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2001: A Space Odyssey [Blu-ray]
2001: A Space Odyssey [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Keir Dullea
Offered by Fulfillment Express US
Price: $13.46
45 used & new from $5.97

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Sheer Weirdness of Space...., March 7, 2015
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Watching the Blu-ray of Kubrick's masterpiece and seeing the film for the umpteenth time, I was struck with the time and detail he put into demonstrating, for the first time anywhere, how weird space travel is to the descendants of the smart apes of the film's first act. It is not just that the human animal is so vulnerable in the vast void of space unless encased in an airtight suit, vehicle or whatever, and tethered to life support equipment at every moment, but it is also the absence of gravity, the strange spacial relationships when there is no true up or down, no north and south, east and west, and above all the silence of the abyss, where murder is the cold quiet of "life functions terminated" and explosions are never heard, nor anything else but the sound of one's own breathing. No one has ever explored this with the same understanding either before or since.

In space all normal orientations and familiarities are gone and the inhospitable indifference of the endless vacuum redefines the human experience. It poses the question that perhaps space exploration would be better left to HAL and his digital brethren. But that is before Kubrick hurtles us through time and space and possibly even dimensions to transform and evolve the human species into a new being so adapted and comfortable as to find the void its playground.

A remarkable, brilliant one-of-a-kind film and experience, now approaching its 50th anniversary, and yet no other film has so intensely explored the silent isolation, the precise balletic geometry of rendezvous, the lonely tedium and the claustrophobia of hermetic environs to imagine what space travel means to the human animal with the same detail and understanding. Genius.

Kremlin Letter
Kremlin Letter
DVD ~ Barbara Parkins
Offered by Achilles' Reel
Price: $26.78
10 used & new from $26.78

5.0 out of 5 stars Ice Cold in Moscow..., March 24, 2014
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This review is from: Kremlin Letter (DVD)
Based on and true to the best seller of that time of the same name, with a first rate international cast, and written and directed by the great John Huston one wonders why this movie failed at the box office. The only reason I can think of is that it is such a cold-blooded, pitiless and remorseless look at espionage during the Cold War that it's callous and despairing view of the whole enterprise put off many. And it is complicated, and you do have to pay attention from the first frame onward or it is easy to become lost in the labrynthine plot and double and triple crosses. There are several stories playing out within the same plot and they all culminate in one of the cruelest, most chilling finales I've ever seen in film.

As explained early on, espionage prior to World War II was played by often unaffiliated professional spies. A ring of these old spies are tasked to find the Letter of the title. With code names like The Highwayman, The Whore, The Erector Set, The Warlock, Sweet Alice, etc., these old semi-retired pros who operated together during the War are brought together, along with two young recruits, and sent to Moscow. Once in Moscow they set about infiltrating themselves by exploiting every human weakness, be it sex or drugs or whatever, in an effort to regain the letter and get out before they are discovered by Col. Kosnov, the vicious KGB counter-intelligence chief. In the process, everyone gets played and betrayed. To say more would give too much away.

The tone of the film is expressed early on by John Huston himself as a US Navy Admiral, cutting Patrick O'Neal loose from the Navy to be seconded to an intelligence service, and making no bones about his disgust with the growing intelligence establishment. World War II changed intelligence from the Great Game of Kipling to the ruthless and pragmatic duels of the CIA and KGB bureaucracies. As is made plain in the film, these spies all worked and knew each other (Soviet, English and American), during the war and then turned on one another after the war.

This is the Cold War. Much forgotten now, except by those who lived through it. This film was made at the height of that Cold War and reflects exactly the amorality of it all. There are no heroes here, only innocents and exploiters. Each side did whatever was needed and all one has to think of is the absolute scumbags we supported simply because they were anti-communist. We were in a titanic struggle with The Soviets on a world stage, and anyone and anything was fair game. And cruel practicality and efficiency were the norm. The Kremlin Letter was an expression of that heartless universe and a reminder of the cost of it.

