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Ned K. Wynn "EKW" RSS Feed (Northern California)

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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Very disappointing, May 3, 2008
As a confirmed baldy, I am always looking for a better shaving system for the tricky curves and contours of my gleaming pate. I was very excited to find the Headblade which seemed like the perfect concept at the perfect time (when more men are shaving their heads in order to hide the fact that they have no hair). I ordered both types, the original one and the one with the tiny wheels. Alas, neither one was very good.

There are a couple of reasons for this: one is the razor the Headblade uses, the Atra. It's just not enough razor for the job, period. I use (and have been using) the Mach 3 from Gillette which I think is the best razor system ever conceived. I had been using it for face and head shaving for about 4 years when I got the Headblade (I used the first of the Mach system before the Mach 3). After cutting myself about five times (cutting your scalp is unpleasant as the bleeding never seems to stop), I got the hang of it and was able to use the Headblade as indicated on the accompanying foldout. It is very easy to use, the whole idea - using a more natural motion (akin to simply smoothing your hair back - or pushing it forward -for those with hair, that is) that doesn't require you to turn your wrist in an unnatural angle as you have to do with an ordinary razor - is a good one. However,

it doesn't shave worth a darn.

The lame Atra blades are too wimpy, and the carriage - while easy to move along (mind the front edge doesn't tip forward and peel off an inch or so of skull paving while you're at it!) - seems too light-weight and skittish in the palm of the hand. There is no swivel at the front of the carriage to allow the blade to dip left or right (there is for the forward/backward tilting, of course, most good razors have that now) as it encounters those natural swales and arroyos that the human skull possesses (and that only come to light once the hair is absent). For this, one needs a wrist. Yet, this would seem to have been one of the purposes of the Headblade to begin with: some kind of allowance for these dips and bumps that go off at right angles to the travel of the blade. Apparently not (and it would probably be even more dangerous than it already is had they included a swivel). The wimpy razor blades themselves load up on hair and shaving foam (or gel) very quickly and need constant rinsing (yes, I tried using the thinnest film of shaving gel, still a big problem: load-carrying capacity. The razors clog so fast you can barely get in one good long swipe before you're swishing it in the basin again).

With my Mach 3, I have a much more robust shaving head which is amply sensitive to the topography of the head (and neck - do NOT try shaving the back of your neck with the Headblade! Remember those rolls on the back of Sonny Liston's neck? Well, guess what...We ALL got those! Use your ordinary razor for the back of the neck, the Headblade will only carve new lanes into the ripe and unwary flesh of your nape in seconds flat. Talk about adding new - unwanted - infrastructure, I have my own Highway to Nowhere back there now!

OK. It's simple. The Headblade is a terrific idea but the execution is wanting. The plastic carriage is too squirrely and the Atra blades are a joke. If you must get one, I suggest you get the one with the tiny wheels; it makes it a lot easier to lay the weight of your hand against the back and keeps it from leaning forward and tilling the capillary-filled bone-upholstery we call our scalp.


The Worst Journey in the World (Penguin Classics)
The Worst Journey in the World (Penguin Classics)
by Caroline Alexander
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.72
76 used & new from $5.36

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In this case, Worst Journey is no conceit, May 3, 2008
It's been more than ten years since I read Cherry-Garrard's account of Scott's journey to Antarctica, but I can still feel the lung-searing cold and hear the hellish, monstrous wind coming out of the center of the continent into which the journey was headed. I have never read of anything more terrible than this expedition including Shackleton's truncated Antarctic nightmare and Lewis and Clark's astonishing and dangerous overland haul from St. Louis to the Pacific.

