Saturday, 31 March 2012

Week 14: Illinois

 Hold your tongue and don't divide us;
 Land of God, you hold and guide us...."
 - 'They Are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbors...',
 Sufjan Stevens

Well frankly it was harder to find one song mentioning Illinois than it has been to find three films set in the state. Maybe not surprisingly. To all intents and purposes Illinois is it's largest city: Chicago.

Ah yes, Chicago. The town famous for its gangsters, its blues, its wind, and its toddling. (I'm not entirely sure how a town can toddle, but I am not one to argue with luminaries of the calibre of Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett). Frankly I could fill a week with three films set in Chicago purely from my girlfriend's DVD collection. I mean, what else is there to Illinois other than the Windy City? It's a fair sized state, but what else is there? There's the state capital of Springfield which has produced presidents in the shape of Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama, but I'm not sure how riveting a film that would make. I'll try to spread out a little way from the city centre in search of films for the week though.

The danger here is that there are so many great films from my youth set in Chicago. Chicago owned the '80s. Just look at the list: The Blues Brothers, The Breakfast ClubFerris Bueller's Day Off, The Untouchables... and when you reach the early '90s you can include, Aurora, Illinois, with Wayne's World  as well. All absolutely great, great movies... and all movies that I have seen before. This silly little challenge has two aims: the first is to find out about the state in question from the films I watch, but the second is to widen my exposure to films I have never seen before. So I've compromised. I'm revisiting two classic films that I recall really enjoying, but which I have not seen in many years, and that hopefully illustrate different aspects of the city (specifically its music and its Prohibition-era mobs), and am teaming that up with a Best Picture Oscar-winner which I've never seen. But all three share one thing in common: they're all from the '80s!

My three films are:
  • The Blues Brothers (1980)
  • The Untouchables (1987)
  • Ordinary People (1980)

Thursday, 29 March 2012

My Own Private Idaho (1991)

Dir. Gus Van Sant
Starring: River Phoenix, Keanu Reeves, James Russo, William Richert

Twice during Gus van Sant’s My Own Private Idaho the same image appears: salmon swimming upstream. Consider that image. These salmon are born in the headwaters of rivers, before swimming down to the sea. They voyage many thousands of miles before, finally, miraculously, finding their way back to the very spot where they were born. There, their life’s journey completed, they die.

I’m sure there’s meant to be some meaning to that image, so here goes. The two protagonists of the film are, in many ways, like those fish. Their stories interweave. First we have Mikey (River Phoenix), a wandering narcoleptic (he is prone to falling asleep suddenly and without warning). He says that he has “been tasting roads my whole life”. He wakes in Idaho, sure that he has seen this same stretch of road before. His thoughts turn towards his mother. He falls unconscious yet again. When he wakes he is in Seattle, being sucked off by a john. Because he is a rent boy. He travels from Seattle to Portland in the company of fellow hustler Scott (Keanu Reeves) before his thoughts turn once more to his mother and he sets out on a bit of a bildungsroman to find her. His quest takes him back to the place of his birth, to Idaho, to his brother / father / whatever Richard (James Russo), then to a hotel (the "Family Tree" appropriately enough) where his mother was known to have worked, and then, incredibly, to Rome. It turns out that Mike’s mother, like Mike himself, is trying to trace her own family. At every step of the way he has just missed her. With no more clues to follow and deserted by Scott he heads back to Portland and sinks back into the gay subculture. Increasingly manic he lives on the streets. But Idaho pulls him like a lure. He is last seen on that same stretch of deserted highway, asleep, being loaded into a passing truck, for who knows what end.

Scott too cannot escape his birth. Except that he knows who his father is – his father is the Mayor of Portland. Scott sinks into the excesses of hustling, robbing and having no fixed abode, encouraged by and in turn encouraging the Fagin-like Bob Pigeon (William Richert). But he tells Bob that when he turns 21 he will leave that life behind and return to his inheritance and his family. “My mother and father will be surprised at the incredible change. It will impress them more when a fuck-up like me turns good than if I had been a good son all along”. His thinking is that he will gain more respect by being bad and then repenting than he ever would be being a good boy all along. And so it transpires. While he joins Mikey on his quest his climactic moment comes in Italy when he meets the young woman Mike’s mother had been teaching Italian to. Scott falls in love with Carmella (Chiara Caselli). He leaves with her. When we next see him he is groomed and suit-clad, Carmella on his arm, taking his place in Portland high society. Confronted by Bob, Mike and the rest of the gang he turns away from them, breaking Bob’s heart – literally. But in the cemetery his eyes stray from the sombre funeral of his own father to the riotous assembly commemorating Bob, and the viewer gets the impression that he knows where he would rather be…

These two characters and two stories interweave about the other. The problem is that they come in two very different styles. Mike’s tale is impressionistic. When he thinks of his mother or otherwise gets stressed he collapses. In his mind’s eye we see snapshots of family life and the seemingly limitless plains of Idaho, empty and void, the clouds scudding overhead. But it is his plot we follow, his need to find his mother that drives the tale along. By comparison Scott’s tale is forced into literary conventions. The plot here is, bizarrely, lifted straight from Shakespeare: Henry IV pts I & II to be precise. Scott is Prince Hal, heir to the King of England / Mayor of Portland. The debauched “Santa Claus” of Bob Pigeon is the dissolute Falstaff, squiring the young prince around the murky underworld of his home city. Even the language and staging is Shakespearean. I have never seen or read Henry IV so I do not know how true to the source material the film is. However, the lines sound like Shakespearean lines with the occasional modern word like “punks” or “zips” thrown in. Bob declaims in an English accent. “Let us not call ourselves robbers” he says “but Diana’s foresters. Gentlemen of the shade. Minions of the Moon. Men of good government.” And the set pieces – Bob’s arrival, the robbery, Bob’s tall tales about that robbery, the sheriff’s raid and Scott’s final turning of his back upon Bob – ring true as Shakespearean plot points. Even the acting is Shakespearean – the forced jollity and back slapping from the gang reminded me of school productions, where the unsure cast try too hard to bring in action to make up for the fact that they’re not exactly sure what the words coming out of their mouths mean. And then, suddenly, when Scott and Mike are alone once again, Keanu starts speaking normally. It is a disjoint. It jars.

