers’ encounter with a bigoted ice cream parlor owner in Louisiana.

The last two turned out to be perfect examples of another one of the film’s flaws – namely Lee’s heavy-handed portrayal of racism in the U.S. Army, during World War II. A part of me wishes that the director had watched Carl Franklin’s adaptation of“THE DEVIL IN THE BLUE DRESS” (1995). That particular movie was an excellent example of portraying racism in the past, without pounding in the message. Lee, on the other hand, overdid it. He allowed the message to get in the way of the story at least twice. When Stamps received a message from their Southern-born captain to capture a German soldier for question, this sends the usually obedient Stamps went into a rant about how black troops were treated. It was simply unecessary. Lee forgot another rule in filmaking – you show, not tell. He managed to do that with the troops’ dealings with their Southern-born captain. But he could not stop there. He and McBride also included the flashback in Louisiana . . . something that added nothing to the story’s plot. It felt like a propaganda piece added at the last minute by the filmakers.

Despite some of the bad dialogue, unecessary scenes and the ham-fisted message on racism, “MIRACLE AT ST. ANNA” turned out to be a better film than I had originally perceived. Although the film critics had been correct in some of their complaints, I found it hard to agree with them that the movie’s plot was incoherent. Even before halfway into the story, I understood what McBride and especially Lee were trying to achieve. I say . . . give it a shot. It might surprise you.

“MIDNIGHT” (1939) Review

 

”MIDNIGHT” (1939) Review

I believe that I can say in all honesty that I have been a major fan of some of Billy Wilder’s work for years. Movies like ”SUNSET BOULEVARD””SOME LIKE IT HOT” and ”DOUBLE INDEMNITY” have been amongst my top favorite movies of all time. But all of these movies have not only been written or co-written by Wilder, but also directed by him. It is rare for me to say the same about any of the movies he had written before he had become a director. Rare, but not completely impossible. One such movie is the 1939 comedy classic, ”MIDNIGHT”

Directed by Mitchell Leisen (whom Wilder detested), ”MIDNIGHT” told the story of an American showgirl named Eve Peabody, who finds herself stranded in Paris during a rainstorm. Tibor Czerny, a Hungarian taxi driver, takes pity on her and drives her around Paris in a fruitless attempt to help her find a new job. When Tibor offers Eve refuge at his apartment, she decides to reject his offer – despite being attracted to him – and gives him the slip. Eve manages to crash a Parisian socialite’s late night party, where she meets Georges Flammarion, a wealthy industrialist who is desperate to end his wife Helene’s affair with a wealthy playboy named Jacques Picot. Georges hires Eve to pose as Baroness Czerny, an American married to a wealthy Hungarian aristocrat, in order for her to seduce and lure Jacques away from Helene’s arms. Unfortunately for Eve, one of Tibor’s taxi colleagues discover her whereabouts and appears at the Flammarions’ estate as Eve’s husband, the Baron Czerny.

Thanks to Billy Wilder and Preston Surges, Mitchell Leisen had undeservedly earned a reputation as a hack director with a penchant for set décor, due to his homosexuality. In other words, they saw him as nothing more than a window dresser. This opinion of Leisen remained fixed by film critics for years, until recent years. Perhaps these same critics had finally remembered that Leisen had directed movies such as ”EASY LIVING””HOLD BACK THE DAWN” and especially”MIDNIGHT”, which I believe is one of the funniest screwball comedies from the 1930s. How could film critics ignore this elegant and hilarious tale of love, adultery and deception in pre-World War II France? Did they believe that someone other than Leisen had directed it? I do have to give kudos to Wilder and partner Charles Brackett for concocting this sharply funny tale of love and deception.

