Good Idea

...see, I do have some good ideas...

L

ast week I wrote an entry on the issue of a falling salary cap number in the NHL. The falling cap means some teams will have less room than they'd like to fill out their roster. I suggested teams pay a salary that is a percentage of the cap instead of a flat amount. I sent the following question to the Toronto Star hockey reporter:

Q: If an NHL team is worried about a falling cap number and committing dollars to a free agrent which squeezes room for other players, why not sign contracts where the salary is a percentage of the cap number and not a flat amount. It probably makes sense to assign all players a percentage of the cap and you don't have to worry about being squeezed. (Provided the GM isn't Max Bialystock and his assistant isn't Leo Bloom.)

A: Yes, if it were only so that we knew those who have run the Leafs for the past 40 years were simply channeling The Producers. It would all make so much more sense.

Basically, what you’re suggesting is an interesting idea, but not legal under the current collective bargaining agreement. Each player must have defined salary and number for cap purposes. The only way in which a percentage of the cap can be used is to generate the maximum salary allowable, which can be no more than 20 per cent of the maximum cap figure for any individual.

I would someone at the NHL was thinking when put the CBA together.

Posted 2009/03/31 at 18h28ET in Hockey.

Cardio (6.0080)

...a typical cardio workout...

I

thought perhaps I'd get in 60 mins of cardio today. I haven't done that in a while and thought I needed it. Well, it didn't happen. I am working on five hours sleep today--not enough for me--so I'm dragging my ass today. Funny thing is, I felt alive and full of energy after my 30 mins on the elliptical machine. That's no surprising, I usually feel better after my workout.

Posted 2009/03/31 at 18h28ET in Exercise.

Victor Victoria (1982)

Victor Victoria. Feature film. (1982, 130 mins) IMDB

...just thinking about this film brings a smile to my face...

I

f you're like me, you've seen a great number of movies over the years. Many of them are forgettable, but occasionally there's a movie that for whatever sticks in your mind. VICTOR VICTORIA is one of those movies for me. I must have seen it sometime in the 1980s and a second time probably one rainy Sunday afternoon. I remembered I loved the movie, but more importantly many specific details from the movie stuck in my mind. Lines of dialogue. Specific scenes. Robert Preston's performance.

I watched it again tonight and I probably love it more than the other times. It's perfectly cast with wonderful performances, a great story, wonderful music, incredible costumes and sets for the 1930s. There's all that plus Blake Edwards's quirky comedic moments sprinkled throughout the film.

The movie is a musical and comedy, but more significantly a romance and the romance works.

Julie Andrews plays Victoria Grant, a singer in Paris in 1934. She's so hard up for money she licks the food off someone's napkin. Her luck changes when she meets a cabaret performer played by Robert Preston. In a moment of insight, he realizes the answer to her problems. If she can't make it as a female performer, she can pretend to be a man who does female impersonations. TOOTSIE used the same premise but instead of singing, Hoffman was an actor. (Odd both films were released in 1982. I wonder what was going on).

It doesn't take long for Victor to become a smash hit and as a man she meets James Garner and falls in love. What follows is the struggle to realize that love.

And will I watch it again? Yes. On some rainy Sunday afternoon. Just thinking about the film brings a smile.

Posted 2009/03/31 at 18h28ET in Movie Commentary.

Vantage Point (2008)

Vantage Point. Feature film. (2008, 90 mins) IMDB

...the filmmakers's idea of insight is rather obvious...

T

ake a run-of-the-mill storyline, chop it up into pieces and show the same event from six different points of view and you have a film called VANTAGE POINT.

There is nothing new in this film. Nothing new about the narrative and nothing new about the way it is told. All have been done before, yet it is an interesting film since you'll probably want to see it come together in the third act, but once you do, you won't need to see it a second time and you may be probably be disappointed.

That's my fundamental test for a movie. Would I want to watch it a second time or a third or fourth? In this case, once is enough.

The film takes place in a large city in Spain. World leaders have gathered to sign a treaty to fight terrorism. The big dog on the block is the US president complete with his massive convoy and army of secret service men.

In the seventh minute, POTUS steps to the podium to address the crowd and the world TV audience. Without saying a word, he is shot twice and collapses. Chaos ensues. We hear a distant bomb. A minute later, a bomb under the podium goes off and all hell breaks loose.

Who shot the president? Was he really shot? Will the shooter be caught? If so, how? My immediate answer was "inside job." One of the secret service agents had turned bad.

In thrillers the story line continues until there is a twist. The twist comes in the way of new information we didn't have before (although we may have guessed it in advance). The twists are often the revelation we were duped. We thought A happened, when in fact A never happened, it was B or C. The classic example of this twist is character B, a supporting character to our hero, was seen as a good guy, someone to trust, when in fact he's a mole.

There are two major twists in this story. The person shot wasn't the president, but a double. Second, it was an inside job. One of the secret service agents worked with the terrorists and helped them carry out the plan. It's the most plausible explanation for what happened in the first POV sequence.

How it comes together in the third act is complete Hollywood make-believe. The good guy (played by Barnes) figures it all out and, with little aid, chases after the bad guy. There is a car chase that lasts at least five minutes if not more and is typical no-brainer fair. Once the bad guy is chased down and killed, the president is saved and life goes back to normal.

The first POV sequence is from inside a TV control room covering the event. It works because we're setting up the start of the film and TV reporting is a natural for exposition.

The second POV is our hero--Quaid as a grizzled secret service agent protecting the president. Introduce our hero early in the film. The pat-the-dog scene is a TV clip showing him literally taking a bullet for the president. The inner turmoil is bubbling out with his sweat.

The subsequent sequences show other characters until we finally see how the bad guys pulled it off. Once that's over, it's Act III where they have taken the real president hostage and the chase is on.

The film is fun to a point but not great.

Posted 2009/03/31 at 18h28ET in Movie Commentary.

