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Archive for the ‘Movie Review’ Category

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!)
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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

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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.
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On This Day In:
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?)

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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.
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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

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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.)
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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!

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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.
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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?

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Ip Man 4: The Finale — movie review
Today’s review is for the 2019, third sequel and fourth episode of the Ip Man series starring Donnie Yen in the title role.  Ip Man is the semi-legendary sifu (teacher) of Wing Chun kung fu to the martial-artist / movie-TV personality Bruce Lee.  The first three editions showed Ip Man leading up to and through World War II and the invasion of China by Japan.  This “final” episode revolves around Ip Man being diagnosed with Cancer and taking a trip to San Francisco to try to find a school for his teen-age son.
While in San Francisco, Ip Man must deal with Chinese who are prejudiced against white Americans, Immigration and Naturalization Officials who are prejudiced against Chinese and a racist Marine Gunnery Sergeant who is a “master” of Karate.  His black belt level is unstated.
Basically, the story is a father learning to have faith in his son’s choices and learning to be able to express his love to his son.  Of course, being a martial arts movie, most of the plot is to get us from one fight set piece to the next — and there are quite a few set pieces.
As mentioned above, Donnie Yen reprises his lead role from the three earlier films.  Scott Adkins is the racist Marine Sergeant Barton Geddess.  Vanness Wu is the “good-guy Chinese” Staff Sergeant Hartman Wu trying to incorporate Chinese boxing (Kung Fu) into the Marine physical training.  Danny Kwok-Kwan Chan plays Bruce Lee.  Yue Wu plays Wan Zong Hua, the head of the Chinese Benevolent Society and Vanda Margraf plays Wan Yonah (Wan’s daughter).  Yonah experiences a racist attack at school and Ip Man comes to her rescue.  She “teaches” Ip Man how to “correctly” view his own son’s actions / attitudes.
So, is this movie any good?  Is it entertaining?  How about the martial arts / action sequences?  Yes, mostly.  Yes, mostly.  And, pretty good to very good.  I’m not sure why, but a great deal of this movie deals with racism.  Obviously, this is not an “American” issue which has gone away in the fifty-plus years since this period piece movie was placed (1964), but it was not clear to me why this was actually done – except possibly as a reaction to real-time events (2017 to present) of trying to present a heroic Chinese figure versus a racist American bully.  (Gee, I wonder who that might represent? Trump and MAGA, perhaps?)  Anyway, it makes the movie come across as alternatively very emotional and then very flat.  Being perfectly honest, it is really Donnie Yen’s screen presence which has carried the series and he again does the job in this edition.  Is the movie entertaining?  Honestly, (again) only if you like watching martial arts choreography.  The movie does (mostly) get you from fight “A” to fight “B” to fight “Z” and that’s pretty much the bar setting on this type of movie (for me).  Every once in a while you’ll get a “martial arts” movie which is a “Hero” or a “Crouching Tiger”, but they are exceptions rather than the rule.  That is why we remember them.  This is no different from our “Rocky” or “Rambo” or “Terminator” series’.  You’re not going to them to see Oscar worthy performances.
Now, the choreography, though, that’s a different thing altogether.  I would say this sequel is the best since the original.  If you are a “wire” fan, this will not be a “great” movie for you.  I am not a “wire” fan.  I like to see the close-in, hand-to-hand (with some kicks and throws) fighting.  Here, the movie excels because it moves away from the Ip Man fights / defeats 10 or 30 opponents and sticks with classic one-on-one fights with reasonable close and full-body shots when the action warrants. I thoroughly enjoyed the “dances”.
Final recommendation: strong to highly recommended!  Come for the action, stay for the action.  And, in between, well, mostly flat story line which tries to move you as smoothly as it can between action.
For any historians: I don’t believe any of the four films have much basis in fact.  I doubt Ip Man fought a Japanese General (I), a heavy-weight Western-style professional boxer (II), a Mike Tyson type Western gangster (III) or, if he even made a trip to America (IV) and ended up fighting someone in the U.S. military.  The point is, Ip Man was a master instructor in his style (Wing Chun) and he taught Bruce Lee.  All the rest is pretty much super-hero stuff for it’s entertainment value.  It’s only a movie, folks.  But, this is an enjoyable addition to the series.
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On This Day In:
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

