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As promised a week back, I am reviewing a couple more “Jane Austen” related movies I’ve seen recently and adding a few comments to the two movie reviews I’ve already done.
The new reviews are for “The Jane Austen Book Club” and “Bridget Jones Diary“.  The comments are for “Pride and Prejudice” – the BBC 1995 version and the “American” 2005 version.
The Jane Austen Book Club” (2007) — movie review
Six Californians – five women of varying ages and a man – start a monthly book club to discuss the works of Jane Austen, only to find that their own romantic relationships — previous and current — begin to resemble modern day adaptations of Austen’s novels.
Sylvia (Amy Brenneman), is shocked when her husband Daniel (Jimmy Smits), leaves her after 20 plus years and three children to become involved with another lawyer at the firm he works at. Jocelyn (Maria Bello), her unmarried best friend, distracts herself from her unacknowledged loneliness by breeding dogs (“dominance issues”).  Prudie (Emily Blunt) is a young French teacher, in possession of a worthy husband Dean (Marc Blucas), yet distracted by sexual fantasies with another man / boy (Kevin Zegers) named Trey.  I say “boy” because Trey appears to be in high school / a student.  The eldest female, many times married Bernadette (Kathy Baker) yearns for one more chance at happiness.  Allegra (Maggie Grace), (Sylvia and Daniel’s lesbian daughter,) has problems with her lover – who is a writer using Allegra’s life stories as the basis for her own work.  And Grigg (Hugh Dancy), the lone (rich and athletic) male joins the book circle because he’s trying to form a relationship with Jocelyn.
As romantic movies go, this one is as good as most, but not particularly believable in any of the final results – all happily ever-afters.  Be that as it is, I thought it was an okay movie.  Mostly, it’s entertaining without being sappy or taking the easy comedic route that many “chick-flicks” devolve into in order to keep hapless male partners watching to the end of the movie.  What I found interesting were the few moments where the actors actually discussed the Austen books and more specifically the characters and views on love, romance, commitment and relationships in general.  And, as stated in my prior review of P&P book, it prompted me to promote the original work to the top of my reading list.
Final recommendation: moderate to strong.  Enjoyable as light entertainment, but I think your time is better spent actually reading Austen’s works.
Bridget Jones’s Diary” (2001) — movie review
This movie was recommended to me by my daughter as a loosely based modern-day adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Pride And Prejudice“.  It stars Renée Zellweger as Bridget Jones (Elizabeth Bennet character), Hugh Grant as Daniel Cleaver (George Wickham character / the cad) , and Colin Firth as Mark Darcy (Mr. Darcy character / the hero).  I believe it’s more accurately described as an adaptation of the book by the same name as the movie. The “only” two things I found similar to P&P was Firth played a character named Darcy in both the 1995 BBC version of P&P (and in this movie) and Darcy and Bridget have roughly the same relationship track to get to their happy ending. Boy and girl meet. Boy and girl detest each other. Boy comes around. Girl comes around. Issues about the cad. Happy ending.
The movie is a rom/com.  Is it?  Mildly romantic, yes.  Mildly comedic, barely.  To tell the truth, I don’t get it.  The overall review on RottenTomatoes.com is 80% for both reviewers and audience.  Zellweger was nominated for Best Actress…  Really?  I don’t get it.  Somewhere in the character is a nice person struggling to overcome drinking, smoking, vulgar language and a terrible wardrobe.  Other than that, she’s just the kind of person you want to see your son bring home to meet you.  Truth be told, I found her three friends in the movie much more interesting than Bridget and wished there were more of them and less of her.  Hugh Grant was ok in the cad role, but I prefer him in the nice guy roles where his sardonic / ironic comedy work well with his charm.  The most enjoyable part / character in the movie is Colin Firth’s Darcy.  While lacking the physicality of the 1995 P&P role, he still presents himself as a man’s gentleman.  I’ve seen Firth in at least a half-dozen roles and continue to enjoy his work.
So, final recommendation: moderate (at best).  The movie wasn’t bad, it just didn’t appeal to me.  Probably because I was hoping for something more closely aligned to P&P.