Movies Watched in March 2009

1. 2009/03/01 The Spiderwick Chronicles. Mystery. (2008, 96 mins.) ***
2. 2009/03/01 Fracture. Thriller. (2007, 113 mins.) ***
3. 2009/03/02 Another Life. Drama. (2001, 101 mins.) **
4. 2009/03/03 I Am Legend. Drama. (2007, 101 mins.) ***
5. 2009/03/04 Once. Musical. (2006, 85 mins.) ***½
6. 2009/03/05 For Love of Ivy. Romantic Comedy. (1968, 101 mins.) ****
7. 2009/03/05 They Call Me MISTER Tibbs!. Drama. (1970, 108 mins.) *
8. 2009/03/06 Marie Antoinette (2006). Historical. (2006, 123 mins.) **
9. 2009/03/06 A Piece of the Action. Comedy. (1977, 135 mins.) ***
10. 2009/03/07 The Heiress. Drama. (1949, 115 mins.) ****
11. 2009/03/07 Cinderfella. Comedy. (1960, 91 mins.) **
12. 2009/03/07 The Ladies Man. Comedy. (1961, 95 mins.) **½
13. 2009/03/08 Tucker: The Man and His Dream. Drama. (1988, 110 mins.) **½
14. 2009/03/09 Congo. Drama. (1995, 109 mins.) *
15. 2009/03/10 Awake. Thriller. (2007, 84 mins.) **
16. 2009/03/10 Chaplin. Comedy. (1992, 143 mins.) ***½
17. 2009/03/11 The Other Boleyn Girl. Drama. (2008, 115 mins.) ***
18. 2009/03/11 Petulia. Drama. (1968, 105 mins.) **
19. 2009/03/12 The First Wives Club. Comedy. (1996, 103 mins.) **
20. 2009/03/13 Finding Neverland. Drama. (2004, 106 mins.) ****
21. 2009/03/13 August. Drama. (2008, 88 mins.) *½
22. 2009/03/14 The Express. Drama. (2008, 130 mins.) ***½
23. 2009/03/15 Sleuth. Drama. (2007, 86 mins.) ***
24. 2009/03/15 Funny Games. Thriller. (2007, 111 mins.) **
25. 2009/03/16 Wanted. Action. (2008, 110 mins.) **½
26. 2009/03/17 The Women (2008). Comedy. (2008, 114 mins.) **
27. 2009/03/18 Angel. Drama. (2007, 134 mins.) **
28. 2009/03/19 The Heart of Me. Drama. (2002, 96 mins.) **
29. 2009/03/19 Aerial Gunner. War. (1943, 78 mins.) *½
30. 2009/03/20 The Grass Is Greener. Comedy. (1960, 105 mins.) ****
31. 2009/03/21 Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Action. (2008, 122 mins.) ***
32. 2009/03/21 Ride The High Country. Western. (1962, 96 mins.) **½
33. 2009/03/21 The Doctor. Drama. (1991, 122 mins.) ***½
34. 2009/03/22 W.. Drama. (2008, 129 mins.) ***
35. 2009/03/23 The Palm Beach Story. Romantic Comedy. (1942, 88 mins.) ***
36. 2009/03/23 The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2. Drama. (2008, 117 mins.) ***
37. 2009/03/24 Cleaner. Drama. (2007, 88 mins.) ***
38. 2009/03/24 Snakes On A Plane. Fantasy. (2006, 105 mins.) **
39. 2009/03/25 Union Pacific. Drama. (1939, 135 mins.) ****
40. 2009/03/25 Si j'étais toi. Drama. (2007, 92 mins.) **½
41. 2009/03/26 Trade. Drama. (2007, 120 mins.) ***
42. 2009/03/26 Tora! Tora! Tora!. War. (1970, 144 mins.) ***
43. 2009/03/27 Real Time. Drama. (2008, 80 mins.) **½
44. 2009/03/27 Two For The Road. Romantic Comedy. (1967, 111 mins.) ****
45. 2009/03/28 The Sensation of Sight. Drama. (2006, 134 mins.) *
46. 2009/03/28 The Crusades. War. (1935, 125 mins.) **
47. 2009/03/29 Shampoo. Comedy. (1975, 109 mins.) **½
48. 2009/03/29 Flushed Away. Animation. (2006, 85 mins.) ***½
49. 2009/03/29 His Girl Friday. Comedy. (1940, 92 mins.) ****
50. 2009/03/30 Vantage Point. Thriller. (2008, 90 mins.) ***
51. 2009/03/30 Victor Victoria. Comedy. (1982, 130 mins.) ****
52. 2009/03/31 The Golden Compass. Adventure. (2007, 113 mins.) ****

Listed 2012/04/02 at 03h17ET.

Weights Day (6.0071)

...a busy Monday...

A

nother busy Monday and I almost decided not to workout today, but I did. I wouldn't call it a full workout, but it was better than nothing.

Lateral Back 27 kg x 25 reps x 3 sets

Vertical Back 27 kg x 25 reps x 3 sets

Stomach Crunches: 30 reps x 4 sets with 2KG medicine ball.

No Leg Lunges or squats.

Posted 2009/03/30 at 20h07ET in Exercise.

Flushed Away (2006)

Flushed Away. Feature film. (2006, 85 mins) IMDB

...watch and enjoy...

F

LUSHED AWAY is a funny, interesting, enjoyable animation film. Pratfalls to make you laugh. A love story. Action to interest. An ending that resolves the story, isn't predictable but is setup. That's difficult to create and many stories lack all three elements.

The premise: Roddy is a pampered pet rat living in luxury. When the family goes away on holiday, he's left alone, but loving it. When a sewer rat arrives, his world is turned upside down and he's flushed down the drain into the underworld of sewer rats. How does he get back in one piece?

During his attempts to leave the hell-hole, he meets Rita. She's savvy of the ways of the sewer, devoted to her family, running from the Toad (our bigger than life villain) and his henchmen, and totally uninterested in knowing let alone helping our hero.

That they should spend the rest of the movie together in what can best be described as "buddy movie" isn't surprising.

Posted 2009/03/30 at 20h07ET in Movie Commentary.

Shampoo (1975)

Shampoo. Feature film. (1975, 109 mins) IMDB

...no do-overs in life...

W

arren Beatty plays George, a pretty-boy hairdresser in Hollywood. Not only is George not gay, he's a womanizer who will jump into bed with just about any women. Hell, he'll jump out of one bed to jump into another. He's completely flighty and irresponsible. A bachelor forever.

His girlfriend is Jill (Hawn). She's in love with him and is too stupid or naive to see what's going on. At the end of the second Act, she finds him screwing Jackie (Christie), her best friend and his former lover. The shades are off Jill's eyes and the relationship is over. Jill moves on.

Jackie is a kept woman. She'd be with George if he wasn't so irresponsible. She didn't want to wait while George grew up. Her lover and keeper is Lester (Jack Warden). He's older and loaded with money, but he's also married to Felica (Grant). Their marriage is dying. Felica has George do her hair and her plumping.

At a dinner banquet to watch the presidential results (Nixon in 1968), all the couples come together in the same room and all the relationships are torn at the seams.

Felcia wants a divorce.

By the end of the movie, George has learnt the errors of his ways, realizes he's in love with Jackie and asks her to marry him. The problem is, since Lester left his wife, he's free to marry Jackie. She said yes and they plan a trip to Mexico.

You'd wouldn't think Warden would end up with the girl and not Beatty, but that is precisely want happens. From a Hollywood hill, George looks down as a Bentley (or Rolls Royce) pulls out of Jackie's drive way and down a long road toward the airport. Inside is Lester and Jackie and her luggage. As the camera tracks the car over the shoulder of Beatty, the anticipation grows. When will we see the glow of break lights?, but they never come. The car disappears into the distance, cut to black and the movie is over.

Sometimes we realize what we have when it's too late.

Posted 2009/03/30 at 20h07ET in Movie Commentary.

Swimming (6.0062)

...swimming has become a pleasant workout...

I

had to go to the gym today for a workout and did. 30 mins in the pool doing laps. I wasn't exactly sprinting down the lane, but it's a good, light Sunday afternoon workout.

Posted 2009/03/29 at 18h14ET in Exercise.

The Crusades (1935)

The Crusades. Feature film. (1935, 125 mins) IMDB

...a Hollywood romance with swords thrown in...

T

he title is extremely misleading. The film is not about the crusades but a love story set in the midst of a crusade led by King Richard.

Richard never spoke English and barely even lived on the British isles. He was a Norman who spoke French, but you wouldn't know that from this film.

The filmmakers also want you to believe the King would have been caught up in something as trivial as love. Not a chance. Marriage wasn't about love. It was about matters of state, about power, and with that power, wealth.

A true-to-history film about King Richard and the Crusades would lack romance and therefore wouldn't appeal to a broad audience.

What we have in this film is nothing more than a love story. Richard is betrothed to Alice, the sister of King Philip of France. He doesn't want to marry her. He decides to go on the crusade because there's a chance he'll die and therefore not have to marry Alice.

In Marseille, he negotiates with a local King for food. Richard will marry the king's daughter in exchange for cattle and grain. Richard doesn't attend the wedding--he sends his sword instead. The oddest wedding ceremony I've ever seen. His wife to be is the gorgeous Loretta Young. She despises his boorish behaviour. He can't even bother to meet her, but when he does meet her, it's love at first sight.

Once in the Holy Lands, the battles against the Arabs begin, but oddly we don't see very much of it. The camera is held in close, never back to give a wide shot. I can guess at the reason--money. To film it otherwise would have cost a great deal more. As a result, the film doesn't have the feel we're used to when battles are shown. DeMille would make up for it in his later films.

THE CRUSADES is not a great film. It's mildly interesting with a completely absurd Hollywood romance narrative. I expected a great deal more from this film.

Posted 2009/03/29 at 18h14ET in Movie Commentary.

The Sensation of Sight (2006)

The Sensation of Sight. Feature film. (2006, 134 mins) IMDB

...another non-linear non-sense film that is supposedly profound but isn't...

