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Archive for the ‘Movie Review’ Category

Risen” – movie review
Risen” (2016) is the story of the Christian tale of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, but it is told from the perspective of a Roman military tribune Clavius (played by Joseph Fiennes).  He is tasked to investigate the mystery of what happened to the body of Jesus (played by Cliff Curtis) following the Crucifixion.  Accompanied by a rookie (but for some reason, trusted) aide Lucius (Tom Felton – Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter series), Clavius must find the body before the Emperor arrives on a visit.
The movie generally follows the four gospels, but has some interesting twists because it’s from the Roman side.  There are (to my mind) changes, but they won’t mean a great deal to the average person – Christian or not.  One of the most interesting (to me) was the twisting of the story of “Doubting Thomas”.  The actions happen per the gospel, but the line about faith is directed to Clavius instead of to Thomas.
Another (to me) significant change is Mary Magdalene (played by Maria Botto) is put back in the role of a prostitute.  This is a currently discredited interpretation of Mary Magdalene’s role among the followers of Christ.  The role came about by means of a claim / assertion by Pope Gregory I, which generally combined multiple Mary’s cited in the testaments into a single Mary.
Other than these (and other minor) errors, I found the movie to be an excellent story of faith and conversion.  On the basis of this alone, I give the movie a strong recommendation.
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On This Day In:
2016 Dignity And Grace
2015 Is It Warm Enough For You
2014 What The Right STILL Wants
2013 Embrace Serendipity
2012 Your Order, Please
2011 Well Enough Anyway

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Today’s reviews are for a pair of biographical movies about two geniuses.  The men are Srinivasa Ramanujan and Alan Turing.  Technically, both are mathematicians, but Turing is more remembered for his work with computers.  The two movies are titled: “The Man Who Knew Infinity” (2015) about Ramanujan, and “The Imitation Game” (2014) about Turing.
The Man Who Knew Infinity” (2015)  —  movie review
This movie stars Dev Patel as Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan and Jeremy Irons as his British mentor (collaborator) G. H. Hardy.  Basically, a poor, self-taught mathematician moves to Trinity College at Cambridge after mailing some of his work to a world famous mathematics professor (Hardy).  The two collaborate (and publish), but the movie is basically about their personal relationship and not about their maths.  The movie is beautifully shot in both India and England and I was moved by the depictions of both environments: brightly colored poverty contrasted with muted earth-toned (relative) wealth.  A second major plot contrast is Hardy’s atheism vs Ramanujan’s devout Hindu faith.   Ramanujan tells Hardy that his math comes from the lips of his god.  Hardy can only struggle to understand divine inspiration.  In the end, Hardy accepts that his friend believes it is true even if he cannot share that belief.
Final recommendation:  highly recommended and I look forward to reading the book (of the same title) the movie is based on.
The Imitation Game” (2014)   —  movie review
This movie stars  Benedict Cumberbatch (aka Sherlock Holmes / Doctor Strange) as Alan Turing and  Keira Knightley as Joan Clarke who was Turing’s fiancé briefly.  Turing was a homosexual and at that time, being gay was considered a serious crime in England.  Both Turing and Clarke were mathematicians who became cryptologists.  They famously developed a computer which was used to break the Nazi Enigma cypher.   This movie describes this invention and Turing’s subsequent suicide.   As a personal note: I consider Turing to be one of the seminal figures in computer science and in artificial intelligence.  The “test” for general purpose artificial intelligence is named “The Turing Test” and based on one of his papers.
Turing and Clarke worked closely together and are reported to have actually been very close friends although I’ve seen Turing portrayed as almost autistic in dealing with social settings, so I’m not sure how accurate the descriptions or the portrayals have been.  In any case, Turing proposed marriage to Clarke and then later withdrew and admitted to being gay.  The movie purports to Clarke being indifferent to Turing’s sexuality as she is contented with having a relationship with a friend and an intellectual equal.
The “surprise” hack at the end of the movie is the realization that the Nazi messages all end the same and this can be used as a key to reduce the number of variations the computer needs to evaluate.  Whether this is what actually happened or not, I don’t know, but it did make for a plausible ending!  Final recommendation:  highly recommended!
