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Posts Tagged ‘Movies’

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole”  (2010)  – movie review
This is an animated “Cain and Able” story, overlaid with a coming of age story, wrapped in a classic battle between the forces of good and evil.  The animation is similar in quality to “Happy Feet” (although this film is nowhere near as appealing).  Basically, two brothers (one good, the other bad) are kidnapped by an army of evil owls who are intent upon taking over the world (or maybe it’s just the forest; I couldn’t really be sure).   Anyway, one accepts evil and joins the army and the other rebels against his captors and joins the good-guys (the Guardians) army to fight against his brother and the bad guys.  Naturally, there are chases and multiple close calls before the young hero saves the day in the climatic battle sequence.
So, is it any good?  Aside from the quality of the animation, this is a rather pedestrian movie – almost entertaining and almost interesting, but not quite either.  I’ve never read any of the books the movie is based on so I can’t comment on faithfulness to the source material.  Final recommendation: moderate recommendation.  The movie is a bit too intense for small children and bit too childish for young teens (or pre-teens), so I’m not sure who would really be the target audience.  As a computer nerd who loves good animation and special effects, I found the movie technically beautiful.  It wasn’t a complete waste of time, but it wasn’t a movie I’m looking forward to seeing again any time soon.
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On This Day In:
2014 Honoring Firefighters
2013 And Never Will
2012 The Human Adventure Continues
2011 Almost Never

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Sir, she walks, she talks, she’s full of chalk.  The lacteal fluid extracted from the female of the bovine species is highly prolific to the nth degree!
[This is some pointless information I once learned when I thought I might be attending the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.  I was watching the movie: “Annapolis” and the upper-classmen were asking the plebes this question at the dinner table.  I didn’t realize it was shared “knowledge” across the various Academies.  It made me smile to remember my “Bugle Notes“.   I guess some traditions never die…   —   KMAB]
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On This Day In:
2014 Mind Made Up
2013 On Purpose
2012 The Dream
2011 What Could Be More Comfortable?

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Today’s movie review is for the recently released: “Avengers: Age of Ultron“.   This movie is an advance case of super-heroes extremis: wow, there are a lot of them.  In fact, there is such an overload of them (characters) the movie has to create humanizing back stories to make the central characters (the original Avengers) overall movie believable.  It also – I guess – is creating future movie leads, by throwing a lot of characters at us, but only giving them cameo roles.  So, is the sequel as good as the original?  So, so…  In some ways better.  In some, worse.
I would argue the action scenes and special effects are much better.  The humanizing also adds a great deal to the movie.  I particularly enjoyed the “pick up the hammer” scene.  This scene is exactly the type of scene which adds humanity to the movie, but reinforces the “super” part of super-hero.  There are probably seven to ten such moments in the movie and they work.  Supporting this (the back stories) are the numerous one-liners thrown in throughout the movie.
What doesn’t work?  Well, most of the movie doesn’t make much sense.  Why are things happening and / or why did they happen to lead up to the current point?  A lot wasn’t terribly clear (to me at least).  The bottom line was that I simply decided early on the movie wasn’t going to make a lot of sense and just tried to enjoy it as a comic-book, action movie.  From then on (well, reminding myself frequently) the movie was very enjoyable.
Final recommendation: strong recommendation.  Good early summer entertainment!  Not the greatest movie, but a reasonable progression of action scenes based around a story with a great villain.  I can’t wait for the DVD!  How ’bout that?  I got through the entire “review” without mentioning the name of a single character or actor and with no spoilers.  I’m not sure if I should be proud or not??  If you like comic-book movies (I do), you’ll thoroughly enjoy this movie.  I did!!
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On This Day In:
2014 Turning Pages
2013 We Are All Accountable
2012 American Sign Language
2011 Happy Disproof
2010 Book Review – Managing Your Government Career

