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Cat Ballou
Cat Ballou
DVD ~ Jane Fonda
Offered by amazingwildcat
Price: $9.27
94 used & new from $3.24

5.0 out of 5 stars "She rode away, just where is a mystery. She rode into history and her legend grew, the Queen of the Outlaws, Cat Ballou", April 20, 2015
This review is from: Cat Ballou (DVD)
I always liked this 1965 western comedy and recently I was pleased to see that it didn't age - at all! Below, more of my impressions, with some limited SPOILERS.

Catherine Ballou (Jane Fonda) is a very respectable young lady who studied hard to become a schoolteacher and is returning now by train to Wolf City, Wyoming, near which her father, Frankie Ballou (John Marley), owns a ranch. After the voyage which is a little bit more eventful than she expected, she arrives home, just to find that her father is in serious trouble. Somebody wants to chase Frankie Ballou from his ranch and a terrifying professional killer, Tim Strawn (Lee Marvin), known for his legendary skills with gun – and also for his fake nose… In order to protect her father, she hires another legendary gunfighter, Kid Shelleen (also Lee Marvin) – but once the latter arrives, she starts to have doubts if it was really wise… And then the film really begins…

The treasures of this film are many, beginning with Jane Fonda, who is at her most beautiful here. The narration is made in songs and the narrators, very much present on the screen, are two – Professor Sam the Shade, played by comic Stubby Kaye and especially Sunrise Kid, played by Nat King Cole in person. A rather clueless cattle rustler and his surprisingly young, insanely happy and extremely "zen" uncle add a lot to the show, as does also an assimilated, educated and very well spoken Indian, named Jackson Two Bears.

But THE greatest asset is of course Kid Shelleen ("Then there came to town, a gun deadly and frightening / A gun quicker than lightening, fasted gun you've seen. / It was the gun in the hand of Eli 'Kid' Shelleen."). Lee Marvin got a very deserved Oscar for playing this absolutely U-N-F-O-R-G-E-T-T-A-B-L-E character! I am quite certain that if Nat King Cole didn't register his immortal hit already in 1951, he would do it in 1965 in tribute to Kid Shelleen – although the rhythm would be probably a little bit less pop and a little bit more country…)))

This is a good, merry, fast paced comedy, skilfully parodying many of the most beloved western clichés: desperados, sheriffs, train robberies, gunfighters, wanted posters, six shooters, frontier justice, etc. There is nothing serious in this film and that is another of its treasure – if a remake was ever done, it should begin with Robbie Williams singing "Let me entertain you" in a country version…))) A recommended viewing. ENJOY!


The Year's Best Science Fiction: Second Annual Collection
The Year's Best Science Fiction: Second Annual Collection
by Gardner R. Dozois
Edition: Paperback
27 used & new from $48.96

3.0 out of 5 stars A rather disappointing, 2,5 stars level collection, with only two stories (out of twenty six) which really MUST be read., April 15, 2015
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In this book Gardner Dozois gathered what he considered as twenty six best SF works published in 1984. He used to publish earlier much smaller yearly anthologies of "Best SF stories of the year", continuing the work of Lester Del Rey, but he had to interrupt those series after five years, finishing with the best works of 1980. He started in 1983 a new collection, published according to the new formula - this book is the second in the series.

This book was the last of Gardner Dozois thirty one yearly collections I read. I began with the third collection (from 1985) and went all the way to the thirty-first (2013) - only then I was able to purchase the first two collections (1983 and 1984). With this book I completed a reading project which took me three years (of course I was also reading other stuff between those collections).

Sadly, this collection is weaker than the previous one and also, summa summarum, amongst the weakest in the whole series from 1983 to 2013. Out of twenty six stories only two ("Bloodchild" and "Press Enter []") can be considered as VERY GOOD. On another hand there are also eight total STINKERS: "Salvador", "New Rose Hotel", "Trojan horse", "Rock on", "Sunken gardens", "Trinity", "Twilight time" and "Black coral". Amongst the remaining stories there are six GOOD ones and eleven are READABLE (albeit one of them, "Lucky strike", is amongst the most stupid things I ever read).

This collection includes also two very precious things. In the introduction we have an overview of what happened in SF (largely understood) in 1984 - in all Gardner Dozois yearly collections that thing is invariably always very precious. At the end there is also the very useful section of "honourable mentions" - stories which couldn't be selected for this collection because of lack of space (and this is already a HUGE book!), but which were also of good quality.

Below, more of my impressions about the stories, with some limited SPOILERS.
-------------------------
"Salvador" by Lucius Shepard (1943-2014) - in deep disagreement with this talented writer's far left politics, I was nevertheless always in awe of his writing skills and read most of his stories with fascination. Sadly, this is one of the exceptions. "Salvador", about a squad of US Special Forces fighting leftist guerrillas in Central America somewhere in the future, is the SECOND WEAKEST Shepard's story of all those I read. It is in fact an enraged pamphlet against Reagan's policy in Central America mixed with some of the most absurd far left fantasies about Vietnam War, like soldiers "lured" into service in Special Forces (in reality 9 out of every 10 voluntary applicants are rejected), elite American troops being made of former criminals (in reality it is not possible to join US Army with a criminal record) and even more, the "Green Berets" encouraged to use drugs (in reality, one negative drug test and you are out of the Army). Also, incidentally, in real history, pro-American Salvadorians won their war against communists - and later won also in first free elections organised after the end of the conflict... This poorly written thing shows once against that even talented people fail to produce good stories, when they write bitterly hateful political pamphlets. AVOID!

"Promises to Keep" by Jack McDevitt - in a not so distant future a vulnerable spaceship manned by a crew of nine is dispatched to study Jupiter and its moons - then something bad happens (as always). This "nuts and bolts" tale may seem a little bit dull in the beginning and even in the middle, but when in the second part the pin is pulled, the whole story-device detonates with just the right amount of bang in all its parts... A GOOD, solid thing.

"Bloodchild" by Octavia E. Butler (1947-2006) - there are many women and African-Americans amongst SF writers, but not so many African-American women - but on another hand, with her talent, Octavia Butler was certainly worth a dozen lesser writers... "Bloodchild" describes a terribly complex relation between a race of alien insect like masters and human slaves and the ethnic background of the writer certainly helped her seize many less explored aspects of such a situation... This extremely shocking and highly controversial short story is one of the best and deepest SF tales I ever read - it actually gives us matter for thought for many, many hours. It also definitely stays with you... A VERY GOOD story, THE BEST in this collection and in fact A CLASSIC. TO READ ABSOLUTELY!

"Blued Moon" by Connie Willis - this great lady is one of my favourite modern SF writers, but it is also my impression that in the early 80s she was still honing her skills and it was only after 1990 that she really started to shine. This story about a great corporation which just began operating a revolutionary environment protection device was an attempt to imitate the style of Hollywood 40s romantic comedy - but even if somehow entertaining, it is not entirely successful. A very READABLE thing, but nothing more.

"A Message to the King of Brobdingnag" by Richard Cowper (1926-2002) - a group of scientists try to create new varieties of plants to solve the problem of world hunger and to do that they accepted to work for a great corporation, based on the real life Monsanto group. Of course at one moment something goes very wrong... (sigh). This is a well written but ultimately very, very banal albeit READABLE story combining the usual mix of fear-mongering (here it is the GMO's scare) and misanthropy... To be fair, I don't really blame the author here, because this horse has been beaten to death so many times in SF history that writing something original on the "progress is dangerous, let's not play God" topic is all but impossible...

