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Posts Tagged ‘Matt Damon’

The Martian  —  movie review
Today’s movie review is for the science fiction thriller which came out in October of this year (2015).  The movie stars Matt Damon in the title role – stranded astronaut Mark Watney.  Full disclosure: my daughters say I have a full blown man-crush on Damon and that I say he can do no wrong.  That’s pretty close to true (the man-crush), but not entirely (see my review of “The Informant!here).  In this movie, our hero Matt (I mean Mark), gets left behind on a mission to the planet Mars and he must survive until he can be rescued.
Let’s see now, left for dead.  (Check.)  Oh, heck, he’s alive!  (Check.)  He’ll be dead before we can save him.  (Check.)  Blah, blah, blah.  Political intrigue.  (Check.)  Let’s turn this puppy around and go get him!  (Check.)  Blah, blah, blah.  Drama.  Surprise ending – we saved him and we feel good about it.  This is about as predictable a movie as has come out in any number of years…  But…
Darn if it isn’t a GREAT movie!
This is a movie which deals with three themes: 1) an individual’s near indomitable will to survive; 2) a nation’s (planet’s) will to support the individual (“the needs of the one out-weigh the needs of – costs to – the many”); and, 3) there is survival value in being able to break down problems into their incremental parts and then finding a solution to each problem in its turn.
The acting and writing are great.  There are moments of great tension. There is comic relief in the dialogue.  Watney’s expressions of aloneness are palpable.  And, the actions of all parties are heroic.  Of course it is possible to nit-pic about some of the special effects, but all in all, they are very good to excellent too.
Final recommendation:  highly recommended!  This is great cinema and great science fiction.  I will be very disappointed if this movie doesn’t win several Oscars.  This is a movie I will watch multiple times.
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On This Day In:
2014 Recovering
Best Wishes For 2015!
2013 Best Wishes For 2014!
2012 My Creed
2011 It Probably Isn’t So

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I am sure there is someone out there who can (will) correct me, but one of the first movies to “decently” portray a cyborg-type / exoskeleton / robot suit was the original RoboCop.  It seems as if since the production of “Ironman” with Robert Downey Jr., every actor has to fill out his / her career by putting on a suit of armor or an exoskeleton.  Today’s review is about Matt Damon’s effort, titled: “Elysium“.
As dystopian, Sci-Fi, special-effects movies go, this is a pretty entertaining movie.  I am a Matt Damon fan and this movie certainly doesn’t hurt his fan base.  It’s not a great role for him.  It kind of feels like: “been there, done that” action / adventure that he has done multiple times in the “Bourne” series, but I’m not a fan who thinks every role has to stretch a particular actor.  Some roles are kind of career fillers.  I think this is that kind of role for Damon.
So, let’s see…  Man is about to die, one chance to live, have an exoskeleton bonded to your body, go save yourself and the whole planet, too.  Yup.  That about sums it up.  Does he get it done? (What do you think?)
If I have any objection to this movie, it’s the same I have to the entire genre: having a iron shell or exoskeleton, does not make the internal functions of the human body sturdier.  If you get thrown ten feet and crash into a steel or cement wall – you are still dead from concussions and damage to internal organs.  I don’t care what kind of skeleton you have.  I will make allowances for the “Wolverine” character, but that’s only because he also has a super-healing power to go along with his internal metal skeleton.  The rest of these action heroes – sorry, you’re all dead on impact.
Having said that, the special effects in this movie are pretty good – particularly the “good” earth (Elysium) orbiting the bad earth.  In case you’re wondering where you heard the term / name before, it was the Heaven / Valhalla equivalent place mentioned in the movie “Gladiator“.  If you find yourself there, don’t worry about the battle, your friends or how you got there, cause you’re already dead…  I’m not sure if it’s intended or unintended irony that the “bad” but mostly innocent (better) folks live in “Heaven”.  I’m not sure if it’s intended or unintended social-political commentary that the hard-working and “bad / lesser” people live on Earth (Hell).