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Last night I watched a really terrific movie: “Finding Forrester“, released back in 2000, and starring Sean Connery as William Forrester and Rob Brown as Jamal Wallace.  The movie is basically a master / grasshopper movie with Connery in the Juan Sánchez Villa‑Lobos Ramirez : Yoda : Mr. Miyagi role and Brown in the Connor MacLeod : Luke Skywalker : Daniel Larusso role.  But, instead of the swords, “The Force”  and karate, the lessons are about ideas, words, writing and seeking your own path in the world.
The movie is fairly predictable in terms of story line, pace and resolution (happy ending), but it works!  Connery is masterful but Brown manages to hold his own in their joint scenes and more than hold his own when he is the focus of the scene.  The dialogue is witty and mature allowing the characters to grow in the relationship of their friendship.  One of my favorite scenes is the two of them watching “Jeopardy” and Forrester thinks Wallace doesn’t know something (the author of a work) and makes a comment, to which Wallace replies with the name and the riposte: “I’ll take poor assumptions for $800, Alex.”
Two (of many) strong performances in a movie about seeking and finding personal growth with several brilliantly insightful comments about human nature (and writing).  Good for a laugh, several chuckles and a tear-up (if you’re a softy like me).  Highly recommended!!
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On This Day In:
2014 Ouch!
2013 Revelations
2012 Movies And Juicing
Brady Gets #4 (Prediction)
Happy To Get Up
2011 What About Good Blogs?
2010 Slowly, Slowly…

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Today I am home ill with what seems to be an ear infection.  Every few years, I get this swollen sensation on the right side of my head.  It feels like my head has a weighted balloon attached to the right side.  When I turn my head, stand or look quickly in any direction, I get a light-headedness and it feels like my vision / brain is continuing to move after my head (or eyeballs) have stopped.  Several years ago I had to go to the ER to get seen by a doctor about this condition.  Then, I also had an associated fever, which I fortunately don’t have this time.  In any case, I take some decongestants and my vertigo pill and I kind of spend the day in a half-stupor of fatigue and dizziness.
This morning I completed a book I’ve been reading off and on for several years now.  Our local library system has an annual shelf clearing book give-away each August and they have about 800 to 1,000 boxes of books which are set out for anyone to take what they want – as much as you can carry, and come back tomorrow.  Today’s book was one of these and I picked it up about three years ago.  It has mostly sat in my car waiting to be read.  I would grab it whenever I had a doctor / dentist visit to have something to read in the waiting room.  Unfortunately, if you don’t wait much, you don’t read much, so this has taken quite a while to get through.
The book is titled: “The Modern Samurai Society: Duty and Dependence in Contemporary Japan“, (1982©) and was written by Mitsuyuki Masatsugu.  The book attempts to explain contemporary (circa 1982) corporate Japan in terms of the historical legacy of the Samurai (“samurai” means “one who serves”) society which held sway in Japan for several centuries.  The samurai tradition fell out of favor with the coming of the industrial revolution in the last half of the 19th century.  (As an aside, part of this transition was portrayed in the Tom Cruise movie: “The Last Samurai“.)  In essence, it attempts to explain Japanese business management techniques to non-Japanese.
To Masatsugu, successful Japanese management stems from eight factors which incorporate two features from Japanese culture.  The eight factors (guiding principles) to success are:
1) Paternalism;
2) Guaranteed lifetime employment;
3) Seniority-based promotion;
4) In-company unions;
5) Periodic transfers;
6) Overtime work as a safety valve;
7) Enriched welfare program; and,
8) A selective retirement system.
The two features which Masatsugu believes to be uniquely emphasized in Japanese society are:
1) Diligence – the duty each individual has towards their country in general and towards their company in particular.  And,
2) Dependence – a recognition that even though the employees are individuals, they must work together to surpass non-Japanese companies.
Like any “valid” theoretical explanation, management theories must meet a minimum of two criteria: does it accurately describe what is currently happening, and two, does it have predictive value either for when external conditions change or when internal structures are abandoned (or both).  In this book’s case, we now have the benefit of thirty-two years history to see that Masatsugu’s proposal was pretty spot on.
Since the book’s release Japan has suffered both a housing boom collapse and an economic drought now approaching the middle of its third decade.  The housing collapse happened in the 1980’s and the start of Japan’s economic drought (I hesitate to call it a collapse as Japan has only recently been surpassed by China as THE economic power in Asia) occurred in the 1990’s.  In fact, the 1990’s is sometimes referred to in Japan as “the lost decade” because there was so little economic growth.
Specifically, Masatsugu suggests the structure of Japan’s economic strength is based on these principles and if any one (or combination) fails, the entire structure will waver and ultimately collapse.  Masatsugu predicts the gradual incorporation of western management will bring about an economic failure.  He leans towards the abandonment of guaranteed lifetime employment and seniority-based promotion when “times get hard”.  Masatsugu says that in past times, management held to principle and the economy eventually turned around.  He cautions that future management might not have the fortitude to withstand to pressure to abandon principle in an effort to meet “western style” quarterly objectives.  We now know Japanese management has moved away from guaranteed lifetime employment, seniority-based promotion and selective retirement.  All of these actions have had a detrimental effect on business (and societal) productivity in the U.S. over the last 40 years.  It will be interesting to see if the same happens in Japan and how long it will take to happen (if it does).
I doubt very much that this book could be written in today’s “politically correct” world as it has several racist and sexist comments which, in context, seem common sense, but are actually inculcated cultural biases.  For example, women are generally considered unequal to men in the business world, because…  Wait for it…  Because they are!  (Well, except when they aren’t.)  In the author’s view, a woman can be one of the main reasons a man succeeds in business.  But, a female can never succeed in Japanese business on her own.  In all, though, these are trivial reasons to be critical of a book which I believe is overwhelmingly a valuable (if dated) insight into Japanese business culture.  Highly recommended!
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On This Day In:
2013 Doin’
2012 A Lover
2011 What Have We Found Here
Words

