Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Movie Review’ Category

Today’s review is for the 2021 science fiction epic:  “Dune” (aka: “Dune: Part 1“), they couldn’t squeeze the book down into one long movie with any hope of capturing the essence or the subtleties of the novel the movie is based on.  The film stars Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides (the main character), ducal heir of House Atreides;  Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica (Paul’s mother) a Bene Gesserit (a priestess in a religious order) / and consort to Leto (Paul’s father);  Oscar Isaac as Duke Leto Atreides, (Paul’s father) the leader of House Atreides;  Josh Brolin as Gurney Halleck, weapons-master of House Atreides (one of Paul’s mentors);  Stellan Skarsgård as Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (the main bad-guy), leader of House Harkonnen, enemy to House Atreides, and former steward of Arrakis;  Dave Bautista as Beast Rabban Harkonnen (second main bad-guy), nephew of Baron Harkonnen;  Javier Bardem as Stilgar, the leader of the Fremen tribe at Sietch Tabr;  “Zendaya” Maree Stoermer Coleman as Chani (Paul’s love interest), a young Fremen woman and Stilgar’s daughter;  Chang Chen as Dr. Wellington Yueh (the traitor), a Suk doctor in the employ of House Atreides;  and, Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho, the sword-master of House Atreides and another of Paul’s mentors.
Background:  The book “Dune” is considered one the the greatest science-fictions novels ever written.  The author was Frank Herbert.  Herbert later wrote five sequels.  (His son wrote a dozen more sequels after his father passed away.)  The book is about a fictional war for a planet which is the sole source of a “spice” / drug, which allows navigators to safely pilot spacecraft around the universe in “folded space”.  As such, the spice and planet are the most valuable assets in the universe and control of which brings untold wealth.  The “Fremen” are the “native” inhabitants of the desert planet “Arrakis”.  They appear to be human, and there is never any explanation of how or when the Fremen first got to Arrakis.  The Fremen are waiting for the arrival of a “savior” who will deliver them to freedom from the various oppressors they’ve had over the years.  The “savior” is to be both a military and a religious figure / leader.
At the start of the book / movie the spice planet (Arrakis), is controlled by the evil House Harkonnen (ruled by Baron Vladimir Harkonnen) and his nephew “Beast” Rabban.  The emperor compels them to give up Arrakis and awards the planet to the “good-guys”:  the House Atreides.  Both houses are aware they are being set-up for a war to weaken each / both their houses.  House Atreides takes command of Arrakis.  House Harkonnen uses a traitor to disrupt communications / drop defenses, defeats House Atreides in a surprise attack and kills Duke (Paul’s father) Leto.  Paul and his mother (Lady Jessica) escape the slaughter and meetup with the Freman who grant them sanctuary after Paul wins a fight-to-the-death with one of the Freman who doesn’t want to grant them sanctuary.  The movie ends with Paul and his mother looking out over the desert and watching a Freman ride on a Spice-worm (a giant “worm” like creature which produces the spice).  …And, break for Part 2.
So, is this movie any good?  Is it better than the 1984 version?  Is it entertaining?  Yes, much and yes.
Technically, the movie was generally well received by both movie critics and the general viewing audience.  It received multiple nominations for Oscars and received most of the awards.  I found the movie setting to be a bit too dark which made discerning action difficult.  A bit like many of the DC comic movies – particularly the “Batman” trilogy and two Justice League movies.  Other than that relatively minor point, I found the acting good, the pace “okay” and I wasn’t left feeling it was too long of a movie.  I felt it was closer to being “Laurence of Arabia” scope than “2001:  A Space Odyssey” mainly because the scale of the images of the desert and water planets felt FAR more realistic than any of the “space” related images.
This is a MUCH better movie than its predecessor – the 1984 version (my review here).  The ONLY thing “better” about the 1984 version is they managed to get the whole book into one movie (granted, a LONG movie) instead of dragging us through two parts with a multiple year break separating the parts.  Of course some of this has to be laid at the feet of today’s vastly superior film technology, but still the acting a scenery was just poor in the early adaptation.
Is this version entertaining?  Yes!  In addition to better technology (filming and FX) and acting, breaking the movie into two parts allows the time to develop the characters while giving the audience the action sequence “fix” every twenty minutes or so.  What I particularly liked was they showed us the spice-worm early and then multiple times.  As an aside, I’m not sure this version of the worm is “better” than the 1984 version, particularly when they present their respective open maws.  Since we don’t get a good look at the Fremen or Paul riding a worm, I’ll reserve judgment on which version really has the best representation of a giant spice-worm until after viewing the sequel.
Final recommendation:  moderate to strong.  I enjoyed watching this version and it didn’t leave a bad after-taste (unlike the 1984 version).  I look forward to seeing part two when it is released in 2024.
Final thought:  You can be entertained by a movie (this movie in particular) without it making ANY scientific or warfare / combat sense.  Most of this movie makes NO sense whatsoever.  So, don’t bother thinking about it (the “science” behind the movie).  Just go and watch it for what it is:  escapist entertainment with a bit of political moralism overlayed in between the action sequences.  This review is after my second viewing of this film.  I saw it initially during its first month of streaming.  I just never got around to a review.  Unlike the 1984 version, this movie was better after a second viewing – and I didn’t wait over thirty years to sit a second viewing.  I will watch it again when “Part 2” comes out – just to get back in the spirit of the film.
.
On This Day In:
2021 A Simple Choice, Really
Waaaay Before The Movie
2020 I Just Want To Stay Happy
Fading…
2019 Show Righteousness, Not Fear
2018 Sounds Like Politics, Too
2017 Resist More
Conservatives Are Not The Enemy
2016 Two Weeks To Go…
2015 Remembering
2014 The Creeping Death Of Civilization
Orange October (X) – A Blue Morning Turns Into An Orange Evening
2013 License Problem
2012 Giants Win Game 2 Of The 2012 World Series 2 To 0!!!
Adage, n.
Questions Women Should Ask Before Voting…
2011 What Are You Looking At?

Read Full Post »

