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drollere RSS Feed (Sebastopol, CA United States)

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Lone Survivor
Lone Survivor
DVD ~ Mark Wahlberg
Price: $11.99
80 used & new from $6.66

3.0 out of 5 stars those in the shadows, September 27, 2014
This review is from: Lone Survivor (DVD)
this is a movie that commemorates the many dead special ops soldiers -- three killed on a recon mission, a dozen or more killed in a crashed rescue helicopter -- that would otherwise be hardly a footnote to the dreary afghanistan debacle. and unfortunately it slogs under the weight of its own sincerity. the acting, directing, editing are top notch, but this two hour dramatization lingers too long over treks, ambushes, wounds, escapes, and the inexcusable snafus of military command and inadequate equipment. worst, the predicament unfolds from a really bad decision to let three peasant prisoners go free, instead of tying them up to get a few hours head start on an escape.

cinematic issues aside, three aspects of this story gave me pause. we see much of the story unfold as recounted by the single survivor, who predictably is the one who holds to the highest code of conduct, kills the most enemy and performs the greatest feats of physical courage. this left me wondering what the other three would have had to say about it: but they are dead. worse, several elements in the story are patently fictional -- there was no taliban attack on the rescuing village, and the survivor did not kill an attacker in hand to hand combat with a knife, and he did not leave his protector behind. apparently marcus was found taking tea with mohammed his savior, and mohammed left with the rescue team. this puts every other aspect of the story under suspicion.

finally, while i join in gratitude for the courage and skill of our service men and women, i squirm to see them celebrated for suffering and dying in a war that politicians, out of sight and out of mind, first started and then sent these soldiers to finish. those who start the wars but never fight them continue their work in the shadows, and the "lone survivor" style of fictionalized hero worship is one way that they contrive to remain hidden.

Godzilla (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD UltraViolet Combo Pack)
Godzilla (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD UltraViolet Combo Pack)
DVD ~ Aaron Taylor-Johnson
Offered by The Big Lebowski
Price: $22.75
54 used & new from $13.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars fast food monster epic, September 26, 2014
this remake (how many so far?) of the honored franchise is first and foremost a digital hollywood monster epic. there are dozens of visually impressive, expertly designed and edited computer animation action sequences, and the influence on visual design of the comix esthetic is on full display. CGI has become so refined that it can imitate the visual texture of different media -- broadcast television, grainy archival film, HD video, live action -- and this is exploited as well. we're get plenty of the four great textures of epic animation -- churning water, vast explosions, collapsing masonry and billowing dust. of course, the major monster battles take place at night, the major monster sounds include terrific thumping, clumping and crunching, with blatting cries created on a tuba. everything culminates in, what else, a race against time and a boss battle of the beasts.

the plot, assuming you stop to reflect on it, reveals how much the modern digital hollywood monster epic resembles a fast food franchise. the menu is basic and stereotyped, the ingredients all artificial, the manufacturing cost low, the nutritional value zero. even the business model is obvious: the marquee stars are either killed off early in the film (binoche, cranston) or are limited to grim but ornamental cameos (watanabe, strathairn). this works because the actors commit to a single week of shooting, the marketers can use their names and images, and the producers can budget them with a back share of the gate. the real dramatic work is left to less recognizable, lower paid actors -- the predictably hunky aaron taylor-johnson and a surprisingly effective elizabeth olsen as his abandoned wife. even they don't do much work -- anguish and determination are the keynotes of their characters, as he's a soldier, she's a nurse, and duty separates them until the last scenes.

i understand science literacy is at a pathetic, risible ebb in the 21st century united states of consumerism, so i won't quibble that, for example, an apex predator has a r selection reproductive strategy and a stark sexual dimorphism (male soars, female crawls). but we're asked to believe that catalysis can cause radioactivity, or that radioactivity qualifies as "food", or that radioactivity in japan can be detected by an organism in the philippines, or that a winged organism can lift a nuclear submarine many times its mass from a submerged location, then can generate enough EMP to fry shielded military networks and aircraft guidance systems. but why pick on the science stupidity, when the plot has many other stupidities on the menu? how about a security team that must go through the front entrance of a nuclear waste depository before they discover a gaping mountainside hole in the back, or a vast open air research complex kept secret in an age of satellite imagery, or a train carrying nuclear weapons to san francisco that is routed over a high bridge, at night, without aerial escort, exactly where the monster is located? i still haven't figured out how the hero and lost child get out of that smashed tram car, or how the soldier is reunited with his son. it seems blatant stupidity and silly plot holes are essential ingredients in the fast food formula.