"The Affair" by Robert Silverberg - a man, on the surface a very average guy, hides a deep secret - he is a kind of telepath, able to communicate, in a very comprehensive way, with other people like him - the problem is that few of those are respectable... Then one day he establishes contact with a woman, who seem to be THE one for him - the only problem is that he is already married and has two children... Robert Silverberg is of course a great master of SF so this story is GOOD and certainly well written - but is also depressing, because an affair is before anything else a betrayal and treason is always not only dirty but also especially a sad, sad, sad, sad thing...

"Press Enter []" by John Varley - two very, very different people, a Korea War veteran and a much younger Chinese-Japanese-Vietnamese female informatics genius, face the consequences of an extremely strange incident involving a uniquely gifted hacker... I was quite impressed with this novella, as it includes many characteristics which became rare in modern SF: originality (even if as you will see the topic is finally well known and very much described), good character development and total lack of political correctness (but REALLY total lack). The story also gets quite scary at the end. There are some weaknesses, like the amazingly silly description of police investigation - also the main police officer is simply impossibly clueless and hapless. Still, even with all of that, this is a VERY GOOD story, the SECOND BEST in the collection.

"New Rose Hotel" by William Gibson - if I understood correctly this is a story about a plot made by a head hunter to recruit for his client a talented scientist working for a different major corporation. I cannot however be certain that I understood it correctly, because this thing is written in such a weird and pretentious way, that it tired and bored me. This is a short story, but still I gave up couple of pages before the end. TOTAL GARBAGE - AVOID!

"The Map" by Gene Wolfe - this is fantasy, not SF and I don't really see why it figures in this collection. This is a short story situated in the universe from "The book of the New Sun", about a trip to forbidden ruins - as you can guess from the title, a treasure map is also involved. READABLE, but nothing more.

"Interlocking Pieces" by Molly Gloss - a woman awaits a transplantation which will save her life - she is however curious about the identity of organ donor and decides to investigate... The topic seemed promising, but ultimately it is just a READABLE but rather banal short story.

"Trojan Horse" by Michael Swanwick - an experience in biology/informatics destined to transform its human subject in God turns badly - people who started this project try to repair the damage caused... This is an absolutely ridiculous thing, pretentious and also immensely stupid. AVOID!

"Bad Medicine" by Jack M. Dann - modern fantastic rather than SF; in our times in USA a white guy, whose best friend is an American Indian medicine man, volunteers to be part of an important religious ritual; the problem is, another medicine man, who has a horrible reputation, also participates in this ceremony... It is really nothing special but still a READABLE story, approaching American Indians traditions with the kind of respect no modern SF writer would ever show for Christian rites...

"At the Embassy Club" by Elizabeth A. Lynn - a story about star-crossed lovers on a planet where an isolated human society developed some strict social rules. Silly and banal, with the ending we can see coming almost from the beginning - but still, a READABLE thing.

"Pursuit of Excellence" by Rena Yount - with the progress of genetics humanity split into two categories: en elite of enhanced, beautiful, very tall, strong and very clever super humans and the great mass of "norms". This is the story of the struggle of a mother who will do anything and everything to gather funds necessary to give birth to an enhanced child... Although the economics of this story don't make much sense (with time a new technology ALWAYS costs less - instead of being more expensive...), this is a solid, honest GOOD thing, packing some serious punch on relatively few pages. A recommended reading.

"The Kindly Isle" by Frederik Pohl (1919-2013) - an expert in evaluation of hotels and other touristic attractions, working for an investment fund, arrives on a tropical island which seems to be populated by very kind, friendly people. The man still grieves his wife who died years ago - and on the island he meets the woman who may be just his second chance for happiness... But what exactly is the secret of this "kindly isle"? Written by one of the Great Masters of the genre, this is a solid, honest GOOD story. The very ending is (for my taste) a little bit weaker - but still, this is a recommended reading.

"Rock On" by Pat Cadigan - a woman (or maybe a robot?) who once played rock and roll is on the run, chased by some kind of bounty hunters. Why? Mystery... Absolutely nothing in this terminally weird and very boring thing makes the slightest sense - the SECOND WORST story in the collection. AVOID!

"Sunken Gardens" by Bruce Sterling - a competition in terraforming on Mars; it seemed almost impossible to me that anybody can mess completely a story on such an interesting topic - and yet the renowned and talented author Bruce Sterling (of all people!) managed to do just that. Boring, disappointing and ludicrous - AVOID!

"Trinity" by Nancy Kress - scientists look for contact with God; according to this otherwise mightily gifted author, it seems that the only way to achieve contact with God is to fill two anorexic siblings with strong psychotropic drugs and make them copulate - because as everyone knows, God, conditioned as one of Pavlov's dogs, immediately appears in presence of anorexia, drug habit and incestuous intercourse...))) As a believing Christian I should be in principle offended, but this thing was soooo incredibly ludicrous that I went all the way beyond anger, towards the amusement - and pity. An absolutely grotesque stinker - AVOID!

"The Trouble with the Cotton People" by Ursula K. LeGuin - a short fantasy story about a future low tech society and a commercial agreement in jeopardy, in which author seems to believe that after spending a grand total of a week on the sea most men are obsessed with the idea of raping women (not dating or going to see working girls - raping)...))) A slightly boring story, READABLE but barely.

"Twilight Time" by Lewis Shiner - a space traveller from a nightmarish future America visits the USA in the 50s - which according to this author were a hell on earth... A banal and rather boring time travelling story in which virtually nothing makes sense. AVOID!

"Black Coral" by Lucius Shepard (1943-2014) - a white American lives on a Caribbean island (if I understood this thing correctly) populated by black and mixed-race people; the guy seems to hate everybody and everything around him and because he is so unpleasant and evil (in fact this character seems to be insane) he will suffer punishment from some kind of dark mystic powers... at least if I understood this thing correctly. Because almost everybody in this story speaks in a kind of broken Creole dialect it is very difficult to read and understand. This is a study in hateful anti-white racism and unimaginable anti-American bigotry written, quite naturally, by one of those white American writers who hate simultaneously their own country and their own race... Absolutely the WORST story by Lucius Shepard and the WORST story in the collection. AVOID!

"Friend" by James Patrick Kelly & John Kessel - Friends are specialised crew members who take care of the passengers on board of star ships. This is a difficult job as the long interstellar travels in confined environments tend to stress people a lot and create all kind of complications, especially when the passengers are famous, influent, powerful or rich - or all the above... This story narrates the adventures of an experienced Friend during just one interstellar travel. Albeit not particularly brilliant, this is nevertheless a very READABLE thing. It must be however said, that authors of the "Friend" stole some of its elements from the much older "Dumarest of Terra" cycle by E.C. Tubb...

"Foreign Skins" by Tanith Lee - this is definitely not SF, but dark fantasy, with slightly erotic elements (but NO actual sex); in India, in times of Raj, a strange young woman is hired as a nanny for a young English boy - mostly because the father of the boy really wants to get in her pants... As usual with this author some rather disturbing elements are included, but still, this is a honest, solid, GOOD story by the Queen of the Dark Fantasy. A recommended reading.

"Company in the Wings" by R. A. Lafferty (1914-2002) - this is rather mainstream letters than SF; a philosopher makes lectures about fictional characters - he claims that they are all in fact real... A GOOD, albeit very, very strange story - also the writing style of late R.A. Lafferty is rather an acquired taste...

