Category Archives: Movies

Life Imitates Art…

Most everyone of my age remembers the original “Star Wars” with Mark Hamill, Sir Alec Guinness, Harrison Ford, of course Carrie Fisher and others. Many younger people are quite familiar with it as well. It is indeed a modern classic.

Harken back to a scene where Imperial Stormtroopers stop the small craft containing Luke Skywalker, the anonymous Obi-wan Kenobi and the two ‘droids (robots to me) C3PO and R2D2. Obi-wan performs a bit of Jedi mind control and the lead Stormtrooper parrots, “We don’t need to see his identification. These are NOT the ‘droids we’re looking for.” It is a funny scene, even if both Obi-wan and the Stormtrooper dangle a preposition. Sigh…

Now imagine this: A small craft of some kind carrying former Former Secretary of State Clinton, President Obama, Representative Pelosi, Senator Chuck Schumer and Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch. They are stopped by FBI Director James Comey. Director Comey says, “We don’t need to do any investigation. These are NOT the ‘droids we’re looking for.”

:rimshot!:

I probably have too much time on my hands… Oh. If I suddenly disappear or commit suicide, remember this.

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Alfred C. Sharpton Damages Race Relations – Again!

http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2015/01/16/al-sharpton-calls-for-emergency-meeting-hollywood-over-lack-diversity-in/

The infamous race-baiter and money grubber Al Sharpton has sunk himself to a new low in the field of race-baiting and money-grubbing. He has called an ’emergency meeting’ of his ‘diversity task force’ after announcement of the Academy Awards nominations. No blacks were nominated.

Sharpton ignored the black unemployment rate (roughly twice that of other ethnicities) or the ‘black on black’ murder rate (clearly highest categorical rate of the ‘ethnic’ murder rates) and instead focused on the Academy Awards – as there were no black actors nominated. The first time since 1994, as it happens. Of course, if Sharpton did focus on unemployment and murder, who would he squeeze for money? The Academy can be pressured for funds – black criminals cannot. Unemployment? Sharpton criticizing the President? (Not THIS President.)

Dear readers, this is simply nonsense. How many care if acting awards are giving out in a politically correct ‘diverse’ manner? How many really care about the Academy Awards at all?

But as long as Sharpton thinks he can force someone to pay him, no subject is too silly for him to attack.

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The movie, “Interstellar”

I saw this movie last night – Thursday, 20th November 2014 – at the suggestion of the local Astronomy Society. The underlying basis for the Society’s interest was the claim the movie was scientifically sound. This, of course is a claim to be examined.

Allow me to say first I enjoyed the movie.

The story line is fairly consistent, with exceptions. What comes out halfway through the plot does not contradict the previous knowledge in any significant manner, with one major exception.
(Not to say there are no surprises, but the surprises are within the reasonable and logical realm.)

The acting is very good; all the characters are ‘who they are’, for lack of a better phrase. Characters seem to believe they are that character. An observer doesn’t get the feeling they are a group of actors merely repeating memorized lines.

Special effects are good. Then again, compared to some of the movies I remember as a younger man, they’d have to be. Nor in my opinion did the special effects overshadow the story line. Too many movies seem to think special effects replace plot and acting.

Spoiler alert: The ending of this movie is somewhat expectable and somewhat strange. I will probably mention things here that might compromise any surprises contained.

The beginning of the story is that of Earth in the near future. The underlying premise of the situation is a variation on the Global Warming Caused by Humanity farce. Global Warming is not mentioned by name, however, ‘nature’ seems to become hostile to humanity. No reason is given for this, just the symptoms. Various types of ‘blights’ have attacked crops and those species of crop food are no longer grown – they cannot successfully be grown.

One species is okra. There is some form of disease that attacks the plant and renders it useless as a food crop. This is a plot device I find somewhat humorous. While the annihilation of a food crop is bad news, I would not note the lack of okra in any event. Millions of children might even cheer.

However, wheat has already been ruined and corn looks to be next. No mention of rice, but rice isn’t normally grown in dry land farming.

The only explanation given for the crop failures is the various ‘blights’ that have occurred. There are also dust storms reminiscent of the ‘Dust Bowl’ conditions of the 1930s in the United States. No reason given for this phenomenon, other than the unexplained but suggested revolt of nature.

