Posts Tagged ‘Movie Review’

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.
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?
Acceptable Beginnings
Slow Progress
Useful Confrontation
When Phenomena Are Different
Creative Avoidance
Fast And Flexible
Surrender Certainty
Vive La Difference

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Still Mine (2012) — movie review
Today’s movie review is for the Canadian romantic drama: “Still Mine“.  The movie is based on a true story of a farmer who runs afoul of the local building authorities who try to get him to build a cottage “to code.”  The man (in question) is a farmer trying to build a smaller house on his own land to accommodate his dementia-stricken wife.  The lead role: Craig Morrison, is played by James Cromwell.  The wife: Irene Morrison, is played by Geneviève Bujold.  Both are excellent in their respective roles.
Basically, Morrison is a small farmer living in the country (on his own farmland) and he needs to downsize his living quarters from the farmhouse where he and his wife of 60+ years raised their 7 kids.  The farmhouse is a small house, but it is an upstairs / downstairs and Irene can no longer be trusted to walk up and down the steps (inside or outside).
What would you do for your spouse of 60 years?  Morrison’s answer is “anything”.  So he decides to build a cottage for them to live in.  … And, damn City Hall!
So, there are three main conflicts in the movie: the age of the couple, the increasing dementia of the wife, and the pigheadedness of the elderly farmer who wants to help his spouse without the interference of the planning authorities.
The movie is touching.  It confronts the issues openly and – for what we see – it has a “happy” ending.  I doubt if the ending is “really” that happy, but the film gives that impression in it’s post-movie script.  In any case, I found the movie very moving.
Final recommendation: strong recommendation.  I honestly don’t know what demographic this movie was intended for – older and fearful, I guess – but it was definitely a movie which made me think about my own future.  Not that my wife or I have dementia, but we are both just retired and “getting on”.  Ultimately, it is a simple love story which works as a movie.  I enjoyed it, even if I found it disturbing.
On This Day In:
2017 Did I See You In Chapter 13?
2016 As I Recall
2015 Less And More Irritation
2014 That Marvelous Feeling
2013 Exceptional
2012 A Wild And Crazy Believer
2011 A Lack Of Scarcity
The Joy Of Prevention

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The Lady In The Van”  (2015)  —  movie review
Well, last night the wife and I thought we’d enjoy a little British comedy starring Dame Margaret (“Maggie”) Smith starring in “The Lady In The Van“.  The movie tells the (mostly) true story of Miss Mary Shepherd, an eccentric homeless woman whom playwright Alan Bennett befriended in the 1970s.  He allows her temporarily to park her Bedford van in the driveway of his Camden home.  She ends up staying there for 15 years.  As the movie progresses, Bennett learns Miss Shepherd is really Margaret Fairchild, a former gifted pupil of a famous pianist.  She played classic music (piano) in a famous concert, tried to become a nun, was committed to a mental institution by her brother, escaped, then had an accident when her van was hit by a motorcyclist (who dies).  She believed herself to blame, and there after lived in fear of arrest.  At the very least, she was guilty of fleeing the scene of fatal auto accident.
Alex Jennings plays Alan Bennett and he does it in a kind of split personality role where he frequently appears as two parts of himself at the same time.  One seems to be “the writer” and the other seems to be “the normal person”.  At least, that is what I assume as this duality is never clearly explained in the film.  In the end, it is (not) clear this movie is, in fact, about him, and not about the lady, at all.  This is in spite of the title.  (My wife, disagrees.  She felt the movie was clearly about the lady.)
The movie is one of those “classically” unfunny comedies the British are famous for.  There was no laughter at our house – an occasional smile – mostly smirks.  That’s not to say Smith and Jennings aren’t very good in their respective roles.  It’s just that, except for a few one-liners and ripostes, the movie is entertaining, but not funny.
Final recommendation: moderate.  The acting is very good, but the movie is confusing.  Maybe it needs a second or third viewing.  The problem is I’m not sure I feel it is worth that much trouble or effort.  Somewhat amusing, in a British kind of way…
On This Day In:
2015 Quality Government
A Handful Of Flics
2014 Just Another Brick From The Wall
2013 Artistic Demands
2012 Foundations
2011 Are We Devouring Yet?