Despite my reservations mentioned above this is a pretty good Sci-Fi movie and I would put it between moderate to highly recommended depending on if your into Sci-fi, action / adventure, good versus evil movies.  Obviously, I am and I enjoyed this movie.
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On This Day In:
2013 Future Trustees
2012 Praise Not The Day…
2011 Educated Living

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Strictly speaking, this is not a movie review blog site.  I do, however, from time to time, post brief reviews of movies I’ve watched.  Lately, I’ve been too lazy to do that, so for the next few posts, I’ll be trying to catch up.  This may take a few weeks, so I’ll understand if you’re not really interested and decide to come back next month…  (Now that you’ve been warned…)
This review for the latest in the “Jason Bourne” sagas: “The Bourne Legacy” and stars Jeremy Renner – the superhero formerly known as Hawkeye in the Avengers movie.  The romantic interest is played by Rachel Weisz.
If you are a follower of this blog, you know I’m quite the Matt Damon fan and Matt played Jason Bourne in the first three movies of this series.  I gather there was a financial dispute, because an actor is rarely too busy to re-star in their signature role.  I know there is always talk about schedule conflict and fear of type-casting, but trust me, it’s always about the money.
Anyway, this movie isn’t a normal sequel, nor is it the typical Hollywood re-boot of the series.  Rather, this movie is a tangent.  It has just enough scenes and characters borrowed from the prior movies to explain the existence of the latest super-spy and then it goes directly to the tried and true “Bourne” format.  In case you’re not familiar: memories, hand to hand fighting, blow something up, chase, repeat until end of two hours or most of the bad guys are dead.  There are always some left over for the next sequel…
Does it work?  Yeah, pretty much.  Lots of action, shooting, blowing stuff up, chases, fighting, blood, etc.  It’s workable as a science-fiction and as a spy-shoot ’em up.  It lacks the originality of the original movie, but heck, so did the first two sequels, and I like them too.
Final recommendation: not highly recommended, but still a very entertaining action / spy / thriller movie.  Worth viewing.  Moderate recommendation.
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On This Day In:
2013 God’s Protection
2012 Happy Easter!!
Edge, Class, Clash, And Flight
The Value Of Bureaucracies
2011 Logic Cuts

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Of late, I’ve been watching more DVD’s in my free time and reading less books.  I’ve also been reading a lot more other blogs instead of books.  I don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing, or even if this can fall under such “moral” concepts as good and bad.  I am generally against reading a book on-line.  Not because I am anti-technology, but because I’m a dinosaur and like the physicality (the touch and smell) of a “real” book.  e-books simply seem sterile.  I’m not sure why I don’t “feel” the same way about reading blogs, but I don’t.  I think it’s because reading blogs doesn’t seem to be discrete in the same way that reading a book feels.  Books start and end.  Blogs start and die.  Maybe “die” isn’t the correct word.  Maybe “wither and end” is a better description.  I guess most folks simply run out of time when other things in life start to get in the way.  Blogs are more conversational, and people sometimes just quit speaking…
I also really seem to be going through phases in my own blogging “life cycle”.  The first one to two years I was posting infrequently but they were longer posts about things which were moving me emotionally.  Gradually, I started adding quotes, favorite speeches and poems (and favorite song lyrics) and then finally my workout history.  Typically, I made multiple posts on the days when I had free time, and then there was nothing for a couple of weeks.  My daughter “introduced” me to scheduling, and that kind of evened out my postings.
Every now and then I’d post a review of a movie I’d seen or book I’d read.  Then, of course, my tendency to be obsessive meant I had to do them daily (or as near as possible to the actual day viewed / completed).  “Mostly” that has remained true, which means that some days, you’d read my scheduled post and then later get a second about whatever was currently happening (like today).