"A Cabin on the Coast" by Gene Wolfe - once again, this is not SF but rather modern fantastic; two young lovers spend time on a cabin on the coast - until the moment when something unexpected happens... Parts of this thing are really solid, but the ending is so weird and nonsensical, that I cannot rate this story higher than READABLE.

"The Lucky Strike" by Kim Stanley Robinson - this alternate history tale is linked to the first nuclear attack against Japan. It is honestly written, no argument there, but it is also - in my modest opinion - the MOST BIASED AND THE MOST ABJECTLY STUPID THING I read in ages! Author looks at the situation in July 1945 in Pacific with the eyes of a far left peacenik from the 70s and as result the whole story horribly and (in my opinion) unfairly insults a great American soldier, general Paul Warfield Tibbets Jr. (1915-2007) and an even greater American president, Truman. The last two pages are so incredibly ludicrous and naive that I laughed out loud. I will not reveal more, but if after reading this short story you feel like agreeing with the author, I propose you to watch a great Japanese movie "Japan's longest day" (1967) and/or read the books "The battle of Okinawa - the blood and the bomb" by George Feifer and "Hell to pay: Operation Downfall and the invasion of Japan 1945-47" by D.M. Giangreco. They are I think a good rebuttal to Mr Robinson's views. READABLE but as stupid and wrong as it is humanly possible.
---------------------------------
CONCLUSION: a 2,5 stars collection, rather disappointing, with many poor quality stories. If you can find "Bloodchild" and "Press Enter []" (and possibly also "Foreign Skins") somewhere else, there is no real need to buy this anthology.


Cinderella 2-Disc Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD
Cinderella 2-Disc Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD
Price: $24.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Of mice and girls and of courage and kindness - a WONDERFUL new (but not too new) version of an old fairy tale, March 31, 2015
Both me and my 14 years old daughter we simply ADORED this film! I must even say more - I was actually IMPRESSED! Below, more of my impressions, with some limited SPOILERS.

Making a really good film about Cinderella, especially in our rather cynical times, is actually much, MUCH harder than it could seem - but Kenneth Branagh absolutely aced it! This film remains quite faithful to the original story AND to the classical animated 1950 version - which by the way I always liked a lot. The story being well known, there is no need to delve on it.

The main pillar of 2015 "Cinderella" is quite obviously Cinderella. Kenneth Branagh's choice for this role turned out to be simply PERFECT. Young Lily James, whom I never saw in anything before (yes, I still didn't watch "Downton Abbey"), is of course a very pretty damsel, but not exactly a Victoria's Secret level looker - that trap was avoided. She is also obviously very talented and she was clearly very well directed, because she delivered an ABSOLUTELY AMAZING PERFORMANCE! This film being from the beginning announced as a lesson in courage and kindness, Cinderella should be courageous and kind - and she absolutely is!

I was really charmed by the "classical" interpretation of Cinderella character by Kenneth Branagh, unlike the recent horrible, abjectly grotesque "feminist-revisionist" visions of Alice and White Snow in respectively Tim Burton's "Alice in the Wonderland" and Rupert Sanders "White Snow and the Huntsman". Cinderella is a young girl who just wakes up to the adult life and she has all the vulnerability and charm of such a person. She is no shrinking violet though - there is actually tough, noble steel in her, but in a very feminine way it is wrapped in the warmest, softest velvet. And this soft, warm toughness, which we can almost feel on the screen, is absolutely charming.

Being a young girl barely out of her teens and having a kind and gentle temper, Cinderella is not very assertive - but she is not completely passive, definitely not silly and in fact less defenceless that it could seem. She is also honest and pure - she will not accept even an advantageous deal which she considers beneath her and the idea that she could very easily renege on her words once in position of force doesn't even cross her mind. This nobility and purity, which she maintains even if the price is suffering, make this character even more appealing. Last but not least, as with many a great jewel, one single small flaw in just the right place underlines even more the perfect beauty of the ensemble - there is a little teensy weensy drop of deadly cruelty in her, which she hides preciously and uses only against the right person at the rightest possible moment in the most efficient way... I will not reveal anything more about it.

Sorry to go on about Cinderella character, but I was so impressed that I have to say more. She is not yet 20 and didn't really meet many men in her life, and yet she already mastered instinctively lots of purely feminine wiles, which she deploys in an absolutely disarming, irresistible, innocent and yet terribly efficient ways... Courting and mating rituals are very much like a cat and mouse game - and if men say "miaow", curb their backs and sharpen their claws a lot, it hides only very poorly the fact that they ALWAYS hold the role of mice...))) And this film shows it just perfectly...))) EVERY SINGLE SCENE with her and the Prince is a purely delicious, delicate and yet sensual ritual mating dance (and that even when they just stand face to face saying nothing).

Come to think of it, the character of Prince in "Cinderella" is even more challenging both for the director and the actor - Kenneth Branagh however aced that one too. Richard Madden whom I also never saw in anything before (yes, I still didn't watch "Game of Thrones" either) was a good choice for the role - he is slightly older and taller than Lily James and certainly also an attractive guy, but in a quite manly way (handsome, not pretty). The scenario improved also this character significantly and Kenneth Branagh directed him perfectly and the final result is a very, very interesting Prince. He loves and respects deeply his kingly father (excellent Derek Jacobi) but grew up to be a man of his own - and once his decision taken, he will neither bend nor break under pressure. He could quite obviously and without much effort have any woman in his kingdom (and not necessarily for matrimonial purpose) but somehow it didn't make him into a jaded jerk or an arrogant spoiled brat - to the contrary, he is actually a polite, gentle man, mixing skilfully and effortlessly great dignity with a considerable sense of humour. He is also definitely NO FOOL and even if his heart is kind, he can be ruthless if situation really asks for it. Last but not least, the film leaves no doubt that he really falls for Cinderella from the first moment he sets eyes on her - HARD! His devotion being sincere and his commitment total, it is actually quite easy to find him likeable and cheer for him.

Helena Bonham Carter plays wonderfully the Fairy Godmother, giving to this character a very thorough helenabonhamcartery treatment. The result is a Fairy Godmother who looks and acts as Glinda from Wizard of Oz - but a Glinda who got no less than three really huuuuge margaritas before leaving for this assignment...))) I really, really liked this Fairy Godmother...)))

Cate Blanchett is excellent as Evil Stepmother and this character was also upgraded and improved, for the greatest pleasure of the viewers. We can understand her better than in the cartoon - she drunk a lot of bitterness in her life, she is fighting, valiantly but of course in vain, against merciless time, she is terribly stressed by threat of poverty and even worse, her two daughters are a terrible, terrible disappointment. I believe that Evil Stepmother really loves Anastasia and Drisella, but she is lucid enough to see that they are not only unappealing, but also so stupid, talentless, lazy, noisy, annoying and mean that their prospects of attracting mates without the help of a dowry (presently non-existent) are very poor. In fact every time they say or do anything they make her motherly heart shrink from pain and bleed from concern. That is probably THE reason why she hates so much Cinderella, who is not from her own blood, but who in the same time is everything she would wish her daughters to be... All that being said, even if the film allows us to better understand the Evil Stepmother, that doesn't make her any less evil. She clearly always was a very self-centred and terribly arrogant person. She despises the men, because thanks to her great beauty she found it always easy to manipulate them, but she sees herself also as grievously hurt by both men she married - because even if they adored her, they both died on her, which she considers as a betrayal and a personal insult...))) Even worse, her successive husbands dying prevented her from living high on the hog, to which she considers herself entitled and them leaving this world could even force her to make her own breakfast for want of servants - and that would be a fate to cruel to contemplate...)))