Additional comments:
Having just read the original work by Austen, I’ve now gone back to re-watch the 1995 BBC adaptation and the 2005 movie version.  What did I find?  As much as I was critical of the annotations while reading the book, they were very helpful in understanding both versions of the movies.  In addition to seeing where there were cinematic variances from the original work – in locations and dialogue – the notes explained some of the details which I completely missed in both earlier viewings.  Reading the original work greatly enhanced my appreciation of the dialogue in both movies.  Reading the notes, my appreciation of the parks / woods, carriages, gowns, and buildings.  I guess I’m admitting I was incorrect in being overly critical of reading an annotated version of an original work.  Preference change?  Nope.  If you prefer nuance and greater detail – BBC and 6-plus hours of viewing.  If you prefer “Hollywood” looks and production – the two-hour 2005 is better.  One minor comment on “production”…  My DVD copy of the BBC version gets out of sync between the voice and picture in multiple places.  I don’t know if this is the discs or my PC, (it’s probably my PC,) but I found it annoying and a slight negative in this review / comparison.  And, finally, I tried to go back to see “Bride And Prejudice” (the Indian – modern-day version of P&P), but it didn’t come up on NetFlix.  I guess, I have to catch it sometime in the future when it comes back on-line.
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On This Day In:
2017 …And With It Civilization
2016 Just Like My Mother
2015 All Omissions Are Mine
2014 Precise Order
2013 Uh, No. Not Really…
Deep Regions
2012 A Pre-Valentine’s Day Message
2011 Easy Like Sunday Morning
May I Have A Little More, Please…
2010 Valleys and Peaks
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Today’s post will be a long one, so if you’re not interested in my reviews, please come back another day…
The three series being reviewed are “Pride And Prejudice“, “Stranger Things” and “The Punisher“.  P&P is on DVD and the other two were both viewed on NetFlix.
Pride And Prejudice  (1940) —  movie review;  (1995)  —  series / movie review
Starring Laurence Olivier as Mr. Darcy and Greer Garson as Elizabeth “Lizzy” Bennet, this is the black and white version which appears on cable channels periodically – which is where I caught it one afternoon while casually channel surfing.  Because I enjoyed the 2005 version, so much and the 1995 version, too, I thought I’d give it a view.  The story is essentially: small village with landowner family of five female daughters is thrown in a tizzy over the arrival of a very “suitable” bachelor.  Even better, the bachelor comes with a friend, who is also a very suitable bachelor (Darcy).  Lizzy takes an immediate dislike to Mr. Darcy while the oldest sister (Jane) falls madly in love with the first bachelor (Mr. Bingly).  Blah, blah, blah, happy ending.
In this version, I was left with a “satisfied” grin.  It was enjoyable to watch, and, because I’m so familiar with the story, I’m looking for my favorite parts.  Unfortunately, while Olivier and Garson “seemed” good in their roles individually, to me, they lacked the chemistry to make the story believable.  There are also a couple of changes in the film which I found curious.  For one, the costumes seemed more modern and more American than British.  This impression may be just in comparison to the 1995 version.  Another difference was that Darcy’s aunt refuses the marriage to Lizzy as a test of her love, whereas in the other versions, the aunt is doing it for reasons of societal class difference and because the aunt believes Darcy to be “given / promised” to her own daughter since childhood.  Basically, it makes the aunt a redeemable character, which I don’t believe she was meant to be.  I guess, I’ll have to read the book to find out ultimately.
Final recommendation:  moderate.  It’s okay.  I guess anything with Olivier is considered a “classic”.  I say it has historical interest, just as I enjoyed “Bride And Prejudice” (2004) because of the Indian / Bollywood interpretation.  (Review here.)
Having watched the 1940’s version, I decided to re-watch the 1995 BBC version.  Starring Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy and Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet, this is widely considered one of the great BBC television productions of all time.  Running time is not quite 5-1/2 hours long and therefore this version has the time to flesh out the characters more than the more recent 2005 film version which I have seen multiple times.  My daughter (Rebecca) says she considers this the “definitive” adaptation of the novel to film.  I beg to differ with my favorite being the 2005 version.  I would put this a very close second though.