I had few “views” and even fewer “followers”, but that was (is) okay because I was (am) blogging for me and not for you (sorry about that dear readers).  A couple of times a month I might get a “like” and once in a blue-moon I would get a “comment”.  I always responded to the comments, even if it was only to smile ” 🙂 ” and say thank you.  I almost always went back to the “likes” to see what their sites were about.  Not because I wanted to read anyone else’s site (per se), but because I was curious about the someone’s which were responding to my random thoughts (postings).
It wasn’t long before I was stumbling upon really creative and interesting people.  You’ll have to excuse me if I seem anthropomorphic, but I think of your blogs as you (and yes, I realize they are only the “you” you want me to see).  Over time (sometime in year three), the number of “likes” got to be too great to visit each every day and I began the slow slide into “following” myself.  I now have a couple hundred “followers” and I “follow” several hundred too.  At first this wasn’t a big deal as most bloggers either post a couple of times a month or post five or six times a day (but they are photos and quotes which don’t take long to view).  Slowly, though, I noticed I was reading more and more blogs which were posting more frequently, with more content and which took more and more time to consider (not just read, but think about and consider the “impact” on my thoughts).
I must admit I’ve now reached the saturation point.  Where once I obsessively followed each posting on every blog, I then began to flitter like a butterfly amongst the blogs I follow.  I now have realized that I simply lack the time to “touch” them frequently (even with the weekly round-up).  However, I simply do not have enough hours in the day to enjoy all of your work.  Reading (books in particular) is my passion.  Trying to note / record a few of the thoughts which touch (or move) my soul has become the purpose of this blog.  For now, I must apologize to those, who like me, are casting threads into the ether.  If you see me “like” or “comment” on your sites fewer times than I have in the past, this is not a dispersion on your blog, as much as it is a recognition that time is fleeting and life is wondrously short…
DVD Reviews:
I’ve actually watched five different DVDs since my last movie review, so in addition to my lengthy lead-in (above), you’ll now have to bear up under another large chunk of reading.  The five DVDs are: “The Informant!“, “The Last Airbender“, “The Iron Giant“, “The Dark Knight Rises“, and “Ip Man: The Final Fight“.
The Informant!” stars Matt Damon as an up-and-coming executive at a corporate agribusiness, who upon feeling threatened by the failing project he is assigned, decides to become an inside agent for the FBI in an investigation of price fixing.  The movie is based on a real-life case, but is meant to be treated as a kind of black comedy.  To be honest, although I am a Damon fan, this was a movie I could not wait to end.  I found it tiresome and humorless.  I guess the comedy was supposed to be in the irony, because it certainly wasn’t in anything else.  If you are a committed anti-agribusiness advocate, this movie may confirm / support some of your worst fears.  For anyone else, give it a miss.  Final recommendation: not recommended.
The Last Airbender” is a children’s kung-fu, magic, sorcery, fantasy movie.  The story and acting is suitable for the target age (5 to 12 yrs old).  The special effects are quite good.  My son watched the TV series the movie is based on and he hated this movie.  My daughter, who did not follow the TV show has friends who did and she says they all uniformly hate this movie.  I have never seen a single TV episode, so my review must be taken with a grain of salt.  I enjoyed it!  It’s not great cinema, but really, how much great cinema comes out of the 5 to 12 target audience which is based on the above description (okay, I grant you the first “Kung-Fu Panda” was pretty good).  This movie has none of the humor or heart of “Kung-Fu Panda”, but it’s okay.  By the way, I got it used for $3, so it’s not like it broke the bank to view it.  It is obviously meant to be the first in a long line of series / sequels.  Will I watch them.  Probably, but I won’t see them at the theater, even at a discounted matinee price.  Final recommendation: an okay action movie to kill a few hours watching with your kids, nieces and nephews.
The Iron Giant” is throw-back to earlier animation movie style – pre-3d (“Toy Story“), Saturday-cartoonish flat style.  Basically, a metal robot is sent to destroy earth.  It is damaged and then assisted by a young boy who befriends the robot.  The robot is a weapon which “learns” to be non-violent.  This is a twist on the “Frankenstein” / “Number 5 Is Alive” Sci-Fi movie where the “bad guy” is not necessarily the “un-human” character.  Anti-military, anti-government, pro-peace movie…  In any case, this is a very charming movie which (deservedly) has kind of a cult-classic following.  It is suitable for almost all ages.  Final recommendation:  Highly recommended!
