Archive for the ‘Reviews’ category

The Post

February 9, 2018

The-PostDate night tonight. We went out to see “The Post“. This is a film about the Washington Post’s handling what became known as the “Pentagon Papers”. The movie stars Meryl Streep as Kay Graham and Tom Hanks as Ben Bradlee of the Washington Post.

Anytime I see Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks I expect that I will be seeing great performances. I was not disappointed this evening.

The movie is set in Washington in 1971. Daniel Ellsburg had stolen the pages that documented failures of the Vietnam war in a document that became known as the “Pentagon Papers“.  I have provided a link to the Wiki pages on the Pentagon Papers. The Nixon White house tried to block the publication but the case was heard by the US Supreme Court. And the rest is history.

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I loved the set decoration on the film. Where’d they get all of the dial telephones and the pay phones. I felt like I was going back in time. One really gets the feeling that you are in newspaper news room. Presses and Linotype machines too. Reminds me of a tour I took of the Boston Globe facility on Morrisey Blvd. in Dorchester when I was in high school. Only thing missing was the smell of machine oil and ink.

The film ends with the break-in of the Watergate offices of the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington.

Stopped at KFC for some chicken take-out.

Good film. Go see it.

Joe

Darkest Hour

January 28, 2018

Darkest HourLast week we went to see the movie “Darkest Hour” starring Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill. Of course, we had to get a sitter for Mary. It was good to get out with her.

I enjoyed the film, but the theater had the audio turned up a bit too loud. That made the audio a bit mushy and you combine that with the English accents one gets trouble understanding what’s going on. It seems that a lot of theaters run the audio loud on films (in this case it was an AMC theater.)

The timeline for the story is May 1940 starting with the sacking of Neville Chamberlain.  And carrying Great Britain through the days of exploring the idea of a negotiated peace with Hitler.

I was subliminally comparing the portrayal of Churchill in this film with the performance of John Lithgow as Churchill in the Netflix series “The Crown”. Both were fine performances but I kind of liked Lithgow just a bit more.

Interesting to read IMDB on the costuming and makeup for Gary Oldman. Another bit of trivia, film had a budget of $30,000 for cigars. They used about 400 cigars during the filming. Gary Oldman got nicotine poisoning from smoking the cigars.

The movie is based on the book of the same name by Anthony McCarten. Indeed, Anthony McCarten also wrote the screen play. I’ve just started reading the book. I think I would have been better off if I had read the book first. I wouldn’t have felt so confused at times during the film.

Oh, for fine dining, we ate at Denny’s. The film was about 2 hours long, so all the restaurants hadn’t closed for the evening when we pulled in.

Here’s a bit of information that I learned. The restaurants on the west side of Western Ave are in Rancho Palos Verdes. And as such, they are required to close at 9:30 PM on Sunday through Thursday. On Friday and Saturday, the Denny’s that we went to is open all night.

Beneath a Scarlet Sky – A Novel

January 3, 2018

img_0593Latest book that I’ve been reading is “Beneath a Scarlet Sky” written by Mark Sullivan. This is the true life story of Pino Lella, an Italian resistance fighter in WW2. The starts with introduction of Pino, a normal Italian teenager who wants nothing to do with the Nazis and the war. I am amazed at the amount of research it took to write this book.

The story starts with Pina escorting Jews over Alps to Switzerland. Then his parents force him to enlist in the German army in the hopes that will save him from harm.

After he is injured he ends up becoming the personal driver for a German general who is Hitler’s right hand man in Italy. From that point on he is busy spying for the allies and the partisans.

Good book, worth reading. Here’s a wikipedia article on the Italian resistance movement in WW2

Here’s a short excerpt:

They crossed the Po River, and long before dusk, while the countryside still lay blanketed in summer torpor, the train squealed and sighed to a stop amid gently rolling farmland. Pino carried a blanket over his shoulder and climbed after Carletto to a low grassy hill above an orchard that faced southwest toward the city.

“Pino,” Mr. Beltramini said, “watch out, or there will be spider webs across your ears by morning.”

Mrs. Beltramini, a pretty, frail woman who always seemed to be suffering some malady or another, scolded weakly, “Why did you say that? You know I hate spiders.”

The fruit shop owner fought against a grin. “What are you talking about? I was just warning the boy about the dangers of sleeping with his head in the deep grass.”

His wife looked like she wanted to argue, but then she just waved him away, as if he were some bothersome fly.