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The choices we make dictate the life we lead.
  —  William “Bill” Rago
The lead character from the movie “Renaissance Man“, played by Danny DeVito
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On This Day In:
2013 Not Sent Yet
2012 Wall-Crawler Reboot
Learning To Count
On Worshiping God
2011 Emancipated Differences
2010 A Little More Technology, Please…

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Today’s review is for a DVD I picked up for old time’s sake.  The movie is titled: “Diner” from 1982 and was directed by Barry Levinson.  This was his directorial debut and was one of four movies he made about life in his hometown: Baltimore, Maryland.  It’s is supposed to be a “comedy / drama”, but I didn’t find much to laugh about in the movie, so I guess it’s supposed to be a “black comedy”, which, in turn, means it’s “disturbing” and not funny.  Levinson is supposed to be a big deal producer / director, but I don’t follow that stuff (directors) much, so I’m not really bothered about it.  With the exception of Hitchcock and Spielberg, I don’t really “go” to a movie “because” of its director.  I guess I’m unusual that way, as it seems to matter to people I know (friends and family) a lot more than it’s ever mattered to me.  And, although I did see this movie during its original release, I have no recollection of the other three movies in the “Baltimore series”.
Anyway, this movie is kind of an adult / older version of a coming of age story.  I usually think of “coming of age” stories as teen-to-adult, not “Oh, shit!  I’m an adult.  Now what do I do with the rest of my life.”  Well, this is the latter.  It’s the story of six male friends (and the wife of one of the friends) who come together for the wedding of one of the other five (the friend played by Guttenberg).  The movie was a launching pad for some folks who later went on to have pretty well known careers for the rest of the ’80’s, including: Steve Guttenberg (the guy getting married), Daniel Stern (the guy already married), Ellen Barkin (his wife), Mickey Rourke (playing a macho hairdresser, unlike Warren Beatty in “Shampoo“), Kevin Bacon (as a young alcoholic – with surprising intelligence – jerk), Tim Daly (as the handsome guy in the group), Paul Reiser (as the “I have no idea why this guy is in this group of friends or this movie” character).
Now, you may be asking, why did this movie make Kevin’s list “for old time’s sake”?  Well, growing up, I used to follow the American football team based in Baltimore – the Colts – because I really liked their quarterback (Johnny Unitas) and one of their wide receivers (Raymond Berry).  The hooks (for me) in this movie are: before the Guttenberg character will marry his fiancé, she has to pass a test of knowledge about the history of the Colts and the NFL; the music played during the bride’s procession to the altar is the Colt’s theme / fight song; and, the wedding colors are Colt’s Blue and White.  The best line in the movie is when a female / spouse complains to one of the wedding guest characters about the wedding colors and he responds: “Hey, she should be grateful he doesn’t support the Steelers.”  For those of you who know little to nothing about American Football, the Pittsburgh Steelers colors are black and gold.  The “gold” has always looked more “yellow” to my eye, but it is supposed to be gold.  The fiancé narrowly fails the test, but he marries her anyway.  In my head, I can see a Steeler fan telling his fiancé their wedding colors will be Black and Gold…  Heck, I can see that now, let alone back in 1959!!
I don’t know if Americans “come of age” while sitting in diners anymore.  Perhaps they – diners – (like my own youth) are a thing of the past in these days of malls and franchise restaurants, but if you want to see a little slice of “Americana” as it was in earlier days (at least it is similar to how I remember late nights and early morning hours from my late teens and early twenties), then this is a pretty accurate snapshot and you should check out this movie.
Final recommendation: moderate recommendation.  A darker and more East Coast version of “American Graffiti“, without the cars / crusin’.  Good music, good writing and good character actors.
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On This Day In:
2013 Judgement
2012 Stuck In My Mind
Life’s Hope
2011 Just Getting Up
Directions Please