At this point, I find the movie waxes somewhat political and religious in non-obvious ways. For instance, one of the characters says there are ‘no armies anymore’. Only very ‘gifted’ children are allowed to attend college – which seems to be a state controlled and decided process. Those who cannot attend college (must?) become farmers. Farming is the default duty of all citizens, due to increasing food shortages.

The school teacher objects to a book brought from home. The ‘home book’ is an old text book which has been retired and a new ‘corrected’ version only is allowed. The ‘corrected’ book denies the U. S. Moon landings in the 1960s, explaining those were merely political propaganda used to destroy the Soviet Union. (I’m sure this will delight some of the more gullible conspiracy buffs.)

So the United States in this movie has a government operating on the premise of controlling citizens and telling them lies. Sounds like the Democrat Collective has fixed the voting machines for good, doesn’t it?

However, with all that, regular citizens are reasonable free to run their lives with a great deal of control – other than the financial and ecological constraints widely thought to be ‘nature’.

Also missing from the life of regular people is any hint of Christianity – or any other religion. No churches seem to exist – at least not seen – no one mentions prayer or anything remotely resembling ‘religious belief’.

Then the protagonist, through his rather intelligent and cute ten year old daughter, finds a coded message in a pile of dust. The message is the map coordinates of the only remaining NASA laboratory in the United States. (This is the major exception to the logic of the plot I mentioned.) NASA is working on a project to build a large enough space ship to move humanity to another ‘viable’ world. A world that is not worn out and where nature has not ‘turned’ on mankind.

Here is the contradiction: Why would a government who denies and even discourages any sort of scientific inquiry secretly fund a NASA project to leave Earth? Why isn’t money being spent on research to counteract the ‘blights’ wiping out food crops? Of course, if the government is controlled by the Democrat Collective, genetically altered plants, crops and foods are all forbidden.

The movie’s expressed reason for the secret NASA base is simple. The ‘people’ would not willingly fund such research. These are the same ‘people’ that are being manipulated into believing the Moon landings never happened. These conditions are contradictory.

Then the ‘exploratory’ space ship leaves Earth to seek out a suitable place to move humanity. From here on, the movie is a fairly ‘normal’ science-fiction, more or less action story.

To repeat an earlier statement, everything in the movie – EVERYTHING – is explained in secular humanist terms. In some regards this isn’t a big deal, but it re-emphasizes the secular humanist mindset of Hollywood, chic society and chic science.

There are some ‘gaps’ in the story line. One glaring example is the failed exploration of a water covered planet near a black hole. In the approach to the planet, not one but two missions didn’t notice the monstrous tidal waves. The waves are evident to visual inspection (looking) by the way.

All in all, it’s a pretty good movie. It has a ‘happy’ ending, and one I liked. There are some glaring scientific contradictions involved. But as is true in many stories, without those ‘errors’, there would be little story left. Most viewers will not note or recognize the contradictions.

It is worth seeing as entertainment. It is not a great lesson in either science, human relations, philosophy or politics. But it is reasonably fun. Not as fun as “Guardians of the Galaxy”, but GotG isn’t as pretentious, either.

Oh. The robots are rather original.

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“Skyfall” the continuing and renewing story of James Bond

Not a bad movie, all in all. It didn’t have Connery, Llewelyn or Lee, but it was pretty good all the same. For the youngsters, they’ll never know.
The one complaint I have with this and nearly all movies made currently is the emphasis on special effects and stunts. They are well done – once one suspends belief enough to believe this sort of thing is actually happening (I’ve chased cars in traffic, by the way). Still, the movie does have a flow and that internal logic needed for any story to be believable.

Daniel Craig is a very good fit in the person of Bond. He has that look – described by Fleming – of a certain cruelty, perhaps better worded as focus and determination. He is not overwhelming physically; he looks pretty much like a regular guy, not a superman.

Judi Dench does an excellent job of M, the director of MI6 – what Fleming referred to as the Secret Service. As the director, M is direct, concise, ruthless and concerned all at once. Obviously, she isn’t a real director, as she tends to ignore the ignorant politicians who attempt to make themselves famous by fouling up the process of defending national interests. Still, she is what one would hope to see in such a position.