We Were Soldiers”  —  (2002)  movie review
Today’s movie review is for the film depicting the first major air-mobile battle of American forces in Vietnam in the Ia Drang Valley which occurred in 1965.  The movie stars Mel Gibson as the commanding officer Lt. Colonel Hal Moore and Madeleine Stowe as his wife:  Julia Moore.  Other main actors include:  Greg Kinnear, Sam Elliott, Chris Klein and Keri Russell.  Kinnear is a helicopter pilot;  Elliott is the battalion First Sergeant;  Klein is a junior officer (2nd Lieutenant) and Russell is his wife.
The basic plot shows how a “gung-ho” Army leader forms a unit, trains his officers / men to implement a new technology (helicopters and air-cavalry) and then leads them in a “major” engagement with the enemy.  Unfortunately, the engagement shown is Lt. Col. Moore is leading his men into a trap where his men are cut-off from direct (non-airbased) support, surrounded and heavily outnumbered:  roughly 10 to 1.  The bulk of the movie is about their three day battle to survive (“win”).  The essence of the Vietnam conflict is shown as superior American mobility and firepower (air and artillery) versus a dedicated / committed adversary willing to use close engagement (hand-to-hand) to negate the enemies strengths.
There are three “main” secondary plots / story lines:  1)  the effects of military life (death) on the families of the soldiers (limited to officer’s families);  2)  the civil rights / racial issues which were erupting in civilian society and getting carried into the military (depicted mainly on the family side);  and,  3)  combat leadership and how it differs from non-combatant and political leadership.  The first sub-plot is intertwined with the bulk of the combat portion.  The societal issues are mainly presented in the early portion (training) of the film – and, again, by the families / spouses.  The leadership sub-plot is just sprinkled in and is more implied than actually shown.  As it turns out, there were significant portions of this sub-plot which only appear in the “deleted scenes”.  I had to view these on YouTube as my version of the movie does not include the “extras”.
So, what did I think?  Is this a good movie?  Is it an accurate depiction of combat / war / military life?  Is this an “anti-war” movie or is it a glorification of war movie?  Were the sub-plots interesting / accurate?  And, lastly, to paraphrase “Gladiator“:  was I entertained?  In order:  yes;  yes;  more anti-war than I thought it would be;  yes – the sub-plots were interesting, accurate and important to the movie;  and finally, NO!  This isn’t an “entertainment” movie.  The time spent watching it was well spent, but while I can be entertained by over-the-top special effects / Sci-Fi movies, I don’t watch many horror / slasher movies and I don’t find realistic depictions of war “entertaining” – no matter how much I may “like” the film.  To me, it’s similar to reading a book to learn about something, versus reading a book to be entertained.  This is a “learning” film;  it is not an “entertaining” film
If you like(d) any of the more recent “war / combat” movies:  “Saving Private Ryan“, “Fury“, “Hacksaw Ridge” or “Black Hawk Down“, you will almost certainly “like” this film.  I liked all of the above and I liked this movie, too.  This film depicts heroism and personal risk / injury without a glorification backdrop.  The film shows combat:  brutality, chaos and terror.  In a refreshing turn, the movie shows the “enemy” in an almost equally positive light:  they are fighting for their country, on their land, and they have families “back home”, too.  This was one aspect of the film which I really did not expect as “the other side” is rarely shown in a positive light – otherwise, how would you understand you’re supposed to hate them and root for them to lose / die.
Anyway, as an amateur military historian, I found the first section (the character introductions) with the unit formation to be very interesting.  I found the description of the air-mobile infantry (Air-Cav) and the specific references to the unit combat limitations to be both accurate and insightful.  I found the sub-plots also accurate – as far as my limited experience was concerned, but maybe a bit too glossed over.  I was single during the 1970’s when I was on active duty, so all of my “personal” information about family life / support is really second hand.  The racial issues had not gone away between the film’s period (1965) and my service time (mid-70’s).  And, I don’t think there is ANY doubt (IMHO) the “Congressional / military / industrial complex” has only gotten worse since the 1960’s.
The film concludes with a visit by Col. Moore to the Vietnam Memorial “Wall” in Washington, D.C. and a list of the seventy-nine Americans who died in the battle.  It is an emotionally powerful scene on par with the cemetery scene in “Saving Private Ryan“.
Final recommendation:  highly recommended movie.  This is one of the “better” military genre movies I’ve seen in some time.  This is not an anti-war movie, but it also does not extrapolate the personal integrity and heroism of the individual American soldier on to the American government or senior military command structure.  A note of caution:  the combat scenes are brutal, realistic and sometimes horrifying.  This movie is not for the squeamish.
Final comment:  if you’re wondering why I’d never bothered to see this before…  Two reasons:  1)  I’m not an “all-in” / committed Mel Gibson fan.  I’ve enjoyed his directing more than his acting.  Also, 2)  when this movie came out I was not keen on supporting U.S. military adventurism around the world.  At that time, I wanted revenge for “9/11”, not occupation and nation-building in Afghanistan.  I did not support an invasion of Iraq and foreign government toppling.  I may have been wrong, but I viewed movies and TV shows in this genre as propaganda for the Bush Administration and a “war of choice” in Iraq.  Despite the quality of this individual movie (in that time period), I still hold that “propaganda” view / opinion.
.
On This Day In:
2021 On Learning To Play Guitar
When You’re Feeling Small
2020 Remember Your Obligation
Smile And Shuffle
2019 If One Is Lucky Enough
Basic Training (In Films)
2018 Being President Doesn’t Make You Presidential
Day 27: 4 Weeks / 55lbs
2017 I’m Seeing It, Too
2016 Personal Decisions
2015 Verbal Fluency
2014 Familiar
2013 Unbending
2012 Simple Sayings
2011 Wupped Again?
2010 3 and 1…
Musical Notes…
Doubt Tries…
Northwest Passages – Evening Two
The Beierly’s Web Site

Read Full Post »

I Am Number Four” (2011)   —   movie review
In this Sci-Fi action movie, Alex Pettyfer stars as John Smith (aka:  Number Four), Dianna Agron as Sarah Hart (the love interest), Teresa Palmer as Number Six (another good alien), Timothy Olyphant as Henri (an alien without super-powers who is supposed to raise / protect “Four”), Callan McAuliffe as Sam Goode (a human who’s dad was somehow tied to the good aliens), Kevin Durand as Setrakus Ra, the Mogadorian commander (the bad / evil aliens), and Jake Abel as Mark James (a human who is just in the movie to add “earth” drama – high school bully / Sarah’s ex-boyfriend).
Basically, a race of good aliens (Lorians) is attacked and conquered by a race of bad aliens (Mogadorians).  Just before being destroyed, they send nine kids with latent super-powers to another planet (Earth) to grow until they are strong enough to come back and destroy the bad guys.  The kids are each provided with a pair of guardians – one humanoid appearing warrior (Henri) and one a “chimera” – a shape-shifting creature.  “Four’s” chimera is a small lizard when he is in Florida and it becomes a dog (beagle) when Four and Henri move to a small town in Ohio.
Anyway, the bad aliens are pursuing the kids to kill them.  For some unexplained reason, they must be killed in numerical order.  The movie starts with the death (trap and execution) of “Three”.  There is also no explanation of where “Five” is in while “Six” is looking for and helping “Four”.
There is a lot of blah, blah, blah about high school cliques, growing up angst, “ex’s”, love, pre-digital photography, etc.  Somehow Henri is lured to, and then captured by some humans who are working with the bad aliens.  (The humans are killed and Henri and John are blamed as terrorists.)  Like I said:  blah, blah, blah.
And, then, FINALLY there is a big battle at – wait for it – the high school football field!!
Good guys win, kisses and good-bye’s:  sequel to be announced soon…  Well, maybe not so soon.  Despite being “ok”, the film cost $60M to make and made just under $150M.  Sequels cancelled…
I saw this movie on original release with my daughter.  My review from Feb. 2011 is still pretty accurate:  “Not a MUST see movie, but a very enjoyable way to while away a couple of hours with your daughter in harmless entertainment.”  Olyphant was the only recognizable actor (to me) at that time, but I have since seen Palmer in at least one other film (the live-action remake of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice“) and Durand has made the rounds as a bad guy in other films.
My daughter did not participate in this second viewing.  I still enjoyed it on second viewing.  This is simple entertainment.  It does NOT bear up to much afterthought.  It is a “Disney” movie (“simple entertainment”), but not up to the better “Marvel” / Disney standards.  The movie is periodically available on my cable for free, but it IS Sci-Fi with decent FX, so I spent the $5 to add it to my VUDU film library.  The bummer is there are no extras.  (Oh, well…)  And, yes, this viewing is me falling for another memory tug by YouTube.  Final recommendation:  moderate to good.
.
On This Day In:
2021 Truthfully
Average It Up
2020 Demonstrably Proven To Yield No Benefits
But When You Must, Stand
2019 Paint-By-Numbers
2018 #45: Still Trying To
Oh, Well…
2017 Two Views Of The Starting Line
2016 Never Had It, Never Will (Donald Trump)
2015 20/20
2014 All Of My Best Ideas Come While Walking…
2013 Learn To Learn
2012 I Remind You
2011 Respect And Prestige
2010 Living Legends (Willie Nelson) and the Gettysburg Address

Read Full Post »