With this second viewing and having seen some of his other works, I am thoroughly a Colin Firth fan.  He kills this role.  Even though I’ve seen this version before, I must admit, I didn’t really remember it.  It has time to add a lot more to the story and IMHO, this makes the whole version better.  There is a “famous” scene of Darcy approaching a lake on his property.  If you know much about England, you know that even on the warmest of days, open water is rarely warm.  This is actually one of the reasons accidental drowning is so common there (several hundred each year).  Anyway, Darcy is despondently approaching a lake and my first instinct was “plot twist, this isn’t going to end well”.  But then, of course, we get the now famous and career making wet T-shirt (ok, it’s a cotton long-sleeved pullover) scene of Darcy stumbling upon Lizzy on his way to the house to dry off.  Ladies still swoon…  LOL
Final recommendation:  Highly!!  I struggle to find things to criticize about this version.  Okay, it’s longer than the 2005 movie and Mrs. Bennet and Kitty are much more annoying in this version, but this slight comment is simply evidence of how good the whole is.  Well, worth re-visiting!
Stranger Things  (2016 / 2017)  —  series review
Stranger Things is a two-season (so far) science-fiction, horror, coming of age made for NetFlix series.  There are 17 episodes.  Eight in the first year and nine in the second.  The series occurs in the 1980’s, in a rural / sub-urban town in the mid-west (Indiana).  The series has lots of references and homages to earlier works of music and film from that period.  The series was recommended to me by my son (James), who advised me it was “MUST” see.  Even more than THOR, the (at that time) up-coming Justice League, Punisher or Longmire…  So, okay.  I watched it.  The series is very much an ensemble cast so I’m not going to bother listing all fifteen to twenty of the “main” actors.
Absolutely, terrific!!  The series has adults, older teens, younger teens, nerds, jocks and just regular folks.  It also has hell-hound aliens, extra-dimensions, mind-control, telekinesis and X-mas lights!  My son said, he hopes I don’t scare easily at night or I’ll have to watch all 17 hours straight through.  It wasn’t anywhere near THAT intense, but it is very good.  Basically, I’m (again) late to the party and this was the smash hit for NetFlix last year.  I’m jumping in here, one month after the release of the second season.  As per normal for NetFlix, the whole series for the year is released on the same day to encourage binge watching.  So, I did.  Season 1 on day 1 and Season 2 on the following day.
But, what is the show about?  Well, there’s a government experiment gone wrong.  They are developing children into “X-men”, with various abilities.  Season one is mostly about a girl with telekinesis abilities.  Season two brings in her “sister”.  Not really her sister, but they grew up together.  So, girl escapes and meets young boy from town.  Fall in love, blah, blah, blah.  In the meantime, the government agency has accidentally opened a gate into another dimension, which is a lot like ours, but it has been conquered by an alien (large spider-like shadow) which controls a bunch of little flesh eating aliens.  At the end of Season one, the girl saves her friends and the world by closing the portal.  Season two opens a year later and girl is still missing and the original abducted kid knows the aliens are coming back.  Blah, blah, blah, teen angst, blah, blah, blah, child angst, blah, blah, blah, adult angst.  Big finale, the kids kick alien butt and the girl saves the world.  Afterwards, smoochy, smoochy at the Winter Ball.
Final recommendation: Strong to highly.  This is a well made combination of practically every kids science-fiction movie you’ve ever seen.  Some of the references are almost (but not quite) tongue in cheek, but they work and this is a series well worth the time to watch it.  I’m not sure if I’ll watch it again soon, but I’m almost certainly up for another binge before the release of season 3, next year.  I would caution that although kids play predominant roles in this series, this is NOT for below age-12 viewing.  Some scenes can be intense and there is a moderate amount of alien violence.