The whole cast is great, with Richard Boone and Max Von Sydow outstanding as old allies/adversaries. Patrick O'Neal and Barbara Parkins as the neophyte spies are good, and supporting roles are filled by George Sanders, Orson Welles, Dean Jagger, Bibi Andersson and the like.

It will be hard to find, as this DVD, which I bought, was a limited issue with no frills. Hope it turns up on some movie channels, because it is well worth a look.

Price: $0.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Great books, great pilot!, February 11, 2014
This review is from: Bosch (Amazon Instant Video)
I am a longtime fan of Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch series so I was prepared for disappointment in a film treatment. Happy to report the pilot was excellent and I heartily vote for the series to continue. Well written, directed and with a first rate cast, this is a winner. Very nice to see veteran character actor Titus Welliver in a lead role and he carries the load nicely. There is a wealth of treasures in the Bosch books, and this format will allow them the depth they require to explore them versus the limitations of a 2 hour movie. Bring it on!

The Killer Angels: The Classic Novel of the Civil War
The Killer Angels: The Classic Novel of the Civil War
by Michael Shaara
Edition: Audio CD
Price: $13.77
23 used & new from $9.86

5.0 out of 5 stars Review of the Audlo CD, August 27, 2013
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Stephen Hoye does a beautiful job of reading (and investing the characters with personality) Shaara's Killer Angels. I never read the book, but I now understand the great praise accumulated for this hauntingly meditative work concerning one of the most important battles/turning points in American history. Plenty of fine reviews here for the book/content so I need not elaborate but only wish to express that if you, like me, didn't take the time to read the book, this presentation is evocative and splendid.

Looney Tunes: Golden Collection, Vol. 5
Looney Tunes: Golden Collection, Vol. 5
DVD ~ Various
Offered by Great-Buys!
Price: $26.45
33 used & new from $20.80

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bob Clampett Gets His Due...., March 4, 2013
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Finally, Bob Clampett gets his due in these sets. Disc 3 is all Bob Clampett cartoons, 15 in all, plus scattered throughout the other discs are 6 more early Clampetts and 6 Tex Avery's. For my money, Bob Clampett was the best Warner Brothers toon director. His stories are the best, the animation is the most creative, the characters are the best drawn and developed, the voice characterizations the best, and the gags are fast and furious and avoid the repetitiveness I find in Jones and Freleng's work. Clampett pitched his cartoons to adults with as much sly innuendo as he could get away with. His animation crew, notably with the great Rod Scribner, stretched the form and animated the living heck out of his stories. Clampett's toons are all about the laugh, and anything and everything is fair game.

Every director at Warner Brothers Termite Terrace turned out classic toons. I find the earlier work of Jones and Freleng much better than the later when they went for highly stylized backgrounds, minimalist characterization and animation. I was gratified to find that most of the commentators are also fans of Clampett. This is the set to buy to get a fair comparison. Clampett's toons are rich with detail and just laugh out loud funny as hell. A cross between Avery's zaniness and Jones' craftmanship, they are all out cartooney, as they should be, and guided by a young director who was full of life and full of beans and his cartoons reflect that sensibility.

Looney Tunes: Golden Collection Vol. 2
Looney Tunes: Golden Collection Vol. 2
DVD ~ Various
Offered by Two Thumbs Up
Price: $38.99
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More variety than Vol 1..., March 2, 2013
There are still plenty of toons for the fans of Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng and Robert McKimpson. Thank goodness this set has some nice samples of the work of Tex Avery and Bob Clampett. By my count 4 of the former and 9 of the latter. I've been a fan of Bob Clampett for years, and feel he was the best director of WB cartoons. Clampett seemed to me a cross between Tex Avery's insanity and Chuck Jones character creation. Plus Clampett's cartoons were aimed at adults with sly raciness and a ton of energy and anything for a laugh. I apparently share this opinion with many of the animators/commentaters on these sets. Clampett had the great Rod Scribner for his character design, and apparently let his animators run wild and do their thing. The result was the best stories with the highest energy, the zaniest attitude and, for me, the best laugh out loud gags.

