A film almost, but not quite, entirely unlike anything that appeals to me

When I saw the email from Netflix headlined “Brad, we just added a movie you might like,” I braced myself. Netflix chirpily announcing it has something I will like gives me the same creeping feeling that Arthur Dent got when the Syrius Cybernetics Corporation’s Nutrimatic drinks dispenser offered him another cup of liquid that was almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea.

And sure enough, here’s what it was offering me:


Don’t know about you, but I consider that to be one of the silliest, most ridiculously hyped films of the past decade. It easily qualifies as my least favorite Ron Howard film, and I suppose my least favorite featuring Tom Hanks as well.

It was like a cheesy retelling of Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum, and I didn’t like that, either. There are people who just eat up a tale involving a conspiracy stretching over thousands of years, especially when it involves the Knights Templar (as both tales do). I’m not one of them. I’m not a huge fan of the whole paranoia thriller genre to begin with, and when you stretch it to such extremes, you totally lose me.

And don’t even bother feeding me a tale about brilliant algorithms duplicating the human mind and taking over the world. When Netflix gets a clue as to what I like, then I’ll worry…

25 thoughts on “A film almost, but not quite, entirely unlike anything that appeals to me

    1. Norm Ivey

      I’ll play. In no particular order:
      Apollo 13
      A Beautiful Mind
      How the Grinch Stole Christmas (I’m a big-time sucker for holiday movies)
      And Cocoon, but could swap this out for most any of the earliest films.

      Haven’t seen, but have high hopes for: Frost/Nixon and Heart of the Sea.

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    Top Five Favorite Tom Hanks films:
    1. Saving Private Ryan
    2. Apollo 13
    3. Volunteers
    4. Forrest Gump
    5. Toy Story

    And if there were room for six, I’d add “That Thing You Do,” although he wasn’t the main character…

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Weird thing about Tom Hanks.

      Remember how for the first half of his career he looked like this, and then, seemingly instantly, he looked like this?

      Speaking of conspiracy theories, it’s kind of like the “Paul is Dead” thing — something happened to him, and he was replaced by a whole other guy.

      Like Dick York and Dick Sargent on “Bewitched…” What, you think we’re not going to notice?

    2. Norm Ivey

      Again, no particular order…

      Toy Story
      That Thing You Do
      Catch Me If You Can
      Polar Express (See comment on Ron Howard films)
      Captain Phillips

      I had Apollo 13 on the list, but being forced to remove one, I realized it was the one I’m least likely to watch again.

      I have high hopes for Bridge of Spies.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Oh, I could watch “Apollo 13” over and over. In fact, I have. It’s the best teamwork movie I’ve ever seen, and you know how we communitarians like that sort of thing…

      2. Brad Warthen Post author

        By the way, I loved “Volunteers” even before my daughter went to Thailand with the Peace Corps.

        When she got her assignment, she announced it by posting part of this clip on Facebook, thereby proving that she is indeed my daughter:

        The version of the clip she posted started at about 1:15 on this one: “Oh, yes… Thailand…”

    3. bud

      Saving Private Ryan is vastly over rated but otherwise your list is fine. Basically just an elaborate episode of the old Combat TV show. I’m looking forward to the Miracle on the Hudson movie.

      1. Otto

        Miracle on the Hudson was no miracle. It was implementation of years of training. A wheels up water landing is a textbook emergency procedure you learn in the first year of commercial flight training. It’s preferred over wheels up landing over ground.

      2. Brad Warthen Post author

        Bud, you sure that’s not your tendency toward pacifism influencing your judgment?

        But wait — I think you’ve mentioned some war movies in the past that you do like. Or am I remembering wrong?

        In any case, this film blew away everything that had ever been done in that area before. Not only were the acting and the dialogue and the plot compelling, but it was so perfect technically. Film technology had advanced to level none of the classics of the past could touch.

