Archive for April 22nd, 2012

Today’s blog is a review of one book (“The Bed Of Procrustes“) and three movies (“Elektra“, “The Flight Of The Phoenix“, and “Kingdom Of Heaven“).  Book first…
The Bed Of Procrustes” is written by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (2010©) and is subtitled:  “Philosophical And Practical Aphorisms“.  Taleb is famous for his prior work titled:  “The Black Swan“.  That book was about something – his observation / theory that we humans are not very good at analysing probabilities and therefore make poor decisions which can seriously impact our lives, society and planet.  Part of what made the book interesting was Taleb’s frequent digressions into sarcasm and one-liners about various things he sees in our world.  This book, (“The Bed“…) skips the main story and just lists the remarks as a series of one-liners.  Because I love this kind of humor, I highly recommend this book.  On the other hand, you can simply follow this blog for the next few years and you’ll still get a number of his funniest quotes.  (Just kidding!)  Seriously, buy the book.  While it may be true that you will be able to pick up a number of the quotes from my site (over time), it’s not the same as reading them in the author’s intended format, structure or pace.  My site should never be considered a primary source for information – particularly regarding quotes.  It is only a venue for me to repeat words which have passed through my own consciousness then pinballed around enough to make it to this site.
Elektra” is another of the comic-book based movies I collect.  The title character previously appeared in the “Daredevil” movie as the love interest for that movie’s title character.  In this movie, the main character is resurrected (she dies in “Daredevil“) in order to save and protect a young girl who is destined to save the world from evil.  Blah, blah, blah – okay, it’s a comic book movie.  Is the movie any good?  It’s not as bad as I expected, but it’s a fairly mediocre effort.  Are the special effects great?  So-so.  Is it worth it for the martial arts?  Not really, but they’re not bad either.  The upside?  It’s nice to see female superheros get their own platform.  They tend to be lower tier titles in the comic universe and that remains true in the cinema universe too, which I think is too bad.  It seems to me, there should be a great opportunity for a breakout smash which could change a career and create a new market for a franchise – much on the line of “Aliens” for Sigourney Weaver.  But, it’s not this movie.  Overall rating – recommend.
The second movie is “The Flight Of The Phoenix“.  This is the original from 1965 starring Jimmy Stewart and Richard Attenborough.  This was one of the first “survival” movies I ever saw and it captured my imagination.  Growing up in San Francisco, I had no real concept of a desert or of real heat.  (Now that I’ve lived in Saudi Arabia for two years I understand real heat.)  As I said, the whole idea of “survival” was a revelation to me.  Anyway, I really enjoyed this film way back when and when it came out on DVD I picked it up, watched it and then put up on the shelf with my other “classics from growing up”.  A couple of weeks ago, I stumbled upon the re-make starring Dennis Quaide, so I picked it up (see my review:  Edge, Class, Clash, And Flight) and enjoyed it enough it made me want to go back to compare / contrast it with the original.  What I found surprised me…  Despite the great actors in the original, I prefer the remake!
This is a surprise because I almost always prefer the original.  In this case, it felt dated (which it is given it was made 40 years ago), but the dating is not the time period, but the cinematography which somehow seems – not as good.  The original also feels longer.  It is, but that’s not the same as feeling that way.  My complaints about the re-make remain – primarily the extra “excitement” added to the ending and which adds nothing to the story, and the other minor complaints too, but all in all, I do feel the re-make is more watchable than the original.  I only wish there were a way to substitute the actors.  Overall rating:  this remains a classic for the actors and the genre – highly recommend.
The third movie is “Kingdom Of Heaven” starring Orlando Bloom.  In researching the movie for this review, I found out it is based on actual characters and events.  It is fictionalized in that the characters aren’t the ones who did the acts portrayed in their roles, but they did exist in that time period and location.  For some reason, I thought it was entirely fictional.  Anyway, I am now an Orlando Bloom fan.  I just like him.  He wasn’t great in this role, but he was believable as the evolving blacksmith to knight-crusader.  I’ve now seen Bloom in a number of roles – Pirates series, Rings series, and Troy – and I just like him.  He’s not just another pretty (male) face with a funny accent.
Okay, back to “Kingdom…“.  Basically, a “good-guy caught in a bad situation where your allies are actually the villains and your opponents may actually be ‘better’ people than you” movie.  These movies follow a basic premise and natural story line and this one touches all of the bases.  Good-guy flees home, meets up with zen master to receive training, heroic survival, meets future opponent and they become friends, meets bad-guys who are your allies, and so-on until the good-guy lives happily ever after.
Does the movie work?  Absolutely!  Why?  Because I’m here to see the battles and they’re realistic – certainly more so than “Lord Of The Rings” and “Pirates Of The Caribbean“.  (But I digress.)  The acting is good and for once there’s a movie about the middle ages where everyone is dirty and they stay that way for most of the movie.  You see, it’s the small things I look for in  a movie.  On a political note – it was nice to see the Muslims portrayed as the more civilized of the two conflicting armies.  What a change from the post-9/11 mantra.  I’m not sure there was as much peaceful co-existence in reality as portrayed in the movie, but it was interesting to see a little balance.  Overall rating:  highly recommend.

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It is a man’s duty to have books.  A library is not a luxury, but one of the necessaries of life.
    —    Henry Ward Beecher
[But at some point I have to start reading more of them…    —    KMAB]

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