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M. Oleson RSS Feed (Fort Worth, TX USA)
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Die Another Day [Blu-ray]
Die Another Day [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Pierce Brosnan
Offered by Outlet Promotions
Price: $12.00
104 used & new from $2.61

3.0 out of 5 stars (BLU RAY REVIEW) 3 1/2 stars for Bronson's final film as 007., August 28, 2014
I've always felt that Pierce Brosnan was an excellent James Bond, especially after he jump started the series with "Goldeneye," his first 007. Unfortunately the producers let him down with his last two films. This very average Bond film managed to get him unceremoniously fired. Not that he did anything wrong. He's still very good.

"Die Another Day" opens with Bond and 2 associates surfing on a huge wave onto the coast of North Korea. Bond assumes the guise of an arms dealer looking to trade a cache of "blood" diamonds for some neat new weapons. One of these is a ridiculously contrived vehicle that floats on air. All the better to avoid the thousands of land mines between North and South Korea. Bond doesn't quite make it and is captured. I don't recall another Bond film where he doesn't get away in the opening sequence.

After 14 months of torture and captivity he is traded for a character named Zao (Rick Yune), the right hand man of Col. Moon (Will Yun Lee) who is believed to have been killed trying to kill Bond in that opening sequence. "M" (Judi Dench) is pissed off that she and the Americans had to give up Zao for Bond. She pulls him from duty - yeah, that will work - for some unknown reason. So Bond being Bond, improvises his escape from the Brits. Didn't he have to do this before just a few movies ago?

Bond is still pissed at North Korea and wants to find the arms dealer that has all those diamonds. That leads him to Iceland. It appears that an ex-pat named Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens) is the evil doer in charge. He's even developed a giant laser that is orbiting in space. Think back to "Goldfinger" but this one is much bigger and has mass destructive capabilities. Graves's assistant is Miranda Frost (Rosamund Pike, soon to be seen in "Gone Girl") but she's actually an agent working for "M," or is she?

This film is loaded with explosions, gun fire, exotic cars racing across ice covered lakes. There is an invisible car. Say what? Plenty of CGI stuff, not all good. Dialog is often comprised of more double entendres than all previous Bond films combined. I thought the sets looked faux and the gadgets, aplenty though they may be, were silly. On the positive side, there is a nice homage to "Dr. No" and Ursula Andress featuring Halle Berry as American NSA agent Jinx Johnson who first meets 007 walking out of the ocean in an orange bikini. Nice. Overall, this is a very average Bond film and certainly not the worst.

Also nice is the excellent upgrade that the Blu ray provides over the old DVD. It comes with a 1080p video resolution and a 2.40:1 aspect ratio, the same as the original film. The transfer looks very good. Excellent color. The stark white Iceland scenes really pop. Detail is excellent, black levels very good. Only the sharpest eyes will see some edge enhancement on larger screens. The audio comes from a very active DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. Surrounds and LFE channel are in constant action. I did find certain scenes involving Miranda Frost needing a volume bump. There are English and Spanish subtitles available and a French Dolby Surround 5.1 option. As near as I can tell the extras are the same as what's on the DVD.


Ikea Kallax Bookcase Shelving Unit Display Black Brown Modern Shelf
Ikea Kallax Bookcase Shelving Unit Display Black Brown Modern Shelf
Offered by KMY Discounters LLC
Price: $109.75
3 used & new from $69.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Not perfect but easy to assemble and sturdy enough for vinyl records., August 27, 2014
I'm still in the vinyl record collecting business and my collection has outgrown my current shelving system, so I was looking for something simple that would allow me to expand. I actually found this on Amazon but ordered it directly from Ikea at a substantially lower price ($35 + $15 shipping). It took a week to get here and appeared to be in good condition, although a closer look found a couple minor imperfections in the top piece. Frankly I've found this to be pretty much the rule with these assembled pieces. Rather than squawk about it, I just dealt with it myself.

I'm not much of a handyman but I have put together several pieces of furniture similar to this bookcase and this one is about as easy as it comes. The manufacturer could have made it a lot easier however. It took me about a half hour once I got it out of the box to put it together. Most of that time was trying to identify the individual pieces and where they go. They look very similar and are not labeled. You have to be very careful to get the one with the holes properly aligned with the pictures in the manual. No directions are given, just pictures and arrows. My only point of confusion came early on when I was inserting the dowels into the holes. The picture shows only two were needed but there were 4 holes in the picture. So I had to go to each step and count the dowels to make sure I hade enough. Sure enough only 2 were called for. So what are the other two holes for? I actually think additional dowels should have been provided for additional stability. Still, probably not an issue.