While I enjoyed both movies I would rate “Infinity” slightly higher than “Imitation”.  I’m not really sure why, but I’ve already re-watched “Infinity” twice and I’m just getting around to my second viewing of “Imitation”.  But, again, both highly recommended…
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On This Day In:
2016 Come Dance And Laugh With Me
2015 Looks Good To Me
2014 Desire For The Sea
2013 The Fierce Urgency Of NOW
Happy Inauguration Day!
2012 One Path
Sorrow And Joy
The Seven Year View
2011 Emergent Practicality

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The following are my brief reviews of four documentaries I watched on Netflix…
Requiem for the American Dream  (2016)   —  movie / documentary review
This documentary is (more or less) a seminar about the consolidation of wealth in the hands of the few (1%) and the subsequent use of wealth to control the government and thereby use the government to increase their wealth.  The documentary presents the views of Noam Chomsky, an MIT emeritus professor who made his fame in the study of linguistics and philosophy.  Chomsky is a long-time “leftist”, but not in the traditional sense of Communist or Socialist, and more in terms of being pro-democracy, that is supporting the rule of the governed as opposed to the rule of the elite.  More specifically, the people should control the governmental (government and regulations) business environment, not the business’s (or the mega-wealthy).  I didn’t find much which was really new in this documentary, but then I have considered Chomsky’s positions previously and have long agreed with him.  If I have any problems with this film it’s that it is presented in a “relatively” dry (“academic”) format.  So, while I agree with Chomsky, the American public doesn’t seem to mind government of the elite, by the elite and for the elite – hence, the election of Donald Trump.  Final recommendation: highly recommended, particularly if you are angry about the state of the country and / or worried about your job / career and place in our economic class system.
Sneakerheadz  (2015)   —  movie / documentary review
A short (just over an hour long documentary) summary / description of people who obsessively purchase sports shoes.  I agree with one of the commentators – a young lady – who says (in effect): “If you grow up poor and wanting things, like name-brand shoes and clothes, when you grow up and have enough money to buy them, you do.  To excess…“)   As I watched, I recognized myself and realize that except constrained by money, I could / would otherwise fall into this “addition”.  Beyond the simple ego-boost of being able to get something you previously could not afford, there is an underlying message of people seeking a place in society by creating an image of themselves which they can project out to others.  Interestingly, it seems this message is learned at an early age and then becomes the goal of their (the Sneakerheadz) life.  There is also a strong message about societal values and the ability of marketing to influence those values.  Not an original idea, but I still found it interesting to hear it stated so openly in documentary about shoe collectors.  Final recommendation: highly recommended.
A Drummer’s Dream  (2010)  —  movie / documentary review
What happens when you take some of the greatest drummers in the world, put them in an isolated Canadian farmland with a bunch of kids and all the drum kits and money the drummers can bring together?  It seems you get smiles, effervescent passion and irresistible personality. Starring drummers: Nasyr Abdul Al-Khabyyr, Dennis Chambers, Kenwood Dennard, Horacio “El-Negro” Hernadez, Giovanni Hidalgo, Mike Mangini and Raul Rekow, the documentary captures you with Rock, jazz, Latin fusion, and soul, but mostly it is about the drummers and their joy in playing…  And, did I mention smiles!  These musicians are driven by the beats of their hearts – full of love and joy of life.  Final recommendation: Highly recommended!  I found myself tapping my hands and feet for days after watching this.  Fortunately, my attention deficit disorder prevents me from becoming obsessive (in this way) or I’d still be drumming and trying to find / share their joy.  Come for the percussion, stay for the smiles…!
The Real Miyagi  (2015)    —  movie / documentary review
Back in the 1960’s, a young Japanese man came to America with little but an expertise in Martial Arts.  He subsequently went on to become an internationally recognized Martial Arts instructor and stunt back-up actor.  That man is Fumio Demura.  If you have seen any of the first four “Karate Kid” movies, you’ve seen sensei Demura in action (probably without realizing it). Pat Morita’s iconic sensei (Mr. Miyagi) in ‘The Karate Kid’ was based on sensei Fumio Demura and Demura was Morita’s stunt double in the action sequences.  I don’t mean based on Demura’s actual life, as Mr. Miyagi was a fictional Japanese-American character who fought in World War II.  Rather, Mr. Miyagi is based on the idea of a man perfecting (improving) himself using art – in Miyagi’s case it is Karate and Bonsai trees.  The documentary traces sensei Demura’s life and offers multiple tributes from his students which offer insight into the man behind the title “sensei”.  Final recommendation: strong if you have only a casual interest in Martial Arts, highly if you have a personal interest in Martial Arts or in historic Martial Artists.