What is most interesting really is the characters’ different attitudes to homosexuality. There are as many different colours of homosexuality as there are gay porn magazines on the shelves in one of the movie’s most playful scenes. For Scott, it is just a phase, and anyway, he’s not gay. He argues that “two guys can’t love each other”. He only sleeps with men for cash. It is only when you do it for free that you start to “grow wings, and become a fairy”. Mind you, as Bob points out, he doesn’t actually need the cash – he comes from a rich family and will inherit a fortune when he turns 21 in a week’s time. And in the end he commits to a heterosexual relationship. Mike, however, is gay. Furthermore, he is in love – he is in love with Scott, as he haltingly tells him around a campfire one night in Idaho. Scott rebuffs the attention, but is human enough to give his friend a consoling embrace. And then there is some real verisimilitude to colour the palette. Many of the other hustlers seen in the film were real life male prostitutes. Furthermore, their droll tales of rape and assault were mostly unscripted – these were true stories coming out from society’s underbelly and getting expression on film. I should point out that not all of the gang were local gay hustlers however – one of them is played by Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers!

I'm not gay, I'm just drawn that way...
Scott (Keanu Reeves) models the Brokeback look

What have I learnt about Idaho?
Despite the fact that so little of the film actually takes place in Idaho, it is those scenes that do that live longest in the memory. We see Idaho as an empty land for travelling through and out of. Another parable for life, if you will. The image of the long, undulating road stretching on straight, seemingly for eternity, through the barren scrub is a metaphor and a half. The occasional deadbeat shack or wind-whipped tree may break the monotony momentarily; more expressive are the low clouds boiling overhead. Sound effects only seem to come from out of sight – the screech of a hawk or Native American drumming. And as we are warned by sign, tourists should not laugh at the natives…

Can we go there?
As I say above, there is not that much of the film that is set in Idaho. Action is split between Idaho, Seattle (Washington), Portland (Oregon) and Rome (Italy) – a true cinematic road trip around the Pacific North-West. Few places in Idaho specify where they are. The road is, obviously, nameless, though presumably lies in or near a Native American reservation not far from the Oregon / Washington border – the Nez Perce Indian Reservation on the road east from Lewiston, or the Coeur D’Alene Reservation, south of Coeur D’Alene could be contenders. We are given no indication as to where Richard’s caravan is located other than that it is near a railway track. The Family Tree Hotel where Mike’s mother works is on the Snake River, but this river forms two-thirds of the western border with Oregon and then stretches the entire breadth of the state and into Wyoming. In fact, the only Idaho location I can confidently pinpoint is Boise Airport, from where the two leads fly out to Rome.

And there’s probably a reason why I can’t work out where in Idaho My Own Private Idaho was filmed. It wasn’t. The campfire scene was shot on a sound stage. And the grand haunting image of endless Idaho road does not come from Idaho. It comes from Oregon. It is a stretch of Route 216 near Maupin, heading towards Grass Valley.

The Oregon scenes were filmed in Oregon however. Portland is Portland. We first see the city when Mike and Scott arrive there; they sit beneath the ‘Thompson Elk’ fountain near City Hall. They then vanish into the demi-monde of what was at one time known as ‘Vaseline Alley’. The abandoned hotel where Bob’s gang stay is the historic Governor Hotel, then being renovated, and the robbery takes place beneath the St John’s Bridge in Cathedral Park. The restaurant where the hustlers congregate is now  Bailey’s Taproom, located on the corner of SW Broadway and Ankeny.

The Seattle scenes are likewise shot around Seattle (check out the views down to the harbour when Mike first meets Hans). In Rome Mike wakes up in the Piazza del Popolo.

So if you want to visit the locations where My Own Private Idaho was filmed, you had better book a ticket to Oregon rather than Idaho.

Overall Rating: 2/5

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Napoleon Dynamite (2004)

Dir. Jared Hess
Starring: Jon Heder, Jon Gries, Efren Ramirez, Tina Majorino

Can an indie film be too indie? When the film in question is Napoleon Dynamite then I guess that, unfortunately, the answer is ‘yes’.

The basic plot of the film is a very light one. Napoleon (Jon Heder) is a high-school outsider par excellence. He is both socially and physically graceless, and he has a tendency to live in his own fantasy world. He is also cursed with an extremely dysfunctional family. Elder brother Kip (Aaron Ruell) is a jobless dweeb who spends his time “chatting online to babes all day” and dreams of becoming a cage-fighter and Uncle Rico (Jon Gries) tries get-rich-quick scheme after get-rich-quick scheme and dreams of going back to 1982 and getting picked for the school American football team, certain that this is where all his misfortunes spring from. He strikes up a friendship of a sort with a newcomer to the school, Mexican Pedro Sanchez (Efren Ramirez). Pedro decides to run for class president against the popular queen-bee Summer (Haylie Duff) and Napoleon decides to help him. That is it.

The film is not plot-driven. It is character-driven, and it is full of memorable characters. Head of the list would have to be Heder’s phenomenal portrayal of Napoleon, a boy with no real social skills or redeeming features, yet who still manages to attract our sympathy because, actually, we can empathise with his gangly uncoordinated pubescent agonies. His exasperated nasal exclamations are quite imitable: “Gosh!” He believes that he is a great artist, that ligers (the offspring of lions and tigers) are “bred for their skills in magic”, and that people believe his outlandish stories (such as that he keeps nunchuks in his locker or that he spent the summer “with my uncle in Alaska hunting wolverines”). Deb (Tina Majorino) is soft-hearted and trying to pay her way through college by selling home-made “boondoggle key chains” and offering terrible fashion shoots. Uncle Rico wants to be charming but just comes across as grotesque; twinkly-eyed but blaming all his bad decisions on one turning point some twenty years previously.

Uncle Rico is literally living in the past, going over and over in his head how by now he would definitely be a millionaire and be living with his soul mate if he had only been picked for the American football team back in high school. He even buys a hokum time machine off the internet in the hope of trying to get back to 1982. This is funny, because in many ways the entire film is living in the ‘80s. The fashion is definitely period, from Napoleon’s moonboots to Kip’s moustache to Deb’s puff-sleeved prom dress and back to Napoleon’s chocolate brown three-piece suit. The height of fashion is a soft-focus smoky-eye-shadowed glamour photo. If it weren’t for the opening credits showing Napoleon’s 2004-5 school card and the presence of two more modern numbers for the presidential candidates’ skits (Backstreet Boys and Jamiroquai) I might have assumed that the film was indeed set in the ‘80s.