Personally for my use, I would have liked a back piece also. Not only to add support but to give it a more furniture like appearance. There are additional brackets, screws and braces provided in case you want to hang this unit on a wall. There are no anchors provided however, so you would have to provide those. I'm keeping mine on the floor, so it didn't apply to me.

In summary this is an easy piece to assemble even the issues noted above. It looks fine and is more black than brown but is no substitute for fine furniture. It seems pretty sturdy and seems to be holding the records fine so far. Not a bad deal for $50.


Frank Miller's Sin City: A Dame to Kill For [HD]
Frank Miller's Sin City: A Dame to Kill For [HD]
DVD
Price: $14.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Yes, Eva Green is the dame to die for, August 23, 2014
Theatrical review.
In 2005, I saw the first "Sin City" in theaters and gushed in a review that "it was a fresh, unique and ground breaking (film) on many fronts." To be fair, that comment isn't necessarily true in this sequel. Also to be fair, those looking for complicated plots, articulate banter and theatrical heft will be left wanting.

"Dame" doesn't hide what it wants to be. That is, a stylistic onslaught of visual mayhem, violence, sex and nudity...with just a touch of humor. While this look of the graphic novel is spot on with the mostly black and white motif, it didn't catch on after the success of the original. "The Spirit" (2008) tried to capture the look and style but failed at the box office. Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller return with many of the same characters and a few new ones.

Mickey Rourke returns as Marv and becomes the link to the different story lines. He's the unofficial protector of Nancy (Jessica Alba), evidently the only stripper at the club where everyone hangs out. And apparently as sexy as Nancy is, she never strips either. Her original guardian, Hartigan (Bruce Willis) is but a ghost of his former self. But she's out for revenge, as is just about everybody, against Senator Roark (terrifically nasty Powers Boothe). Even Roark's illegitimate son, Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who beats his old man at cards and plays a price. I like this new character and would like to have seem more.

Josh Brolin is new but his character, Dwight, is not. He replaces Clive Owen in the role. The centerpiece in the story and the "dame to die for" is Ava (Eva Green) who had Dwight eating out of her hand years earlier. It made him crazy so he does his best to clean up his act and stay away. But she doesn't. In a terrific scene she meets him at the strip club. She walks in and everything around her is black and white except for her vibrant blue trench coat. That's just about the last thing she wears in the movie. It's no wonder she has men wanting to die for her. The elderly couple in the theater I was in couldn't take a screen full of bosoms and promptly walked out as younger teens sneaked in.

The film ups the violence quotient to boot. Blood, usually white or red, is everywhere as heads are severed, eyes gouged out and fingers broken. The film is a visual feast with beautifully created scenes and a look that improves on the original. As I said at the beginning it may not have the gravitas and freshness of the original but damn, Eva Green is to die for.


The World is Not Enough [Blu-ray]
The World is Not Enough [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Pierce Brosnan
Offered by Frodo's Fantasy
Price: $11.88
76 used & new from $2.98

3.0 out of 5 stars (BLU RAY REVIEW) Brosnan is not enough either, August 23, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
After 2 films with Pierce Brosnan as James Bond, both he and I had settled in. He added a nice sophistication to the role while keeping a mean streak coexisting with some humor. This film was vilified by critics primarily by the miscasting of Denise Richards as nuclear scientist Dr. Christmas Jones. On that subject I would agree. I don't even think Ms. Richards believed in the roll and while her gams were great to look at, she occasionally had to deliver lines. And bad lines they were. The script here leaves much to be desired.

With Richards in the good Bond Girl role, there are a couple evil ones that Bond must deal with. Early on it is Maria Grazia Cucinotta as Cigar Girl who kills an oil-billionaire (David Calder) and good friend of "M" (Judi Dench). She leads 007 on a terrific chase through the river Thames with Bond using a rocket propelled prototype.

"M" sends Bond to protect her late friend's daughter Elektra (Sophie Marceau) who has taken over her daddy's business which is currently building a pipeline through central Asia. There's a competing interest headed by the evil Renard (Robert Carlyle). In addition to Christmas, Bond's other on-site ally is Valentin Zukovsky (Robbie Coltrane, returning from "Goldeneye") who also provides some comic relief. In addition to the action sequences, Brosnan works well with Ms. Marceau in their scenes. Carlyle, an excellent actor, seems underutilized making his character one of the most forgettable in the series. Overall this is a pretty vanilla Bond film and certainly a letdown for Brosnan and the series.

