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Posts Tagged ‘Highly Recommended Movie’

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

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Today’s movie review is for “Citizen Kane” (1941).  This is a long review of a classic movie which routinely rates as one of the best movies of all time.  There are spoilers in this review.  (You’ve been warned…)
Background:
I first saw this movie when I was in my mid-20’s and my roommate was trying to get me interested in classic movies (dramas, westerns and musicals).  He mostly succeeded in piquing my interest, but this was before video tapes, let alone DVDs, so a neophyte couldn’t re-watch a movie to their heart’s content.  We were pretty much limited to whatever was showing up on TV or as very limited re-releases at the local theater.  The bottom line is I saw this once and was under-whelmed.
I guess about five years ago, my daughter bought me a copy of the film for X-mas after we had a discussion about “must-see” classic films.  I don’t think I’ve ever watched that version.  She did.  Anyway, I recently picked up a copy on my VUDU account and decided to enjoy a classic.
Cast:
The movie stars Orson Welles as Charles Foster Kane the owner of “The Inquirer” newspaper syndicate;  Joseph Cotten as Jedediah Leland, Kane’s best friend and a “society” reporter for Kane’s newspaper;  Dorothy Comingore as Susan Alexander Kane, Kane’s mistress and second wife;  Agnes Moorehead as Mary Kane, Kane’s mother;  Ruth Warrick as Emily Monroe Norton Kane, Kane’s first wife;  Everett Sloane as Mr. Bernstein, Kane’s friend and employee at the paper;  and, George Coulouris as Walter Parks Thatcher, a banker who becomes Kane’s legal guardian.
Plot Summary:
The movie starts with an old man dying in what seems to be almost a castle.  He has a snow-globe in his hand and as he dies, his last word is:  “Rosebud”.  The movie then jumps to a several minute intro about how wealthy (and wasteful) the old guy was…
The basic plot is a reporter is told to find out who this guy really is and what was “Rosebud”.  The reporter then proceeds to recount a number of interviews with the old guy’s friends / family / colleagues…
A young boy becomes wealthy after the discovery of gold on his recently deceased father’s property and his mother ships him off East to be educated and looked after in a series of boarding schools.  The boy does badly and goes through a series of schools and colleges, but his wealth continues to grow until he is one of the five wealthiest men in the world at the age of twenty-five.  Kane returns from Europe with his long-time friend (Leland) and they set about running a “yellow-sheet” newspaper and turning it into a nation-wide paper and radio syndicate.  Although losing money, his other interests continue to grow his wealth under the supervision of Thatcher.  When the Great Depression hits, Kane is wiped out and his business interests are bought at pennies on the dollar by Thatcher.
Without any explanation, Kane is suddenly wealthy again and back in the publishing business.  Kane tries to leverage this into a Governorship of New York State, but loses the election when his opponent publicizes Kane’s “affair” with a clerk / part-time singer.  Kane’s first wife divorces him.  He marries the singer and proceeds to make her life miserable by trying to turn her into an opera singer – although she lacks the ability or desire.  She fails and attempts suicide to avoid further public humiliation.  Kane begins building a famed estate “Xanadu” where they retreat to.  Kane’s second wife leaves him (mostly for mental abuse).  Kane has a fit and then after some unspecified time fades and dies.  His last word is:  “Rosebud”.
The final scene of the movie is a pre-cursor to the ending of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” warehouse scene…  Kane’s possessions are being catalogued and those items deemed “worthless” are thrown into the Xanadu furnace.  One of the items is a sled with the manufacture’s name:  “Rosebud”.
Review:
So, is it any good?  How’s the acting?  Is it “really” a classic?  First off, please recall the film is now eighty(80) years old…  Within that specific constraint:  YES, GREAT and YES!!!
Is it good – the movie is no surprise.  We are told the ending up front and then the story evolves through the series of interlocking / overlapping flashbacks.  Little to nothing occurs in “real time” – our time as a viewer.  The only twist is the actual final furnace scene where WE learn the implied meaning of Rosebud as a profound effect on a young boy’s life.  But is it ANY good?  As stated, it is widely considered one of the greatest movies EVER.  It was up for multiple Oscars (but only won one).  There are multiple books written about the movie and Welles is considered to be one of the greatest directors in film history – although he “directed” only a dozen films in his lifetime.
How’s the acting – it’s actually pretty good.  Obviously the special effects used for aging characters back then is nowhere near what were used to seeing in modern cinema, it holds its own.  I personally am not enamored with Welles role, but I liked all of the other characters / actors – particularly Cotton and Comingore.  The former made a terrific jilted / disabused friend and the latter a terrific naive young lady.
Is it a classic – DUH!!  In preparation for this review, I read the Wikipedia article on the movie.  The initial criticism is there is little to nothing (film making technique) new here.  The response:  maybe, but it was the first movie to tie a whole bunch of things previously (rarely) done together and have the sum be much greater than any of the individual techniques in prior movies.  It’s effects have been both profound, pervasive and long lasting.
