"When faced with a problem you do not understand,
do any part of it you do understand; then look at it again."
~(Robert A. Heinlein - "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress")

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

"NEVER tell a soldier ... (Updated 28 JUN 2016)

... that he does not know the cost of war."
~Alan Rickman as Lt. General Frank Benson in Eye in the Sky (2015)




video
One of the official trailers on youtube

Caught this yesterday (26 APR 2016), mainly because it starred Helen Mirren (I'd watch almost anything with her in it), and discovered that her co-star was Alan Rickman (in his last performance before his death from pancreatic cancer on 16 JAN 2016 --- see "... and call off Christmas!!!" )

He picked a fine movie to go out on; a wonderful performance in a truly intelligent film.  He will be truly missed

The questions raised in this movie just don't have any good answers.  It will probably be gone from theaters in another week ot two, but I've seen a July 28 release date for DVD and Blu-Ray.

Update 28 JUN 2016:  That release date above was wrong. It's being released June 28 - TODAY.
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Thursday, January 14, 2016

"... and call off Christmas!!!" - (R.I.P. Alan Rickman - 14 JAN 2016)

There actually was something really good in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991).

That something is Alan Rickman, as the Sheriff of Nottingham.

In my previous post, I kinda dumped on The Syfy Channel a bit, for the inclusion of distinctly non-science fiction items in its lineup, including that movie.

(In a conversation with a clerk at Barnes & Noble, I learned that a writer, asking one of the people running The Syfy Channel about why they had changed their name from The "Sci-Fi Channel", was told that "Sci-Fi" is considered shorthand for "Science-Fiction", implying that would be the content;  whereas "Syfy" is in fact just a totally meaningless bit of noise, and gives them license to schedule whatever they wish.  Okay ... )

Back to Alan then.

Of all the people in this movie, he alone appears to be actually having fun, being so deliciously nasty.

After the Sheriff  has said he'll cut out Robin Hood's  heart with a spoon ...
Guy of Gisborne: "Why a spoon, cousin?  Why not an axe?"
Sheriff: "Because it's DULL, you twit.  It'll hurt more."
(Said with a sneer that only Alan Rickman can manage; he has an absolute lock on that.)

Sheriff: (to a wench"You.  My room.  10:30 tonight."
Sheriff: (to another wench"You.  10:45 ... And bring a friend."

Upon hearing from a scribe about the relationship Robin Hood has with the people...
Sheriff: "Just a minute. Robin Hood steals money from my pocket, forcing me to hurt the public,  -- and they love him for it?"
The scribe nods.
Sheriff: "That's it then.  Cancel the kitchen scraps for lepers and orphans, no more merciful beheadings,  -- and call off Christmas!!!"

One thing I'll always wonder: Was that last parting shot scripted?
Or, was Rickman on a roll at that time and he just ad-libbed it?

At times, he seems to be in an entirely different movie than the rest of the cast is, and almost succeeds in making this bloated epic truly watchable.  Unfortunately, as with Ian McShane in the latest "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie, he can't do the job all by himself  (although he does what he can). 

What put him on the map was his role as Hans Gruber (one of the all-time great villains) in Die Hard  (1988), opposite Bruce Willis...

Problem with getting on the map that way is the danger of typecasting.  In Quigly Down Under  (1990), opposite Tom Selleck, he played a villain with a mustache almost fit for twirling.  He seemed to be at the top of any list for playing a back-stabbing, conniving SOB, and got quite a bit of work as such.

But, that's not the only side to him.  Right after "Quigly", he appeared in Truly Madly Deeply (1990), wherein he was a ghost hanging around his girlfriend who really needed to get on with her life, but found it a bit difficult with him and his ghost friends around all the time, watching videos (what else do you do with all that time in the afterlife?)  It was a sweet, warm role totally unexpected for the guy who played Hans Gruber.

His latest work has been as Professor Severus Snape, the "Darth Vader" of the Harry Potter series...

He's actually the most tragic figure in the story, very multi-layered (Yes!  I'm quite aware that I use that phrase a lot;  I'm drawn to characters that rate it).  Rickman succeeds in the challenge of taking a character you've learned to hate, and making you almost weep for him near the end of the last movie.

What can I say?  The man is simply so damned good.
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UPDATE Thursday, 14 JAN 2016:  I've just learned that Alan Rickman has left us today...  

...  FAR TOO SOON.  Rest in peace, Sir.  :-(
frown emoticon(Originally published 2102 CST 08 AUG 2011)
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Monday, December 14, 2015

"He WON the ones he HAD to."