Today’s review is for the war / military / combat movie:  “Black Hawk Down” (2001) directed and produced by Ridley Scott.  The movie is based on the 1999 non-fiction book of the same name by journalist Mark Bowden, about the U.S. military’s 1993 raid in Mogadishu, Somalia.  Being a “war” genre movie, the film features a large male cast, including Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, Eric Bana, Tom Sizemore, William Fichtner, Jason Isaacs, Sam Shepard, Jeremy Piven, Tom Hardy, Orlando Bloom, Ty Burrell, and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau.
Background:
Basically, Somalia (a country on the eastern tip / horn of Africa) has descended into a civil war and the United Nations has assigned “peace-keepers” to the area – presumably to protect aid workers in the distribution of donated food.  The local warlord declares war on the peace-keepers and some U.S. forces (Delta and Rangers) are assigned a mission of capturing two of the warlord’s top aides to gather information to be used to capture / kill the warlord.
The military command severely underestimates the resources required to complete the mission and the assigned forces do the same at their level.  They (the soldiers) believe the mission will be an “in and out” in a half hour and some fail to take standard operational gear (body vest / chest protectors and night vision head-sets).  The mission starts to go wrong almost immediately with the hostiles gaining warning of the action (although there is no indication they are aware of the mission objectives).
One of the “Black Hawk” helicopters is shot down by the Somalis and the objective becomes one of rescue as well as capture.  Unfortunately, the downed copter is not “near” the mission objective area, so the U.S. forces end up separated and then have to fight to rejoin forces, too.  Anyway, a mission which was supposed to take 30-60 minutes ends up lasting about 18 hours.  Of the 150+ U.S. soldiers involved, 19 are killed and 73 were injured / wounded.
Review:
So, is this a “good” movie?  Is it accurate?  Is it entertaining?  And, do I recommend it?  Yes;  I’m not sure;  too intense to call entertaining;  and, yes, I’d recommend this movie (with qualifications).
Is it any good?  As depicted “war” genre movies go, I think its a pretty good movie.  There is a definite sense of the “fog of war” – particularly in the relaying of information up and down the chain of command.  The action is continuous and slows only to increase the emotional tension of injuries or to high-light the significance of command decisions.  Every time there is a pause for a decision, you can (virtually) be assured there is going to be a problem later in the film.  In a real sense, this is a VERY accurate situation in combat – sometimes there are no (few) good options and you simply have to make a decision and live with (and react to) the consequences.
It the movie accurate?  Apparently shortly after its release there were a number of complaints about the film representations of the Somali people – not just the hostiles, but the people also.  No “real” Somalis were involved in the film.  There was also the complaint that although the film was putatively an “anti-war” film, it “supposedly” made combat out to be a heroic activity.  I didn’t come away with that particular reaction, but I could understand how some might.
I did not find the combat scenes to be particularly accurate.  I had two issues:  1)  Most explosives have a blast radius which kills or severely disables.  This film shows guys nearly hit by RPG (rocket propelled grenades) and they shrug it off and keep on fighting.  I don’t doubt they were “near” explosions (in real life);  just nowhere near as depicted in the movie.  2)  The men are repeatedly shown using their weapons on automatic fire.  I believe the standard issue for a infantryman is seven(7) clips (of 30 rounds).  Even if you managed to carry a double load, it would be VERY difficult to be engaged in an 18-hour battle and NOT run out of ammunition in the first two hours of constant enemy contact.  (And I’m being very generous with that time estimate.)
Entertainment value?  As stated above, I found it more “interesting” than “entertaining”.  I remember seeing this movie years ago and I found it unrealistic (then).  I recently got a few clips on YouTube, which prompted me to re-watch the film.  It was definitely better on this second viewing.  I don’t remember when I had the initial viewing and I was very hostile to “beat the drum” war movies in the aftermath to the invasion of Iraq.  My initial viewing was on DVD, not at a theater, so even then, there was some delay between the film’s release and my viewing.
Final Recommendation:
To paraphrase President Lincoln:  For those who like this kind of film, this is the kind of film they will like.
I would say as a purely action-based movie, it is strong to highly recommended.  If it was really meant to be an anti-war movie, it’s moderate to fail.  It simply doesn’t emphasize the mistakes / decision failures enough.  If it was meant to be a rah-rah military movie, it’s only moderate at best.  Heroic action doesn’t really sell when you are also showing comrades getting blown in half and bleeding out while someone is doing field-surgery under fire.  I don’t care how heroic the portrayals are…
Still, I give this movie a moderate to strong recommendation as a “war” genre movie.  If you liked “Fury“, “Saving Private Ryan“, “Zulu“, “The Longest Day” or “A Bridge Too Far“, you will also “like” this film.  If you are not into the genre, you probably won’t enjoy this film at all.
.
On This Day In:
2021 Families
Every Now And Then
2020 A Message To Optional Trump Supporters (Basically Everyone)
2019 Bigger Jaws
On The Other
2018 Hoping For A Blue Wave In November
2017 Garden Dreaming
2016 Well, Maybe Not “No” Talent
2015 An Appetite For Life
A Trip To The Library
Great Expectations
2014 Pass The Soul
2013 Zapping Music And Art
2012 Not Quite Fantastic
That Kid Is Back
2011 Wolves At The Door
2010 I’m Feeling Patriotic… (Well, more than usual, anyway.)
Beating the Heat…

Read Full Post »

[Yes, this is another looonnnggg post!  You’ve been warned…    —    KMAB]
Background:
Today’s review(s) are for a TV series and movie based on a science-fiction / western style premise.  The show is titled:  “Firefly” (2002).  The movie is titled:  “Serenity” (2005).  Both star:  Nathan Fillion as Captain Malcolm ‘Mal’ Reynolds, Gina Torres as Zoë Washburne (second in command / wife), Alan Tudyk as Hoban ‘Wash’ Washburne (ship’s pilot / husband), Morena Baccarin as Inara Serra (a liscensed “companion”), Adam Baldwin as Jayne Cobb (soldier / weapons expert), Jewel Staite as Kaylee Frye (ship’s engineer / mechanic), Sean Maher as Dr. Simon Tam (ship’s doctor / brother), Summer Glau as River Tam (telepath / enhanced warrior / sister), Ron Glass as Shepherd Derrial Book (ship’s preacher / retired government agent), with Chiwetel Ejiofor (a government “operative”) and David Krumholtz (a futuristic hacker) appearing in the movie (but not in the series).
The basic story-line for both the series and the movie is the same:  Earth has become uninhabitable, so humanity has colonized a new solar system (in the TV series it’s continuously referred to as a new galaxy).  The setting is roughly 500 years in the future.  The planets and moons in the new system have been “Terra-formed” so they support human life.  The planets / moons nearest the sun (the closest together) form an “Alliance” government.  The outer planets revolted and the war ended with the rebels losing.  ‘Mal’ Reynolds was a sergeant in the rebel army and after the war he purchases a spaceship so he is “mostly” beyond the reach of any government.  The ship / crew take any job they can to stay afloat in space.  The ship is an unarmed transport vessel:  “Firefly” class.  (It looks vaguely like an Earth firefly bug who’s rear-end glows.)  The crew is armed with small caliber personal firearms (and some small explosives).
The series runs 14 episodes with the pilot being the longest at roughly 90 minutes and the remaining “hourly” episodes running about 42-45 minutes.
I remember watching a couple of episodes during the original run (back in 2005-6), but I never caught them all before it was cancelled and pulled from broadcast.  A work friend picked up the DVD’s when they came out and as he knew I was a “Trekkie”, he loaned them to me.  I thoroughly enjoyed the series and he said they also had a movie – which he loaned me, too.  I made a mental note to pick up both and I have.  (Side note:  the series DVD’s come with “extras” which your streaming service may or may not include with the series purchase.)
Anyway, I just finished watching both (again).
Firefly”  —  TV series review
If you’ve ever spent ANY time watching American western TV series from the 50s / 60s, the formula is pretty standard.  Weekly episode of the crew doing their transporting of goods around space with occasional petty larceny thrown in.  Like all of the better series, there is an on-going / over-arching story-line to allow for the personal growth of each of the characters.  There is also a surprising amount of well written dialog and humor in the series (and the movie).
The TV series was never a broadcast hit (and as I recall was re-slotted for live sporting events, which almost always hurts a new show’s numbers).  The series was cancelled but has achieved a cult following over the last 20 years.  There was initial talk of restarting the series, but it was reformatted into a movie instead.
Final recommendation:  very highly recommended!!  I have thoroughly enjoyed watching this series (and movie) several times over the years.  Come for the action and special effects and get hooked on the characters and story arcs.  One caution:  There are multiple instances of drinking, swearing and the occasional sex scene (although you never “really” see anything but sweaty arms and backs).
Serenity”  —  movie review
This is a follow-up to the TV series and takes up shortly after the last episode.  The “preacher” and the “companion” have left the ship and the government / Alliance is still trying to recover River Tam.  Chiwetel Ejiofor is the government “operative” sent to bring her back.  He is “licenced-to-kill” and he does – repeatedly – to achieve the objective.
River Tam knows something the Alliance wants kept secret and they are willing to do most anything to get her back / silence her.  The movie is a long series of chases and fights.
Now, both the movie and the TV series are simple entertainment…  They are “Sci-Fi’d” westerns with enough action to keep you entertained and enough plot / character dialog – development to keep you interested.  That’s it…  Don’t expect anything to make sense (scientifically).  Just get your popcorn and get ready to be entertained (not educated).
By the way, the movie doesn’t explain it very well (the series does), so I will:  “Serenity” is the name of the ship – a Firefly-class transport vessel.  The name comes from the famous final battle in the revolt which both ‘Mal’ and Zoë fought in:  “the Battle of Serenity Valley“.
Another point:  in both the series and the movie, it sounds like the cast are speaking some form of Chinese.  They are not.  Some of the individual words are, but much of it is made up to get around the (rating agencies) censorship of cursing / cussing in broadcast TV.
Final recommendation:  (Again) Very Highly recommended!  The movie can stand on it’s own, but you’ll enjoy it more if you watch the full TV series first.  A last note:  the movie was not a BOMB!  It did make back its production cost – but just barely.  The fan base for both versions continues to grow (slowly), and there is “some” talk of Disney doing a re-boot for their streaming service.  Disney bought out FOX movies and now has rights to the IP (“intellectual property”).  Obviously, the original cast are all too old to reappear in their roles (20 years flies by!)
.
On This Day In:
2021 Facing Life
70’s Sunshine Sound
2020 #IncompetentTrump And His Pandemic Briefings
#IncompetentTrump
2019 I Hope So
2018 Painted Into
2017 Prayers, Miracles And Lottery Tickets
Roman View
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