The Blu ray version I watched is certainly a big improvement over the DVD. Using a 2.35:1 aspect ratio the film comes in 1080p video resolution. The filming locations exemplify the look of the film to some degree. Gone are the beauty and color of the Caribbean or other resort locations. Here we get drab London and even drabber former Soviet states. Don't get me wrong the disc looks fine, but don't expect the eye-popping creation of earlier films. One exception is when Bond enters a casino wearing blue lensed X-ray enhanced glasses. All the better to check out those bad girls and where they are packing heat. The audio has a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track and it works fine. Like the video there's often little to work with. The sinking submarine offers some surround action but there's also a lot of yakking going on in this film. The dialog is clear and easily understood. Rock band "Garbage" (Shirley Manson) handle the title song, but the closing credits only feature the standard Bond theme song. Dolby Digital 5.1 is available in French and Spanish. Subtitles are available in English SDH, Spanish, Korean and Mandarin. Here are the extras:

- Feature-Length Audio Commentary Featuring Director Michael Apted
- Feature-Length Audio Commentary Featuring Peter Lamont, David Arnold and Vic Armstrong
- "Declassified: MI6 Vault"
- Deleted & Extended Scenes with Introductions by Director Michael Apted
- "James Bond Down River" - Original 1999 Featurette
- Creating an Icon: Making the Teaser Trailer
- Hong Kong Press Conference
- "007 Mission Control" - Interactive Guide Into the World of The World is Not Enough
- Exotic Locations featurette
- Mission Dossier
- The Making of The World is Not Enough
- Bond Cocktail
- Tribute to Desmond Llewelyn
- "The World Is Not Enough" Music Video by Garbage
- The Secrets of 007: Alternative Video Option
- Release Trailer
- Image Database Galleries


Tim's Vermeer [Blu-ray]
Tim's Vermeer [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Teller
Price: $20.49
21 used & new from $18.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars (BLU RAY REVIEW) Science and art? Not that far apart., August 23, 2014
This review is from: Tim's Vermeer [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
San Antonio's Tim Jenson made a tidy sum helping movie studios with various technology schemes and classifies himself as an inventor. Using a book, given to him by his daughter called "Secret Knowledge" by England's David Hockney as a starting point, Jenson sets out to prove Hockney's hypothesis regarding the great Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer. Vermeer's paintings were so unlike others from the era (1660's) in that they were much brighter, clearer and had an almost photographic element to them. Hockney's theses was that Vermeer might have used technology of the day, specifically a Camera Obscura, to create his art. Jensen, evidently with an abundance of time and money at his disposal, sets out to prove it.

Essentially the belief was that using the device or something like it allows more natural light to be projected onto a wall via mirror-like lenses, much as a camera works. This all sounds pretty mundane I know, but the film moves along quickly with narrative gaps filled in by Jensen's friend Penn Jillette. Jillette's comedic/magician partner, Teller directs the documentary. Jensen's painstaking journey requires that he recreate the setting for one of Vermeer's best known works called "The Music Lesson" which he does in a warehouse in Texas.

He also uses only materials that were available at the time to create the paint and lenses. He builds all the furniture, fabricates flooring, rugs and other accessories from scratch. The achievement is remarkable. Jenson, obviously patient and determined, almost loses it over dabbing a series of dots on a canvas painted carpet. The documentary shows Jensen's determination and would seem to close the gap between a scientist and an artist. I found it very interesting.

The Blu ray comes with a 1080p video resolution and a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The film is shot using digital cameras for the most part but there is a lot of archival footage provide mostly from Jensen home movies and other sources. As you might expect the quality is inconsistent for that reason alone. There is nothing objectionable to the look overall but it's nothing special either. Essentially what should be expected. Likewise the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is workmanlike. The film features interviews, and Tim's work for the most part, so it is heavily dialog driven. It is properly centered and very clear. The surrounds only really get any action when the music plays. No complaints. Here are the extras:

Commentary with Teller, Tim Jenison, Penn Jillette & Farley Ziegler
Deleted Scenes
Toronto International Film Festival Q&A
Extended & Alternate Scenes
Theatrical Trailer
French and English SDH subtitles


Life with Father
Life with Father
DVD ~ William Powell
Price: $5.98
29 used & new from $1.01

3.0 out of 5 stars 2 1/2 stars for a well acted but dated film (Alpha Video very poor quality), August 22, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Life with Father (DVD)
I like to consider myself a fan of William Powell and in the 6 or 8 films of his that I've seen, I've always been impressed. While Powell and his co-stars (including a 15 year old Elizabeth Taylor) are excellent, I struggled with the movie. Usually I'm able to relate to the era portrayed in film but admittedly I found little funny with the family patriarch, Clarence Sr. (Powell) bellowing about and at his wife Vinnie (Irene Dunne) and his 4 children. Yeah, I know the setting is 1885.