Final recommendation:  This IS a classic movie and a must see film if you are at all interested in film history.  ‘Nuff said…
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On This Day In:
2021 Are You Rotating Crops?
Wrong Block, Dummy
2020 I Choose Justice And Mercy
2019 Close, Sustained, Careful, Daily
2018 One Brick At A Time
2017 Order The Rope, #DumbDonald
2016 Chains Of Habit
2015 That You Shall Remain
Did You See That?
2014 True, Vibrant And Open
2013 Remembering, Yet Again
2012 Something Of Value
2011 Sleep All Day

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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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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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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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Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.
    —    Alan Turing
Codebreaker” (2011)  —  movie review
Codebreaker is a “docu-drama” about the life of Alan Turing, the famous mathematician who lead the team which developed the computer which broke the “Enigma” German code machine back in World War II.  Turing is played by Ed Stoppard.  The “drama” portion of this film is mostly from the journals of Dr. Franz Greenbaum, who was the psychiatrist Turing was forced to see for counseling.  Dr. Greenbaum is played by Henry Goodman.
This film was made for TV and was aired in 2011 in the UK under the title:  “Britian’s Greatest Codebreaker“.  The title was changed and the film had a limited theatrical release in the US in 2012, so you may find it noted with either year of release.
The documentary portion of the film is interspersed into the drama and features a series of interviews with relatives of both Turing and Greenbaum, a few of Turing’s colleagues / contemporaries and some otherwise famous folks from mathematics and the computer industry.
Of course the “psych” interviews delve into Turing’s childhood, schooling and his homosexuality.  The documentary interviews try to give a lay-person’s explanation of some of Turing’s main computer breakthroughs.  For those who don’t know, Turing is considered one of the creators of both digital computers / computing, and of artificial intelligence (AI).
Turing is reputed to have died from suicide by poisoning.  This film does nothing to explicitly contradict that conclusion, but it offers slim insights into the conspiracy theory that Turing might have been killed off by the British government in the interest of state secrecy.  In any case, some 50 years after the fact, Turing was given a full pardon for his “crime” (indecent acts) as well as a formal apology from the British government.
Final recommendation:  Strong to highly recommended.  Although no where near the “movie” which followed in 2014 (see below) for production value or drama, this made for television movie was just as interesting and probably more informative.  If you are interested in computers, AI or the history surrounding WWII, I think you’ll enjoy this film.
The Imitation Game”  (2014)  —  movie review
This is my third or fourth time viewing this movie and my initial review can be found here.
This movie is based on the book / biography:  “Alan Turing: The Enigma” written by Andrew Hodges.  The movie is a dramatized version of “basically” historical events with liberties taken for “drama”.  Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Alan Turing, (Alex Lawther plays a young Alan Turing), Keira Knightley plays Joan Clarke (the female / “love” interest), Allen Leech plays John Cairncross (a Russian agent / collegue of Turing on the project), Rory Kinnear plays Detective Robert Nock, Mark Strong plays Stewart Menzies (the MI6 super-spy), Matthew Goode plays Hugh Alexander (one of the brilliant collegues), Charles Dance plays Commander Denniston (Turing’s commanding officer at Bletchley Park ).  The basic premise is that a brilliant Turing invents a general purpose computer to defeat the Nazi coding machine “Enigma”, thus saving lives by helping to end the war faster.  Their work is performed at Bletchley Park.  Turing (and the team) are successful, but because it is all TopSecret, there is no record of his achievements until much later (several decades) and Turing has committed suicide in the meantime.
The movie (and presumably the book) is based on fact.  Turing was a real person;  he was brilliant, he did come up with this codebreaking machine.  Also, he was homosexual;  he was subject to hormonal “treatment” to “cure” his desires;  he did die in 1954.  Beyond that, there are a number of points which are probably better handled in the “Codebreaker” TV movie reviewed above.  To begin with, I don’t believe he was autistic (as is implied in this movie).  I gather he had a mild stutter, but nothing like what is implied in the movie.  He was homosexual, but he was not as closeted as the movie implies.  My understanding is while he was open about it with his friends and colleagues, he was not what would be described as “flaming”.  He was “in love” with Joan Clarke and did propose to her and later break off the engagement.  By “in love” I mean he cared for her deeply, although it appears the relationship was more than Platonic but less than physical.  At any rate, as portrayed in the film, Turing does tell her he is gay and she did appear to not care (in real life) about his sexual preferences.
There are also a number of other factual inconsistencies:  the character Hugh Alexander did handle most of the supervisory / administrative duties for the team.  He was not “really” Turing’s supervisor and Turing was uninterested in those duties and most office (and real) politics.  The character John Cairncross may or may not have been a Russian agent.  In either case, he and Turing did not work together and I’ve read it’s unlikely they even met or knew each other.  Finally, Turing was not add odds with Commander Denniston, but it seems there was some issue with funding, a letter was sent to Churchill by the team and Turing’s name was on the letter, but it was from the whole of the team, not just from Turing.
