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Captain America: Civil War (2016) – movie review
Okay!  Last night I finally got around to seeing the latest Marvel Comics movie: Captain America (3): Civil War.  Actually, this is more accurately titled Avengers 3 (Lite).  “Lite” in the sense there are no sightings of Thor or the Hulk.
So, the premise is: what happens in the real world when aliens attack the Earth and we’re protected by “super-heroes” and “meta-humans”.  The argument is that the “normal” humans (via their politicians) will try to control (regulate) the actions of the super-heroes to “sanction” their efforts to protect humanity.  Team Iron Man believes there should be some regulations.  Team Captain America believes you can’t trust politicians or governments and super-heroes have to be able to act on their own personal beliefs on what constitutes the best interest of humanity.
This is an old argument which does not need a great deal of exposition here.  My personal bias is Team CA, but that’s just me.  So much for plot, is the movie any good.  Yes!  This is probably the best “team” movie I’ve seen.  The only one which comes close is The Guardians Of The Galaxy.  All of the “new” Avengers are present, plus a couple of “new” heroes: Spider-Man, Ant Man / Giant Man, and the Black Panther.  A whole bunch of heroes!  But they all get their individual moments and nobody gets out-and-out lost.  This is mostly because it’s such a LONG movie – almost 3 hours.  But the thing is, if the movie had had an intermission, I would not have minded it being longer.  There was a ton of action and a whole lot of story.  And it all worked together beautifully.
If there is one problem with the movie, the bar is now set very high.  My prediction: get ready for some troughs.  Which will be too bad, because I’m looking forward to new singles (Spider-Man, Ant Man (2), the Black Panther, and, probably most of all, Doctor Strange.  If they are even close to this movie, they’ll be pretty good.  Only time will tell…
Final recommendation: a must see movie if you are a comic book, sci-fi, action / adventure, super-hero movie genre movie-goer (obviously I AM)!   This is a must see on the big screen movie!!
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On This Day In:
2015 I Resemble That Remark… (5!)
2014 The Writer’s Dilemma
2013 Just Paying The Rent
2012 Remembering…
2011 A Little Farther

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Over the last couple of days I watched a couple of movies and read a book.  In order, the two movies were: “Captain America: The Winter Soldier“, “Transformers: Age Of Extinction“, and the book was: “Casca: The Eternal Mercenary #1” (1979©).
It’s been a year since my first review of CA:TWS (see original review here).  Well, I picked up the DVD and thought I’d take another look.  My initial review is still pretty much spot on…  This is a look at the darker side of technology as used by today’s governments to try to “maintain” security and “protect” the people.  It is also a general statement about the need to minimize secret organizations – even when they purport to be providing security and protection, as it is far too easy for them to fall into the wrong hands.  Final recommendation: still highly recommended!
The second movie T4:AoE also came out in 2014 and stars Mark Wahlberg as Cade Yeager (a more-or-less unemployed robotics expert and single parent living in Texas and, of course, trying to mind his own business), Nicola Peltz as Tessa Yeager (Cade’s daughter, who when threatened, becomes daddy’s reason to get even with the bad-guys), Stanley Tucci as Joshua Joyce (a billionaire corporatist who thinks a lot of himself and yells a lot at his minions), Kelsey Grammer as Harold Attinger (the CIA bad-guy and front for the evil transformers), Jack Reynor as Shane Dyson (the daughter’s boyfriend and a race car driver).
This is a movie with lots of sound effect (explosions) and special effects (mostly computer generated transformers but also explosions), who’s main purpose seems to be to move away from the main human characters of the three previous movies and create a new thread for the franchise to follow.  Fair enough, but is the movie any good?  Within the strict paradigm of an action movie (large robots fighting, car chases, and multiple explosions) – yes, it does.  Quite well, in fact.  If you are looking for simple-minded entertainment (please don’t even try to think about the plot), this is a high quality production which delivers action and explosions.  My one “real” fault with the movie is it is loonnggg – 2 hours and 45 minutes – and actually seems longer.  I don’t usually say that about “action” movies, but this felt too long.
Final recommendation: moderate to strong recommendation.  If you’re into the Transformer movies (and I am), you’ll enjoy this addition.  If you believe this is just another movie to market toys to youth, well, yeah, it’s that too.
The book – Casca: TEM#1, is the first in an ongoing series of books about a fictional / mythical character – based on the Roman Legionnaire who put the lance in Jesus Christ’s side.  There are 42 books in the series so far.  In this first book, Jesus looks down at Casca and says: “You are content with what you are.  Then that you shall remain until we meet again.”  Henceforth, Casca is cursed to live forever – or at least until the second coming.  Each book in the series is about a segment of his 2,000 years (so far).  The series was initially written by Barry Sadler of “Ballad of the Green Berets” fame.  I have the first 22 volumes in the series.  These are the ones written by Sadler (or at least ghost written for him with his name on the book).  I have not read any of the subsequent volumes.  This volume covers most of his first two centuries of life – Roman rule times.