Read Full Post »

Lilies of the Field”  (1963) — movie review
I know.  I know.  I haven’t done very many movie reviews of late…  And, yes, I have been watching (both) movies and streaming series.  Truth be told:  I’ve just been lazy and procrastinating…  (Mea culpa, mea culpa…)
Anyway, today’s review is for the drama (mild comedic moments) “Lilies of the Field” starring Sidney Poitier as Homer Smith, and Lilia Skala as the Head Mother / Sister (that’s Mother Superior to you non-Catholics) Maria.  The movie was nominated for Best Picture;  Skala for Best Supporting Actress and Poitier won Best Actor.  With this win, he became the first African-American male to win for a lead role.  There was a female Oscar winner before him, but her role was “Supporting”, not just “Best”.
The plot is a group of sisters has escaped East Germany and traveled to the United States.  They have inherited a farm, but have no knowledge of farming and only the Mother speaks passable English.  She has been praying to God for someone to help them build a chapel so they (and their parish) can practice their faith (attend Mass and hold Sacraments).  And, along comes Homer…
The rest of the movie is an exposition about the Sisters and Homer and their bonding while building the chapel.
Is the movie any good?  Do I recommend it?  Hmmm…  The movie was up for Best Picture and is currently in the U.S. National Film Registry / Library of Congress designated as:  “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”  I think that’s a:  “YES!!”
Do I recommend it?  Hmmm…  Yes!!
The acting is terrific!  Skala brilliant as the Head Mother and she brought back a LOT of memories of my years in a Catholic grammar school.  (LoL)  Poitier won Best Actor, so there’s not a lot to add to that.
The movie as multiple GREAT scenes:  from Homer’s ordering breakfast at a road-side diner, to Sister Maria’s reaction while the priest is thanking her, to the on-going “insurance” dialogue.  And, of course, no review would be complete without at least a mention of “Amen“…  Homer listens to the sisters singing and they ask him to join them.  He proceeds to teach them a “down-home go to meeting song”, which has become quite famous in cinema.  I was surprised / disappointed to find out (while researching for this review) that Poitier lip-sync’d the song.  It’s a little bit sad, when things you thought you knew (for most of your life) turn out to be incorrect. (LoL)
Final recommendation:  Very Highly recommended!  This is a terrific movie which I have watched multiple times and still find little details to enjoy.  (IMHO – it’s very reminiscent of “Casablanca” and “Inherit the Wind” in this regard.  All classics!  All in black and white.)
.
On This Day In:
2021 I Should Have Started Earlier
To Soothe Your Soul
2020 Let’s Make It So
2019 Today’s Question
2018 A Moment Of Union
2016 Symptoms
2016 Tossers
2015 Hunger
2014 Outside Dependence
2013 Doing Right
2012 A Short Course In Human Relations
If Death Be My Future
Strive
Such A Fool
2011 I’m Working For A Living

Read Full Post »

Take The Lead” (2006)  —  movie review
Today’s review is for the ballroom dance / teaching movie starring Antonio Banderas as Pierre Dulaine (the teacher), Alfre Woodard (the Principal) and Rob Brown (“Finding Forrester“), Yaya DaCosta and Dante Basco (“Blood and Bone“) as some of the “urban” high school students.
The movie follows a standard formula like “Stand And Deliver“, “Freedom Writers“, “Lean On Me” and “Coach Carter“, but with a classical ballroom dance angle – as opposed to Calculus, writing, discipline or basketball.
So, it this movie any good?  Acting?  Dance?  Music?  Is it entertaining?  Well, yes, so-so, mostly yes, mostly yes, and (ultimately) yes.  The movie is shot well so the dancing is mostly in frame and contained.  The exceptions being when there are switches to break-dance and “street” dance.  The acting by the “kids” is mostly better than the “adults”, with Banderas being the best of the adults.  Both the ballroom and the break types are entertaining and visually interesting.  The music is also cross-spectrum and pretty good to excellent.  And, despite some early reservations, I found I enjoyed the movie a lot more than I thought I would.
Two points here:  first, I love to dance, but I’m pretty bad at it.  I used to be okay at the free-form and jumping around stuff, but I lacked the timing and memory to be any good at most forms from square dancing to disco to swing.  But, I do love to watch good dancing almost as much as I like to pretend I can dance myself.  Basically, this means I had a natural inclination to enjoy this film.
Second point:  I am finding myself to be an Antonio Banderas fan.  I’ve seen him in a number of roles over the years, but I’ve mostly been unimpressed or thought, “Yeah.  He was okay in that role.”  This was different.  I’m not sure why, but Banderas sold me on this role and I felt (as predictable and formulaic as this movie was) he lifted it to an enjoyable movie level on the strength of his role.  He made it believable.
Final recommendation:  moderate to strong.  If you like this high-school teacher in the urban school genre, you will like this movie.  If you are indifferent to the genre, but like music and / or dance, you’ll like this movie.  If you have little or no knowledge or experience with ballroom dance, you will get a little appreciation for this type of dance – and that itself is good.  I found it a pleasant enough way to spend almost two hours.
.
On This Day In:
2020 R.I.P. Kobe
2019 Looks A Lot Like #45
2018 Trying To Stay Young
2017 Seems Reasonable To Me
2016 We Can Get Through This Together (In Time)
2015 How Long Is A Piece Of String?
2014 Heathen, n.
2013 Wisdom’s Folly
2012 When The Student Is Ready
Disconnected Leadership
2011 The Complex Richness Of Life

Read Full Post »