I have not held the same high opinion I had of Chuck Jones over the years. While his character design was superb, and he has some notably great cartoons, I find his minimalist animation and the highly stylized backgrounds flat and annoying now, especially in comparison to the richness of every frame of the best of Clampett in the WWII era. Still outweighed by a lot of Jones/Freleng, but at least something here for those of us who love Clampett and Avery.

Looney Tunes: Golden Collection, 4-disc DVD collection
Looney Tunes: Golden Collection, 4-disc DVD collection
DVD ~ Various
Offered by Two Thumbs Up
Price: $45.15
19 used & new from $23.90

5.0 out of 5 stars Only 3 Bob Clampetts..., March 2, 2013
Most of these cartoons will be familiar from the Saturday morning shows where a lot of us got our introduction to Warner Bros. great cartoonists. So, not a lot of surprise here. Like many, I cut my teeth on Chuck Jones and Friz Freleng's toons and loved them. Then, later, I discovered the great Bob Clampett, Tex Avery and Frank Tashlin's work. I think Clampett is the best director hands-down no question. His toons have the best stories, the best gags, the best characterizations (especially by animator Rod Scribner), the best voice work, the most inventive and pure zany cartoonish energy. After having been exposed to Clampett's 1940's work, the minimalism and stylistics of Jones and Freleng's work in the 50's & 60's, with some notable exceptions, seemed flat and often repetitive.

So, for the legions of Jones and Freleng's fans, this is the set for you. For those of us who love Clampett et al, this isn't the one. Later sets help makeup for this oversight.

No Title Available

6 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Laboring in the Dark, January 11, 2013
This is top notch filmmaking. Not a documentary, but a movie based on fact. That means the characters are composites of many people, dialogue is invented, and chronologies shifted and arranged to tell a coherent story. When all the controversy and argument is exhausted we are left with a stunning thriller based on facts but not necessarily precisely factual. This should, of course, be understood of any historical fiction. A movie simply cannot explain everything in detail, most especially a ten year hunt for one man among billions.

This is a fine film attesting to those who toil in obscurity to keep our sorry keisters safe. Within the confines and strictures of a 2 plus hour film it tries to capture the long, arduous, lonely work of intelligence gathering, and the frustration of the search for the proverbial needle in a haystack. I think this does so entertainingly, and that is no mean feat.

The harsh treatment of detainees depicted in the beginning of the film is appropriate if it is understood in the context of the sheer panic within the relevant institutions that another attack as terrible as 9/11 or even more so was imminent. Whether the film over emphasizes this or depicts the amount and extent of time within which this took place fairly or not, I cannot answer. It certainly doesn't sugarcoat it nor does it celebrate this treatment. It opts to present it clearly and unflinchingly. I do think it errs in not clarifying that after the initial panic, and even during this time, more traditional interrogation techniques were the norm. But let there be no doubt, this was rough business with very determined and implacable foes, and I appreciated the intercutting of newsreel footage of the bombs going off worldwide while these analysts and operators were under enormous pressure to stop the carnage.

Apparently, the lead to the courier that took them to Bin Laden came from several sources, and if the film leaves the impression that it was solely through harsh interrogation that it was obtained, that is unfortunate. The film does make it clear that the final clue, the courier's real name and not his nom de guerre was found otherwise. Anyway, this section of the film is where the controversy lies, and none of us writing here knows the real truth of it.

Past that, the movie depicts the years of sacrifice of Maya, based on a real CIA analyst and probably a composite of several. Many people spent long and fruitless hours and years in the search for Bin Laden, often at the risk of their own lives. I think the movie fairly captures that effort.

When the film gets to the raid in Abbottabad it kicks into high gear and Kathryn Bigelow's unerring knack for directing action makes a known outcome still a pulse-pounding, tense and breathless piece of business. Extremely well done.