... Bottom line reply of a couple of British historians on George Washington's military prowess, in response to an argument that, "He LOST more battles than he WON."

I suspect that North Vietnam's General Võ Nguyên Giáp would have understood PERFECTLY. 

During our Bicentennial in 1976, CBS ran a number "Bicentennial Minutes" (short educational American television segments commemorating the bicentennial of the American Revolution). 

In one of them, U.S. Army Colonel Harry G. Summers, Jr. talked of his participation in the Paris Peace Talks, in 1973, as part of the delegation negotiating our withdrawal from Vietnam. At that time, he felt deeply humiliated at being party to what amounted to a surrender on our part. 

He recalled that one time, when leaving the conference room, he tore into one of the Vietnamese delegates, "You know, you never beat us on the battlefield". 

Instead of the argument he was spoiling for, what he got in return was, "That may be so, but it is also irrelevant."

He acknowledged THAT to be "the shortest, most succinct lesson in strategy I have EVER been privileged to hear".

Recently, on The History Channel, I came across Washington the Warrior (2006), (which I now have on order from Amazon). This is an uttelry fascinating look at our first Commander in Chief, which I cannot recommend too highly. There is NOTHING stuffy or boring about him.


To go along with that I would also recommend The Crossing (2000), about Washington's crossing the Delaware to attack a Hessian brigade at Trenton, New Jersey, at a time when his army was almost disintegrated from lack of supplies and support, figuring that the Hessians had everything he was in need of.



Hunt these up and enjoy History at its' best.
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Friday, November 20, 2015

The Accountant

"Since the birth of time, humanity has endeavored to restrain evil men in prisons. But since Cain fled the murder of his brother, evil men have fled the walls of punishment.

"So, it doesn't matter if you're a badass motherf****r on the run, because you think you're better than everyone else, and somehow entitled to do what you gotta do.

"No. Because, you see, badass motherf****rs are never fast enough. In the end, they will all be accounted for."

~The Accountant (Satan's Accountant) in the movie Drive Angry (2011) ...

... a movie I truly love, but am hesitant to recommend.  You see, it is R rated for a reason. There are scenes in it that pretty well qualify as porn. But if you can get past that, you'll find that The Accountant more than makes up for that.

John Milton (Nicholas Cage) escapes from Hell (in a black Buick Riviera) to go after some men from a Satanic cult, who have murdered his daughter and taken that daughter's baby to be used as a human sacrifice when the moon is full in a few days.

Milton is pursued by The Accountant (William Fichtner, dressed like a lawyer of coarse :-) who, while never forgetting his primary mission to bring Milton back, decides to help him recover his grandchild when he learns what the cult has done and is preparing to do.



In the third scene of that clip, two young stoners happen upon a crashed car and wonder if anyone is inside, when the door flies off (kicked by The Accountant who was inside) and knocks down the Second Stoner. That scene starts when The Accountant emerges ...

First Stoner:  "Jesus!"
The Accountant:  "-Carpenter. And despite what you've heard, prefers short hair."
Second Stoner:  "You almost fuck**g killed me, man."
The Accountant:  "Not even close. I won't see you again until you're 73."
(to the First Stoner):  "You, I'll see in three months."

It's rare for Nicholas Cage to be upstaged in a movie he's starring in (the best example I can think of being "The Rock", in which he's partnered with Sean Connery) but Fichtner so owns this movie that when he's on scene, the other actors might as well have stayed home.

Now, in truth, WITHOUT Fichtner, I would have classed this movie as VERY mediocre.  But it DOES have him, and that makes all the difference in the world. 

I first saw him in "Heat", where he's mob boss Roger Van Zant, who was the owner of a lot of bearer bonds stolen by Neil McCauley (Robert de Niro). When a deal is made for him to buy them back for an amount that would be covered by insurance money, he double crosses McCauley with an ambush (figuring that the LAST thing he needs is for punks on the street to think it Ok to steal from him). After surviving that ambush, McCauley phones Van Zant to tell him, "Forget the money."
van Zant: "Forget it?!!!  What are you doing?"
McCauley: "What am I doing?  I'm talking to an empty phone.  Because there'a dead man on the other end of it."

Fichtner has been in "Contact", "The Perfect Storm", and many others, and always first class.