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Dune” (1984)  —  movie review
With the release of the 2020 version of this movie due out “soon”, I decided to go back and look at the earlier version for perspective.
The 1984 version is directed by David Lynch and stars Kyle MacLachlan as Paul Atreides (the hero and main character), Francesca Annis as Lady Jessica (the hero’s mom), Jürgen Prochnow as Duke Leto Atreides (the hero’s dad), José Ferrer as Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV (the “real” main villain), Kenneth McMillan as Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (the villain with the most screen time), Everett McGill as Stilgar (the leader of the Fremen of Arrakis), Sean Young as Chani (Stilgar’s daughter and the hero’s love interest), Alicia Witt as Alia (the hero’s younger sister), Paul L. Smith as The Beast Rabban (henchman #1), Sting as Feyd Rautha (henchman #2, who has a duel with the hero at the end), Patrick Stewart as Gurney Halleck (one of the hero’s teacher’s / trainer’s), Dean Stockwell as Doctor Wellington Yueh (a traitor to the House Atreides), and Max von Sydow as Doctor Kynes (the Freman who first thinks Paul is their “messiah”).  Whew!!
The movie is a pretty standard hero’s discovery plot with a browbeating religious overtone thrown-in for the heck of it.  There’s a bad Emperor who is playing to main families off against each other and using a “spice planet” (Arrakis) as the golden ring.  The spice has something to do with enhancing your ability to “see” the universe and to fold space so trips across the galaxy / universe are instantaneous.  The Altreides family are the good guys and the Harkonnen family are the evil guys.  The only planet (Arrakis) where you can get the spice is a desert world of heat, sand and giant “worms” which burrow through the sand / desert.  (This strangely reminded me of the movie “Tremors” from 1990, and which is MUCH better movie.)
Anyway, the “Fremen” of Arrakis are awaiting a leader who will free them from the Emperor, blah, blah, blah.  And, along comes Paul.  A LOT more blah, blah, blah and Paul rides a worm, leads the Fremen, big staged knife duel with Sting and happily ever after.
Is this movie any good?  Does it do justice to the book?  Was it entertaining?  No, NO!!, and barely.
I read a couple of books in the Dune series (written by Frank Herbert) and, certainly the first book “Dune” is considered a “CLASSIC” in Science Fiction, space fiction, combat fiction and probably a couple of other “fiction” categories as well.  The first book (out in 1965) created a “universe” which the rest of the series builds on, but it (the first book) is bed rock.  As mentioned, I read them back in my very early 20’s, so back between 1975 and 1980 – when I was far more impressionable (Ha, ha).  I saw this movie when it came out and was extremely disappointed.  I have seen a few bits of it on YouTube, but never re-watched it (until today).  It has not improved with age.
I’m not sure if the book was too big (i.e. “Lord of the Rings“), or the movie suffered from poor vision by the director / producers, or just bad writing and acting, but the movie is plodding and  the story / plot poorly communicated and pretty badly acted.  So, no, the movie does not do justice to the book.
But, is it entertaining?  Well, other than the interpretation of the giant worms, no.  I found myself looking for the actors to see who I recognized from other roles and trying to place them.  When a movie is a little over two hours long and it feels like it’s well over four hours long, it’s either REALLY good or not so much…  (Understatement!)
Final recommendation: Poor movie.  Not a BAD movie, but it should have / could have been SO much better.  This movie pretty much ruined me for MacLachlan and I’ve hated Sting in everything I’ve ever seen him in – including most of his music videos (who’s early music – “The Police“, not his solo stuff – I mostly enjoyed).  I sure hope the re-make is better.  Fortunately, this version has set the bar pretty low.
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On This Day In:
2019 Not Enough
2018 One Thing We Do Know
2017 Preservation
2016 Going Back
2015 Just For Today
2014 Reaching For Destiny
2013 Still Just Passing Through
2012 Live Or Die
2011 On Secession
2010 A Rocky Weekend

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The Getaway” (1972)  —  movie review
Today’s review is for the fourth film in my “Steve McQueen Collection“.  The movie is “The Getaway” with McQueen starring as Carter “Doc” McCoy, Ali MacGraw as his wife Carol McCoy.  The bad guys are Ben Johnson (as corrupt Texas business man, Jack Beynon) and Al Lettieri (as criminal / gunman, Rudy Butler).  The movie is “supposed” to be an action thriller / chase movie, but really it’s a love story with the poorly done action scenes thrown in to speed up the pace (I guess).
Pretty simple plot: criminal genius (Doc) is in prison pining away for his wife.  She visits and he tells her to contact the big shot baddie to get him (Doc) out.  She does.  He does.  Doc gets picked up by his wife at the gate and immediately begins asking if she’s been unfaithful during his four years in the joint.
Doc meets with baddie (Beynon / Johnson) to repay the favor by doing a job (robbing a bank).  The job goes bad and Doc and wife are on the run.  Blah, blah, blah…  mostly unbelievable stuff happens.  Beynon tells Doc his wife slept with him (Beynon) to get him (Doc) out of prison.  More mostly unbelievable stuff happens.  The two baddies die.  The couple decide they love each other and escape to Mexico with the cash.  Who says crime doesn’t pay?
So, is this movie any good?  As a “action” movie?  As a love story?  Ehh, so-so.  Not really.  And, no.  I didn’t think much of this film and, while I realize it’s dated, the effects seem cheezy even for that time.  Even worse, the action wasn’t very action-ie.  It’s hard to believe this movie was the second highest grossing movie of the year!
What about the “love story”?  Sorry, I just didn’t feel it.  There were very few scenes where there was any chemistry between McQueen and MacGraw – all the more surprising because McQueen was getting divorced and he married MacGraw in real life the next year (1973).  I don’t know, maybe it’s just that I’ve never particularly liked MacGraw.  The ending scene is the only one were I believed I liked her acting.  So, it wasn’t all bad, but as I said above, I just didn’t feel it between the two leads.
Final recommendation: moderate (at best).  There are probably a half-dozen other movies with McQueen which I would have preferred in the four-pack, but three out of four was pretty good for the discount price I paid for the set.
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On This Day In:
2019 Voices Of The Past
2018 Sunrises, Rainbows And Newborn Babies
2017 Untold Agony
2016 Just Borrowed
2015 Warning
2014 Always More Productive
2013 Is Not
2012 Loosely Translated
2011 Your Opinions Are Not My Facts