some of that is just comix culture shaping the plot to the maximum number of high volume, high impact CGI episodes. but the rest of it is nonsense that should make any high school student smirk or burst out laughing. unlike "pacific rim", which handled similar lapses with an ironic or knowing wink at the implausibility (and had clearly superior computer animation), in "godzilla" we have a film that actually relies on the complacent stupidity of its audience in order to succeed. and why not? -- it's a fast food monster epic. and in fast food monster epic cinema, the point is that you gulp it down to relieve your boredom, and don't stop to think about what you're actually eating.

Love Punch
Love Punch
DVD ~ Pierce Brosnan
Price: $12.96
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2.0 out of 5 stars you'll be sorry too, September 26, 2014
This review is from: Love Punch (DVD)
this movie doesn't sink to the level of a 1 star ("i hate it") review because it is too bland, too mediocre, too hackneyed to offend. thompson and brosnan are capable, experienced actors but they are mired in a lifeless and juvenile script and deeply unimaginative direction. comedic scenes you have already seen dozens of times are trotted out for one more tired ineffectual sally. the leads try hard to sell their roles, which only highlights the shabby merchandise they have to work with in the yawningly predictable "will they, won't they?" plot device reserved for twentysomething romcoms. the full blame for this embarrassment rests on the director/writer joel hopkins, whose talent suits him for toothpaste commercials and boy band music videos. note that the tout for this film on the DVD cover is quoted from a movie blog: apparently no credible journalist would endorse it.

my wife and i alternately choose movies to watch at our vacation house and this one was her choice. as the credits rolled she broke the 94 minute silence with two words: "i'm sorry." watch this, and you will be too.

Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature (Princeton Classics)
Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature (Princeton Classics)
by Erich Auerbach
Edition: Paperback
Price: $16.80
67 used & new from $13.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the master tutorial in reading, August 20, 2014
i first encountered auerbach's "mimesis" in my undergraduate comparative literature studies at UC Irvine. it has remained with me ever since. the beauty of this book is not in its theories, or allusions, or wit. the merit is that it teaches you how to read a book the way books were meant to be read, the way german philologists of the turn of the 20th century read books -- the way nietzsche read books. the range of texts here, from homer to 20th century novelists, demonstrates the skills of reading applied to many different textual challenges. the primary issues are always to get a clear picture of the language and how it is used, to situate the narrative voice and outline what it does and does not depict about the world, the reason for or rhetorical consequences of its representation of reality, the life background and aspirations of the author, and the connection of all these things to the cultural norms in which the text was created.

all the chapters can be read as separate essays, although the first chapter, which contrasts homer's lapidary focus on the present moment with the psychological interiority of the bible, should be read first as an introduction to the method and how to apply it. each chapter begins with an excerpt from a literary text, followed by its translation if necessary. the reader should ponder each passage at length in order to assess the text in personal terms before plunging into auerbach's analysis, which will be erudite, thorough, eye opening, at times challenging but frequently convincing. auerbach typically starts with the simplest ordering in a text -- the dramatic scene structures of abbé prevost and voltaire, the syllogistic argument of montaigne's essay, the narrative confusion in gregory of tours -- then cracks open the deeper significance, sometimes by quoting from contrasting passages in other works. he turns from language to historical moment to authorial biography to textual reception, and shows when and how each bit of evidence is useful.

the great pleasure in all this is that you cannot come away from "mimesis" reading books as you have before: it is a master tutorial in reading.