Soldier”  —  movie review
Today’s review is of the 1998 action movie, “Soldier“, starring Kurt Russell as “soldier” Sergeant Todd 3465.  We know this because he has “Todd 3465” tattooed on his face.  Whatever…
Okay.  Todd is the product of the selective training of soldiers from “orphaned” youth (i.e. babies).  The film progresses through their aging and training into dispassionate killer soldiers whose only sense of self is tied up in their profession of violence and following orders absolutely without question.  Selected trainees who cannot make the grade are summarily executed, so only the “best” survive.  Todd survives the training and multiple battles / wars to become a “seasoned” veteran.
Along comes the movie bad-guy in the form of West Point graduate Colonel Mekum (played by Jason Isaacs) who brings along a group of replacement soldiers which have been genetically altered to be superior to the previous batch who were “only” a selected, raised and trained batch (which is Todd’s group).
Mekum uses one of his new soldiers (Caine 607, played by Jason Scott Lee) to demonstrate the groups superiority and the new soldier defeats the old in three-on-one combat.  Two are killed and the third (Todd) is presumed dead and all three bodies are disposed of as a “training accident”.  Todd is dumped on a the garbage planet “Arcadia 234”.  Apparently, in the future, we have such a shortage of resources on Earth we have to explore other worlds to survive, but we have such an abundance of energy that we can transport naval aircraft carriers to other planets to dispose of them (along with a host of other laughable items).
Todd wakes up and finds himself injured on this junkyard planet with a bunch of settlers whose re-settlement ship crashed on this planet.  They’ve made due the best they can, but basically live like homeless folks somewhere in southern California – hot, dry with terrible sand storms.  And, of course, they nurse him back to health…
Blah, blah, blah…  Todd discovers his humanity and begins to make friends.
Now, the good Captain wants to give his men some combat experience, so he decides to land on a junk yard planet and kill anyone they may find there.  (Because that’s how all good officers train their new soldiers.)  Of course, the new guys stumble on Todd’s friends and Todd doesn’t take too kindly to his new family being slaughtered.  So, he goes all Rambo (v5, not v1) on the new guys, but he doesn’t have to show any mercy (v1), so he just kills them all (definitely v5).
Blah, blah, blah…  Lots of explosions, fights and killing goes on and Todd kills all of the new guys with the big final set piece / fight scene against – you guessed it – Caine 607 – the last remaining new soldier.  Todd wins, gathers up the settlers and they commandeer the dead soldiers’ space ship and continue to the original settlement location, with everyone lives happily every after.  Well, all except Mekum, who accidentally blows himself (and Arcadia 234) to smithereens.
So, is this movie any good?  Does it work within any of its genres:  Sci-Fi, action-hero, “Escape from New York / LA / Stargate / Arcadia 234”, family protecting killer soldier (I mean hero) versus genetically engineered killer soldiers?  Did I enjoy it and / or find it entertaining?  Well, despite the fact this movie was an absolute bomb at the box office, I would say:  Yes.  Sometimes.  And, yes!  Of course I enjoyed it.  I mean seriously.  Read through that list of genres, again.  Talk about a pitch being in the batter’s wheelhouse!
Seriously.  This is not a very good movie unless you are seeking a simple minded, summer-type, action movie with fights, explosions, special effects, and (“Oh, the humanity of it!“) one emotionally fulfilled killer wiping out a couple of dozen emotionally unfulfilled killers.  Did I mention there are fights, explosions and special effects?  In other words, you paid for “Snake” Plissken, so eat your popcorn ’cause you’re getting “Snake” Plissken.  The movie doesn’t make ANY sense on so many levels, you just have to hit the switch and say:  “Okay, blah, blah blah…  How long until the next fight and explosion”.  On that level, this is actually a pretty good movie and I found myself rooting for Todd and emotionally fulfilled (me, not Todd) when Mekum blows himself up.  Evil fails spectacularly and good is triumphant!!
Final recommendation:  moderate.  This movie never tries to be anything it isn’t and is successful at being what it is:  a pretty good pop-corn and soda / matinee / action-hero film.  Put it this way, I’ve owned this DVD for over 10 years and this is only the third time I’ve viewed it.  Good enough to keep on the shelf and watch again sometime, but not good enough to schedule another viewing in the immediate future.  A final note:  If you are a total film nerd, there are literally dozens of references to other movies (StarTrek, StarWars, Predator, Blade Runner) and many of Russell’s roles from other movies.  Now that you’ve been told this, you HAVE to view the movie just to see if you can find them.  You KNOW you do…  Then go check out the Wikipedia and IMDb pages to see how close you got to their lists.  Caution:  it’ll cost you another viewing or two to confirm who is right.
.
On This Day In:
2021 Happy Thanksgiving (2021)!
When You Get Where You’re Going
2020 Still In School
The First Deuce
Escape From Planet Junkyard
2019 Will John Bolton Testify?
2018 Just Maybe
2017 Police In My Review Mirror
2016 Full And Rich
2015 Go Deeper
2014 Intentional Mapping
2013 The Sweet Path
2012 Living Free And Abolition
Morning Wood
2011 I Resemble That Remark

Read Full Post »

Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb”   —   movie review
Today’s review is for the 1964 “comedy “Dr. Strangelove” starring Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden and Slim Pickens.  This film is directed by Stanley Kubrick and is considered a classic as both a movie and as a comedic movie.  I think it is a “classic”, but I don’t find it particularly funny.  I guess there are a few amusing moments in the movie, but, I found them “almost smile” moments, not “Ha-ha” laugh out loud moments.
This movie was one of two movies to deal with worldwide nuclear war which came out within a twelve month period.  The other was “Failsafe” (which I reviewed here).  In this movie, an American Air Force general (named Jack D. Ripper [LoL!  I get it!] played by Hayden) goes crazy and orders the strategic bombers under his command to attack the U.S.S.R.  All but one of the planes is successfully re-called (or shot down), but with its radio damaged the single jet manages to initiate the end of the world.  This result is because the Soviets have determined they cannot compete with the United States and therefore (instead) developed a “weapon” which will blowup and spread poisonous nuclear fallout around the world destroying all life on the planet.  The fallout cloud is meant to be toxic for a minimum of 93 years.
One of the distinctive things in the movie is that Peter Sellers plays three different characters in the film: the President of the United States, a British Air Force officer assigned to the U.S. air base, and a “crazy” German (ex-Nazi) scientist who advises the Americans in the War Room.  Sellers was originally contracted to play four roles in this film, but he managed to get out of one of them (the bomber pilot) and the role was given to Slim Pickens.  It’s not uncommon for an actor to have multiple roles in a single film, but normally they are passed off as twins or generational relatives or clones.  As far as I know, until Eddie Murphy came along, this was a fairly unique niche which Sellers played in a number of films in his career.
So, if this is a comedy which isn’t funny (to me), is it any good?  Is it entertaining?  Is it worth worth watching?  Yes.  Yes.  And, yes!
As mentioned above, this movie is considered a true “Classic” and has been voted onto the National Film Registry in the Library of Congress.  It makes satirical comments about nuclear weapons, the Pentagon / National Defense, the President, Texan manliness, and the communist plot to neuter the American public via water fluoridation.  (Yes, we even had conspiracy theories in the movies way back then.)
The movie is pretty entertaining with particularly noteworthy performances by Sellers (in all three roles) and by George C. Scott as General Buck Turgidson.  It is easy to see how Scott went from this role to his Best Actor role as General Patton in 1970.
Final recommendation:  Highly!  Both “Dr. Strangelove” and “Failsafe” are anti-war movies.  The former is the mostly unfunny bookend to the tense drama of the latter.  But, both are very good to excellent movies which (I believe) not enough people are aware of, let alone have seen.  In this day and age, where we are just getting past our own “Nightmare In The Oval Office” (aka: #IncometentTrump) and we are almost 30 years from the collapse of the USSR, we (IMHO) have forgotten what horrors could happen if there is a “hot” war with either North Korea or with Iran.  A war may not result in the mutual destruction depicted in this movie, but the results would be frightening to imagine.
Art, just like history, can caution us about the path(s) to not follow if we are wise enough to remember it and to listen to their lessons.
.
On This Day In:
2021 Why We Protect The First Amendment
When A Voice Can Make You Cry
The March Continues…
2020 #45: And State Prison Waits When You Leave Office
I Keep Getting Up
Difficult To Relax
2019 Looking For A Republican With A Profile In Courage
2018 Hammers, Bells And Songs
2017 My Friends
2016 In Need Of Some Work
2015 Elections Have Consequences
2014 An Ear Of Happy Accidents
2013 Powerful Substitute
2012 Heroes Restored
2011 As You Should

Read Full Post »

The Outlaw Josey Wales” — movie review
Today’s review is for the 1976 western “The Outlaw Josey Wales” starring (and directed by) Clint Eastwood in the title role.  Other main characters are:  Chief Dan George as Lone Watie (a friend / companion), Sondra Locke as Laura Lee (Wales’ love interest), Bill McKinney as Captain Terrill (the main bad guy), John Vernon as Captain Fletcher (a Confederate officer who turns traitor to his men), Paula Trueman as Grandma Sarah (a bigoted old lady who mellows by the end of the movie), Sam Bottoms as Jamie (a young Confederate who is saved by and then saves Wales), Will Sampson as Comanche Chief Ten Bears, and Geraldine Keams as Little Moonlight.
 
