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Emperor 2012, starring Tommy Lee Jones and Matthew Fox who really steals the show from the much senior actor Jones.

I hate to admit it, but I actually enjoyed this movie immensely.  It could be that I’m a fan of US history or that I thought Fox did such a great job playing Gen. Fellers that I overlooked any deficiencies in the film.

“Emperor” deals with a crucial chapter in postwar history, in which the future direction of Japan was being decided by MacArthur and a handful of advisers.  The general appoints the brigadier, Bonner Fellers (Matthew Fox, of “Lost”) to investigate Emperor Hirohito for war crimes.  The American public is clamoring for the emperor’s head, but executing him could set back the occupation and open the door to the Soviets.

Fox, who’s the real star of the movie, plays Fellers as the sweetest, gentlest guy in the world in his private life.  But in his professional life, he has the officer thing down: He’s abrupt, forceful and unyielding, as if unwilling himself to show even a hint of softness or doubt.  It’s a smart, thought-through performance.

Fellers and his staff begin to compile a list of people who were with Emperor Hirohito when the war started. Because none of the Japanese who are friendly to the Americans are among them, they resort to asking Tojo by enticing him to give them information in order to save the Emperor.  Fellers travels to Sugano Prison and demands that Tojo gives him three names.  He, instead, gives one: Fumimaro Konoe, the former prime minister.  Fellers decides to visit General Kajima.  He explains to Kajima that the Japanese people are selfless and capable of great sacrifice as well as unspeakable crimes because of their devotion to a set of values.  Kajima does not know whether or not the Emperor is guilty in starting the war but notes his role in ending the war.  He gives Fellers a box of folded letters written by Aya (the Japanese woman Fellers had fallen in love with prior to the war) to Fellers and Fellers learns that Aya had died in one of the Allied bombing raids.

MacArthur orders Fellers to arrange a meeting between him and the Emperor himself.  Before the Emperor arrives, Fellers informs MacArthur of his role in diverting Allied bombers away from Shizuoka (he had hoped to save Aya).  MacArthur replies that because no American lives were lost because of it, he will turn a blind eye.  When Emperor Hirohito arrives, he offers himself to be punished rather than Japan.  MacArthur states that he has no intention of punishing Japan or Hirohito and rather wishes to discuss the reconstruction of Japan.

The film proves to be extremely interesting thanks to the fact it turns both America and Japan into villains from the get go making them both culpable for the atrocities they have committed.  By setting the film in war torn Japan, the film shows how much Japan is suffering because of the war, and the state of a once prosperous happy country that is one execution away from total collapse.

Perhaps my penchant for Asian films tilted me in the direction of liking this movie, but it at least provided some insight into what kind of monumental task the Allies were taking on in rebuilding Japan which you can see at the beginning of the film is nothing more than rubble.  Maybe I enjoyed it because the film is a story not just about the past but about the future as it shows two countries in flux, Japan awaiting news of their fate and America trying to justify their actions having just committed one of the worst war crimes in history.  Trying to find some kind of redemption even though they have made an indelible mark on a country it had already ravaged.

JPFmovies advice: watch it.

 
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Posted by on July 3, 2015 in Movie Reviews

 

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I was wondering what were Sam Neil and Mel Gibson doing in 1982? Then it hit me—they were making “Attack Force Z” (1982).

During WWII “Attack force Z” was a joint Allied special forces unit designated to operate behind Japanese lines in South East Asia.  Predominantly Australian, Z Special Unit was a specialized reconnaissance and sabotage outfit that included British, Dutch, New Zealand, Timorese and Indonesian members, principally operating around Borneo and nearby islands and was under the direct command of General Douglas MacArthur.  This early precursor to today’s Special Forces carried out a total of 81 covert operations with soldiers inserted by parachute or submarine to provide intelligence and conduct guerrilla warfare.  The most infamous of these missions were Operation Jaywick and Operation Rimau, both of which involved raids on Japanese shipping in Singapore Harbor; the latter of which resulted in the deaths of twenty-three commandos either KIA or by execution by the Japanese after capture.

While many will immediately flock to Mel Gibson’s performance in this lower budget war film, I believe the best performance is by Sam Neil—whose acting credentials are also as impressive as Gibson’s in my opinion.

Within the first five minutes of this film we see just how serious these chaps are about their mission (which is to find a crashed plane).  Led by Paul Kelly (Gibson), an inexperienced commando officer, the team secretly lands on the island and hides their kayaks.  As they venture in land, Ted ‘Kingo’ King is hit by fire from an unseen machine gun post.  King cannot be allowed to fall into enemy hands and compromise the mission under interrogation, so instead of taking him back or finding him shelter until they return to shore, his companion, D.J. Costello (Sam Neill) simply shoots him after sharing a cigarette so the mission can continue uncompromised.  The execution of one of their own doesn’t even so much as raise an eyebrow.  The four remaining men return to their search, after coming across a rice farmer and assuring him they are friends, the teams learns of the area where the plane crashed, but not after the rice farmer is also killed in order to preserve secrecy.

