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Posts Tagged ‘Strong Recommendation’

Risen” – movie review
Risen” (2016) is the story of the Christian tale of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, but it is told from the perspective of a Roman military tribune Clavius (played by Joseph Fiennes).  He is tasked to investigate the mystery of what happened to the body of Jesus (played by Cliff Curtis) following the Crucifixion.  Accompanied by a rookie (but for some reason, trusted) aide Lucius (Tom Felton – Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter series), Clavius must find the body before the Emperor arrives on a visit.
The movie generally follows the four gospels, but has some interesting twists because it’s from the Roman side.  There are (to my mind) changes, but they won’t mean a great deal to the average person – Christian or not.  One of the most interesting (to me) was the twisting of the story of “Doubting Thomas”.  The actions happen per the gospel, but the line about faith is directed to Clavius instead of to Thomas.
Another (to me) significant change is Mary Magdalene (played by Maria Botto) is put back in the role of a prostitute.  This is a currently discredited interpretation of Mary Magdalene’s role among the followers of Christ.  The role came about by means of a claim / assertion by Pope Gregory I, which generally combined multiple Mary’s cited in the testaments into a single Mary.
Other than these (and other minor) errors, I found the movie to be an excellent story of faith and conversion.  On the basis of this alone, I give the movie a strong recommendation.
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On This Day In:
2016 Dignity And Grace
2015 Is It Warm Enough For You
2014 What The Right STILL Wants
2013 Embrace Serendipity
2012 Your Order, Please
2011 Well Enough Anyway
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Tripwire  (1999©) —  Book Review
Tripwire” is book three in the Jack Reacher novel series which I began reading earlier this year after seeing the movie starring Tom Cruise.  I enjoyed the flic, so I wanted to see what the books were about.  You can never be sure just from watching a movie if the character is “really” the same or simply an interpretation by the director or star actor.  Although this is the third book in the series, it’s actually the fourth book I’ve read.  I was looking at summaries and found one of the books was a throw-back to before the “series” began, so I wanted to “start” the series at the chronological beginning even if it wasn’t the first book in the series.  Since I haven’t read all of them, I’m not sure I have started in the right place, but I feel as if I made the effort anyway.
So, the book (and series) is written by Lee Child.  At this point, the series is beginning to follow a formula: Reacher is out minding his business, something happens, he goes to be a hero – because he’s the only one who can work outside the law and get “it” done, whatever “it” happens to be.  This book finds Reacher in Florida, but quickly moves to New York.  He meets a past acquaintance who becomes a lover.  She gets in danger.  Hero time!
The book is solidly entertaining.  It’s well paced and (of course) has a twist ending.  The author accomplishes this with two tricks, misdirected first person narration and then failing to tell the reader what the main character knows until the author is ready for the “twist” ending.  The problem is, this trick is blatantly obvious when the author does it and as a reader you just stop and say (to yourself) “just tell me what Reacher knows!”  Does it spoil the book?  No.  Does it make it less enjoyable…?  Yeah, for me, it did.
Final recommendation: strong recommendation.  I will continue to read the series and see what happens.  I don’t remember the earlier books having the problem discussed above and hopefully, it’s just a one off in this particular book.  Anyway, as I stated, I still enjoyed it.  Action.  Mystery / detective / procedural.  Heroics.  What’s not to like?
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On This Day In:
2015 I’d Settle For Interesting
2014 Old Math
2013 Adequate Explanation
2012 Superior Discovery
2011 Welcome Home And Thank You!!
Two Heritages

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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 8 to 10 years for every “real” year 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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Deadpool  —  movie review
Today I took my son James to see the new movie from Marvel Studios, “Deadpool” (2016).  This movie is rated “R” and for very good reasons: violence, nudity and language.  Of the three, the most egregious is the language, followed by the violence and then a distant third is nudity.  Obviously, it’s a comic-book movie and “kind of” a rom-com, but I would more accurately describe it as an action (violence) based dark comedy.  Most of the “comedy” is from the scripted lines spoken by the main character Wade Wilson / Deadpool – played by Green Lantern, I mean Ryan Reynolds.
This is clearly the first in a series, so of course, this is the origin story told in a series of flashbacks.  Blah, blah, “hero” does small “job”, meets girlfriend, love ensues, “hero” is diagnosed with terminal / inoperable cancer and advised to get his things in order.   Blah, blah, “bad-guy” is introduced, torture of hero follows.  Hero escapes and tries to track down the bad guy.  Hero kills a lot of people and blows stuff up.  Bad-guy gets away and kidnaps hero’s love interest.  Blah, blah, big fight, hero wins and saves girlfriend.
So, is the movie any good and what about the “R” rating?  This is a surprisingly good movie and Reynolds, I mean Green Lantern, seems to be perfect for the role.  Because so much of the humor is oral / spoken, you really have to pay attention to the movie.  How strange is that?  You’re paying attention to the movie so you can catch the jokes, not because the movie is all that interesting!   It is (interesting).  But that is not why you’re paying attention.  Either way, it works.  I enjoyed the movie a lot.
What about the big three?  Well, in (severity) reverse order, the nudity isn’t that big a deal.  I only really remember one bar scene with nude dancers.  Oh, yeah, they show Reynolds’ tush a couple of times.  Bad language, yeah, there is quite a bit of that.  Is it “really” bad?  I’ve heard worse.  Did it spoil the movie for me?  Not at all.  What about the violence?  There is quite a bit of that, too.  But, and this is the BIG qualifier, I didn’t find it to be as gratuitous as I’ve seen in some movies – actually, many movies.  I would say it’s easily on a par with “Watchmen“, the two “300” movies or “Sin City“, but not as bad as the “Kill Bill” movies.  None of this is to excuse the reasons for the “R” rating, merely to put them in context with other similar movies.
Final recommendation – strong but with the qualifications that this movie is definitely not for children just because it is a comic book hero movie.  As the “hero” says in some of the promos: “this is not that kind of hero movie.”  Not as good a movie as “Guardians of the Galaxy” for non-mainstream tier comics,  but a very good addition to the “adult” comic hero movie genre.
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On This Day In:
2015 Within The System
2014 None But…
2013 Obviously Longer
2012 A Childhood Poem
Who Are You Callin’ Leather-Faced?
2011 In No Particular Order
The Need For Proof