The undercurrent to the story is that Wall Street kingpin "Clare" is constantly being hoodwinked by Vinnie. She plays dumb, but she's just doing what she has to in order to get her way, or the needs of the kids. Taylor plays Mary, a travelling companion of Vinnie's cousin Mary (Zasu Pitts). She becomes a romantic interest for the family's oldest son Clarence, Jr. (Jimmy Lydon) who has yet to learn much about the "birds and the bees." When Clare is given the opportunity to give his son some advice about women, he essentially tells him to keep them in their place. Aside from my personal inclinations to the material, I found the film often boring with little to chuckle about.

I will also note that this particular DVD (Alpha Video 2002) is technically horrible. The color is washed out. There are numerous instances of video noise and artifacts. It appears to have been copied from a VHS tape. Even if you like the movie be forewarned.


Life With Father - William Powell, Irene Dunne - 1947
Life With Father - William Powell, Irene Dunne - 1947
DVD ~ William Powell
Price: $12.99

3.0 out of 5 stars 2 1/2 stars for a well acted but dated film, August 22, 2014
I like to consider myself a fan of William Powell and in the 6 or 8 films of his that I've seen, I've always been impressed. While Powell and his co-stars (including a 15 year old Elizabeth Taylor) are excellent, I struggled with the movie. Usually I'm able to relate to the era portrayed in film but admittedly I found little funny with the family patriarch, Clarence Sr. (Powell) bellowing about and at his wife Vinnie (Irene Dunne) and his 4 children. Yeah, I know the setting is 1885.

The undercurrent to the story is that Wall Street kingpin "Clare" is constantly being hoodwinked by Vinnie. She plays dumb, but she's just doing what she has to in order to get her way, or the needs of the kids. Taylor plays Mary, a travelling companion of Vinnie's cousin Mary (Zasu Pitts). She becomes a romantic interest for the family's oldest son Clarence, Jr. (Jimmy Lydon) who has yet to learn much about the "birds and the bees." When Clare is given the opportunity to give his son some advice about women, he essentially tells him to keep them in their place. Aside from my personal inclinations to the material, I found the film often boring with little to chuckle about.


Scarface (1983) [Blu-ray]
Scarface (1983) [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Al Pacino
Price: $9.96
54 used & new from $4.78

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars (BLU RAY REVIEW) Cult classic done right, August 22, 2014
This updated remake of the 1932 gangster film of the same name ups the violence quotient in filmmaking. Tony Montana (Al Pacino) is one of the tens of thousands of Cuban criminals that Castro sent to America in the early 1980's. Thanks to U. S. policy, Cuban nationals were allowed to stay once they came ashore. Montana and his best friend Manny (excellent Steven Bauer), spend some time in processing before being turned loose on south Florida.

After a short stent as a dishwasher, Tony and Manny find a job as a drug runners for Omar (F. Murray Abraham) and kingpin Frank Lopez (Robert Loggia). Tony wastes little time putting himself out there for Frank, but clearly has bigger things in mind. Soon he crosses Frank with cover from the Bolivian supplier played by Paul Shenar. In addition to taking over Frank's business, Tony takes over his beautiful mistress Elvira (Michelle Pfeiffer).

In a related side story, Tony reunites with his mother (Miriam Colon) and sister, Gina (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), who had come to the U. S. earlier and have legitimate jobs. Tony is strangely over-protective of his sister and when Manny and Gina become lovers, Tony becomes violently enraged. This certainly calls into question a potential incestual interest. Director Brian De Palma and screenwriter Oliver Stone, don't pull the curtain on this possibility especially after Gina angrily confronts Tony late in the film.

"Scarface" has become a legitimate cult classic for succeeding generations for its violence, sex, drug use and Pacino's almost comedic over-the-top-performance. I suspect all De Palma had to do was wind him up and turn him loose. The film is beautifully shot, expertly edited and is a big improvement on Blu ray over the DVD. At the same time I find the film just short of ridiculous, especially after Pacino's great performances in "The Godfather" series. "Scarface" has its moments but this is no "Godfather."