Heck, this is probably the best flipping time machine ever invented!

I like the characterisation, but the fact that everyone is so god-damn quirky irks me. Napoleon’s grandmother (Sandy Martin) keeps a ham-eating llama and goes quad biking. Napoleon drags an action figure behind the school bus on a string; he never explains why. Rico lives in a bright-orange campervan and dresses like he is from the ‘70s. Pedro shaves his head because he figures it is his hair that is making his head hot. Kip becomes gangsta (after flirting with Rex-Kwan-Do). There is a competition where Napoleon has to guess what is wrong with glasses of milk (“This tastes like the cow got in to an onion patch”). There is so much incidental colour that it threatens to overshadow the movie itself.

What have I learnt about Idaho?
Well, I’ve seen a different sort of scenery. The landscape around Preston comprises flat green valleys fringed by low brown hills – very different to the snow-capped mountains of Sun Valley. It is an agricultural area, with battery chicken farms, farmers’ fairs, and livestock being kept (both cows and llamas). Despite being out in the boondocks the situations faced in high school are familiar to any high school movie set in California (though, of course, with less emphasis on surfing). There don’t seem to be many Mexicans around either (in reality Hispanics and Latinos account for 5.04% of the population of Preston according to the 2000 census). Finally, they love their Tater Tots – hash brown like balls of fried potato that hail from the Oregon / Idaho region.

Can we go there?
The credits state that Napoleon Dynamite was filmed entirely on location in the beautiful state of Idaho. In particular it is set in the south east corner, not far from the Utah border, in the town of Preston. The real life Preston High School on E 2nd Street was used as a filming location. Napoleon’s house is located at 1447 E 800 N, while Pedro’s is 59 S 2nd E (they have some weird street names in this city!) Other locations include Deseret Industries on South State Street, where Napoleon buys his prom suit, Pop N’ Pins Lanes outside of town, where Kip and Rico go bowling, and the Ritewood Egg Farm, where you get paid $1 an hour and all the raw egg you can drink. And do you know something? Preston is pretty chuffed about the connection. In fact, between 2004 and 2008 they even held a ‘Napoleon Dynamite Festival’, featuring a Tetherball Tournament, a Tater Tot Eating Contest, a Football Throwing Contest, a Moon Boot Dance, and Impersonation and Lookalike competitions. Even more bizarrely in 2005 the Idaho State Legislature passed a motion commending the filmmakers  for producing the movie.

Overall Rating: 3/5

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Sun Valley Serenade (1941)

Dir. H. Bruce Humberstone
Starring: Sonja Henie, John Payne, Milton Berle, Glenn Miller

“It happened in Sun Valley
 Not so very long ago…”

Sun Valley Serenade is a weird little number. A box office smash upon its original release, I think now it is only notable as a curiosity piece. I had certainly never heard of it. I would say that to watch it you really have to be in the mood

The plot, such as it is, revolves around a struggling big band, the Dartmouth Troubadours. When news reaches them that the famous Sun Valley Inn is looking for a headline act for their winter season they get the gig – thanks mainly to some swift talking from their chirpy manager Nifty (Milton Berle) and an instant attraction between their pianist Ted (John Payne) and marquee-name soloist Vivian dawn (Lynne Bari). However, before they can head off to the frozen north, one of Nifty’s other little schemes comes to fruition. To gain publicity for the band he had volunteered Ted to take responsibility of a refugee from war-torn Europe. Unfortunately the refugee turns out to be not the cute 10-year-old they had expected, but rather fully-grown Norwegian cupcake Karen Benson (Sonja Henie). She, too, instantly falls for Ted, and follows the band to Sun Valley. There she attempts to scupper Ted and Vivian’s relationship through, obviously, her knowledge of winter sports. I swear I am not making this up!

There are three things that make this film noteworthy really. The first is the aforementioned winter sports. Sun Valley Resort is a high-class ski lodge. While Vivian may not ski, Ted and Karen certainly do (the former’s skill being attributed to his “Eskimo blood”). I can’t think of any film earlier than this to feature skiing so prominently. There are two impressive ski chases down Bald Mountain. To be honest they compare favourably to later skiing scenes in James Bond movies like On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and The Spy Who Loved Me. Except that they have a bit more humour to them – witness Karen zipping between Ted’s legs! There are also two ice-skating scenes for Karen, where she shows off her speciality of whirling around and around faster and faster like a drill bit. And unlike the obvious stand-ins for the skiing, these scenes were acted by Sonja Henie. Not surprising considering that Henie was a massively successful figure skater. And when I say ‘massively successful’ I mean ‘astonishingly massively successful’. We are talking Olympic champion in 1928, 1932 and 1936 and world champion ten times on the trot between 1927 and 1936. She managed to parlay this into one of the best paid contracts in Hollywood. It is therefore understandable that she gets two big ice skating scenes (she did want a third, but the producer Darryl Zanuck would only consider it if she funded the production costs herself). So there you go: a female romantic lead who was actually a champion ice skater.

The second noteworthy point is the comedy. It is, perhaps, a bit hit and miss, but Milton Berle stands out for his performance as Nifty Allen, the band’s publicity agent. Berle later went on to become ‘Mr Television’, American TV’s first bona fide superstar, and his comedic skills are put to good use here. He can be a fast-talking schmoozer one moment and then suddenly outsmarted the next. He is a cheerful, optimistic and bubbly presence throughout the pic, cigar in hand, draped in a ridiculous fur coat. He provides most of the one-liners and certainly all of the best facial expressions in the film.