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Spanglish – movie review
I recently watched the rom-com Spanglish (2004).  The movie is about a moderately wealthy “Anglo” (white American) family which hires a young Mexican female housekeeper and the issues the family faces as their maid is becoming acclimated to wealthy but dysfunctional America.  Although marketed as a “romantic-comedy”, the movie is actually not very funny – and certainly not “ha-ha” funny.  The movie stars Adam Sandler as the husband – who happens to be a world class chef, Téa Leoni as the unemployed and neurotic wife, and Paz Vega as the maid – who initially speaks no English.  The “framework” of the movie is provided by the voice narration of the maid’s daughter describing the most important person in her life (her mother) on a college application essay.
The movie is over a decade old, so it’s probably pretty safe to give away most of the plot, but I won’t (too much).  Suffice it to say, the wife is bored and begins having an affair (off camera).  The husband finds he has little in common with his wife and, although he continues to adore her, he finds he is slowly but surely being attracted to the maid.  When he finds out about his wife’s affair, he decides to pursue his affection for the maid.  The couple share a meal at the husband’s restaurant and almost, but not quite, consummate their budding romantic relationship.  They decide they cannot – for the families – and the young maid quits her job with the family and (presumably) returns to living in the Los Angeles barrio (with her daughter).
Despite my earlier statement that this is not a “very” funny movie, it is surprisingly satisfying.  I enjoyed it tremendously!  I am not a fan of Adam Sandler.  I have only seen him in a few roles and, by and large, have not found him funny.  I don’t know if this is his first “serious” role or not, but I now feel as if I must go back and re-watch some of his other works, because he is just THAT good in this role.  Téa Leoni and Paz Vega are also both excellent in their roles.  I must admit I only remember Téa Leoni in one other movie role – the newsperson in “Deep Impact” – and it was very nice to see her in another solid performance.  Given the movie is over ten years old, I am surprised I have not seen more of Paz Vega because the camera absolutely loves her.  She reminds me of a much younger Penélope Cruz.  Anyway, I don’t think I’ve seen Ms. Vega in anything else.
So, final recommendation – strong recommendation.  The movie captures the “immigrant” story quite well – the arc if not the normally terrifying detail.  The adult (and child) acting is good to very good.  The story is well developed and I don’t mind admitting I’ll be re-watching this movie again, in about a year, after I’ve had a chance to see a few of Adam Sandler’s other roles.
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On This Day In:
2015 All Omissions Are Mine
2014 Precise Order
2013 Uh, No. Not Really…
Deep Regions
2012 A Pre-Valentine’s Day Message
2011 Easy Like Sunday Morning
May I Have A Little More, Please…
2010 Valleys and Peaks

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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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Casca #6: The Persian – book review
This volume is number six in the “Casca: The Eternal Mercenary” book series.  “Casca #6: The Persian” (1982©) was written by Barry Sadler.  For those of you who haven’t read my other reviews, Casca is Casca Rufio Longinus, the Roman soldier who pierced the side of Jesus of Nazareth while he was being crucified.  Just before dying, Jesus tells Casca that he is happy in his role and that he will remain the same until they meet again.  Each volume tells some of Casca’s life over the last two thousand years as he awaits the second coming of Jesus.
Because Casca doesn’t age, every 20 or 30 years he must travel to avoid questions about why he doesn’t seem to get older.  In a prior volume (number 3), Casca was in China.  In this, he is returning to the West and pauses to deliver a message from the emperor of China to the King of the Persians warning of impending attacks from the Huns.  Casca falls into service for the King (Shapur II) and this covers the few years of that service.
This episode has two interesting sub-stories (for me).  The first involves a re-enactment of a battle tactic Casca first saw in China.  As the enemy advances, you have a line of “volunteers” step forward and cut their throats in front of the enemy.  This is said to surprise and then terrify the Hun warriors.  They turn to flee and are then defeated in detail as they try to retreat / run away.  Casca relates this tactic to Shapur who decides he wants to try it and see if it works.  He sends Casca out with an under-manned force, but with several times the number of “volunteers” as the Chinese used.  The tactic works again and Casca is able to defeat the Huns even though out-numbered by several times his own force.
The second sub-story is about Casca’s “curse”.  Because he cannot be killed, each volume has a point where the miracle / curse must be demonstrated.  In prior stories, Casca has been drowned, buried alive, poisoned, fed to crabs and had his heart cut out and one hand completely cut off.  In this episode, the king judges Casca to have become too popular with the army so he decides to trump up some charges of treason and then have Casca burned alive.  Of course Casca survives, but the execution and recovery are explained in graphic detail.  As a reader, you almost feel you are sharing Casca’s pain.
There is a third story-line which also ties back to the earlier Chinese episode, but I’ve already given too much of the story away.  Final recommendation: another strong recommendation.
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On This Day In:
2014 Hey, I Resemble That Remark… (4!)
2013 Sit, Put, Until…
2012 Lessons For My Son
2011 Reaching The Right Audience
2010 Christmas Trees and Profession of Faith

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