The mice play a smaller role in this film than in the animated version, but Kenneth Branagh kept them and they are an asset - but they also were modified. They are intelligent and clearly have a language, but for most time it is not something we can really understand (I was able to understand one short sentence). They can however communicate with their human friend and in a couple of scenes they will intervene - discreetly, but quite decisively. In tribute to the animated version one of them is an over-eating and therefore oversized young buck called Gus Gus - and even if during most of the film he just forages (a lot), in one scene he will definitely pull his weight...)))...)))...)))

The ball scene is DELICIOUS with Cinderella's dress being a kind of Weapon of Mass Seduction. Glass slippers are a splendour. The scene in which Cinderella proposes to Prince (he already did it before, very publicly) is absolutely MARVELLOUS and when at the end we see Cinderella in her wedding dress, well, in the theatre where I was the male part of the audience said "Miaow" in chorus - and the female part hissed and growled with jealousy and sheer hatred...)))

One more priceless treasure of this film is that any feminist watching it will scream in pain, then die and turn to dust, like a vampire exposed to sunlight...)))

I absolutely adored every minute of this film, I wouldn't mind see it again in the cinema and I will DEFINITELY buy the DVD (maybe even Blu-Ray) the moment it is available. ENJOY!
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 1, 2015 5:10 AM PDT


General Dean"s Story
General Dean"s Story
by Major General William F. and Worden, William L. Dean
Edition: Unknown Binding

4.0 out of 5 stars The story of an American general captured by hostile aliens and held in captivity for three years on another planet, March 9, 2015
This review is from: General Dean"s Story
This book tells the story of the only American general who was made prisoner and held in captivity by a hostile power since 1945. The book has its limitations and is mostly recommended to those who study Korean war or total military history freaks (guilty Your Honour), but I rather liked it and I am glad that I bought and read it.

After Kim Il Sung regime launched an all-out offensive against South Korea in June 1950, United States were taken completely by surprise as no US troops were then present on the peninsula and only four understrength divisions were stationed in Japan. Mac Arthur, who commanded on this theatre, decided that, pending the arrival of the reinforcements, whatever was left from South Korean Army and everything that Americans could transfer from Japan will hold a bridgehead around main southern port of Pusan. However some time was needed to prepare this defensive position – in order to gain this time one US division was ordered to fight a delaying action at an advanced position around the city of Taejon.

It was quite obvious for all concerned that this division was send on a kind of forlorn hope mission and that its soldiers would fight a lonely fight against an overwhelmingly stronger enemy – but its sacrifice was absolutely necessary. MacArthur selected for this mission the 24th Infantry Division commanded by Major General William F. Dean. The 24th Division fought its desperate fight from 5 July (battle of Osan) to 20 July (retreat from Taejon), delaying the progress of communist troops by two full weeks and thus fulfilling its mission, but the price paid was terrible: 30% of soldiers killed, missing, wounded or taken prisoner. Amongst the latter was the division commander himself.

General Dean choose to remain in Taejon to the last moment and retreat with the rear-guard. It turned out to be a difficult thing, as the city was already surrounded and Americans had to cut their way out through enemy lines – with the commander of the division fighting as a rifleman like everybody else. Ultimately the rear-guard successfully broke out – but immediately after, during a night skirmish, general Dean was separated from the rest of his soldiers and then suffered an injury. Limited in his mobility, lost in the hills and unable to join American lines, he wandered in the wilderness avoiding enemy patrols for 36 days (!). Exhausted, sick and half-starved he was finally captured by North Korean troops and spend the rest of war in captivity. As his capture wasn't known in America immediately, for many months he was considered as MIA, presumed KIA.

This book doesn't deal with general Dean's career before or after the Korean War and he describes only briefly and superficially the Taejon campaign. The book really begins with his separation from his soldiers and the injury suffered, which led to his long and lonely ordeal in the wilderness and ultimately his capture. Most of the book is devoted to the captivity period and the story ends the day when American prisoners were released at the end of the war.

As suggested in the title of this review, the story of almost three years of general Dean captivity can be seen almost as an experience of alien abduction. As other totalitarian ideologies, communism is indeed a kind of an evil alien counter-civilization, full of weird but obligatory liturgies and rituals, of which not the least is the obsessive need to obtain from as many people as possible as much signed statements incriminating self and others as it is possible – to be used as lever and/or propaganda tool… Held in captivity deep behind enemy lines, general Dean could also observe the hard and unpleasant life under communist terror – and American bombs… For all those who are interested in Korean War, Cold War history or communism in general, this is useful reading.

That being said, this I is definitely not the most interesting book in the world and even if it is short, in moments it actually can seem a little long… Hunger, sickness, poor hygienic conditions of detention and the torture of isolation and boredom cover a significant part of the story – when general Dean's interactions with his captors are ultimately less frequent and less interesting that one could think.

That being said, once we think about this whole story a little, I believe that the main lesson to be learned is that North Koreans and Chinese didn't know very well themselves what to do with the only American general they captured. In fact, crazy as it may sound, by moments I had almost the impression, that even if general Dean was a defenceless and for most time weak, sick and miserable captive entirely at their mercy, they were SCARED of him! They were not certain how to use him for propaganda purposes and their hesitations are well shown in completely counter-productive, chaotic changes in interrogation tactics, which as result failed to produce any significant results. They certainly were willing to try to break him in order to obtain some statements which could be used for propaganda or psychological warfare but on another hand they clearly were scared that if he dies in captivity, that will enrage American (and Western) public opinion – so every time they pushed too hard they would quickly reverse the course. Even more, every time they tried intimidation tactics, once their prisoner challenged their bluff, they would retreat without translating their threats into action. This strange game in which a lonely, seemingly defenceless captive, who nevertheless had the whole weight of America and its allies behind him, could challenge and to some extent intimidate and even defeat a huge totalitarian alliance of Stalin, Mao and Kim Il Sung (three of the most evil people in all history of humanity) is the most precious part of the book.

I am glad that I bought and read this little known book and I am certainly going to keep it preciously on my Korean War shelf. ENJOY!


General Dean's Story as Told to William L. Worden
General Dean's Story as Told to William L. Worden
by Major General William F. Dean
Edition: Hardcover
9 used & new from $2.00

4.0 out of 5 stars The story of an American general captured by hostile aliens and held in captivity for three years on another planet, March 9, 2015
This book tells the story of the only American general who was made prisoner and held in captivity by a hostile power since 1945. The book has its limitations and is mostly recommended to those who study Korean war or total military history freaks (guilty Your Honour), but I rather liked it and I am glad that I bought and read it.

After Kim Il Sung regime launched an all-out offensive against South Korea in June 1950, United States were taken completely by surprise as no US troops were then present on the peninsula and only four understrength divisions were stationed in Japan. Mac Arthur, who commanded on this theatre, decided that, pending the arrival of the reinforcements, whatever was left from South Korean Army and everything that Americans could transfer from Japan will hold a bridgehead around main southern port of Pusan. However some time was needed to prepare this defensive position – in order to gain this time one US division was ordered to fight a delaying action at an advanced position around the city of Taejon.