Okay.  So after all that, was the movie any good and did I enjoy it?  Yes and very much so.  I admit I am a fan of both Cumberbatch and Knightley.  I also quite like Mark Strong as I see him in more things (the “Kingsman” series is top of this list).  Because I spent a career in computing, I already knew of Turing and some of his accomplishments, so it was nice to see it dramatized and put up on a big screen film.  Final recommendation:  (still) highly recommended.  I am a fan of the two leads, the specific (codebreaking / history) and general (computing / WWII) topics are also of personal interest, so I had a natural predisposition to enjoy this film.  But, beyond my personal interests (biases), I do think this was a good film / drama and worth the time of anyone who happens to view it.
For those wondering about the movie’s title…  Turing wrote a paper about computing and artificial intelligence which proposed that if a person sat in front of a typing instrument (what we today would call a terminal or workstation) and could type in a series of sentences and questions to “someone” at another workstation using normal language and could not tell the responses came from a machine, then the machine, was in fact, intelligent.  This is the simplified version.  The more complete version had three participants:  the human testing / judging, a human responding, and a computer responding.  In this case, the judge had to decide which responder was human and which was the machine.  In some variations, the judge isn’t advised one responder is a machine until after completing several question / response cycles.  Basically, the test was evolving to add a blind control situation:  the judge didn’t know there was a test or what was being tested until after the cycles.  I found it interesting that the producers of the movie would try to educate the audience about this aspect of computing and AI even though it had little to do with the premise of the movie, that is, a long-suffering individual genius breaking the German code machine.
As an aside (and final note), the movie shows Turing out running cross-country several times.  What isn’t specified is that he was a world class distance runner who nearly qualified for the British Olympic team in the marathon.  Again, nothing earth shaking, but I found the detail interesting.
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On This Day In:
2018 Until Integrity, Decency, Wisdom, And Humility Return
Just Tell (And Re-tell) The Big Lie Often Enough On Fox News
2017 To Laws, Not Office Or Individuals
Beast / General / Civil
2016 Patronage
2015 For Blogs, Too!
2014 Righteous Anger
2013 An Irish Blessing
2012 But Is It Worth It?
2011 Let Us Start

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Matilda”  (1996)  —  movie review
Today’s review is for a children’s fantasy movie about a young girl growing up in a dysfunctional family, attending a dysfunctional school.  Ah, but the young girl is a self-taught math wiz with telekinesis power.  Basically, she is a genius and can move things with her mind.
The movies stars Mara Wilson as Matilda Wormwood, Danny DeVito plays her father (a crooked used-car salesman), Rhea Perlman plays Matilda’s mother (who spends all day off gambling), Embeth Davidtz plays Miss Jennifer Honey (the only decent grown-up), and Pam Ferris plays the wicked school headmaster / principal.
The movie traces Matilda’s life from birth through (ultimately) getting adopted by Miss Honey and them both living happily ever after.
As a kid’s movie, is it any good?  Does it work as a fantasy?  Is it funny?  Yes; definitely; and, mostly, but not ha-ha funny (for me).  This is not a “Disney” live-action movie, but it feels like one.  There are lots (and I mean LOTS) of amusing lines for adults and enough sight-gags to keep the kiddies engaged.
Final recommendation:  highly recommended!  I have seen “Matilda” numerous times over the last 20+ years and it remains an amusing little gem of a film.  A couple of the scenes with the horrible principal may be too intense for children under six years old, but I think any kids, nieces and nephews older than that will enjoy the movie.  Teens may find it a bit too childish, until they are old enough to know how to listen to dialogue.
Two shout-outs:  Danny DeVito is excellent in this role (even if a “little” type-cast) — pun intended;  and, the movie has a great song in it:  “Send Me On My Way” performed by Rusted Root.
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On This Day In:
2018 Nice To Meet You
2017 All Nations & Religions
2016 Given The Choice
Why Is He Wearing Red?
2015 Within The System
2014 None But…
2013 Obviously Longer
2012 A Childhood Poem
Who Are You Callin’ Leather-Faced?
2011 In No Particular Order
The Need For Proof

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What Dreams May Come” (1998)  —  movie review
Today’s review is for the 1998 movie starring Robin Williams.  If you haven’t watched this movie and intend to AND want to avoid spoilers, stop reading now and come back after you’ve seen the film.
Okay, Robin Williams stars as Dr. Christopher James “Chris” Nielsen, Annabella Sciorra plays his wife: Annie Collins-Nielsen, Cuba Gooding Jr. plays Albert Lewis / Ian Nielsen (Chris’ son in disguise), Josh Paddock plays Ian Nielsen (Chris’ son), Rosalind Chao plays Leona / Marie Nielsen (Chris’ daughter in disguise), Jessica Brooks Grant plays Marie Nielsen (Chris’ daughter), and, Max von Sydow plays The Tracker / Albert Lewis (Chris’ mentor when he was a young doctor).  I’ve now given away most of the movie…  You were warned!