The Blu ray disc is excellent but far from perfect. There are times where the noise reduction is excessive, especially in the darker scenes. Some scenes are remarkably realistic with excellent contrast, good grain levels and dark blacks. There are some compression artifacts as well, which might be expected for a movie of this length (170 minutes) with plenty of extras, a 7.1 lossless audio mix all on one disc. For the record the film is in 1080p resolution and has a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The aforementioned audio is a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 but also includes a DTS 2.0, French and Spanish DTS Mono (yikes!) Fortunately there are subtitles available in those languages as well as English SDH. The 7.1 mix is terrific with plenty of use of the surrounds and the LFE channel. There are limitations of the audio available in '83 and sometimes you could hope for a bit more dynamic range but it's still very good. I didn't notice any big enhancements coming from the 2 extra channels. Extras are many. Here they are without any detail:

Interactive Scoreboard
Featurettes
Deleted Scenes
'Scarface (1932)' DVD
U-Control (Picture-in-Picture Commentary)
Featurette
BD-Live Functionality
Digital Copy
My Scenes
pocketBLU app
News Ticker
D-Box Motion Code Enabled


I Want to See Pulaski at Night
I Want to See Pulaski at Night
Price: $14.84
18 used & new from $13.15

5.0 out of 5 stars 4 1/2 stars. Undefinable genre. Beautiful record, August 18, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I'm not sure how to categorize this excellent album. I'm not all that familiar with Bird but have read about him and decided to take a chance. A violinest who delves into a variety of genres including jazz, classical, folk and pop. That in and of itself doesn't make him terribly unusual. What does is that the album if full of strings. The cello is prominent. There is also a couple very unusual vocals on the last track of side A and first track of side B. This is good stuff.


Begin Again
Begin Again
Price: $26.98

4.0 out of 5 stars 4 1/2 stars for a beautifully entertaining film full of fresh new music, August 18, 2014
This review is from: Begin Again (DVD)
I had been eagerly awaiting this new film from John Carney. He is known for "Once" which was one of my favorite movies 2006 and there are certainly similarities to be drawn here. In this film, Greta (Keira Knightley) has just been dumped by her longtime boyfriend, Dave (Adam Levine) who has just made it big as a rock star. Dave, while on a gig in L. A., gets it on with his PR person. We see this in flashback and I mention it because it is a scene to watch closely.

When Dave first returns to New York and Greta, he doesn't come clean but plays a song he had recorded. Greta listens and we see her facial expression slowly change from anticipation to anger. For a second, I couldn't figure it out. Then I listened to the words in the song. This is a great example of how Carney, who also wrote the script, takes little musical bits and pieces and creates these poignant moments in his movies.

The actual scene that opens the film is shot and shown from 3 perspectives. In a small club in the East Village, Greta is coaxed up on the stage by an old friend she has been staying with. We see the scene replayed from their eyes. Then Dan (Mark Ruffalo, perfect), a drunk has-been record label founder and producer, staggers into the club. He hears Greta sing in a quiet but lovely voice, accompanied only by her acoustic guitar. It gets his attention. Slowly, we see what he sees as he builds an imaginary band behind her. We can see him arranging the music. It's a remarkable scene, one of many.

The film also has a few expected clichés. Dan got to his present state, because his wife left him for another man. He moved out and rarely stayed in touch with his teen age daughter Violet (Hailee Steinfeld, playing the same character she played in "3 Days to Kill"). The ex-wife is nicely played by Catherine Keener.

Dan convinces Greta that she should sign with him. She insists, she's a song writer not a performer, but with little to lose, agrees. Since she had never cut a demo tape, Dan's partner and CEO (Mos Def) won't sign her until they make a recording. With no money to spend, Dan and Greta decide to grab a musician from here and there and record in various locations in NYC. Once again this organically created music process is brilliant. And so are the songs. If Oscar can't find a song among the batch in this movie, something is seriously wrong. Ruffalo and Knightly have great chemistry but like "Once" the attraction between the couples is restrained. This can be as agonizing to the viewer as it is portrayed by the characters. It is remarkably effective acting.

Compared to "Once," "Begin Again" is much slicker, uses some big stars and doesn't quite have the home grown feel that the Dublin setting did. Having said that, this is a beautifully entertaining, well-acted film full of fresh new music. I loved it.


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