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Spotlight”  (2015)  —  movie review
Spotlight” won the Academy Award as best picture of the year for 2015, so it’s a given this is a good / great movie and my final recommendation is: highly recommended!
Okay.  Now that that’s out of the way, what’s the movie about and why do I recommend it?
The movie is about the lead up to the Pulitzer Prize winning series of articles published by the “Spotlight” investigative journalism team of the Boston Globe back in 2002, which dealt with child molestation (rape) and the systematic (and systemic) decades long cover-up orchestrated by the Catholic Church under the direction of senior religious authority (in this case, by Cardinal Bernard Law, the Archbishop of the Boston).
I am unable to separate my feelings about this movie’s subject matter and my own faith.  I make no claims of religious (or moral) superiority or distinction.  I was baptized Catholic as a baby and attended both Catholic grammar and high schools in San Francisco.  I left the practice of my faith for a number of years and returned to “The Church” over a decade ago in my late 40’s.  As a practicing Catholic, this scandal has been extremely troubling for me.  As humans, we are all weak and have failings.  To understand there will be some in the religious orders who take advantage of their position is one thing.  To have the institution of the Church systematically cover-up unlawful activity propagated against its weakest and most vulnerable (we are, after all, talking about the sexual abuse of children and teenagers) members is quite another.  To say I was and still am furious is quite the understatement!
At the end of the film, there is a list of cities where there has been shown to have been similar abuse and cover-up.  The list is over two full screens!  Moving forward, I only hope that every priest or nun who is proven guilty of these crimes is punished to the full extent of the law.  I further believe that going forward, any other priest, nun, Bishop or Cardinal who fails to report these activities to civil / criminal authorities should be prosecuted for conspiracy to aid and abet in the same crimes and all should be defrocked and excommunicated.
I liked the “film” (not the topic) very much.  The story was interesting and well paced.  The acting was also very good.  I think it very clearly showed this was a failure of persons and of institutions.  The movie was not particularly hard on the Church (as some have objected) and it fairly accurately related the outrage the common Catholic felt (and still feels) about these crimes and sins.  I have no pity for any of the individuals who were brought out from the shadows by the original articles or by this movie.  I continue to hope God has a special place in Hell for all of those in positions of authority who allowed this to continue and who did nothing or who actively attempted to hide these abusers from criminal prosecution.
This movie is about what happens when we let individuals and institutions stand above the law.  Ultimately, though, it is also a cautionary tale about what might happen if we continue to let our “fourth estate” (the written press) get eaten up by corporate consolidation and the lure of speed / cost savings / increased productivity promised by the internet.  Who will be there to inform us in 30 to 50 years when there are no investigative teams?  Did anyone else just feel a shiver run down their back?
“Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.”
  —  Louis D. Brandeis
Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court
On This Day In:
2015 Thousands
2014 What We Can
2013 Mostly Unsound
2012 Malcontent
2011 What Have You Seen Lately?
Just Perspire!

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The Big Short”  (2015)  —  movie review
Last night I watched “The Big Short“, which is a movie about how the banking, finance, credit bureaus  and real estate industries defrauded the American public (actually the entire world) and got away with it.  The movie stars Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Brad Pitt and Ryan Gosling and is rated “R” for language and frontal nudity (brief scenes with strippers).  The movie uses cut-aways to random famous people to provide “definitions / explanations” and (I guess) a bit of levity.  This act of having the person on camera “speak” to the audience is known as “breaking the fourth wall”.
For some time now, about forty years ago, the banking industry moved away from traditional “banking” and started trying to make money off of making money.  This began as an attempt to monetize risk into products which could be sold.  This was done via derivatives, which is a fancy way of saying “money for nothing”.  It is not really “nothing”, it’s position, options, leverage, coverage, insurance, or any number of other names for financial security – or rather, the illusion of financial security.  Some people think of it as shared risk.  I think it’s more traditional name is gambling.
Okay.  I’ll get off my soap-box and get back to the movie.  Four groups of financial players discover the housing market is being fraudulently (and criminally) propped up and, in fact, is in a giant bubble.  A “bubble” happens when greed takes over common sense in a market and prices for the items in the market are far higher than the actual value of the item and / or the ability of the buyer in the market to purchase the item.  Theoretically, when you lose the ability to pay for something, you should stop buying it.  However, in a true bubble, because “everyone” expects the price to continue to increase, the buyers continue to buy under the assumption the price will continue to go up and just before you lose the item (foreclosure for realty), you sell the item and take whatever profit you can.  IF you can time your exit correctly and get out with a profit, you win.  However, this is not true investing.  It is merely speculating.  This speculation is what is at the heart of the movie.
That is the “before” side of the movie.  The four groups know there is a bubble and one of them creates a derivative to profit (vastly) if the housing market bubble bursts.  The other three parties  get wind of the derivative and essentially go “all-in” to bet on the crash.  This is all happening in roughly 2005.  The expectation is the crash will happen in early 2007 when a percentage of mortgage loans which are variable rates with short-term fixed rate teasers have the teaser expire.
When 2007 rolls around and the housing market does crash, the derivatives don’t initially pay out because the banks / credit agencies / insurance companies  and government don’t want the national economy to collapse.  Essentially, the U.S. Taxpayer (via the government) foots the bill for the losses of the restructuring financial market.  Inevitably, a few of the large financial players “go away” (get bought up at severe discount) and the global economy is saved.   Here, the key point of the movie is that the little guy in America loses their home, but none of the fraudulent bankers and financiers goes to jail.  The irony is they (the banks and financiers) have prevented legislation which might stop this from happening again in the future, and we are back on the same roller coaster again.
Final recommendation:  highly.  This is a complicated movie about a complex subject.  The average person seeing the movie will probably not understand the financial portions of the movie.  They will (probably) understand the effects of the bubble burst because most of us have been living through the results (recession) over the last ten years (and still going).  This is not a great movie, but it is an honorable attempt to educate the working people of America.
On This Day In:
2015 Even The Little Ones
2014 Who’s On First?
2013 No Equal Measure
2012 A Single Host
2011 No Exemptions
2010 Memories Of KSA – Inside The Fire

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This review is for the fifth edition of the “Die Hard” series, titled: “A Good Day To Die Hard“, which should have been sub-titled: “How my son and I shot-up and blew-up large pieces of Russia and lived to talk about it.”  Full disclosure: I am a Bruce Willis fan and I am the owner of the four previous movies in this series – so, I am completely un-biased.  Yeah, right!
Just to bring everyone up to date: one and two – wife in danger, kill bad-guys, blow stuff up; three – NYC in danger, hang around with some random black guy (co-star Samuel L. Jackson), kill bad-guys, blow stuff up; four – daughter in danger (and country, too) – kill bad-guys, blow stuff up.  Which brings us to this episode (5): son (Jai Courtney) in danger…  I’ll let you guess the rest.
Assuming you have little or no knowledge of the frailty of the human body or can set aside all reason – this is a terrific movie which follows the format to the “T”.  In this case, you know what you’re getting when you buy your ticket and Bruce delivers.  AND I am well known for being able to set aside all reason when watching this series.  Final recommendation:  Highly Recommended!
On This Day In:
2013 Honest Doubt
2012 Choice
2011 Ownership Of Thought

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Today’s post is kind of a tape delay.  The first book (“The Great Gatsby“) was finished a couple of weeks ago.  No real reason for the delay, except that I’ve been watching a fair amount of baseball and just haven’t made the time.  The second book (“The Prince“) was finished today.  The first movie (“The Caine Mutiny“) was watched on Saturday afternoon last, while the second (“Iron Man 3“) was watched yesterday. 
The Great Gatsby was written by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925©) and is about a young man trying to find himself in New York in the 1920’s.  The man (Nick Carraway) is from the mid-west and goes east to seek his fortune in the big city.  It should be noted that he is already from a well-off family.  His job is in the city, but his residence is in a wealthy suburb where he meets the title character, a wealthy “business” man named Jay Gatsby.  Anyway, blah, blah, blah, life of extravagance / lost love / more blah, blah, / accident / death, end of story.

Widely considered a classic and “the great American novel”, the book is mostly read in high school and is now the basis for a soon to be released motion picture.  Actually, this is a remake.  There are four other versions, but one is “lost” (1926) and another is a made for TV (2000), so I’m not sure it really counts.  The most recent is from 1974 and starred Robert Redford as Gatsby.  I’ve never seen that version, so if I’m lucky, it’ll appear on TV soon as a promo for the new release which is due out this coming Friday.  The new version stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby and Tobey Maguire as Carraway.

I originally read this novel back in the Army when I hoped to get better educated in some of the “great” pieces of literature.  I escaped it while I was in high school.

Is it great?  No, at least I didn’t think so.  Is it a “classic”?  Yes.  When I first read it, I remember finishing it and thinking “Wow! That was a great book, but I have no idea what it will mean in my life because there was no basis for common experience.”  Okay, maybe a twenty year old sergeant in the Army didn’t think in those exact words, but that was the gist of my reaction.  Thirty plus years later, if you asked me what it was about, I’d have told you, “rich guys in the ’20’s”.  And that’s it…   So, was it worth reading again?  Only to the extent that it prepares me for watching the new movie.  Would I recommend reading it?  Yes, but with qualifications.  If you are interested in one of the great works of fiction by one of the bohemian writers from the early 20th century – definitely.  If you want to see a “crafted” novel (I’m not sure what that means, but I keep seeing the description in reader reviews) – definitely.   If you’re trying to better understand the American rich of the 1920’s – definitely.  If you’re trying to find a novel which will change your life?  Well, it didn’t do it for me back in the ’70’s and even less so with a second go.  Final recommendation – moderate recommend; but I’d wait and just go see the movie.  It will cause you less time from your life.  (I hope to review the movie next week, so you may want to hold off.)


The Prince” was written by Niccolò Machiavelli (1513).  Any book on politics which survives 400 years is bound to be considered a “classic” and this is (both considered and IS).  There are a multitude of observations about gaining and keeping power in the city/state of the Renaissance Era Italy.  I think, with a bit of careful consideration and some adaptation, many of Machiavelli’s ideas are still valid.  I rather doubt gathering one’s enemies in a room and strangling them, would be considered appropriate in this day and age – even in Italy.  Anyway, I found the book to be extremely interesting and I highly recommend it for its historical value even if not for its application in today’s world.

One negative for this version (Wordsworth Reference [1993©]) is the translation seems to be quite literal from Italian and therefore the language is extremely flowery which makes for difficult reading, but otherwise, it’s a fast read and well worth reading and consideration among the other classics in politics.  And, of course, this means you will now see Machiavellian quotes from time to time.


As mentioned above, I watched “The Caine Mutiny” on Saturday.  I must admit, I’ve seen the movie several times in my lifetime, but I never remember much about it except the roles played by Humphrey Bogart and José Ferrer.  Everyone else is good, too, but these two are great.  If you liked the military courtroom drama of “A Few Good Men” or “The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell“, then I think you’ll like this movie too.  This is a CLASSIC Bogart role and you can’t honestly say you are a Bogart fan unless you’ve watched this movie.  Of course, Bogart’s testimony at the trial is what makes the movie.  This is a must-see movie!!


The second movie I’m reviewing is the recently released “Iron Man 3“.  In full disclosure mode, I must admit that I spent many hours of my childhood reading (and collecting) Marvel Comics, so of course I have a natural bias for ALL Marvel Comic movie adaptations.  Having said that, this is a VERY good movie!  It’s entertaining with a plot, comedy (slap-stick and quips), action (fights and explosions), excellent special effects and once again, Robert Downey, Jr. ROCKS as Tony Stark (the man inside the suit), particularly when he’s NOT inside the suit.

Was the movie accurate to the comics? No.  Particularly as it relates to the Mandarin (who is Chinese in the comics but British in the movie).  Does it matter?  Nah.  What did (slightly) miff me was that there were no power-rings.  Instead there was a weak terrorist group called “The Ten Rings”.  Really?  Really?  Nah, it didn’t work for me.  Other than that, I thought this was a sound effort, particularly after the “relative” let down (well, I was very let down) of “Iron Man 2“.  Again, is it great cinema: No.  Is it an entertaining movie: heck YEAH!  Final recommendation: Highly recommended!

I can’t wait for the DVD so I can have a marathon viewing!

Oh yeah, in the Disney “Small World” vein: José Ferrer was in “The Caine Mutiny” and his son (who is a virtual ringer), Miguel José Ferrer, is in “Iron Man 3“.  Daddy was terrific.  Son, less so.

On This Day In:
2012 God’s Requirements
2011 Greater Purity

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