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Posts Tagged ‘Movies With Sarah’

Batman v Superman (2016) –  movie review
Last Saturday I took my daughter Sarah to see the latest comic book movie: “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice“.  The movie stars Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne/Batman, Henry Cavill as Clark Kent/Superman and Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman.  Wonder Woman is really only in a small role (screen time wise), but it is significant to the movie as the start of the Justice League.  Affleck is new to the role of Wayne/Batman, but was surprisingly much better than I anticipated given all of the negative reviews.  Cavill is reprising his role as Kent/Superman, and is still great in the role.
Is this a “good” movie?  Yes.  It is.  It’s not going to win anyone a best actor trophy and there are large parts of the movie which don’t make any sense, but it’s a movie about comic-book superheroes, so give me a break!  I enjoyed it.  It’s not a great “film”, but most (almost all) comic-book adaptations are not great films.  Who cares?  We don’t go to them for great acting or great dialog or great plot.  We buy our tickets for action, adventure, fantasy and special effects to match our imagination.  By this standard, BvS is entertaining and that is enough.
So, what is the movie about?  Basically, the movie is a marketing attempt to throw three super-heroes together to create a “team” so the industry can have a competing franchise to the Marvel Comic Universe.  The “team”, in this case, the Justice League, will then be able to spin out both League and individual heroes sequels.  If the medium proves as artistically deep as the comic book medium, movie studios will have created a money making machine which can span decades without ever having to come up with a “new” idea.  They just follow the bread crumb trail of the comics.
There is only one problem: actors age and comic book characters don’t.  Well, they do, but on a factor of about one year for every 8 to 10 years (“real” years) of the reader’s life.  In the movies, this is handled by substituting a new (younger) actor in the next sequel or re-booting the movie series (again with a new – younger – actor) usually about ten years after the latest origin story.
The other way to deal with the age issue is to age the hero along with the actor.  This can work (see the “Die Hard“, “Rambo” and “Rocky” films), but more often, not really (see Christian Bale in “The Dark Knight Rises“).  The point I’m getting at is that Affleck’s older Batman, and more specifically Bruce Wayne, is better portrayed than Bale’s.  And, one step farther, I think this will bode well for future League sequels.
Now, some of you might ask: what does any of this “really” have to do with this movie.  Probably nothing.  Just the meandering thoughts of an old comic-book reader…
So, final recommendation: strong.  Standing on its own, it is entertaining.  And, if you don’t go see it, you won’t know what’s going on in the sequel.
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On This Day In:
2015 Remarkable Creations
2014 Measured Faith
2013 April Fool, n.
2012 Faith, Ego And Patriotism
As It Happens
2011 What Counts

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Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens  —  movie review
During its first week of release (last week), my daughter (Sarah) and I went to see the latest edition to the Star Wars saga.  This is episode seven (VII) and sub-titled: “The Force Awakens“.  The movie has the three main characters from the original movie (Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill) with Ford getting the most screen time.  It also has most of the other secondary characters (Chewbacca, R2D2 and C3PO) and a handful of new actors to serve as future replacements for the aging work force.
So, is it any good?  If you are a Star Wars fan, you will probably LOVE this “reboot” (and that’s what it is).  The basic story line is the same as the original and the new characters parallel their predecessors.   If you are a casual Star Wars viewer or completely new to the series (young or just out from under a rock), you will probably enjoy the movie or maybe even like it a lot.  Unfortunately, if you are old enough to have lived through the original, you will probably leave your seat feeling like deja vu all over again…
The actors (the new ones) are better than the old ones were at a similar point in their careers so the acting is better.  The special effects are better, but they had a lot more money to spend on them and almost 50 years of better technology.  The “problem” is this story has already been told.  As bad as the three prequels were, at least they had a story to tell: “how did we get here”.  Unfortunately, instead of saying how we moved on, the writers simply say: “we’ve moved on, now were going to tell the same story as the original, but with different (younger actors) heroes.”
Now, before the Star Wars “fans” start with the comments, I would like to go “full disclosure”:  I am a Trekkie first and foremost, even though I’ve viewed the Star Wars movies FAR more times than I have almost all of the StarTrek movies.  In fact, as much as it pains me to say it, the best StarTrek movies are not as good as the best Star Wars movies and the worst Trek movies are far worse than the worst of the prequels.  Be that as it may, it is the spirit of StarTrek which drives its fan base and we’ll accept bad movies if it keeps the spirit alive.  I believe “The Force Awakens” retains the spirit (okay, I’ll say say it: “the force“) of the series even if it doesn’t bring much in the way of originality to the franchise.
Having offered my opinion… my daughter loved it.  Final recommendation: good clean fun and entertainment – strong recommendation.  But here’s to hoping the next two movies advance the franchise (fingers crossed).  Now, off to buy some Star Wars merchandise…  (Just kidding.)
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On This Day In:
2014 We Are Not A Fearful Nation!
2013 Risking Truth
2012 Working On Reality
2011 Massive Contradictory Changes

