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Posts Tagged ‘Jimmy Stewart’

Today’s blog is a review of one book (“The Bed Of Procrustes“) and three movies (“Elektra“, “The Flight Of The Phoenix“, and “Kingdom Of Heaven“).  Book first…
The Bed Of Procrustes” is written by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (2010©) and is subtitled: “Philosophical And Practical Aphorisms“.  Taleb is famous for his prior work titled: “The Black Swan“.  That book was about something – his observation / theory that we humans are not very good at analysing probabilities and therefore make poor decisions which can seriously impact our lives, society and planet.  Part of what made the book interesting was Taleb’s frequent digressions into sarcasm and one-liners about various things he sees in our world.  This book, (“The Bed“…) skips the main story and just lists the remarks as a series of one-liners.  Because I love this kind of humor, I highly recommend this book.  On the other hand, you can simply follow this blog for the next few years and you’ll still get a number of his funniest quotes.  (Just kidding!)  Seriously, buy the book.  While it may be true that you will be able to pick up a number of the quotes from my site (over time), it’s not the same as reading them in the author’s intended format, structure or pace.  My site should never be considered a primary source for information – particularly regarding quotes.  It is only a venue for me to repeat words which have passed through my own consciousness then pinballed around enough to make it to this site.
Elektra” is another of the comic-book based movies I collect.  The title character previously appeared in the “Daredevil” movie as the love interest for that movie’s title character.  In this movie, the main character is resurrected (she dies in “Daredevil“) in order to save and protect a young girl who is destined to save the world from evil.  Blah, blah, blah – okay, it’s a comic book movie.  Is the movie any good?  It’s not as bad as I expected, but it’s a fairly mediocre effort.  Are the special effects great?  So-so.  Is it worth it for the martial arts?  Not really, but they’re not bad either.  The upside?  It’s nice to see female superheros get their own platform.  They tend to be lower tier titles in the comic universe and that remains true in the cinema universe too, which I think is too bad.  It seems to me, there should be a great opportunity for a breakout smash which could change a career and create a new market for a franchise – much on the line of “Aliens” for Sigourney Weaver.  But, it’s not this movie. Overall rating – recommend.
The second movie is “The Flight Of The Phoenix“.  This is the original from 1965 starring Jimmy Stewart and Richard Attenborough.  This was one of the first “survival” movies I ever saw and it captured my imagination.  Growing up in San Francisco, I had no real concept of a desert or of real heat.  (Now that I’ve lived in Saudi Arabia for two years I understand real heat.)  As I said, the whole idea of “survival” was a revelation to me.  Anyway, I really enjoyed this film way back when and when it came out on DVD I picked it up, watched it and then put up on the shelf with my other “classics from growing up”.  A couple of weeks ago, I stumbled upon the re-make starring Dennis Quaide, so I picked it up (see my review: Edge, Class, Clash, And Flight) and enjoyed it enough it made me want to go back to compare / contrast it with the original.  What I found surprised me…  Despite the great actors in the original, I prefer the remake!
This is a surprise because I almost always prefer the original. In this case, it felt dated (which it is given it was made 40 years ago), but the dating is not the time period, but the cinematography which somehow seems – not as good.  The original also feels longer.  It is, but that’s not the same as feeling that way.  My complaints about the re-make remain – primarily the extra “excitement” added to the ending and which adds nothing to the story, and the other minor complaints too, but all in all, I do feel the re-make is more watchable than the original.  I only wish there were a way to substitute the actors.  Overall rating: this remains a classic for the actors and the genre – highly recommend.
The third movie is “Kingdom Of Heaven” starring Orlando Bloom.  In researching the movie for this review, I found out it is based on actual characters and events.  It is fictionalized in that the characters aren’t the ones who did the acts portrayed in their roles, but they did exist in that time period and location.  For some reason, I thought it was entirely fictional.  Anyway, I am now an Orlando Bloom fan.  I just like him.  He wasn’t great in this role, but he was believable as the evolving blacksmith to knight-crusader.  I’ve now seen Bloom in a number of roles – Pirates series, Rings series, and Troy – and I just like him.  He’s not just another pretty (male) face with a funny accent.
Okay, back to “Kingdom…“.  Basically, a “good-guy caught in a bad situation where your allies are actually the villains and your opponents may actually be ‘better’ people than you” movie.  These movies follow a basic premise and natural story line and this one touches all of the bases.  Good-guy flees home, meets up with zen master to receive training, heroic survival, meets future opponent and they become friends, meets bad-guys who are your allies, and so-on until the good-guy lives happily ever after.