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The Cincinnati Kid”  —   movie review
Today’s movie review is for the 1930’s / Depression era, stud poker drama “The Cincinnati Kid” (1965) starring Steve McQueen as Eric “The Kid” Stoner, Edward G. Robinson as Lancey “The Man” Howard, Karl Malden as Shooter (the main card dealer), Ann-Margret as Melba (Shooter’s wife), Tuesday Weld as Christian Rudd (the “Kid’s” girlfriend), Joan Blondell as Lady Fingers (the secondary card dealer, and Rip Torn as Slade (a wealthy rich southerner).
Set in Depression era New Orleans, the movie revolves around “The Kid’s” attempt to become “The Man” (the champion) in stud poker.  This is the position / title currently held by Robinson’s character Howard.  Basically, Shooter deals a game between Howard and Slade where Slade looses badly.   (Famous quote:  “Son, all you paid was the looking price.  Lessons are extra.“)  While dealing the game, Shooter engages Howard to play the Kid.  Howard agrees.  Slade, who wants to get even with Howard, extorts Shooter to fix the game.  The game is played and Howard ultimately wins with a devastating hand (inside straight-flush) over a full house.  (Wikipedia says the odds of this happening are in the hundreds of billions to one.)
There are side story lines about the personal relationships between Shooter and his wife Melba, the Kid and his girlfriend, and the Kid and Melba.  Howard cautions the Kid during a break in the game to avoid relationships because they distract from this career they have chosen.  He recommends just having flings on the side / in-between games which will naturally peter out when the gambler moves on to the next venue.
This movie is widely considered as among the best of all the poker playing genre, but not necessarily the best of all the gambling genre.  It is widely compared (unfavorably) to “The Hustler” as a distant second / reminiscent / poor remake.  I have seen “The Hustler” (1961), but not in fifty odd years, so I can’t honestly say this is true, but I generally prefer Paul Newman to McQueen, so it probably is accurate.  They are both gambling movies with the young handsome up-and-comer trying to upset the old-lion, so I can see the comparison.
Is this any good?  Was it entertaining?  The answer to the first is that I found it more “interesting” than good.  Too much drama and not enough action for my tastes.  But, yes, it is an entertaining drama – in the classic old Hollywood sense (acting, character and plot development).
I enjoyed seeing the setting of New Orleans in the 1930’s.  I enjoyed the funeral band and the jazz club scene.  Right up until the very end, McQueen is consummate “cool”.  But throughout the movie – and particularly at the end – Eddie G. just smokes him in every scene!!  Robinson is the epitome of the alpha-male.  This movie is worth seeing just to gain an appreciation of him and his acting ability – without the hammy gangster-ism of some of his earlier / younger roles.
Final recommendation: strong to highly recommended.  I am not a poker player, so the game scenes did not have much appeal to me.  I have personally only played (for money) once in my entire life – although I have watched it on TV a few times.  I “really” didn’t find that interesting either.  Anyway, as an old-style drama with character acting / development and two stars bringing their “A”-game, this is a movie worth viewing.
Two other points worth mentioning…  The first point is there is a cock-fight scene in the movie which doesn’t show “much”, but would simply not be allowed in today’s cinema.  While not showing the death blows, it shows enough to make the movie problematic for young viewers.  The second point is the five main supporting characters (in no particular order).  I am not a fan of Karl Malden, but I must admit to being surprised by his acting in this role.  He is very good.  I am even less a fan of Rip Torn, but he made a surprisingly effective “bad southern guy”.  I was very disappointed by Ann-Margret in this role.  Considering she was not yet 25 years old during the filming, she looked too old to play the young tramp wife married to the older unsuccessful gambler (Malden).  Obviously, she’s attractive, but she just didn’t have “it” in this role (for me).  Weld made for an appealing (but extremely forgettable) ingénue in this movie.  Although a very familiar name who has appeared in a number of films and TV series, I struggle to remember her in any role (and most of the films / series).  And, finally, Joan Blondell!!  She hits it out of the park!  Considering she is in her mid-50’s during this film, she is FAR more sassy / attractive / interesting than Ann-Margret or Weld who are both 30 years her junior.  She steals EVERY scene she appears in – including when matched up head-to-head with Robinson.  She was nominated for a Golden Globe for this role and she is worth the price of admission herself.
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On This Day In:
2019 Live It
2018 Mostly Unconsciously For Most People
Desperately Ginger Lass
2017 Explaining My Equally Meager Results
2016 Every Tool And Every Chance
2015 Something That You Love
2014 Not Really At All
2013 Listening And Deserving
2012 I’m Still Not Certain
2011 True, False And Useful