The Dark Knight Rises” is the final movie in the Christian Bale, “Batman” trilogy.  I reviewed this movie back when I saw it at the theater (see that review here), and my review as it stood remains very accurate.  Well, maybe too kind…  Not much of this movie plot/story bears thinking about too much as it is all comic-book fantasy – even within the scope of comic-book adaptation it’s pretty far fetched.  But as stated in my original review, this is not the type of movie you go to for anything but fun and action.  One final point: the sound problem I had at the theater was not present while viewing the DVD, so basically the sound levels in the theater were screwed up.  The dialog is fully understandable.  Final recommendation: Still highly recommended.
Ip Man: The Final Fight” stars Anthony Wong in a dramatized biography of the Kung-Fu Sifu who taught the famous Chinese movie star / martial artist Bruce Lee.  This is the third in the series and it follows the life from the end of World War II to Ip Man’s death.  This is “Americanized” Chinese movie making, similar to a number of movies which have come out in the last ten or so years.  The movie’s production value is superb and up to the level of the martial arts in the film.  As such, plot, dialogue and action all make for a pretty enjoyable movie.  In terms of pure martial arts, I think the first movie was the best of the three, but again there is not much of a fall off between the sequel and this, so the series holds up very well.  If you are into the modern age of Chinese martial arts movies, this is definitely a must see.  Final recommendation: Highly recommended!
Thank you to all of you who’ve managed to make it through this lengthy posting!
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On This Day In:
2012 Thoughts And Communications
2011 But How Does Peter Feel?
2010 Name That Regret

 

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Back at work now for a week after my thirty days off for vacation.  Hil, Sarah and I flew to Liverpool, U.K. to visit her family for three weeks (Sarah has stayed an extra two weeks and will be back soon).  We flew out of Oakland, to Portland, on to Amsterdam, and then into John Lennon / Liverpool International Airport (aka Speke Airport).  The return trip was via Seattle instead of Portland.  All the flights were surprising comfortable and there were no problems at all.  The most interesting thing was we took a turboprop on the initial leg of the trip (from Oakland to Portland).  This was only the third time I’ve ever flown in a propeller aircraft and it was the first time it was quiet.  I would say it was quieter than a jet – particularly on the takeoff and landing.  I was expecting to have to shout to Hil, but we could speak at normal volumes.
We had a wonderful time visiting with family and old friends and I felt particularly relaxed by the whole experience.  We stayed close to Liverpool and just enjoyed getting re-acquainted with the jewel at the mouth of the Mersey.  The weather was surprising agreeable – in fact, I would say the first four days we were there it was “hot” (in the low 80s).  Very pleasant for us coming from Concord, CA (in the 90s).  I was hoping for more rain.  We did get some, but it was mostly intermittent and not a bother at all.  “Just enough to keep the dust down,” is how it’s described in Scouser.
Books
I took a number of books along with me, hoping to be motivated enough to get through them.  I wasn’t.  I made the “mistake” of purchasing a Sudoku book at the airport and ended up wasting many hours in simple entertainment.  I find the pattern matching in Sudoku to be extremely relaxing even though it seems to also involve a great deal of mental concentration.  Anyway, the three books I did complete were: The Art Of Pitching, written by Tom Seaver (1984©) with Lee Lowenfish, “Wampeters, Foma & Granfalloons“, written by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., (1976©), and “A Christian’s Pocket Guide To Islam“, written by Patrick Sookhdeo (2001©).