This particular expedition was one terrible misadventure after another almost from the very start when there is a storm at sea right out of the gate as the ship carrying everyone and everything from Tierra del Fuego is swamped and so much food, materiel, and livestock are lost overboard. From there the bad luck never seems to stop. The very fact that these men continued on under circumstances that would have discouraged and then defeated most human beings is almost past credibility. In particular I remember the constant breaking down of the diesel-engined snow cats, the terrible fate of the Asian ponies, the leopard seals, and the long dark impossible trip that Garrard and one other member of the expedition take in the dead of the Antarctic winter to the Emperor Penguin breeding grounds to retrieve a few precious eggs for science. In winter. In the dark. Wearing 1911 woolen clothes, eating preseved 1911 food, and using 1911 (non-)technology. It took 1911 men to do it. I cannot imagine anyone from our time doing this with that equipment. At times I simply had to stop reading and wonder just how much more hardship human beings could stand. I've never felt so physically uncomfortable, so drained and so worried (as a mere reader!) as I was ploughing through this book which was a feat (the writing of it) in itself.

This is a story about a long-vanished era where grit and determination were measured on a different scale from what we see today. An absolute must for any lover of true adventure. It truly was the worst journey in the world against which any subsequent mission of its kind - including extra-terrestrial - must be judged.


Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World (WS)
Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World (WS)
DVD ~ Albert Brooks
Offered by newtownvideos
Price: $4.15
83 used & new from $0.95

5 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Albert, Dude! What happened?, August 12, 2007
Did Albert Brooks forget everything he ever knew about comedy? Or drama, for that matter? I think I got arthritis from watching this, that's how painful it was to watch. My joints started swelling and throbbing with each terrible awkward not-funny moment which was definitely meant to make us laugh. The title is misleading as there is only a very small part in it where he interacts with Muslims (happens to be the one funny scene), most of the film takes place in Hindu India, but that's the least of its problems. All in all it's one unfocused mess.

The direction, by Brooks, is terrible; scenes go on just that one second too long ending up with Brooks making Brooks look terrible, lost, gasping like a fish on a dock. Even when we are supposed to see that these jokes are awful, the rule remains: you *still* have to make it funny. Simply told bad jokes lay there and really stink up the place, and there is so much lame humor in this that I began to wonder if there was something physically wrong with Brooks himself.

His timing, always excellent, is execrable here, completely off. He's not an old man yet though he ambles anciently through this movie like someone who once had something and is now slowly realizing that he no longer knows where it is. What is going on with him? I began to fear that I was watching the end of a career. Clearly, you can't take this film for a laugh, but you certainly can't take it for serious commentary either. I've been a big Albert Brooks fan since Real Life which came out in 1979. That's 28 years ago (he didn't register with me in Taxi so I don't count that). In both drama and comedy he has always been brilliant. My First Mister, a terrific film, was only 6 years ago. I hope this was just a touch of talent indigestion, a bit of spoiled one-liners, an overdone setup, a joke left in the freezer too long, because there's more burps than belly laughs in this dud.


Innocence
Innocence
DVD ~ Julia Blake
Offered by RareFlix
Price: $29.99
31 used & new from $7.22

3.0 out of 5 stars Its heart's in the right placed; now if I could just find where the other stuff is..., August 12, 2007
This review is from: Innocence (DVD)
If you are under the age of 50, you might pass this movie by. I think that the criticisms leveled by others regarding this film are generally deserved, I agree with most of them; however, as I am an aged, spavined, tattered and torn ex-Romeo myself, I gave it an extra star for its attempt at clarity. I really do think that you have to be older to appreciate what this movie - short on good writing and amateurishly acted by the lead male though it is - is about. It tends, at times, to be didactic, especially in some of the rather stilted conversations about God, but it does open to the screen an area of experience that is very close to the bone for those of us supposedly past our primes. Movies are always less and more than meets the eye, and this is no exception. For me this film, however weak in some areas it is, was touching and real. I was always aware of what it was lacking, but at the same time I was taken with its boldness in evaluating human love and sexuality in people over the age normally reserved for this kind of scrutiny. It's painfully lacking in humor (a huge and glaring deficit), and I think the writer and director took what they had to say much too seriously, but this ultimately does not detract from the truths it exposes. For all its faults, I do recommend it to those of us who have arrived at that moment when getting out of a chair has become a painful and tricky business.