It was quite obvious for all concerned that this division was send on a kind of forlorn hope mission and that its soldiers would fight a lonely fight against an overwhelmingly stronger enemy – but its sacrifice was absolutely necessary. MacArthur selected for this mission the 24th Infantry Division commanded by Major General William F. Dean. The 24th Division fought its desperate fight from 5 July (battle of Osan) to 20 July (retreat from Taejon), delaying the progress of communist troops by two full weeks and thus fulfilling its mission, but the price paid was terrible: 30% of soldiers killed, missing, wounded or taken prisoner. Amongst the latter was the division commander himself.

General Dean choose to remain in Taejon to the last moment and retreat with the rear-guard. It turned out to be a difficult thing, as the city was already surrounded and Americans had to cut their way out through enemy lines – with the commander of the division fighting as a rifleman like everybody else. Ultimately the rear-guard successfully broke out – but immediately after, during a night skirmish, general Dean was separated from the rest of his soldiers and then suffered an injury. Limited in his mobility, lost in the hills and unable to join American lines, he wandered in the wilderness avoiding enemy patrols for 36 days (!). Exhausted, sick and half-starved he was finally captured by North Korean troops and spend the rest of war in captivity. As his capture wasn't known in America immediately, for many months he was considered as MIA, presumed KIA.

This book doesn't deal with general Dean's career before or after the Korean War and he describes only briefly and superficially the Taejon campaign. The book really begins with his separation from his soldiers and the injury suffered, which led to his long and lonely ordeal in the wilderness and ultimately his capture. Most of the book is devoted to the captivity period and the story ends the day when American prisoners were released at the end of the war.

As suggested in the title of this review, the story of almost three years of general Dean captivity can be seen almost as an experience of alien abduction. As other totalitarian ideologies, communism is indeed a kind of an evil alien counter-civilization, full of weird but obligatory liturgies and rituals, of which not the least is the obsessive need to obtain from as many people as possible as much signed statements incriminating self and others as it is possible – to be used as lever and/or propaganda tool… Held in captivity deep behind enemy lines, general Dean could also observe the hard and unpleasant life under communist terror – and American bombs… For all those who are interested in Korean War, Cold War history or communism in general, this is useful reading.

That being said, this I is definitely not the most interesting book in the world and even if it is short, in moments it actually can seem a little long… Hunger, sickness, poor hygienic conditions of detention and the torture of isolation and boredom cover a significant part of the story – when general Dean's interactions with his captors are ultimately less frequent and less interesting that one could think.

That being said, once we think about this whole story a little, I believe that the main lesson to be learned is that North Koreans and Chinese didn't know very well themselves what to do with the only American general they captured. In fact, crazy as it may sound, by moments I had almost the impression, that even if general Dean was a defenceless and for most time weak, sick and miserable captive entirely at their mercy, they were SCARED of him! They were not certain how to use him for propaganda purposes and their hesitations are well shown in completely counter-productive, chaotic changes in interrogation tactics, which as result failed to produce any significant results. They certainly were willing to try to break him in order to obtain some statements which could be used for propaganda or psychological warfare but on another hand they clearly were scared that if he dies in captivity, that will enrage American (and Western) public opinion – so every time they pushed too hard they would quickly reverse the course. Even more, every time they tried intimidation tactics, once their prisoner challenged their bluff, they would retreat without translating their threats into action. This strange game in which a lonely, seemingly defenceless captive, who nevertheless had the whole weight of America and its allies behind him, could challenge and to some extent intimidate and even defeat a huge totalitarian alliance of Stalin, Mao and Kim Il Sung (three of the most evil people in all history of humanity) is the most precious part of the book.

I am glad that I bought and read this little known book and I am certainly going to keep it preciously on my Korean War shelf. ENJOY!


General Dean's Story as told to William L. Worden
General Dean's Story as told to William L. Worden
by William Frishe Dean
Edition: Hardcover
28 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars The story of an American general captured by hostile aliens and held in captivity for three years on another planet, March 9, 2015
This book tells the story of the only American general who was made prisoner and held in captivity by a hostile power since 1945. The book has its limitations and is mostly recommended to those who study Korean war or total military history freaks (guilty Your Honour), but I rather liked it and I am glad that I bought and read it.

After Kim Il Sung regime launched an all-out offensive against South Korea in June 1950, United States were taken completely by surprise as no US troops were then present on the peninsula and only four understrength divisions were stationed in Japan. Mac Arthur, who commanded on this theatre, decided that, pending the arrival of the reinforcements, whatever was left from South Korean Army and everything that Americans could transfer from Japan will hold a bridgehead around main southern port of Pusan. However some time was needed to prepare this defensive position – in order to gain this time one US division was ordered to fight a delaying action at an advanced position around the city of Taejon.

It was quite obvious for all concerned that this division was send on a kind of forlorn hope mission and that its soldiers would fight a lonely fight against an overwhelmingly stronger enemy – but its sacrifice was absolutely necessary. MacArthur selected for this mission the 24th Infantry Division commanded by Major General William F. Dean. The 24th Division fought its desperate fight from 5 July (battle of Osan) to 20 July (retreat from Taejon), delaying the progress of communist troops by two full weeks and thus fulfilling its mission, but the price paid was terrible: 30% of soldiers killed, missing, wounded or taken prisoner. Amongst the latter was the division commander himself.

General Dean choose to remain in Taejon to the last moment and retreat with the rear-guard. It turned out to be a difficult thing, as the city was already surrounded and Americans had to cut their way out through enemy lines – with the commander of the division fighting as a rifleman like everybody else. Ultimately the rear-guard successfully broke out – but immediately after, during a night skirmish, general Dean was separated from the rest of his soldiers and then suffered an injury. Limited in his mobility, lost in the hills and unable to join American lines, he wandered in the wilderness avoiding enemy patrols for 36 days (!). Exhausted, sick and half-starved he was finally captured by North Korean troops and spend the rest of war in captivity. As his capture wasn't known in America immediately, for many months he was considered as MIA, presumed KIA.

This book doesn't deal with general Dean's career before or after the Korean War and he describes only briefly and superficially the Taejon campaign. The book really begins with his separation from his soldiers and the injury suffered, which led to his long and lonely ordeal in the wilderness and ultimately his capture. Most of the book is devoted to the captivity period and the story ends the day when American prisoners were released at the end of the war.

As suggested in the title of this review, the story of almost three years of general Dean captivity can be seen almost as an experience of alien abduction. As other totalitarian ideologies, communism is indeed a kind of an evil alien counter-civilization, full of weird but obligatory liturgies and rituals, of which not the least is the obsessive need to obtain from as many people as possible as much signed statements incriminating self and others as it is possible – to be used as lever and/or propaganda tool… Held in captivity deep behind enemy lines, general Dean could also observe the hard and unpleasant life under communist terror – and American bombs… For all those who are interested in Korean War, Cold War history or communism in general, this is useful reading.

That being said, this I is definitely not the most interesting book in the world and even if it is short, in moments it actually can seem a little long… Hunger, sickness, poor hygienic conditions of detention and the torture of isolation and boredom cover a significant part of the story – when general Dean's interactions with his captors are ultimately less frequent and less interesting that one could think.

