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The Legend Of Bagger Vance
The Legend Of Bagger Vance
DVD
Price: $2.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A mixed experience - often beautiful despite Hollywood formulas, May 21, 2014
I love the Redford touch on the look and tone of the film. I like the subtleties among some of the characters. Bobbie Jones and Walter Hagen are played without over-embellishment for example. As a golfer who has read the Mahabharat, I am drawn to the idea of the interplay between the game and the epic.

I thoroughly enjoyed the scene with Bagger Vance describing how the grain of the green and moisture content shifts during the day. I thought that might be setting up a scene or two later - but it didn't really. It was mostly just about establishing the character. I was a bit surprised to see from the golf perspective more emphasis on the driving than the putting. The middle game had a lot of coverage, but mostly when one of the golfers was in trouble. All this didn't convey the kind of experience I have on the course. It seemed like Hollywood golf to me and I don't think that it was necessary for them to film it that way.

The film also lacked a sense of history I couldn't get over. The setting was about the same time that Bobbie Jones helped found Augusta, just 2.5 hours down the road from Savannah. And this is not just the depression, this is also the Jim Crow period of the south. Black caddies were probably common, but we all know that none would be allowed to play the course - that's not treated. In fact the first African American member of Augusta wasn't until 1990.

But such a beautiful period piece can't afford room for the not-so-nice chapters of Savannah society. As the only significant African American role in the film, I think Will Smith did well. But the black man arriving at dusk to help the white hero meet his destiny was just magical - another Hollywood formula.

It isn't a bad movie, but I don't think it deserves any more than 3 or 3.5 stars.


The Veteran
The Veteran
DVD ~ Brian Cox
Price: $9.95
16 used & new from $1.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Very good movie, September 24, 2013
This review is from: The Veteran (DVD)
I did not buy into a couple of the background premises, but that is not unusual these days for most movies. The film has a gritty realism to it that is not often seen. It contains a lot of violence and is largely about violence. At one point I thought this might be based on a novel, because I thought the writing was well developed. The plot has a realistic quality and even though not all plot twists were surprises, some of the details of how they were carried out were terrific. It has a more realistic edge to it than popular "war porn" movies like "Hurt Locker". But viewers who are preconditioned by Hollywood formula for happy endings, will not enjoy this one. The last three minutes included some details that added to a powerful finish.


Equilibrium
Equilibrium
DVD ~ Christian Bale
Offered by UltimateDiscountsCANADA
Price: $15.81
16 used & new from $0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Fun but a bit tiresome, January 18, 2013
This review is from: Equilibrium (DVD)
This is a rather decent SF movie although it is overly long. There's gun-kata which is pretty cool looking choreography. I love the Toshiro Mifune action at the end. (Sometimes less is more.) There are all kinds of comparisons to the body of previous SF work. (I especially enjoyed seeing an echo of the old classic 1984 Apple computer commercial.) Much of the social and political content is worth thinking about.

But much of the first three quarters of the film was tedious. There were a lot of small filler pieces that didn't really advance the plot so much as get in one's face with, "we're not sure you get it yet so we're going to drop another scene in here to repeat ourselves." I guess when the premise of a movie is that the main character has no emotion for the first half, character development and the audience's bond with that character is going to be a bit challenging. Still, why does the gradual return of emotions have to be so gradual and (let's say) linear? Why not an intense emotional spike earlier in the movie to hook us in a little more? The scenes with the puppy were laughable and wildly out of place.

I think 30 minutes could have been chopped out and replaced with more material dealing with the main subject of a society without feelings. What motivates those in control of society if there are no emotion? But I suspect that there is a contradiction in the plot that undermines it. Totalitarian societies gain control because they exploit feelings - not repress them. Totalitarian societies need expertly managed emotion. Well it's Hollywood so the safest bet ever is that it will have a happy ending. It's so nice that the risk-adverse, formulaic entertainment conglomerates let us get to cheer on the rebellion at the end. Or are they just toying with our emotions?


Jerome Bixby's The Man from Earth
Jerome Bixby's The Man from Earth
DVD ~ David Lee Smith
Price: $9.08
38 used & new from $5.09

4.0 out of 5 stars Nice "twilight-zone" type gem, January 12, 2013
Loved the cast - I'm a big Tony Todd fan. I can still remember him as the lead in a poignant Deep Space Nine episode, "The Visitor".

The script is worthwhile with that fun Twilight Zone type twist at the end that you wouldn't predict. The characters all seem to have a clear function (sometimes, too emphatically clear perhaps). There's the jokester, the controller, the thoughtful observer, the religious one, etc...

