You, Me and Dupree

[0.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Oh, dear Lord, it's awful. A "comedy" that didn't elicit a single laugh, chortle, or giggle from me.

Worse, the people who came up with the movie title do not employ the Oxford Comma.

Anyway: Mrs. Salad was out of town, and we (somehow) were gifted with this 10-year-old DVD, which she saw no interest in watching, ever. So…

Molly (Kate Hudson) and Carl (Matt Dillon) are newlyweds. Best Man Dupree (Owen Wilson) is Carl's longtime best buddy, but he's currently an underachiever, to put it mildly; to attend the wedding, he's lost his job and domicile. So we can put Dupree up in our house until he's back on his feet, right, honey?

Added complication: Molly's dad (Michael Douglas) is unimpressed with Carl, to the extent that he recommends vasectomy to Carl.

None of the main characters are interesting or likeable. Nobody ever says anything funny. The PG-13 rating prevents Kate Hudson from getting naked. There are unexpected developments, sure, but in order to say "I didn't see that coming" you have to care enough about the plot to imagine what might be coming next.

On the back of the DVD box, one Lesley Nagy, film critic of KBWB-TV in San Francisco, is quoted: "IF YOU LIKE WEDDING CRASHERS, YOU'LL LOVE YOU, ME AND DUPREE!" Let me just caution you: Lesley is a liar. Maybe not as bad as Hillary, but she's right up there. For I liked Wedding Crashers just fine, but ….

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

[4.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

A very intense, edge-of-seat movie that Mrs. Salad had no desire to see. So I set aside an afternoon…

As you (probably) know: It's a story of the 2012 Benghazi disaster, seen from the viewpoint of a private security team tasked with protecting the secret CIA enclave in town. Unfortunately, the team seems to be the only folks on the ground who (a) know how much danger is lurking in the city and (b) have semi-adequate skills to deal with the inevitable clash of civilizations. What results is a tale of graphic violence and ineptitude resulting in (as everyone knows) too many dead Americans.

The movie wisely stays out of the direct partisan political controversy, but is damning enough for what it shows.

Directed by Michael Bay, previously known for semi-mindless action flicks; this is not one of those. Also revelatory is John Krasinski, previously mostly known for being "Jim on The Office". If they gave Oscars for "Displaying Previously Unexpected Talent", you'd have to think both Bay and Krasinski would be nominated in a heartbeat.

Dear Eleanor

[2.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

One of Mrs. Salad's picks. Sorry, honey, this movie kind of irritated me.

It's 1962 in rural California. 15-year-old Ellie's mom just got fatally hit by a car (but not badly enough for a closed-casket funeral), and Ellie blames herself for making her mom late. If only she'd crossed the street a few seconds earlier! Or later.

Or just waited until she could have crossed the street safely. Sheesh.

Anyway, Dead Mom was a huge Eleanor Roosevelt fan, and was due to introduce her at a shindig. That obviously didn't happen. But Ellie's best friend "Max the Wax" has the wind in her whiskers, and to snap Ellie out of her funk, she inveigles them both into a classic movie road trip, off to see Eleanor at her upstate NY estate.

A lot of unlikely things happen. They pick up an older gentleman whose real-life character (without spoiling things too much) was previously portrayed by Clint Eastwood many years ago. Ellie's dysfunctioning father snaps himself out of depression long enough to go chasing after Ellie with Max's sorta-boyfriend in a sidecar. The girls stop to pick up Max's Aunt Daisy (Jessica Alba), who's working as a Las Vegas dancer. (Unfortunately: Las Vegas, New Mexico.)

It's all kind of contrived, sorry. ("Gee, Max, it's as if our lives are under the control of some wacky screenwriter, and we have no free will of our own!")

Jessica Alba is pretty easy to look at, though, and her fate here is better than it was in Sin City.

Wait a minute, Ione Skye was in this?! I missed that totally.

Eye in the Sky

[3.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

The IMDB genre-classifiers put this movie in "Drama, Thriller, War" categories, although there aren't that many thrills. And, geez, "Comedy" wouldn't be that farfetched, because … well, let me explain.

Helen Mirren plays no-nonsense British Colonel Katherine Powell who has long sought to take homegrown terrorist Susan Danford off the board. (Susan's organization has just brutally killed one of Katherine's undercover operatives, which only serves to heighten Katherine's eagerness.) Years of surveillance have paid off, as Susan is tracked to a small house outside of Nairobi. A drone with a couple Hellfire missiles awaits above. Even better: a couple more high-ranking bad guys are spotted! And making things more urgent, a tiny beetle-sized flying camera has spotted a couple of suicide vests being prepared for an imminent operation!