The cast of ”MIDNIGHT” is first-rate. Claudette Colbert brought great wit and charm to the role of the stranded Eve Peabody. As her performances in both”MIDNIGHT” and 1942’s ”THE PALM BEACH STORY” attested, Colbert seemed to have a talent for portraying witty and charming golddiggers. Don Ameche portrayed Hungarian Tibor Czerny, Eve’s would-be suitor with an earnest aggressiveness that I found charming and occasionally disturbing. Ameche gave Tibor a tenacious air that struck me as slightly intense. Portraying Eve’s wealthy benefactor was the legendary John Barrymore in what was probably his last good role on film. He was very witty and effective as the manipulative, yet unhappy Georges Flammarion, who recruits Eve into a deception to win back his wife’s affections from her playboy lover. Mary Astor, who would reunite with Colbert in ”THE PALM BEACH STORY”, did a fabulous job as the jealous and acid-minded Helene Flammarion. Francis Lederer did a charming, yet competent job as Helene’s lover, but I did not find him particularly impressive. Also included in the cast was Rex O’Malley, who portrayed Helene’s faithful and witty companion, Marcel Renaud. O’Malley’s character struck me as a more comic version of a similar character he had portrayed in 1936’s”CAMILLE”, starring Greta Garbo. Last but not least, the cast included famous columnist Hedda Hopper portraying a French socialite, whose late night party that Eve crashes.

”MIDNIGHT” has a lot to offer – even for today’s viewers. It had a competent director in Mitchell Leisen (despite his past reputation with critics), a first-rate cast led by Claudette Colbert and Don Ameche and a sharp and funny screenplay written by Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett. But what I really love about this movie is its setting – Parisian high society in the late 1930s. Thanks to certain contract directors like Josef von Sternberg and Ernst Lubitsch, Paramount Studios had developed a reputation for possessing an European infliction in its house style by the 1930s. And”MIDNIGHT” possessed this infliction in droves, thanks to scenes that featured Eve crashing Madame Stephanie’s late night party, Tibor and his fellow taxi drivers’ search for Eve through the streets of Paris, Eve waking up in her new hotel suite in the nude, her meeting with Helene at a Parisian couture house and the dazzling party held by the Flammarions’ country estate, which included an entertaining Latin band. All of these scenes would strike any viewer as examples of the Lubitsch”touch”. Yet these scenes and many others were photographed by the Utah-born Charles Lang and directed by Leisen, who was born in Michigan.

For a movie that is over seventy years old, ”MIDNIGHT” has not really aged one bit. It is still a very entertaining film filled with superb comic acting and razor sharp wit. I certainly had fun watching it and I suspect that many others would feel the same.

“THE PACIFIC” (Episode Three) Commentary

I wrote this commentary on the third episode of “THE PACIFIC”

 

”THE PACIFIC” (Episode Three) Commentary

Following their evacuation from Guadalcanal in January 1943, members of the U.S. Marines First Division enjoyed a respite in Melbourne, Australia. There, characters like Bob Leckie and Sidney Phillips enjoyed romances with local Australian girls. John Basilone enjoyed a period of heavy drinking and dodging the MPs before receiving his Medal of Honor for his late October actions on Guadalcanal.

Unlike 2001’s ”BAND OF BROTHERS”, this third episode featured the very first one that did not include any combat. Instead, the First Division Marines enjoyed a respite filled with booze, women, a medal ceremony and more training. This episode featured two of our major characters confronting their demons. But let me focus on the minor stuff first.

Some of the funniest romantic scenes featured Sidney Phillips romancing a young Australian girl, under the watchful eye of her grandfather. Ashton Holmes was a hoot portraying Phillips’ struggles to suppress his desires and somewhat more questionable actions (like leaving the “base” without a pass) in order to impress his new girlfriend’s Draconian grandfather and behave like a Southern gentleman. His funniest moment occurred in a scene inside a pub where Phillips was trying to assure the girl’s father that he intends to be the perfect gentleman, when the MPs appear. Although he assured both his girlfriend and her grandfather that he had a pass, he subtly suggested that they leave the pub through the back door.

