Jun 022017
 

Hidden Figures Movie PosterAs the United States raced against Russia to put a man in space, NASA found untapped talent in a group of African-American female mathematicians that served as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in U.S. history. Based on the unbelievably true life stories of three of these women, known as “human computers”, we follow these women as they quickly rose the ranks of NASA alongside many of history’s greatest minds specifically tasked with calculating the momentous launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit, and guaranteeing his safe return. Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, and Katherine Johnson crossed all gender, race, and professional lines while their brilliance and desire to dream big, beyond anything ever accomplished before by the human race, firmly cemented them in U.S. history as true American heroes.

Director: Theodore Melfi
Writers: Allison Schroeder (screenplay), Theodore Melfi (screenplay)
Cast: Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe,  Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons, Mahershala Ali, Aldis Hodge     Aldis Hodge

Rating: PG; Run Time: 127min; Genre:  Biography, Drama, History; Release Date: 23 December 2016 (USA)

We watched on a weekend evening a while, and both of us loved it. I hope it is something younger people see, so as to get just a taste of the discrimination and racism that existed, even a place of highly educated people, bent on keeping up a polite façade.  And besides the lessons/reminders about our past, it was just a great movie. Continue reading »

Straight Outta Compton – A Movie Review

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May 232017
 

Straight Outta Compton Movie PosterIn 1987, five young men, using brutally honest rhymes and hardcore beats, put their frustration and anger about life in the most dangerous place in America into the most powerful weapon they had: their music. Taking us back to where it all began, Straight Outta Compton tells the true story of how these cultural rebels-armed only with their lyrics, swagger, bravado and raw talent-stood up to the authorities that meant to keep them down and formed the world’s most dangerous group, N.W.A. And as they spoke the truth that no one had before and exposed life in the hood, their voice ignited a social revolution that is still reverberating today.

Director: F. Gary Gray
Writers: Jonathan Herman, Andrea Berloff
Stars: O’Shea Jackson Jr., Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Neil Brown Jr., Aldis Hodge, Marlon Yates Jr., R. Marcos Taylor, Carra Patterson, Alexandra Shipp, Paul Giamatti

Genres: Biography, Drama, History, Music; MPAA Rating: Rated R for language throughout, strong sexuality/nudity, violence, and drug use; Release Date: 14 August 2015; Run time: 2 hrs 27 min Continue reading »

Oct 182016
 

Tuskegee Airmen Movie PosterDuring the Second World War, a special project is begun by the US Army Air Corps to integrate African-American pilots into the Fighter Pilot Program. Known as the “Tuskegee Airman” for the name of the airbase at which they were trained, these men were forced to constantly endure harassment, prejudice, and much behind the scenes politics until at last they were able to prove themselves in combat.

Director: Robert Markowitz
Writer: Paris Qualles (teleplay), Trey Ellis (teleplay), Ron Hutchinson (teleplay), Robert Williams (story), T.S. Cook (story)
Stars: Laurence Fishburne, Allen Payne, Malcolm-Jamal Warner, Courtney B. Vance
Runtime: 106 min; Rated: PG-13; Genre: Drama, History, War; Released: 26 Aug 1995

We watched this movie Sunday night. I know it’s been out forever, and we’d intended to watch it back when released, but just never did. It was on Amazon Prime, so I pulled it up. Continue reading »

Bridge of Spies – A Movie Review

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Oct 172016
 

Bridge of Spies Movie PosterDuring the cold war, a lawyer, James B. Donovan is recruited by the CIA and involved in an intense negotiation mission to release and exchange a CIA U-2 spy-plane pilot, Francis G. Powers. The pilot was arrested alive after his plane was shot down by the Soviet Union during a mission and stays in the company of a KGB intelligence officer, Rudolf Abel, who was arrested for espionage in the US.

Director: Steven Spielberg
Writer: Matt Charman, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Stars: Tom Hanks, Alan Alda, Mark Rylance, Domenick Lombardozzi, Victor Verhaeghe, Mark Fichera
Runtime: 142 min; Rated: PG-13; Genre: Drama, History, Thriller; Released: 16 Oct 2015

Lay wasn’t feeling great, so after going out to grab a bite, we came home and watched this from Amazon, and we both enjoyed the movie a great deal. Continue reading »

Spotlight – A Movie Review

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Dec 102015
 

Spotlight Movie PosterStarring Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, Brian d’Arcy James and Stanley Tucci, SPOTLIGHT tells the riveting true story of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Boston Globe investigation that would rock the city and cause a crisis in one of the world’s oldest and most trusted institutions. When the newspaper’s tenacious “Spotlight” team of reporters delves into allegations of abuse in the Catholic Church, their year-long investigation uncovers a decades-long cover-up at the highest levels of Boston’s religious, legal, and government establishment, touching off a wave of revelations around the world. Directed by Academy Award-nominee Tom McCarthy, SPOTLIGHT is a tense investigative dramatic-thriller, tracing the steps to one of the biggest cover-ups in modern times.