The Perfect Man (Widescreen Edition)
The Perfect Man (Widescreen Edition)
DVD ~ Hilary Duff
Offered by DealsPro
Price: $6.19
200 used & new from $0.01

2 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Beyond dumb, all the way to cruel, December 8, 2006
Has anybody remarked upon the very sick basis of the film's plot, to wit, A woman has so fragile a psyche that each time she gets her heart broken she moves her entire family to another town? Huh? Wait a minute. What Locklear's character needs is a shrink. Imagine, for a moment, how often that can happen to a woman with her problem? Why do men treat her this way in the first place? How is it that she "gets her heart broken" over and over again, that's one issue; then, each time that happens she runs away from the entire region. This is some sick ***t, peeps. The cruelty Locklear's character perpetrates against her children is incalculable, and all because she can't handle her problems, and yet it is never suggested that she is truly sick emotionally and needs professional help. It's not that Jean is a perfectionist, because if that were her problem then it would be her doing the breaking up, but the men find a way to undermine and sabotage the relationship. In a subtler way, Locklear is subconsciously picking men who will disappoint her, not because they aren't perfect, but because they are bounders of one sort or another, fly-by-nights, heartbreakers. It can be argued that perfectionists find ways to undermine their own happiness by behaving in just this way, however, I believe Jean isn't that character. Furthermore, everyone knows - or should know - one doesn't need a "perfect man" to conquer this addiction, one needs to have the inner strength to tell this kind of man to take a hike and to be more aware and observant of the guys who aren't that way. I have found that therapy is the only way to go for someone like Jean who is as broken as they come.

Then, the way it is handled here is just clumsy, not funny, and so unlikely that the suspension of disbelief requires the help of the same architects who designed the Golden Gate Bridge. Movies based upon mix-ups and misunderstandings are common, of course, as this trope has been used in books and plays for centuries, sometimes quite successfully. Here it looks threadbare. But the cruelty against the kids here is played for laughs, and that is because the screenwriters clearly don't think that there is an underlying, fundamentally sick quality to it. They think it's just always the case: women get screwed over by bad men, not that the women to whom this happens are not dealing with the fundamental problem of sabotaging themselves. Wait, I'm not through...

A secret admirer who claims he is in love with a woman he has never spoken to and who knows nothing of him is called a stalker. This isn't the 1800's when women took a more innocent look at love, and further, trying to play Jean off as someone from another century doesn't work. Caroline Rhea enters a few lines from the real world about just this other side of things, not that it does any good. 2 stars only because I really like the Locklear girl.

OK, I'm done. And Locklear as a baker of fancy cakes?

All right, all right, I'm through.


Ten Tiny Love Stories
Ten Tiny Love Stories
DVD ~ Radha Mitchell
Offered by Selection 1985
Price: $5.00
43 used & new from $0.01

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 5 out of 10 is phenomenal...in baseball, October 27, 2006
This review is from: Ten Tiny Love Stories (DVD)
I gave this 3 stars for the five monologues that I did enjoy the most. There are two or three really good performances in this, particularly Lisa Gay Hamilton, Kathy Baker, and Rhada Mitchell in a too-short piece that leads off. The rest are either adequate (Kimberley Williams, Alicia Witt and Rebecca Tilney), or less-than-adequate, and a few just plain bad like Deborah Unger (tremulous and melodramatic). A real clunker for me was the morbid, over-the-top, deadly dull story from Elizabeth Pena's monologue which is also way too long, on top of which she doesn't do it well at all.

Hamilton's monologue is probably the best-written of the ten, the finest balanced including deep humiliation with a willingness to confide this without resorting to bathos. Most I found merely self-conscious and stagy with a tinny theatricality that made the person speaking sound so forced and unconnected to reality that I lost contact. This happened especially in Pena's long, drab monologue about a distinctly unhappy marriage. Why Garcia felt the need to stretch this one out like he did I have no idea, but I finally fast-forwarded (turns out I was two seconds from the end of it anyway) and got to Baker's which restored some freshness and balance and gave a better ending to the proceedings (it's wonderful to see an actor with the skill and confidence of Baker simply step into the role and wear it instantly with a minimum of fuss and affectation (certainly one of Ms. Unger's problems)). I don't know if Garcia has a problem with marriage, relationships, or women, but he has an axe to grind somewhere. He has done other ensemble pieces with some of the same women. It seems to be his specialty. While I am a man, I am one who enjoys a good chick flick (Muriel's Wedding, for instance), and I'm not saying that I didn't enjoy Ten Tiny Love Stories. I did, but it was definitely uneven and weighted to the negative side in overall quality.

