This week I watched “Greyhound,” a new WWII movie starring Tom Hanks – gee can we get over the War, Tom?! Enough already! He plays the captain of a Naval destroyer named “Greyhound” that’s leading a convoy of 37 Allied supply ships and submarines across a stretch of ocean when they suddenly have to go on the run from attacks by Nazi U-boats. This might sound patriotic and exciting, but it actually is neither. If you want to be confused and bored by watching 90 minutes of Navy men yelling nautical radar jargon at each other, this is the movie for you! Aside from Hanks, the cast is made of actors you’ve never seen before, which is fine considering there’s nothing there to tell the characters apart from each other anyway.
The only human aspect of the movie lies in the numerous scenes of a black porter bringing Hanks an assortment of sandwiches throughout the film. When a war movie makes the sandwich orders more understandable and exciting than the battle scenes, you know you’re in trouble. Hanks prays at every single sandwich, plus several other times while on his own. It made me want to pray too – pray that this movie would be over!
The most surprising and disappointing fact about this film is that Hanks himself wrote the script, so we have America’s most beloved current actor to blame for this boring and confusing enterprise. When its studio, Sony, announced it was selling the film to Apple Plus instead of releasing it in theatres, it claimed that the decision came from the Coronavirus indefinitely shutting down theatres – but In actually seeing the movie, it feels more like they made a desperate sale to get it seen by people when they feared failure at the box office.
Playing a game of “Battleship” for 90 minutes is more exciting than this movie. By the time it’s over, you’ll wish you had watched a documentary about a Greyhound bus trip instead – ’cause sad to say, “Greyhound” is a dog.
Since we’re all facing another round of long-term lockdowns, I decided to spotlight a couple of Netflix shows that are interesting travelogues – giving you the chance to see beside the world directly outside your home.
First up is Dark Tourist, in which a humorous documentary journalist from New Zealand named David Farrier (think Michael Moore but able to fit inside a TV screen) takes viewers to places around the world that draw tourists for their uniquely dark histories. An episode on Latin America finds him meeting drug lord Pablo Escobar’s enforcer in Colombia, witnessing an exorcism in Mexico, and participating in a faux illegal border crossing.
One of two United States episodes features him meeting a Jeffrey Dahmer enthusiast in Dahmer’s hometown of Milwaukee as they take a tour devoted to his murderous exploits, before he takes two tours tied to JFK’s assassination in Dallas and finally, tracking down real-life vampires in New Orleans.
Farrier keeps it all in good fun and delivers the creepiness in tasteful PG-style doses. It’s a show that opens up corners of the world you might not have otherwise thought to explore or even knew existed, and it’s a heckuva lot more entertaining than watching PBS travel show host Rick Steves prance through Europe with a backpack.
Our other look at odd corners of the world comes from “Home Game,” an eight-part Netflix series that profiles sports that are unique to particular regions and countries. Among the sports featured are Calico Storico, a violent blend of rugby and mixed martial arts that’s a storied tradition in Florence, Italy; freediving without the assist of an oxygen tank in the Philippines; wrestling in the Congo and the game of kok boru in Krzygstan, where horseback riders compete for possession of a dead goat, with the aim of throwing it into a goal.
Who said they’re all pleasant? But they are fascinating, and just like with “Dark Tourist,” Netflix keeps it all as tastefully entertaining as possible. Some of these games may make you happy that you’ll never travel to these countries, but nonetheless they provide a fascinating look at the world beyond your windows.