The Punisher (2017)  —  series review
This series is a spinoff from the DareDevil series also on NetFlix.  The Punisher appeared in season two – and pretty much took it over – so, now he has his own show.  Basically, the family of a military expert is killed and he takes revenge against the killers.  In DareDevil, he does most of the work.  In this series, he almost finishes the job.  He leaves one guy, who he promises to come back for.  Blah, blah, blah.  Segue to season two…
Does it work and is it any good?  If you like this kind of thing (explosions, excessive violence, gratuitous sexual scenes, explosions, hand-to-hand combat, lots and lots of guns and gun fire, and did I mention explosions), and I do, then you’ll enjoy this series.  And, I did.  So, I enjoyed it…  The question was is it any good?  As a comic book adaptation, it is very good.  As an action / adventure / who-dun-it, it’s pretty good.  As a realistic portrayal of armed and unarmed combat, uh, it’s a comic book…
The series stars Jon Bernthal as Frank Castle / Punisher, Ebon Moss-Bachrach as his partner David Lieberman / Micro, Ben Barnes as Billy Russo (Frank’s wartime friend who ends up being a bad guy), Amber Rose Revah as Dinah Madani (Homeland Security Officer), Daniel Webber as Lewis Wilson (a confused Vet who becomes a domestic terrorist), Paul Schulze as William Rawlins (the main gov / CIA bad guy from “the war”), Jason R. Moore as Curtis Hoyle (the Vet “do-gooder” medic), Jaime Ray Newman as Sarah Lieberman / Micro’s wife, and Deborah Ann Woll as Karen Page (a carry over from Daredevil).
The series is mostly dark, in the same vein as the DareDevil series, the Chris Nolan / Batman movie trilogy, and the recent John Wick movies.  It deals with a host of issues, from right and wrong, free press, privacy, vigilantism, friendship, personal loss, and a rather bizarre attitude that “justice” almost always ends with violence – particularly gun violence.  While the depiction of violence is pretty accurate, the depiction of physical recovery is essentially: “and then a miracle happens.”  There are scars, but recovery is almost instantaneous.  Like I said: comic book…
Final recommendation: moderate.  This series would be rated higher if they had let the actors simply act more and kill / maim less.  It is definitely for mature audiences ONLY.  It feels strange to say (admit) it, but I enjoyed the acting and the story more than I did the violence.  Go figure…
Final comment: I was not a follower of “The Punisher” character in the comic reading days of my youth.  I was reading them when he was introduced in DareDevil and Spiderman, but the character never “really” captured my pre-teen and teen imagination.  During my Army days though, I was an avid follower of “The Executioner” book series written by Don Pendleton, which was the basis for the comic character.  The monthly book series currently runs to over 400 episodes and is being ghost written since Pendleton’s sale of the series and subsequent death.
Thanks to any who managed to make it through the entire post.  Let me know if you agree / disagree with my reviews…
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On This Day In:
2016 Feeling Warm Yet?
Four Documentaries
2015 Just Like All The Others
2014 In My Own Vanity
2013 Filled With Words
2012 Lectio Auget Existentiae Meae
2011 Lied Lately?
2010 Born To Work At Faux News
Lost Again (Uh, Make That Still)
Qui Genus Humanum Ingenio Superavit
They’re Back… (Part 1)

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Over the weekend, I finished reading “To Kill A Mockingbird” and viewing the movie based on the book.
To Kill A Mockingbird” (1960©) —  book review
TKAM was written by Harper Lee.  This was her first (and only) novel until “Go Set A Watchman” was published just before her death.  “GSAW” was / is purported to be the initial draft of TKAM, with substantial revision to focus on a particular period within the draft.  TKAM is the story of a young girl growing up in Alabama during the 1930’s Great Depression.  More specifically, it’s about a three year period where the girl begins to discover her place in her family, her town and society in general.  From just before entering school, to attending a criminal trial, to almost being murdered, the girl’s life interweaves threads of family, friendship, racism, education, poverty, politics, economics and justice.  I have not read GSAW, so I cannot comment on it at this time.
The main character / narrator is Jean Louise Finch (“Scout”), a “tom-boy” who lives with her older brother, Jeremy (“Jem”) Finch, and their widowed father, Atticus Finch.  The brother and sister befriend a boy named Dill, who visits their town each summer to stay with his aunt.  The three kids are scared of, yet fascinated by, their neighbor, the reclusive Arthur (“Boo”) Radley who lives in a relatively dilapidated house on their block.  They make up stories and believe “Boo” is a prisoner of his strict / evil father.  Although, he is not the “main” character, Scout’s father, Atticus, is the ultimate heroic father figure – kind, humble, understanding, a successful lawyer and a crack shot with a rifle.