Other funny moments featured Leckie’s friends, Hoosier and Chuckler. From the moment when the Marines are bivouacked at a cricket stadium, Hoosier and his government issued blanket are never apart. Never. He quickly fell asleep, while Leckie, Runner, Chuckler and other Marines left the stadium without permission – clinging to his blanket. And for several days, it never left his side. Another moment featured the Marines back in formation at the stadium, the day following their first night of liberty. Most of them looked as if they had spent a week of debauchery with no sleep . . . including Lieutenant Corrigan. One Marine could not even remain standing and in a moment of pure slapstick, fell flat on his face. Corrigan did not say a word. But the funniest moment – at least for me – featured a drunken Leckie coming upon poor Chuckler on guard duty at the stadium. Why did I call Chuckler “poor”? In a scene that brought back memories of my mad dashes to the bathroom, poor Chuckler was dancing his ass off, while trying to convince Leckie to stand guard in his place so he could relieve himself. I have to pause for a moment to keep my laughter in check. Excuse me.

This episode did not feature any scenes of Eugene Sledge. However, I suspect that viewers will be seeing him in the next episode. It did feature Basilone receiving his Medal of Honor. Like the other Guadalcanal veterans, Basilone and his friend, J.P., hit the streets of Melbourne for a night of heavy drinking and debauchery. The pair found a convenient bar where they indulged in a great deal of booze and a brief, yet violent encounter with Australian servicemen. Fortunately, their hostile encounter with the Australians became friendly. But when Basilone reported to Chesty Puller’s office the following day, Basilone was not so fortunate. One, he learned that he was to receive the Medal of Honor, which produced a delicious “WTF” expression in Jon Seda’s eyes. Then his expression became even stranger, as Puller chewed out Basilone for failing to set a good example in Melbourne . . . before eventually throwing up. Next to Chuckler’s “dancing” moment, I thought this was the funniest scene in the episode.

However, matters did not seem that funny when Basilone finally received his Medal of Honor in a formal ceremony at the cricket stadium. Poor bastard looked as if he wanted to flee for his life, instead of receiving that medal. I do wonder if something within him suspected that medal would separate him from J.P. and the rest of his men, as surely as death had separated Manny from him. The expression in his eyes seemed to hint it not only during the medal ceremony, but also when he bid good-bye to J.P. and on that flight to San Francisco near the end of the episode. And I have to give kudos to Seda for expressing this emotion without saying a word. In fact, he did a damn good job all around.

Finally, we come to Leckie. Man, I do not know what to say about him. Actually, I do. But I suspect that describing James Badge Dale’s interpretation of Leckie’s character would take a multi-page essay. It is that complicated. In fact, Robert Leckie seemed to be one of the most complicated characters I have come across in any biopic either in a movie or on television. I cannot recall any character in ”BAND OF BROTHERS” as complicated as him. Judging from his conversations with his Australian girlfriend Stella and her Greek-born mother, his demons had already been established before he saw combat or had joined the Marines. As much as he loved his family, Leckie apparently did not like being part of a big family – especially as the youngest member. He seemed to have felt crowded, yet at the same time, ignored. His description of his father made me revised the father-son good-bye scene in “Episode One. At first, I thought Leckie Sr. was simply reluctant to bid his son good-bye. I had no idea that the older man was also suffering from slight mental problems.

The episode started well for Leckie. He met Stella on a trolley car and managed to garner her interest, despite being drunk. The two seemed to take to one another like duck to water. And watching Badge Dale and Australian actress Claire van der Boom act together made me realize that they have a strong screen chemistry together. Although their loves scenes were slightly explicit, they were still very tasteful. Frankly, I saw nothing that anyone could complain about. Thanks to van der Boom’s excellent performance, Stella proved to be just as complicated as Leckie. Upon his return following a three-day hike for the Marines, she eventually dumped him. She claimed that her mother, who had taken a shine to him, would have great difficulty in dealing with his death. But Leckie had witnessed her reaction to the news of a friend’s death and immediately surmised that she was simply guarding herself from possible future heartache.