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Papillon” (1973)  —  movie review
Today’s review is for the prison / escape historical drama “Papillon“, starring Steve McQueen in the title role as Henri Charrière (aka: Papillon) and Dustin Hoffman as his friend and fellow prisoner Louis Dega.  Papillon is french for “butterfly”, which is the medium size tattoo character he has on his chest.  He has been sentenced to life without parole for murdering a pimp.  He insists he is only a safe-cracker and that he was framed for the murder.  The Dega character has been sentenced for forgery and embezzlement.
Before I forget to mention it, there is an outstanding supporting role of a prison warden (for solitary confinement) played by William Smithers.  In this movie, the system is the villain, but he makes an exceptional focal point for the “system”.
They get on a ship from France to French Guiana / Devil’s Island.  Papillon saves Dega’s life and contracts to protect Dega in exchange for Dega funding Papillon’s escape.  After several acts of bravery, Dega trusts that Papillon is a true friend and probably innocent of his conviction for murder.
Blah, blah, blah…  Brutality, betrayal, torture, escape attempt, solitary, torture, betrayal, solitary…  you get the point.  There are three things to take from this film: man’s inhumanity towards our fellow man; friendship; and, the indomitability of some men’s spirit.  In the end, Papillon escapes and “outlives” his prison.
So, is this movie any good?  Is it entertaining?  Is it worth seeing?  If you are a fan of either McQueen or Hoffman, I believe this movie is a MUST see.  McQueen plays a different role /character than normal – he doesn’t settle for “cool”.  He acts.  Hoffman really “just” plays Hoffman, but he does it very well and it’s kind of a mini-display of many of his doddering roles in other films.  That sounds like a put-down, but it’s not meant in that spirit.
Is it an entertaining movie?  No.  Try as I might to find joy in the progress and eventual success, I did not.  The movie is just too long and there is only so much punishment you can watch before you start to feel victimized too, and I don’t watch movies to feel victimized (too).  I won’t say it was boring.  It just felt plodding.
Is it worth seeing?  Again, it depends…  It is supposed to based on a real life experience, it does have two good actors in two above average performances, and finally, it is a story about perseverance and the triumph of the human spirit.  So, yeah, I guess it is “worth” viewing.
Final recommendation: moderate.  The acting is good.  The end result of the movie is satisfying (spoiler: he gets away).  But the movie really just felt almost as suffocating as the prison, so it would be hard to give it a higher rating.
Two final notes:  First, there has been a remake, in 2017, but the reviews were pretty bland, so I’m not sure I’d spend another two hours on this story.  And, second, I don’t remember this “movie”, but I feel as if I definitely must have seen it before because I distinctly remembered the last ten minutes (the satisfying bit of the movie).   Coconuts, anyone?
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On This Day In:
2019 Insha’Allaha Bukra
No More Tears (Or Fog)
Too Busy Thinking About My Baby
2018 Lost Time
2017 Are You Talking To Me?
2016 Here, Desire Is Purified
2015 Hopefully Just Visiting
2014 Fond Memory?
2013 Distress, Hope, Trust
2012 Creating Interlocking Fragility
2011 Four Stories And A Gospel
What Have You Burned Lately?