Jessica Chastain is terrific as the dedicated analyst with apparently no social life, unsparingly sacrificing all to the mission. Jennifer Ehle, always great, nicely represents the senior analyst that was a crucial part of this story and I was glad her & her collegues story was represented here as I recall the headlines surrounding it. Jason Clarke, again always great, is perfect as the operator conducting the harsh interrogations with no qualms. He plays dirty with tough customers, but it also wears on him. Mark Strong is always a reassuring and solid presence. No fault in any of the casting.

The film makes clear that the War On Terror is truly war at its meanest, nastiest and truest. The innocent can be harmed as well as the guilty. And as Stan McCrystal recently said, the problem with "torture" is the harm it does to the perpetrator as much or more so as to the subject in that it is a path once taken, no one can be sure where it will lead. But to forget the context of panic and terror for those charged with our security in those days following 9/11 is I believe an unfair oversight.

Zero Dark Thirty very clearly depicts a determined, hardened, ruthless, pitiless enemy and the people we charge to stop them. It also shows the extraordinary sacrifice and determination of a few of them to hunt down and bring justice to the author of so much of this maiming, death, and heartache. That they got Bin Laden at all is still a stunning piece of work. The movie honors that work.

Django Unchained [Blu-ray]
Django Unchained [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Jamie Foxx
Price: $11.99
79 used & new from $3.47

37 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quintessential Quentin..., January 11, 2013
How Quentin Tarantino takes his love of crappy B movies and distills out the essential best from usually low budget exploitation dross and cross pollinates genres to come up with something singular and unique is one of the more interesting phenomena in recent movie history. Love him or hate him, his movies are their own thing and all of this obsession for spaghetti Westerns and Chop-socky martial arts films etc. would be for nought if he wasn't also a superb filmmaker. All of this is on display, for good or ill, in Django Unchained. Yes, it is over-the-top bloody to the point of parody. It is also funny as hell. And finally, it is one of the more honest depictions of the sheer brutality of slavery ever put on a film, and a perfectly raised middle finger to the romantic fantasy of Gone With the Wind and the decades of whitewashed history of that loathesome institution.

Thank heavens Tarantino and Christoph Waltz found each other. He is absolutely wonderful here and Quentin has a fine actor who obviously relishes delivering Tarantino's delicious dialogue. It was one of those fortuitous meetings of talent that bring to mind Ford & Wayne and Scorcese & Deniro, a perfect blend of author and actor. Sam Jackson is equally fine as always as a vehicle for whatever Tarantino needs from him. Jamie Foxx plays well as Django, and Leonardo DiCaprio is up to the task as a vile slave master couching his own brutality in the trappings of wealth, privilege and overly fine manners. The character puts the lie to all that antebellum Southern plantation finery built upon a lie and the most detestable social construct imaginable.

But, that is the sober underpinnings to a typical Tarantino outing of politically incorrect dialogue and action, near cartoonish violence, and hilariously imagined situations and characters. This isn't history, but with all the incongruous dialogue and attitudes for the period, it somehow hits a truth often missed in more period centered films.

Tarantino's films aren't for everyone. The violence is excessively bloody, which will offput many. I found it so overly bloody that it is obviously movie violence taken to the nth degree, and thus manifestly make-believe. But, I don't know how that would apply to or effect impressionable minds (a discussion we will have for a long time).

I have always gone to Tarantino's movies expecting to dislike them and he always seems to win me over with the unexpected humor and the bravado and sheer inventiveness of the enterprise. For a filmmaker with a reputation for violent action, I've never seen one who more effectively employs the closeup as a technique. He loves to get right up in his actors faces as they deliver his wonderful lines. And in every movie he will throw in something so unexpectedly funny as the scene here of Big Daddy's night riders bitching about the holes cut in the sacks they're wearing over their heads not allowing them to see where they're going. That and many other non sequiters and assorted cleverness strewn through his films keeps me coming back.