A

t what point did a confusing narrative become great story telling? I am amazed at how people have been duped by this film. (And others like it).

I have no issue with the actors or their performances. It's entirely with the filmmakers. Their idea of a great story is to present a middle-aged man in angst for reasons we don't know. Somehow his bizarre behaviour, as a result, is great cinema, great storytelling, but we have no idea where he's been or where he's going and therefore it's meaningless.

The linear narrative of the story is straightforward. A high school teacher (our so-called hero Finn) stands in a class room with a student. One on one. The student pulls out a pistol, shoves it into his mouth and kills himself. The teacher is screwed up as a result.

The filmmakers don't want you to know that. No. They want to fuck with your mind as if they have profound things to pronounce. As if figuring out why this guy is fucked up is suspense. Tell us why and show us how to solve it. That is storytelling. That is something I'm interested in.

Instead, they present a screwed-up middle-aged man who pulls around a child's wagon in a small town. I suppose we're supposed to wonder why, but we don't care because we know nothing about him.

I expected a great deal more from this film then some ghost haunting. I suppose it's not suppose to be literal yet that how's they show it--the wordless young man in his black suit who shadows people. We seem him, but the characters can't.

Ghosts don't exist. They simply don't. But the "ghost" in this film is the suicide asshole. In order words, we're haunted by past events. The ghost is simply our inability to move on and live in the present. Things from the past, at times, consume our present thoughts. It happens. But why hide that fact? Show it. Show the teacher as normal. Show the suicide. Show the reaction. Show the breakdown. And so on.

Instead the filmmakers present this muddled mess that doesn't engage because we see n number of characters living in a void, behaving without context. Who are they? What do they want? We ask these questions and when we get no response, we give up.

If you want to see a non-linear film that works see Richard Donen's TWO FOR THE ROAD with Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney. It's an engaging film that works from start to finish and while it's non-linear, there's still a three-act structure to it complete with suspense.

Posted 2009/03/29 at 18h14ET in Movie Commentary.

Real Time (2008)

Real Time. Feature film. (2008, 80 mins) IMDB

...what do you do when you an hour to live?...

T

ake one last look at the world.

It's the line Reuben (Quaid) says to Andy (Baruchel) in Act III of this short, very shot film. The pistol in Reuben's hand is pointed at Andy's head. Indeed. One last look.

Except for Emily Dickinson, Woody Allen and me, not many people dwell on death. We know we're going to die at some point. The question is when, where and how. In Andy's case it's bullet to the head at 15h--compliments of Reuben. At least that's what the filmmakers what us to believe and yet we know there must be a twist to change the storyline and there is.

Andy is a deadbeat. A loser. If he died no one would mourn. No one would remember. The world would be neither better off or worse off. He simple exists in his miserable life. Because of ignorance, his lack of education, he believes there is such thing as luck--good luck, bad luck, shitty luck, fucking terrible luck. To him, nothing in his life is about what he does, it's about what happens to him.

The film begins with Andy studying a race form. He wonders if he should go to the race track and if so what horse to bet on. Along the way he stops at a variety store to buy a lottery ticket. No luck there and off to the race track except Reuben comes to take him away.

Reuben is an underworld figure who volunteered to kill Andy for his $68K in gambling debts. If it was about killing Andy, it would have happened in a minute and the film would be over. Can't have that. Reuben gives Andy a chance to settle his affairs before Andy's luck has completely run out. The clock is ticking.

For the rest of the film, it's primarily Reuben driving his car around this working class city with Andy. They talk and talk in a mostly philosophical manner about life. Reuben is trying to teach some lessons to Andy, but it surely must be wasted on him.

The twist? Reuben is dying from cancer. In the climax of the scene with Andy kneeling on the ground waiting to be shot, Reuben spills his guts with emotions about his own life. Cut away to a wide shot of the forest. Hear the sound of a gun shot echo across the field. Cut back to the scene where Andy is still kneeling, petrified. Reuben lays on the ground dead.

In Rueben's suit pocket is an envelop for Andy. It contains a bank draft for $68K. The amount to pay of his debt. Another chance for this deadbeat who probably doesn't deserve another chance.

The handwritten note says, "You're a lucky son of a bitch, Andy."

The film is billed as comedy. Can't say I found many scenes with humour. One or two at best.

And why did they use US cash, greenbacks, instead of Canadian currency when it's clearly shot in Canada with Canadian flags flying and Canadian words (e.g., pop). I don't get that.

Posted 2009/03/28 at 19h14ET in Movie Commentary.

Weights & Swimming (6.0053)

...a different sort of workout today...

I

solved my problem. I wanted to go swimming today and did. I also wanted to get in some weights and did. It turned out to be 90 minute workout, but I reached my objective for this week.

Bicep Curls: 7kg x 25 reps x 3 sets

Bench Press: 11kg x 25 reps x 3 sets

Inclined Bench Press: 11kg x 20 reps x 3 sets

Stomach Crunches: 30 reps x 6 sets with 2KG medicine ball.

Posted 2009/03/28 at 19h14ET in Exercise.

Two For The Road (1967)

Two For The Road. Feature film. (1967, 111 mins) IMDB

...two on many roads...

W

hat can I say? Audrey Hepburn. Albert Finney. Stanley Donen. Henry Mancini. Maurice Binder.

The film is a mature look at love, marriage--falling in love, out of love, back in love. The challenges of marriage when careers and children get in the way. It's also a film told in an unusual way. It's completely non-linear. We see a young Mark and Joa28a as they fall in love, later as they bicker on summer vacations in France. The film switches back and forth between these different times and yet it's still structured with three-acts.

I think it's impossible to not like Audrey Hepburn. Her involvement in this film isn't the reason it's a great film, but I can't imagine it with anyone but her in it.

Posted 2009/03/28 at 19h14ET in Movie Commentary.

Cardio (6.0044)

...I almost didn't exercise today...

I

went to the gym and had a pre-workout shower. As I dried off I debated whether I should stay or leave. I started to dress to leave and backtracked. I put on my workout clothes and did 30 minutes on the elliptical machine. I wasn't pushing it but I still worked up a sweat. It counts as a workout.

I thought I might do weights today. Nope. Not sure about tomorrow or Sunday. Weights tomorrow or not? That is the question.

Posted 2009/03/27 at 20h06ET in Exercise.

Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970)

Tora! Tora! Tora!. Feature film. (1970, 144 mins) IMDB

...Get a sense of what it might have been like on the day the Japanse attacked Pearl Harbour...

T

ora! Tora! Tora! was the code word the Japanese military used for its attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941. When the bomber and fighter pilots heard those words, they knew the attack was a go.

The film shows the events leading up to the attack from both the US and Japanese point of view. Unlike a lot of WWII movies, the Japanese military men speak their native language instead of Hollywood English. I prefer that approach even if the white subtitles are sometimes washing out because the background is white. White on white doesn't work.

There are no stars in this film because the focus shifts from one of many characters and the focus is mainly on the mandarins in Washington and Tokyo or the generals and admirals. We never connect with a private on the ground or a seaman on a ship unlike a lot of war movies. In that sense, the film is more a documentary made with professional actors and very large budget than a feature film. Yet I enjoyed it. I was intrigued by the bureaucratic bungling and diplomatic talks. The battle sequences were believable and filled with real explosions--not CGI smoke and flames.

The film doesn't address the revisionist history of the event. Did FDR know the attack was coming? Did anyone else know? Could it have been avoided?

Posted 2009/03/27 at 20h05ET in Movie Commentary.

Trade (2007)

Trade. Feature film. (2007, 120 mins) IMDB

...Why do filmmakers make such bleak films...

T

he filmmakers would like you to believe this is the first film to follow the plight of women who are abducted or conned into becoming prostitutes--the sex slave trade into the US. It isn't. I've seen at least one movie on the topic, although the title escapes me at the moment.

Abducted. Conned or duped. Sex slaves. Topics that bring out the dark side of human nature. I wonder why filmmakers want to show it.