The basic plot is a farmer turned Confederate soldier’s revenge for a family slaughter by some pro-Union irregulars.  As usual, the bad guys neglect to kill the father (Wales), who learns how to shoot a gun, and then joins the Confederates to fight the Union.  When the war is lost, their leader (Fletcher) betrays the Confederates to the Union soldiers, who in turn, slaughter them – again, all except Wales and a youngster (Jamie) who escape to fight again.
 
Blah, blah, blah…  Wales saves the Indian girl (Little Moonlight), his new Indian friend (Lone Watie), and a Kansas family emigrating to Texas (the Grandma and Laura Lee).  One particularly interesting scene is a meeting / negotiation between Wales and Chief Ten Bears.  In exchange for each other’s lives, Ten Bears agrees to let Wales and his party live.  Wales agrees the Comanche’s can take any cattle they “need” during their annual migration from his herd.  Wales promises to brand his cattle with the “S” (snake sign) sign of the Comanche tribe, so they will know which cattle they can take in peace.  They exchange blood to finalize the agreement.
 
The final battle set piece is Terrill tracking Wales down at the new homestead and Wales team defeating Terrill’s.  Wales then chases Terrill down and kills him (Terrill) to finally avenge his family.  At the end, Fletcher is with two Texas Rangers, but fails to identify Wales to them, so they (Wales and Fletcher) can both start their lives over.
 
So, is this movie any good?  Is it entertaining?  Did I like it?  Yes.  Yes.  And, yes.  This movie is considered a “classic” in the genre (Western / Western revenge).  It’s listed as one of the 100 greatest Westerns of all time.  It’s dirty, grimy, bloody and has the laconic humor we’ve come to expect from “Dirty Harry” – I mean from Clint Eastwood.  As for entertainment, it’s not particularly realistic, but it’s Hollywood war and the good guy is supposed to overcome all odds to win out in the end – right?  (Hint:  he does.)  And, yes, I did like it.
 
A word of caution to family viewers…  This movie is rated “PG” for language, a bit of brief nudity, a couple of covered-up sex scenes and a couple of “almost” rape scenes which may be inappropriate for younger viewers.  The Wales character is supposed to be a loner, because his wife is raped and brutally murdered at the start of the film (aka:  character motivation), so Wales saves the two female companions (Moonlight and Laura Lee) when they are similarly endangered.  I felt the scenes (violence and sex) were appropriate for the movie and the period (1970’s), and pretty similar to Eastwood’s post-“Dollars” trilogy Westerns.
 
Final recommendation:  Strong to highly recommended.  If you are an Eastwood fan (or a wannabe), this is a must see movie.  If you are a Western genre fan, it is still a must see movie.  I found it better than Eastwood’s average in the “Man with no name / Dollars” trilogy, but maybe not quite as good as “Unforgiven“.  I saw some clips (the humor scenes) of this film on YouTube and I missed this film on original release, so I figured it was about time to get around to viewing it.  I’m glad I did and I’m sure I will view it again.  Although, I will probably re-watch “Unforgiven” first.
 
PS:  The title of this post is a misquote from the movie.  Wales (Eastwood) actually says:  “Dyin’ ain’t much of a living, boy.
 
.    
On This Day In:
2021 Does Blogging Count?
  Another Notch
2020 Even Being President For Almost Four Years
  #45: Crying About The American Voters
  Dying Isn’t Much Of A Way To Make A Living Boy
2019 And Autumnal Foliage
2018 Up Hill, Both Ways
2017 Trump Carnivores – The Revolution So Far
2016 Election Results
2015 Speak Louder
2014 Why I Frequently Give In
2013 Am Remembering
2012 Sustained Fear
2011 Commitment
   

 

Read Full Post »

Begin Again”  —  movie review
Today’s review is for the 2013 musical-drama “Begin Again“.  The movie stars Keira Knightley as Gretta James, a songwriter who has recently broken up with her boyfriend, Adam Levine as Dave Kohl, Gretta’s ex-boyfriend and a recently “hit” musician who cheats on Gretta, Mark Ruffalo as Dan Mulligan, a music producer who “discovers” Gretta in a dive-bar on an open mic night, Catherine Keener as Miriam Hart, Dan’s estranged wife – who cheated on him, (sensing a pattern here?), Hailee Steinfeld as Violet Mulligan, Dan and Miriam’s teenage daughter, James Corden as Steve, Gretta’s best friend from England, who has also moved to New York City to seek his fortune, CeeLo Green as Troublegum, a successful rapper who was discovered by Dan and who supports / funds Gretta’s (and Dan’s) album, and Mos Def (credited as Yasiin Bey) as Saul, Dan’s long-time business partner, who has pushed Dan out of their business because he (Dan) turned into an alcoholic flake.
The movie starts with an interesting (but confusing) sequence of Gretta singing and then flashes back to Dan hearing her sing.  This produces the most interesting (to me) scene in the movie where instruments begin to play themselves (much like the mop-cleaning-the-laboratory scene in “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice“) and we get a feeling for what a “gifted” music producer must hear / feel when he is helping to create a “sound” / song.  I’d never seen this done this way before.  Normally, we see producers sliding knobs on a big panel and voila – a hit single.  This was (to me) a truer window into creativity.
Anyway, Gretta and Dan agree to make an album in NYC and most of the rest of the movie revolves around that.  And, it works!  The characters are fleshed out and there is a progression / growth across Dan, Gretta, Miriam (the wife), Dave (the cheating boyfriend), Violet (Dan’s daughter) and Steve (though he’s more in the background).  Spoiler Alert:  the movie ends with one person forgiving an “ex” and starting over together, and one person moving on and starting over on their own.  Hence, “Begin Again“.
So, I already said the movie worked for me.  The two other questions I normally ask / answer are: Was it any good?  And, was it entertaining?  The answer to both is yes.  I will say, I’m not a big Adam Levine fan.  I’ve seen him as some kind of music coach on TV and I guess he used to be the lead singer in a band at some point.  In any case, while his acting was okay, I didn’t think much of his singing performance(s).  Truth be told, I was surprised by Keira’s singing, which was much better than I thought it was going to be.  Not that I would ever pay money to hear her sing on an album, but as part of the movie performance, I thought she was pretty good.  I will add I felt Knightly looks (sadly) a bit anorexic in this film.  I don’t know if it was “just” makeup or if it was really her, but while she is almost always slim, her cheeks were positively hollow in a few closeups.  It was more frightening than attractive (IMHO).  Again, nothing to do with acting or talent, just a comment…
I thought Ruffalo basically steals the movie.  He carried the weight and most of the humor of the movie and he did it well.  Between his roles as the Hulk and some of the other films I’ve seen him in, I’m really becoming a fan.  Steinfeld (the actor who played the daughter) and CeeLo Green were both very good in their respective roles, too.
Final recommendation:  Strong.  A little bit of full disclosure here: I re-watched the BBC and movie version of “Pride & Prejudice” and was discussing Keira Knightley with my sister over the weekend.  I’m trying to get her to read the novel.  She said how much she loves Knightley and that this (“Begin Again“) is one of her favorite movies of all time.  We both agreed about the bar / music “imagination” scene being great and I told her: “Now I have to go back and re-watch the movie.”  The movie is rated “R” for language, but I did not find it egregiously so nor particularly offensive.
Dear Readers:  My apologies for not following up with a review (here) after my initial viewing last year.  To tell the truth, over the last 18 months, I’ve probably watched over 100 movies which I’ve not reviewed due to “life getting in the way.”  That’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it…  I guess I’ll just have to re-watch them and get on with the reviews.  (Darn!)
.
On This Day In:
2019 The Opening Step
Day 17/18: That Didn’t Take Long
2018 I’ll Trade You…
2017 Luv Me Some Meat Loaf
2016 Unless Your Name Is #AmnestyDon
2015 A Tentative First Step
2014 Making People
2013 On Reading Books
2012 On America
2011 Shiver, Me Timbers!
2010 Fiduciary Breakdown