Some of the dialog seems a little forced to me though. Just how does one write dialog for scientists? It's a challenge. They're mostly normal people except for their speciality. And I don't mean any disrespect, but with so much biblical scholarship and translation versions available, it's disappointing to have the person of faith be singularly devoted to a 17th century translation (King James) of the bible. While I wouldn't call the film anti-Christian, I do not think it gives the best of Christian thought much of a chance to be expressed. Well at least the film didn't explicitly go into red herring science vs. religion debates.

Still, despite some rough edges, I love this little film. I recommend it to everyone.


It's Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism
It's Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism
by Thomas E. Mann
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.32
189 used & new from $0.17

543 of 594 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding work from Mann & Ornstein, May 1, 2012
What this book IS NOT is another silly polemic designed for the polarized Sunday talk shows. This is a careful, thoughtful discussion of the problems at the heart of our dysfunctional Congress.

This is a book every American should read. It discusses the problems that led to this, it discusses bromides that should be rejected and proposes thoughtful solutions that are well reasoned even if some may be difficult politically to implement.

Check out NPR's April 30 edition of Morning Edition for an interview with the authors.

The authors are political scientists who've studied Congress for 4 decades and aren't just talking head political pundits. They don't let the Democrats off the hook but they lay the chief blame for the current dysfunction in Congress upon the Republicans. Their reasoning is based based on a number of factors. High on the list are the tactics Republican Congressional leaders employed during the ceiling debt fiasco of 2011 (see update below). It is the authors' judgment that by implying to the world that Republicans preferred to have the US default on its debt rather than have a compromise with the Democrats that included revenue as part of the agreement, the Republicans took Congressional dysfunction to a new extreme.

The authors make a good case. But what makes this book really fascinating is the level of scholarship, the wealth of political science material and the long term view.

For example, there is a graph of party polarization as calculated by roll call votes. It shows that the polarization is at an all time extreme since 1879, 133 years ago. This speaks to the seriousness of what faces this country. This speaks to the desperate need for our political parties to cooperate enough to govern instead of sabotaging government. There is another graph showing the expanded use of cloture voting in the Senate.

For those who are all ready well informed about the complex and sometimes bizarre rules of Congress, this will still likely enrich one's knowledge. For those who haven't yet dived into the history and rules of Congress, this is an excellent book in one's education.

I believe this book is sure to become a political science classic. I rarely give anything 5 stars, but do so unhesitatingly for this book.

~~~~~~~~
Update June 5, 2012

This book is often on my mind and has given me a lot to chew on. I wanted to express some sympathy for those who mostly lean toward the GOP in their politics and offer a thought that might help them better tolerate this book. The authors' main targets are not GOP ideology or policies. Their motivation for writing this book stems from GOP tactics and methods of the last 1-4 years. Their claim is that it is the GOP who introduced major unprecedented and extreme tactics with the debt ceiling vote as well as excessive Senate holds and filibusters. So it can help to leave the ideology muck aside and just look at how Congress functions (or doesn't) as if one were a clinician. It is in that light that the authors say:

"Some readers may be struck by a lack of balance in our treatment of the two major political parties. We hope they understand that we do not seek to advance a personal ideological or partisan agenda. Rather, we believe that imbalance or asymmetry reflects a regrettable reality that is too often obscured in the traditional media and among serious scholars of American democracy. We want two vibrant and constructive political parties that can compete vigorously for the votes of Americans and fight hard for their views in political and policy arenas."

I've supported both Dem and GOP candidates in the past, but I think the authors make their case for our current times. There are a lot of comments among the reviews here that jump into policy or ideology debates, but IMHO that is missing the focus of this book. I also think that most Americans have a poor grasp for what the debt ceiling vote is about and what the consequences might have been if that vote had not passed.

The level of anger and inability (or refusal) to listen to each other among the polarized sides of this mess is an indicator of political cancer. I'm sick of it from both sides, but that won't stop me from continuing to learn from this terrific book.
~~~~~~~~
Comment Comments (35) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 9, 2014 4:07 AM PDT


The Magic Number: Inside Obama's Chase for the Presidential Nomination
The Magic Number: Inside Obama's Chase for the Presidential Nomination
by Jeff Berman
Edition: Paperback
Price: $15.89
31 used & new from $8.45

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars fascinating and hard to put down, March 12, 2012
The book starts with a variety of background pieces including a bit of Berman's career and how he came to work for David Plouffe on the Obama 2008 campaign, some history of former presidential nomination campaigns, thoughts about Sen. Clinton's early lead and an instructional anecdote about the kind of effort needed to get just one delegate to commit to a candidate.

By chapter 2 there's a solid crash course in delegate math. After that it's into Berman's description of his early planning for the path through the primaries and caucuses of the campaign. He covers the attempts of Florida and Michigan to bypass DNC rules in order to hold early caucuses and gives a primer on "superdelegates" and how they evolved into such a large number.