So, blammo, they take out the house, movie over in 15 minutes, right? Wrong. These sorts of operations need signoffs, especially when the original plan was to capture Susan and bring her back to England for trial. Complicating matters: the house is in a crowded marketplace area, and there could be significant "collateral damage", i.e. not-particularly-terroristic men, women, and children getting blown up.

So there's literally a worldwide discussion between Katherine in Surrey, a civilian/military committee in London (including Alan Rickman in his last movie), drone operators in Nevada, the Secretary of State in China, a spy on the ground in Nairobi, and more. Options are endlessly weighed, arguments about collateral damage vs the risk of not being able to stop the suicide bombers are made. The buck-passing approaches comic levels; a little script-dinking could have made this into Dr. Stranglove for our terroristic age.

But (sorry for the spoiler) the Chekhov's Gun rule applies: you don't put Hellfire missiles in your movie unless you're gonna blow something up eventually.

Here's what I liked: the movie itself doesn't seem to take sides between the hawks and doves. Both are allowed to trot out their best arguments, and neither is presented as either evil or incorrect. (Alan Rickman's final speech is particularly powerful. I'm really going to miss that guy.)

And, oh yeah: Danny from Caddyshack is now the US Secretary of State. I'm glad that he finally made something out of his life.

Last Modified 2016-09-18 12:48 PM EDT


[1.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Another movie that I am not proud to have watched, but … you know, Salma Hayek.

Maybe I could get away with claiming that I thought it somehow concerned free-market economist Friedrich Hayek? No, probably not: I've used that excuse five or six times already.

Anyway: Everly is Salma's one-named character, a prostitute in a heap of trouble for trying to inform on her boss, a ruthless Japanese criminal kingpin. After being sexually brutalized by some of his minions, she manages to temporarily turn the tables. But it soon becomes apparent that her boss's entire criminal infrastructure has been targeted to wipe her out. In addition, her long-estranged mother and cute daughter are also targeted.

It's rated R for "strong bloody violence, torture, nudity, sexual images and language", but probably not as much of that rating is due to nudity as one might like.

The Walk

[3.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

A coincidence of Netflix queue dynamics provided this movie near the 15th anniversary of 9/11.

It is a fictionalized version of a movie we've actually seen before: Man on Wire, the 2008 documentary that described Philippe Petit's audacious and illegal tightrope walk between the WTC towers back in August 1974. That documentary won an Oscar; this movie won zero Oscars, and was kind of a box office dud, and we know how things turn out, but I still found it enjoyable.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Petit, which demands that he adopt a silly French accent. OK, that decision that was probably demanded by reality, but still. A Paris street performer, he takes it into his head to conquer the towers, and he gradually acquires a motley (but colorful) array of co-conspirators whose dedication to Petit's dream varies. But there's only so much dramatic tension you can muster when (again) we know how things are going to turn out. (The movie also sent me to a reality-vs-film site to see how well it followed reality. Pretty well.)

The filmmakers do a stunning CGI job of recreating the 1974-era WTC. It kind of made me wish that I'd seen it in theatre-3D when it came out in 2015; if I had managed to avoid vertigo-related barfing, it would have certainly been awesome.

The Hateful Eight

[4.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Quentin Tarantino's latest movie. Made sure Mrs. Salad was out of the house, since she's made her opinion clear on Tarantino after watching Reservoir Dogs a couple of decades ago. Not her cup of tea.

But it really is a pretty nifty movie. A stagecoach contains bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell) and his prisoner Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), bound for Red Rock, where Daisy is due to hang. It (however) needs to take shelter from a Wyoming blizzard at the remote "Minnie's Haberdashery". The stage is waylaid by another bounty hunter, Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), who has a collection of three criminal corpsicles, also on his way to Red Rock to collect bounties. Finally, they pick up Chris Mannix (Boyd Crowder himself, Walton Goggins), who is Red Rock's new sheriff, or at least claims to be.

Making it to Minnie's, they find an even more diverse bunch awaiting them: Mexican Bob (Demián Bichir); hangman Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth); cowboy Joe Gage (Michael Madsen); ex-Confederate General Sandy Smithers (Bruce Dern). Strangely missing is Minnie; Mexican Bob claims to have been left in charge while Minnie has gone to the "other side of the mountain."