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Today’s movie review is for the 2013 version of “The Lone Ranger” starring Armie Hammer (as the Lone Ranger) and Johnny Depp (as Tonto).  Now, I don’t know Hammer from beans, but I’ve grown to really like Depp since he went through his “Pirates of the Caribbean” phase.  This is a remake / reboot of the classic Western genre movie hero.  It is also a classic “buddy-movie”.  I grew up listening to “The Lone Ranger” as a 78-LP, even before I started watching it on TV with Clayton Moore.  Needless to say, I first saw this movie on its opening weekend and this viewing is from the DVD which I was recently given.  (You can read my first review here.)
The “Lone Ranger” myth is a classic story of good versus evil.  In this version, a man, dedicated to law and order, and to justice, survives an ambush, teams up with an American Indian (Depp / Tonto) and they seek to bring justice to the gang which slaughtered the posse of Texas Rangers and the Indian’s tribe.
Within the context of the struggle between good vs evil / power vs justice, the movie has an over-arching theme and then two sub-themes.  The over-arching theme is exaggerated action typical of the “Pirates” series (same director).  This is meant to visually stimulate and entertain the audience with “eye-candy special effects”.  The first (for me) sub-theme is that peaceful folks survive by luck and this is represented by almost slapstick comedy (basically, the first half of the movie).  The second sub-theme is that criminals can “really” only be confronted and controlled by violence (the second half of the movie).  In this movie, there is a palpable change between sub-themes when the main character (John Reid / Hammer) decides to “become” the avenger for Justice: “The Lone Ranger”.  After this inflection point, the action becomes intended instead of “chance / coincidence / slapstick”.  While I don’t agree with the “philosophy” of the decision towards violence to confront the criminal, it is (probably) mostly inescapable in real life.
So, is this a Disney / family / kids movie?  Kinda to mostly, but not entirely.  There are a few scenes which are surprising graphic and may be too intense for very young children (under 8), but all in all, it remains a “Disney” film.  I found it to be long, but entertaining, well worth the purchase price and I hope there will be sequels.  Final recommendation: with the minor qualification about age appropriateness, this is a highly recommended film.
In case anyone cares, most of the “professional” reviewers hated this movie, while most of the regular folks either liked or loved it.  I think (still) history will show it was better than the professional reviews.  When I went to see this movie at the theater with my daughter (Sarah), there was a line!  I was stunned and said aloud, “Don’t you people realize this movie was trashed by the critics!?!”  What I noticed was there were of lot of older Dads and Grand-Dads bringing their kids and Grand-kids to see this movie.  I like to think of this as cross-generational pollination of the “good and worthy” hero to those who follow.  And so the myth of that hero in the Old West continues…
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On This Day In:
2013 Warning:
2012 Thinking About Beauty
2011 A Founding Father’s Argument Against Public Funding Of Religious Education
Weekend Update
So Far, So Good

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Today’s review is for the 2011 version of “Jane Eyre” starring Mia Wasikowska (title character) and Michael Fassbender (“Young Magneto from the X-Men series” as the romantic interest).  If you are into period costuming (and I am) and / or into romantic characterizations where the good people “win” in the end (and I am), then you will enjoy this movie (and I did).  This is, however, a dark movie about a young girl who must endure physical and psychological abuse while growing up.  She is blessed with a keen mind, a sharp tongue, a strong will and a kind heart.  In the end, her mind, her will and her heart earn her the love she has been seeking her entire life.
Viewing this movie, I was struck by the fact that although the title character achieves “love” at the end, the movie itself was surprisingly unfulfilling for me.  I was left with the impression that I’d just seen a very good performance by Wasikowska, but it was not a movie which left me saying, “I want to see that again.”  This is in contrast with “Pride & Prejudice” (2005), which I’ve seen at least a dozen times and will watch again (I am sure) anytime I’m given a chance.  Final recommendation: strong recommendation.  Interesting and thought provoking, but not what I would call “enjoyable”.  I guess the best way to describe it is to say that not every hearty dinner has to end with a great dessert in order to be satisfying.
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On This Day In:
2013 Before
2012 Look To This Day
2011 One View Of Man

