by Brad Nelson 12/16/13
Let me give you a roundup of my latest streaming adventures on Netflix. Netflix rightly gets criticized for its rather lame selection. But if you are adventurous, you can dredge up some good movies here and there that are in the category of “nobody has ever heard of.” Here are a few.
The salt must get to market in order to be bartered for grain for the winter. But what are you to do if are a Nepalese living in the harsh mountainous Dolpo region and have just lost your best caravanner?
A split erupts between the old salt, Tinle (whose deceased son was the previous caravanner) and a young heir-apparent named Karma. This leads to some Yaktacular adventures.
And don’t confused by the fact that the actor who plays Karma is Gurgon Kyap although the actor who plays the child, Passang, is Karma Wangel…and the actor who plays Norbou is also named Karma. Me thinks this film is populated by actual Nepalese actors and probably has some Karma working for it.
Tinle, the old crusty chief, played wonderfully by Thilen Lhondup, blames the twenty-something Karma for his son’s death on the last caravan. Karma, despite Tinle’s protests and despite the shamans’ warnings about when to start the journey, sets out with the bulk of the tribe’s yaks on his own. (Yakety yak, don’t talk back.)
Tinle, the aging chief, refuses to allow Karma to lead Tinle’s yaks (and their salt cargo) through the perilous mountain paths to the distant markets and decides to lead a second caravan, this one populated mostly by old farts.
Himalaya is not the kind of epic adventure for those who require a car-crash-a-minute (or even a yak-falling-off-a-cliff-a-minute). But it is free from cliches, sincerely acted, and tells a good story. It’s a fun way to immerse yourself in a little Nepalese culture, including all the wonderful mumbo-jumbo and superstitions of their Buddhist beliefs. There’s some nice cinematography as well. This movie is definitely recommended for those not impaired by ADHD.
First off, this story is very violent and will not be for everyone. If head-hunting and killing Japanese soldiers is not your thing, then move on to my next recommendation (where we can kill some Nazis).
This movie is set on the island of Taiwan and is based upon real events. The politics are a bit complicated, but in 1895 the Japanese took possession of the island and began enforcing their order. Preexistent on the island were six or so separate (and rival) indigenous tribes who lived a hunter-gatherer lifestyle marked by the constant need to protect one’s own hunting grounds. That usually involved collecting a few heads—perhaps a few more than were technically needed. It seems to be a bit of a sport. One or two of these tribes was coastal, but most lived in the remote and quite rugged mountainous jungles.
While having the pleasure of getting steeped in their tribal life and inter-tribal conflicts, the inevitable David vs. Goliath conflict erupts with the Japanese. At some point the tribes get tired of being humiliated by them and stage a bloody uprising. And despite how primitive and violent these people are, you can’t help but root for them to kill all that Japs that they can (and they have some fair success at this).
But hold onto your preconceptions for just a bit, at least regarding a simple David vs. Goliath morality tale. And those conceptions might not be helped along by commonly-held PC mumbo-jumbo beliefs (although it’s not like anyone here would think that way, right?).
IMDB.com characterizes this film as “an indigenous clan-based people living in harmony with nature.” Frankly, there isn’t a hell of a lot of harmony going on, so don’t let this multi-culti, political correct characterization throw you off. You will indeed be fascinated by the culture of these various indigenous clans. But you’ll have no desire to live as they do and will have some sympathy for the Japanese plan to tame the savage. (Which is ultimately, in the long run, what happened….Taiwan being one of the most dynamic, urban, and prosperous regions today, and one that is ironically still a magnet for many Japanese.)
Of course, the Japanese are even worse savages in this film. Their savagery is just a bit more dressed up, self-delusional, and organized (shades of Obama). But there are heros amongst these tribal peoples, including the intractable and stoic tribal chief, Mona Rudao.
One can sympathize with his desire to life free according to his customs or die. That idea gets my full sympathy. And yet it was, of course, a completely suicidal and futile gesture for a Stone Age culture to take on the Japanese hi-tech military machine. Despite the “living in harmony with nature” byline naively forwarded by the politically correct, this is a complicated drama. This is not just another version of James Cameron’s stupid Avatar in which the natives are all cute and huggable. In this one, the tribes are also fighting each other, one or two of them having allied with the Japanese. And they all like collecting heads.