While following the (now dead) old man’s directions, the squad sees some Japanese soldiers leave a house and when Force Z storms in, they meet the local resistance leader Lin and his family.  Now they have a guide to lead them to the plane, but are attacked by Japanese soldiers at a Buddhist Temple.  As Force Z makes quick work of these soldiers, the bodies begin to start piling up and the Japanese Command begin to intensify the search for the parties responsible for all these dead men.

Meanwhile within sight of the plane Kelly watches as locals blow up the wreckage.  The local non-English speaking resistance leader leads them to a defecting Japanese government official Imoguchi, and he is believed to hold secrets that could end the war faster.  Only Kelly knows he must be rescued at any cost or killed.  As the pieces of the puzzle begin to fall together, Kelly must persuade his own men that Imoguchi is worth rescuing and the local resistance that it is worth fighting against their Japanese enemies.

However, as the excitement should carry the action onwards, Attack Force Z blunders mightily in the second act.  It should be building up to a thrilling climax, but instead it devolves into a tired and clichéd war romance between Law’s American commando, Jan Veitch, and a local village girl, while the script leads the rest of the group in a contrived circle to delay the final exposition and eventual showdown with the Japanese occupiers.

Featuring a couple of strong performances (especially by Neill) yet only intermittently effective, Attack Force Z has aged poorly, more so than many other war films from the same period.  It has significant technical handicap and wavering directorial conviction draws away from what should be an otherwise interesting story, leaving behind a somewhat murky film.

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2013 in Movie Reviews

 

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Dr. H and JP Look at “Operation Petticoat” what we dub as Humor In Uniform:

Dr. H and JP Look at “Operation Petticoat” what we dub as Humor In Uniform:

Operation Petticoat is an early (1959) a post WWII comedy directed by Blake Edwards (the Pink Panther Series, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Great Race, “10”, Victor/Victoria and others) filled with a cast that were either big names like Cary Grant or rising stars like Tony Curtis (Some Like it Hot), Marrion Ross (Happy Days) and Gavin MacLeod (the Love Boat) and others.  The movie could even be seen as an early attempt at bringing feminism to the big screen and the precursor to the rash of 1960’s sex comedies that soon followed.

The film story goes something like this, following the attack on Pearl Harbor the Japanese prepared to invade the American-occupied Philippine Islands.  During an air raid on the American naval base there almost sink the new submarine the “Sea Tiger.”  The boat’s insistent and professional commander, Matt Sherman – played by Cary Grant – wants to get the Sea Tiger operational at any cost.  After persuading the powers the be who give Sherman permission to make the Sea Tiger sea worthy, he and the remnants of the ships original crew (which has been decimated by transfers because the boat is considered sunken condition) succeeds in raising the sub from the harbor bottom and commence getting her seaworthy enough to escape to Australia before the pending Japanese assault.  Unfortunately the repair efforts are hampered by the bureaucratically-based shortage of necessary parts and supplies.  Enter Tony Curtis as Lt. Nick Holden; an accomplished back-alley smoke filled room deal cutter who joined the Navy to get into a nice uniform which he believes will land him a very wealthy wife.  Alas, having secured a cushy job as an admiral’s aid the sudden outbreak of the war results in all Mr. Holden’s carefully laid schemes sent completely awry.  Thus being at the end of his rope, Holden finds himself assigned as a replacement officer to the Sea Tiger.  Faced with the alternative of being stuck on Bataan to endure the certain Japanese onslaught, he sees it is in his best interest to make up for the seagoing experience he has managed to avoid by becoming the Sea Tiger’s Supply Officer and secures everything the captain needs to get “the . . . submarine” out of there and to someplace where he can get a better deal.

Holden implements his supply procurement program which at best is unorthodox and at worst just plain felonious.  Holden out does him self when he manages to “scavenge” five stranded Army nurses and convinces Cary Grant that he must take them aboard.  From then on the film becomes Cary Grant’s battle to get this backfiring-limping submarine to Australia while avoiding the “exchange of information” about the proverbial “birds and the bees” between the crew and their female guests.  Grant’s struggle becomes more and more complicated as the film moves on to the point where a maternity ward has to be opened on the Sea Tiger to accommodate its passengers.

For those who enjoy MASH (the movie), Stripes or the Russians are Coming this movie is a must see.  A perfect example of how a good comedy can be made without resorting to “blue humor” or three stooges like slap stick.  Fifty years later, the jokes a still witty and story remains fresh.  This film was also one of the first movies to inspire a TV spin-off.  In 1977 Operation Petticoat the TV. series aired starring none other than Jamie Lee Curtis who’s father, Tony Curtis, starred as one of the lead male roles in the 1959 movie.

Per Dr. H—This one is a rose for your bouquet.

 
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Posted by on July 12, 2010 in Movie Reviews

 

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