Does the movie work?  Absolutely!  Why?  Because I’m here to see the battles and they’re realistic – certainly more so than “Lord Of The Rings” and “Pirates Of The Caribbean“.  (But I digress.)  The acting is good and for once there’s a movie about the middle ages where everyone is dirty and they stay that way for most of the movie.  You see, it’s the small things I look for in  a movie.  On a political note – it was nice to see the Muslims portrayed as the more civilized of the two conflicting armies.  What a change from the post-9/11 mantra.  I’m not sure there was as much peaceful co-existence in reality as portrayed in the movie, but it was interesting to see a little balance.  Overall rating: highly recommend.
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There is something about a web site which claims as its purpose:  “To arrive at the edge of the world’s knowledge, seek out the most complex and sophisticated minds, put them in a room together, and have them ask each other the questions they are asking themselves.”  To find out more and to stretch your mind, visit www.edge.org.  You’ll be glad you did…  This site may not have the breadth or humor of www.ted.com, but it will definitely make you think.
Today’s movie reviews include a repeat (“X-men: First Class“), a new viewing (“Clash Of The Titans“) and a first viewing of a remake (“The Flight Of The Phoenix“).
What is left to be re-said about this reboot of the X-men franchise.  This is probably the third time I’ve watched it and it is the best of the bunch (the X-men franchise).  I even give it an edge over “Wolverine: Origins” which was my previous favorite.  If they can keep up the story quality (and acting), this franchise can easily go another 10 years.  The evolution of Magneto into an enemy of humanity (as opposed to simply an evil person) is quite deep (and fascinating).  The performances by Michael Fassbender (as Magneto) and Kevin Bacon (as Sebastian Shaw) easily dominate the movie.  The interesting twist (level of depth) is that Magneto grows up to hate humans because he believes Shaw is evil and a human, when in fact, Shaw is a mutant who has complete disregard for humans because he is a mutant and believes himself to be superior (even to other mutants).
This is a movie I can watch over and over again and I highly recommend it.
I was sure I first saw “Clash Of The Titans” when I was a child, but I honestly didn’t remember it.  This is, quite frankly, an incredibly bad movie.  The casting is bad and the acting is worse.  The movie has two redeeming features: it does follow the Greek myths (on which it is based) more closely than the average Hollywood movie, and for its day, the stop-action special effects (by Ray Harryhausen) are quite good.  I would still rate the stop-action from “Jason And The Argonauts” better though.  Almost all of the other special effects are as bad as the acting.  I was shocked to find out the movie was released in 1981!!  Considering “Jason” was made in 1963, one would have assumed there was greater improvements in the technology in almost 20 years.  I can only attribute the poor effects to the producers having spent too much money on the big names in the cast.  Money, I add, which was wasted as I struggle to find a single decent performance (and this from a cast including Laurence Olivier).
Interestingly, even the title is incorrect.  This is not a “clash of titans” as the movie implies.  To begin with the “Kracken” is a Norse myth, not Greek, and Medusa was a human, turned into an evil creature by a jealous goddess.  Neither were Titans from Greek mythology.  And finally, the “clash” is about 10 seconds, at the end of a two hour movie.  Anyway, like I said this movie is only “based” on Greek myth – the adventures of Perseus.
The reason I bought the DVD was because there was a re-make done recently and its sequel is due out soon.  I was intending to pick up the re-make prior to going to see the sequel.  I will probably still do that, but I certainly have much lower expectations now.  Unless you are really a stop-action special effects fan, this movie is a complete waste of time.
The third movie I’m reviewing is “Flight Of The Phoenix“.  This is a 2004 remake of the 1965 movie by the same name (well, actually “The Flight Of The Phoenix“).   I now own both versions, although I haven’t watched the original in some time.  What starts out as a typical disaster movie turns out to be a better than average study in human dynamics when faced with extreme stress (yeah, I know, that’s what all “disaster movies” are supposed to be about).  This version has the addition of a female in the cast – I’m not sure why as there is no particular advantage or plot twist involving her.  This movie also does the politically correct thing of adding minorities in many of the roles.  In the original, the cast is multi-national as opposed to multi-racial.  The slight twist is the addition of “class” difference where Hugh Laurie plays a “valuable” management type as opposed to the average worker.  It’s interesting that this plays a more significant role in the movie than does the multi-gender or multi-racial aspects.
As if surviving in the desert isn’t bad enough, this re-make version adds in a final sequence attack by roaming bandits.  Setting aside the unlikeliness of bandits wandering around in the middle of the desert, the odds of them stumbling on the crashed crew is so improbable as to boggle all credulity.  But, what the heck, in a disaster/survival movie – in for a penny (desert, storms, crashes), in for a pound (roving bandits with motor cycles).  To be honest, I kept waiting for someone to say, “Oh, heck!  A brother never survives this shit in the movies…”
The ending in the original is MUCH better than in the re-make which is entirely Hollywood “happily ever after”.  Anyway, I am a Dennis Quaid fan and I liked this version – so – recommended!!  Now I’ve got to go watch the original with Jimmy Stewart!!
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