If you’ve been following this blog for awhile, you probably are aware of my re-kindled interest in baseball (in general) and the San Francisco Giants (in particular).  Hil and I have watch most of the games this season and I would estimate we’d seen some of all but three games – up until we left for our vacation.  Anticipating I was going to be suffering from baseball withdrawal, I took along Tom Seaver’s book to ease my suffering.  The book is an excellent guide to learning about the mechanics of pitching and I would highly recommend it for a junior level baseball coach or 10 to 12 year old who dreams of becoming a high school, college, or Big League pitcher.  For me, there were many insights into the mechanics, but not a lot on the strategy of pitching to a specific hitter or work a game.  Seaver does spend the last chapter going pitch by pitch through a game (he wins it), but it was somehow lacking in what I was hoping for.  I’m not sure what I was looking for, but this didn’t quite “get it” for me.  Anyway, it did help me get through the three weeks without watching a game and I do highly recommend this short volume to anyone interested in the mechanical side of pitching and picture preparation.
Many years ago, I read a few of Kurt Vonnegut’s books.  The one which struck me the most was “Slaughter House Five“, but I enjoyed the couple I read and I bought several more intending to complete more of his works.  Well, life got in the way and I’ve never gotten around to them.  I found a few of his quotes on another blog I subscribe to (and copied them to my own), but they tickled my fancy about getting back to the ones I’ve not read.  “Wampeters, Foma & Granfalloons” is one of those unread works.  This is actually a terrific little book about science fiction, life, war, peace and honesty.   I highly recommend it!!  One story on Biafra was particularly touching; another (a SciFi story) on prolonged life was particularly frightening.  As I said – highly recommended.  And now I really do want to read several of his other works which have been sitting on my shelf for thirty odd years…
The third book I completed, “Pocket Guide To Islam“, was a very thin book I found at Hil’s mum’s place.  I didn’t know exactly what to expect reading it.  It seems to be written by a Christian minister who has spent some time studying Islam.  I would say the book captures the basic story, philosophy, historical facts of the religion, but I don’t feel the book conveys the depth of feeling or nuanced interpretation of a Muslim.  Of course, not being Muslim myself, I may be completely incorrect, but my direct experience with Indian, Egyptian, Iranian and Arabic Muslims is not in complete agreement with some of the minor facts in the book and therefore I find it difficult to accept the whole of the work.  Still, I do feel the author seems to be coming from a willingness to accept conversion to Christianity by Muslims.  I’m just not sure the author says anything which would help a Christian convert a Muslim, even if the Muslim were personally willing to listen to an attempt at conversion.
Movies
Including one movie I saw after I got home from Liverpool, I’ve seen fourteen new movies during my thirty days off.  They include: The Adjustment Bureau, The Eagle, The Green Hornet, A Law Abiding Citizen, Grand Torino, Transformers 3, Defiance, Invictus, True Grit (the new version), Harry Potter – Deathly Hallows part 2, Battle: Los Angeles, The Lincoln Lawyer, Country Strong, and Captain America (in 3D and normal the following day).  Wow!!  (That’s some sittin’ around on your duff – even for me!)
The Adjustment Bureau: another good, solid performance by Matt Damon.  Is life pre-ordained or is there free will?  See the movie and then you decide…  Highly recommended as an adult, thinking movie.
The Eagle: a surprising entertaining movie about Romans in England (Scotland, actually, but why nit-pick).  Reminiscent of the first battle scene in Gladiator (which I also enjoyed), but this is the longer, drawn out version.  Not great, but a solid “man’s” movie.
The Green Hornet: mostly a dud.  Very disappointing.  I’ve never seen Seth Rogen in anything before and this movie will go a long way in making sure I make NO effort to see him again soon.  Reminiscent of the Adam West Batman TV series, but I don’t think they were going for the high camp that made the TV series tolerable (sometimes very funny).  Save two hours of your life and do something else besides watching this.  You’ve been warned…
A Law Abiding Citizen: if you liked The Usual Suspects, you’ll probably like this movie.  I enjoyed them both for what they are – good, solid, adult, storytelling.  Perhaps too much implied violence for the young or squeamish, but otherwise, solid entertainment!