An easy answer is to allow us to feel good about ourselves. Look, someone says, I'm glad I'm not in that situation. Maybe. The same argument is made about news in general. It's filled with negative events (wars, fires, murders, accidents...). People read the newspapers and watch the television, day after day, and find comfort from other people's misery. Schadenfreude. I think it's a sad way to live life.

People build themselves up by putting others down. Sad to the nth degree, but it occurs every second we're alive.

But back to this film.

It starts out in Mexico where we meet a young man named Jorge. He has a mother and young sister. His father is nowhere to be seen. He makes a living by conning and robbing tourists. As far as he is concerned, life is good until some Russians abduct his thirteen-year old sister off the street and push her into a sex slave trade headed for New Jersey.

He follows after her and the narrative is in full swing.

Along the way he meets Kevin Kline who plays a Texas cop searching for something that isn't clearly defined until later in the film. They join forces and search for Jorge's sister.

The film shows the brutality of the captors. Rape. Forced drugs. Beatings. Coercion. And if you think it's just dirty old men wanting sex with young girls, there are young boys who are treated just as badly.

The film follows a three-act structure. Sister abducted. Follow her. Meet up with Kline. Arrive in New Jersey. Find the girl. Confrontation to save her and they succeed.

TRADE is not a film one can enjoy. Who can enjoy a rape scene? Who can enjoy a suicide? It's not a film to be a enjoyed. There is a sense of routing for the victim and that develops. Of routing for Jorge to redeem himself because he's the reason his sister is where she is and that develops. But at the end, when the abductor's world crumbles, there is no sense of triumph or relief and I don't understand why.

Posted 2009/03/27 at 20h05ET in Movie Commentary.

Weights (6.0036)

...a good workout...

T

he change in my diet is making a big difference in my weight loss. I hit 92.2 KG today. The weight, fat, is coming off and staying off. I feel slimmer.

Bicep Curls: 7kg x 25 reps x 3 sets

Tricep Presses: 14kg x 25 reps x 3 sets.

Stomach Crunches: 30 reps x 6 sets with 2KG medicine ball.

Leg Lunges: 10 reps x 6 sets - Left/Right

Squats: 10 reps x 6 sets.

I face a dilemma. I want to go swimming on Saturday and Sunday. I want three weight workouts this week (I've done two). And I shouldn't do weights on consecutive days. Something's got to give. Do I do weights tomorrow or on Saturday or Sunday? Do I accept two weight workouts this week and cardio tomorrow? Not sure. I'll know tomorrow.

Posted 2009/03/26 at 19h20ET in Exercise.

Union Pacific (1939)

Union Pacific. Feature film. (1939, 135 mins) IMDB

...a film worth watching...

C

ecil B. DeMille is known for making epic films. Giant sets with hundreds of extras. Productions some say are cost prohibitive today without the use of computer graphics.

The budget for UNION PACFIC was apparently $1 million, but that's 1939 dollars. What is that in today's dollars? About $130 million. While that amount would be a large budget for today's standards, it probably wouldn't be enough to make the picture as he made it.

The film is based on real events, connecting the Union Pacific railroad west with California in the period after the US Civil War, but what is shown is entirely a Hollywood invention of storytelling to please an audience.

You need a good guy, a bad guy, a love interest and something at stack--an objective.

The main objective is to build the railroad, but there's another company building a railroad from west to east. Whoever gets to Odgen first wins.

Barrows is a Chicago investment banker who appears to be helping the government build the railroad, but behind their backs he works to sabotage the construction. He'll gain financially if the construction fails. He travels to St. Louis where he meets Campeau--a gambling operator. Barrow convinces Campeau to move west with the railroad where he'll offer drinks and gambling to the men who work the railroad. They'll be too drunk or too interested in gambling and women to want to work. Construction will be delayed and the railroad won't get to Odgen first.

Enter our hero, Jeff Butler played by Joel McCrea. He was an officer during the war and is now the hired gun for the railroad. His job is to smash anything stopping the construction. He's immediately at odds with Campeau and what follows are a series of confrontations between the two.

What I loved about the drama that unfolds is the fact Butler uses his wits, not his brawn or guns to win battles over Campeau. Here's an example. The train to take workers from camp to the end of the track is ready to load up. Campeau, in an attempt of sabotage, offers free drinks for everyone. The men stay to drink and gamble and not work. Butler bets he can get the men out and working without force or threat and he does. He borrows a gold nugget from Leach, his bodyguard, and tells one of the men he found it while out at the end of the track. The murmur of gold in the ground grows until the men stampede from the saloon and onto the train for work. He won the battle. He does it over and over. Wit and smarts, not guns or brawn. Bravo.

The subplot is the love story. Molly Monahan works the post office for the railroad--a rail car post office. The first time she meets Butler, she falls in love with him, but there's a catch. A love triangle in the form of Dick Allen, played by Robert Preston. Butler and he were army buddies, but there friendship is in doubt because Allen works for Campeau and he's in love with Molly. When I say Molly marries Allen, you won't believe me, but she does. Watch the film to see why.

At 135 minutes, the film is longer than it need be. The reason is there are several climaxes before the final climax to end the film. Part of the reason I think they constructed the story this way was the title. They had to show the last spike being driven into the ground, yet the fight to rid the railroad of Campeau ends well before that scene. To add in more action, our three principals head west on a train and Indians attack. The subsequent battle sequence goes on and on until the Calvary literally comes to the rescue. I'm glad those day of filmmaking are over.

The use of false climaxes and several climaxes in Act III is quite common these days for action flicks, but I wonder if they watched this film to get the idea.

The film was worth watching. Entertaining. Different. Interesting characters.

Yes. A model train collapsing on a trestle was obvious, but, hey, it was made in 1939.

Posted 2009/03/26 at 19h20ET in Movie Commentary.

Si j'étais toi (The Secret) (2007)

Si j'étais toi (The Secret). Feature film. (2007, 92 mins) IMDB

...how can a mother transfer her personality and life to her daughter?...

A

s the film opens we follow a middle-aged husband and wife. They are madly in love. Sugary type of love. They have a sixteen year old daughter who is sarcastic and petulant. It doesn't take long to realize something is going to happen to break up this perfect love nest. That event? The mother drives the family SUV on a highway with the daughter in the passenger seat. In a flash, she jerks the steering wheel to avoid hitting an oncoming vehicle, loses control. The vehicle tumbles down an embankment.

Cut to a hospital scene where mother and daughter are alive but badly injured. When the daughter goes into cardiac arrest, the mother reaches over and grabs her daughter's arm. A moment later the mother dies, but the daughter lives.

The major twist of the story comes shortly after when the daughter wakes up and we discover it's the mother in her daughter's body.

FREAKING FRIDAY used the premise of the mother and daughter switching bodies, but in that film both lived. In this film, the mother dies and is buried, but her personality and spirit live on in her daughter. One plays for comic effect, this film has no comedic moments.

It's not surprising no one believes the daughter because it defies rational explanation, but of course there are events and knowledge only a wife would know about her husband. The daughter behaves differently as well--cooking and cleaning when she did neither before. What follows is an awkward situation. A father who is madly in love with his wife inside the body of his sixteen-year-old daughter. A wife who wants to be close but can't.

The secret is to keep this secret.

The daughter must try to live her life as if she were the daughter--going to school, socializing--in the hopes their daughter will return.

The second act deals with how the father/husband and mother/daughter deal with it. When the daughter returns to school, she's a fish out of water. The father is paralysed between wanting to be the husband and having to be the father.

The story progresses with the arc of the daughter becoming the daughter again. Fitting in at school. Socializing. Planning to go university. Finding a better self in herself.

The mother in her disappears.

There is no explanation for why it happened or how it happened. The transference (if that's the word) is simply a plot device to explore relationships and character interaction that wouldn't exist otherwise. I hate that. Give me a rational explanation beyond the irrational paranormal and supernatural.

Posted 2009/03/26 at 19h19ET in Movie Commentary.