Chris is a pediatrician.  Annie is a artist / painter and art restorer.  They meet in idyllic circumstance and fall immediately in love.  They have a wonderful life, but trouble is on the horizon.  Suddenly their two children die in a car accident.  Life is turned upside down and there are hints of other “issues”.  On one of their anniversaries, Chris is also involved in and dies during a car accident and Annie is left alone.
Through a series of flashbacks we discover the “issues”: Chris was unable to deal with the death of the children and throws himself into his work to avoid the pain.  Annie had a nervous breakdown.  In the end, they comeback from the brink of divorce and are restarting their lives when Chris dies.  Chris is not ready for death and seeks out Annie as a “ghost / spirit”.  Annie is not ready for the loss of her love, has another breakdown and commits suicide.  There follows a lengthy, colorful and brilliantly imagined (sometimes disturbingly illustrated) imagery of heaven, hell, life, death, self-sacrifice, the meaning of love and, finally, reincarnation.
The film won two Oscars for Best Visual Effects and Best Art Direction and it was almost certainly deserving as some of the imagery is at times beautiful and horrifying.  This is an adult drama and although rated “PG-13” is really not appropriate for children.  Some teens could deal with the imagery, but I am not sure they will get a lot of the philosophy.  Heck, I’m not sure most adults will, either.
Anyway, is this movie any good?  Did I enjoy watching it?  Did I find all of the philosophy reasonable and / or explained well?  Yes!  So-so.  And, mostly yes.  To start off, I purchased this movie as a one-off on discount with Vudu.  They had a sale of 5 films for $20 and I figured, what the heck, I usually enjoy most of Robin Williams’ work, so I’ll take a chance.  Just after that, one of my followers (and a blogger I follow) said in a comment that this movie was one of her favorite movies.  (If anyone is interested, she goes by “Cubby” and her site is: https://reowr.com/)  …So, I bumped this up my list of films to view sooner rather than later.
Good decision…   As mentioned, the visual effects are imaginative and stunning.  Imagine heaven as your own personal painting and you get to wake up in it and move around in it.  At first, it is blurry and “van Gogh”-ian (if that is even a phrase).  After about three minutes, it is almost funny because it makes “perfect” sense.  Well, it did / does to me anyway.
So, it is a great “viewing” experience…  But, did I enjoy watching it?  No.  And, yes.  Mostly, yes!  This mixed answer is because there are multiple levels of “enjoyment”.  The sound was variable and dipped to barely audible at points.  Because this is a “deep” movie, I had to replay some of the scenes to catch the dialogue.  This breaks the “fourth-wall” between the film and the viewer, but I recognized almost immediately that I would miss too much of the film if I couldn’t hear or didn’t understand all that was being said.  There are two other things which made the movie “uncomfortable” for me.  The imagery (some intense – as mentioned above) and the plot revolving around losing one’s family through chance accident.  The latter has always terrified me personally.  It’s never happened to me (thankfully), but it is a common plot device in movies and music and I never like it.
Anyway, this is a movie which you come to for the entertainment and stay for the philosophy – or at least I did.  Everything, and I MEAN everything in the movie is meant to make you think.  If you like that in a movie (I do), then you will enjoy / love this movie.  Does it explain “philosophy” well.  No.  It’s a movie!  It’s trying to get you to think about life and love while still entertaining you.  I think it does that.
Final recommendation: highly recommended movie.  Again, this is a sit, listen, watch and think about movie.  It may make you cry (I did).  It may leave you cold – it is not very “Christian” in it’s overall philosophy.  If you can’t get past that part of the film, you will almost certainly NOT like this movie.  If you have ever felt like you found the love of your life, not “just” a lover or a spouse, this movie will probably touch you.  It did me.
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On This Day In:
2018 Happy Valentine’s Day – 2018!!
2017 Happy Valentine’s Day – 2017!!
2016 Happy Valentine’s Day – 2016!!
2015 To My Special Lady
2014 Awakening
2013 Drowsy In Comfort
2012 Happy Valentine’s Day
2011 Own Your Bible

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The Court-Martial Of Billy Mitchell” (1955)  —  movie review
Today’s review is for an oldie but a goodie.  It’s a fictionalized version of mostly real events surrounding the court-martial of an Army officer who would later be considered a prophet and the “founder” of the Air Force: William (“Billy”) Lendrum Mitchell.   The movie stars Gary Cooper in the title role.  This is one of my two favorite war genre movies starring Cooper.  The other is another semi-biography: “Sergeant York“.  In this movie Mitchell is an Army General who gets busted in rank for disobeying orders by destroying a battleship to prove it can be done by aircraft with bombs.  (In real life, Mitchell did sink the battleship, but he didn’t disobey orders.  Also, he didn’t lose rank for that act.  He lost rank as a result of a general reduction in forces after the end of WWI.)  After the death of a naval aviator friend and a squadron of his former pilots, Mitchell makes public statements to the press bring disrepute to the armed services (Army and Navy).  For this, he is brought up on charges to be court-martialed.