But you can’t help pulling for these people who just want to be left the hell alone. That is a theme that resonates with those today who don’t view Obamacare and all the onslaughts of Marxism as “civilizing the savages.” Modernity has its problems. But although you will surely be sympathetic to the tribes, this film is not a discourse on “the noble savage.” But it is fairly entertaining. And if you get a little history lesson thrown in as well, it’s sort of a two-fer.
This is another film that is based upon a true story. It’s the story of an Aussie coal minor (Oliver Woodward, played understatedly by Brendan Cowell) joining the Allies in The Great War.
Woodward’s skills are in great need. The fascinating thrust of this film (other than the nice background love story that is not over-played or too intrusive) is the tunneling systems that are part of standard warfare between the Allies and Jerry. Under tens of feet of damp, loose soil and sand there is a cat-and-mouse game going on between the two tunnel systems. One side tries to listen in on and then sabotage the tunneling efforts of the other….all while trying like hell to pump all that water out and keep from drowning or being buried alive.
The movie flows smoothly back and forth between Woodward’s days in Australia (prior to his enlistment) and his life in the hellish trenches on the front lines in Belgium in 1916. The home front aspect involves a subtle love story which is rather well done if only by not being over-done. And on the front end in Belgium, Woodward is charged with helping to get rid of Jerry’s “Hill 60” which is on high ground and able to steer machine gun fire into some very inconvenient places.
This is an intelligent film. I found Brendan Cowell and the supporting cast to be believable, the story never over-the-top (this is obviously not an American film), and non-cliched. That said, the ADHD crowd will probably like this film as well. There is some good action on the front lines from time to time.
Who will live? Who will die? Will those tons of explosives buried underneath Hill 60 go off as planned and have the desired effect? Check this one out and find out. I think you’ll like it.
This is not the best of the three movies so far mentioned. But Age of Heroes does have one good thing going for it: Sean Bean.
This is somewhat your run-0f-the-mill commando squad adventure that looks to do a little sabotage in Norway. And this, again, is a movie that is at least loosely based upon real events (apparently based upon Ian Fleming’s stint in a commando unit in WWII).
Jerry is developing some advanced radar capabilities that the British want to steal. And they want to do a little sabotage as well in hopes of setting Jerry back. Bean is put in charge of training a squad to do just that. And this is the precursor for the elite forces in the U.K.
The Germans are suitably nasty but the plot itself isn’t particularly riveting or detailed. The commando unit gets together. They go in. They blow things up. They get chased by Nazis. Not all make it out alive. You’ve seen all this before. But the best part of this movie is regarding the characters involved. This is not “The Expendables” wherein everyone is a one-dimensional steroid-laced stereotype. One of the squad members (shades of “The Dirty Dozen”) hooks up with this unit as a way to avoid prison.
But neither is this Shakespeare. It’s not the best of movies. But it is saved by the fact that it’s simply not stupid or full of cliches. And in this day and age, that’s saying something. And if you’re a fan of Sean Bean, as I am, that might be enough inducement to watch this.
This is a movie, unlike the others, that you probably have heard of. If not, you’ll like it for its great action sequences and realism….even to the point of the actors seemingly having been plucked right out of the ranks of the elite forces to be in this. They can’t act, and charmingly so.
This is also supposedly based roughly upon real events. In this one, the rescue of a kidnapped CIA agent leads to the discovery of a terrorist plot against the United States. Each segment of this deadly adventure (one leading to the next) is punctuated by very nicely choreographed and filmed action sequences. Unlike so much of the garbage that passes for military-style action/adventure films, these sequences not only seemed somewhat plausible but were nicely directed. They were coherent and cinematically interesting. This wasn’t simply camera-shake standing in for a plot.
In between the hokey and amateurishly-acted dialogue (shades of perhaps too much overt “David and Goliath” preachiness), Act of Valor is a truly seat-of-the-pants film. You want explosions and chase scenes? You got ’em. But you got ’em within a context of valor (however sometimes cheesily given), reality, and non-camera-shake action. Unlike most of the military-style action films that Hollywood produces, this one isn’t a running cliche. • (926 views)