A Time to Clash: Papers from a Provocative Pastor
A Time to Clash: Papers from a Provocative Pastor
by Doug Giles
Edition: Paperback
Price: $14.55
41 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars blessed is the word, August 12, 2014
pastor giles is a great american and a great christian! people who don't read the bible they don't realize how many times the baby jesus used words like "war", "kill", "guns" and "clash", but pastor giles is not afraid to lift the fog from their eyes and preach the true gospel of south texas! best of all, this book is in english, so immigrants can't read it, and it uses really simple words -- so i can read it! i would say this book should be in every motel night stand instead of the bible, because those of us who love the bible take it with us everywhere, and that way maybe some freedom hating know it all liberal will maybe read this book instead of watching sinful movies on the motel pay per view. thank you pastor doug and god bless!

My Parents Open Carry
My Parents Open Carry
by Brian Jeffs
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.60
28 used & new from $10.48

32 of 42 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars good, but not far enough, August 10, 2014
This review is from: My Parents Open Carry (Paperback)
this book does a fine job explaining why my wife and i don't want to just be safe, we want to *feel* safe, and nothing makes us feel safer than walking the public streets with a loaded firearm. it's all about feelings and right vs. wrong. but the book leaves out too many important topics: why semiautomatic rifles are so much better than handguns at making us feel safe; why it's important to pass gun reform laws that allow me to shoot a person because he scares me; why students should open carry at school and study the civil war with handguns on their desks. the book gets kind of talky when it gets to the constitution and i wish it had kept it simple and explained more about the joys of hunting and killing animals with your own gun. also this book should explain why open carry is a way to show our christian values of trusting in the lord and his love. our daughter brianne is proud that we love guns. we love to carry guns, and we believe our community has a positive response when we make ourselves feel safe by open carry where we work, pray or shop. other people see us and wish they had guns to feel safe, too.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 11, 2014 5:31 AM PDT

Beethoven: The Complete Piano Sonatas
Beethoven: The Complete Piano Sonatas
Price: $47.26
13 used & new from $42.70

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars inspirational beethoven, August 3, 2014
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this is spectacular beethoven. none of your velvet slipper moonlight sonata or dinner jacket waldenstein, this is wonderfully youthful yet thoughtful, musical yet distinctively individual playing of these frequently recorded classical piano standards. inserting one or another disc to sample a specific movement or sonata, i found myself lured by the mastery and conviction of the performances into listening to the whole disc with great enjoyment. the phrase "inspired performances" is hackneyed, but here it is well deserved; inspirational beethoven might be more appropriate.

some reviewers have mentioned goodyear's tempi, and the liner notes commend his "swift tempos, forward sweep, linear clarity", but i think the point is overstated: with a few exceptions, his choices resemble those of kempff, schnabel or goode, and he communicates tenderness and mystery everywhere the music calls for it. he does have an aversion to shaping phrases with ritardando, which can be refreshing or disappointing depending on the context, but any "linear clarity" is balanced with a good ear for vertical balance. my main interpretive criticism is of goodyear's tendency to center a performance in the higher dynamic range and really crush the full handed fortes.

that quibble actually turns attention to the sound engineering. compiled across a two year interval by eight different producers, engineers and editors, the sound stage and presence of the instrument are uneven, and this is jarring when it comes between movements of a single work (for example in op.101). apparently performed on one or two of the rental steinways at the glenn gould studio in toronto (pianos that would have been differently prepared and adjusted, back and forth, to suit other performers during the same period), some unevenness in tone would be inevitable. however the piano tone is sometimes unpleasantly hard and harsh, almost metallic in the bass and in forte passages.

these are symptoms if not concessions to the difficulty of publishing new classical recordings without the resources of a major label and their recording studios. they should not deter the ardent beethoven lover from experiencing these refreshing, virile and individualistic interpretations.