The books are adult, historical fantasy / fiction.  The main character is Casca Rufio Longinus and is loosely based on the Christian legend Saint Longinus.  Being Catholic and knowing a little (very little) about the Spear of Destiny, I picked the book up and thought I’d have a laugh.  I was very pleasantly surprised that it completely captivated me.  In fact, I’ve read the book several times, about once a decade, since I purchased it back in the early 1980’s.  I’ve also re-read a few of the other volumes, but they never seemed to capture me the same way this initial book did.
Final recommendation: Highly recommended book (and series).  If you enjoy historically based fiction about combat / war, this is a very good book / series.  Caution: it can be graphic in the depiction of violence so this is not appropriate for youth – probably up to late teens.
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On This Day In:
2014 True, Vibrant And Open
2013 Remembering, Yet Again
2012 Something Of Value
2011 Sleep All Day

 

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At the start of the month, I went to see “Captain America: The Winter Soldier“, starring Chris Evans (Steve Rogers / Captain America), Scarlett Johansson (Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow), Sebastian Stan (Bucky Barnes / The Winter Soldier), Anthony Mackie (Sam Wilson / the Falcon), and Samuel Jackson (Nick Fury).  This is the sequel to the 2011 film, “Captain America: The First Avenger“, also starring Chris Evans in the title role.
If you’ve been following this blog for any reasonable length of time, you know by now that I was a big comic book reader while growing up and am now a big comic book-movie follower (and buyer), so I admit to a certain amount of bias in my reviews of this genre of movie.  Having said that, this is definitely one of the best of all the comic book based movies ever made.  Although lacking some of the originality of the first movie, this sequel more than makes up for it with a much deeper storyline / plot while maintaining its roots as an action movie (lots of fights and explosions).
The sub-textual plot is what does a “good man” do when faced with a world of gray shadows and it’s hard to tell if what you’re doing is “right” (morally).  Well, if you’re Captain America, you stand with your friends to bring truth out into the light.
The main plot is the fight between good and evil where the “good” is represented by SHIELD – an agency supposedly dedicated to preserving peace and freedom, and Hydra – the “bad” organization, dedicated to the subjugation of the common man for the benefits of the few who are holding power.  SHIELD has been infiltrated by Hydra and just as Hydra is about to initiate their ultimate “security” weapon, all heck breaks out (in the form of Cap and his friends).
As this is fairly early in the movie’s release cycle, I won’t give away too many spoilers.  All I can say is that you have to set aside your old notions of Cap as a suped-up normal person.  This movie version of Captain America is far more “super” than “normal”.  But if you can set aside common sense about things like – oh, gravity and the effects of sudden stops on the human body, for example – just for a couple of hours, this is a very entertaining film.
One of the things I particularly liked about this film was the subdued patriotism in favor of moral values.  In other words, it is less “my country, right or wrong” and more “this isn’t freedom, this is fear” symbolism.  This is visually captured by Cap’s change from a black and silver/grey uniform at the start of the movie to his traditional red-white-and-blue uniform for the final third of the movie.  In essence, he takes off the “fear” and returns to the inspiration of “freedom” as the justification for his heroic actions.
Final recommendation:  highly recommended!!  This movie works on many levels – action / adventure, sci-fi, political intrigue, and, of course, comic book heroism.  (And let’s not forget to say as a lead-in / promo for future Marvel comic book / movies.)  I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and look forward to seeing it come out on DVD.  Heck, I may even go see it again at the theater.  Now, I can’t wait for SpiderMan and Avengers 2!!
By the way, I went to see this movie with my son James, who is also a big comic book and comic-movie fan.  I treated him for his birthday.
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On This Day In:
2013 Remembering Val
2012 Good-bye, Val
Survival Value
2011 Traitors In Our Midst
Life Ain’t Easy

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Well, that’s my excuse anyway.  And I think it’s a good one…
Seriously, I finally got around to seeing the new Thor movie: “Thor: The Dark World“, and I enjoyed it.  Like most comic book movie adaptations it is not great cinema, but it is an enjoyable action flic to keep us interested until the next Avengers movie comes out.  (Actually, the next movie out will be the second Captain America film.)
When reading the Thor comics (as a kid) there were a number of years where they started off just on Earth and then they made a transition to Thor in Asgard which allowed for more epic-heroic story lines.  Thor was almost never a believable character on Earth.  Hello!  How many Earth villains can stand up to a “god”?  But, in Asgard, his character blossomed in my imagination.