I saw this movie a couple of times in my youth and remembered it generally as a courtroom / trial movie.  Because of the age of the movie and when I first saw it, I assumed it would be in black and white.  I can only guess that was because it (a black and white TV) was all we had when I was a child.  I was pleasantly surprised to find the movie is actually a “color” movie.
Besides Cooper, the movie stars Ralph Bellamy as Congressman Frank R. Reid (attorney for the defense) and Rod Steiger as Maj. Allan Guillion (the prosecutor) and multiple future 60’s / 70’s TV stars: Jack Lord as Lt. Cmdr. Zachary ‘Zack’ Lansdowne (the Navy officer / friend who dies), Elizabeth Montgomery as Margaret Lansdowne (Zack’s wife) and Peter Graves and Darren McGavin as a couple of Mitchell’s pilots.
The movie is interesting because it shows (accurately) that as early as the 1920’s that it was predictable the Japanese would attack Pearl Harbor using aircraft.  What it failed to predict (in the movie and in real life) was the use of carriers to deliver those aircraft.  Mitchell believed the aircraft would come from “nearby” islands.  In real life, Mitchell died before the attack on Peal Harbor, so he never saw his predictions come true.  He was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for service to his country.  The award was a bit unusual because it was awarded for his effort to promote aviation and not for any specific act of valor in the act of combat as is usually the requirement.
Final recommendation:  highly recommended movie.  Aside from the historical “prediction”, I found the movie to be very entertaining as a courtroom drama and as a view into the institution of the military and the integrity of the officers represented in the movie – both Mitchell and the court-martial board.  General MacArthur comes across particularly well in the behind the scenes “Board” arguments.   This surprised me as I am not a big MacArthur fan.  Finally, I want to give a shout out to Rod Steiger as one of the prosecuting officers.  This is one of my favorite of his roles, too.  I watched this movie on YouTube.  It is also available on DVD / disc and periodically on TV.
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On This Day In:
2018 Be Someone’s Kindling
2017 When The Moment Comes
2016 Changed Clothes Lately?
2015 Like Stone
2014 Resistance Is Futile
2013 Subtle Humor
To Look Behind Green Eyes
2012 The Path Is Endless
2011 Happy MLK, Jr Day!!!
A Factor Of Ten
Better Late Than Never?
Whoops!
Acceptable Beginnings
Slow Progress
Useful Confrontation
When Phenomena Are Different
Creative Avoidance
Thinking
Fast And Flexible
Surrender Certainty
Techniques
Vive La Difference
Destiny
Completeness
Art

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Thor: Ragnarok (2017) — movie review
Today’s review is for the Marvel Studio comic book adaptation of the Thor character story: Ragnarok.  The movie came out last year, but because I rarely go to the theater any more and because I’m too cheap to pay full price for a movie, this review is from my first viewing of the movie which is now on Netflix.  For those not familiar with Norse mythology, “Ragnarok” is supposed to be the end of the universe and the death of the Norse gods.
Thor’s (Thor, the god of thunder, is played by Chris Hemsworth) father Odin (played by Anthony Hopkins) dies and his death frees Thor’s older sister Hela, the goddess of death (played by Cate Blanchett) who seeks to claim the throne of Asgard (the place where the Norse gods live).  Thor and his adopted brother Loki, the god of mischief (played by Tom Hiddleston) are defeated in initial combat with Hela, but manage to escape with their lives.
Thor is captured on a foreign planet by a former Valkyrie (played by Tessa Thompson) and meets and fights the Hulk / Bruce Banner (played by Mark Ruffalo).  Meanwhile, Hela goes to Asgard seeking the throne and her revenge.  Blah, blah, blah.  Most everyone dies fighting the goddess of death (makes sense), but a few escape, led by Heimdall (played by Idris Elba).
Blah, blah, blah.  Thor convinces Hulk and the Valkyrie to join him in fighting Hela.  They escape from where they are imprisoned and go back to Asgard to defeat Hela.  And then we all live happily ever after (kinda / sorta).
In my review of the first Thor movie, (this is the third in the series), I said it was a bit schizophrenic and needed to decide if they were going to have the movie in Asgard or on Earth.  This one is almost exclusively off-Earth – and it is much better for it.
This movie is fun AND funny.  It has the requisite fights and special effects.  The movie runs about two hours, but felt shorter to me.  That’s a good sign.  The movie seems to be an almost immediate lead in to the Avengers: Infinity War movie, and that’s okay.  It’s okay, because (like in Infinity War) almost everyone in Asgard dies and so, whatever happens to bring back everyone in Infinity War II, probably also brings back Asgard and all of the folks who get killed in this one.  I guess we’ll have to see, next year.