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Bullitt” (1968)  —  movie review
Today’s review is for the 1968 cop movie “Bullitt“, starring Steve McQueen in the title role as homicide Lieutenant Frank Bullitt.  The film also stars Jacqueline Bisset as Cathy (the girlfriend), Don Gordon as the partner (homicide Detective Delgetti), Robert Vaughn as US Senator Walter Chalmers, Simon Oakland as the gruff voiced boss (Captain Sam Bennett) and (in an early role) Robert Duvall as Weissberg (a cab driver).  There’s also a bunch of bad guys (who cares).
The basic plot is a some guy is running from the mob in Chicago.  He flees to San Francisco.  He is “made” by a doorman at a hotel and the mob sends a couple of professional contract hitmen to kill the runner.  We are introduced to the star and his partner.  Bullitt meets a big money / sleazy politician (Vaugh / Chalmers) and is assigned to protect a witness over the weekend until a Senate hearing on Monday.  The witness is (of course) the runner.
The protection goes south and the witness and the cop protecting him are shot.  The witness (ultimately) fatally.  Bullitt smells a rat and bends the rules to keep the case open.  Blah, blah, blah…  BIG car chase – for which the movie is FAMOUS.  The two killers are dead, but Bullitt feels the case still stinks and continues to work it (this time, with permission).
Blah, blah, blah…  Bullitt chases and kills the runner at the airport.  The END.
OK.  There are really only three reasons to see this film:  1) you are interested in seeing police movies from 50+ years ago.  2) you really are interested in checking out “Mr. Cool” aka Steve McQueen.  And,  3) the CHASE.  Did I mention the “chase” is over ten(10) minutes long and “visually” covers most of San Francisco?  No, in reality the areas filmed are not really contiguous, but what the heck…  IT is a GREAT chase scene!!
Final recommendation: strong recommendation.  This is considered a classic movie JUST because of the lead (McQueen) and the car chase, so normally I’d give it a “highly to must see” recommendation, but it’s really not that good a movie.  To me, the plot doesn’t make a lot of sense (even if it goes out of the way to hit you with plot checkpoints) and it is particularly unsatisfying.  The “real” bad guy in the movie is Senator Chalmers and nothing happens to him.  So, loose threads and no resolution.
Why “strong” then?  I like Steve McQueen as a big star in a number of films from when I was growing up, not the least of which are: “The Magnificent Seven” and “The Great Escape“.  And then, of course, there is “The Chase“.  Just as a bit of personal trivia / nostalgia, shortly after the movie, one of our local TV news stations shut down the block I was living on (a big hill in SF) and recreated the chase with one of their reporter cars jumping the intersections to “follow the news”.  It was cool to see our house on TV for months as this commercial was rebroadcast.  And, finally, if you watch this film, it’s easy to see where “Dirty Harry” (1971) comes from.
So, come for the “cool” and stay for the CHASE!
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On This Day In:
2019 True Piety
2018 I Would, Too (A music-video for all)
2017 100th Day (of the Trump Presidency)
Both Unlucky
2016 Or Blog
2015 Stretched Today?
2014 Outta Here
2013 Getting Words Right
2012 There’s A New Dog In Town
Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is
2011 A Conservative Is…

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Fury” (2014) — movie review
Today’s review is for the World War II action / drama “Fury” starring Brad Pitt as Staff Sergeant Don “Wardaddy” Collier, Shia LaBeouf as Boyd “Bible” Swan, Logan Lerman as Norman “Machine” Swan, Michael Peña as Trini “Gordo” Garcia and Jon Bernthal as Grady “Coon-Ass” Travis.  The movie gives the impression that it is all happening in a single day, but that seems improbable (if not impossible), but whatever.  It is late in the war, the Germans are on the verge of defeat, and four of the five main characters have been together for three years fighting and surviving.  The exception is Lerman’s character Norman / “Machine” who is a raw recruit brought up as a last minute replacement.  He was supposed to be a clerk / typist and knows nothing about fighting a war or manning a tank.
“Fury” refers to the nick-name the crew has painted on the barrel of the the tank’s main gun.
The movie follows the tank through a day of “war-is-hell”.  There are several battles, multiple random deaths, lots of gore, violence, and cursing and two implied sexual relations.  And then we have the main battle, where the tank doesn’t actually fight against another tank.  The tank is disabled at a critical road intersection and the men have an option to abandon the vehicle or stay and risk their lives in defeat in an upcoming battle against a several companies of SS-troops.  Pitt’s character chooses to stay and fight, but he gives his permission to the others to leave.  They also choose to stay / fight / die.
So, a movie which starts out as a morality play about the horrors of war and its debasing of the human spirit then reverts into a heroic / mythic journey with the “hero” leader (Pitt) staying behind to struggle against impossible odds to make a difference in the war (and to defend his emotional home).
Is this movie any good?  Is it an accurate depiction of combat?  Is it at least entertaining?  I found this movie to be very good as an action / war movie.  Yes, it is gory and some of the violence is random, but both of these things are by design / intent.  Real war IS hell and it can be heart-breakingly random.  If you thought the opening beach scene was “good” movie making, then you’ll almost certainly enjoy most (if not all) of this movie, because that’s pretty much what you get for almost two hours.
Final recommendation:  Strong to highly recommended movie.  If you can get past the gore and the profanity – it’s “R” rated and obviously not for folks with a weak stomach – I think you’ll find a lot of pretty good to very good acting.  And, by that I mean ALL five of the main actors do a great job in these roles.  There are telling glances, flinches and all out emotional confrontations. Heroes don’t always have a happy ending to their story, but that doesn’t detract from their effort to do their duty.  I would add one qualification:  the movie stands on its own, but to “really” understand it you will need to watch the deleted scenes.  They provide a lot of character background info which I hope will someday in the future be integrated into a “Director’s Cut”.
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On This Day In:
2019 The Ones Worth Remembering, Anyway
Boot Edge Edge (My New T)
2018 To Reach The Next Threshold
2017 Streaking Tales
2016 Singular Reality
2015 He Says It’s Hard To Get There From Here
2014 Question From A Founding Father
2013 Make Heroes
2012 See And Hold
2011 Am Not, Are So