The book also has two characters who are important in tying the other strands together:  Calpurnia (the Finch’s housekeeper / cook) and Alexandra Finch (Atticus’ sister).  The two females serve as role models for “Scout”, both in terms of “female” skills (cooking, cleaning and discipline) and in social status / behavior (dress, speaking, comportment).
(SPOILER ALERT!! –   stop here if you’ve not read the book or seen the movie.)
The two main threads of the book are the mystery of Boo Radley and the Radley house and the trial of Tom Robinson (a black man on trial for raping and beating a white woman).  Over time, the children make friends with Boo without ever seeing him.  Atticus establishes the innocence of Tom, but due to racism, Tom is convicted of the crime anyway and dies while trying to escape custody.  After a few more convolutions, Boo saves Scout and Jem from the truly guilty party and the Sheriff “saves” Boo from Atticus and the town.  In effect, although an innocent black man died, justice is served when the real “baddie” gets it in the end.
This book has been considered a “classic” since its release.  In my opinion it definitely is!  I found the story well developed and the characters believable.  It is easy to see why the fictional character of Atticus Finch has been mentioned by many as “the reason” they got into the legal profession.  Final recommendation:  highly recommended!!  As an aside, this is the first book in many years where I had to pull out my dictionary to make sure I understood what the author was saying.  I did this six(6) times!!!  How many times to you thoroughly enjoy a work of literature and learn vocabulary from it too?
To Kill A Mockingbird”  (1962)  —  movie review
I must admit I know I have seen this movie before, but I have almost no recollection of it.  Based on that, I must have seen it in my early teens, before I was aware of economics or the Depression or class / social racism.  I’m not saying I was unaware of racism when I was growing up.  Only that I grew up in a multi-cultural environment which did not “promote” it openly.  The movie closely follows the trial theme in the book.  Other themes are glossed over or poorly explained (relative to the book).
Having said the above, this movie is profoundly disturbing.  As an “older” man (now in my 60’s), I still find the overt racism (tribalism?) portrayed in this movie to be frightening real and powerfully moving.  The book has multiple threads in it which the movie simply doesn’t have the time to develop.  This detracts from the overall story, but it increases the force of racism portrayed.  I imagine though, that if you have either not read the book or not read it recently, the fact the trial of Tom Robinson was the main theme of the movie makes its viewing even more disturbing than the rendition in the book.
The movie stars Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch (Oscar for Best Actor), Mary Badham as Jean Louise Finch (“Scout”), Phillip Alford as Jeremy Finch (“Jem”), Frank Overton as Sheriff Heck Tate, Brock Peters as Tom Robinson, Estelle Evans as Calpurnia, Paul Fix as Judge Taylor, and Robert Duvall (in one of his earliest film roles) as Arthur “Boo” Radley.  Badham received an Oscar nomination for her role as Scout.  The movie won three Oscars and was nominated for five more (including Best Picture and Best Director).  The movie is shot in black and white which (to me) increases the dramatic effects of the characters and the town / time period.
Final recommendation:  highly recommended!!  The movie skirts the social, educational and economic issues raised in the book and focuses on the racism in America during that time period.  This is not to say there is no racism in America today.  The movie is, however, attempting to bring the issue to the forefront for discussion – which for a 1962 release date – was, in itself, a powerful step forward for the country.  It continues to highlight (to me) that as far as we’ve come, we’ve farther to go.
Oh, and my suggestion is to read the book first and then see the movie.  But, that’s just me…
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On This Day In:
2016 Mirror, Mirror
2015 Speaking With Forked Tongue
2014 The Code
2013 Eventually Formed
2012 Remember To Vote Tomorrow
2011 It Sounds Like Chaos Theory To Me

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Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
  —  Arthur C. Clarke
Transformers: The Last Knight  —  movie review
T:TLK (2017) is another push by Hasbro to sell its action figures to kids using mass-media marketing i.e. a Sci-Fi / Special Effects extravaganza.  This episode is the fifth in the series.  The movie has Mark Wahlberg in a T:4 role reprisal as Cade Yeager,  Anthony Hopkins is introduced as Yoda, I mean as Sir Edmund Burton – the last in a line of knights from the Round Table, Josh Duhamel (who has appeared in all of the “T” movies) again as Lt. Col. Lennox,  Laura Haddock as Vivian Wembley – the last descendent of Merlin the Magician – and Cade’s new love interest, and Isabela Moner as Izabella – who has no real role in the movie – just a young girl who is supposed to have a flair for fixing machines (like broken “T’s”).  The movie was very poorly reviewed and received: both professionally (15%) and by the general audience (46%).  When more than half of your paying viewers don’t give the movie a good rating, the series is in “it” deep.