That being said, once we think about this whole story a little, I believe that the main lesson to be learned is that North Koreans and Chinese didn't know very well themselves what to do with the only American general they captured. In fact, crazy as it may sound, by moments I had almost the impression, that even if general Dean was a defenceless and for most time weak, sick and miserable captive entirely at their mercy, they were SCARED of him! They were not certain how to use him for propaganda purposes and their hesitations are well shown in completely counter-productive, chaotic changes in interrogation tactics, which as result failed to produce any significant results. They certainly were willing to try to break him in order to obtain some statements which could be used for propaganda or psychological warfare but on another hand they clearly were scared that if he dies in captivity, that will enrage American (and Western) public opinion – so every time they pushed too hard they would quickly reverse the course. Even more, every time they tried intimidation tactics, once their prisoner challenged their bluff, they would retreat without translating their threats into action. This strange game in which a lonely, seemingly defenceless captive, who nevertheless had the whole weight of America and its allies behind him, could challenge and to some extent intimidate and even defeat a huge totalitarian alliance of Stalin, Mao and Kim Il Sung (three of the most evil people in all history of humanity) is the most precious part of the book.

I am glad that I bought and read this little known book and I am certainly going to keep it preciously on my Korean War shelf. ENJOY!


General Dean's story,
General Dean's story,
by William Frishe Dean
Edition: Hardcover
10 used & new from $1.71

4.0 out of 5 stars The story of an American general captured by hostile aliens and held in captivity for three years on another planet, March 9, 2015
This review is from: General Dean's story, (Hardcover)
This book tells the story of the only American general who was made prisoner and held in captivity by a hostile power since 1945. The book has its limitations and is mostly recommended to those who study Korean war or total military history freaks (guilty Your Honour), but I rather liked it and I am glad that I bought and read it.

After Kim Il Sung regime launched an all-out offensive against South Korea in June 1950, United States were taken completely by surprise as no US troops were then present on the peninsula and only four understrength divisions were stationed in Japan. Mac Arthur, who commanded on this theatre, decided that, pending the arrival of the reinforcements, whatever was left from South Korean Army and everything that Americans could transfer from Japan will hold a bridgehead around main southern port of Pusan. However some time was needed to prepare this defensive position – in order to gain this time one US division was ordered to fight a delaying action at an advanced position around the city of Taejon.

It was quite obvious for all concerned that this division was send on a kind of forlorn hope mission and that its soldiers would fight a lonely fight against an overwhelmingly stronger enemy – but its sacrifice was absolutely necessary. MacArthur selected for this mission the 24th Infantry Division commanded by Major General William F. Dean. The 24th Division fought its desperate fight from 5 July (battle of Osan) to 20 July (retreat from Taejon), delaying the progress of communist troops by two full weeks and thus fulfilling its mission, but the price paid was terrible: 30% of soldiers killed, missing, wounded or taken prisoner. Amongst the latter was the division commander himself.

General Dean choose to remain in Taejon to the last moment and retreat with the rear-guard. It turned out to be a difficult thing, as the city was already surrounded and Americans had to cut their way out through enemy lines – with the commander of the division fighting as a rifleman like everybody else. Ultimately the rear-guard successfully broke out – but immediately after, during a night skirmish, general Dean was separated from the rest of his soldiers and then suffered an injury. Limited in his mobility, lost in the hills and unable to join American lines, he wandered in the wilderness avoiding enemy patrols for 36 days (!). Exhausted, sick and half-starved he was finally captured by North Korean troops and spend the rest of war in captivity. As his capture wasn't known in America immediately, for many months he was considered as MIA, presumed KIA.

This book doesn't deal with general Dean's career before or after the Korean War and he describes only briefly and superficially the Taejon campaign. The book really begins with his separation from his soldiers and the injury suffered, which led to his long and lonely ordeal in the wilderness and ultimately his capture. Most of the book is devoted to the captivity period and the story ends the day when American prisoners were released at the end of the war.

As suggested in the title of this review, the story of almost three years of general Dean captivity can be seen almost as an experience of alien abduction. As other totalitarian ideologies, communism is indeed a kind of an evil alien counter-civilization, full of weird but obligatory liturgies and rituals, of which not the least is the obsessive need to obtain from as many people as possible as much signed statements incriminating self and others as it is possible – to be used as lever and/or propaganda tool… Held in captivity deep behind enemy lines, general Dean could also observe the hard and unpleasant life under communist terror – and American bombs… For all those who are interested in Korean War, Cold War history or communism in general, this is useful reading.

That being said, this I is definitely not the most interesting book in the world and even if it is short, in moments it actually can seem a little long… Hunger, sickness, poor hygienic conditions of detention and the torture of isolation and boredom cover a significant part of the story – when general Dean's interactions with his captors are ultimately less frequent and less interesting that one could think.

That being said, once we think about this whole story a little, I believe that the main lesson to be learned is that North Koreans and Chinese didn't know very well themselves what to do with the only American general they captured. In fact, crazy as it may sound, by moments I had almost the impression, that even if general Dean was a defenceless and for most time weak, sick and miserable captive entirely at their mercy, they were SCARED of him! They were not certain how to use him for propaganda purposes and their hesitations are well shown in completely counter-productive, chaotic changes in interrogation tactics, which as result failed to produce any significant results. They certainly were willing to try to break him in order to obtain some statements which could be used for propaganda or psychological warfare but on another hand they clearly were scared that if he dies in captivity, that will enrage American (and Western) public opinion – so every time they pushed too hard they would quickly reverse the course. Even more, every time they tried intimidation tactics, once their prisoner challenged their bluff, they would retreat without translating their threats into action. This strange game in which a lonely, seemingly defenceless captive, who nevertheless had the whole weight of America and its allies behind him, could challenge and to some extent intimidate and even defeat a huge totalitarian alliance of Stalin, Mao and Kim Il Sung (three of the most evil people in all history of humanity) is the most precious part of the book.

I am glad that I bought and read this little known book and I am certainly going to keep it preciously on my Korean War shelf. ENJOY!


The Gift
The Gift
DVD ~ Cate Blanchett
Offered by Pro Digital Mart
Price: $19.88
215 used & new from $0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Will a small town witch, who just wants to make ends meet, meet an untimely end?, February 18, 2015
This review is from: The Gift (DVD)
I mostly liked this little known "Southern Gothic" supernatural thriller. It is not a major film, but a quite watchable thing, with many good actors. Below, more of my impressions, with some limited SPOILERS.

In the small, very provincial town of Brixton, Georgia, lives a widow named Annie Wilson (Cate Blanchett) and her three young sons. Strapped for cash, she makes some money on the side by fortune-telling. As she seems to have some real unusual abilities in viewing things most people can't see, her business is thriving and although she charges very little, she manages to put food on the table with her card readings.

It is a welcome relief, as she and her sons still didn't recover from accidental death of her husband - and the local school principal, Wayne Collins (Greg Kinnear), must call her frequently for trouble her oldest son manages to get himself into. Annie also sometimes uses her readings to comfort people, like mentally ill local mechanic Buddy Cole (Giovanni Ribisi). Not everybody is a fan though - a local thug named Donnie Barksdale (Keanu Reeves) hates her guts and makes her life a misery ever since his wife Valerie (Hilary Swank) started to come for readings.

Then one day Wayne Collins announces his future marriage to Jessica King (Katie Holmes), the daughter of one of the wealthiest people in the whole county - and then the film really begins and I will say no more about what follows.

This is a very honest effort and I actually enjoyed watching this film. It fits well into the category of "Southern Gothic", in which stories situated in the deep, impoverished South, mix social drama with some elements of supernatural or at least great eccentricity (usually not very pleasant). In this film the supernatural is quite present, but the claim on the cover of DVD that this is the scariest supernatural thriller since "Sixth Sense" is of course absolutely LUDICROUS. The film has one or two jump scares and a handful of rather well filmed visions and that is all. It is a kind of ghost story, but not a really scary one. Kudos however for the visions of the swamps, especially at night...