Ralph Fiennes is one of the official government interlopers in MI6. He calls M into his (Fiennes’) office to tell her she’s being put out. She’s being allowed to retire, but she is being put out and no mistake. However, since there is a crisis of international turmoil going on, she has a certain amount of time to resolve things in order to provide for an ‘orderly transition’.

Ben Whishaw assumes the sub-director role of Q branch. He is addressed as ‘Q’ since that is his title, but he is not the same fellow who ran the shop in the old days. Q is now a bit more serious, more interested in computer work and not so involved in fancy doo-dads. In fact, he says to Bond, “We don’t do exploding pens anymore.” Whishaw is a believable techie geek. He does well in the part.

As Q, he is rather competent. Oh; one doo-dad. Q issues Bond a new pistol: A Walther PPk/s with a biometric sensor that will allow only Bond to fire the pistol. (This technology does exist, by the way; one holster was being made with a ‘sensor’ that would only allow the authorized user to withdraw the pistol therein. It came out several years ago and I haven’t heard of it since. No agency seems to have purchased them and no one I know has one. Or admits it, at least.) The underpowered pistol (still in 9mm short, or .380 ACP for the U. S.) and a tiny radio that will broadcast his position anywhere on Earth are all the tricks available to Bond this time. To the credit of the writer, Q does include the obligatory admonition to ‘return the equipment in good condition’.

I’ll leave out all the women who pass through the movie. They have a certain decorative place, but seem to be more props than characters. Except for Naomie Harris. She’s the woman – other than Miss Dench – that actually contributes to the story line and plot. She does a pretty good job of holding up her end – other than that awkward moment when she kills 007, of course.

Javier Bardem makes a great villain. He is complex, deep, twisted, ruthless and psychotic. He has also become a computer genius, which is really the basis of his overwhelming power as a villain. His whole motivation is the grudge he bears. The character takes ‘grudge’ to new heights – at the least a personal best. Mr. Bardem is very convincing as a maniacal, hate filled killer. Possibly more so than “No Country for Old Men”.

The mistakes. Oh, dear, there are some grievous errors; mostly in firearms usage, but also in the computer venue. For instance, when ‘breaking’ the villain’s laptop with all the secret information, they casually plug it into the MI6 mainframe. Sure they would.

Probably the most egregious error in when Bond has to shoot down a helicopter. Instead of using the one serious caliber firearm in his possession – a hunting rifle suitable for large dangerous game – Bond dumps the rifle and replaces it with a captured submachinegun in 9×19 NATO. The heavy rifle would do more damage to that ‘chopper than any 9mm handgun round. Obviously, the script writer didn’t agree.

With all that, the movie as a whole is worth seeing. It is exciting and full of twists, some obvious and some very well hidden. It is a ‘renewing’ story. The producers have veered away from the somewhat light-hearted undercurrent of some of the past movies. The whole tone of the underlying themes is a bit more serious and focused. Much like Ian Fleming shifting from SMERSH to SPECTRE as the cold war changed, the producers of the film series are observing the change from conventional threats and hazards to the internet world of sabotage and information stealing. A credible concept.

However, there is a battleship grey Aston-Martin in the cast. And they do use the Monty Norman 007 Theme.

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The Adventures of Tintin movie review

This is a fairly new movie release directed by Steven Spielberg. I went to see the 3D ‘motion capture’ version and rather enjoyed it. It is suitable for all ages, however the plot is mature and complex enough not to be followed by younger children. It is not quite animated. I’m not sure of the mechanism behind the development of the physical film, but the characters are somewhat caricatures obviously computer generated, yet quite realistic. The detail in the artwork is impressive. It is not a ‘cartoon’ which will entertain children in the manner of ‘cartoons’. However, it is full of action and a bit of slapstick which will probably keep the attention of grade school kids at least.