Uncle Albert fished in a canvas bag for bread, wine, cheese, and dried salami. The Beltraminis broke out five ripe cantaloupes. Pino’s father sat in the grass next to his violin case, his arms wrapped around his knees and an enchanted look on his face.

“Isn’t it magnificent?” Michele said.

“What’s magnificent?” Uncle Albert said, looking around, puzzled.

“This place. How clean the air is. And the smells. No burning. No bomb stench. It seems so . . . I don’t know. Innocent?”

“Exactly,” Mrs. Beltramini said.

“Exactly what?” Mr. Beltramini said. “You walk a little too far here and it’s not so innocent. Cow shit and spiders and snakes and—”

Whop! Mrs. Beltramini backhand-slapped her husband’s arm. “You show no mercy, do you? Ever?”

“Hey, that hurt,” Mr. Beltramini protested through a smile.

“Good,” she said. “Now stop it, you. I didn’t get a wink of sleep with all that talk of spiders and snakes last night.”

Appearing unaccountably angry, Carletto got up and walked downhill toward the orchard. Pino noticed some girls down by the rock wall that surrounded the fruit grove. Not one of them was as beautiful as Anna. But maybe it was time to move on. He jogged downhill to catch up with Carletto, told him his plan, and they tried to artfully intercept the girls. Another group of boys beat them to it.

Pino looked at the sky and said, “I’m only asking for a little love.”

“I think you’d settle for a kiss,” Carletto said.

“I’d be happy with a smile.” Pino sighed.

One more thing. The author mentions the aria “Nessun Dorma” from Puccini’s Turandot several times in the book. The title translated to English means “None Shall Sleep”. Click here to get a full translation of the lyrics as well as a performance by the late great Luciano Pavarotti.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

December 28, 2017

Wednesday was date night here. We arranged for Dawn to come and watch Mary while Paula and I went out to see the latest Star Wars movie. Wednesday is bargain night at the Terraces Starlight Cinema. Tickets were $6 each for seniors. Indeed, I paid more for a medium bag of popcorn and a bottle of water than the tickets.

I got the tickets online which added a $2.50 convenience fee. I was concerned that maybe there was still a crowd wanting to see “Star Wars The Last Jedi“. Turn out that the theater wasn’t all that crowded. I could have easily bought the tickets at the theater and saved myself $2.50.

We had thought about going out to dinner after the show, but we struck out on three different restaurants that we tried. Everyone closed at either 9pm or 9:30pm. So we had to settle for the In’n Out drive through. I got a double-double and Paula got a protein style, double meet and one order of fries to share. Went home paid Dawn and opened a couple of beers. Paula had a Molsen and I had a Guinness. It seems that nobody goes out to eat late on a Wednesday.

Now to the movie. We both liked it pretty much. It is very fast paced and one can get a bit lost on all of the subplots that are going down. If you haven’t seen it, I would suggest doing a little research before you go to see the film to get an idea of what’s going on.

This episode introduces a couple of new characters and strengthens a couple of characters introduced in the previous episode. There were also a couple of new baddies to hiss at (to replace Darth Vader). Here’s a list from People Magazine.

There are many new critters that are introduced in this episode. The LA Times wrote an excellent story on their development. Click HERE. I particularly liked the puffin like birds (called “porgs”).

So the previous episode (“The Force Awakens”) introduced the location named “Ahch-To”, shot on location on the island “Skellig Michael” off of the coast of Ireland in County Kerry. This is the location that Luke Skywalker goes to get away from it all. an, you can’t get more away from it all than Skellig Michael, And Rey returns to get him back involved.

Here is a story about the many sites for filming Star Wars films. Click here.

I was saddened to see Carrie Fisher in her last performance on the Star Wars franchise. Rest in Peace.carrie-fisher-star-wars-celebration-1068x595

Origin: A Novel

November 9, 2017

51oICD9UWKLOrigin: A Novel” is the latest book by Dan Brown that I just finished reading. Once again it features Professor Robert Langdon as the main character.

This time Langdon is in Spain meeting with a scientist named Edmond Kirsch who is about to announce to the world some amazing discovery that will put an end to organized religion.

So the story starts with Kirsch having a big announcement ceremony where he promptly gets shot and dies. Langdon of course comes to the rescue to chase the killers and find out what Kirsch’s big announcement was going to be.

An AI (Artificial Intelligence) persona is introduced with the name “Winston”. Of course, Winston and Langdon team up to find out all the answers.

The NY Times seemed to love the book. They wrote an absolutely gushing blurb (see the Kindle page on Amazon). They probably didn’t have to pay $14.99 for it.