I think the women were given a bit too much freedom in their interpretations so that some of the less-skilled among them, like Unger, struggled to find the pitch. She just keeps coming apart at the seams during hers leaving herself nowhere to go to modulate her performance. Depending upon the length of the piece, Unger seemed to run out of space and yet sounded so constantly on the brink of disaster emotionally, that it began to sound like a pitiful whine long before it was over. And finally, I felt that some of these monologues were not true in the sense that they had a phony feel to them. They sounded like they were supposed to be candid but they came off stilted. For the three of four good pieces, it's certainly worth the effort.
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La Negra Tiene Tumbao
La Negra Tiene Tumbao
25 used & new from $0.98

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Move, September 26, 2006
This review is from: La Negra Tiene Tumbao (Audio CD)
I know absolutely zip about Tumbao except that it moves me to move me. And I don't like to move much. I'm like a lichen stuck to a rock, I sit and vegetate. So I made myself get up and go down to the music store in a local mall. I love Latin music of all types, I am scandalously indiscriminate. I have downloaded Celia Cruz onto my cell phone where I use some tunes as ringtones. I know what you're saying, what a Philistine! but I heard this and simply fell for Celia (no longer among the living, sad to say); she made me an addict. So when I went into the record store I headed straight to the Latina music and saw Celia Cruz and grabbed this album. When I got home and put it on the disc player, the first note made me shoot out of my seat like a corn kernel which had just been popped. Then, very un-lichenlike, I began to move. I moved through all the rooms in the house approximating a Latin dance of some sort, another case of scandalous indiscrimination... Samba-salsa-meringue-cha cha cha-mambo-rhumba, man, I did 'em ALL. I just wiggled my ancient hips and got myself into a real lather. I couldn't stop. The whole album just rocks so conscientiously! And guess what? I lost 20 pounds in one hour! Talk about a great workout, whew! I'm just wiped out. I gotta sit down now, but y'all buy this disc ya hear? Your body will thank you, your heart will thank you, and your mind will zone and you will thank it, later when you can think again.


Nowhere in Africa
Nowhere in Africa
DVD ~ Juliane Köhler
Offered by The Squirrel with the Dragon Tattoo
Price: $38.29
64 used & new from $0.96

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Oddly captivating, it deserves more than one viewing, July 18, 2006
This review is from: Nowhere in Africa (DVD)
I did find Nowhere In Africa more absorbing upon a second viewing. It's sneaky. The second time I watched it, I felt more at home with the characters, and I found that I could involve myself more fully with each of them than I could at the initial viewing. Yet this film, beautiful as it is, is more a narrative string, a series of scenes, than a drama. It's not that there is a shortage of drama in the idea - or ideas, for there are many - it is just that the drama is not concentrated on any of the various storylines that keep tantalizing us. They tantalize but are never realized, at least not to the full extent they could have been. The director should have taken one or two of the themes she has here and delved into them much more thoroughly. What we have are a number of interesting sketches but never a full canvas. That does not mean that the movie is without its moments (the brilliant young German daughter speaking with the British school headmaster was one such moment, wonderful), but as a viewer I kept wanting more out of each relationship, both between the humans, and between the humans and the place itself. Too much of the film is a kind of mystery without any solution. The shorthand the director uses to tell us her story feels more like an outline for a movie than a real movie. It's a beautiful trailer that goes on for 140 minutes: time aplenty to have told us a really great story. Nonetheless, I do recommend this film. It is visually quite stunning, and the performances are universally good. A solid 3 stars.