Director: Tom McCarthy
Writer: Tom McCarthy (screenplay), Josh Singer (screenplay)
Stars: Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber
Runtime: 128 min; Rated: R; Genre: Biography, Drama, History; Released: 31 Dec 2015 Continue reading »

Movie Review – Conspiracy

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Oct 212014
 

Conspiracy Movie PosterThe historical recreation of the 1942 Wannsee Conference, in which Nazi and SS leaders gathered in a Berlin suburb to discuss the “Final Solution to the Jewish Question”. Lead by SS-General Reinhard Heydrich, this group of high ranking German officials came to the historic and far reaching decision that the Jews of Europe were to be exterminated in what would come to be known as the Holocaust.

Rating: 7.9/10 (10,326 votes)
Director: Frank Pierson
Writer: Loring Mandel
Stars: Kenneth Branagh, Clare Bullus, Stanley Tucci, Simon Markey
Runtime: 96 min
Rated: R
Genre: Drama, History, War
Released: 19 May 2001

We watched this movie via Amazon Prime Saturday night. We were just surfing, and gave it a try, and it turned out to be a pretty decent movie, and well worth a thoughtful watching.

This movie could have been entitled, “how to chair a board meeting” or “how not to chair a board meeting” – given that the outcome of the meeting was the “final solution”. Gen. Heidrich with consummate skill and care manipulated the gathered Nazi hierarchy to the pre-arranged and pre-destined solution to the Jewish question. Continue reading »

Band of Brothers – A Mini-Series Review

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Aug 162009
 

bandofbrothersThis is the story of “E” Easy Company, 506th Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division from their initial training starting in 1942 to the end of World War II. They parachuted behind enemy lines in the early hours of D-Day in support of the landings at Utah beach, participated in the liberation of Carentan and again parachuted into action during Operation Market Garden. They also liberated a concentration camp and were the first to enter Hitler’s mountain retreat in Berchtesgarten. A fascinating tale of comradeship that is, in the end, a tale of ordinary men who did extraordinary things.

Genres: Adventure, Drama, History, War; Running Time: 10 one hour episodes with an additional special features disc – 705 minutes; Release Date: September 9, 2001; MPAA Rating: As a TV series, there was no rating, however there is strong language and graphic scenes.

Starring: Damian Lewis, Donnie Wahlberg, Ron Livingston, Scott Grimes, Shane Taylor, Peter Youngblood Hills, Rick Gomez, Michael Cudlitz, Robin Laing, Nicholas Aaron, Philip Barantini, James Madio, Dexter Fletcher, Ross McCall, George Calil, Nolan Hemmings, Neal McDonough, Rick Warden, Frank John Hughes, Dale Dye, Doug Allen, Michael Fassbender, Matthew Leitch, Tim Matthews, Rene L. Moreno,     Douglas Spain, Richard Speight Jr., Kirk Acevedo, Craig Heaney, Eion Bailey, Peter McCabe, Matthew Settle, Ben Caplan, Mark Huberman, Phil McKee…

I had watched a couple of installments of this mini-series over the past couple of years when they were on regular TV. I thought each of the single installments was excellent, but I’d never watched the complete series. Lay and I watched the entire series on a Thursday, Friday and Saturday night a couple of weeks ago.

“Band Of Brothers” tells the true and incredible odyssey of Easy Company of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st “Screaming Eagles” Airborne Division, U.S. Army – from their formation in Georgia (1942), to Berlin and the end of the war in Europe (1945). The demand for, and on, elite paratroopers was unending and they were deployed as “the tip of the spear” of every major allied offensive (and many minor ones too) on the Western Front. Jumping behind enemy lines, often without critical equipment and supplies or lacking enough rest and under terrible conditions, they saw more than their share of hard combat and E Company itself took nearly 150% casualties. (Statistically at least, that’s 100% of the company – 140 men and 7 officers – and half again of their replacements, lost).

