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Archive for April 4th, 2015

Over the weekend I dropped into my (nearly) local Barnes And Nobel for some discount DVDs.  I was given a store card as a birthday present last weekend and it’s been burning a hole in my pocket ever since.
Among the DVDs I picked up was “The Book of Eli” (2009) starring Denzel Washington (good guy), Gary Oldman (bad guy) and Mila Kunis (good girl / sidekick).  The story is a blend of “Mad Max” and “The Equalizer” together with a twist of religious fervor thrown in for a happy ending.
Most of the movie is shot in a kind of “sepia tint” to give you that dusty post-apocalyptic old west feel.  I guess it kind of works, but there are also dark scenes which seem almost black and white, which also have the “brown and old” feel and I really wasn’t feeling it.   The action scenes were okay-ish, but one was in black and white silhouette (under an overpass in an otherwise bright sun-lit day), so there was no feeling of depth in the action.  The other major fight scene was in a bar and was long and complicated so they needed to do multiple shots from various angles to try to make it work.  Again, in totality it was a great action sequence, but it didn’t really blow you (me) away.  There are two other gun/fight scenes which are too over the top to be at all believable, so you just have to say, “It’s Hollywood”, and go with it.
As in almost all of these movies the hero is near indestructible until they have to pass the torch to the sidekick.  Then it’s sayonara hero.  This is the umpteenth (well, at least the third I’ve seen) movie where Gary Oldman plays the deranged bad guy (also “The Fifth Element” and “The Professional“).  It’s getting to the point where you’re sitting on his overacting portrayal and waiting for him to “get it” in the end.  Just too predictable.  Kunis is just okay and is best when sharing the screen with Denzel, but it’s hard to say if they’re good or if he’s just good enough to carry them both.
I have no problem recommending the film as an action film for an adult crowd.  Some of the fights are very violent / graphic and some of the language is offensive.  Not over the top for this type of movie, but not something I’d want younger children to see / hear.  The movie is rated “R”.  Final recommendation: a decent action flick with an interesting twist in the last five minutes, a moderate to strong recommendation if you’re into this genre.
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On This Day In:
2014 Winning?
2013 Still Inventing
2012 Motivated
2011 Waiting In Line At Starbuck’s

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Last night I completed watching the science-fiction, war series: “Space: Above and Beyond“.  The series ran for one year back in the mid-1990’s.  The basic storyline is that some outer-space Earth colonies are attacked by an alien race and so Earth is thrown into an intergalactic war.  There are five young folks who join the U.S. Marines for various reasons and they are the focus of the series.  They become Marine Corps pilots, but throughout the series, they seem to spend as much time fighting on the ground as they actually do in space.  The pilots become the 58th Squadron and are nicknamed: “The Wildcards”.
In addition to the principle story line of the war and the sub-arcs for each of the five pilots, there is a sixth principle character (their squadron commander) and multiple sub-arcs which include racial prejudice and subjugation, corporate malfeasance, and a prior war between humanity and a race of artificial intelligent androids/robots.
When I say I “completed” watching the series, that’s a bit of a mis-statement.  The series is available on Youtube.com, but three of the twenty-four episodes are missing.  The series is actually listed as having twenty-three episodes because the “pilot” is a two-part combined episode.  As it stands, watching the available episodes are more than sufficient to give you the flavor of the series.
I am a bit of a history buff and military history in particular.  I like this and the fictionalization of it in all formats – books, movies, songs, poetry, TV series, whatever…  This series is right in my wheelhouse / comfort zone!
About one quarter of the episodes are based on some historical occurrence, fictionalized and then referenced back to the history.  This is one of the classic ways civilizations use their “current” media to create / promote the heroes / legends of their past.  So as someone with a degree in Political Science, I find it is interesting to see a TV series do this “myth-making” for current generations.  I’m sure somewhere (in Heaven) Joseph Campbell is smiling.
One of the interesting sub-arcs is the proposition that a corporation has placed a colony on two planets they “knew” belonged to the alien species.  The colonies are owned by the corporation, but lightly defended by national troops – in one case, by the U.S. Marines.  When attacked (and slaughtered), the corporation demands the Earth go to war in retaliation for the “unprovoked” attack on their employees / “civilians”.
Another interesting idea from the main arc is the aliens make a point of mutilating our dead.  Earthlings, of course, assume this is an act of barbarism by a dark-hearted enemy.  In fact, we come to discover the aliens have no concept of an afterlife and “discover” this concept only by monitoring our electronic transmissions.  They don’t know how we manage to “rise from the dead”, but they are positive we believe we can.  So their act of mutilating the dead is actually just an attempt to ensure our soldiers don’t rise to fight again.
The series fell victim to time-slot shuffling and poor ratings and was cancelled late in the first season.  However, because the show was allowed to complete the season, the writers were able to come up with a terrific last episode with explanations (leading to more questions) and cliff-hangers galore.
While some of the acting is poor (particularly in the early episodes), the actual battlefield tactics are amateurish (if not suicidal), and the special effects are dated by today’s standards, the series remains very viewable and I highly recommend it.  I’ve read on the internet that the show is frequently re-run on the Sci-Fi channel and I will be keeping my eyes out for it so I can catch the three episodes I’ve missed.
Ooo-rah!  Semper Fi!!
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On This Day In:
2014 Winning?
2013 Still Inventing
2012 Motivated
2011 Waiting In Line At Starbuck’s

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What things there are to write, if one could only write them!  My mind is full of gleaming thoughts; gay moods and mysterious, moth-like meditations hover in my imagination, fanning their painted wings.  They would make my fortune if I could catch them; but always the rarest, those freaked with azure and the deepest crimson, flutter away beyond my reach.
The ever-baffled chase of those filmy nothings often seems, for one of sober years in a sad world, a trifling occupation.  But have I not read of the Great Kings of Persia who used to ride out to hawk for butterflies, nor deemed this pastime beneath their royal dignity?
   —  Logan Pearsall Smith
From the book: “More Trivia
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On This Day In:
2014 Winning?
2013 Still Inventing
2012 Motivated
2011 Waiting In Line At Starbuck’s

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