Grand Torino: Wow!!  I don’t remember the last time I laughed so much watching a serious movie.  Clint Eastwood at his best!!  Shades of Archie Bunker from “All In The Family“.  A serious movie about racism, hope, coming of age – AND it is laugh out loud funny because it’s so well written and acted.
Transformers 3:  Not as good as T1 or T2, but still pretty good summer entertainment.  If you want to see robots kicking each other around, this is it!  The down side is you have to sit through about 45 minutes of blah, blah, blah about the hero (Shia Labeouf) and why Megan Fox isn’t in the movie.  Next time, just say, “the part of Megan Fox will be played by…” and get on with the robots fighting.  Another thing: you don’t HAVE to include every character from every earlier movie.  Still, I’ll pick it up when it comes out in DVD for X-mas (cause I’m that kind of guy).  I saw this opening weekend, in 3D.  I’m not sure it added much to the movie.  Again, I’m left unimpressed with 3D technology…
Defiance:  an interesting movie about some Russian Jews who resisted the Nazis during WWII.  Based on a true story, it’s not a documentary and it’s not “entertaining”.  Worth seeing and interesting.  Stars Daniel Craig of James Bond fame.  Okay acting – moderate recommendation.
Invictus:  I was expecting a rugby version of Rocky, but instead this was a major bio of support for Nelson Mandela with Rocky thrown in for good measure.  If you like leadership movies and or sports movies about underdogs who win, this is for you.  I highly recommend it (on both counts)!!  Oh, yeah, Matt Damon stars (again).  He is rapidly compiling a significant body of work.
True Grit (the new version) – pretty much follows the original John Wayne classic and then disappoints (me) at the end.  It’s a more realistic ending, but who cares – it’s not a four-poster.  I’d watch them both if I were you and then let me know which you think is better.  This version has Jeff Bridges playing John Wayne (I mean Rooster Cogburn) and it’s a good solid performance.  Oh, yeah, there’s Matt Damon again…  Recommended, but definitely see the first version too.
Harry Potter – Deathly Hallows part 2: a good, solid movie and ending to the series.  I am not a devotee to the books, but I felt it was fairly close.  Interestingly, they did not make the same mistake as Transformers 3, they assume you saw the other movies or read the books, cover the transition into the part two movie in about ten minutes tops and get on with the rest of the story.  I saw this on opening day with Sarah, in Liverpool, in 3D.  For some reason, the things not immediately focused on were blurry.  I’m not sure if this was meant to increase the feel of the 3D or not, but I did not find 3D added much to the movie.  I will definitely pick this up on DVD (in 2D).  Highly recommended if you’ve seen any of the other earlier movies…
Battle: Los Angeles: this was probably the surprise movie of the bunch for me.  I did NOT expect anything from the movie except the pleasure of (once again) seeing Los Angeles get destroyed.  Unfortunately, LA gets saved, but at least it gets thoroughly trashed before it gets saved and the movie is a good action movie.  It’s gung-ho, Marines, oo-rah, but who cares…  It stars Aaron Eckhart (who I first noticed and loved in The Core) and he makes a surprisingly good Marine sergeant.  It’s definitely over the top for the military and the Marines and I loved it.  Great summer entertainment.  Highly recommended.  Oo-rah!!
The Lincoln Lawyer:  a smart law / lawyer movie.  Who would have thunk it?  Stars Matthew McConaughey as a lawyer who does much of his work from a mini-office in a classic Lincoln towncar (oh, I get the title now).  Of course, he’s also out to do the right thing and help the down-trodden – just like ol’ Honest Abe (oh, I get the title now).  Not as interesting as A Law Abiding Citizen (above), but another entertaining adult movie.  Recommended, but not quite highly recommended.