The third noteworthy point is the soundtrack. It is a zinger. The ‘struggling’ Dartmouth Troubadours were portrayed on screen by the actual Glenn Miller Orchestra – with Miller himself appearing as the Troubadours’ band leader Phil Corey. I knew the music of Glenn Miller, and I knew what he looked like, but for some reason it felt rather eerie to see and hear the man in action – three years later his plane was to vanish in fog over the English Channel. The soundtrack, then, is pure Miller swing: ‘I Know Why (And So Do You)’, ‘Moonlight Serenade’, and – obviously – ‘It Happened in Sun Valley. But the two big show-stopping numbers have to be ‘In The Mood’ and Chattanooga Choo Choo’. ‘In The Mood’ is a full concert performance set in a New York hotel ballroom prior to their departure for Sun Valley and provides all the visuals you could ever wish for for a documentary on big bands. The orchestra are dressed up, looking sharp, hitting their notes, and the camera work focuses in on key sections of the band, often with striking angles, often catching the silhouettes and shadows of the musicians on the walls behind. The choreography of the audience could have been better (they just sort of palpitate on the spot when I was expecting and hoping to see some proper swing dancing) but the music was great. The choreography cannot be faulted for Chattanooga Choo Choo’ however. The scene starts off in a practice room, the musicians casually dressed in warming knitwear. It then segues, somehow, into a staged version of the number with Dorothy Dandridge and the Nicholas Brothers performing a soft-shoe tap version of the same number. There is no link between the main story or even the practice room scene with this little set-up. Apparently this was so that the scene featuring talented black performers could easily be excised in certain states to make the movie more palatable for a bigoted white Southern audience. Frankly, the bigots missed out. These two numbers would be worth the entrance fee alone.

In Sun Valley it's always Miller Time!

The rest of the movie I could take or leave. Henie’s Karen might be all guileless girly giggles but she does set out single-mindedly to win Ted as a husband, even knowing that he is already attached. She has some good interplay with John Payne (who resembles a clean-cut Jimmy Stewart type), but I’m not sure the storyline is strong enough to recommend the film by itself. If you were to describe it, it would be described as ‘the Glenn Miller film with the skiing and skating and Milton Berle’.

What have I learnt about Idaho?
That it is a skiing destination. That I didn’t know. Colorado, yes; Idaho, no. Moreover it is (or, certainly in 1941 was) a very high class one that could attract top talent from across the United States for its winter season. And they would arrive there by train, before debouching into pony traps and husky sleds to take them up to their hotel. The Sun Valley Resort was obviously rolling in money and cleverly marketed – that it could star in its own movie just five years after opening is proof of that. I’m sure skiers would pick up more information that I have – I have no idea whether skiing from 9,000 feet up a mountain is in any way out of the usual. The snow-covered terrain and the fir-tree-fringed mountains provide some stunning Idahoan scenery.

Can we go there?
Sun Valley is still a premier winter sports resort. One can no longer reach it by train, as shown in the film, as Union Pacific discontinued the service in the 1970s. The railroute has, however, been turned into a  trail  that can be walked or cycled. The resort had not been around for long at the time of filming, only opening to the public in 1936. The film can thus be seen to be one long advertisement for Sun Valley. Sun Valley had the world’s first chair lift up Proctor Mountain – those up Baldy Mountain, featured in the film, were installed later, in 1939. They do still disgorge intrepid skiers some 9,000 feet up the mountainside. The top destinations in town have to be the Sun Valley Lodge and the Sun Valley Inn, where much of the action was set. The ice rink outside Ted’s room still exists too. In both locations there is a dedicated hotel TV channel that shows the film on continuous repeat. If you are not lucky enough to be staying there, the Sun Valley Opera House shows the movie at 16:30 every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday throughout the year, and at 17:00 every day during the peak summer and winter seasons. Whenever it is shown there is no admission charge.

Sun Valley’s neighbouring town is Ketchum (as shown in the train station name sign). The Ketchum Sun Valley Ski and Heritage Museums might be a recommended stop for those interested in the history of winter sports in the area. Novelist Ernest Hemingway is buried locally (he wrote most of For Whom The Bell Tolls whilst staying in Room 206 of the Lodge). There is a memorial to the writer about a mile northeast of the Lodge just off Trail Creek Road. Other local citizens, past and present, include Gary Cooper and Tom Hanks.

Overall Rating: 2/5 

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Week 13: Idaho

"Danny says we gotta go,
 Gotta go to Idaho,
 But we can't go surfin' 'cos it's 20 below!"
 - 'Danny Says',
 The Ramones

You get that? Leave the surfboard back in Hawaii buddy. Idaho is a landlocked state.

And frankly, I don't know anything about Idaho other than that. I could point out where it is, east of the Pacific states of Washington and Oregon, north of the weirdness that is Utah and the gaudiness that is Nevada, west of Wyoming, and south of the Canadian border. I suppose the most notable thing about it is that it then has a very weird shape to the north-east, where Montana takes a big ol' chunk of what was looking to be a nice regularly-shaped state. And the more I stare at it, do you know what I notice? That that section of border looks freakishly like Richard Nixon in profile. No, honestly. It really does. Check it out. You damn hippie.

Other than that my knowledge of Idaho is exceptionally limited. I think an episode of The X-Files was set there once. And I think they produce potatoes. Other than that I know nothing. Any other statements I would make about the state would be pure guesswork. I would suppose that it is rather mountainous and that Idahoans share their cultural traits rather more strongly with the Montanans and Wyomingians (?) than with the inhabitants of their other neighbouring states, but I am basing that on a grand amount of not very much at all. Probably more so than any other state so far, my journey to Idaho is a journey into the unknown. 

The three films chosen to educate me about this mysterious land known as 'Idaho' are:
  • Sun Valley Serenade (1941)
  • Napoleon Dynamite (2004)
  • My Own Private Idaho (1991)

Thursday, 22 March 2012

50 First Dates (2004)

Dir. Peter Segal
Starring: Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Rob Schneider, Sean Astin

I don’t particularly like Adam Sandler or his movies. Most films of his that I have watched have a tendency to make me wish I’d saved myself the time and effort. Billy Madison and Click have to be in contention for the worst film ever made (even if they are, apparently, not as bad as his latest effort Jack & Jill). His one saving grace is his breakthrough movie, 1998’s The Wedding Singer, in which he starred opposite Drew Barrymore. I will stick my neck out and say that movie is quite possibly the most perfect date movie yet made.

So I experienced a moment of trepidation before watching 50 First Dates. Would it be as poor as most of his oeuvre? Or would his reunion with Drew Barrymore create gold once again?

First signs: not promising. Sandler plays Henry, a commitment-phobic lothario who loves ‘em and leaves ‘em among Hawaii’s tourists. He works in a water park / aquarium as a vet and has the requisite cute animals on tap – Willy the penguin, Jocko the walrus and Mary-Kate and Ashley the dolphins. He also has two annoying assistants – Rob Schneider’s scarred and spliff-toking Ula and Lusia Strus’s manly Slav Alexa. Dan Ayckroyd pops up randomly as a doctor and isn't even funny. That's Dan Ayckroyd! Not funny! Frankly he was funnier when he randomly popped up as a naval intelligence expert in Pearl Harbor. The humour really depends on the audience finding walrus vomit or, even more disgustingly, Rob Schneider, funny. Case closed.