        The realism — which caused some combat veterans to have flashbacks — was unprecedented. The unflinching gaze as war did its worst to soldiers was something we had not seen before. We’ve grown accustomed to it since, with “Black Hawk Down,” “Band of Brothers,” “The Pacific”… but this was the one that set the new standard for making combat look and sound real.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          The film made it clear that war is something best avoided if at all possible. At the same time, it well expressed what Emerson was saying in the passage quoted in the film: “War educates the senses, calls into action the will, perfects the physical constitution, brings men into such swift and close collision in critical moments that man measures man.”

          Perhaps that’s the part you didn’t like.

          1. bud

            I liked Apocalypse Now. Kelly’s Heroes was great. Funny thing about Private Ryan. I liked it pretty well the first time I saw then saw it again (at least part of it) some years later and didn’t understand what I saw in it the first time around. Not to say it was awful, just ordinary.

            1. Bryan Caskey

              Where do you rate the following?

              The Patriot
              The Hunt for Red October
              The Longest Day

              Yes, this is a test. There are correct answers.

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                Hated “Braveheart.” It and “The Patriot” indulged in something peculiar to Mel Gibson films — a fetishistic wallowing in the extreme suffering of the protagonist and his loved ones.

                I don’t necessarily mind violence in movies. But there’s something … off, even perverse… about the violence in Gibson movies. For one thing, he goes overboard in painting bad guys as monsters.

                I could have done without “Braveheart” altogether, and I would have preferred a faithful, historical account of Francis Marion’s story to “The Patriot.”

                “Red October” was a wonderful, engaging, fun film — but it suffers in comparison to the book. I don’t see the point in some of the plot changes. And while Sean Connery was great (“One ping only, Vasily”), I’d rather have seen Harrison Ford as Jack Ryan.

                “The Longest Day” is something everyone should see, and I watch it again every couple of years. But… it suffers from a problem common to the vast majority of films made in the ’50s and early ’60s … truly atrocious acting, which implies really terrible directing.

                With some of those scenes, I just can’t imagine how the director brought himself to say “print it.” I’d have coached the actors and made them do it over and over until there was some semblance of believability in their performances.

                Maybe they were running way over budget, with all those big stars…

            2. Brad Warthen

              “Kelly’s Heroes” was a lot of fun, although — and here I go with the negative waves, Moriarty — I have one complaint:

              It’s from that genre of films that suggest that WWII was a lark, just a bunch of zany characters engaged in a non-stop laugh riot. The worst of this breed was TV’s “Hogan’s Heroes.” By comparison with THAT, “Kelly’s” was dead-serious history.

            3. Norm Ivey

              Some movies are meant to be seen once, Like Private Ryan. Others are meant for frequent visits, like Shawshank Redemption and High Plains drifter.

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                See, I’m the other way around. I’ve seen Private Ryan quite a few times, and own it on VHS and DVD.

                Shawshank I’ve probably seen a couple of times, just because it was on TV (back in the days when we watched things as they appeared on the TV schedule). High Plains Drifter? I’m not sure. Those Eastwood westerns from that period sort of run together in my memory…

                1. Brad Warthen Post author

                  I’m more of a late-Eastwood fan. Bronco Billy is probably the earliest thing I really enjoyed, not counting “Rawhide,” then “In the Line of Fire,” “Unforgiven,” “Gran Torino….”

  2. Assistant

    I agree with your assessment of the Da Vinci Code. Several years ago a coworker raved about the book in my presence. I told her that I found the work worse than idiotic, it was offensive and I was particularly appalled by its slandering of Opus Dei. When she said liked the way it blended fact and fiction, I replied that the bad news was that she and most folks did not know what in the book was fact and what was fiction.

    I did enjoy Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum, in part because it’s pure fiction that makes excellent use of many of the stranger belief systems out there. I recommend reading it using Kindle on a PC or tablet so that you can look up the five or so arcane allusions and references that appear per page. It’s challenging but enjoyable like most of Eco’s works.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Well, I loved The Name of the Rose, but Foucault was a disappointment by comparison…

      No question, Eco is a very erudite dude.

      I enjoyed where Ross Douthat used Eco’s test to determine that Trump is a fascist.


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