On another hand, this film contains quite a lot of social drama and some very dark secrets of small town life and all that is shown very nicely - albeit those stories are actually quite sad...

The story is ultimately not very complicated and the pace of the film is rather slow - but it somehow fits the general feeling of the life in the bayous of southern Georgia, which doesn't really seem to go very fast. This slow rhythm somehow reminded me of some of Faulkner short stories and their oppressive, heavy atmosphere. Now "The Gift" has nothing to do with Faulkner's works (it is an original scenario written by screenwriter Tom Epperson and actor Billy Rob Thornton), but I think that the great master from Mississippi would have looked kindly on that story...

The cast is the strongest point of this film, as it allows us to see some of actors who were later to become very famous, but who at that time were still in the relatively early stages of their careers. Cate Blanchett was at that time already a well-recognized actress, however her greatest roles were still to come. Hilary Swank, albeit a surprise Oscar winner in 1999, was also in a somehow similar situation and Katie Holmes was at the very beginning of her career, at the point when she still had to make nude scenes... Even if "Avatar" made his face instantly familiar to everybody, Giovanni Ribisi is still not a major star, but he also made a good career since "The Gift" - and it is only justice, because in this film he does an AMAZING job, in a very hard, very demanding role... Greg Kinnear's role is somehow easier, but he also did well here and he too went on to have a good run ever since.

Albeit aged only 36 in 2000, Keanu Reeves was already a veteran actor and an A-list name in Hollywood when he accepted the role of Donnie Barksdale. This character is really an abomination and I have an impression that for Keanu Reeves it was sheer fun to play for once a really, really, really, really BAD guy... He certainly made a great job here.

Character actors J.K. Simmons ("Oz", "Law and Order", "The Closer") and Michael Jeter (better known as Elmo's friend, Mr Noodle...) are of course always a pleasure to watch and this film is no exception...

The very final scenes were kind of a "Deus ex machina" device, mostly used by directors and screen writers when they painted themselves into a corner - but they were also somehow touching and even if many viewers hated them, I ultimately decided that I can live with them. On another hand towards the end I managed to guess both main "mysteries" a little bit too easily for my taste...

This is a honest film, but not really outstanding. I enjoyed watching it, but I don't think I will keep the DVD. An OK thing, to see once. ENJOY!


Big Miracle
Big Miracle
DVD ~ Drew Barrymore
Price: $5.00
91 used & new from $0.63

5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant, heartwarming, touching and very amusing retelling of Operation Breakthrough - a whale rescue which really happened, February 5, 2015
This review is from: Big Miracle (DVD)
I liked a lot this 2012 family drama and I am really surprised that it bombed at box office. Below, more of my impressions, with some limited SPOILERS.

Let's begin with the TRUE STORY. On October 7, 1988, Roy Ahmaogak, a hunter belonging to Inupiat nation, discovered three gray whales trapped in pack ice in the Beaufort Sea near Point Barrow, Alaska. During following three weeks an unprecedented effort was made to create an escape route through the ice field for the trapped whales. This effort united Inupiat community, biologists, Alaskan state authorities, federal government, Alaskan Air National Guard, at least one oil company, medias, civilian volunteers and last but not least two Soviet(!) icebreakers, "Vladimir Arseniev" and "Admiral Makarov". On 28 October, Soviet icebreakers managed finally to create a large enough path for the whales to escape. From that moment nobody saw the whales again and it was supposed that the operation was a success - even if there is no definite proof that animals actually survived.

The film mostly follows the true story, but unavoidably some things were changed. Some more drama but also humour was added - but I cannot really be more specific to avoid spoilers. MAJOR SPOILER WARNING! The element of real tragedy from the real life was kept in the film, but, unlike in the true story, here there is no doubt left about the ultimate issue - there is a happy end. After all, it is a family movie... Also, the names given to the three whales were changed - here they are known as Fred, Wilma and Bam-Bam, when in real life they were code-named Bonnet, Crossbeak, and Bone.

The main character is a fictitious local news reporter named Adam Carlson (John Krasinski). The second most important person is his former girlfriend Rachel Kramer (Drew Barrymore), who is a fanatical, ultra radical, unpleasant and slightly insane environmental activist from Greenpeace. This character was inspired by real Greenpeace activist, Cindy Lowry (a person, I believe, much saner than the one in the movie). Three most important secondary characters, all more or less fictional, are oil tycoon J.W. McGraw (Ted Dawson), Alaskan Air National Guard Colonel Scott Boyer (Dermot Mulroney), news reporter Jill Gerard (Kristen Bell) and an ambitious White House staffer Kelly Meyers (Vinessa Shaw).

The scenario is surprisingly good. The story flows very harmoniously at good pace and never gets boring. The feeling of urgency and by moments even of tragedy is always present, but nevertheless this film contains tons of good natured humor - in fact there were at least four very clever comic moments (one of which involved a giant plush whale and another one centered around a piece of cardboard and a rodeo) which totally deserved an Oscar! On another hand, this film doesn't contain even slightest touch of vulgarity (and absolutely no foul language).

For my personal taste the strongest point of this film is that there is NO bad guys. There is certainly a confrontation of very, very divergent points of view and ultimately some tough decisions must be taken which end the debate, but the makers of this film decided that everybody has his/her story to tell, which deserves to be heard. The film is not too sugar sweet and is definitely not a fairy tale. Politicians get involved not because they love whales, but to either gather points in polls or at least to avoid losing them. The oil business gets involved mostly to try to reduce the amount of flak it takes from the environmentalist radicals - but ultimately the oil tycoon catches the "whale fever" exactly as everybody else. Soldiers are not enthusiastic about risking their lives in a whale rescue, but once they receive orders, they carry them to the letter - with considerable risk of loss of life or limb... Some civilian volunteers have a hidden agenda - albeit not necessarily an evil one... Etc. etc.

A very strong point is an almost total absence of political correctness and left-winged propaganda - much to the contrary. The lone radical environmentalist militant is shown as somebody who is so much in favor of the animals, that she tends to forget about the rights (or even existence) of humans - and her fanatic fervor very usefully reminds, that together with some good ideas, there is also an element of intolerant extremism and even sheer lunacy in those movements. Indigenous Alaskans are also shown with some ambiguity, because even if some from the beginning try to help the trapped animals, in the beginning we can see that their traditional way of life is amongst others based on hunting the whales... In fact, many Inupiat nation people see this whole thing as a good occasion to "harvest" the whales - which is a polite way to say that they want to butcher them, eat them and throw the leftovers to their dogs...

In a lesser film political correctness and left-winged ideology would immediately create the oil business, military and politicians as the villains, with environment militants, indigenous Alaskans, lots of children and some journalists as heroes. In "Big Miracle", let's stress it again, such is not the case, because if almost everybody is a hero, there is NO villains. At all!

This film is so good that I almost managed to forget that I cannot stand Drew Barrymore (even me I don't know why - this is an irrational thing). She certainly played very well in this film.

Now, THE reason why this film didn't perform at box office, is probably that it is too serious for little children. They can of course watch it, as there is no foul language or violence - but they will not understand anything. 11-12 years is probably the minimum age for a child to really get the story. Adults and teenagers will find it entertaining, but not little children - and for a film advertised as a family movie, this is a serious problem..