Needless to say, Leckie did not take the end of his romance very well. Not only did he get drunk, lost his temper with Lieutenant Corrigan after the latter confronted him for taking Chuckler’s place during guard duty, while the latter was taking a piss. Not only did Leckie ended up in the brig for a period of time with Chuckler, he was booted from the company and his friends, and assigned to become an intelligence scout. Poor Leckie. But I must say that the more I watch Badge Dale’s skillful portrayal of the complicated Leckie, the more I have become impressed by his talents as an actor.

Episode Three proved to be an entertaining episode. Viewers got a chance to see how some of the characters behaved away from the threat of combat. However, I rather doubt that it will ever become a favorite of mine. Aside from the personal conflicts of Leckie and Basilone, it lacked the edge that Episode One and Episode Two possessed. I suppose that is due to the lack of combat shown.

“TROPIC THUNDER” (2008) Review

”TROPIC THUNDER” (2008) Review

While playing a small part in Steven Spielberg’s World War II drama, ”EMPIRE OF THE SUN” (which ironically starred a young Christian Bale), actor/comedian Ben Stiller had come up with the idea of a group of prima donna actors filming a Vietnam War film. Over twenty years later, Stiller’s idea came to fruition in the action comedy movie, ”TROPIC THUNDER”.

Stiller and fellow co-writers, Justin Theroux and Etan Cohen, created a hilarious and very original story that began with a series of fake commercials and movie trailers. The commercials featured rap singer Alpa Chino (Brandon T. Jackson) promoting his “Booty Sweat” energy drink and “Bust-A-Nut” candy bar. Then the movie continued with a series of movie trailers that included action star Tugg Speedman’s (Stiller) latest film, “Scorcher VI: Global Meltdown”; and another for low-brow comedian Jeff Portnoy’s (Jack Black) film, “The Fatties: Fart 2” that spoofed Eddie Murphy’s portrayal of multiple characters such as in “NUTTY PROFESSOR II: THE KLUMPS”. But the final trailer – and the funniest in the bunch – featured award winning Australian actor Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downy, Jr.) and Tobey Maguire as two gay medieval monks in a parody of films like “BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN” called ”Satan’s Alley”.

But the meat of the story featured the three actors, the rap singer and character actor Kevin Sandusky (Jay Baruchel) as co-stars in ”Tropic Thunder”, a movie adaptation of the memoirs of a disabled Vietnam War veteran named “Four Leaf” Tayback (Nick Nolte). The movie’s production is spiraling out of control and rookie director Damien Cockburn (Steve Coogan) seemed unable to handle the prima donnas or keep the movie on schedule. Cockburn is ordered by studio executive Les Grossman (Tom Cruise) to get the production back on track or risk having it shut down. With inspiration from Tayback, Cockburn drops the spoiled actors into the middle of the jungle, where he installs hidden cameras and special effect explosions rigged by pyrotechnics man Cody (Danny R. McBride) so he can film the movie “guerrilla-style”. The actors have only a map and a scene listing to guide them to the helicopter waiting at the end of the jungle. Shortly afterward, the director is blown up by a land mine left by the French, but thanks to his preceding diatribe, only Lazarus realizes his death was real. Even worse, the actors ended up in the middle of the Golden Triangle, the home of the heroin-producing Flaming Dragon gang, led by a young boy named Tran (Brandon Soo Hoo). And Cody and Tayback end up as prisoners of the Dragons. As for Tran and the Dragons, they believe the actors to be DEA agents.