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Today’s review is of the 2013 movie: “White House Down” starring Channing Tatum (as the Hero) and Jamie Foxx (as the President).  The premise is fairly straight forward: the hero is touring the White House with his daughter, when it is attacked by terrorists trying to kidnap the President of the United States.  There are some minor twists in the movie, but they are by and large predictable.  The movie is a standard “good-guy buddy” movie with all the same action / explosions of any of the “Die Hard” or “Lethal Weapon” franchises.  There is also a pinch of flag waving in the front yard (for the super-patriots), political / fascist intrigue (for the conspiracy theorists), and just a few one-liners and comic moments / scenes (which always make this genre more enjoyable).
All in all, this movie is nothing more than it sets out to be – an action / intrigue movie with the emphasis on the action (read: fights, shooting and explosions).  If this is your thing (and it is clearly MY thing), then you will enjoy this movie.  If it’s not your thing, you won’t find much here.  Final recommendation: solid (but not High) recommendation.  Entertaining, but not ground breaking.
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On This Day In:
2013 Exposed Spirits
2012 Ow-ow
2011 Focused Relatives

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Thomas Robert “Tom” Laughlin (August 10, 1931 – December 12, 2013)
Before Steven Seagal (all three word title movies), before John Rambo (“Rambo” series), before John McClane (“Die Hard” series), before Paul Kersey (“Death Wish” series), before Kwai Chang Caine (“Kung Fu” TV series) – there was Billy Jack in “Born Losers” (1967).  Tom Laughlin brought to the big screen the start of the modern vigilante movie genre with the character of Billy Jack.  It seems strange how a little martial arts on the big screen, mixed with some social awareness and righteous indignation can affect people’s lives.
As a twelve year old kid I remember thinking, “Wow, I’ve got to learn how to do that!”  What I was looking at was Hapkido – a Korean form of Karate (open hand fighting).  Ten years later, I found a Hapkido dojo in Germany and studied it for almost a year during my off hours (I was in the Army).  That was set aside once I returned to civilian life…  Until I found Judo, while I was in college.  I took that for a semester, too.  When I moved to England in the ’90’s, a friend from work (who was a black belt in judo) said he’d love to get me on a mat and asked if I was interested in going to a dojo to learn Aikido.  My friend (Dave) and I found a local dojo and began our lessons.  We continued on with that for about two years.  It was great having someone who was a lifelong martial artist as a co-student because he could explain things in much greater detail than I could ever have gotten (except in one-on-one personal lessons).  For his side, he got someone who was bigger and heavier who he could throw around for a couple of hours twice a week.  We both moved on and I stumbled on to a Philippine “combat” style of Aikido while I was in Saudi Arabia which I tried for another year.  And then finally, once back home in America, I was back to traditional Aikido at a local dojo for several years (until I developed AFib and went on blood thinners).
Practicing martial arts, of course, lead me to read about martial arts, which in turn lead to me reading about martial philosophy and then philosophy in general.
Did I ever “become” a martial artist?  No.  Did I ever learn how to do that?  Not hardly.  I never took it seriously enough to be more than what I was – a novice and a bit of a dojo sampler.  Did I enjoy it?  Yes, very much.  Did it affect me?  Yes!  And for at least some small part of that, I have to thank Billy Jack (Tom Laughlin).
Beyond the enjoyment of playing Aikido itself, I learned timing, balance, grace, philosophy, and I gained a certain amount of inner peace.  For all of which, I will always be extremely grateful.
R.I.P.  Tom
Signed,
KMAB (A Fan)
[Please also go check out the song lyrics to “One Tin Soldier – (The Legend of Billy Jack)” on my poems page.   —    KMAB]
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On This Day In:
2012 All Aboard
2011 Sail On, Sailor