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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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Today, after work, I went to see the new movie: “Green Lantern“, with my daughter Sarah.  I had read the reviews over the weekend and got James’ (my son) review.  He saw it at the mid-night premiere last Friday morning.  I also got a short review from a guy I know at work who goes to a lot of movies.  Everyone had mixed reactions.  The professional reviews were the harshest.  James said he didn’t think much of the main Green Lantern actor, but thought the rest of the movie was good.  My work friend said it was more of a comedy movie than a super-hero movie.
I don’t know what they were all expecting, but I thought it was terrific!!!  It had very good special effects, good comedic moments, a little romance, and some pretty good battle scenes.  I thought the main actor (Ryan Reynolds) carries the movie and is certainly better than many of the actors in the early days of comic-movies – including some more modern actors / roles  like Ben Affleck in Daredevil.  I think the best way to describe it is that it is a kind of comic book / sci-fi / space opera (minus the Italian singing).  Considering Green Lantern has always seemed a third tier super-hero to me, I found the movie to be on a par with the two most recent Batman movies.  I have read rumors there may be a trilogy, and if so, I will definitely go seem them as well.
On Sunday, I finally completed the book: “Microtrends“, by Mark J. Penn (2007©).  The author is a pollster who had his claim to fame in the Presidential campaign of Bill Clinton.  Penn is attributed with the invention of the term “Soccer Moms” and the targeting of them, which is supposedly what pushed Clinton over the top to victory in the election.  The book is a collection of short essays about over seventy microtrends (defined as a trend which is or is soon expected to be at least one percent of the population).  Many of the trends do not “seem” new to me, but one has to remember the book is now over four years old, so some of these trends have now become mainstream.
As usual with many of the books I read, I will be putting some of interesting quotes up in this blog over time.  Again, it’s not so much the newness of the idea as it is the conciseness of the ideas expression which interests me.  More critical and more favorable reviews can be found at the various on-line book sales sites.  I would only note, I tended to agree more with the positive reviews than the negative.  I also find it interesting that some reviewers simply can’t get past the “he worked for the re-election of Clinton”  factor and that seems to completely cloud their judgement (and reviews) to the point of vitriol.  It must be a sad life, not being able to get over something after all this time.
On Sunday, I also completed a very short book from my past: “The Wisdom Of Gibran“, edited by Joseph Sheban (1966©).  I first heard of Kahlil Gibran when I was in high school.  I’m not sure if I read this book or another very much like it, but I remember  being very touched by this “strange” person, who seemed to write as if he were from a fictional, medieval place and time.  Back then, I used to keep a journal and I remember writing quote after quote from Gibran in the journal.  As strange as it may sound, Gibran was like a “Star Wars” Yoda figure to me, speaking honestly to me, but in a funny version of English.  It was only on reading this book yesterday, that the image of Yoda came back to me.  It’s funny how life can go around in circles and create its own chain of links.
A couple of months ago, I bought Gibran’s collected works in a single volume.  This collection of short quotes has reminded me they (the full works) are on the shelf calling to me…
Keep me away from the wisdom which does not cry, the philosophy which does not laugh and the greatness which does not bow before children.
—  Kahlil Gibran
from “Mirrors Of The Soul
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