The entire production represents quality writ large: Beautifully filmed on various European locations (including the UK and Austria), the movie is noble without being the least bit pompous or austere, and it manages to humanize a large cast of essential characters with small touches of humanity and humor, all of which serves to heighten the sense of terror as they descend into the maelstrom of conflict. The first – and longest – episode is deceptively staid, featuring David Schwimmer (a long way from TV’s “Friends”) as a cowardly, bullying commanding officer whose tyrannical methods nevertheless shaped Easy Company into a fighting force which eventually cut a swathe through the heart of occupied Europe. Brit actor Damian Lewis takes the spotlight thereafter as Easy Company’s most respected platoon leader, with Ron Livingston as his right hand man. Other standout performances in a flawless cast include Matthew Settle as battle-hardened platoon leader Ronald Speirs whose wartime career was distinguished by numerous acts of bravery (fuelled by a unique – if morbid – personal philosophy), Shane Taylor as company medic Eugene Roe, Neal McDonough as 2nd lieutenant ‘Buck’ Compton (laid low by his horrific combat experiences), and Donnie Wahlberg as 1st sergeant C. Carwood Lipton, who maintained the morale of his fellow soldiers, even when the odds seemed stacked against them. Every episode has its merits, but stand-outs include David Leland’s ‘Bastogne’ (ep. 6), which recounts the horrendous circumstances surrounding Easy Company’s involvement in the Battle of the Bulge, and David Frankel’s ‘Why We Fight’ (ep. 9), in which the full horror of the Nazi regime is uncovered in a German forest. Additionally, the closing moments of chapter 10 (‘Points’, directed by Mikael Salomon) are truly heartbreaking.

It’s doubtful that a more fitting tribute to the men of Easy Company could have been devised than BAND OF BROTHERS, a truly remarkable film in every conceivable way. By turns engrossing, provocative and deeply moving, it stands as a testament to those who fought and died for our freedoms, almost a lifetime ago.

I’d have to say it’s worth every one of those 705 minutes to watch.

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Only Looking Forward Is Not An Option

 Constitution, Corruption, Crime, Featured, Politics, Presidency, Society  Comments Off on Only Looking Forward Is Not An Option
Feb 062009
 

No less than former President Richard Nixon’s White House Counsel says that we must consider investigating (and if appropriate) prosecuting members of the Bush 43 Administration for torture and crimes against humanity. I would suggest reading the complete article, but here’s an excerpt:

My question is how can the Obama Administration not investigate, and, if appropriate, prosecute given the world is watching, because if they do not, other may do so? How could there be “change we can believe in” if the new administration harbors war criminals – which is the way that Philippe Sands and the rest of the world, familiar with the facts which have surfaced even without an investigation, view those who facilitated or engaged in torture?

One would think that people like Cheney, Rumsfeld, Addington, Gonzales, Yoo, Haynes and others, who claim to have done nothing wrong, would call for investigations to clear themselves if they really believed that to be the case. Only they, however, seem to believe in their innocence – the entire gutless and cowardly group of them, who have shamed themselves and the nation by committing crimes against humanity in the name of the United States.

We must all hope that the Obama Administration does the right thing, rather than forcing another country to clean up the mess and seek to erase the dangerous precedent these people have created for our country.

The testimony by Phillip Sands, Law Professor, to which he refers is here:

The evidence is remarkably clear, and I fail to see how anyone can turn a blind eye to this most egregious blot on America’s place in the world.

I hear the arguments that we must look forward and not back, but those who do not learn from history are bound to repeat it. We must, as a country, learn our lesson. We must take the appropriate rebuke from ourselves, and ensure that a clear message is sent to those in America who have come to believe that torture is OK if supporting it gets them votes. We most show the rest of the world that America gives no quarter to torturers, be they foreign or domestic.

It will not be a pleasant time in our history, but neither have the past eight years been pleasant. Our moral authority in the world has collapsed and is non-existent. Often we stood alone as the honest broker for what is right, but today we stand only as hypocrites.

I believe that the new Attorney General must appoint a Special Prosecutor, and an investigation must be conducted into the conduct of the Bush Administration in regards to torture, rendition and false imprisonment. These are all things explicitly detailed in America’s original Declaration of Independence as being unacceptable behavior by then King George. Our King George did no better, and just as America’s Founding Fathers called him to task for his transgressions, modern Patriots can do no less.