Tintin is a Belgian ‘journalist’, as he calls himself. (The original stories were published in the French language, so I presume Tintin spoke French at home.) This allows him to seek out adventures and get into trouble. The story line begins with – in the fashion of older adventure or detective fiction – an innocent enough incident. Tintin finds and purchases a very detailed model of a 17th Century sailing ship, the Unicorn. In under two minutes, Tintin is approached by not one, but two individuals attempting to purchase the model from him at extraordinary prices. Then, in a rather blatant but convincing plot twist, the model is stolen from his apartment.

This of course raises Tintin’s ire and curiosity. Following closely on this, one of the men who wanted to purchase Tintin’s model boat is machine-gunned to death on his doorstep and Tintin is kidnapped by thugs. The balance of the movie follows naturally with Tintin escaping, determining what is actually behind all the events in his life and delivering the evil doers to justice. I trust I give nothing away by announcing here the good guys win.

I liked this movie for a number of reasons. One is the computer graphics are simply marvelous. Some of the characters look like real actors. Some are cartoon caricatures with exaggerated noses and such, but they don’t break the feeling or rhythm of the movie. The model ship is seen in close up and is marvelously detailed. The back grounds are detailed and support the story, as does the architecture of the buildings.

It has violence and a death or two without being disgustingly graphic. For instance, there is a sequence wherein one of the villains orders the death of the ship’s crew. The crew is thrown overboard and the viewer sees some sharks. It is obvious what happens, but the viewer is not subjected to twenty minutes of anatomically correct, detailed close ups of humans being devoured alive by sharks, complete with looks of horror, blood and screaming. Nor is the viewer exposed to the sick horror of men drowning helplessly. But the point is made.

I mentioned a character is killed by machine gun fire. Also in this scene, the actual shooting is off-stage. The viewer knows full well what is happening, but the scene does not dwell on the violence and physical damage that occurs.
The emphasis is on the story telling, not the cheap shock value of special effects hideousness. That, I like.

The artifacts appear genuine. For instance, the automobiles and aircraft look like real automobiles and aircraft. The ships (two figure in the story line) look like real ships. To my personal delight, the firearms were even accurately depicted; Tintin produces in one scene a very recognizable Walther PPK pistol. Other weapons are well done representations of a Browning High-Power and a German MP-38 or MP-40 submachinegun. (I’m not sure the German submachineguns were available to other than the German military at that time, but are used by the villain’s henchmen. Villains and henchmen always seem to have access to weaponry. For that matter, the weapons in the movie may not have appeared in the original comic book story.) The aircraft seen in the movie is a high wing, tandem seat, monoplane seaplane. I didn’t recognize it, but it is most likely a real aircraft of the era. The automobiles and trucks – one prominently marked ‘Citroen’ – are very much the autos and trucks of the past.

Aside: This does bring up the question of ‘when’ the story takes place. From the vehicles and firearms, and the lack of war in the background, one gets the impression this happens probably in the late 1940s; possibly the early 1950s. This movie was originally one of Hergé’s (Georges Remi 1907-1983) comic book stories, published in 1943. In 1943, Belgium was under the domination and rule of NAZI controlled Germany. Hergé was anti-fascist, but kept a low profile in order to stay out of Gestapo custody. For this reason, I’m assuming Hergé wrote the story as if the war didn’t exist.

I liked the story line. There really is a plot and a mystery to be solved. It isn’t the most twisted plot I’ve ever watched (or read), but it is a real story. One gets hints and clues about what is to happen, and sees how the story line develops. Within the confines of adventure fiction, the story line is reasonably believable. At least, one is disposed to suspend disbelief.

This is a movie for pretty much all ages. It is enjoyable for those as young as can follow a bed time story read to them, or as old as can still imagine and desire to be part of the world at large. It is well crafted in terms of movie making as well as the characters and story line. My only regret is I didn’t read Tintin as a kid. Perhaps I shall have to correct that error now.

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Sherlock Holmes 2 Movie review

I saw the new Sherlock Holmes movie last night. (I’m not sure if it is needful to state that; after all, why would I be writing a review on it had I not seen the movie? Then again, based on some reviews I’ve heard or read, I’m not sure those writers saw those movies. Honest, I really did see Sherlock Holmes 2.)