Country Strong: first let’s get the facts out of the way – 1) I listen to country music (a lot), and 2) I think Gwyneth Paltrow is a beautiful and talented actress.  Still, the movie didn’t reach me.  The songs were not that good and the performances (of the songs) were not that good either.  I just didn’t believe Paltrow was a star or the up and coming male singer was up and coming.  I also just didn’t buy into the story of the producer / husband, either.  I know there’s a lot of that in all forms of the music industry – I just didn’t buy it.  This movie came highly recommended by my daughter (Rebecca), but I think she misjudged me on it.  It was okay, but I would not really recommend it and I’m glad I didn’t pay to see it (it was on the flight home).
Captain America:  This was a first for me…  I saw the movie twice – on consecutive days – first in 3D and then in normal 2D.  I was supposed to see it with my son, James, over the weekend, but I went up to visit my brother, Sean, and he wanted to go see it with his son.  So the three of us went to his local movie house.  I really enjoyed the movie!  Of course, it’s VERY over the top on patriotism and rah-rah America, but it’s about World War II and Captain America.  If you can’t get past that, why did you plan to go see the movie?  Chris Evans is much more believable in this role than he was as the Human Torch in the two Fantastic Four movies.  I think it’s because Evans really does play the role seriously (completely unlike Seth Rogen in The Green Hornet).  I also feel Hugo Weaving made a great Red Skull (the bad guy).  I noticed the same blurring of out of primary focus characters in the 3D version (the same effect I saw in HP-Hallows Part 2).  I did not notice the blurring in the 2D version, so again, I’m thinking it’s something the director is trying to do to add depth to the movie or it’s the result of something funky in 3D movie technique.  It doesn’t work for me.
While I’ve stated several times I am not a big 3D fan, I must admit when I watched both versions in close proximity, I missed the 3D effect.  Somehow, my mind remembered and I was expecting it, and I noticed not getting it in the 2D version.  I doubt this will ever happen again, because I doubt I’ll pay to see two version so close together – but it was an interesting sensory experience.
Well, if you’ve made it this far, congratulations!  You get a No-prize and a promise I’ll try not to do another marathon blog like this for a while.
I’ve got more to say about our trip to Liverpool and photos – but that’s for another day/blog.
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First off, Happy Easter to all.  Christ is risen!!
I’ve been off work a few days this week with a viral infection in my throat which has made it very difficult to swallow (and sometimes breathe).  The result is that I’ve had some time (between sleeping) to watch a few movies.  Normally when I’m off work, I like to read, but I’ve found when I’m ill I can’t really concentrate enough to make reading enjoyable.  Anyway, the three movies I’ve watched are: “2012” (a disaster epic from 2010), “The Departed” (an undercover cop movie from 2006), and “Star Knight” (a science fiction / history – “They’ve visited us” – movie from 1985).
The first movie, “2012” was a very enjoyable disaster epic with fairly spectacular special effects (and some banal ones as well).  The acting is so-so, but the effects make the movie.  The best acting in the movie is done by Woody Harrelson – who I normally don’t care for mainly for his choice of roles.  In this movie, he is the predictor of the disaster, comes across as believably paranoid / crazy and is genuinely great in the role.  I guess I like him as crazy but not dark.  This was the third time I’ve seen this movie.  The first was at the theater, where the big screen made the SFX look fantastic (particularly Los Angeles sliding into the Pacific and the destruction of Yellowstone).  The second time I watched it was after the DVD came out and I watched it on my TV at home.  To be honest, the movie did not carry over well from the big screen to the home viewing.  I have a 48 inch hi-def screen, but a lot of the smaller SFX details did not come across when viewed from 8 to 10 feet away.  In contrast, this third viewing was on my 32 inch flat-panel connected to my PC and viewed from about 2 to 3 feet away, and it was terrific.  It didn’t make the movie better, but it made the viewing better.  I’ve noticed a similar viewing effect when I’ve watched some other films – most notably, “Avatar“.  So my recommendation is this is a very entertaining SFX disaster movie, but see it on as big a screen as you can and sit as close as you can.  Recommended.