The movie tries to inject a bit of philosophy by repeatedly stating it is the people who make the place and not the place which makes the people.  It kind of works, but not really because the vast majority of the Asgardians are slain by Hela and the rest appear to face capture / doom at the closing credits.  Like I said, we’ll see…
Anyway, final recommendation:  highly recommended!!  As stated earlier, this movie is both fun and funny, with action, lots of humor and great fights / battles / special effects.  I would say this ranks right up with Iron Man and the Black Panther as among the very best of the Marvel Studio’s comic book / movie adaptations.  It is rated PG-13, so it might be a little too intense for very young (pre-7 years) children.  As for 7 – 13, it’s probably not too intense, but it may get them too excited and have them running around acting crazy trying to imitate the movie.  Just sayin’…
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On This Day In:
2017 For Some
2016 Fragile And Explosive, Provocation And Privacy
2015 Bound Up
2014 Economic Engines
2013 Weren’t You Supposed To Be Reading?
Absent Friends
Where I Stand
2012 Hangin’ With His P’s
Help Save
2011 Six Facets Of Good Leadership

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Logan (2017)  —  movie review
Today’s review is for the “R” rated live action adaptation of the comic book “hero / anti-hero” Wolverine, aka Logan.  The main actors / characters are: Hugh Jackman, (Logan / X-24), Patrick Stewart, (Charles Xavier / Professor X), Dafne Keen, (Laura / Wolverine’s daughter), Boyd Holbrook (Pierce – the “physical” bad-guy), and Richard E. Grant (Dr. Rice – the “brains” bad-guy).
Basically, Logan is getting old and dying from “something” related to the Adamantium he has infused in his bone structure.  Professor X is dying from old age.  Logan is protecting him until he dies.  Opens with fight scene.  Blah, blah, blah…  Logan meets Laura and has to escort her to “Eden” so she’ll be safe.  Blah, blah, blah…  Multiple fights.  Blah, blah, blah.  Logan figures out Laura is his daughter – sort of.  (I did NOT see that coming.  Just kidding…)  Anyway, more fights and more blah, blah, blah.  Logan meets a young Logan (his “son” – again, sort of).  More fights.  Blah, blah.  Big fight at end.  Laura and friends get away to start a new series of X-men movies with younger actors.
One note: this is “supposed” to be Jackman’s last appearance in the Wolverine role.  I never thought Jackman fit the role as he is tall (over 6ft) and Wolverine is supposed to be about 5ft 6in and broad, but I have to admit, like Robert Downing, Jr. and Ironman, Jackman made this role his own to such an extent that it is difficult to imagine who Hollywood will find for the eventual character reboot.  I hope they can give it at least five years…
Is this a good movie?  If not, does it work as a “comic-book” movie?  If you can get past the graphic violence (“R” for a reason), then yes, this is a very good movie.  Even beyond being a “comic-book” movie, it is a good adult movie.  The main issues are aging, friendship, loyalty, family and parenting.  All are dealt with in an adult / contextual way.  I admit to being very pleasantly surprised…  Even accepting that, the violence is such that I never would have thought this version of Wolverine would ever make it a screen – big screen or cable.  This is the Wolverine I could imagine from reading the comics way back when, but never fitting into a “PG” release to get the most money from a typical comic-book demographic.
Final recommendation: highly recommended!  This is the way I imagined Wolverine.  The movie, however, is not appropriate for young children – excessive / graphic violence and very little humor.  But, and it’s a BIG “but”, if you can see past it, the violence is what makes the movie dark (for Wolverine and the mutant children) and what ultimately gives the resolution emergent hope.
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On This Day In:
2017 Decisions
2016 Along The Path
2015 Make Mine Rare, Please
2014 Passion Flooding
2013 On Purpose
2012 Sans Gall Bladder, Day 4
How Did You Spend Your Day?
2011 It’s Hammerin’ Time!!
Convenient Auxiliaries

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It is clear that we are just an advanced breed of primates on a minor planet orbiting around a very average star, in the outer suburb of one among a hundred billion galaxies.  BUT, ever since the dawn of civilization people have craved for an understanding of the underlying order of the world.  There ought to be something very special about the boundary conditions of the universe.  And what can be more special than that there is no boundary?  And there should be no boundary to human endeavor.  We are all different.  However bad life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at.  While there is life, there is hope.
    —    Stephen Hawking
“The Theory Of Everything” (2014) — movie review
Today’s review is of the romantic drama / biography – story of the college and adult life of Stephen Hawking (played by Eddie Redmayne) and his first (and longest) wife:  Jane Hawking (played by Felicity Jones).  Both Redmayne and Jones received Best Actor / Actress Oscar nominations for their respective roles with Redmayne actually winning the Oscar.  The movie received three other nominations, too, including Best Picture.