But, he appears to be having a real blast playing The Accountant, and admits to exactly that in one of the interviews on the DVD.  You could make a really fine movie just devoted to this character, and I suspect he would be just fine with that.
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Thursday, October 22, 2015

Six times

When asked by the arraignment judge, “Why did you shoot the man 6 times?"

The woman replied under oath, “Because, when I pulled the trigger the 7th time, it only went click.”

Found on facebook ...
http://www.iamatexan.com/2015/10/21/this-is-why-you-dont-mess-with-texas-women/

Sadly, the article ends with ...

(Yes, this is a joke. Sort of. Don’t think you can get away with purse snatching in Texas. You can’t. Our women are well-armed, know how to defend themselves, and beautiful. And it’s Texas – the law is on their side.)

Oh, Well. New Texas Urban Legend is born. :-)
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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Survivor

Apologies to all for my recent whining, posted at the beginning of my "The Martian" post ...
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Thanks to my accident just before Memorial Day, I don't get out to movies as often as I used to, or as often as I would like. My current situation (inoperable car, not a snowball's chance in Hell of obtaining the funds to make it usable, being half crippled and sometimes barely able to walk a couple of blocks to a bus stop) makes that arduous and painful.
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Some of you know that I am definitely in a "down" right now, but I DO have options.

If I can make it to March, without doing anything drastic and final from pure despair, I might be able to do something about that car, which will be a true Godsend. Because of my age, and my income status, I will very likely get ALL of my Federal withholding tax returned, which looks like it will be a bit over $1200.00. I'm confident that THAT should be enough.

Additionally, the absolutely CRUSHING financial position I'm in right now could be relieved by doing Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. I'm not real keen on THAT, as it involves the MOTHER OF ALL PAPERWORK.

But, as an alternative to my final option, it is definitely on the table.

I've had major ups and downs before - a LOT of them. And I'm STILL here.

About thirty years ago, I had such a deep bout of severe depression, I had to see a shrink to avoid losing my job.  Now, she was only doing her job, trying to lift me out of the funk I was in, when she told me that she "saw a survivor. You pulled up stakes and moved halfway across the country to start a new career. Wimps don't do that.".

I treasured that. I HAVE to survive this; if for no other reason, than to avoid proving that lady wrong.

Wish me luck  And, Thanks.  :-)

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

War of Worlds Musical

Watching the episode of "Fargo"  I recorded last night, I found a bit of THIS music in it. Sadly, this album appears out iof print; Amazon.com listed ONE new CD at $265.00. If you're interested, you may have no alternative to downloading the music. ...
JEFF WAYNE'S MUSICAL VERSION OF THE WAR OF THE WORLDS - PART 1 - THE EVE OF THE WAR - HQ

Narrated by Richard Burton, this is truly an amazing album, well worth the trouble of finding a download of the full album, if that's the ONLY way you can check it out.
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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Martian

Thanks to my accident just before Memorial Day, I don't get out to movies as often as I used to, or as often as I would like. My current situation (inoperable car, not a snowball's chance in Hell of obtaining the funds to make it usable, being half crippled and sometimes barely able to walk a couple of blocks to a bus stop) makes that arduous and painful.

THIS movie, The Martian (2015), was WORTH the ordeal.
From polarbearstv.com

Astronaut Mark Watney is left behind, presumed dead, after a violent storm has slammed a piece of equipment onto him and forced the rest of the crew to leave before their vehicle is damaged by that storm.

But, in fact he is still alive and has the problem of remaining so for several years before a rescue mission could get there.



For the most part, the science is pretty solid (although SOME liberties are taken, most specifically in the storm that is the CAUSE of the emergency in the first place).

What I particularly liked was the professionalism of the characters in this story. Although they have disagreements, I don't recall any of the stupidity in their actions that you all too often see in movies of this sort.  In short, the movie does not insult your intelligence.

This is director Ridley Scott's best work since "Alien" and "Blade Runner".

Bottom line:  Check it out while it's on a BIG screen, in 3D if you can. :-)

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Friday, October 02, 2015

Riders on the Storm ...

... by Jim Morrison and The Doors.


The things you come across when you're looking for something else. While searching for a good video of "Riders on the storm", by Jim Morrison and The Doors, I found THIS piece by Ray Manzarek, keyboardist of The Doors, about how "Riders" came to be ...

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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

"Moby Dick":

... The inspiration.

In 1820, the whaling ship Essex was attacked and sunk by a whale. The story inspired Herman Melville to create his masterpiece, "Moby Dick".

Ron Howard's In the Heart of the Sea (2015) covers the Essex story ...

