The Top 8 Submarine Movies
by Dawn

At one time, my love for submarine movies drove me to make the goal of wanting to watch all submarine movies ever made. Silly me! Oh the rot my spouse and I have sat through. The movie “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea” had an unrealistically huge sub and included a scene with a man blowing a trumpet standing on a table while women danced around him – oh the horror. Other so-called sub movies have a submarine in it, but many turn out to have very few scenes on or even about the sub. “The Russians are Coming, the Russians are Coming” starring Carl Reiner is a case in point – it’s still a worthwhile movie to watch, just not what I would call a movie really about a submarine. “Submerged” starring Steven Seagal also has very few scenes on a sub and is a truly terrible movie unless you are a die-hard Seagal fan. So, I have chosen to devote my time to more fun enterprises with higher rates of payoff. But I am sharing my opinion about what I consider the best submarine movies if you too enjoy this particular genre.

The Hunt for Red October – Fraught with tension, this thriller is full of twists and turns as well as fairly accurate military procedure. I have a family member who is a civilian working with the Navy on designing submarines who said that he couldn’t believe the up-to-date accuracy of naval weaponry. He thought that the government would have shut down or censored the movie and book. Filmed during the cold war, it’s a naval cat-and-mouse chase. Twenty years later, the politics and technology may have advanced some, but the movie still feels as fresh as when it came out. And for the ladies, they have their pick of eye candy in a young Alec Baldwin or a very distinguished Sean Connery.

Das Boot – Arguably the best submarine movie ever made. The handheld camera shots and actual sub-scaled sets certainly add to the tension and realism. No wonder this movie was nominated for so many Oscars. Gripping story and compelling characters. Normally I choose subtitles over dubbing every time – and I still do with this flick – but if you positively can’t do subtitles, know that every actor did his own dubbing in English. I’m becoming convinced that the best sub movies were made from historical source material – this is a prime example. Now excuse me while I pop this gem into my DVD. I’ve whet my own appetite…

Destination Tokyo – I must admit that really don’t generally care much for old sub movies. It’s not because of the lack of special effects, although laughable, they are forgiveable. It’s the old style of acting and the jingoism that really make so many old sub movies unwatchable for me. This movie made during WWII with Cary Grant is different. It’s based on actual events, shows true naval operations, and is very character driven. And there’s enough action to keep anyone interested.

K19:the Widowmaker – So I’m a sucker for true stories. This one is rather excruciating, yet every time it is on I end up watching it. The movie is about Russia’s first nuclear submarine on its maiden voyage in 1961. Apparently it was a rush job to launch the boat and many corners were cut – too many. What happens next is tense, horrific, and heroic. The drama of the real life tragedy reels you in, helped by actors such as Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson. It’s a well paced, well told story, a wonderful tribute. Survivors were said to heartily approve the movie, even parts they called “Hollywoodized.”

Run Silent, Run Deep – Another older sub movie. This one is a tale of revenge and redemption during WWII. The tension between Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster will make you forget any romanticized versions of the actors – all you’ll feel is hateful sweat during some scenes. Again, the special effects seem amateurish to what we have today, but the action will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Operation Petticoat – The only comedic sub flick worth watching, in my opinion. Many other sub movies are unintentional comedies, but that’s another story. Written by Blake Edwards (of the Pink Panther movies) this movie is pure goofiness. Comedy geniuses Cary Grant and Tony Curtis play off each so well. Later made into a TV show, this film is about a hapless sub that gets painted pink, has a con-man for an XO (executive officer) and carries five stranded female nurses.

U571- This movies gets an honorable mention because of the acting and the fact that it portrayed a story not told before – that of the capturing of the Enigma cipher machine. Although so many details have been changed as to considered historical fiction, the plot is based on the actual events during WWII. The realism seems to be missing from this one despite modern-day special effects, but the jingoism has made a reappearance.

Crimson Tide – This one gets an honorable mention because of its special effects and great acting. The plot itself is like a paint-by-numbers sub movie. Mutiny, fires onboard, and missile attacks have all been covered before by other, better war movies.

Universal Studios Hollywood Theme Park Review
by Dawn

When we visited the Universal Studios in Hollywood I was expecting a quaint backlot tour with maybe a peek into some studio currently filming. Boy, was I wrong. This is a full-on theme park complete with a shopping/ entertainment area before even reaching the park. The Universal Citywalk alone could occupy a day – or even better, an evening – complete with shops, fun restaurants, movie theater, a comedy club, and free live entertainment on the weekends. But we were on a mission to get to the Studios and didn’t stop at the Hard Rock. In our party were four adults and three teenagers.