Read Full Post »

Failsafe” — movie review
Today’s movie review is for the 1964 military / political thriller “Failsafe“.  The plot revolves around a falsely identified aircraft entering U.S. airspace and the nuclear destruction which follows.  The premise is that both men and machines can fail when humanity trains specifically for world-wide destruction.
Henry Fonda stars as the (un-named) President of the U.S., a young Larry Hagman of “Dallas” and “I Dream of Jeannie” fame is the translator working for the President, Ed (Edward) Binns is the flight commander attacking Moscow, Frank Overton plays General Bogan (in command of the Strategic Air Command (SAC)), Fritz Weaver plays Colonel Cascio who believes the Soviets are actually attacking and tries to mutiny against Bogan and the President, Walter Matthau plays Dr. Groeteschele, an academic / Pentagon consultant who wants to use the “mistake” to initiate an all-out attack / war against “the Communists”, and Dan O’Herlihy plays General Black (“Blackie”) a college friend of the President who is called upon to bomb New York City to compensate for Moscow and to prevent a full-scale nuclear exchange.
To “understand” the movie, a little historical perspective is required…  In the previous year (1963), the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. faced off in what would come to be known as the “Cuban Missile Crisis”.  As far as we know, this is the closest humanity has ever come to nuclear annihilation. Earlier in the year (1964), another movie of a similar vein (“Dr. Strangelove“), but more of a political / military satire was also released.  Both involved a rogue aircraft destroying a Soviet city.  However, in the first movie, the Soviets have a world destroyer which is activated.  In this movie, the President acts to placate the Soviets and save humanity from destruction.
So, is this movie any good?  Is it realistic?  Is it entertaining?  Yes!  Yes!  And, yes!  The film is an interesting throw-back to the days of the black and white drama.  This role and Fonda’s role in “12 Angry Men” are the two signature roles which I remember Fonda for.  “The Grapes of Wrath” and “On Golden Pond” are both equally memorable, but the former was before my time / interest and the latter was at the very end of his long career (he appeared in over 60 films).  And, of course, in my day, EVERYONE was compelled to view “The Ox-Bow Incident” in high school.  For me, the title is more memorable than the film – of which I have almost no recollection.  (Just sayin’.)
Is “Failsafe” realistic?  Yes, particularly compared to “Strangelove“.  Aside from the B&W filming, the technology was “advanced” for its time and quite well done.  The acting was tense and there were a lot of close, sweaty shots which brought the tenseness which real participants would have felt if we were approaching nuclear war.  An interesting side note:  the Air Force did not want to promote the idea such an event (“mistake”) was possible and therefore refused to participate in production.  The film uses stock footage of planes to depict a fictional bomber and a mixture of other aircraft to represent U.S. and Soviet fighters.
Entertaining?  Yes!  I haven’t seen this film in over 40 years and I could still feel the “moment” of the film.  The number of times you see actors with shaky hands and sweaty forearms really high-lights the nervous energy which the movie conveys with virtually no music score to “artificially” build emotional impact.
Final recommendation:  Very Highly Recommended!  This is a movie which should be viewed widely in America.  In 2020, the world is racing to a different type of annihilation (climate change), but it is important to remember there are multiple nuclear powers in the world and any one of them could initiate the end of humanity through either human or technical failure.  The moral of the story is one of personal responsibility and taking action to ensure nothing like this film portrays ever happens in real life.
.
On This Day In:
2021 Access Is Good
The Sun Is Shining
No Recall
2020 Give Me A Minute To Think About That…
November 3rd Is Coming!
An Eye For An Eye
2019 Is #45 Warning Alabama Again?
Day 11: 49ers Win
2018 Worry (x2)
2017 Still Working
Gold In The Morning Sun
2016 Power Inside
2015 Sometimes I Feel Small
2014 It Slipped Away
2013 Corollary
2012 Working Retired
2011 The Web Is Not Authoritative! (Really?)

Read Full Post »

Dances With Wolves” (1990)  —  movie review
Today’s review is for the epic western directed by and starring Kevin Costner as Lieutenant John Dunbar / Dances With Wolves, Mary McDonnell as Stands With a Fist (his wife / romantic interest), Graham Greene as “medicine man” Kicking Bird, and Rodney A. Grant as Wind In His Hair (Dunbar’s initial antagonist and then friend).  This is a LONG (3 Hrs.) movie about a civil war Union officer who fails to commit suicide during a Civil War battle and instead ends up a war hero.  For his “reward” he is granted any post he wishes (shades of “Top Gun“).  Dunbar asks to be assigned to a post on the far ends of the plains (South Dakota) so he can see the open frontier “before it is gone.”  He is granted his request.
Dunbar ends up in a small post in-between two warring factions of Native Americans (the “good” Sioux, and the “evil” Pawnee).  The post appears to have been destroyed by Indian attack.  Dunbar makes friends with the Sioux and eventually becomes a valued member of the tribe / nation.  Ultimately, Dunbar takes his wife and leaves the tribe as a personal sacrifice because his presence will only bring retribution / retaliation from the Army who are tracking him down for desertion and treason.  The movie ends with a closing note about the end of a free Sioux Nation on the open plains.
So, is this a “good” movie?  Is it entertaining?  Did I like it?  Well, it won “Best Picture” and “Best Director” at the Oscars, so that kind of answers that…  Is it entertaining?  Yes, mostly.  It’s a long movie and you have to be prepared for that (physically and mentally).  You have to watch the movie or you miss subtle dialogue and facial exchanges.  Visually, I found it very reminiscent of “Lawrence of Arabia” with the colors and scenic vistas.  Story wise, I found it very reminiscent of “The Last Samurai“:  U.S. Calvary officer goes native after spending time with the locals and discovering himself.
And, did I like it?  Mostly.  I tend to like my epics with happy endings and a triumphal hero.  This is not that kind of movie.  Although both the hero and the tribe “win” the last battle, the closing screen makes clear the tribe loses its battle for survival (they get confined to a reservation).  There is no mention of what happens to the Dunbar and his wife.  This appears to have been left open as a lead in for a sequel, but Costner doesn’t do sequels, the role has never been recast, and he has made clear his opposition to participation in a sequel.
Final recommendation:  highly recommended!  If you are into the “heroic journey” story, this will be your cup of tea.  It was for me.  The movie was “kind of” a surprise hit.  Westerns had a big fall-off after a number of bombs in the 1970s and 80s, and this movie is credited with breathing new life into the genre.  I like westerns, even if they are rarely realistic portrayals of their periods, so this was a good thing for me.
One last comment:  I have seen some of the parts of this movie over the (last 30) years, but had never seen it straight through from start to finish.  This is my loss.  If you have not seen this movie, but enjoy Westerns, hero’s journeys, or even just epic video story telling, don’t let this be your loss, too.
.
On This Day In:
2019 Imagine If…
2018 How Many Now?
Day 29: Tied (By The Time You Read This)
2017 Earn The Gift
2016 Still Loud
2015 Surprise! No Evidence
2014 Real Ideals
2013 A Happiness Weapon
2012 An Eagle Has Departed
Ummm
And In My Prayers
2011 Welcome Doubt
2010 Talk, Talk, Talk…
Every Day At Least
Democratic Suicide
Pleasurable Reading
Loose Joy
Do, Er, Write – Whatever
This Glorious Company
Relax With A Good Book
Neither Vice Nor Weakness
That’s Rich!
Man Will Prevail!!!
Frankly Speaking to Arizona
Brother By Another Mother

Read Full Post »