Cardio Only (6.0027)

...not all workouts are good ones...

T

oday was a cardio day. I did 30 minutes on the elliptical machine but for some reason my legs felt like lead today. I wonder if my cutback in the amount of cardio I'm doing is catching up to me. Could be, but I'm not sure. Remembered to do my stretching afterwards. I have discovered the motivation for remembering and doing it, but I'm not telling.

Since my early twenties I've worn glasses to see for distance. They are weak (1.50) but I need them if I want to see clearly. I used to be able to read while wearing them. Not anymore. I'm getting to the point in life where I need reading glasses. Yuck. I guess need bifocals and don't want to admit it.

Posted 2009/03/25 at 20h30ET in Exercise.

Cleaner (2007)

Cleaner. Feature film. (2007, 88 mins) IMDB

...who you going to call?...

I

love the setup to this film.

Samuel L. Jackson plays Tom, a retired cop ,who runs a cleaning company, but not a typical cleaning company. His firm cleans up when someone dies whether it's murder, accident, suicide. Not the sort of job I would even contemplate, but someone has to do it.

Tom gets a new assignment. There has been a murder in a mansion. When he arrives, no one is there, but there are signs the police have finished their investigation and after all he received the new job from the police. When he enters the house, the corpse is gone, but signs of a bloody murder cover the living room and he gets to work cleaning it up.

A day later, he learns someone set him up. Framed him. There was a murder, the blood was real, but the police hadn't started their investigation because they didn't know there was a murder. He cleaned up a murder scene before they could investigate. To make matters worse, evidence suggests he has motive and opportunity to kill the victim. He's up shits creek.

The filmmakers want us to believe the motivation for this frame-up is police corruption. The murder victim was a bag man for police payoffs and was going to testify in court. Kill him and the corruption charges go away. Frame our hero and the murderer is free.

It makes sense, but we meet Tom's former police partner, Eddie Lorenz. Their relationship is stormy. Tom left the force because he was involved in police corruption--taking money, working outside the law on criminals. At first Tom doesn't want to tell Eddie what happened on the mansion, but gives in when Eddie confronts him with forensic evidence industrial cleaners were at work. The two work on solving this riddle and keep Tom from going to jail for a murder he didn't commit.

But to get to Act III, the landscape has to change. The possibilities include Tom losing his get-out-of-jail free card (evidence of his innocence), he's arrested, daughter kidnapped. (That reminds me, why didn't he go to the DA who isn't involved in corruption, or did I miss something? Oh, well.)

Then there's the other possibility. His friend, ex-partner, was behind it all. You don't need to see it unfold to know it. The clues are in place before we get to the reveal.

First, if some corrupt cop wanted Tom in jail, framed as it were, they'd be following his every move until they could make the arrest. No one was tailing him. Why? Because Lorenz was with Tom and knew Tom's every move and every bit of evidence Tom had.

Second, Lorenz isn't the cop assigned to the murder case, yet he is intimate with all the details of the case. If the investigating cops were dirty, they wouldn't be telling him what he learnt. They wouldn't share that information.

Finally, we never see the detectives except when dealing with Tom. The movie keeps its focus on Tom the whole time. The POV doesn't shift away from him.

Finally, finally, Vargas is so one-sided--mean and vicious, that it's over-the-top. If you really wanted to keep us guessing, tone it down. Add subtly.

Given the premise the filmmakers were working with, they could have gone in so many other directions. Personally, I wanted to learn more about cleaning up the bodies.

There's a pat-the-dog scene early in the film. Tom, as boss in his office, meets with one employee who came to him troubled because he can't handle the work. It's too distressing and he wants to quit. Our hero shows compassion, won't let him quit and gives him other assignments. Pat the dog.

To show our hero is fastidious, he arrives home after work and promptly hangs his set of keys on a hook near the door. There are three hooks. He uses the one with his name under it. When he puts his shoes in the closet, there is a rack where Tom lines them up like soldiers on parade. Everything has it place. It's neat and tidy. Fastidious. I guess that's why he's a cleaner.

Posted 2009/03/25 at 20h30ET in Movie Commentary.

Snakes On A Plane (2006)

Snakes On A Plane. Feature film. (2006, 105 mins) IMDB

...one too many snakes on a plane...

H

as there every been a movie with such internet buzz before it was even made? That's the legacy of this film, not the film itself.

Snakes on a plane sums it up. Not much else to say, but I'll throw out a few comments.

Oddly the film was first setup with Paramount, but after a while they decided they didn't want to produce it. The death of a screenplay, except the people behind it bought it back, known as turnaround, and got a new deal with New Line Cinema. Turnarounds don't happen very often. Studios buy more screenplays than they put into production and if they don't green-light it, it sits on a dusty shelf--think of the closing scene of RAIDERS and where the ark ended up. It's just the nature of the Hollywood system. William Goldman in his book WHAT LIE DID I TELL? suggests if he were the head of a studio, he'd hire a bunch of readers and comb through all the scripts the studio owns, but never produced. There might be some gems hidden there.

But back to the film on the screen. The story line goes like this: whatever the hell the filmmakers needed to get a whole bunch of people on a plane with a lot of poisonous snakes. That's the narrative. Start to finish.

The film starts out like a comedy with images of sun and fun in Hawaii. We know a fun ride will follow, parts reminded me of the opening of AIRPLANE!, but once the snakes are loose, it's no longer a comedy. It becomes part action film and mainly a horror film. I'm not a fan of horror films and not once did I feel frightened or terrified by these snakes on the screen, but if it had been on that plane, I'd would have been frightened to shade of pale worse than death.

What surprised me was the relentlessness and intensity and number of snake attacks on countless passengers. Some images are gruesome. The deal toll sounds like a body count from a battle.

Prior to the film's release, the buzz on the internet was unprecedented. I think everyone involved in making the film had visions of a STAR WARS like blockbuster, but after a big opening weekend, the film tanked. Word of mouth brought it up and it brought it down. Why?

I can offer a few reasons. An R rating will obviously impact who can see it. It limits the potential target market. The irony is the studio wanted and got a PG-13 film, but based on the buzz and expectation about Samuel L. Jackson saying a certain line using a certain explicative, the film was reshoot. To use the word motherfucker once meant an R so they added scenes to make it even more R rated. I'm not sure if it made the film better or worse, but it limited the potential audience.

Second, starting out with comic overtones then changing genres throws off people. Not consciously, but they are confused and wonder what the filmmakers were doing.

Finally, it was overkill with the snakes. Too many. Too many attacks. Too many deaths. Too gruesome. Too horrific. That's my opinion and some will disagree, but consider this. If you knew there was one poisonous snake roaming around your home and you couldn't find it, what would you do? How frightened would you be? How effective would it be in getting your attention?

Posted 2009/03/25 at 20h30ET in Movie Commentary.

Weights (6.0018)

...back at it...

F

or various reasons I was talking myself into not going to the gym this afternoon. It's one of those inner monologues where excuses are created, reasons are developed for why it would be okay to not go. Well, if you buy into it, you'll keep doing it and miss more workout days than you should. Call it discipline. I recognized the signs and went to the gym for a one hour weights workout.

Lateral Back 27 kg x 25 reps x 3 sets

Vertical Back 27 kg x 25 reps x 3 sets

Stomach Crunches: 30 reps x 6 sets with 2KG medicine ball. I can definitely feel tighter stomach muscles.

Leg Lunges: 10 reps x 6 set - Left/Right.

Squats: 10 reps x 6 sets.

Posted 2009/03/24 at 19h01ET in Exercise.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 (2008)

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2. Feature film. (2008, 117 mins) IMDB

...they can and should make a sequel...

F

our young women in their early twenties have a special pair of pants they share during the summer. Even though the four are different sizes, the pair of pants fits them perfectly and while wearing them, they experience miracles. That was the premise of the first movie (though they were younger) and it's the jumping off point for this movie.

The women have finished school for the year and return home to spend the summer together, but it doesn't work out as planned. They are going on their summer adventures. Each will take turns wearing the pants.