”TROPIC THUNDER” not only struck me as a parody of the Hollywood movie industry, but also a parody of the lengths human beings go to create illusions about themselves. Tugg Speedman is a failing action star who had earlier attempted a serious role in order to save his career. I can only assume that ”Tropic Thunder” is his second attempt. Yet, he seemed incapable of facing the possibility of being a has-been and has to depend upon his agent, Rick “Pecker” Peck (Matthew McConaghey) to maintain his ever deflating ego. Jeff Portnoy resorts to drug addiction to deal with the realization that his past success mainly came from his talent from flatulence humor. Lazarus is an Oscar-winning Australian method actor who has a bad habit staying in his role even when the cameras are not rolling. For ”Tropic Thunder”, Lazurus deliberately undertook an operation to change his skin pigmentation in order to portray an African-American sergeant. Naturally, Lazurus’ role produced resentment and anger from Alpa Chino, the rapper trying to break into films. But even Chino is projecting a façade about himself, which his fellow co-stars manage to break through near the end of the film. The only one in the bunch who seemed real is young Sandusky, the drama student who seemed to be the only sane head in the bunch. Yet, despite the fact the film is bursting with Hollywood phonies, the biggest phony turned out to Tayback, who had never seen combat during the Vietnam War or was disabled. Even worse, he had spent the war aboard a Coast Guard garbage scow that never left U.S. waters. He had originally written the book as a tribute to U.S. servicemen.

I have to say that this movie’s cast more than impressed me. Ben Stiller portrayed one of his best roles as Tugg Speedman, a Hollywood veteran struggling to save his career. Yet, his sanity nearly went down the toilet when Tran and the Dragons force him to replay the scenes of his failed drama, ”Simple Jack”. By the time his fellow cast members found him, Speedman had gone by the way of Colonel Kurtz. I must admit that I usually have difficulty finding Jack Black funny. However, I do believe that Jeff Portnoy was probably one of his better roles – hilarious without being over-the-top. I realize that drug addiction is nothing to laugh about, but his and Sandusky’s attempts to help him deal with withdrawal and reject the temptation of the Dragons’ own heroin were rather funny. Nick Nolte and Danny McBride made an amusing comedy team and I especially enjoyed their interaction when Cody discovered that Tayback is not a Vietnam veteran, but a phony. Matthew McConaghey did one of his best roles as Speedman’s always eager agent, Rick Peck. And Tom Cruise must have had a blast portraying the arrogant and overbearing film producer, Les Grossman. He was hilarious. A member of my family was surprised to discover that the balding, foul-mouthed man was actually Cruise.

Most critics have lauded Robert Downey Jr.’s performance as the method actor Lazurus, who spends most of the movie trying to act like an African American. RDJ was hilarious. In fact, I can honestly say that he was the funniest member of the cast. His most hilarious moment came on the heels of an argument between Lazurus and Chino, when he breaks into a litany about the black man’s 400 years of oppression (damn, has it been that long?) and Chino’s use of the “n” word that ended with him singing the theme to television series, ”THE JEFFERSONS”. It took me nearly five minutes to recover from my laughter. But Downey’s take on Kirk Lazurus could have ended in disaster without the presence of Brandon T. Jackson. His Chino not only expressed anger at Lazurus’ portrayal of a black man, but provided some pretty sharp zingers at the actor’s ego and sanity. Another funny scene featured Chino’s insults about Lazurus’ Australian background. What made the scene so humorous were Lazurus’ protests against Chino’s insults, while maintaining his charade as a black man. Weird.

I believe that Ben Stiller should be proud of ”TROPIC THUNDER”. Not only did he give an excellent performance, he also co-wrote and directed what I believe should become a comedy classic. That’s right. A comedy classic. ”TROPIC THUNDER” is one of the best comedies I have seen in years – along with the British action comedy, ”HOT FUZZ”. I also feel that it is Stiller’s best movie since the police parody, ”STARSKY AND HUTCH”. Hell, it is better than the 2003 movie he had co-starred with Owen Wilson. The cast was superb. So was Jon Toll’s photography of the island of Kauai, which stood as both Vietnam and Cambodia. Stiller, Theroux and Cohen had created one hell of a comedy.