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Today, Sarah and I went to the theater to catch the new Hobbit movie: “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug“.  “The Hobbit” is a relatively short children’s book (compared to “The Lord of the Rings“).  The LotR movie trilogy was a fairly grand effort as novels turned into movies go.  The current trilogy is more so.  Effort, that is.  There wasn’t enough source material in the original book to justify three LONG movies, so Peter Jackson (writer, producer and director) just kind of makes it up as he goes along in most of this movie.  I guess that’s kind of the curse of the middle movie.
Anyway, this movie, like the first doesn’t bear up well under close “thoughtful” examination.  You have to go into it looking for simple entertainment.  Some sight gags, a whole lot of carefully choreographed fight sequences and some fantastic special effects keep the movie rolling along – and interesting (to me anyway).  Both Sarah and I enjoyed the movie for what it is.  Final recommendation: (a pleasant surprise) highly recommended.
Additional comments: 
There’s a bit of a strange inter-species romance thrown in between the one “attractive” dwarf and a warrior female elf.  I guess it was a way to add a female character to the movie.  In this case, it’s worth it because she is definitely a “kick-ass” warrior.  It is nice to see a female character come into a movie and not end up the damsel in distress needing to be saved by one of the male leads.  Anyway, it was “strange” because 1) it’s not part of the book, so it’s purely invented for the movie, and 2) it was “cute” but didn’t add anything to the movie – at least nothing obvious to me.  It was like, we’ll put this (budding romance) in so we can do this (elfin healing) later in the movie.  Possibly, there’ll be some resolution/explanation in the final movie.
Second, the theater we saw the movie at (the Brenden Theater in Concord, CA) had the promos set to a painfully high sound level.  I had to put my fingers in my ears during them.  Unprompted by me in the car ride home, Sarah offered that she “must be” getting old because the sound was so high it hurt her ears.  She corrected this to “during the trailers”, but I agreed with her.  Fortunately, the movie was nowhere near that sound level, or I would have had to leave and ask for another ticket.  I’m not sure what that was about at all…
Last, this movie is almost three hours long.  My family is convinced I have bladder/prostrate issues.  I think it’s just annoying to sit in a cold theater and have to “go”, but most of us do “tough it out” because that’s what we’ve trained ourselves to do.  I told the wife before leaving, well, I’m just accepting the fact I’m going and I’ll miss some of the movie ’cause I can’t put it (the movie) on pause for nature breaks.  In the end, I think this (acceptance of limits) made the movie more enjoyable for me.  And my daughter said I didn’t miss much during my two “intermissions”.  She added there was another “old guy” who “went” at least three times (before she stopped counting).  “Very disturbing!”  (Ah, the smugness of youth…  Your day will come!)
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On This Day In:
2012 Speaking Of Products
2011 Ready To Be Immortal?