Except then something funny happens. Drew Barrymore appears as Lucy, a local art teacher. And almost immediately the film gets better. Adam Sandler, too, gets better. He actually becomes quite cute and romantic as he falls in love on sight and attempts to win Lucy’s heart. Over and over again. Because Lucy suffers with (the fictional) ‘Goldfield Syndrome’ – short-term amnesia brought on by a traumatic car crash. Whilst she can remember her entire life prior to the accident, since then her memories of the previous day are wiped out upon falling asleep that night. Essentially she relives the same day over and over again; her crusty but caring father (Blake Clarke), steroid-popping would-be body-builder brother Doug (Lord of the Rings’ Sean Astin), and friends at the Hakilau Café keep up this myth to protect her. This would be perfect for Henry were she just another one of his girls: “anything with Lucy is a one-night stand”. But he wants more, and because of this Henry has to introduce himself to her anew and make her fall in love with him anew each day.

So far, so Groundhog Day, except that Adam Sandler is no Bill Murray. But then again, Drew Barrymore is no Andi MacDowell, so it all evens itself out. Barrymore is a great actress, and I think this is all-too-rarely recognised. She has wonderful comic timing, but she also has a face capable of expressing every nuance of joy, or love… and of pain. She is the emotional heart of the film, and it is easy to see why someone could quite easily fall for her caring nature, her appalling singing, and her hobby of making houses out of breakfast waffles. She is fun and quirky. Okay, she's not Zooey Deschanel-grade quirky, but she's still quirky nonetheless. Henry’s increasingly-contrived attempts to strike up conversation day after day are comic; once he has won his way into her protective family’s affections they actually become quite touchingly romantic. If you have ever fallen in love (whether it is with someone you shouldn’t’ve or not) remember that first moment when you knew you were in love. Nice isn’t it? Now imagine what it would be like to experience that moment every single day of your life. This is what Lucy has. Every day realising that she is in love, that someone loves her, and knowing that she has a first kiss to look forward to. As she says, “Nothing beats a first kiss”.

The film’s heart is in the right place. Love is about wanting the other person in your life to be happy. Lucy realises that she is getting in the way of Henry’s dream: to sail his boat up to Alaska and study walruses. And because she loves him she decides to break up with him so that he can do that. And because he loves her he helps to remove all references to himself from her diary. Suddenly the film has gone from Groundhog Day  to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I don’t want to spoil the ending – even though it is kind of predictable in many ways for a rom com – but love, of course, is more powerful than that. Sticking to the rom-com part of the story the film is surprisingly affecting. Unfortunately it is surrounded by a load of bad-taste humour – the ambiguously-gendered Alexa, Jocko’s vomit, Doug’s wet dreams, any scene with Rob Schneider in – that would be better suited for a different film. Cutting that out and focusing on the romance – and the super-cute Willy and super-talented Jocko – leaves a much more enjoyable film.

The star of 50 First Dates gives some acting lessons to Adam Sandler

What have I learnt about Hawaii?
Well, first I should point out that the Hawaiian flavour is just an afterthought. Apparently the first draft of the script had Henry and Lucy being memory-less in Seattle. All that has happened really is that some Hawaiian phrases get thrown into the mix and they talk a lot about pineapples. Man, those Hawaiians really love their pineapples. And – if the menu at the Hakilau Café is anything to go by – they also love their Spam and eggs. (But, ‘Hakilau Café’, eh? Well, we know what a hakilau is now don’t we, thanks to Blue Hawaii?). And due to this film I now know that aloha means both “hello” and “goodbye”, and that mahalo  means “thank you”. There is some humour dragged out of the Hawaiian language, as when an elderly Hawaiian customer translates his own internal monologue or when Ula solemnly makes a little farewell speech to Henry that actually means “Bring me back a t-shirt”.

There are local characters at the café, so already we have more cultural diversity than in Pearl Harbor. And Nick the cook (Pomaika’I Brown) has some really cool facial tattoos. But mostly all I learnt was that there is a regular stream of single, horny women that come to Hawaii on vacation looking for a bit of no-strings fun before they go back home. Book your tickets now!

Can we go there?
Despite the fact that I knew that a lot of the film was shot in California rather than Hawaii I found it very difficult to spot which scenes were Californian and Hawaiian. But in general the movie is set on the eastern coast of Oahu, around Kane’ohe Bay (when Henry and Lucy are in the carpark of the Hukilau Café after their first date there is a truck marked up as belonging to the ‘Kaneohe Bay’ on its side). The café itself is actually located a bit further up the coast however, at Ka’a’awa, on the grounds of the Kualoa Ranch (other films shot on the ranch include Jurassic Park, Godzilla and some parts of Pearl Harbor. The same house features in Tears of the Sun, though it is meant to be in Nigeria in that film). Movie tours are available. 

While the aquarium at which Henry works is meant to be the Sea Life Park in Waimanalo the scenes there – including Jocko the walrus and his harem – were actually filmed at Six Flags Marine World in Vallejo, California. Jocko is really called Sivuqaq. Likewise, despite the fact that we see someone wearing a ‘Waimana Golf Club’ baseball cap, the golf course used in the film is actually the Ocean Trails Golf Club in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. Henry does indeed sail his boat off the coast of Oahu however. That is, until the end of the film, when he reached Blackstone Bay, Alaska. But most interior scenes, including the Whitmore residence, were filmed in the studios in Culver City, California unfortunately. 

Overall Rating: 3/5

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Blue Hawaii (1961)

Dir. Norman Taurog
Starring: Elvis Presley, Joan Blackman, Angela Lansbury, Nancy Walters

1961’s Blue Hawaii was Elvis Presley’s eighth movie outing and his first to be set in Hawaii. The relationship between Presley and the Hawaiian Islands was a profitable one – he later set two more movies (1962’s Girls! Girls! Girls! and 1966’s Paradise, Hawaiian Style) here, as well as hosting his famous Aloha from Hawaii televised concert here in 1963. They were a perfect match. Hawaii, only admitted to the union two years previously, offered sun, stunning scenery, healthy youthful outdoor activities and a touch of the exotic and luxurious. Presley offered youthful good looks, the cutting edge of a youthful rock n roll movement, and a hint of sex appeal to set the hearts of the nation’s teenaged girls aflutter.