Universal Studios

Although the park seems a little smaller and the lines shorter than other area theme parks, we spent an entire day of fun at Universal. We started off going to the back – actually lower lot – of the park for three mega-rides. This seemed to help as far as wait time in lines. One handy feature that helped us know this was that we could use our smart phones to check line wait times. All theme parks should do this.

The first ride we went on was Transformers The Ride: 3D. It’s a flight simulator combined with 3D technology. Although several others in our party thought this was the best ride of the day, I did not. It was good, but I found it to be like Michael Bay’s movies – the plot got in the way of the enjoyment of the effects and thrills. Believe it or not, we loved waiting in line – they had decorated the waiting area as a set where we could press buttons and turn levers and watch a video setting up “our mission” for the ride.

Next we rode Revenge of the Mummy The Ride. Another fun wait in line – and this ride was much more fun and straightforward. It was a coaster with lots of plot elements from the movies.
Revenge of the Mummy - The Ride

The last ride we rode on the lower lot was Jurassic Park The Ride – the water ride. It was almost like a combination of the old-fashioned boat rides with the dinosaurs and other story elements from the movie, except that the dinosaurs came at you and the ride was much more exciting. Jurassic Park gives plenty of opportunity to get wet – not drenched, but certainly splashed a good number of times.

We lunched at the Flintstones Bar-B-Q, which was quite delicious and gave a unexpectedly large amount of food. We were all pleasantly surprised. It was tough to get tables for seven people together, even at 1pm and we ended up having two people hold two tables while the others stood in line for food so we could sit together.

Universal Studios Hollywood

Our party then went to stand in our longest line of the day at The Simpsons Ride. Again, it didn’t seem long because of the entertainment. Be warned: If you are offended by the Simpsons show, the line itself will probably be distasteful to you too. The ride itself was perfect – just the right amount of thrills and show details on this virtual rollercoaster. This was my favorite ride of the day.

We watched two shows throughout the day: the Special Effects Stage and Universal’s Animal Actors. Both shows were a mix of pure entertainment and actual information about special effects and how they train animals for shows. Both shows included audience participation. The animal show featured several actual movie stars, such as the dog used for “Marley and Me,” and some animals still in training. Each show was short and a nice break from standing in line.

The last thing we did was take the Back-Lot Tour – a must when coming to Universal Studios. They’ve got tours in several different languages: they had a separate line for tours in Spanish and the last Mandarin tour had just finished when we got in line. Again, waiting in line was easy as they had TVs playing movie clips and there were lots of posters featuring all sorts of different movie aspects, stars, and facts. The tour itself was as only Universal could do it – it was a mix of facts about the sets we were seeing and some experiential 3D rides. The ride part was mild compared to the rides we had already taken, but if you’re not expecting them, they can be quite surprising. We had to stop a few times and have some “quiet time” while we rode past several sets where the studios were still filming shows such as CSI, but that was cool as it reminded us that we were on a real working studio. In fact, when you walk in the park, you can look to see which shows are being shot that day. So while we were on the tour, we kept an especial eye out for those stars from the shows we knew were on set.

If you do bring children, there are plenty of rides, shows, and play areas for them as well. The studio also has a feature for lines called Child Switch where everyone can wait in line together, then one adult can stay with the child while the rest of the party rides, then switch places so that the remaining adult can ride also. We saw several taking advantage of this.

We did not make it to the Shrek 4D show nor the WaterWorld as they looked a little more mild nor did we make it to The Blues Brothers show. Only a few in our group went to the House of Horrors. I didn’t go, but the four who did said it was very good. Even the most seasoned haunted house guy was “gotten” a couple times, which speaks well for their set-up.

Universal Studios offered close parking, which we did not take advantage of. I assume this would mean not walking through the Citywalk, which wasn’t that far. They also offered front-of-the line Priority Access passes. We did not purchase these either and I’m not sure that I would have wanted to at the price. We were there the week before Easter – when many people have spring break. It was definitely crowded, but the lines were not nearly as long as at some other theme parks. The longest we waited was just over an hour and as stated above, the wait did not seem long because of the entertainment provided in line.

Altogether Universal Studios is quite an interesting mix of thrills, film history, and fun and we definitely recommend it!