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Today’s review is for the 2019 Rom-Com / Rock-Musical “Yesterday” starring Himesh Patel and Lily James.  Patel plays Jack Malik – a small-time songwriter / performer and James plays his part-time manager Ellie Appleton.  Jack “works” in real-life as a clerk at a warehouse style retail store.  Ellie’s real-life job is as a Maths teacher in middle-school.
After a string of failed performances, Jack decides to quit music and go back to being a teacher, himself.  He leaves Ellie to ride his bike home and along the way, the world shuts down for 12 seconds.  During that time, Jack is struck by a bus at a darkened intersection.  He wakes up in the hospital getting visited by Ellie.
At a hospital release party, Ellie presents Jack with a guitar to replace the one destroyed in the bus collision.  Jack plays the Beatles song, “Yesterday” and his friends surprise him by not recognizing the song and believing Jack wrote the song.
Jack’s life dream is to just once get cheered by a crowd at one of his performances.  Jack realizes he can “create” the Beatles songs and thus become rich and famous.  So, he does.
Blah, blah, blah, (actually great music and a few funny scenes) Jack realizes it is true love (and Ellie) that he really wants and not fame and wealth.  He also doesn’t want credit for songs he never wrote.
Because the “Beatles” never became famous, John Lennon lives into old age and Jack meets him to discuss life and philosophy.  The message is (IMHO) very much John Lennon: “Tell the one you love that you love them and tell the truth as often as you can.”
So, is this movie any good?  Yes, well, it’s entertaining and works for me!  The music?  It’s the Beatles – Duh!!  The acting?  The acting is pretty good to very good.  The story?  I didn’t really feel a “connection” between Patel and James, but it was close enough to be almost believable.  The key is the story…  No.  It is not at all believable, but it still works in a quirky rom-com way.  It has moments and lines which I found quite amusing.  Not “ha-ha” laughing funny, but amusing funny.
Final recommendation: strong to highly recommended.  Being an “older” person, the Beatles music has had a big impact on my life.  They were never my favorite group back in the 60’s, but their music and influence were always present.  As such, I admit to total bias in this review.  The movie portrays two additional people as remembering the Beatles and when they meet Jack they tell him they have no grudge against his taking credit for the Beatles music because they are just happy to have it (the music) back in their lives.  If this movie brings the Beatles to a new generation of music lovers, I can live with a bit of lack of credibility in a story line.  Don’t think about the plot’s paradoxes too much.  Just enjoy the movie for what it is – a Rom-Com with great music.
One quote from the movie that particularly tickled me:
Jack wants to fly from Los Angeles to Liverpool for inspiration and is asked: “What does Liverpool have that LA doesn’t?
Jack’s answer: “Mo Salah, Cilla Black, mushy peas, rain…
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On This Day In:
2019 An Epitaph For #45 (#LyingDonald)
2018 Before And After
2017 Verbs
2016 Not Too Tidy
2015 Little Understanding
2014 Open Early
2013 Movies And A Lifetime Of Lyrics
This Truth
2012 Cheaper To Hold
2011 Resistance Is Futile
One Great, One Enjoyable, One Terrible…
Unfortunately, No Approval Is Required