He also described some of the tedious, thankless and yet critical work of getting all the petitions and other paperwork filed. If one doesn't file the required signatures for a district, one won't be eligible to earn delegates for that district. (See my example at the bottom.)

Then the voting chronology kicks in. Berman gives a state by state, delegate by delegate narrative as he and his team pursue them in the primary campaign, from the first contest in Iowa to the national convention. He relates how each development, whether crisis or planned, changed the delegate counts as the campaign progressed. The persistence of the effort is amazing. For many readers, it will be surprising how many routes are taken for delegates to become pledged to a candidate.

Much of this material will be familiar to people who closely followed the 2008 Clinton-Obama contest or to regular "political junkies". I followed the campaign closely and this book evoked those few months very powerfully for me. While I liked the whole book and could barely set it down, I found the last third of it more interesting because is seemed to have more "behind the scenes" anecdotes. I also found the chapter on the battle over superdelegates interesting because of how Plouffe and Berman managed to keep their message in focus.

Berman has a personable, direct, no nonsense style that works well for this kind of account. There are a few errors that slipped by the editing but they are not too hard to figure out (eg. "marquis" is used a few times where "marquee" should have stood.)

This book is not for everybody. The message of the book if there is one is that success in presidential campaigns is not just glamour but also a lot of discipline and painstaking work. The plodding toward the "magic number" can be more of a technician's work than an artist's. There are some nice scenes that evoke Chicago and there is some interesting discussion of strategy, but this is largely a nuts and bolts account.

To anyone with an interest in the delegate based nomination process of our two parties, this will be a welcome book - even though the two major parties implement delegate rules very differently. In fact I find myself reflecting how the 2012 Republican presidential primary campaign might have been different if Rick Santorum had this material a year ago.

Just earlier this month Mitt Romney won the popular vote in the Republican Presidential primary in Ohio by about 0.86%. On the other hand he bested Rick Santorum in the delegate count by 38 to 21, a much bigger win. Much of this disparity of delegates was due to the failure of Mr. Santorum's organization to slate delegates in all of the Ohio congressional districts. We may soon see a similar occurrence in Illinois.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 15, 2012 9:04 AM PDT


Killer Elite
Killer Elite
DVD ~ Jason Statham
Price: $9.99
86 used & new from $0.50

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Bumpy Ride (With Spoilers), February 22, 2012
This review is from: Killer Elite (DVD)
I checked this movie out for the cast and thought I could do no wrong cause I'm a big fan of De Niro, Statham and Owen. My first impression that something was amiss was when the main "elite killer" (Statham) turns his back on a wounded armed baddie and decides to look out the window during a stealthy escape. There are a number of WTF moments like that, and it's sad because I think the movie has some good stuff to show. It's not a horrible movie but it isn't a great one either.

I mostly enjoyed plot aspects like Statham's group being hired to kill 3 guys while yet another group (Owen's group) notices this and starts to observe Statham's group. So there are some inter-group dynamics that get pretty interesting by the time the guy in the black helicopter shows up (MFWIC). Then there is the committee that sort of controls Owen's group except when it doesn't.

My point is there are some complex group dynamics at play. It takes some effort to keep track of it all, but it is interesting even when it's hard to understand everyone's motive right away. I also enjoyed the aspect of Statham's work that involved making all his hits look like accidents. It reminded me of Mission Impossible a bit and I think that could have been expanded on more. And some of the action was well done with a few original embellishments.

But how can you believe a group like Statham's are elite killers when one of the recruits does some unbelievably dumb stuff? Or is the title half satire? Apparently professional killers don't look for qualifications in their hiring. Unless of course "I'm schtupping his Mother" is a reference.

The movie seems fast paced to me not just because of the action but the frequent cuts between different scenes. So I don't think everyone will have time to dwell on the gaping logical holes in the script. Some bad dialog however is right in our face and the cliches are plain and painful. I also wish the film had done more on scene work. That can greatly help an action movie as it did in "Empire of the Wolves".

So I'm glad I saw this but I wouldn't own it. 3.5 stars.


Paul (Unrated & Theatrical Versions)
Paul (Unrated & Theatrical Versions)
DVD ~ Simon Pegg
Price: $5.00
89 used & new from $1.77

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Witty and Sweet, September 16, 2011
The cast is so wonderful I don't even want to single out anybody. They are all fantastic. Bateman and Weaver are the only ones I was familiar with. (Yeah, I've missed some good flicks in recent years.) But I can't think of anyone that didn't shine in this.

The characters are written with a wonderful variety of quirks and motivations. The writing is fun and clever and creates hilarious homages to the sci fi genre. I love the humor they had with swearing throughout the film, but especially with the repressed character that suddenly decides she needs to learn how to swear. This sweet film ends on an up note that will appeal to American audiences. But it is not for children.