The second movie, “The Departed” is a police / mob undercover movie with a number of major young(-ish) movie stars including Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and Mark Wahlberg and some oldie but goodies Jack Nicholson, Martin Sheen and Alec Baldwin.  The movie is set in Boston and the main conflict is between good mole (DiCaprio) in the mob and bad mole (Damon) in the police.  The movie is very well done as characters, plot and pace go.  I had some minor problems with the poor use of technology, but all in all it was a terrific movie.  I can’t honestly say it’s appropriate for everyone to view as there is a considerable amount of foul language, so there are age and sensitivity issues for the viewing audience.  Other than that, highly recommended!  Oh, and a shout out to my daughter Rebecca for recommending this to me.
The third movie, “Star Knight” is an alien visits earth in the middle-ages movie.  It was done in the mid 1980’s so there has to be some allowance for the SFX – which for that period are actually pretty good.  The movie, however is terrible!!  The best thing about this movie is it is only 91 minutes long, so you’re not wasting 92 minutes of your life.  There are a few movies I will see just because the actors in the films are known quantities and are predictors of quality.  The movie they are in may not be great, but almost without exception, their role is outstanding.  Among these are actors like: Bogie, Hepburn, Tracy (from the oldies) and Nicholson, Streep and (my personal favorite) Duvall.  There are some younger actors emerging though who I think will one day be in a similar category.  I like Damon, Wahlberg and DiCaprio.  Of these three, I must admit, Wahlberg seems to have the most limited range of characters.  DiCaprio is the most recent addition to my list.  I have seen very little of his work and did not enjoy him or the movies I saw him in early: “Titanic” and “The Quick and the Dead“.  Anyway, last year I thoroughly enjoyed him in “Inception” and I think he was also exceptional in the movie just above (“The Departed“).  Well, (that’s a long way to get to here), one of my other all-time favorite actors has been Harvey Keitel.  Again, I have not always liked the movies he was in, but I always liked him.  This movie is definitely the exception.  He is bad and the movie is terrible.  In fairness to Harvey, the movie, a Spanish film originally called: “El caballero del dragon (The Knight of the Dragon)“, was on sale for $4 and it had a pretty good DVD jacket and blurb on the back, but I bought it on the strength of his name.  As stated previously, this was both a waste of time and money.  I am hoping Keitel did this as bad camp, because it is almost – but not quite – so bad it is funny.  There is a vague nod to “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” (I hope that is what it is) in one scene, but even as camp, the movie fails.  I guess even the best actors will take any role just to stay active.  Sorry Harvey…  This is among the worst movies I have EVER seen.  Frankly, I don’t even have another movie to compare it to because I’ve blotted them out of my memory, too.
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Over the weekend I saw a bit of the Bourne Identity on TV.  It made me want to re-watch the trilogy.  It’s hard to squeeze in the time, but I made the effort last night to watch one.  I chose the Bourne Ultimatum.  It’s the final movie of the series (so far).  All three are very good, but I would rate them Identity, Ultimatum and then Supremacy if I were asked.  In Identity, the character is new and gets well developed.  There is loads of action and it’s mostly believable.  Each sequel has more action and is a little (okay, a lot) less believable.  The final, Ultimatum is the least believable, but it wraps up the story nicely so I give it extra credit for that.  Again, for me, it’s the action AND the character development which makes the movie (and series).
Matt Damon is terrific in all three.  I believe he will end up being a historic actor before his career is done.  He’s already done some excellent work.  I would rank Good Will Hunting, right up there with his best work and that’s another film I can watch repeatedly.  Anyway, I highly recommend the Bourne Ultimatum.
I went out for my first jog since Saturday.  I haven’t really felt “right” and I don’t want to push it.  I also don’t want to constantly use that (my heart) as an excuse, so I’ll just have to monitor myself.  I totaled my January times and distance and was pleased to see I did over 14 hours and almost 44 miles.  That’s including both walking and jogging and not quite the 30 minute per day goal I set for my New Year’s resolution.  Of course, I had loads of missed days, but I’m making progress…  My first goal for February is to be more consistent (like every day, if possible).  We’ll see. Slowly, slowly…
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