I liked it. It’s a good movie over all, entertaining, not too insulting to the intelligence – although they did feature a Mauser Schnellfeuer (machine pistol). Since the date I remember from the movie is 1891, this is an anachronism. The basic Mauser pistol wasn’t introduced for sale until 1896 – which is why the pistol is officially called the C96. The detachable box magazine, fully automatic version – the Schnellfeuer (Rapid fire) – was not introduced until 1930. However, in the movie the company name ‘Mauser’ was changed to something else starting with “M” so we’ll let it go.

The good Doctor Watson, being of able – more or less – body and sound mind, did figure out how to fire a crew-served cannon all by himself. That’s a bit of a stretch, actually. It just so happened in the factory yard the cannon, projectiles, powder bags and ignition devices were all there to hand. Still, it was a plot twist so it had to happen that way.

The plot was pretty solid, if not highly inventive. The evil arms manufacturer who seek war to sell his ‘instruments of death’ was Professor Moriarty of infamy. They had to put in a slap at ‘evil arms manufacturers’ in order to politically correct, but the writers didn’t dwell on it. Therefore, Holmes conscripts his beloved friend Dr. John Watson and sets off to ‘save Western Civilization’. Since we’re still here, he seems to have done so. Of course, the war avoided in 1891 in the movie was the war fought essentially from 1914 to 1917. Western Civilization did survive that war at the cost of the health of the British Empire.

What makes the movie really enjoyable is the basic script and acting. Robert Downey, Jr is delightful as Holmes, albeit a bit more eccentric than the Holmes of the Conan Doyle (or excellent homages of Laurie R. King). Holmes did not go to dinner at the Savoy without a clean shirt and a tie. Still, once that factor is ignored – and it is not too hard to do that – Holmes comes to life as a genius of observation and mental calculation. I much preferred the late Jeremy Brett as Holmes; sadly, he’s no longer available. Downey is far better at Holmes than the late Basil Rathbone – whom I admired – and head and shoulders above the rest of the Holmes actors of the past sixty years, either television or movie. (Leonard Nimoy’s version of Holmes as intentionally ‘campy’ and therefore does not enter into the discussion. I never saw William Gillette play the role.)

Jude Law is just perfect as Dr. John Watson. He is pretty much Holmes’ match in physical ability and not lacking in intellect. He ventures off on his own, employing Holmes ‘methods’ and does very well for himself. He fits the part very well.

The interplay between Downey and Law as Holmes and Watson is superb. Their timing and the way they seem spontaneous would give Abbot and Costello envy. One doesn’t see much in the way of acting ‘teams’ in movies anymore, but these two hit it off very well in the Holmes movies. It is entertaining and delightful just to see them do the dialogs.

Stephen Fry is Holmes’ older brother Mycroft. Stephen Fry is marvelous. Mycroft is an employee of Her Majesty’s government; he has no specific title but seems to be an earlier British version of J. Edgar Hoover less the political restraints and self aggrandizement. Mr. Fry is perfect in the role. He appears knowledgeable without being pedantic, mostly dignified (I’d like to club the writer who put in the conversation with Mrs. Watson as shown) without being stuffy and just very believable. He is – absent the one scene – very much as Conan Doyle portrayed him. Intelligent, competent and not one to draw attention to himself.

Mr. Jarad Harris is very good as Professor James Moriarty. He is malevolent, cunning, superficially polite, a sadist and altogether psychotic in the controlled manner. He is very believable in the role and an excellent villain.

Naoomi Rapace is the female interest and ‘indian scout’ for Holmes and Watson. She takes the role of a Gypsy fortune teller and guide into the world of the conspiracy to start the Great War. Her part grows from being an incidental source of information to a key factor in dismantling the conspiracy. She does a very good job of seeming unpredictable while supporting the story line.

I must confess, I have no idea why Rachel McAdams was only featured as a cameo. Perhaps she didn’t want to do the whole movie?

It’s a good movie. It has flaws, but over all it is entertaining to watch and fun to experience. It is satisfying even to this long time Holmes fan. It should probably present well to one with no knowledge of Holmes as well. But they’ll be confused if they read the Holmes canon.

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Thought for the Day – Friday, 11th March 2011

What if Michael Moore made a movie and no one came?

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