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On This Day In:
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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Today’s post is reviewing four movies – one re-review and three new reviews.  The movies are: (old) “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (2016); (new) Immortals (2011); (new) Jason Bourne (2016); and, (new) Moneyball (2011).  Because this post is for four movies, it will be longer than normal.  If you’re not interested in my movie reviews, move along…  So, in alphabetical order…
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (2016)  —  movie review
My original review can be found here from back in April.  Back then I gave it a “strong” recommendation as “entertaining”.  That review stands.  If anything, I might raise it to high.  I think I actually liked it more.  The plot still doesn’t make a lot of sense, but as previously stated: it’s a marketing gimmick to get three super-heroes together so DC can start a franchise.  Even given that, I still liked the movie a lot – more so than the first viewing.  I particularly liked Ben Affleck (Batman) and Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman).  And, while Superman is never going to be my favorite super-hero, Henry Cavill owns the role like no one since Chris Reeves in the original “Superman – the Movie”.  The movie worked for me.  Bring on the Justice League of America!
Immortals (2011)  —  movie review
Okay, so in ancient Greece, some beefcake named Theseus (Henry Cavill aka Superman) is blessed / cursed by Zeus (Luke Evans) to protect humanity (well, at least the Greeks) from a mad tyrant – King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke).  Phaedra (Freida Pinto) plays the love interest, an Oracle of Delphi.  Anyway, blah, blah, blah, Theseus finds a magic bow (“The Epirus Bow”) and saves the world from the Titans.
Since I’d never heard of this “legend” tale, I looked it up on Wikipedia and it is completely made up.  The names of the characters appear in Greek history or mythology, but this myth / story does not.  Still, it’s a good tale.  The movie is from the same producers as “300“, so if you like that kind of bloody action, fights and special effects (and I do), you should find this movie to your visual taste.  Final recommendation: strong.  I picked this movie to see if Cavill can act in any other role beside Superman.  That didn’t work out so well as he plays a “minor” superman / hero here, too.
Jason Bourne (2016)  —  movie review
This is a movie I really wanted to see at the theater, but never got around to.  It’s the fifth in the series and the fourth with Matt Damon in the title role.  Matt skipped number four which starred Jeremy Renner.  (Wow.  Now I’ve got to go back and see that one again.)  While it was nice to see Matt back in the saddle, this movie makes absolutely no sense.  The plot is the same as the others (the first three), the CIA wants Jason Bourne dead and he fights back.  The special effects technology is upgraded, but it’s used badly and adds to the “huh?” factor.
I never thought I’d say this, since I much prefer Matt to Tom Cruise, but Ethan Hunt is now better in the Mission Impossible series than Jason Bourne is in this series.  And it’s not Matt’s acting.  It’s the story telling.  This movie is what it is: Matt / Jason fighting and running around and being super clever.  Other than that, it’s an extremely average action movie.  I’m sure Hollywood will try to string this out for another couple of sequels, but it’s running out of air and there’s a DNR on the patient’s chart.  Time for a better re-boot than we got with Jeremy.
Moneyball (2011)  —  movie review
What can I tell you?  It’s only been a couple of weeks since the Cubs won the World Series and I’m missing baseball…
This is one of those movies “based on a true story”.  Basically, Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) has to make a small market (ie “poor”) baseball team competitive.  He does it by introducing “Sabermetrics” to baseball.  Here, Sabermetrics is renamed as “moneyball”.  The baseball team is the Oakland Athletics (better known as the “A’s”).  The A’s lose three of their best players to teams with more money and in the struggle to replace them, Beane tries to redefine how you evaluate players using statistics instead of experienced baseball “eye-balls” (veteran scouts).  What happens is he turns the “rebuilding” team into one which not only makes the playoffs, but sets an American league single season consecutive winning streak.