The problem in the comics is (was) there weren’t enough known god characters to go around fighting with (let alone against), so a whole slew had to be invented.  This is extended in both Thor movies where not only are there characters which don’t exist in Norse mythology, there are also multiple races (racial in “human” terms that is, not alien) among the Asgardians.  However, once you get past this “politically correct” quirk in the movies it quickly comes down to can they act and carry their roles.  They do, certainly as well as any of the anglo/white “Norse” characters do anyway.
Another “problem” I had with the movie was that the bad guys had power weapons (guns) while the Asgardian’s fight with swords, knives, shields, and, of course, a hammer.  Well, that is, most of the time.  When Asgard is actually invaded, the Asgardians break out the power weapons – in this case multi-barrel anti-aircraft cannons.  All of which looked pretty cool, but left me thinking: “Huh?”
My reaction to the first Thor movie was that it was two movies in one: one on Earth and one in Asgard, and neither was done as well as if they had just done one or the other.  This sequel is a bit of the same, but for some reason it made more sense the in way it was handled in this one, so it wasn’t a negative for me.  I would say it was about 30% Earth and 70% Asgard, which seemed better.
At this point, I’m really starting to tell too much about what happens in the movie and not enough about whether it was any good.  It was.  I enjoyed it.  No, it’s not great cinema (although the special effects are pretty awesome and starting to really look believable), but it is a good, old fashioned, heroes fight bad guys movie.  There is also just enough comedy in the movie to make it “fun”, which is also a big plus to me.  If that is your pleasure (and it certainly is mine), then you’ll enjoy this movie too.  Just don’t wast energy trying to think about it and make too much sense of it.  It’s just a movie…
Highly recommended!
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On This Day In:
2012 Never, Never, Never
2011 Testing 1, 2, 3

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Tonight I re-watched “The Fantastic Four” movie/DVD.  The movie came out back in 2005 and was not a particularly big hit.  Back then, I thought it was just okay.  I watched it a couple of times after the DVD came out, but kind of stopped for no particular reason.  I think maybe it was because the sequel was not better than the original – even though I personally really liked the Silver Surfer character when I was a child.
Anyway, like I said, I watched it tonight and was very pleasantly surprised with how the movie seems to have aged well.  I think I actually enjoyed it more with perspective than I did in my initial viewings.  For one thing, the characters seemed more “comic-ie” than I remembered them.  That is, more faithful to the comic books than I remembered.  What can I say?  I enjoyed the movie…
On a bad note, I originally bought both copies in widescreen DVD format.  Somehow, they seemed to have grown feet and walked out of the house.  So….. my daughter picked me up a used copy of the first movie for last Father’s Day.  (Yes, it’s taken me this long to watch it.)  The downer was that it is in full screen instead of widescreen.  After you get into it, you can get used to it, but in the back of my head I’m still thinking, I wonder what else I’m missing because they’ve trimmed off the sides.
Another strange thought is that I kept looking at the actor who plays the Human Torch (Chris Evans) and thinking, “I’m not sure he makes a better Captain America or Torch”.  I think Evans is better as “Cap”, but only because he’s older now.
So, an enjoyable movie, but not great…
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Sometimes it can be a real effort to keep up with some of the things I’m trying to get across on this site.  Generally, I’m just commenting about things I see happening in my life or around me.  I try to relate my observations, books I’ve read, movies (and TV) I’ve seen, poetry and music I’ve listened to (mostly what’s moved me).  Occasionally, I want to say something, but I’m waiting for something else to happen or for an idea to gel in my head.  Sometimes the thing is important, usually it’s trivial – but it ends up being a blog-blocker anyway.
A couple of weeks ago, I went to see the Avengers movie.  I held off on reviewing it because I wanted to see it a second time (this time in 3D), before I cast anything in stone (or as “stone” as a blog can be).  Anyway, I’ve not been able to get around to a second showing, so I’m just going to go ahead with my review of my initial sitting.  If you see only one comic book / super-hero movie this year, the Avengers should be it!!
This movie has all the great things about a great action movie – heroes, believable villains, action / fights, special effects, reasonable story / plot, and a little romance and something hard to find in most movies – pacing.  But most of all this movie has two things:  it has humor sprinkled in liberally and it has the HULK!  Now if you’ve seen the other two Hulk movies, you’re probably saying, “yeah, right!”  Well, I am!  Downey (as Tony Stark / Ironman) carries the movie with wit and panache, Thor and Captain America provide the beefcake, and then the HULK shows up to steal the last 20 minutes.
Unfortunately for Batman and Spiderman, both to be released later this year – the bar now seems set impossibly high…  We’ll see.  Bottom line:  Highly recommended!!