Lena goes to a art school to study drawing. Her first encounter with a nude model tests her nerves. Later they meet and date and appear to hit it off, but there's someone else. Kostas. She met him in Greece during her visit in the first movie. The complications of young love continue in the second film. The movie explores Lena's relationships with these two men. Who will she end up with?

Libby stays in New York City to work on her screenplay--a romantic comedy. She has a day job in a video store. And there is Brian. Her boyfriend. The first time they have sex, the condom breaks. Terrified she might be pregnant, the relationship is ruined. She doesn't know how to talk to him while he tries. (The men in this movie, the love interests to the women, seem like woman in male bodies. It's one of the few weaknesses of this film.)

Carmen is studying theatre at Yale and gets a chance to work in a summer theatre in Vermont. Her mother is pregnant. Her best friend at Yale is Julia--a ditzy, attractive blonde who aspires to be a famous actor. They room together in Vermont, but the friendship turns dark. Julia's family rivals the Barrymores and Regraves. While I say Carmen studies theatre, it is not to be an actor. It's theatre production. Imagine Julia's surprise when Carmen gets the part of Perdita in A WINTER'S TALE while Juila gets a one-line part. Ouch. Scratch.

The fourth woman is Bridget. She's the athletic blonde who goes to Turkey on a dig, but something from her past is haunting her. Her mother's death. In an attempt to get answers, she travels to Alabama to reunite with her estranged grandmother.

While all these adventures happen in Act I and II, the pants travel from one to the other, but no miracles are happening. It's more the opposite. The pants bring turmoil and bitterness. Ignored by Lena, her younger sister takes them with her to Greece where she loses them. Act III begins.

Lena travels to Greece to find the pants. Not long after, the other three show up. The attempt to find the pants brings them together. It also gives the three a chance to fabricate a meeting with Lena and Kostas. To bring them back together. You can watch the movie to find out what happens.

I never tire of those amazing shots of Greece. It's absolutely incredible. If you grew up there, why would you want to leave?

While the story is slow to start and there are plot points we've seen over and over, I eventually did find myself caught up in the story of these four women and the gigantic cast that surrounds them.

It is engaging, funny, sweet, poignant and many other things. It is worth watching. The two male love interests (Leo and Brian) bring it down because they are simply gorgeous bodies without any personalities, but I suppose for a movie geared towards girls (not women), that's what the filmmakers wanted.

I laughed out loud at one great moment. Lena is at her grandmother's home in Greece. She is drawing a LOST & REWARD poster for the pants. She asks Yia Yia, her Greek grrandmother, how to spell 'lost pants' in Greek. Yia Yia curses in Greek and says, "A Greek girl never loses her pants." Love it.

I noticed one glaring goof in the film. The marquis on the theatre reads: Village Theatre Arts. Later a poster inside shows the ER spelling. It's common to see the RE spelling in the US when it applies to the stage.

Finally, I read Ebert's review where he says there won't be a sequel because the pants were lost and never found. I can't believe he would say that. Of course there could be a sequel wherein the whole first act is the triumph of finding the pants--just go to the wardrobe trailer.

I have no trouble with this title even if some thinks it's long. The worst title is a while: INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL. That's a mouthful.

Posted 2009/03/24 at 19h01ET in Movie Commentary.

The Palm Beach Story (1942)

The Palm Beach Story. Feature film. (1942, 88 mins) IMDB

...a Preston Sturges film--burn brightly...

P

reston Sturges created THE PALM BEACH STORY during the height of his career as a Hollywood writer and director. Some draw similarities between him and Chaplin. Hitting their heights at a young age only to vanish from the scene. It was fun while it lasted.

A Preston Sturges's film is filmed with any number of devices to create comedy and laughs. Satire one moment, pratfalls and slapstick the next. He wasn't afraid or embarrassed about using any of it, provided it got a laugh and it usually did.

The story concerns a time when divorces weren't as common or as a easy as they are today. There are many real-life and fabricated stories about a wife moving to Reno to wait around until the divorce came through. In this film, instead of Reno, Claudette Colbert heads to Palm Springs for the same reason. It doesn't hurt that Palm Springs, Florida is known as a magnet for rich people.

But why a divorce? At the start of the film she marries Joel McCrea and life should be perfect except it isn't. He's a dreamer and idealist. He has plenty of ideas for projects, but they don't bring in any money. She feels she's not a good wife to him (can't cook, can't sew) and therefore a burden to him, a financial burden. She tells him he'll be better off when she's gone. He doesn't accept it because he's in love with her, but she won't change her mind. In a flash and with no money, she packs her bags. She talks a cabbie into giving her a ride to the train station for free, and once there, a group of men to let her onto their private train car for the ride to Florida. McCrea follows, but a policeman stops him. She's gone and he's dejected.

Through unusual circumstances, he receives money for a plane ticket. He flies off to meet her in Florida.

During her trip she meets a bookish, nerdy man who seems to like her. She accepts his charity for food and clothing because she has neither. He's latched onto her and takes her shopping--a shopping trip women dream about. He spends thousands on clothing, shoes, suitcases, jewels. And he's no ordinary person. He's John D. Hackensacker, III--one of the richest men in the world. She's hit pay dirt and he might have found a woman he could marry.

In Act III, they all arrive in Palm Beach. Mr. Moneybags and Colbert, his sister arrives, played by Mary Astor, and McCrea catches up with his wife but is introduced as her brother.

The sister has the hots for McCrae.

The four forces are working to completely pull apart the marriage until Colbert gives in. She does love her husband and no longer wants a divorce. It doesn't matter what may come.

Everybody takes it well. No hard feelings, but the film doesn't end there. It twists in a way that is unexpected. Husband and wife each had a twin. Convenient? Yes, but the husband and wife are back together and Mr. Moneybags and his sister get to marry the twin of husband and wife.

One of the best scenes happens on the private train car where this group of men, duck hunters, have drunk themselves silly. One is sitting on a chair with a shotgun pretending to hit a cracker flying through the air. The man next to him doubts he hit the cracker. The bet is on. The second man pulls out his shotgun, loads it with two shells, asks the coloured barman to toss some crackers and starts firing. It continues from there until the entire car is shot up. Ridiculous for sure, but it's believable and damn funny.

Posted 2009/03/24 at 18h59ET in Movie Commentary.

No workout.

...no workout today...

F

or a number of reasons I didn't go to the gym for a workout today. I'm not going to feel guilty about it. My long-term average is above six days a week and close to 6.5 in 2009. Can't exercise everyday.

Tomorrow I will go--just not sure if it's cardio only day or a weights day. We shall see.

Posted 2009/03/23 at 18h17ET in Exercise.

W. (2008)

W. Feature film. (2008, 129 mins) IMDB

...Why haven't more people seen this movie?...

W

. is a bio pic on the rise of George W. Bush. At it's heart is the relationship between father and son. In telling that relationship, the filmmakers show the progression of W. as a young university student bent on drinking and socializing, his struggle to find his place in life (a failure at so many things) to his rise as governor then president.

The other aspect of the story is the development inside the White House for the plan of war against Iraq--the drive to remove Saddam Hussein, to control the region and maintain the US dominance in the world.

The story weaves back and forth between the young, unknown Bush as he makes his way and the president in the White House as the administration puts their war plan together, implements it and suffers humiliation when no weapons of mass destruction were found.

Having read numerous books on the Iraq war planning I knew the story. Cheney et al manipulate just about everybody in order to start a war with Iraq, get rid of SH and control the region. There was nothing in the film I wasn't familiar with; however, for some I'm sure there will be revelations.

The personal life of W., the young W., was mostly knew to me and mildly interesting. It's one thing to have find your place in the world, but it's another thing when your father is George HW Bush--a man who excelled in school, athletics, business and politics. W. was a failure at all of them except politics--he figured out how to run for office and get elected (thanks in part to Karl Rove). The problem was he didn't have the needed skills once elected.