Needless to say, not all these people are actually telling the truth about their backstories or motives. And (since it's a Tarantino movie) the main thing is: who, if any, of these people will be alive at the end of the flick?


  • Kurt Russell does a very good R-rated John Wayne impression for his character. This was intentional. (I think I remember him doing the same in the wonderful Big Trouble in Little China.)

  • If you're counting, you'll count nine living characters at the Haberdashery at its peak population. So who's the non-hateful one? IMDB trivia says it's the coach driver O. B. (Beware spoilers at the link.)

  • Ennio Morricone did the music. Woo!

  • Quentin Tarantino should do a light, fluffy, romantic comedy. Just to show he could do it.


[3.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

One of Mrs. Salad's picks, and I liked it! Good job, honey!

Because of spoilers, I don't want to go much beyond this official description:

Best friends Derek and Clif set out on a trip of lifetime. Their plan: travel to the ends of the earth, see the world, and live life to the fullest. But the trip soon takes a dark and bloody turn. Just days in, one of the men shows signs of a mysterious affliction which gradually takes over his entire body and being. Now, thousands of miles from home, in a foreign land, they must race to uncover the source before it consumes him completely. Footage meant to be travel memories may now become evidence of one of the most shocking discoveries ever captured on film...and perhaps will be their only postcard home.

That's pretty much all I knew going in. Also (MPAA): "Rated R for disturbing bloody violence, and language." Can't really blame them for the language, though, given all the disturbing bloody violence.

Although this movie was (more or less) direct-to-DVD-and-streaming, it's a very professional effort, shot on a shoestring budget of (it says here) $318,000. That's impressive!

And So It Goes

[2.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

One of Mrs. Salad's picks, watched through the magic of Netflix's streaming service. Wish I liked it better.

Michael Douglas plays real estate magnate and all-around curmudgeon Oren. His wife is dead, his son is a drug addict and headed to jail, and he's trying to unload his multi-million dollar Connecticut mansion. To simplify that, he moves into a vacant apartment in a complex overlooking the scenic waterfront. Where he encounters Leah, played by Diane Keaton: she's also (conveniently for script purposes) minus one spouse and trying to kindle a career/hobby as a lounge singer. Only problem is that she starts crying when she sings anything that reminds her of her dead hubby. It's easy to imagine that she's Annie Hall, forty years older.

And then the jail-bound son unexpectedly unloads his cute daughter into this situation. Oren has zero grandpa ambitions, so it falls to Leah to pick up the slack there. Guess what happens?

Presumably the title isn't meant to refer to Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five catchphrase. A better guess might be that it's meant to evoke the Billy Joel song, except that it doesn't show up in the movie anywhere. Maybe they couldn't agree on financial terms for that.

I agree with the critics: it's a pretty half-hearted effort, not even bothering to make me care what happens to these rich people. Hence, the "dark moment" shared by all romcoms isn't that dark.

The script has a lot meant-to-be-clever lines that aren't actually.

American Ultra

[2.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Did I mention I'm retired? So I can basically do whatever I want, whenever I want? That includes watching schlock movies (like this) in the middle of the day via (in this case) Amazon Prime video. I'm not proud of that, but it happened.

So: Mike (Jesse Eisenberg) and Phoebe (Kristen Stewart) live in cohabitational bliss in a small town. Their combined income allows them to scrape by, with whatever surplus going to support their prodigious marijuana habits. But there's something odd about Mike: he's psychologically unable to leave town.

As it happens, Mike doesn't remember he was the subject of an evil CIA experiment (the movie title refers back to Project MKUltra, an actual evil CIA experiment) to develop deadly assassins. His memory was wiped, and he was stuck in Nowheresville.

But now the evil part of the CIA (represented by Topher Grace) has decided to eliminate him as a loose end, and deploys a team of Ultraized assassins to do that. But the slightly-less-evil part of the CIA (represented by Connie Britton) tries to intervene to save him, which involves switching on his assassin training again. Gunplay, knifeplay, gasplay, and explosions occur.

This is your go-to movie in case you want to hear current and past TV stars (Britton and Grace) drop F-bombs like hot potatoes.

Justified fans will moan about the too-small role played by Walton Goggins as one of the "bad" guys. Also in a too-small role: John Leguizamo. He doesn't make the movie worth watching, but he is as brilliant as always when he's onscreen.