The movie roughly covers the time between 1960 and 2010, with some after-notes about the subjects lives.  Basically, Hawking is a brilliant student, who falls in love, finds out he has a deadly disease and then goes on to outlive the medical prognosis and become a world-famous celebrity physicist.  His “popular” fame arises from both his brilliance and his overcoming his illness (motor neurone disease, aka ALS – amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, aka Lou Gehrig’s disease).
The movie makes a passing attempt to explain the general concepts of a black hole, a singularity, time, and the creation of the universe.  It also spends a fair amount of time establishing the belief disagreements between the two leads.  Steven is an atheist and Jane is CoE (Church of England / Protestant).
Hawking achieved general fame by authoring a book (“A Brief History of Time“) in which he tried to explain his work / theories in terms the “common man” would grasp.  I remember reading the book a few years after it was published and by then it had firmly established its reputation as the most widely un-read coffee table book of the 20th century.  Just as a side note:  I asked the few friends who did display the book on their coffee tables (or book shelves) if they’d actually read the book.  The response was 0.  Only 1 admitted to having even started reading it.  Granted it was a limited sample size, but it made me feel a bit sad – mostly because it meant I had no one to discuss it with.  The sad life of an unrepentant nerd…
Anyway, this is a very good movie which is instructive about human character (Jane’s and Stephen’s) and ends with the message that what is achieved through love is often the greatest accomplishment of any life.  Final recommendation:  Highly recommended.
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On This Day In:
2017 Don’t Sink Now
2016 A Burning Passion To Teach Freedom
2015 Before Debit (And Credit) Cards
2014 Herding Cats
2013 Ooops!
2012 Understand A Great Truth
2011 Start Here…
2010 Random Acts of Vandalism On Easter Weekend…

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Notting Hill (1999) — movie review
Today’s review is for the “fantasy” / romantic comedy:  “Notting Hill” starring Hugh Grant (as small time travel books – book store owner, William Thacker) and Julia Roberts (as world famous Hollywood actress, Anna Scott).  The basic premise is the question of whether a beautiful, wealthy and famous female can fall in love with a good looking, charming and witty bookstore owner who is just a “normal” person.  Given that the bookstore owner looks like Hugh Grant, the answer is (wait for it) yes.
The movie is entirely predictable in it’s happy ending, but the roller coaster of how they get there is what makes this movie a little gem.
I must admit, I have seen this movie once before, only a couple of years ago, but I just never got around to reviewing it for this blog.  This corrects the oversight.
This is a terrific rom / com!  I admit to being a fan of both leads – but pretty much, who isn’t?  There is a great chemistry between the two leads and as unrealistic as the premise and the winding plot may be, it works.
The movie works as a comedy.  I laughed.  It works as a romantic movie.  I teared up.  It has a great song in it (“When You Say Nothing At All“) and it has multiple great “movie” scenes:  the end of dinner “huzzah”, the climbing the garden fence scene, the walking the street / seasons change scene and the stopped car in the “race” scene, with the memorable quote:  “James Bond didn’t have to deal with this sorta shit.”  And because this is a “British” movie, there are at least a dozen more “little” jokes and scenes which could be included in the above list.
The movie is rated PG-13 due to implied sex and brief coarse language, but, all in all, this is a very watchable (re-watchable) movie.  Final recommendation:  Very highly recommended.
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On This Day In:
2017 I Think They Are Starting To…
2016 Living There
2015 Bookin’ West
Beyond My Reach
You Never Call Anymore…
2014 Winning?
2013 Still Inventing
2012 Motivated
2011 Waiting In Line At Starbuck’s

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Hacksaw Ridge (2016)  —  movie review
WAAAYYY back in August 2016, I wrote a post about a documentary, a movie preview (“trailer”), and a few comments on something I’d discovered on YouTube which I then called “trailer reviews”.  Here is a link to that post for anyone who would like to read my earlier post:  https://kmabarrett.wordpress.com/2016/08/12/conscientious-courage/
At any rate, the movie came out and, for whatever reason, I never have reviewed it.  This post corrects that mistake.  (My earlier post was about the documentary / subject of the movie and not on the actual movie.)
The film is a typically formatted two-part military tale focusing on the World War II training (pre-military life / boot camp), and then, (actual) combat experiences of Desmond Doss, a combat medic who was a pacifist / Seventh-day Adventist Christian, who refused to touch, carry or use a firearm or weapon of any kind. Doss became the first conscientious objector to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.  The medal was for service above and beyond the call of duty during the Battle of Okinawa (April to June 1945).  It should be mentioned, the movie implies the battle shown was a few days / nights long.  In fact, it (the battle shown) lasted a couple of weeks and the battle for the island several months.  Also, Doss received medals for two acts of courage in combat (on two other islands) which preceded this battle on Okinawa, so his courage was already known by his fellow soldiers before the events depicted in this movie.