The acting performances, and the cast list is long, were outstanding. Dreyfuss's performance as Cheney was spooky, scary even. These actors embody the characters they are playing.

I don't know what to make of the baseball dream scenes that start the movie and end it. There are ample opportunities for "what if" and rewriting history, but it's a parlour game.

One thing that struck me in watching the film is the irony of the Iraq war. The feeling was the middle east and eastern Asia were and are unstable places in the world that threatened the strength of the US. Threatened it's stability and dominance. Threatened its economy. The irony is that what is bringing down the US, isn't external. It's internal. Policies on financial regulations, budget deficits and a monstrous national debt have weaken the US to a point where it will never be the same--even if leaders want to tell people otherwise. The US can't continue living on debt as they have been doing. Something has to change.

The film is well made, well acted, but only mildly interesting because it doesn't bring anything new to the plate, yet it is a film that should be watched.

I can hear the criticism now. It's Oliver Stone. He made it up. Nope. You can't shot down the message in this film by shooting down Stone. It won't work, but that's a tactic the right uses all the time in their arguments. Unfortunately people buy into it instead of understanding reason and logic. W. is closest thing to fact as you're going to get.

Posted 2009/03/23 at 03h24ET in Movie Commentary.

The Doctor (1991)

The Doctor. Feature film. (1991, 122 mins) IMDB

...do they show this movie in medical schools?...

T

he last line of my notes is: It's not the first time I've seen this movie, but I love it. The question is why?

The simple answer is it moved me--emotionally moved me. In the theory of story, bringing emotion and understanding together is why we read novels and watch films.

The story can be summed up easily. A selfish surgeon gets a dose of his own medicine when he discovers he has throat cancer, decides he doesn't like it and changes as a result. I know, it doesn't move you, you have to watch the film to get that part.

There's the inciting incident when he realizes a cough isn't just a cough. Act I climax when he discovers he has to have a biopsy. Act II dealing with the hell of treatment. At one point he's mistaken for another patient and despite his protests is given an enema anyway. Act II climax with the news the radiation treatment didn't work. He never was closer to his own death. Act III the surgery, the death of his friend June, the reconciliation with his wife and the final transformation as he gives his interns a lesson on being a patient.

Here's an example of smart filmmaking. Our good doctor has just found out the devastating news the need for a biopsy. He arrives home in shock. His wife tells their son, "Go talk to you dad." The son runs to the phone, picks it up and speaks into the receiver. He doesn't expect his dad is standing in the kitchen next to him. So much said in such a short scene. The poetry of screenwriting.

The next time you get bad medical treatment, pull out a copy of this DVD and wave it around.

Posted 2009/03/22 at 20h34ET in Movie Commentary.

Day 10 of 10. (6.0063)

...A relaxing swim...

S

ince it was Sunday, it was time for a relaxing swim. I wasn't pushing myself and only did 20 laps. It was a like in the park instead of a run.

Posted 2009/03/22 at 20h34ET in Exercise.

Ride The High Country (1962)

Ride The High Country. Feature film. (1962, 94 mins) IMDB

...Peckinpah directing his first feature film...

N

ot your typical western. There are signs in the film that it takes place around 1900 when the west was dead or dying yet it was released in 1962 at a time when Hollywood was still turning out the product for theatres and TV.

One thing that surprised me was an old looking Joel McCrae. Not the same man we remember from the FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT or SULLIVAN'S TRAVEL. He didn't age well. Randolph Scott on the other hand had Hollywood good looks, and even more surprising, retired from acting after this film. He could have acted for another decade or more had he chose to do so.

I haven't watched a lot of Westerns so I can't comment on the genre or even the famous Sam Peckinpah. I only know his famous film, THE WILD BUNCH, famous for its violence. There is violence in this film--bar room fights, shoot outs, but it's tame--even for its time.

McCrae plays Steve Judd who rides into a one-road Western town--the typical start to a Western. His past isn't explicitly stated, but it appears he was a lawman of sorts but because of age or circumstances forced to do something else. That something else is work for the town's bank to bring gold back from a mine high up in the mountains. He recruits Gil (Scott) to ride with him and Heck--an impetuous kid--to be the third man in this security guard group for hire. It wouldn't be a movie if the job wasn't dangerous--all that gold, the wild west etc.

With the three in place, they saddle up and begin their journey. They stop at a farmhouse for the night where they meet a young Elsa. Her father is a bible-thumper who scolds her daughter for being flirtatious with Heck. She's bored her life on the farm.

The next day, the three travel on higher up the mountain and discover Elsa has tagged alone. There's a twist for a Western. If there are women in a Western they are wives at home or prostitutes in the back rooms of saloons. They aren't on horseback riding into danger.

Heck and Elsa have a thing going, but she's travelling to the mine to meet up with Billy whom she promised to marry. That's the subplot or maybe the plot for much of the second act deals with this love triangle. The second act also takes place in this rugged, primitive tent city.

The city is peopled with miners looking for riches and businessmen looking to cash in on their fortunes.

At the city, Steve and Gil setup a tent where they collect gold, measure it and issue receipts against the bank.

So far our story is straightforward. Steve gets the job with the bank, rides up to collect the gold and bring it back. Simple.

It's complicated by the marriage of Elsa and Billy. We see Billy is an ignorant, violent thug. He doesn't deserve Elsa. On the wedding night, his brothers try to get a piece of the action with attempted rape. Our hero comes to the rescue and in the process creates enemies. He blackmails the judge into saying he wasn't allowed to marry people and therefore the marriage isn't valid. If she's married, she has to stay with her husband. Unmarried she can leave with our hero and the rest and that is what happens.

It's also complicated by the fact Gil and his sidekick Heck want to steal the gold and try to do so. When the angry husband and his gang come after our hero, it's just him and Elsa. He tied up Gil and Heck as criminals.

We have the first shoot out in the high mountains. The good guys prevail, but Billy and company get away to fight another day.

Enter the final showdown. They made it down the mountain with the gold and the girl. They return her to the farm but are ambushed. The gang murdered her father and wait inside for Steve and Elsa to arrive. Steve is killed in the final shoot out. Gil promises to get the gold to the bank. Heck and Elsa embrace.

It's a simple story that didn't move me. For some reason I didn't get caught up in any of it. I feel suspense.

There are some great shots--scenes of the mountains--those expansive vistas, it's pretty to look at, but that's not enough for a film.

Posted 2009/03/22 at 20h34ET in Movie Commentary.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Feature film. (2008, 122 mins) IMDB

...what's with the long title?...

Y

ou've watched the movie, seen the trailers, heard the hype on TV--probably. Since I don't watch TV, I missed it--no great loss.

I read they wanted to make this 4th version for Indiana Jones for some time, but it kept being delayed because George Lucas wouldn't sign off on a script. Many screenplays were written and rejected. I'm more interested in the development of the scripts than the actual movie and I'm writing about other things than the movie, because there isn't much to say about the film.

Should I be amazed the budget for this film was $185 million? Wow! That's a lot of money for one film. Is that the cost of getting the film into the can or does it include all the advertising, publicity and prints? Not sure. I'd like to know that as well. Maybe someone at Paramount can send me an anonymous email with some details.

It goes without saying that RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK is one of the best action adventure movies ever made. It stands up to any movie of its genre. I think one of the reasons it works so well was the fact it was set in an era different from when it was made. The film can't age. Second, the German uniforms always look good on film. Ask any costume designer that question and they'll agree with me.

But I should say something about this film.

I won't say how Indiana Jones triumphs in this movie, other than he survives, because I never understood the story line. It's the most muddled, confusing and odd narrative of any of the Indy movies and it baffles me that this script was accepted. I want to know what they were thinking? At some point someone will explain it to me.

In the first film, the villains were Nazis and the French archaeologist they hired to find the Holy Grail. Someone wrote that the Holy Grail was a MacGuffin--Hitchcock's term for a plot device that drives the story but has no value in and of itself. The Grail did have value and meaning and to label it a MacGuffin is incorrect.