All this being said, I found "Big Miracle" a most interesting, very original and by moments even very courageous thing. Both me and my then 13 years old daughter we had great time watching it. A recommended viewing! ENJOY!


Donovan's Reef
Donovan's Reef
DVD ~ John Wayne
Price: $5.97
38 used & new from $3.20

3.0 out of 5 stars John Ford + John Wayne + Lee Marvin + a tropical island = well… much, much less than could be expected…, February 3, 2015
This review is from: Donovan's Reef (DVD)
I found this film watchable, but it was still a disappointment, as I expected much more from such a great director and two of my favourite actors. Honestly, I think that is the only film that John Ford at least partially messed up. Below, more of my impressions, with some limited SPOILERS.

The story takes place on Haleakaloha (a fictitious island), part of French Polynesia. Other than its native Polynesian population and some French immigrants (including the governor, local priest and some nuns) three Americans, veterans of US Navy, stayed there after WWII. The most eminent of them is William Dedham (Jack Warden), scion of a rich family from Boston, a greatly respected doctor in charge of local hospital. During the war "Doc" Dedham married Manulani, the queen of Haleakaloha and their marriage produced three children: teenage Leilani, young Sarah and little Luke. Tragically, when giving birth to the third child, Manulani died…

The other two American immigrants (and "Doc" Dedham best pals) are Michael "Guns" Donovan (John Wayne) and Thomas "Boats" Gilhooley (Lee Marvin). Those two men are a lot in common: they share the ownership of local most infamous watering hole for sailors ("Donovan's Reef"), they are both hardened bachelors and they also have the same birthday (7 December, of all dates…). Best friends since ever and forever, for some reason they always quarrelled on their common birthday. It lasted so long, that even if everybody, themselves included, forgot what all of that was about, they still have a traditional, highly ritualised and very public bare-fists fight every 7 December – to the greatest delight of local population, the lone constable ("gendarme") included…

Even if people still mourn Manulani, life is good on Haleakaloha, but suddenly "disaster" strikes, in the shape of Miss Amelia Dedham (Elisabeth Allen) from Boston - "Doc" Dedham's daughter… She was born after "Doc" left for war and as he never returned, she never actually saw him… Amelia is now a young lady, attractive albeit tending to hide it. She is also very rich and quite powerful, as the chairman of the board of the Dedham Shipping Company. Following a very serious development in the ownership of stock in the family company, she must – very reluctantly – make the trip to Haleakaloha to meet her estranged, reclusive father about whom she doesn't know much (to the point of ignoring the existence of her three mixed race half-siblings). This quite formidable and not very nice young lady has a secret agenda on this trip and her intentions are definitely not friendly… And then the film begins.

It was of course a very good project for a comedy to confront an arrogant, aggressive, authoritarian, prejudiced, repressed, humourless and very rich woman with a society peaceful, kind, informal, tolerant, joyful and in which people mostly don't aspire to great wealth. Including in this mix a lesson in racial tolerance was certainly not a bad idea either. Finally, describing a kind of slightly utopian society, poor but happy, many members of which are likeable slackers and screwballs (and in which even villains are just clueless and mostly harmless small time crooks) was another very promising move. But sadly, all those good ideas were in large part wasted by huge problems with the scenario.

WARNING! SPOILER ALERT! The biggest problem of this film is that Miss Amelia Dedham who leaves from Boston is not the same person who arrives on the island… The first one is a nightmarish, prickly, snotty, grim, bullying, ice-freezing cold, total-pain-in-the-@ss shrew (kind of not-nymphomaniac Ilsa She Wolf of the SS). The other one is the coolest gal in the world, gentle, humane, smiling, understanding, kids-loving, completely unprejudiced, brave, caring, champion of sea skiing, totally comfortable with being the butt of jokes and not averse to some flirtation. Such a transformation would be very OK - if it didn't occur in five minutes, at the very beginning of the film… Because of this humungous error in the scenario, Miss Amelia Dedham doesn't deliver. I almost could picture the director stocking a powerful explosive charge in this character and lighting the fuse – and all that went off was a wet firecracker…

WARNING! MORE SPOILERS! There are also many other weaker points in this film. I absolutely adore John Wayne, but in this film, at 57, he was clearly too old to play the love interest of a young woman. His "seduction" of Miss Dedham is a completely artificial and forced thing – it appears that she was destined to fall for Donovan from the first second she saw him, without him doing anything at all… I also absolutely adore Lee Marvin, but his character in this film was poorly conceived by the screenwriter and for once he played him even worse. Rather than an endearing alcoholised veteran sea wolf his Gilhooley seems rather to be a developmentally challenged, mentally unbalanced and borderline unpleasant guy… The complicated relation between Donovan and Gilhooley, rather than being a funny but touching oddity, is a freakishly weird nonsense, which seems to be forced on the reality by the scenarist who worked on a short deadline… "Doc" Dedham gets away really easily with the horrible betrayal he committed in his past – after all he abandoned, as ruthlessly and carelessly as if she was old slippers and never bothered even to enquire about his new-born daughter, who also just lost her mother… Somehow, the moral implications of the fact that he is a really horrible deadbeat dad who ABANDONED his baby is completely eliminated from the scenario… Etc. etc.

One of previous reviewers said about this movie that making it was a kind of Hawaiian holiday for John Ford and his gang of old pals and I think that he was very right. This film was clearly not taken seriously by the director and the screenwriter - and the actors didn't care a whole lot about it either. As result, this film is a kind of pothole in John Ford's career, coming between two absolute masterpieces, "The man who killed Liberty Valance" made one year earlier and "Cheyenne's autumn" made one year later.

There is nothing wrong in taking a holiday by shooting a light-hearted comedy on a tropical island – but with just a minimum effort, it could have been done much better. If Ford and his team didn't want to make too much of an effort with the scenario, they had a great story ready to be picked up, "Terrible Solomons" by Jack London (you can read it online as part of Gutenberg project). This extremely funny story about a highly elaborated practical joke played on a young arrogant tourist Bertie Arkwright by an aged and very malicious tycoon was never turned into a movie – and I would give a lot to see a John Ford film made from this South Seas comedy. I can almost imagine John Ford himself appearing in a cameo as Captain Malu, John Wayne playing Mr Harriwell and Lee Marvin playing Captain Hansen… Well, it is not gonna happen and instead we got this thing… (sigh)

However, even if "Donovan's Reef" is disappointing, it is still a movie with John Wayne and Lee Marvin made by John Ford – therefore there is still enough here to made it watchable. There is the excellent character of the French priest, who started to receive generous donations to fix his half-ruined church already in 1945 – and the church is still half-ruined, because every single penny he received he gave away to the needy… There is a wonderful midnight mass on Christmas in a half-ruined church, with an absolutely splendid re-creation of the respects paid to Jesus by the Three Kings. There is some good humour, a surrealistic bar brawl, some good moments with secondary characters played by veterans Cesar Romero and Dorothy Lamour, THE bathing suit of Miss Amelia and then THE KISS, which, considering the age of John Wayne in this film, must be considered as the Grandfather of all the Kisses…))) And of course there are many charming moments with "Doc" Dedham's children: Leilani, Sarah and Luke.

So bottom line, this is a watchable film, but definitely not as good as it could and should have been. I consider it as a kind of weak spot in John Ford's amazing creation. Even if I managed to watch it until the end, it was the first and ONLY time when I checked at the time counter on the DVD player when watching a John Ford/ John Wayne movie. A watchable thing, but it is definitely not a necessary purchase – renting it is probably preferable.


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