Life Itself (Now In Theaters) [HD]
Life Itself (Now In Theaters) [HD]

14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars how would ebert review this film?, July 9, 2014
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i'll preface my lukewarm review by saying a man is not a movie, and it is necessary to set aside the man in order to review the movie. one can ask: what would ebert himself have said about this film?

this story falls into two distinct parts. the documentary part concerns the life and times of roger ebert, boy journalist, adult editor and larger than life, groundbreaking movie critic and television personality. this is interesting as biography and as a historical look at journalism in the days before media empires made newspapers obsolete and cable channels made broadcast television irrelevant. compiled from archive materials and latter day interviews, all this material is fascinating and enlightening.

the travails part of the film is entirely focused on ebert's disfiguring, debilitating and agonizing medical troubles, including close ups of painful medical procedures and the terrible deformities that had to be accepted as the price of "affirming life". this is absolutely a necessary part of the ebert story and ebert was courageous to permit the extensive filming.

it's unfortunate that these two parts don't work together. part of the problem is incredibly indulgent editing (i could predict during the movie that director james was also an editor) that makes this film about 30 minutes too long and makes the life appear almost secondary to its end. but part of the problem is omission: ebert is healthy, then he is sick; he's a TV personality, then he's a blogger. by jumping back and forth between present and past, and focusing far too much on the gruesome present, we jump over the crucial transition. the two years between ebert's cancer diagnosis and his public announcement that he was "a sick man" is a blank; "ebert and roeper" is ignored. the progress of his disease is merely common: it's the response of the man to the disease that is significant. it's not a transition that can be tracked in ebert's own voiceover, reading passages from "life itself", because surgery took away his voice.

ebert was a populist, but he was no sentimentalist. he could approve a benji movie because it was appropriate for its audience of children. what is the audience for this film? if it's the sentimental ebert fans who adore his reviews and worship his memory, then it's probably an admirable work. despite its candor about ebert's bullying, egotistical temperament, this is really a tribute film, a two hour eulogy: it was directed and produced by filmmakers whom ebert helped in their careers.

as someone who admires ebert but hardly to excess, and doesn't really care about his interest in used bookstores, his father or his walks in the park, i found this film lost its way in its desire to cram in every biographic detail and share his final months at every step, yet omit the process by which ebert reinvented his career and faced his end without losing his journalistic integrity.

Your Sister's Sister
Your Sister's Sister
Price: $12.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars the man is a sister, July 8, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
there is a simple test to determine if you will like this film: do you have a Y chromosome? if you answered yes, then -- no, you very likely won't like this film.

at first i was optimistic: emily blunt stars in this stagey (almost stage play) ensemble script, and i would watch her read a phone book. alas, this is a character drama, but the characters are not interesting; and the dramatic predicaments only motivate a lot of pillow talk and evasive whispering, much of it tedious to sit through.

blunt is comfortable in her role as iris and fun to watch in the passive aggressive sibling rivalry that has developed with her older sister hannah, but rosmarie dewitt can't seem to get inside hannah's slippery motivations, so she grins a lot instead. worse, jack (mark duplass) is written as a putz, the kind of guy -- complaisant, aimless, deceptive, self pitying -- that can't keep up with women and vents his frustrations on a bicycle. i thought duplass seemed a little embarrassed in the role until the credits revealed he was both a producer of this film and (with blunt) an "advisor" (whatever that means!) to the director/writer lynn shelton.

in the end jack is minimized to the point of being an appendage to the separate needs of the two sisters ... or, more accurately, is accepted by both of them as a kind of girlfriend -- each sister can claim that he is "my sister's 'sister'".

DVD ~ Maggie Gyllenhaal
Price: $14.40
38 used & new from $9.49

5.0 out of 5 stars it's fun, it's charming, July 5, 2014
This review is from: Hysteria (DVD)
i'm mostly here to add another five stars to the many positive reviews. dealing as it does with the victorian invention of the mechanical vibrator, this movie treads a delicious balance between wry and hilarious, and leavens the preposterous details of the main theme with a glimpse of some other inventions of the era -- who knew that the random encounters of early telephony resembled the random videochats of CUSeeMe?

the romantic subplot provides a pretext to contrast the upper crust female desire to achieve "deep relaxation" with the lower class mother's anxiety to care for her sick children. which type of patient will the young doctor choose to serve? since romance with a young woman is at stake, and a patriarchal tussle for independence with the young woman's father, we're never in much doubt of the outcome. the female director handles the sexual conflicts and class differences with a gentle but not trivializing touch, and all the actors consummate the dramatic resolution in exquisite style. it's fun, it's charming, it's educational -- it's even wholesome.

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