Andrew Garfield stars as Doss, and Hugo Weaving (Mr. Smith from the Matrix movies) as his father, with Sam Worthington (the blue guy in “Avatar”) as Doss’ company commander and Vince Vaughn as his drill instructor and platoon sergeant.  The film received six Oscar nominations including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor for Garfield and Best Sound Editing, and winning the awards for Best Sound Mixing and Best Film Editing.
First we are introduced to Doss as a child and learn about his desire to be a doctor.  We also meet his girlfriend and future wife.  (Normally, I would describe all of this as “Blah, blah, blah…”, but in this movie, the background really is important to the story – imagine that!)  Doss joins the Army and is placed under the training of Sergeant Howell (Vince Vaughn, who is surprisingly good in this wise-cracking, but non-comedic role).  Despite being skinny, Doss excels physically but is cast as a coward to his platoon for refusing to handle a rifle and train on Saturdays.  Howell and Captain Glover (Worthington, who looks surprisingly old in this role) attempt to discharge Doss for psychiatric reasons but are overruled, as Doss’ religious beliefs do not qualify as a mental illness.  So, instead, they try to make life hard on Doss.  One night, Doss is beaten by some of the members of his own platoon, but Doss refuses to identify his attackers and completes his training.
Doss intends to marry Dorothy (his girlfriend played by Teresa Palmer), but his refusal to carry a firearm leads to an arrest for failing to follow a direct order by a commanding officer.  At his trial, Doss pleads not guilty, but before he is sentenced, his father barges into the tribunal with a letter from a former commanding officer (of the father) stating that his son’s pacifism is protected by an Act of Congress.  The charges against Doss are dropped, and he and Dorothy are married.
Doss’ unit is deployed to the Pacific theater, and during the Battle of Okinawa, Doss’ unit is told that they have to climb and secure the Maeda Escarpment (“Hacksaw Ridge”).  In the initial fight, Doss saves several wounded soldiers.  The platoon camps for the night, which Doss spends in a foxhole with Smitty (played by Luke Bracey), who was the first squad-mate to call Doss a coward back in his training platoon days.  Doss tells Smitty his refusal to carry a rifle comes from nearly shooting his drunken father, who threatened his mother with a pistol.  Smitty apologizes for doubting his courage and the two reconcile.  This last is definitely meant to create a “heart-felt” moment and my immediate reaction was:  this guy is either going to be a friend for life or he’s going to be a “redshirt” (LOL – StarTrek TOS reference for you nerds out there).
The next day, the Japanese launch a massive counterattack and drive the Americans off the escarpment.  Smitty is killed (ha! a redshirt), while Howell and several of Doss’ squad mates are left injured on the battlefield.  Doss hears the cries of the wounded and dying soldiers and goes back to save them, carrying the wounded to the cliff’s edge and belaying them each down the cliff face by rope, each time praying to save just one more.  The arrival of dozens of wounded once presumed dead comes as a shock to the rest of the unit below.  When day breaks, Doss rescues Sergeant Howell and the two escape over the cliff while under enemy fire. Just a historical note on the escarpment / cliff face.  The escarpment is actually about a 300-400 foot “overall” rise which is topped by the last 30 to 40 feet of sheer cliff.  This last bit – the cliff face – is given a bit of dramatic enhancement by the film’s director (Mel Gibson) who makes the last bit seem like the whole thing.
Captain Glover tells Doss that the men have been inspired by his courage and faith, and that they will not launch the next attack without him.  With new reinforcements, they win the battle.  When some Japanese soldiers fake surrender, Doss saves Captain Glover and others by slapping and then kicking (nice Spidey move) enemy grenades.  Doss is wounded in the leg by the kicked grenade’s blast, and Doss descends the cliff, holding the Bible his wife gave him.
The film switches to archival photos and footage from the documentary to show Doss receiving his Congressional Medal of Honor from President Harry S. Truman for rescuing the 75 soldiers at Hacksaw Ridge.  The notes state Doss stayed married to Dorothy until her death in 1991, and, that he died on March 23, 2006, at the age of 87.  As I mentioned in my earlier post, his fellow soldiers reported Doss saved over 100 men.  Doss estimated he “helped” 50.  His CMoH split the difference an said “75”!!!
So, what did I think?  You gotta be kiddin’ me!  I loved the documentary; I cried during the preview (okay, maybe I just welled up a bit);  and, I loved the movie (and, yes, I did cry)!!  This is not a movie about war – which is what I originally thought it was going to be about.  This is a movie about the human spirit, faith and courage.  Needless to say – final recommendation:  very highly recommended.  One note of caution:  like several of Gibson’s movies, this one is graphic in the display of violence and in the horrors of war.  As such, it is not appropriate for the very young or the squeamish.
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On This Day In:
2017 Talent Hates To Move
2016 Looking To November
2015 It Isn’t The End
Prospero’s Precepts
2014 Friends
2013 Learning Bitter
2012 Remembrance, Minstrels & Going Off To War
May I Have More Happiness, Please?
2011 There Is No God, But God
2010 Another Running Book…

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