By this stage the basic format of Elvis Presley movies had been established: make him look good, surround him with beautiful girls, have him spend as much time as possible singing. From film to film only the name of his character and the situation he finds himself in that differs. In one movie he might be a serviceman called Tulsa Maclean (G.I. Blues), a boxer called Walter Gulick (Kid Galahad), a carnie called Charlie Rogers (Roustabout), or a Native American rodeo rider called Joe Lightcloud (Stay Away, Joe). The plot lines are all pretty flimsy. I read a review once that argued that out of all his films only Jail House Rock would stand on its own merits without Presley’s marquee name (something I tend to disagree with; I would add King Creole to that list too). But I agree that you do not watch a Presley movie for moving drama, great acting or a thought-provoking insight to the mysteries of life. You watch because you are a fan of Elvis Presley.

The plot here is similarly light. Presley stars as Chadwick (‘Chad’) Gates, returning from a two year’s stint as a G.I. in Europe. His well-to-do parents Fred and Sarah Lee (Roland Winters and Angela Lansbury) expect him to take up a management position in the Great Southern Hawaii Pineapple Company; following his stint in the army however Chad however refuses to walk into a position through family influence. He doesn’t just want to hang around on the sand with his surfboard, his girlfriend Maile (Joan Blackman) and his ‘beach boy’ friends – though he certainly has no objections to doing that. He wants to build a career through his own efforts. As a result he signs up to become a tour guide. His first clients are foxy school-teacher Miss Prentice (Nancy Walters) and her four troublesome teenage students (all female, naturally). What follows is an extended tourism advert for Hawaii’s lush beauty and exotic culture, interspersed with romantic complications and a rock-a-hula soundtrack.

What sells the movie is that it is an Elvis Presley star vehicle. He is no Lawrence Olivier but his acting is acceptable and his comic timing passable. The film plays to his strengths by ensuring that he spends the bulk of it either singing or bare-chested in a tight little pair of short-shorts or singing bare-chested in a tight little pair of short-shorts. He is perfect boyfriend material: he doesn’t drink, smoke or swear; even when arguing with his parents he calls his father ‘sir’; when changing into swimwear he and his girlfriend use separate rooms. He forces petulant brat Ellie (Jenny Maxwell) to become a better person – even spanking her in one fetish-fuel scene. He does get in to a fight, but that is to protect young Ellie from the advances of a drunken husband from Oklahoma. Even one of the aspects of his personality that his mother doesn’t like – his hanging out with “native boys” – reflects to his benefit I would say. It certainly means that he is able to give a good insider’s guide to Hawaii to his tour group.

And Hawaii definitely does star here. The action moves from Honolulu International Airport, to the hotels of Honolulu, to the fine sand and palm trees of Hanauma Bay and Waikiki Beach, Diamond Head looming in the background, to the pineapple fields of the interior and the lush vegetation of sister-island Kauaii. And, unlike in Pearl Harbor we do see native Hawaiians – even if all the stereotypes are exhausted. Here they come playing tom-toms in an outrigger canoe. Now Elvis is playing the ukulele while hula girls shake their grass skirts. Maile’s grandma has a luau to celebrate her birthday; later the tour group is taken to a hukilau where the group net the fish they are to eat. Chad finally gets married on a raft, and there are leis, mai tais and cries of ‘aloha’ aplenty. The film loses points for the Gates's houseboy however. He is called 'Ping Pong' for heaven's sake!

Of course there are plenty of songs, from the big numbers that everybody knows (Can’t Help Falling In Love, Rock-A-Hula Baby), to classic covers (Blue Hawaii, Hawaiian Wedding Song, Aloha ‘Oe), to embarrassing space-fillers (Almost Always True and – most egregiously – Ito Eats). Ito Eats is a brief song about a character called Ito who eats a lot. Almost Always True is actually rather enjoyable – and not just for EP’s mugging – but tails off after two verses; I would have like to have heard more. Weirdly Can’t Help Falling In Love is directed not at his beautiful young girlfriend Maile, but rather at her grandmother. A definite opportunity for a romantic serenade lost there. The settings of the songs leave much to be desired in general, mostly just featuring Elvis standing or sitting there and singing. The two exceptions would be the partying and dancing during Rock-a-Hula Baby and the colourful Hawaiian wediing of (you guessed it!) Hawaiian Wedding Song. But the soundtrack album was actually one of Elvis’s most successful albums. In fact it was the second most successful album by any artist in the ‘60s in the US. The film too was one of Elvis’s most successful, despite its rather obvious limitations.

It's not the size of the instrument but what you do with it that counts

Elvis can handle comedy – witness his reactions when he keeps on being interrupted in his cottage on Kaua’i. But it is mainly the other characters who do the heavy lifting when it comes to laughs. As his mother Angela Lansbury (who was only nine years older than Presley) is melodramatic, referring to his military service as “the war” and his father is very dry. When Mrs Gates describes her son’s return from one night in jail as coming “back from the big house” her husband tersely comments “Sarah Lee will you stop watching those old movies?” One of the best bits of dialogue occurs when she wails “Oh Daddy, what did we do wrong?” His throw-away answer? “Offhand I’d say we got married.” This dryness contrasts favourably with the idiotic forgetfulness of Mr Chapman (Howard McNear). On one occasion the script does veer very near to Carry On territory, when Miss Prentice asks “Mr Gates, are you sure you can handle a teacher and four teenage girls?” Ooh Matron!

But frankly, unless you are a fan of Elvis Presley – or ‘60s kitsch – Blue Hawaii is not the film for you. Plot, dialogue and music are all rather humdrum. The setting is fabulous however. Just two years after Hawaii became the USA’s fiftieth state, this film is its coming out party, a big, bold, Technicolor tourist advert to pull in the punters.

What have I learnt about Hawaii?
Well firstly that as late as the ‘60s pineapples were seen as exotic in America. The Hawaiian climate was much in demand for pineapple agriculture as a result. And locals eat them with salt.