So, what did I think?  Actors: I like Wahlberg in the role.  I thought he was decent in T:4 and he is even better in this sequel.  No, he’s not a great actor and, no, this isn’t a great role.  But, I like him in it.  He brings the right amount of comedy, physicality and easy-going charm which suits the role.  I would add, though, that Mark is starting to show his age and really needs to get into some more mature acting roles sooner rather than later.  Hopkins is meant to bring a certain amount of gravitas to the film.  He does, and humor too.  Duhamel has had the same role since the beginning and it’s basically “fit, military looking male of appropriate age”.  He’s been there, done that, and got the T-shirt.  Haddock is basically a Megan Fox (“T1” and “T2”) look-alike without having to pay for Megan.  Having said that, Haddock is better in the role.  Not that the bar was set very high by Fox, but Haddock has a few funny lines and a few disdainful glances which she manages to pull off.  I’ve not seen her in anything else (I haven’t yet looked her up), but again, she was okay.  Moner rounds out the major actors with screen time and, as near as I can tell, is only present to try to convey a “family” theme which runs through all of the prior “T” films.  I guess the writers felt one-way calls between Cade and his daughter (who is away at college), didn’t get the message across enough.  Deep down though, I have a feeling Moner’s role is a shallow attempt to get young female “SMART’s” to buy “T” toys.
Plot: Wow!  So much, so wrong…  It’s hard to know where to begin.  I won’t bother.  The movie doesn’t make sense.  The movie doesn’t really follow prior continuity and doesn’t really have continuity within itself.  Worst of all, the movie tries to squeeze in so much it “feels” long.  I don’t know if there is a much more damming comment you can give an action movie than: “It feels long…”
Special Effects:  Nothing really jumped out at me as “new” or “wow”.  That doesn’t mean the f/x weren’t any good.  They were.  It really is just more of the same.  Chases, explosions, lots of ammunition, folks tossed around, etc; but nobody (human) really gets injured or killed – except for a few of the spare “T’s” in the movie.
Final recommendation:  This is NOT the worst “T” movie.  It is actually quite watchable as long as you are approaching it in the spirit it’s intended: chases, explosions, lots of ammunition, folks tossed around, etc; but nobody (human) really gets injured or killed AND a light sprinkling of humor every 10-15 minutes.  (Okay, someone is gonna say: “What about Hopkins?”  Yes, his character dies, but even that is handled gracefully with a good-bye from his butler.)  If you’ve spent 8+ hours of your life watching the other four “T” movies in this series, another 2+ hours watching this one is probably not going to hurt too bad.  I give it a moderate recommendation based only on watchability and humor.  A final note: this is clearly a lead in to at least one more sequel.  If director Michael Bay doesn’t step up his game and get better writers, hopefully, the next will be the last, cause while this isn’t the worst in the series, it’s not a very good movie – stand-alone or in the series.
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On This Day In:
2016 Rare Competition
2015 Now Where Did I Put That Thing?
2014 Reckoning
Orange October (VIII) – Giants Win Game 1 Of 2014 World Series!!
2013 Trying To Capture Serenity
2012 Above The Vaulted Sky
2011 Active Learning

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This post is a review of a movie and a book.  If that doesn’t interest you, feel free to move on and come back tomorrow (please) for a more regular post.
Stand And Deliver” (1988)  —  movie review
“Stand And Deliver” is a semi-biographical movie starring Edward James Olmos as Jaime Escalante.  Escalante is a computer engineer who quits his job to teach computer programming in a inner-city high school (Los Angeles, Garfield High School).  It turns out the school has no computers, so he ends up teaching math.  Escalante feels the students are being limited by the low expectations of the school faculty as well as by society in general, so he sets out to change that by offering to teach more advanced classes – first algebra, then analytic geometry and finally calculus.