There are some reviews that say this is an anti-Christian film. As a person of faith I say: baloney! The type of "faith" this film mocks is a particularly narrow minded Christianity that thinks the Earth is 4,000 years old.

It was interesting that Paul at the end has a scene in which he emulates Christ in a particular way. I think there are plenty of Christians that will notice that and be reminded that there is a gulf between what we talk about and how we act towards others.

On the other hand I don't want to give the impression this is a film with a deep message. The standard "science vs. faith" dichotomy is a silly assumption in my opinion and the film seems to adopt it even though it doesn't carry that very far. Picking a fundamentalist evangelical as a foil for a pro-science/anti-religion posture is too easy. This is lazy, "pop" philosophy but the writers never intended to wade deep into these issues. The film is meant to be light and not heavy.

This is a light comedy from Hollywood. It is not a serious treatment of Christianity, atheism or any such topics. Enjoy the ride for what it is. Why moan about it not being something it never pretended to be? Almost everyone will enjoy this one. It's one I'm glad to have purchased.


Geospace Walkaroo JR. Lightweight Stilts with Ergonomic Design by Air Kicks, 110 Lbs. Max. (Aluminum)
Geospace Walkaroo JR. Lightweight Stilts with Ergonomic Design by Air Kicks, 110 Lbs. Max. (Aluminum)
Offered by Kaplan Toys
Price: $45.95
3 used & new from $45.95

15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Be careful what you order, July 27, 2011
= Durability:3.0 out of 5 stars  = Fun:3.0 out of 5 stars  = Educational:1.0 out of 5 stars 
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I just received my order today and got a different product than the one named here. This product is named "Geospace Walkeroo Stilts by Air Kicks - Light Weight". I read the top 3 reviews and looked at the video and thought I knew what I was ordering.

The box that arrived says "Geospace Walkaroo II Aluminum Stilts" and the main difference is the part where the child rests her feet. I thought I was a victim of a bait and switch but sure enough on closer scrutiny the picture of this product shows the one that arrived at my house.

I'm a little peaved at Amazon for getting the product name incorrect because this is not the product I wanted. Yet they appear to be decent stilts, my daughter is using them and I really don't have time for the hassle of returning them.

The good news for some parents is that the Walkeroo II Aluminum Stilts can have the foot step adjusted also. These stilts are more adaptable and will work with smaller children.

For some unfathomable reason the product description gives weight and age but not the measurement that matters most - height. My daughter is just shy of 52 inches tall and after adjusting the stilt settings for the shortest height, they fit her with a few inches to spare. Set for the shortest height the stilt measures 35 inches from the top of the foot step to the part where the stilt begins to curve to go under the arm. That is just the start of the curve so to be comfortable your child should probably be 38-39 inches from the bottom of the shoe to the armpit.

Hope this helps. The real page for the Walkeroo Stilts I wanted appear to be HERE:Geospace Walkaroo Stilts by Air Kicks


Sherlock: Season 1
Sherlock: Season 1
DVD ~ Benedict Cumberbatch
Price: $24.97
13 used & new from $20.97

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well crafted and delightful, May 25, 2011
This review is from: Sherlock: Season 1 (DVD)
I've read Doyle's Sherlock Holmes works many times and have enjoyed many interpretations and creative spinoffs extending even into other interests ( Sherlock Holmes Bridge Detective ). I think this series would be a delight to any fan of the original texts.

I think the reason this series is superior is because it gets the relationships and character psychologies so well established and in a way that is faithful to the original. And the quality craftsmanship is very evident. Placing Holmes and Watson in present time makes for some terrific humor and may help the series feel more relevant to some. It's not just the addition of cell phones and the like creating the interest though. The more powerful device is our language about our emotional lives and relationships that we use in the 21st century.

The personalities make more sense to viewers using a modern dialect and the characters are more three dimensional. The writers create psychological profiles for the two main characters including clear motivations for why the two bond together.

Still the "translation" of even simple parts of the original text into this series is just a lot of wonderful fun. It starts with the first episode as it translates A Study in Scarlet into "A Study in Pink". The scene with Watson's cell phone early in the episode is just so exquisitely written. The episode is quick moving and suspense is maintained with a number of subplot mysteries. When one of them is resolved 1-2 minutes from the end it is a LMAO moment at the line that drops the solution into place, "And you know how it always upset Mummy."

If you're a Holmes and Watson fan, read A Study in Scarlet before watching this. You'll enjoy it more. The first episode is by far the best but the others are very good. The first episode alone pulls this collection up to a 5 star ranking. And I don't hand out 5 stars lightly.


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