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Nov 222014

Birdman – A Movie Review

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Nov 212014

birdman_posterRiggan Thomas, once known quite well to movie theater goers as an iconic super hero called “The Birdman” had recently turned down a third installment of the franchise. Now washed up, he attempts to reinvent himself as a director by staging a new retelling of a classic Broadway dramatic play called “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love”. The events leading up to the Saturday night premiere prove to be one disaster after another as the original lead actor is injured while on set and Riggan scrambles to find a replacement, but the replacement proves to be exactly who he needs – a method actor who takes the job way too seriously. But Riggan has a hard time juggling between the set, his replacement actor, his equally washed up daughter, and a host of other disasters that prevent a proper staging of the play. Meanwhile, a New York Times critic who Riggan has to woo threatens to shut down production of the play before it even starts with a scathing review of the dress rehearsal. Does Riggan have a hit on his hands or will he even make it to opening night?

Runtime: 119 min; Rated: R; Genre: Comedy, Drama; Released: 02 Jan 2015

Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Writer: Alejandro González Iñárritu (screenplay), Nicolás Giacobone (screenplay), Alexander Dinelaris (screenplay), Armando Bo (screenplay)
Stars: Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Kenny Chin, Jamahl Garrison-Lowe, Edward Norton

We saw this last Friday at the AMC Theater in Brandon. Attendance was kind of sparse. l found the movie enjoyable, but not on my top 10 list for the year.  Continue reading »

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Nov 152014
Nov 092014

Serving Life Movie PosterActor Forest Whitaker narrates the story of a group of inmate volunteers who staff their own hospice inside a maximum security prison in Louisiana where the average sentence is more than 90 years.

Producers: Lisa R. Cohen, Jeca Taudte
Director: Lisa R. Cohen

This was a very interesting documentary filmed in Angola Prison in Louisiana. It was released in 2011, and is the story of reforms which helped take Angola Prison off the top slot and the most violent prison in the U.S. The Warden came to realize that he many of the inmates serving sentences of life without parole, and older inmates with sentences so long, would most likely die in prison.

The Warden, in one interview, makes the point that it’s easy to teach people skills like carpentry or food preparation, but the challenge is getting them to understand the concept of empathy, and without that, they’ll someday be back in his prison. While he has the southern drawl of a “good ole boy,” I think he’s a lot smarter that he sounds. He manages to solve two problems at once. Continue reading »

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Nov 082014

Bigger Stronger Faster – A Movie Review

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Nov 082014

bigger_stronger_fasterAn examination of America’s win-at-all-cost culture from the perspective of bodybuilding and performance enhancing drugs, as it focuses on a pair of siblings chasing their dream.

In America, we define ourselves in the superlative: we are the biggest, strongest, fastest country in the world. Is it any wonder that so many of our heroes are on performance enhancing drugs? Director Christopher Bell explores America’s win-at-all-cost culture by examining how his two brothers became members of the steroid-subculture in an effort to realize their American dream.

Genres: Documentary | Sport; Motion Picture Rating (MPAA) Rated PG-13 for thematic material involving drugs, language, some sexual content and violent images; Release Date: April 2008 (USA)

Director:  Chris Bell
Writers:  Chris Bell, Alexander Buono
Stars:  Chris Bell, Mike Bell, Mark Bell

We watched this last weekend during a marathon of documentaries. I did not expect to like it (this was Lay’s pick), but it turned out more interesting than I expected. Continue reading »

Severe Clear – A Movie Review

 Culture, Movies, Politics, War  Comments Off on Severe Clear – A Movie Review
Nov 042014

Severe Clear Movie PosterAs part of the first wave in the War on Terror, First Lieutenant Mike Scotti (awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with Combat “V”) served on the front lines during the 21 day advance to Baghdad. His experiences in Afghanistan as well as Iraq put him face to face with the sobering realities of war. Severe Clear offers an unflinching look at life on the battlefield through the eyes of someone who was there.

In January, 2004, in Al-Falluja, Iraq, a documentary film crew follows an infantry squad of the 82nd Airborne, US Army. Cameras go with the squad of seven on day and night patrols, as they watch their backs, kick down doors, search for weapons, interrogate women, detain a few people, and listen to the complaints of locals. At their barracks, a former Baathist retreat called Dreamland, the men talk: about why they enlisted, civilian prospects, feelings about the war and Iraqis, where they were when a comrade died a few weeks before. We see them wait for translators and try a few words of Arabic; we hear their frustrations. We watch them pressured to reenlist. Tensions mount in Falluja.

Director: Kristian Fraga;
Writer: Kristian Fraga;
Stars: Mike Scotti
Runtime: 93 min; Rated: N/A; Genre: Documentary; Released: 12 Mar 2010

Me and Lay watched this documentary last Saturday evening, and it was excellent. This was not from some embedded journalist, but was filmed on small handheld cameras by Lt. Scotti during the actual events. It is raw and sometimes disturbing, as war should be. We really liked it. Continue reading »

Tribute to a Friend I Never Met – Tom Magliozzi

 Culture, Entertainment, Featured, Humor, Media, NPR, Radio  Comments Off on Tribute to a Friend I Never Met – Tom Magliozzi
Nov 042014
Tom MG

Tom Magliozzi in his famous MG (courtesy of NPR)

One of the hosts of perhaps the funniest show on any medium, Tom Magliozzi, of Car Talk on National Public Radio (NPR) died earlier this week from complications associate with Alzheimer’s Disease. I was fortunate to come across National Public Radio very many years ago, somewhere around the early ’80s. Tom and his brother Ray had done a car repair call in show on the Boston NPR station for about 10 years, and then I first them as they started doing a brief regular segment on NPR’s Weekend Edition each week. The show went on NPR nationally in 1987 and was on Saturday mornings.

I tried to never miss the show, despite never having much interest in car repair. The two of them together were just plan hilarious, made fun mostly at the expense of each other, and Tom was the kind of guy who make himself laugh so hard he couldn’t catch his breath. He had one of those huge personalities with a genuine laugh that was so intense it sometimes turned into a snort. When me and Lay started dating, he had to listen (since I always did), and learned to love them too, and often said if he could get a “sense of humor” transplant, he would want Tom’s. I completely agree. Continue reading »

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Nov 012014