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Today’s movie(s) review is for each / both the “Midway” movies – the first from 1976 and the second from last year (2019).  Both movies are “epic” war movies with ensemble casts.  Both try to give a “feel” for each combatant (Japanese and American).  And, both are – at best – mediocre in terms of popular and professional reviews.  Anyway, here goes…
Midway (1976) — movie review
This film is almost entirely a male cast.  The only significant female role is Christina Kokubo playing the fiance of a (fictional) naval pilot.  The movie hosts a number of (for that time) big name movie stars on both sides of the battle lines, including: American side: Charlton Heston, Henry Fonda, James Coburn, Glenn Ford, Ed Nelson, Hal Holbrook, Robert Mitchum, Cliff Robertson, and Robert Wagner; and, Japanese side: Toshiro Mifune, James Shigeta, Pat Morita, John Fujioka, and Robert Ito.  With the possible exception of Pat Morita, who played Mr. Miyagi in the “Karate Kid” movie series, most of these actors will (probably) be unknown to anyone under 30 years of age as most have been dead or retired for over 20 years.
This movie has two basic story lines.  The main one, of course, is the naval battle.  The second, which I guess is meant to create character sympathy, is a fictional story about a father and son who are naval pilots and their “family issues”.  Other than the overly-strict father (Heston) trope common to military movie / stories, there is also the introduction of an inter-racial love story between a Japanese-American young lady (Kokubo) who is about to be incarcerated (internment for the war) with her family, who is also not allowed to marry the son / naval pilot (played by Edward Albert).
The movie incorporates a lot of stock footage from World War II, most of which is not from the actual battle.  Anyway, the “Battle of Midway” is widely considered the turning point of the naval battles in the Pacific theater.  It marked a decisive victory for the Allied forces from which the Japanese forces never recovered.
As a small point here…  In my humble opinion, the Battle of the Coral Sea (which is mentioned in both movies) was actually the turning point, but it was not a “decisive” U.S. victory, so history almost unanimously ranks Midway as the more significant battle.
So, is this movie any good?  Is it entertaining (even if not entirely accurate)?  Why is it considered “blah” by viewers and reviewers?  I have distinct memories of first seeing this movie at a theater, so I viewed it while I was in the Army (1974-1978).  I mention this to answer the third question first.  In the 1970’s, the U.S. was just getting out of Vietnam and there was a significant amount of backlash against our participation there and a corresponding backlash against the glorification of past wars.  Both of these trends would culminate in the “Rambo” genre movies which began emerging in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.
So, is this movie any good?  Yes.  Is it accurate?  Well, it had the correct combatants, the correct time line and the correct result.  Most everything else I put down to artistic license and limited special effects.  Entertaining?  Yes, but I like action movies and war epics, so I’m a biased audience.
Final recommendation: moderate to good.  Come for the “old Hollywood” and stay for the so-so history lesson.  One caution to younger viewers: many of you will come away thinking either these guys can’t act or they are mailing it in.  My vote is the latter, but mostly because I like(ed) most of the geezers in this version when they were in other (mostly younger) roles.
Midway (2019) — movie review
This second review is for last year’s remake.  As mentioned above, another ensemble cast: Ed Skrein, Patrick Wilson, Luke Evans, Aaron Eckhart, Nick Jonas, Mandy Moore, Dennis Quaid, Tadanobu Asano, and Woody Harrelson.  I’m not sure why, but while watching this version my initial reaction was: “they picked a lot younger cast.”
As with the earlier version, this movie chose to run parallel story lines to create character interest (drama).  This movie chose three lines, though, instead of two.  Again, a pilot love story, blah, blah, blah, “those who sit and wait”.  The second is about an Intel Officer who figures out what’s going to happen (Edwin Layton – who was “kind of” the basis for the composite fictional character played by Heston in the earlier version).  And, then of course, the battle / result.  This movie also provides a view of leadership on both sides of the conflict as we lead up to and then throughout the battle.
Is this movie any good?  Yes!  Is it accurate?  Again, so-so.  Like the first, it gets most of the main stuff correct.  Is it entertaining?  Yes!  Much more so than the 1976 version.  To begin with, the special effects are FAR superior.  Gosh, what a surprise…  Seriously, though, the attack on Pearl Harbor and the battle scenes almost appeared to me to be in 3D.  Of course, I’m watching this movie on a 48-inch screen from 2.5 feet away and not at a big screen theater, but still…  I thought most of the photography was excellent and I don’t remember ever thinking: “CGI this.  Or, CGI that.”  It looked like I was watching the action through a window.  So, how was the acting?  Again, FAR superior to the earlier version.  Some of the acting may not have been very good, but I didn’t think it was because they were mailing in the performance.  I would add – in particular – I have never been a fan of Woody Harrelson, but he played a much better Admiral Nimitz in this version than Henry Fonda did in the original.  (Just my opinion…)
Final recommendation: Good to strong.  The camera / photography was very good.  The acting was pretty good.  I find “epic” war movies very difficult to get right (as a viewer / fan of the genre).  The action scenes (independent of the effects) were good.  And, I think they got most of the main history points correct, too.  I don’t usually prefer remakes, but this is the much better of the two versions.
Final thought:  I’ve owned the DVD of the 1976 version for over a decade and watch it every three or four years.  I bought it when I went through a Henry Fonda kick after re-watching “On Golden Pond“.  I will pick up a copy of the 2019 version when the price point drops to my range ($5 – $6).  Heck, I may even pick up a streaming version of the original if it ever makes it’s way to my preferred supplier.  Then I can binge them both like I did this time!
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On This Day In:
2019 Speaking Of #45
2018 A Higher Loyalty
RIP – Our Silver Lady
2017 Slowly Cutting Their Own Throats
2016 Man’s Advantage Over God
2015 Deeply
2014 Hi-Yo Silver, Away!
2013 Warning:
2012 Thinking About Beauty
2011 A Founding Father’s Argument Against Public Funding Of Religious Education
Weekend Update
So Far, So Good