Last night I completed “Weaving The Web” by Tim Berners-Lee (1999©).  Now, in case you’ve been living under a rock, TB-L is the man who invented the World Wide Web.  He also invented web servers and web browsers.  He came up with the ideas and then worked it out with a colleague (Robert Cailliau) and a student intern (Nicola Pellow).  This book is the story of what they did and how they did it.  It is a story of insight, foresight and individual effort to turn an idea into a grass-roots movement, into a world-wide phenomenon, into the World Wide Web we know today.
The book is relatively easy to read and pretty lacking in computer mumbo-jumbo, but it is not read without some effort (or at least some prior understanding of web / computer history).  I found TB-L’s ideas about the future of the web (the “semantic web”) to be very interesting and, looking back, I wish he had spent more time explaining it more clearly.  As it is, I went on to Google and TED to get more information about it.  Having just skimmed the surface, it is obvious this is where the future of information retrieval is going.  My challenge (or the challenge for any IT professional) is getting up to speed and grasping more than just the theory behind it.  That will require hands-on experience though and other than using my own time, I don’t see how that will happen (at work).
Anyway, it’s nice to be able to look ahead and see where the world is going…
Bottom line: I highly recommend this book to anyone in technology and anyone who wants to be reasonably well paid in the next 20-30 years.
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I took Friday off to get a little maintenance done on the car and to just chill a bit from work.  I also went out and picked up the DVD for “Harry Potter: The Deathly Hallows (part 1)“.
Hil and I watched it last night.  Hil hasn’t read the books and hasn’t followed the movie series closely, so she was a bit lost.  I’ve only read the books once and although I’ve seen every movie, I don’t tend to “study” them the way my daughter Sarah does.  Anyway, it was my second viewing.  The first was at the theater the weekend of first release.  I enjoyed it (again) even though I still didn’t feel like the movie made much sense.  I also didn’t like the producers splitting the ending movie up by a whole year (parts 1 and 2).  In my opinion, it’s just to drive up the sales of both tickets and DVDs.  Still, it is what it is…
During the day (yesterday), I watched “The Core“.  This is a SciFi movie which I must have seen 20 or 30 times in the last 10 years.  (Actually, I believe it came out in ’03, so the last 8 years.)  I enjoy it more each time I watch it.  There are just some great “movie moments” in this film (for me).  One of the classics is when the character Hilary Swank plays is waiting outside a hearing room where she believes she is to be court-martialed and she gets called in and has no place to put her gum, so she swallows it.  That was just a great, real-life, happened to me moment (forced to swallow gum, not getting court-martialed).  The movie is about the core of the earth stops spinning and a group of scientists must go to the core and restart the spinning.  The effects are great the first few times you see them, average after about ten and so-so after twenty views.  BUT the acting gets better and better!  There is a lot of subtle character interaction and that’s what makes it so enjoyable for me to re-watch.  This is definitely a movie I’ll have to pick up on DVD (when the price is right).  Highly recommended!!
Yesterday, I also read a graphic novel: “Fallen Son: The Death Of Captain America”, written by Jeph Loeb (2007©).   My son (James) and I were discussing patriotism and he was out a the mall and thought I would like this book, so he bought it for me.  I grew up reading most of the comics Marvel Comic Company produced.  Captain America was one of the many characters I read about, but without super powers, he seemed one of the least interesting to me.  Marvel was always ahead of their time in dealing with societal issues – particularly the angst of being “different” in a society where many people just want to “be normal” and “fit in”.  I never really thought much about how a fictional, comic-book patriot would feel about what was happening in America during the George W. Bush Presidency.  After reading “Fallen Son“, it’s refreshing to see Captain America came out against many of the abuses of personal liberty which came out of that Administration and time period.  It is also interesting to see the company have the character captured and “assassinated” in order to draw attention to the ideals of freedom which Captain America came to represent.
Of course, Cap is a popular character, so after a suitable period of time he gets resurrected (more correctly, he never actually died) by Marvel, but still, it is nice to see some company stood up for fundamental American values.  I wonder if Marvel took any “heat” for their stance and if they would be allowed to do it again (as the comic company is currently owned by Disney Corp).
It seems there is always a conflict between the needs of the many and the needs of the few.  This theme keeps coming up in my lifetime – be it in comics, the Army, StarTrek, current politics, or American history.  I don’t know that there is any resolution to the question.  What is “safety and security”?  Are we safer with nine criminals and one innocent in prison than we are with all ten free?  Historically, this country has – in theory – always sided with it being better to have guilty free.  As a practical matter, I’d wager the reverse is the reality though – particularly if the incarcerated “innocent” is poor or a minority.  (But I digress…)
I am currently reading a short book on the faiths of several of the founding fathers.  It is fascinating.  More later…
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