The third reason the first film worked is because all the stunts and action actually happened. No computer effects. The same can be said of the Bond films. This fourth version has a bunch of computer generated effects and every time they pop on screen they are obvious and take away from the film.

Since Harrison Ford has aged (I guess he's in his sixties now), the character has aged. The film is set in the 1950s. His sidekick in this adventure is a cliché--the rebel-without-a-cause type--the black leather jack, slicked back hair, switch-blade knife, motorcycle etc. Couldn't they come up with something original. It was annoying as the rock music of that era. I suspect that is a George Lucas influence on this film. Flashbacks to AMERICAN GRAFFTI.

I was delighted to see the return of Karen Allen. Aging isn't kind to women and it's the reason many don't have careers past forty. In this film, she's just as feisty as in the first film, but more tongue-in-cheek.

One of the coolest action sequences is probably the simplest. Our group of heroes are deep in a Peruvian jungle at the lost City of Gold. They are walking down steps inside a circular tower. It's all made of stone. The steps are slabs of stone that jet out from the wall. At first everything is fine, but then the steps slowly move in toward the wall. They are vanishing and with it a plunge down this column. It was fun to watch.

Finally, one of the trademarks of an action-adventure film is the capture of our hero. It usually marks the end of Act II. Well, it doesn't quite happen that way. He's captured before the film starts in the teaser that is too long and not interesting enough. Did we really need to some teenagers racing a hot rod on a desert road? What did that prove? The characters weren't part of the story--it was completely indulgent. Another Lucas touch for the worst.

Posted 2009/03/22 at 20h34ET in Movie Commentary.

Day 9 of 9. (6.0054)

Day 9 of 9

...I was looking forward to my swim...

A

nother Saturday. I had done three weights exercise in the week already so it was time for a swim.

The swims have gotten longer and I suppose easier. 40 laps today. I can see I might get up to 50 or 60. Possible.

Posted 2009/03/21 at 20h33ET in Exercise.

The Grass Is Greener (1960)

The Grass Is Greener. Feature film. (1960, 105 mins) IMDB

...as enjoyable as any movie...

W

hen they say they don't make films like they used to, THE GRASS IS GREENER would be an example. It's a film filled with brilliant dialogue, little physical action, longs scenes. There is wit, subtle, delightful wit and a dilemma to drive the narrative to its conclusion.

A film like this would easily get made today, but it would be an independent film which means a low budget, limited marketing and distribution and wouldn't hit the top ten on the box office listing. Further, it wouldn't have actors with the status of GRANT, KERR or MITCHUM.

Grant and Kerr play Lord and Lady Rhyall. They live in a stately mansion somewhere in the country near London in England. They are a gorgeous, happy couple with two young children. Despite the trappings of wealth, they are cash poor and must allow visitors entrance to their estate on tours. It's a sign of how different life is for nobles in England compared to the Victorian era where the estate would have been filled with hundred servants doing any number of jobs.

One of the tourists come to visit is Mitchum. He's a wealthy American who happens to ignore the sign saying PRIVATE and enters a room to find Kerr. What should be a short scene and he dismissed, becomes the pivotal first scene of the film.

Imagine a scene with just the two of them talking in this drawing room for over ten minutes and it works. It works because of the dialogue, combined with subtle gestures by the actors, especially Kerr.

Without every saying it, Kerr falls in love with Mitchum and he with her. On paper it seems absurd to think two people could fall in love so quickly, but when performed, it works.

The whole film works.

There is a scene where Grant's Butler comes to seek advice. He's frustrated because there simply isn't anything for him to do. Grant tells him he should work on his novel. The butler explains the novel isn't going well. He's too contented with his life and too ordinary to be a writer. It's one of the few times a character actually says what he's thinking.

The film takes a familiar concept of love and works a story that is delightful, mature, interesting.

The resolution of Grant winning Kerr back, forgiving her infidelity, seems alien today where divorce is as common as spelling mistakes. And I'm sure the religious freaks would have a thing or two to object to.

I am surprised this film isn't better known, better loved because it is a great piece of story telling, but perhaps that's it. It's more a play (it's origin) than a film.

It's probably best known for its opening title sequence (toddlers on a lawn) created by Maurice Binder. He a graphic designer and artist who got his break with this film and went on to fame as the title designer for the James Bond films. He created the sequence with the black and white gun barrel, Bond shooting followed by the red blood dripping.

Posted 2009/03/21 at 08h32ET in Movie Commentary.

They Just Don't Get It

...open mouth, insert second foot...

1

50 year after the publication of ON THE ORGIN OF SPECIES, the most researched and defined theory in science still generates controversy and denial. This week it was Gary Goodyear, the Conservative MP for the riding of Cambridge.

Anne McIlroy of the Globe and Mail asked him if he believed in evolution. This was his response:

I'm not going to answer that question. I am a Christian, and I don't think anybody asking a question about my religion is appropriate.

In other words he's a bible-thumper in denial about evolution. It wouldn't matter except he's the federal Minister of State for Science and Technology.

He adds to his errors when he says:

I do believe that just because you can't see it under a microscope doesn't mean it doesn't exist. It could mean we don't have a powerful enough microscope yet.

I guess he's not familiar with Heisenberg's uncertainty principle and the photo electric effect. It's impossible, for instance, to look at an electron with an optical microscope. The electron moves when hit with light energy. Not to mention the fact the light wave is much bigger than an electron and misses it in most instances. So much for a powerful enough microscope.

When the first article appeared on Tuesday, it created a dust cloud. The minister then tried to clarify (see G&M article) or backtrack or, I'm not sure what to call it, except another goof, when he said this:

We are evolving every year, every decade. That's a fact, whether it is to the intensity of the sun, whether it is to, as a chiropractor, walking on cement versus anything else, whether it is running shoes or high heels, of course we are evolving to our environment.

He can't even get the concept of evolution correct. We don't evolve in response to a changing environment. We simply evolve as a matter of living and if those changes suit the environment and the individual lives to reproduce, those new traits get carried on through future generations.

In the United States under George W. Bush, the US administration implemented policies based on religious beliefs that reminded me and others of the dark ages--that vast period of history where an autocratic church controlled people's lives like Stalin.

The theory of evolution as first beautifully and intelligently put forward by Charles Darwin is a fact. Life evolves and it has for hundreds of millions of years. Get used to it. It's not going away.

Posted 2009/03/21 at 08h06ET in Theory of Evolution.

Ignorance

...what is with some people?...

O

n Thursday, March 19, 2008, the Globe and Mail published a front page story on the death of Natasha Richardson. To my surprise, when the story broke on the Tuesday, I followed it with great interest. I wasn't alone. It captured the attention of millions. I'm not entirely sure why that happened, but it did. I'm not sure why I got caught up in it. I was reading everything I could to get the facts on the story--something I rarely do.

In reading the comments about the article I came across this entry:

Golden Locks from O'bama Land, United States writes: This death is on the hands of Canada for not having the proper medical capabilities and instead having to airlift her to the Good Ole USA; your favourite country to hate.

Posted 18/03/09 at 8:35 PM EDT | Alert an Editor | Link to Comment

First, it's impossible to know if this person truly believes the comment or is simply throwing lighter fluid on a fire, but let's assume it's believed in which case there are a number of problems with the comment.

I don't like the fact people hide behind pseudonyms and aliases. If you're going to make comments, tell us who you are.

Next, she was treated in Montreal. They have world class medical facilities. McGill University is the home to the founder of modern medicine--Dr. William Olser. To say there was a lack of "proper medical capabilities" is absurd. It simply isn't true.

Second, she wasn't airlifted to the US to get proper medical treatment. The last thing you would want to do with someone with a head injury is put them on a private jet and fly at 45,000 feet. Unfortunately, she was brain dead before she left Canada at which point there was nothing more that could be done.

I'm not sure what compelled me to write an entry on this. I could spend all day finding such examples of ignorance and not change one thing.

Posted 2009/03/21 at 08h05ET in Current Events.