The Last King of Scotland

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Apr 222007
 

The Last Kind of ScotlandBased on the events of the brutal Ugandan dictator Idi Amin’s regime as seen by his personal physician during the 1970s

Directed by
Kevin Macdonald

Genres
Drama, History, Thriller

Cast
Forest Whitaker, James McAvoy, Kerry Washington, Gillian Anderson, Simon McBurney, David Oyelowo, Abby Mukiibi Nkaaga, Adam Kotz, Barbara Rafferty, David Ashton, Giles Foden, Andy Williams, Martina Amati, Peter Salmon, Michael Wawuyo

Much of what you will see is true, and did occur in Uganda’s history. Amin’s doctor, played by James Macavoy, is the main fiction in the movie, but one would think they are watching a historical event. Macavoy’s character is so real. The doctor grows from a free thinking, adventure loving, womanizer, to a scared, concerned, and enlightened person. The viewer watches through Macavoys eyes as he witnesses the horrors of Amin’s (Forest Whitaker’s) presidency and regime.
How can an actor terrify you without saying a word, without even hardly moving his face or body? I’m not sure how he does it, but Mr. Whitaker does it over and over again in this movie. And then he turns around the next minute and becomes giant hug-able teddy bear superhero.

This movie will scare the viewer because of its realism, and how it builds up to a tension that is hard to endure. The visuals are not for the squeamish. Go ahead and hide your eyes during the “tough” scenes. It is still worth seeing this movie for the fast paced story, realistic drama, fascinating tale, and for the unbelievable acting. By the end of the movie the audience is exhausted, but satisfied that they saw a worthy flick.

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Munich

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Jan 092006
 

Munich (2005)

During the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, eleven Israeli athletes are taken hostage and murdered by a Palestinian terrorist group known as Black September. In retaliation, the Israeli government recruits a group of Mossad agents to track down and execute those responsible for the attack.

Directed by
Steven Spielberg

Genres
Crime, Drama, History, Thriller

Cast
Eric Bana, Daniel Craig, Ciar?n Hinds, Mathieu Kassovitz, Hanns Zischler, Ayelet Zorer, Geoffrey Rush, Gila Almagor, Michael Lonsdale, Mathieu Amalric, Moritz Bleibtreu, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Meret Becker, Marie-Jos?e Croze, Yvan Attal

Lay and I went to see Munich Friday night at the Veteran’s 24. This movie is very similar to “The Sword of Gideon.” The Sword Of Gideon (1986) documents Israel’s subsequent counteractions against the perpetrators of Munich.

Munich is a good movie, but I felt that I had seen it before. However, as you would expect from Spielberg, the cinematography is excellent. The special effects are reasonable, and well done…merely adding to the story. I thought the entire cast did an excellent job with their roles.

I’d say its a movie worth seeing, especially given that there is a large audience that has never seen the Sword of Gideon.

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Good Night, and Good Luck.

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Nov 112005
 

Good Night, and Good Luck. (2005)

Broadcast journalist Edward Murrow looks to bring down Senator Joseph McCarthy.

Directed by
George Clooney

Genres
Drama, History

Cast
David Strathairn, Robert Downey Jr., Patricia Clarkson, Ray Wise, Frank Langella, Jeff Daniels, George Clooney, Tate Donovan, Thomas McCarthy, Matt Ross, Reed Diamond, Robert John Burke, Grant Heslov, Alex Borstein, Rose Abdoo

I was a little disappointed with this film, but that might be the result of having extremely high hopes. “Good Night, and Good Luck,” tells the story of CBS Newsman Edward R. Murrow’s courageous fight against Senator Joseph McCarthy. As a student of both history and journalism, I have viewed Murrow as a hero and was very excited to see this film. Overall, David Strathairn’s performance is impeccable, capturing Murrow’s nuances, genius, and even the cigarette addiction that eventually killed him.

George Clooney directed this film and plays Fred Friendly, who produced Murrow’s broadcasts. Clooney also is credited with co-writing the screenplay, and that’s where the problem arises. Aside for the lengthy film footage of actual Senate sub-committee testimony, and the genuine, on-screen words of Murrow and others, the screenplay is sparse. There just wasn’t much tension in the film, and it showed little of the struggles taking place around the stories.

This story was clearly as a warning that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it…unfortunately, I think it might have come out too late.

We get very little insight into the characters of Murrow, Friendly, and CBS President William Paley (played by Frank Langella). In addition, Clooney wastes a superb supporting cast including Patricia Clarkson, Robert Downey Jr., and Jeff Daniels.

Clearly, George Clooney has made a noble film that captures the spirit of the time and the words of those involved, and if there was ever any doubt that McCarthy was a self-serving hypocrite, it is erased by this film. But the director failed to develop characters that were interesting in their own right. As such, the film is only slightly more involving than a documentary on the subject might have been.

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