The movie gives a fascinating look into the “business” of modern baseball, and, yes, I did get caught up in both the streak and the “romance of baseball”.  I liked Brad Pitt in Troy, but most of his stuff is just kind of “so-so” for me.  He is excellent in this role!  Final recommendation: High!!
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On This Day In:
2015 More Prejudice
2014 Say What?
2013 Daring Errors
2012 Are You Comfortable?
I Just Have To
In Flux
2011 True New
2010 A Job Well Started Is A Job Half Done
I See With My One Good Eye

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This evening’s post is a book review and a movie review.
Book review: Edward R. Murrow: and the Birth of Broadcast Journalism  (2004©)
This book was written by Bob Edwards and chronicles the life of the famous radio and TV news journalist: Edward R Murrow.  A little background – I grew up listening to the famous record series “I Can Hear It Now (1933-1945)“.  I’m not sure why my mom bought them for me as a child, but I have distinct memories of listening to these albums (actually, 78rpm LPs, as in “Long Playing” for all you music streamers) along with my copy of “The Lone Ranger“.  Incidentally, anyone interested can hear much of, if not all of, the records on YouTube.  You can certainly hear enough of Murrow’s voice to appreciate what he sounded like to Americans who were just discovering radio.
The book is a fascinating account of the parallel track of radio and TV news journalism with early to mid-20th century world / American history.  The main body is 166 pages in my hardbound copy and I found it a VERY fast read.  If you have any interest in the history of broadcast journalism this is a terrific introduction.  Having grown up during the 1960’s, when many of the names in the book were faces on my TV every evening, the book really brought back memories.  Of particular interest, the “Afterword” runs about 13 pages and more or less precisely describes the news we see on TV (broadcast and 24-hour cable) today.  The book would be highly recommended based on the “Afterword” itself, but I found the whole book fascinating.  Final recommendation: Highly recommended!  Needless to say, there will be quotes to follow on my blog…
Movie review: “good night, and good luck.”  (2005)
This is my second review of this movie / DVD.  The original review can be found at:  Journalism And Fantasy  from back in 2012.  My first review pretty much stands as is.  This is an outstanding movie about a critical time in American history – 1953 to 1958 and covers the conflict between Senator Joseph McCarthy and Edward Murrow.  McCarthy was trying to fight communism in the U.S. government (and then within the U.S. as a whole) and over-reached by using government intimidation to restrict free speech and association and, ultimately, freedom of the press.  When Murrow used the power of television to confront McCarthy and his bullying tactics, McCarthy fell from public grace.  He was censored by the Senate and, ultimately, died in disgrace as a cautionary tale about the abuse of power in a democracy.  Ironically, some of the individuals he “exposed / persecuted” were later found to actually be Soviet agents when the U.S.S.R. fell and some of their spying records became public.  This has not, however, vindicated McCarthy in the eyes of history.  Rather, these instances seem to be the exceptions which proved the rule of innocent until proven guilty.
If I have one critique of the movie, it would be that it leaves you hanging.  There is the drama of Murrow’s (probably) most famous speech – to the Radio-Television News Directors Association (RTNDA) convention in Chicago (1958) – popularly known as the “Wires And Lights In A Box” speech (which can be found in its entirety here), which leads into and then ends the movie, but there is no summing up.  The viewer is left to do their own research on Murrow’s career and life, and the result / reaction to his speech.  The fact the speech is actually a prophecy of the type of radio and television news we are experiencing today is also left for the viewer.  This is the type of DVD I would pay more for to get the extras (but I NEVER do this).
Even with that single criticism, this is a terrific movie and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in American journalism, history or the rule of law in a free and open society.
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On This Day In:
2015 Not Mine, Anyway
2015 South By South East
2013 Don’tcha
2012 I Hear A Distant Thunder
2011 A Poison Tree

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Today’s reviews are of a movie I watched earlier in the week and a book I finished today…
Movie Review: Star Trek: Beyond (2016)
This is the third movie in the Star Trek reboot series which stars Chris Pine (Kirk), Zachary Quinto (Spock), Karl Urban (Bones/McCoy) and Simon Pegg (Scotty).  All the main characters are well played as all the actors seem to have settled into their on-going roles.  Sadly, I never saw this movie in its original release.  To be honest, I just never made time.  As good as a 50-inch screen may be from three feet away, it’s still not the same as having to use your peripheral vision to absorb the spectacle of the big screen theater experience.  But, then again, there is much to be said for a pause button, having your own kitchen / food / fridge, and a toilet ten steps away.