DVD ~ Daniel Day-Lewis
Price: $11.22
84 used & new from $1.97

148 of 176 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, difficult choices succeed superbly, November 30, 2012
This review is from: Lincoln (DVD)
Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner made some interesting and difficult choices in Lincoln that I think have succeeded in making a brilliant film about one of the most written about historical figures ever, and certainly the most written about and familiar American historical figure. And yet despite a billion words written about this man he still somehow remains an enigma with something withheld and unrevealable about the man. No doubt that is his continuing fascination to us and I have no doubt many more millions of words will be written, again vainly trying to get at the essence of the man. It is far easier to gaze in wonderous respect at the marble statue in his unmatched Memorial than to try to find the human being within the marble.

Spielberg and Kushner have done their best to try to find the man with the inestimable assistance of Daniel Day Lewis' genius. If they haven't succeeded completely, well they are in good company with a thousand other biographers. I liked the closeness and intimacy of the film. I liked the quiet. I liked the touching, beautiful and subtle small details: Lincoln lying down on the floor next to his sleeping son, the ever present shawl on his shoulders, the often stooped gait, Lincoln's ready reach for the illustrative yet sometimes illusive joke or story told with great good humor, Lincoln holding hands with Stimson as the war news comes in, Lincoln's fondness for and engagement with his young aides and soldiers, his gentle touches and the incredible mastery of his emotions, his rectitude and subtle manipulation of the obstreperous, passionate, often obtuse political allies and foes.

Throughout, Day Lewis is masterful in his delivery, conveying the homeliness of the man and yet the incredible strength and the sorrow that was with him every day of his Presidency that brought many of his detractors, especially Seward and others in the "team of rivals" to come to respect and love him. He's got not just the look, the voice, the walk and movements of the man down, he has the gentleness, and the innate dignity of the man as well. This is Lincoln at the end of the war and his soul-aching weariness coupled with his steely resolution is evident in every frame. He's superb. The rest of the characters in the drama have been cast carefully with wonderful actors who actually often resemble the real men they're playing. I could single out Tommy Lee Jones, David Straithairn, James Spader etc., but frankly everyone is marvelous in this cast down to every one of the maddening and quarrelsome Congressmen.

And I thought Sally Fields was a fine Mary Lincoln. Their scenes together played very well and conveyed in a few brief lines the struggles, regrets, tragic losses and difficulties that divide and also unite a long married couple who have weathered many travails. I found it convincing.

And finally, I am glad the focus of the film was the struggle to pass the 13th Amendment. Unless you're a history buff, I imagine this will come as some surprise to many and I found their handling of the politics and personalities at play both fascinating and engaging. I was absorbed and I imagine others will find revelatory the difficulty of passing this crucial legislation. And why not focus on this often overlooked struggle? As the film carefully explains, the whole moral purpose of the war, abolition, could have been undone postwar without it.

Some may find this narrowing of the events of the film to the last 6 months of Lincoln's life and the struggle to legislate a disappointment. Not me. As mentioned, we have had millions of words and many films and documentaries covering the overview of Lincoln's life. I applaud Spielberg and Kushner making an intimate film closeup and intense and, yes, full of dialogue and argument as the framework to illustrate an exceptional man in unimaginably difficult and tragic times, and finding within this closeup a glimpse of the man and his relations with wife, children, and friends and foes. It is a brilliantly acted and directed illustration of democracy being tested to its limits, ornery and contentious even within the midst of Civil War, and human beings at their most venal and at their most noble.

Many insights and much of this history is conveyed in dialogue (Lincoln's admission of his assumption of powers not necessarily granted him and ignoring of the law when he deemed it necessary is a prime example) and a potent line here and there speaks volumes about the war, the law, the Presidency, his marriage, his sorrow, his guile, and his steadfastness. Nicely done and will promote repeated viewing.

As expected from Spielberg, the production values are marvelous. Well done in all departments.
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