The movie details Escalante’s efforts over two years to teach math / calculus to a group of students, and then, when they are successful, he must challenge the testing system to prove they did not cheat to succeed.
This is a little gem of a film.  Inspirational, yet rooted in a Latino and urban feel.  There are two particular performances by young (at that time) actors: Daniel Villarreal as Chuco and Lou Diamond Phillips as Angel Guzman which stood out for me.  I don’t know how much other work Villarreal has done, but Phillips is quite famous for a number of roles (especially as Ritchie Valens in La Bamba).  Many of the other “teen” actors in the movie are very good, as well, but these two stood out for me.  Villarreal because he had the “look” I’ve seen in real gang members eyes when I was younger and Phillips because he was able to show societal side of working class / struggling Americans.  A number of the female teens showed the family side (helping around the house / babysitting siblings, etc).
Final recommendation:  Highly recommended!  A feel good movie which highlights both the struggles to get ahead in America and the ability of the disenfranchised to rise to the level of their abilities when given and opportunity.  While the movie is about a specific teacher and has a specific ethnic / minority (Latino) slant, my understanding is the situation in our school systems has not significantly changed in the near thirty years since this movie was released.  In fact, it is economics / poverty and not ethnicity which defines educational opportunity in the United States.
Revolution For Dummies: Laughing Through The Arab Spring”   —  book review
Revolution For Dummies”  (2017©) was written by Bassem Youssef.  The book is an autobiographical telling of Youssef’s experience as a TV personality during the Egyptian “Arab Spring” of 2011 to 2014.  During this time, Youssef went from being a heart doctor to an internet sensation to a TV comedian.  Post that period, he has become a political exile from his home country (Egypt).
The gist of the book is that Arabs are just like us (American’s).  Those in power tend to think of themselves as the righteous voice of God when, in fact, they are all too often simply venal and greedy little men.  If there is any significant difference, it is that, at the moment, we Americans have a Constitution to offer us a limited shield from the violence of the powerful and their manipulation of the mob.
Having spent a couple of years working in the Middle East, I have an interest in their faith, culture and governments.  As such, I found this book to be a tremendous insight into the thought process of the upper and middle class Egyptian mind.  I wish I could say to the mind of the “average” Egyptian, but let’s face it, the author was a heart surgeon before he became famous.
Anyway, I highly recommend this book for the insights it provides about the Middle East generally, Egypt specifically and also about how others from around the world view us here in the United States.  I will be including several quotes from this book over the coming days / weeks as a means of further sharing Youssef’s touching / influencing my own thoughts.  Oh, and a big shoutout to my daughter Sarah for buying the book and passing it on to me to enjoy.
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On This Day In:
2016 Once Eccentric
2015 Trusted Desperation
2014 Orange October (V) – Giants Win Game 3
Who Am I To Teach?
2013 Deliver Us Something Larger
2012 Bore, n.
2011 Attaining High Office

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Movie review: “The Accountant”  (2016)
The Accountant” is an action / adventure / mystery / martial arts movie starring Ben Affleck as Christian “Chris” Wolff (accountant / really Batman as an internal auditor) and Anna Kendrick as Dana Cummings (female object of hero’s protective instincts).  Other main characters include J. K. Simmons as Raymond “Ray” King (government agent one – Obi Wan), Cynthia Addai-Robinson as Marybeth Medina (government agent two – Luke Skywalker), Jon Bernthal as Braxton (accountant’s brother / better known as the Punisher), Alison Wright as Justine (accountant’s sister), Jeffrey Tambor as Francis Silverberg (accountant’s mentor – Yoda), John Lithgow as Lamar Blackburn (bad guy), Andy Umberger as Ed Chilton (victim one) and Jean Smart as Rita Blackburn (victim two).  CAUTION: Spoilers follow!