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That’s the Way of the World”  —  movie review
Today’s review is for the 1975 movie “That’s the Way of the World” starring Harvey Keitel as record producer Coleman Buckmaster (the man with “the Golden Ear”) and featuring “the Group” aka R&B / soul group Earth, Wind & Fire.  The movie also has some “F” list actors: Cynthia Bostick (the “sexy” female role), Jimmy Boyd (the drug addict “brother” role), Bert Parks (the pervert “father” role) — the three are a “family” singing group calling themselves “The Pages”, and, Ed Nelson (as a mob-influenced record label executive).
I don’t think the movie was intended to be what it turned into:  a vehicle for introducing the music of EW&F to a broader audience.  In real life, the band saw an early cut of the movie and felt it would be a box-office bomb and so rushed to get the soundtrack out before the movie hit the theaters.  They did get the album out early and it did become a much bigger success than the movie.  Basically, the movie is about a good band (with talent) struggling while a bad group (with little talent) gets a push from the mob and the heroic producer has to save the day.
I saw this movie on its original release back in ’75 while I was in the military and I enjoyed both Keitel’s portrayal and the (spoiler alert) twist at the end of the movie.  The movie is very symptomatic of the mid-1970’s with references to drugs and sex with a fair amount (a full scene) of discussion about the latter (child molestation / abuse) and some pretty open use of the former (booze, weed, cocaine and heroin).  I guess as a reflection of my naivety, I have no recollection of any of this and the topics surprised me in this viewing.  My only recollections were EW&F, the acting of Keitel and the twist ending (which I only vaguely remembered).
Final recommendation: moderate recommendation.  The movie is about 100 minutes, so it’s not like you’re giving up a tremendous amount of time to see a snap-shot of the 1970’s with all of the stereotypical tropes / clichés from that era:  roller-rinks, cars (a Pinto sighting), billboards, bell-bottom pants and “Super-fly” shirt collars.  I stumbled upon the movie on Tuby TV as a “free” movie with limited commercial interruptions.  I don’t know if any sex scene was deleted from the movie, but the actors mouth swear words which are simply deleted with noticeable silences.  It has a “PG” rating.
Just a few more comments:
1) Harvey Keitel – this movie marked Keitel for me as a star to look out for before I really started looking out for stars.  I don’t know if this role was Keitel’s first big movie lead, but it’s the first I remember.  (The only other actor I’ve had the same reaction to was Robert Duvall a few years later in “The Great Santini“.)  I haven’t seen very many of Keitel’s roles, but, with one notable exception, his appearance in a movie meant it was going to be worth the price of admittance.  The exception was the DVD / movie “Star Knight” which I picked up on the strength of Keitel’s name on the cover of the DVD.  It is the ONLY movie I have ever thrown away immediately after viewing so I would never again be tempted to waste time re-watching it.  (Full disclosure: I pulled it out of my waste bin and put it on the very back of my film shelf and have never re-watched it.  I did this to serve as a reminder that even good / great actors can take bad parts in bad – really bad – movies.)  And,
2) Watching the movie today, I was reminded that seeing a live act is (normally) nowhere near as good as hearing a great album.  I used to go to concerts periodically when I was younger, but it wasn’t until fairly recently (the last 15 years or so) that I realized the concert was the experience you enjoyed or you didn’t.  It wasn’t the music.  Even when a concert has great music, it is almost never as good as the music on an album.  As a cost-benefit analyst type, I’d much rather spend $15 on an album or CD to listen to it 100 times than $50 on a concert for the one time memory.  But that’s just me…
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On This Day In:
2019 Carrying Humanity
2018 Not Necessarily In This Order
Stock Market Sets More Records Under #DumbDonald
2017 An Accumulation Of Acts
2016 Here’s Lookin’ At You Kid
2015 How To Be Omnipotent
2014 The Promise Of Future Love
2013 Christian, n.
2012 Praise
Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood
2011 A Few More Lyrics From The Past
5 For The Price Of 1

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