Head-On [Gegen die Wand]
Head-On [Gegen die Wand]
DVD ~ Birol Ünel
Price: $19.08
33 used & new from $5.59

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tough love, but love nonetheless, July 18, 2006
This review is from: Head-On [Gegen die Wand] (DVD)
Head-on is a movie about love, hate, obsession, loss, pain, alcoholism, drug addiction and the confusion that results from this meaty broth being eaten too fast and in too great a quantity. It was a much better film than I expected. I was quite smitten with the lead actress who is the flawed, fractured essence at the center of this story, Sibel. Equally powerful and at once both compelling and repulsive is the husband, Cahit. These mismatched people are doomed to break apart from the beginning, but first they must come together. That, in effect, is what this movie is about. The growth of the spirit, the growth of love and compassion, and the growth of the awareness that life requires more from us than anger and bitterness regardless of how we may feel justified in these emotions. It's not a film for the faint of heart. There are scenes of brutality and violence that may disturb some viewers. The last scene is a bit of a cliche having been used in movies for at least sixty years. But I was still hoping that, after some time, things would change and the two people at the center would arrive at different, more satisfying conclusions. In effect, I imagined the movie continuing on and decided to end it my own way.


Man on Fire
Man on Fire
DVD ~ Denzel Washington
Price: $5.00
486 used & new from $0.01

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tony tops up, April 3, 2006
This review is from: Man on Fire (DVD)
Man On Fire is simply one of the best pure action/revenge movies I've ever seen. The familiar story where the hero, his life destroyed, decides to wreak Old Testament justice on the responsible parties is a mythical tale as old as Greek drama, a samurai fable brought up-to-date and which, in this case, seems peculiarly American even though it takes place in Mexico and the director is a Brit.

Tony Scott is firing on all cylinders here, and to my mind this is his best movie to date. It ranks with Unforgiven for its sheer, unapologetic demand for retribution. It's writer, Brian Helgeland (Mystic River, A Knight's Tale, L.A. Confidential), also did the lean, cool, violent (and often funny) Payback with Mel Gibson. This film eschews humor for the most part except when we experience the lightness of the banter and play between Creasy and Pita. There is no fuzziness here, no lenient judgment, no forgiveness. The best of these kinds of films are stringent and deeply, mercilessly moral. Do me bad, I'll do you double bad. This is one of those films.

Caution, SPOILERS: Once it is clear that the girl has been kidnapped and is probably dead, hand-wringing is astutely absent and dilemma is off the menu - at least in Creasy's case (and, eventually, in the mother's as well. She is played with intelligence and soul by the quietly gorgeous Rhada Mitchell).

We know going in that something bad is going to happen, and it does. And we also know that the hero will not stop in his efforts to bring justice to the bad guys. And he doesn't. Washington and Fanning are the stars of this film, and they are both superb. This is some of Washington's best work, and the young girl is an astonishing, instinctive actress. Her actual maturity is almost freakish, but it never feels anything but natural in her work. Be sure and listen to her on the bonus disc.

As to the film's look and feel, Scott and his DP, Paul Cameron (Collateral), pull out all the stops. The camera captures the moods and the moments with exquisite exactness. From Washington's character, Creasy - sitting in the dark, a defeated, weary drunk - to Fanning's Pita, impossibly happy, utterly vulnerable, exposed in the bright sun and spotlight glare of the rippling, light-dancing swimming pool - to Creasy again, no longer the protector but the avenger now...through all these changes Cameron's palette, his choice of filters, of lighting and framing, change as well. He continuously puts us into a fundamental matrix of color and shadow which seizes us and pushes our emotions to the brink. We can't help but scrutinize every wrinkle in Washington's ragged face and start at the sudden flare of light exploding off of every dark-windowed car gliding quietly and menacingly through the claustrophobic streets of Mexico City.

If you like a revenge flick that doesn't hold back on the revenge (as many films do), but that also contains time to build real people and to feel real emotions, where we see a man redeemed: once by a little girl's love and then again by blood, you can't help but like this movie.


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