It is the local Hawaiian customs that most come out here. Mrs Gates may look down upon the “native boys” and their music, but there is clearly an attraction between the “malihini” (newcomers) and the natives. Maile has a French father and a Hawaiian mother. She and Chad carelessly slip Hawaiian phrases into conversations, and he is at home with Hawaiian friends and customs. He charms Maile’s grandmother, sings Hawaiian-flavoured songs and takes Miss Prentice and her girls to an authentic “hukilau”. A hukilau is a torch-lit beach party derived from a communal fishing trip. Everybody pulls in the net and everybody shares in the catch. Those who do not help, do not eat. It can be argued that these traditions merely add a bit of exotic colour to an otherwise dull plot; I prefer to think that Elvis and his writers celebrated these customs when the tendency would have been for white mainstream America to look down or ignore them (a la Mrs Gates).

Can we go there?
As befits Chad’s role as tourist guide, the entire film is like a travelogue of Hawaii – or two islands at least. We get to see Chad journey from Honolulu Airport, around the south coast of Oahu, and then across to Kaua’i. Chad’s beach hut lay at Hanauma Bay – this was where Maile lost her swimsuit and Chad first sings with his beach boys. A number of the beach scenes were shot on the property of what is now the Hilton Hawaiian Village; this was also used for Miss Prentice’s hotel. It is said that Chad’s parents live in the upscale suburb of Kahala, however the view of Diamond Head seen from their terrace during the party scene suggests a viewpoint from downtown Honolulu (Kahala is located on the other side of the hill). Chad and Maile have their abortive picnic atop Mount Tantalus.

The Kaua'i scenes were shot at the Coco Palms Resort in Wailua. This was the premium resort hotel on the island, much favoured by Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, the von Trapp Family Singers and the Japanese royal family as well as Elvis. The conch-blowing staff welcoming arrivals and the torch-lighting call to “chow” were all real ‘traditions’ that occurred at the resort. Largely due to Chad and Maile’s Hawaiian wedding taking place there, some 500 marriage ceremonies were hosted at the resort annual prior to its closure in 1992 after it was trashed by Hurricane Iniki. Nowadays I am sorry to report that the only way to see the resort is on a movie tour.

Overall rating: 2/5

Monday, 19 March 2012

Pearl Harbor (2001)

Dir.Michael Bay
Starring: Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett, Kate Beckinsale, Cuba Gooding Jr.

“I miss you more than Michael Bay missed the mark 
 When he made Pearl Harbor; 
 I miss you more than that movie missed the point, 
 And that’s an awful lot girl…”

Mention the 2001 film Pearl Harbor to people and the first thing they will think of is the ribbing it receives in Team America: World Police. That film’s final judgement? Pearl Harbor sucked, and I miss you…”

I mean, my God. This is a film that focuses on one of the most pivotal days in American history. It has a stellar cast. It had a budget of $140m ($5m over the original budget which, at that time, was the largest film budget ever authorised). What went wrong to make this film a by-word for Hollywood stinkers?

The story should be exciting. It is the tale of the surprise Japanese aerial attack on the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet as it lay at anchor in Pearl Harbour, Hawaii. This is woven around a love triangle involving Army Air Force pilots Rafe McCawley (Ben Affleck), Danny Walker (Josh Hartnett) and nurse Evelyn Johnson (Kate Beckinsale). Rafe and Evelyn start dating, but he leaves for England to fight against the Luftwaffe in the Eagle Squadron of American volunteer pilots. He is shot down during a dogfight over the English Channel is presumed lost at sea. This comes as a terrible blow both to Evelyn and to his shy best friend Danny, both of whom have been posted to the idyllic Hawaiian islands. As they grieve they become closer, eventually starting their own relationship. Then, suddenly, after three months in occupied France, Rafe returns, and is horrified to find his girl and his best friend together. Rafe and Danny’s animosity is forgotten the very next day, however, when the Japanese Zeros swoop overhead to wreak havoc on the amassed American battleships; they lead their comrades in a fight back against the Japanese.

The staging and special effects are epic and quite spectacular. Planes sweep through, spitting bullets. Ships explode and cant alarmingly. Hundreds of extras are flung from the decks or are trapped down below as the mighty behemoths sink beneath the waves. It looks awe-inspiring. The problem is, I didn’t feel enough emotional investment in the characters to care. I was obviously meant to, but the supporting cast were not given enough screen-time for them to make an impression. A large boxer who is trapped in the engine room as it fills with water; a captain who had previously said something nice to Petty Officer Miller; a pilot who wears a vest: we see all these people die but it doesn’t really mean anything. Should I be caring more about these characters than for all the other victims because they had previously had a line of dialogue? Essentially there were only three characters that were given enough time (and this in a 2 hr 45 min movie!) for an audience member to care about, and these were Rafe, Danny and Evelyn.

Except that the love triangle storyline was, I felt, contrived and heavy handed. This may be because of the actors picked. I must confess that whenever I see a film starring Ben Affleck I find myself wondering whether they were unable to cast anyone else. Whenever I see a film starring Josh Hartnett I wonder whether they were unable to cast Ben Affleck. Sure, Affleck does a great job to looking noble and heroic and Hartnett is credible at looking tortured but I would have hoped that they could do a little more than this. The scripting does not call for them to do that though. Dialogue is stolid and unmemorable. I’m not entirely sure why Evelyn decides to get over Rafe with his best friend other than that he is nice enough and he takes her up in his plane, something that proves to be a very effective knicker loosener. No sooner has he done this then they are having dead-eyed slow-motion sex in a hangar full of parachutes which waft dramatically like the curtains in a Bonnie Tyler music video. Just compare this to Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr's infamous and adulterous 'roll in the surf' in 1953's From Here to Eternity. Burt and Deb manage to conjure up all the passion and intensity that, sadly, Josh and Kate cannot. Rafe’s return should have been heart-wrenching and heavy with drama. Instead it is just something that happens. Thankfully Evelyn is spared having to choose between the man she loves and the man who has fathered her baby by one of the two pilots being written out. I guess Pearl Harbor’s target audience just aren’t prepared for a character having to make a moral choice.