Basically, Batman is feeling the heat from Gov Agents 1 & 2, so he decides to take an “easy” job, sorting out a bookkeeping error at a company about to go public and make a killing in their IPO (Initial Public Offering of stocks).  The female bookkeeper (Kendrick) has discovered the error and reported it to management, who feel obliged to sort it out before the IPO.  Enter Batman.  Blah, blah, blah, in early plot misdirection feign, victims one and two are killed by the Punisher.  Blah, blah, blah, action scene at farm.  Blah, blah, action scene saving object.  Blah, blah Batman and object fall in love.  Unrequited, of course.  He can’t say it and she can’t be sure he feels it (love).  Did I mention Batman is autistic?  Yup.  See above: “Blah, blah…”  Anyway, blah, blah blah…  Big fight at rich guy’s / bad guy’s house.  Batman reconciles with brother / Punisher after killing bad guy and all of the Punisher’s henchmen.  Batman gives object / unrequited love a going away present and rides off into the sunset.   Setting up the inevitable sequel…
Final recommendation:  this is a highly recommended movie!  The martial arts and gun play are both well done and realistic (ok, maybe I’m pushing that part a bit).  There is also a surprising amount of humor.  The acting is good: I don’t consider myself an Affleck “fan”, but he is terrific in this role – much better than as Daredevil or Batman.  I’ve only seen Kendrick in “Perfect Pitch“, and I also like her in that role, so I guess she’s two for two in my book.  I loved Bernthal in his Netflix “Punisher” role, and he too, is a winner in this movie.  Is it great cinema?  No, but it’s a very entertaining action movie woven into about a dozen (it felt like that many, anyway) story lines.  There is a substantial amount of violence, (gun violence specifically), so the movie is not appropriate for small kids.  Given the recent events in Las Vegas, there are probably quite a few adults who shouldn’t watch it either.  (Just saying…)  There is also a terrific closing song at the end of the movie!
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On This Day In:
2016 Better Value
2015 Any Port In A Storm
2014 Babies (II)
2013 Why The Young Stay In College Longer These Days
2012 Perceptions Of Worth
2011 Flavor
2010 Giants Win 1-0 !!

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Spider-Man: Homecoming”  –  movie review
On last Wednesday, my son (James) and I went to see the recently released “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (2017) staring Tom Holland as Peter Parker / Spider-Man and Michael Keaton as a surprisingly good villain: the “Vulture”.  Ok.  Let’s just say it…  This is THE BEST Spider-Man movie EVER!  No, it’s not particularly true to the comics from the 1960’s – they play fast and loose with some of the characters, but trust me…   This is a GREAT movie!  Of course I mean comic-book movie and not Oscar-worthy drama, but even then, it’s still pretty good.
Robert Downing Jr. has some significant cameo time as Tony Stark / Iron-Man.  Maybe a little too much…  But, I found it made up for leaving out the traditional “origin story” which should have happened in this – with it being a series re-boot and all.  Filling out the main roles: Marisa Tomei as Aunt May, Jacob Batalon as Ned Leeds (Peter’s best friend and fellow nerd), and Zendaya as Michelle (“M.J.” – Spider-Man’s future “luv” interest).  And, of course, Stan Lee has his token “minute-of-fame” / cameo.
Does the movie work?  Yes!  Holland is a better Parker than Toby Maguire and a better Spider-Man than Andrew Garfield.  For one thing, Holland actually looks like he could go to high school.  Prior versions of Parker did not.  (There, we can finally admit it.)  Junior College definitely, but not high-school.  Plus, Holland plays both Spider-Man and Peter as a kind-of goofy teenager.  So, the main actor was a good match to the role.
How about the special effects?  Okay, not so great.  The costume was blurry against the green-screen “most” of the time.  Did it hurt the movie?  No.  At least I didn’t mind it (too much).  Action?  Got it in spades!  History?  The building lift scene is almost exactly the way I remember it from the comic book 40+ years ago…  Awesome!
Final recommendation and what’s next?  This is a great summer action movie!  Highly recommended!  Bring on Civil War II, Thor, the Black Panther and the next Avengers movie…  I can hardly wait.
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On This Day In:
2016 The Responsibility Of Freedom
2015 Face It
Birdfight
2014 Honoring Firefighters
2013 And Never Will
2012 The Human Adventure Continues
2011 Almost Never

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