Originally scheduled for a March 2015 release, the studio decided to move it to 11 DEC 2015, to make it more prominent to those who make Academy Award nominations, indicating a very high degree of confidence that they have a winner here.

This is VERY definitely on my "must see" list.
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Saturday, September 19, 2015

If you remember THIS song, ...

... then, BOY, are you OLD.  :-)


While the video is obviously of fairly recent vintage, the song by The Four Lads was a #1 hit in 1953)
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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Blow 'em up REAL good :-)

THIRTY MINUTES of blowing up buildings, bridges and other structures ...

What MORE needs sayin'?  :-)
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Monday, September 14, 2015

THIS you can trust.

... the philosophy of movie director John Milius.
 
 
He was a great believer in taking care of things yourself.
 
Conan the Barbarian opens with the casting, forging and tempering of Conan's father's sword, and concludes with the father telling a very young Conan ...
 
"Fire and wind come from the sky,
"from the Gods of the sky.
"But Crom is your God,
"Crom, and he lives in the Earth."

"Once giants lived in the Earth, Conan.
"And in the darkness of chaos...
"they fooled Crom,
"and they took from him the enigma of steel."

"Crom was angered,
"and the Earth shook.
"And fire and wind struck down those giants,
"and they threw their bodies into the waters."

"But in their rage,
"the Gods forgot the secret of steel and left it on the battlefield."

"And we who found it...
"are just men.
"Not Gods. Not giants.
"Just men."

"And the secret of steel has always carried with it a mystery."

"You must learn its riddle, Conan.
"You must learn its discipline."

"For no one,
"no one in this world can you trust;
"not men, not women, not beasts."

(Pointing to his sword):
"THIS you can trust."

The script for Conan is credited to Milius AND to Oliver Stone, but what I've seen of his movies tells me that speech above is pure John Milius, and describes perfectly his philosophy of life,

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Saturday, September 12, 2015

Warbirds

Incorporating videos in my posts is new to me.  I've been blogging since October 2009. on an HP computer (the "Mack truck" of computers) that I bought around the end of 2003. Being an XP machine, with limited memory and on a dial-up connection, dealing with videos was an exercise in masochism. The old machine died a few months ago (hard drive crash).

I replaced it with a refurbished Windows 7 machine (HP of course :-) and took advantage of my apartment complex having outlets installed for Comcast/Xfinity, and got a good deal for activating high-speed internet and digital phone service. Like graduating from a Volkswagen to a Porsche.

So now, I'm learning how to incorporate youtube videos, play with the HTML code to adjust the size they appear here, and how to download those videos onto my computer (as insurance against them being pulled from youtube).

I started with 2cellos, a wonderfully insane music video.

Next came Insight from The Third Man ... , about a wonderful little speech that Orson Welles added to the movie.

And, NOW, here's my latest attempts involving the subjects of the title of this post.  Hope you enjoy.

The Brits know how to put on a show. During the Falklands War (when Argentina invaded the British Falkland Islands in 1982), one of these made an EXTREMELY long range attack down there.
 On its return, it made a demo pass over an air show outside of Houston, where I got a wonderful look at it.
 

The only surviving Messerschmitt BF109E-4 still flying. It was shot down and belly landed in a field during the Battle of Britain in 1940. It is currently with the Russel Aviation Group, Ontario Canada.
PS - If you like the background music, it's from DAFT PUNK's soundtrack for TRON: Legacy (2010).
 
 
On 21 September 1953 a North Korean pilot defected, flying a MIG-15 jet fighter interceptor to Seoul , South Korea. In the process the pilot collected a $100000 reward which had been offered by the United States Government. The United States Air Force quickly set about conducting flight tests to determine the capabilities, and limitations, of the Russian designed aircraft

Among the three test pilots was USAF Major Charles "Chuck" Yeager, the first man to fly faster than sound in the Bell X1 in 1947.  I remember Tom Wolfe's book "The Right Stuff" mentioning that.

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Insight from The Third Man ...


The Third Man (1949) 

Out of work pulp fiction novelist, Holly Martins (Joseph Cotton), arrives in post war Vienna to accept a job offer from ex-school friend, Harry Lime (Orson Welles), only to hear of Lime's death from a peculiar traffic accident.

Holly finds that Lime has faked his death and is involved in black market penicillin (diluted) that results in many deaths. He finds Lime and confronts him.
 
Based on Graham Greene's novel, the movie is faithful to it, but it was Orson Welles who added THIS little insight ...
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