Pearl Harbor love scenes:
Josh Hartnett and Kate Beckinsale in Pearl Harbor;
Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr in From Here to Eternity

In fact, one of the things that struck me was quite how absent of moral decision the entire film was. Rafe goes to fight in England. One would expect a stirring speech about why he is standing against the forces of tyranny and oppression. But no. He has one line about wanting to “matter” but that is it. There is a spot of historical re-writing around this as well. Certainly I was left with the impression that Rafe was fighting in the Battle of Britain – except that by the summer of 1941 that particular battle had been over for almost a year. Furthermore no American air force pilot would have been allowed to transfer across to fight in the air force of a foreign country against a nation with which the USA was at peace. I do not know enough about the Pearl Harbor attack or the war in the Pacific, however, to say quite how historically accurate the film is on those aspects of the movie. One thing I did notice, however, was the difference in the way the Japanese attack and the Doolittle Raid were shown. The Japanese attack showed women running screaming down streets as the Zeros strafed them from behind, ambulances exploding, and bullets tearing into the water around the swimming seamen. In comparison there seem to be no casualties caused by the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo. I counted maybe one person in a scene, but no one was shown getting killed (in reality fifty people were killed by the raid and around four hundred wounded).

There are two good lines of dialogue in the entire movie. Kate Beckinsale has a voiceover describing how “Before the Doolittle Raid America knew nothing but defeat. After it, there was hope of victory” – a complete crib of Winston Churchill’s famous line that “Before Alamein we never had a victory. After Alamein, we never had a defeat”. Ben Affleck then gets the only moment of wit in the entire film when he replies to Colonel Doolittle (Alec Baldwin) that he does indeed know what ‘Top Secret’ means: “It’s the kind of mission where you get medals, but they send ‘em to your relatives”. This is perhaps the only moment of humour that works. The early sections have some quite misjudjed comedy. Affleck’s first meeting with Evelyn clearly shows that slapstick is not his forte and his comrade Red has a comedy stutter (but of course he does – he’s played by Ewen Bremner, best known as Spud from Trainspotting). But this is not a film that desires a good script. It is a Michael Bay film. Every Michael Bay film that I have seen has clearly spent the bare minimum on script and plot so that more can be maximised on the one truly important thing: explosions. Michael Bay has yet to meet a gaping plot hole that he is unable to fill by having some stuff explode. At least Pearl Harbor does have a comprehensible storyline – even if heavy-handed newsreels are needed to explain some of the more arcane points, like what the war is, whether the United States are involved, and so forth. In this respect it is better than, say, Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen, which I paid good money to watch at the cinema and came out wondering what on earth had just happened. In Team America they wonder “Why does Michael Bay get to keep on making movies?” The answer is simple. He is very successful. I had remembered in my head that Pearl Harbor was an awful flop. It wasn’t. Sure, it spunked a whole heap of the Walt Disney Corporation’s money up the wall and it was nominated for six Golden Raspberry Awards (thankfully Pearl Harbor was released in the same year as Freddie Got Fingered), but it made a shed-load of dosh - $450m in total. For every dollar spent, it made three back. Maybe not the return hoped for, but it was still an impressive haul. In box office terms Pearl Harbor was a success.

As for my view? Well, it's entertaining enough, and it is hardly the worst film in the world ever. At least I can say I have seen it now. My first choice of film for this state had been From Here to Eternity but I have seen that before. From Here is, in all respects a better story. It has everything that Pearl Harbor lacks - convincing love stories, moral choices, deaths in action that the audience actually cares about. Frank Sinatra didn't deserve his Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his one-note drunken serviceman character, but Montgomery Clift would have been good money for a Best Actor win in my eyes, and the film did scoop Best Film and Best Director. Not seen it? Trust me - check it out...

What have I learnt about Hawaii?
In 1941 Hawaii was not America’s fiftieth state; it was just a part of the nation’s overseas empire. Bearing this in mind it is surprising that there are no actual Hawaiians seen. There is a bar-owner who looks as though he may be Hawaiian, but other than that everyone else is Caucasian or African-American. There actually seem to be more Japanese in Hawaii than Hawaiians. (The film does point out that there were people of Japanese descent both living in Hawaii and serving in the American forces).

The strategic importance of the islands becomes clear. From Hawaii America could dominate the central Pacific. For Japan to continue southwards along the east Asian coastline would be to expose their flank to any possible American attack; strategically it would hence make sense to eliminate that threat before it could arise, even at the risk of awakening “a sleeping giant”. But for the men and women stationed there before the war Hawaii seemed a dream posting – we see them drinking in bars, surfing and lazing on the beach. The hospital is empty (except for one man with sunburn).

Can we go there?
The filming of Pearl Harbour jumps all over the place. The English scenes were indeed shot in – and over – England. The airfield is Badminton House. The Doolittle Raid does not take place over Japan though – the factories are actually in Gary, Indiana, and the geisha temple seen in passing is the Byodo-in Temple outside Honolulu. Real ships were used for authenticity, and so filming was dictated by where they were moored. The Queen Mary is in Long Beach, California, rather than New York harbour (and the nightclub scene in New York was actually filmed aboard here). Battleships used include the SS Lane Victory (Los Angeles), USS Lexington (Corpus Christi) and USS Texas (Houston). The Texas stood in, an different times, for the USS Tennessee, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Hornet.

Many of the air raid scenes were shot in and around the Hawaiian island of Oahu, even if most of the planes were CGI’d in. Active duty service personnel were allowed to be used as extras, making this one of the United States’ greatest military disasters twice over! Wheeler Air Force Base, Fort Shafter, Ford Island and Pearl Harbor itself were used as locations. The USS Missouri and frigate Whipple were used for shooting at Pearl Harbor too. Furthermore $8m was spent on a vast water stage in Honolulu to enable the filming of scenes that were meant to be out in the Pacific. But the set used for Titanic at Fox’s Rosarito Beach studios in Baja California, was used for those scenes where the battleships exploded, listed and turned turtle.

Other scenes that were supposed to be in Hawaii were in California. San Pedro’s 6th Street was dressed to be Oahu Street. The Warner Grand Theatre is where Evelyn and Danny decide to skip watching The Great Dictator and the ‘Black Cat Café’ was constructed two doors down in an empty building. The Japanese plan their attack a couple of miles away in Angels Gate Park. Evelyn’s hospital scenes were shot at Linda Vista Hospital, 610 S St Louis, in east L.A.

More fitting than searching out the locations of where the film was shot, however, is searching out the locations of where so many men lost their lives. The USS Arizona Memorial today stands proud in the midst of Pearl Harbor and commemorates the dead.

Overall Rating: 2/5