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Well, the last thirty days have seen a good run of new movies for me: “Oblivion“, “Iron Man 3“, “The Great Gatsby” (last weekend) and yesterday, “Star Trek Into Darkness“.
The Great Gatsby – movie review
“The Great Gatsby” movie is based on the “classic” novel by the same name and written by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  I saw the movie promo’s starting several months ago, and as I’d read the book several decades ago, I decided to do something I almost never do – read the book and then go see the movie.  On the rare occasions when I do both read the book and then see a movie based on a book, I tend to see the movie (and enjoy it), and then go read the book.  In all honesty, this is normally because it takes a couple of years for the movie to follow the book and I would pick up the book in paperback after the movie just cause it’s cheaper to buy it used then.
But I digress…  This book is from the 1920’s and the movie has been done multiple times since its initial publication.  I guess the most famous is the 1970s version starring Robert Redford (which I have never seen).  Anyway, my daughter is an English major and she has a copy of the novel, so I read it in advance of seeing the movie.The movie follows the book very closely.  The characters are not the way I imagined them from the reading, but the major scenes are pretty spot on to the book.  As I didn’t “like” the book, I ended up finding the book only slightly better.  The costumes and feel of the movie seem pretty accurate and the acting was okay, but a couple of things bugged me.  Visually, the shirts and coats of many of the men didn’t seem to fit.  Almost all were too tight, and many were too short (particularly in the sleeves).  Now, normally this wouldn’t bother me much – if it all – but one scene has Gatsby raining down clothes on the female lead bragging about how he has them sent from his personal clothier in London.  So, why don’t the shirts, vest or jackets fit?
The second thing which bothered me was the music score.  It was too modern.  It had a ’20s “jazzy” feel, but it wasn’t, and a couple numbers even seemed to be almost rap.
So, is this the “definitive” Gatsby?  Even not having seen any of the other versions, I’d be inclined to say no.  I enjoyed DiCaprio in the title role, but everyone else was kind of blah.  Well, Maguire was okay, but not better than so-so.  None of the other characters were the way I imagined them from the book and certainly none of them played the role better than my imagination – again, even though the book was followed fairly closely.  Final recommendation: unless you are a MASSIVE DiCaprio or Gatsby fan, wait for TV release.
Star Trek Into Darkness – movie review
First off, full disclosure…  I watched all of Star Trek (the Original Series – aka ST:TOS) in first release back in the ’60s.  I have seen every episode at least five times (and most, many, many, many times more).  I even have the Enterprise and the Galileo Seven Christmas ornaments, for cryin’ out loud.  So, maybe this reviewer is slightly biased.  Having said this, what did I think?  This is a terrific movie!!  Get out your DVD of the first re-boot to get prepped and then RUN down to your local cinema to see this on a big screen.  Do NOT wait for this to come out on DVD unless you have a huge video set up at home.
Is this episode a “soap opera” in space? Yes (so what).  Are there “enough” nods to the original series and earlier movies? Yes!  Is there action?  YES!  Are the special effects up to snuff?  YES!  (Well, mostly.  Some of the CGI is pretty fuzzy / noticeable).  Is the acting good to great?  For the most part, yes!  These guys are really starting to own the roles, particularly the “minor” regulars Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Sulu (John Cho) and Chekov (Anton Yelchin).  It goes without saying that Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Bones/McCoy (Karl Urban) are well played.  Once again, Scotty (Simon Pegg) dominates most of scenes he’s in.  And ethnic issues aside, Benedict Cumberbatch makes for a good Khan.For me, the two touchstones of ST:TOS were humor and friendship.  Both are abundant in this movie.  I honestly believe that if you are in any way a fan of the original series, you will enjoy (if not love) this movie!!
Now, before all the absolutists start in on me, here are a couple of the “WTF” moments:
The transporter has a limited range (even in “The Next Generation” (TNG)), you can’t beam from one solar system to another.  So, Khan can’t beam from Earth to the Klingon home world.  Khan defeats the combined crews of three Klingon Birds of Prey (30 to 40 guys), but he can’t wup on one Vulcan (okay, so Khan was popped by 6-8 phaser stun blasts, but still), come on…  And finally, even at warp speed, travel from Earth to the Klingon home world is not instantaneous.  And, yes, there are other things, but REALLY, the movie is terrific!
Anything else?  Yeah.  Two “reality” points.  First, enough with the retread story lines.  The purpose of the reboot was to provide freedom for new stories, not just to re-hash the old stories with new actors.  How about Star Trek 3 gives us a new story?  Now, that I’d love to see!  Second, Pine isn’t younger than Kirk anymore.  If you’re not careful, you’re going to age Pine right out of the role for future movies.  I don’t see how you can do five years worth of exploration while shooting a movie once every three / four years…
Time will tell…
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On This Day In:
2013 Defining Maleness
2012 All Set
2011 Not Always

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We love these stories because they are about people who find something within themselves that even they didn’t know was there.  That discovery gives them the power to defeat the most overwhelming enemies and situations — and because it comes from inside, this power can never be taken away.  We all need, in big ways and small, to believe that if we dig deep enough we can find the confidence, the abilities, the self-possession to defeat whatever dark powers life arrays against us.  We root for the hero because we root for ourselves.
    —    Robert Capps
[This quote is from the article “74 Things Every Great Star Wars Movie Needs” in the Feb. 2013 issue of Wired Magazine.  The link to the article is: http://www.wired.com/underwire/2013/02/ff-star-wars-is-back/
The interesting thing (to me anyway) is that in the article this is number “9”, but on the web, it’s number “13”.  I guess there was some subtle change in universal existence between the hardcopy and the virtual world.  On second thought, maybe it’s a bit prophetic as I’ve been a subscriber for 13 years now… since 2000.  If you’ve never checked it out, the magazine is highly recommended.    —    KMAB]
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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 cost 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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