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Archive for the ‘Movie Review’ Category

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.
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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

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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.
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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…

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[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!)
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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

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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.)
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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

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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.
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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

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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.
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On This Day In:
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

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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.
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On This Day In:
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

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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.
 
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On This Day In:
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
   

 

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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 a 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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