Is the movie original, any good, plot, action, does it make sense, etc.?   No, not really.  Yes, very enjoyable.  The plot is okay.  The action is reasonable, but I found the special effects to be only so-so.  Does it make sense?  Does it have to?  It’s Star Trek!  Okay.  Yes!  It makes sense (as long as you don’t try to think about it too hard).  The “best” Star Trek has always been a commentary on its current times, with a sub-textual message that we can get through this if we work together (aka “the future is hopeful”).  I would only say I’m getting tired of the Enterprise getting destroyed.  This is like the fifth time in fifteen movies.  Enough already!  We’ve seen this Fx get worked to death, now.  All in all, I’d say this was the best of the three reboots.  Highly recommended, particularly if you are a Trekkie (like me).
Book ReviewJack Reacher Series #2: Die Trying  (1998©)
This book is the second in the Jack Reacher series of “male / adventure / action” genre books which I enjoy reading.  The series is authored by Lee Child.  Although it is the second book in the series, it is actually the third book I’ve read.  I got out of sequence because I read the book which corresponds to the Tom Cruise movie which came out several years ago (2012).  I enjoyed the movie, so I read the book.  I enjoyed the book (#8 in the series), so I decided to go back and read the series in order.
In this book, Jack is kidnapped (with a female FBI agent) in Chicago and taken to a posse comitatus (aka right-wing crazies) encampment in Montana where he must foil an attempt to secede from the United States.  All in all, the book is pretty standard faire for this genre and for this series.  Having said that, you will either enjoy it or you won’t.  I did.  Again, nothing earth-shattering here, just a good action / adventure story.  Even though it’s over 500 pages, it’s a fast read.  Strong to highly recommended book recommendation.
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On This Day In:
2015 Tell Me…
2014 Live Forever (To Remember Me)
Orange October (VI) – Giants Win Game 4
2013 More Than Just Words
2012 Egotist, n.
2011 Good And Bad

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Today’s Special   (2009)  —  movie review
Yesterday I watched a very pleasant rom-com: Today’s Special.  Aasif Mandvi stars as the main character “Samir”, who starts the movie as a sous chef at an upscale New York restaurant.  He becomes frustrated with his boss when passed over for a promotion and quits.   Samir’s dreams of studying French cooking in France are dashed (hey, a cooking pun) after his father has a heart attack and Samir must take over his family’s Indian restaurant, “Tandoori Palace” in Queens.  The only customers are Samir’s uncles sitting at a table playing cards.  Samir doesn’t know what to do because his knowledge of Indian cooking is nonexistent until he meets his “Mr. Miyagi” – in the person of larger than life gourmet chef and taxi driver “Akbar” played by Naseeruddin Shah.  (Who, by the way, steals almost every scene he’s in.)  Samir’s world is transformed by Akbar’s cooking lessons.  A pretty co-worker and Samir’s love interest, “Carrie”  played by Jess Weixler, doesn’t hurt, either.   The actor who plays Akbar (Shah), may be more familiar to some as Captain Nemo from “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen“.  I don’t recognize Weixler from anything else, but she was pleasant enough in this role to look for her in other future roles.
The movie also has two side stories: the first is about Samir’s family and a brother lost in a car accident; the second is about Samir’s mother trying to find him a bride.  I guess they are meant to add a bit of pathos and some insight into Indian family culture, but they end up kind of as filler…
There is very little which is new or original in this movie.  It is also extremely predictable.  But, who cares…  Sometimes you just want to watch a pleasant movie with a happy ending.  I watched this on Netflix and, while I may never buy a copy, I’ll almost certainly watch it again.  If nothing else, than to watch Shah play Akbar.  Final recommendation: strong recommendation!  A very pleasant (if unoriginal) rom-com.
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On This Day In:
2015 Without Hope
Things Known And Unknown
2014 A Wall Too High, A Bridge Too Far
2013 Glory = Danger
Chicago Magic
Feelin’ It
2012 How Did We Get Here?
2011 Labor Day Weekend Mishmash
More, More, More

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