I guess I was expecting more from Dan Brown. I’ve read all of his previous books. I was totally underwhelmed. Save your $14.99 for the Kindle edition. If you really must read it, wait until the price drops next summer or fall.

The next book that I will be reading is “Leonardo Da Vinci” by Walter Isaacson.

Dunkirk

July 27, 2017

Wednesday this week was date night. We called Dawn to come over and stay with Mary while Paula and I went to the movies. This time we went to see “Dunkirk”. This is the story of the Dunkirk Evacuation in June 1940 where the Allied forces are evacuated from the shores of Dunkirk across the British Channel.

This was a bit easier on the wallet. The theater is close by and Wednesday is $5 for Seniors Day (Woo Hoo). We went out to eat at a new Korean BBQ joint that opened up recently (Also nearby). More on the Korean BBQ later.

The movie is directed by Christopher Nolan and tells the story of Dunkirk from three points of view. Air, Sea and Land. For the most part, the actors were all unknowns with the exception of Kenneth Branagh who played the role of a British Navy Commander who was supervising the evacuation from a pier on the Dunkirk beach.

The constant switching of the main threads in the movie made it a challenge to follow at times. I also had a little trouble understanding the British accents. I was also confused due to the change from day time to night time depending on which thread was up on the screen.

Overall, I enjoyed the film. You really felt sorry for the soldiers who were waiting to be evacuated. Man did they look miserable. So close but so far.

** Spoiler Alert **

At the end of the film the last fighter pilot runs out of petrol (as the Brits would call it). It seemed like he was gliding for 10-15 minutes after his engine conked out. Why’d he land on the beach? He would be sure to be captured? Why not ditch next to one of the boats. Hated to see that beautiful airplane burn.

Okay, the film running time was 1 hr 45 min. Which meant that with a posted start time of 4:40 pm, it was still daylight outside when we came out of the theater. That meant we had time to have dinner, without running up the clock on the sitter.

Dinner

We ate at a new Korean BBQ joint on Western next to the US Bank. The name of the place is 3BBQ. I got the chicken rice bowl and Paula got a beef wrap and we got some appetizers to share.

Wonder Woman

July 7, 2017

Wonder WomanLast night was date night. We hired a baby sitter for Mary and went to see “Wonder Woman“. The cost for our baby sitter was three times as much as the price to see the movie. Here’s a link to the official trailer.

The movie stars Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman and Chris Pine as the dashing pilot/spy Steve Trevor. The film was directed by Patty Jenkins. It is interesting that the film was directed by a woman. And she is the first woman to direct a live-action film with a budget of over $100 million.

Okay, first and foremost this movie was about a half hour longer than it needed to be. Run time is about 2 hours and 15 minutes. Butt getting sore and beginning to wonder when the big finale scene is going to start.

So here’s the basic story. Trevor’s plane crashes into the sea off the coast of Amazon Island and Diana saves him from certain death by drowning. Steve Trevor tells Diana about the war that is raging in the outside world. The war is WWI of course. Interestingly, the comic book version, the war is WW2. The first battle is between the Amazons and the Germans who are chasing Trevor on Amazon Island. Seeing as this is a PG-13, movie there is little blood spilled. Soldiers get shot but don’t seem to bleed very much.

There’s an amusing scene early in the movie where Steve is recovering from his wounds in a hot tub somewhere on the island. Then Steve gets out of the tub and stands there buck naked in all his glory for Diana to see. The look on her face says that she has probably never seen a naked man before. Oh my… Luckily for the kiddies present, the scene is back lit and you can’t actually see Trevor’s (ahem) equipment.

So Amazon Island is located somewhere off the coast of Italy or maybe Greece. Think warm blue Caribbean waters. So Princess Diana begins to discover her super powers. And then Steve persuades her to go with him back to England. The two of them find a small fishing boat and set sail for England.

So the pair arrive in London after a brief voyage. Steve helps Diana get some new clothes that would meet the approval of the Londoners of the era. Anyways, to make a long story short, the pair manage to make it to the battlefield in France where Wonder Woman proceeds to kick serious ass. The film has some real nasty German baddies that get their comeuppance. And finally, we get to the finale battle between Wonder Woman and the evil lord Ares. And of course, you know who wins that battle.

Overall, it was a fun film though a little bit on the long side. We stopped at KFC’s drive thru to pick up some fried chicken for our dinner. Going out to an actual restaurant would be nice, but tick tock.