Paul” — movie review
Today’s movie review is for the Sci-Fi, buddy, nerdy, road trip, comedy, extra-terrestrial parody / spoof “Paul” which was released in 2011.  The movie was written by and stars Simon Pegg as Graeme Willy and Nick Frost as Clive Gollings – two British friends who have come to America to visit a bunch of UFO sites in the Southwestern United States using an RV.  The two play life-long best of friends.
Along the way, they encounter a “real-life” alien by the name of Paul.  Paul is the alien who crashed in Roswell, New Mexico way back in 1947.  The “alien” was captured by the government and kept in secrecy in Area-51.  After 60-plus years of captivity, Paul gets wind the government feels they’ve gotten all they can from him and now intend to dissect him.  So, of course, he breaks out and tries to go home (shades of “E.T.“).
Seth Rogen is the voice of Paul, who is completely CGI.  Jason Bateman plays one of three FBI agents who are tasked with recovering Paul.  Sigourney Weaver is the head of the agency responsible for Paul and orders him captured or killed.  Kristen Wiig plays a right-wing religious fanatic who is “converted” by Paul.  She is also he love-interest for Pegg / Willy.
The alien is named “Paul” because when he crashed, he inadvertently crushed a young girl’s dog – named, you guessed it, “Paul”.  Blythe Danner plays the adult (60 years older) girl and Paul (the alien) wants to visit her before leaving so he can apologize.
So, is this movie any good?  Is it funny?  Does it work in any of the genres it’s trying to reach?  Yes!  Yes!  And, absolutely – ALL of them.
To be honest, I have not seen most of Pegg’s “big” roles.  Yes, I saw him in Mission Impossible and as Scotty in the three StarTrek re-boots and I thought he was pretty good.  I also saw him as the lead in “Absolutely Anything“, but I never got around to reviewing it (my bad).
Pegg and Frost are the two “live” leads / stars and they are both good to very good in their roles.  None of the acting (or other actors) is exceptional, but the movie works as the sum of its parts, not as a starring vehicle.  With one exception…  Unfortunately for the rest of the cast, but fortunately for the movie, the Rogen voiced Paul absolutely steals the movie in EVERY scene.  Paul is a smoking, drinking, cursing, sarcastic realist with nothing to prove to anyone and he would prefer going home to being autopsied.
Most of the humor is sophomoric, but it ALL works and I thoroughly enjoyed the movie (out-n-out laughed) several times and guffawed / chuckled even more.  I would caution anyone who is shocked by pointless, vulgar language that this is a movie you need to avoid.  I would advise turning on the system censors, but I think you’ll miss too much of the humor as even the cursing is made fun of.  The movie is rated “R” for language, sexual innuendo and drug use (they smoked weed around a campfire).
If you are one of those folks who are into cultural references, this is THE movie for you.  There are dozens, if not hundreds, of references to other movies, news, social trends, etc.  The only thing I’ve seen (recently) that’s been close was “Ready Player One” (which, curiously, I have also never reviewed — my bad, two).
Final recommendation:  Highly!!  The movie is (somewhat) predictable, but it’s a great trip.  In each of its genres it’s like walking up to your favorite roller-coaster:  you know every climb, every drop and twist, but you line up for the ride again because it’s just simple, entertaining, fun.
A final note:  prior to posting this, I have gone back to see some of the reviews of this movie and I am surprised how poorly it was received.  I gather Pegg and Frost are a team who have done some very funny movies in the past (which I have not seen yet) and this is not close to being their best work.  I guess I was just in the mood for some well done (if juvenile) social satire and this punched my ticket for the ride.  In any case, I now have a beacon pointing me to some “good medicine”.  (And after all, laughter IS the best medicine.)
.
On This Day In:
2019 Welcome Home
The Whole Community
2018 The Cells Are Right
Day 19: Broth
2017 Be Responsible
2016 Thinking About November 8th, 2016
2015 Lonely Teardrops
2014 Pleasurable Law
2013 Room For Justice
In The Minds Of Others
2012 Extinction, n.
2011 Snap!

Read Full Post »

Hamilton” —  movie review
Today’s review is for the musical play-cum-film of the 2015 Broadway production “Hamilton“. The play / film was written by the starring actor:  Lin-Manuel Miranda and based on a biography by Ron Chernow titled:  “Alexander Hamilton“.  For those who are not particularly “up” on their U.S. Revolutionary War period history, Hamilton is the face on the ten dollar bills in your wallet.  He was the first Treasury Secretary of the United States and one of the few non-Presidents to appear on U.S. currency.  Anyway, this is a long production (in two parts with an intermission break), so you have to be ready with a comfortable chair.
Other actors / characters include:  Leslie Odom Jr. as Aaron Burr (the man who duels and kills Hamilton); Phillipa Soo as Eliza (Shuyler) Hamilton (his wife); Christopher Jackson as George Wahington, Daveed Diggs in a dual role of Marquis de Lafayette and (more importantly) as Thomas Jefferson; Renée Elise Goldsberry as Angelica Schuyler (Hamilton’s sister-in-law); and Anthony Ramos as Philip Hamilton (Alexander’s son), who also dies in a duel.
Before I get much into my direct comments about this film, I have a few disclaimers:
1)  I don’t really LIKE plays or live performances of musicals (in general).  I haven’t been to many in my lifetime and most of what I have been to, I’ve enjoyed enough to feel the money was well spent, but I don’t recall ever thinking:  “Wow!  I wish I could watch that again tomorrow or next week“.  Now, in fairness to these productions:  I DON’T like crowds!  I can tolerate them, but I don’t like them.
2)  I knew little to nothing about Alexander Hamilton prior to watching this film / musical. I started to read a book about him and James Madison, but never made it past the first fifty pages or so.  It was enough to jump-start me into this production, but I don’t “really” know how much was fact and how much was tabloid history.
3)  I’m not real big on “interpreting” history in modern terms.  I’m not a fan of rap or hip-hop style “singing” in movies (or in general) let alone in plays relating historic events.
Having said all of that, what did I think?  Was it any good?  Was I entertained?  Did I learn anything?
First, I think Miranda is VERY talented, if not brilliant.  He has stage presence and was definitely able to carry the starring load with his singing.  To think he also wrote the music and lyrics is particularly noteworthy as I’ve always thought of music, lyrics and performance as three fairly different skill sets.  I felt, however, that most of his tunes were songs and not raps – which may be why I liked them.
Second, Leslie Odom Jr. (as Burr) practically steals the stage with every song.  The camera loved him and (IMHO) he was the best performer in the production.  Again, though, my impression was his tunes were songs and not raps.  I’m beginning to sense a theme here.
Third, Soo and Goldsberry were okay – again more singing than rap.  I was not impressed with Diggs in either of his roles or Ramos in either of his.  I do not believe Jefferson was a clownish buffoon, which was the impression I got from this production.  I found it equally interesting that Washington was portrayed with extreme dignity in the entire production.
Final recommendation:  strong to highly recommended!  I would like to see this made as a “real” movie without songs and with serious acting instead of as a musical.  If it gets remade as a musical (at some point), I would like it re-done with typical movie type sets instead of the single set stage with minor modifications.  I’m not sure why, but I found the use of the single set even more distracting than the rap / hip-hop.
This movie / production is well worth viewing as a history lesson in its own right.  To the extent it reaches a younger population with its trendier musical style, well, as someone who loves learning about history, that’s a trade-off I’d make any day.  My take-away (what I learned) was about Hamilton’s burning desire to make something of himself and to make a mark on history.  It was interesting to me that Burr was portrayed not as someone seeking to make history, but rather as someone who simply wanted to be present when history was made.  Burr passion was just to be “in the room”.  Again, without knowing more about both men, I don’t know if my impression is historically accurate.
One final note:  both of my daughters have seen the live productions and my oldest was anxious to get me to listen to the music in advance of the play / movie.  Both have also listened to the songs repeatedly – maybe not quite to the point of memorizing them, but pretty close.  I feel as if this (going back and listening to the lyrics) is something I need to spend some time doing as I don’t feel I got much from the lyrics as a first time viewer and listener.
.
On This Day In:
2019 Tragedy
2018 The Beam In Your Eye Adds Up
Day 18: My Body Mass Index (BMI)
2017 Open Your Eyes (And Your Heart)
2016 Privilege Too…
2015 Otherwise Obscured
2014 Fundamentals
2013 Proof – ing
2012 Deluge, n.
2011 Hail, Caesar!
Why Were You Sent?

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: