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

 

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Yesterday was Veteran’s Day and the DVD release of Harry Potter – Deathly Hallows Part 2.  I had the day off of work so I went to Fry’s to pick up a copy.  Naturally, without adult supervision I purchased a bunch of other DVDs as well.  (To make up for it, I spent more money taking Hil, Bec and Sarah out for dinner to our local Korean BBQ.  A good meal was had by all.)  Needless to say, you’ll be seeing more of my reviews in the next few weeks…
Incidentally, the restaurant is: Korean Bulgogi House, 2035 Salvio St, Concord, CA 94520, Ph: (925) 691-0101.  The food is tasty, reasonable prices and decent portions – highly recommended!
Anyway, after dinner, we settled in to watch HP and then Bec and I watched Pride & Prejudice.
Movie review:
I’ve already reviewed HP – Deathly Hallows Part 2 (see here), so just a few more comments.  First, the contrast of 2D and 3D.  I much prefered the DVD 2D version.  I looked for the blurring I mentioned in my initial review and didn’t notice it.  Second (and otherwise), the movie did NOT translate to the smaller screen very well.  To be fair, our home screen is only 48 inches and we were sitting a good 8-10 feet from the screen, so it may be different if larger or closer.  I’ll almost certainly watch it again on my PC, so that may resolve the issue.  My PC screen is 32 inches, but I’m literally three feet away (arms length).  All in all, I really enjoyed the movie the second time around and look forward to watching it more over time.  I’m hoping to just settle in one weekend and have an HP marathon.  It may even prompt me to re-read the book series.  (Oh yeah, Longbottom rocks!)
The second movie was Pride & Prejudice (2005) staring  Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen.  I’ve seen this movie several times and I absolutely love it!  Obviously, the camera loves Knightley, but I think Macfadyen is terrific in the role of Mr. Darcy and, for me, almost steals the movie.  He’s not great looking in a Tom Cruise “pretty boy Hollywood” style, but ruggedly handsome in a Dennis Quaid / Jim Caviezel style.  I think the chemistry between them (Knightley and Macfadyen, not Quaid and Caviezel) really makes to movie.  I also think the details in the movie make it great.  For example, when the characters walk across the fields they end up with clothes soaked for about a foot up their skirts and capes and a water line that’s higher than the mud line.  The details in the main houses are also really minute, which makes me look for them again and again.  There is one scene where the house staff are covering up a table when the master of the house leaves and they stoop to brush off / smooth out any wrinkles on the sheet.   That’s the kind of detail which makes filming a period piece so interesting to me.
Both movies are strong recommendations!!
By the way, if you like Jim Caviezel, you’ll enjoy checking out “Person of Interest” – his new TV series on CBS.
I’m debating with myself whether I should set up a separate page to track the movies I’m reviewing…  I’m tempted, but still kicking it around.  I think I need a book review page first…  We’ll see.
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Book Review:
Today I finished my second book by Richard P. Feynman.  This one is titled: “What Do You Care What Other People Think?”  Again, Dr. Feynman was one of the men who worked on the Manhattan Project.  Feynman’s doctorate is in Physics and he won a Nobel Prize for physics.  This was both a terribly sad and immensely amusing book.  The sad portion dealt with his growing up and the early death of his high school sweet-heart and first wife.  I freely admit to being a big crybaby and her passing and his emotional detachment (temporary) made me break down too.  The majority of the book deals with his work on the Challenger Space Shuttle commission.  There appears to be a fair amount of criticism placed on NASA’s management (which I recall from the time – 1986), but I don’t recall anyone losing their jobs because of the fallout.  The impression of NASA management in the book still rings true about many of the problems we face generally in government and in large businesses today: either management knew of the risks (and they should have) but chose to minimize (i.e. disregard) them and launch anyway; or they knew the risks and lied to the commission about not knowing the risks; or management didn’t know the risks (in which case they were incompetent).
The “amusing” parts of the book are little bits in each chapter which are sometimes self-deprecating, but mostly the observations of a man standing outside a system and watching it act irrationally.  Feynman is kind of a cross between Mark Twain and Will Rogers, but with a PhD in Physics.
This is a very fast read and I highly recommend it – for the emotion, the humor and for the science.
Movie Review:
On Monday night, the Giants had the day off for travel so we decided to watch a movie.  Last week, something reminded me of “Driving Miss Daisy“, so I asked Hil if she wanted to watch it.  As it’s one of her favorite movies, I was confident she’d say yes.  To tell the truth, I’ve only seen the movie twice before in its entirety, so I was able to look at it with “fresh” eyes.  Most of it I did not remember at all.  It is a terrific movie!!  Heartwarming and funny, sad and a bit cautionary all rolled into one.  I can see why it won Best Picture that year (1989).
The main storyline is about a wealthy Jewish lady and the twenty five year relationship (friendship) she has with her African-American chauffeur.  Jessica Tandy is the lead and she won Best Actress for the role.  Morgan Freeman plays the chauffeur (Golden Globe Award but not Oscar – he was robbed) and Dan Aykroyd plays the son of Miss Daisy and who is the actual employer of the chauffeur.  Well written, well acted, funny, touching – just a beautiful movie.  Highly recommended!  If you haven’t watched it lately, treat yourself and see it again.
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Movie:
Rebecca (my older daughter) and I went to see “Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes” yesterday afternoon.  Bec thought it was “entertaining” and I really enjoyed it.  Bec has seen the 2001 re-boot version starring Mark Wahlberg, but she’s never seen the original starring Charlton Heston.
Prior to the movie, we reviewed my personal criteria for deciding if a movie is any good.  Sci-Fi = plus; Action = plus; Comic book hero = plus; Saturday cartoon star = wash; Actors I like = plus; Good acting (somewhat to very believable in role) = big plus; Special effects (either new or old but used well) = plus; No slap you in the face stupid plot holes = plus; The story hangs together internally = not too choppy from all of the previous points = plus; “X” factor (likability)= plus.
So here’s the movie: baby ape gets brains, baby ape joins family; ape gets taste of freedom; ape defends family; ape goes to jail for defending family; ape wants to be back home; ape gets bullied; ape wups on bully and becomes head ape; apes escape; apes fight humans for freedom (and win, audience cheers); humans all die from playing around with science – the old “some things are not meant to be controlled by man” theme.
Did I just spoil the movie for you?  Not really, ’cause I didn’t tell you anything you couldn’t have gotten from the title.  Well, anyway, it’s a darn good movie and I highly recommend it!  In case you’re wondering about my personal criteria: there is no comic book hero or saturday cartoon star, but other than that, the movie met or exceeded all of my criteria.
Poem:
Today’s poem (“song lyrics”) is “Southern State Of Mind” as performed by Darius Rucker.  This isn’t a tune I’ve heard a million times (yet), but it is one which I loved the first time I heard it and which I’m starting to wear out.  It’s just a great song about being relaxed and polite and just okay.  I’ve started waving to people from my car and I know they think I’m crazy!  (But most smile and wave back!)
Other bits and bobs:
Today I was looking back through one of my comments and found a link to a guy who is running a year long maze / blogging marathon.  Each day he posts a different maze for you to look at.  The site is called “mazeaday“.  He started it in June.  Go check it out.  He includes a quote with each maze and some are good, so I’ll be “borrowing” them in the next few days.
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Today, James and I went to see “Pirates of the Caribbean (4): On Stranger Tides“.  It’s another of the summer block-busters and it’s basically pure Disney entertainment.  The reviews I saw were BAD, but the movie I saw was good…  Go figure!  It doesn’t have the originality of the first and it’s missing two of the three main characters, but the main man (Johnny Depp) aka Captain Jack Sparrow is there and he pretty much carries the movie.  The romantic interest is played by Penelope Cruz and she’s ok.  The camera still loves her, but they are both just a little too old for these roles.  The action is not as swashbuckling as in prior editions, but it’s still ok.  I say that because the scenes seem to lack the spontaneity of the first two.  Like the third, they are starting to become set pieces always calling forth the Pirates Theme music.  Still, both James and I found it very entertaining and a good summer flick.  I’ll definitely add it to the other three when it comes out on DVD.
I’ve added three songs to my Poems page: Patches, This Ain’t Nothin’ and Tough.  The first (Patches) is a song I remember from my teens (1970 – although it seems like it’s from an earlier time).  Some vague memory came back to me and I looked it up on Google and YouTube and found it.  The song was originally performed by Chairmen of the Board, but it’s the Clarence Carter version which I remember.  His voice still haunts me when I hear this song today.  If you’re too young to know this song, you have GOT to go listen to it on YouTube!  (Check out the lyrics first…)
The second and third songs are performed by Craig Morgan.  He’s not a real big country star on my radar (yet).  I guess because he’s only been around for about ten years, but he keeps putting out songs I like.  These two are about loss (“Nothin’“) and almost losing (“Tough“) and what really matters most in life.  I admit I’m a softy and both of these songs make me cry.
Enjoy!!
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Today I took my daughter Sarah to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 1).  It was Sarah’s second viewing.  She went to the midnight showing on Thursday night / Friday morning in full HP garb.
Obviously, we both enjoyed it.  I would definitely not take children under 10 years old as it is dark and (potentially) frightening for someone that young.  I don’t think it’s particularly frightening for teens or adults.
As a HP reader and movie go-er, I would say the movie is a definite must-see.  I’d give a B+ to A-.  I will have to re-read the book to make sure, but I felt it was fairly close to the book.  I am not the fanatic Sarah is.  She felt there were scene’s which were different than she imagined them in the book.  As someone who’s seen several adaptations (not just HP), that’s fairly common and I can accept them as long as they don’t grossly change the story-line.  I did not feel this happened, in this movie anyway, so I’m okay with minor changes.
I was very pleasantly surprised by the actors.  It really feels like I’ve watched them grow up – in the characters and as actors playing the characters.  I think the big three have shown marked improvement in this episode.  Kudos.
As for criticisms, and they are minor, there are two chase scenes – one flying and one in the woods – which are meant to convey speed and action.  They are shot choppy and close, so you don’t really see much and I found the choppiness distracting instead of engaging.
The movie was supposed to be long.  I didn’t find it so.  I felt it ended at a good point (a high note in the action), but there was definitely no resolution and I’m disappointed I’ll now have to wait another six or seven months to see the conclusion.
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Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010)  —  movie review
I must admit I’ve really been looking forward to the release of this sequel.  I’ve only seen the original (maybe) three times in full, but everyone has seen Mike do Gekko, “Greed is good!” a million times.
I took along my youngest (Sarah), unfortunately – for her.
Visually, the movie was appealing to me in a TRON/PowerPoint kind of way.  Using the NY skyline as a backdrop for stock market ups and downs, and the roads as ticker runs was good.
Greed and excessive wealth were on display – but both lacked emotional appeal.  The characters kept saying “It’s not about the money”, when clearly, it was all about the money.  There were long, slow pans of skinny, tanned, bejeweled ladies and fat, mostly older, white guys.  …And lots of stiffs in suits.
I did enjoy the “finding family” aspects of the film even though they were not particularly believable, but then it’s entertainment not real life!!  I’ve not followed Shia LaBeouf before (other than Transformers), but I now think he can act.
I think the movie will reach a certain crowd – those who saw and understood the first movie and those who have followed (and understand) the economic problems of the last decade.  Unfortunately, I don’t believe there are very many folks in either group.
I think the liberals will vilify Stone (again) for not explaining the problems government (Bush and Obama) had or at least offering any evidence there were viable options.  Nothing but the bailout or economic collapse are given as options – black and white (binary) in a world of nuance.  I think the conservatives (and Tea Baggers) will vilify Stone (again) because he presents a harsh look at the new corporate greed – which is offered as FAR worse than individual greed (but doesn’t explain why).
The film is a lot of investment banking and Wall Street bashing, pure and simple.  I don’t have a big problem with that, per se, they are big boys who can take it, and they did screw up (and are continuing to do so).  The shortfall of the movie is it was a missed opportunity to be a learning moment: it could have said more about what happened, why it happened, why it was allowed to happen, and what were some of the other options (for future reference).
Sarah’s review – if the chairs were more comfortable, she’d have fallen asleep after about 20 minutes.  (From the mouths of babes…)
My recommendation: if you are one of those two groups mentioned above, or if you love Oliver Stone (hate the government, hate the rich, hate the corporations), you’ll probably enjoy this film.  As a film buff, I’ll wait for the X-mas twin pack to come out and re-watch them both.  (Life is hard for film nerds!)
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I watched Rooster Cogburn with Hil this evening.  I’ve seen it before – many years ago – but had forgotten what a terrific little movie it was.  John Wayne and Katharine Hepburn were terrific together.  The dialogue was witty and they played off each other tremendously.  It was JW’s 2nd to last movie and he was already dying of cancer at the time.
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