Monday, October 23, 2006



Nikola Tesla (b. July 1856) was a world-renowned Serbian-American inventor, physicist, and electrical engineer. He is regarded as one of the most important inventors in history and is well known for his contributions to the discipline of electricity and magnetism in the late 19th and early 20th century. In the United States, Tesla's fame rivalled that of any other inventor or scientist.
During the initial years of electricity, Thomas Edison's direct current was the standard used in the United States. Tesla devised a system for the generation, transmission, and use of alternating current and he partnered with Westinghouse to commercialise this system. As such, in the "War of Currents" era in the late 1880’s, Tesla and Edison became adversaries.

Hugh Jackman: Rupert Angier, assistant to a well-known magician
Piper Perabo: Rupert's wife Julia
Christian Bale: Alfred Borden, the third assistant in the act
Michael Caine: Cutter, designer of illusions
Rebecca Hall: Alfred’s wife Sarah
Scarlett Johansson: Olivia, assistant to The Great Danton
David Bowie: scientist Nicola Tesla

A well crafted movie but a bit too long. The acting is first rate and the story a good one but definitely more convoluted than necessary.

for violence and disturbing images.

Sunday, October 22, 2006


Historical drama

Since the 14th century, the future king of France has been given the title of le Dauphin until such time as he ascends to the throne. His wife is known as la Dauphine.

1643 Louis XIV becomes King of France (nicknamed the Sun King)
1682 completion of the Château de Versailles (Palace of Versailles)
1715 death of Louis XIV; Louis XV becomes King of France (nicknamed the Beloved)
1729 birth of Louis XV’s first son, Louis-Ferdinand, heir apparent of France
1754 birth of Louis-Ferdinand’s first son, Louis-Auguste
 birth of Maria Antonia at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna as Archduchess of Austria
 she was the fifteenth child and the youngest daughter of Francis I of Austria and Empress Maria Theresa
 later she became known to history as Marie Antoinette, the French version of her given names
1756 Austria and France became allies in the Seven Years’ War
1765 death of Louis-Ferdinand from tuberculosis; Louis-Auguste becomes heir apparent
1769 in an effort to preserve the fragile Austria/France alliance, it was proposed that Louis XV’s grandson Louis-Auguste marry one of Empress Maria Theresa's daughters
1770 the marriage of Marie Antoinette and Louis-Auguste
1774 death of Louis XV; Louis-Auguste becomes King Louis XVI
1775 –1783 The American Revolutionary War
1787 - 1793 The French Revolution

Kirstin Dunst: 14-year old Austrian princess Marie Antoinette
Judy Davis: Comtesse de Noailles, Marie’s chief attendant
Rip Torn: King Louis XV
Jason Schwartzman: his grandson, 15-year old dauphin Louis Auguste
Steve Coogan: the Austrian ambassador to France
Asia Argento: Louis XV’s second mistress, Madame du Barry

As the opening credits appeared a contemporary song accompanied them. My first reaction was “Oops, I’m in the wrong theatre” since I expected classical music from the period, baroque or opera perhaps, but not some modern pop tune. But you should hang in because it’s just the Director’s odd choice of music that doesn’t feel right and things return to normal with the opening scenes.

The movie captures the period beautifully with lovely costumes and elaborate sets. Most of the action takes place at the magnificent Palace of Versailles (the “benchmark” for others wishing to build a château) which showcases the opulence of the monarchy of those days.

It’s too bad some more editing was not done; it would have kept the movie to less than two hours. For example, from the time of the Sun King, elaborate rituals were part of palace life including the daily morning dressing of the King and the Queen. This is an interesting footnote to history but becomes a bit of a bore when it’s shown a half dozen times. Similarly meals were served in a prescribed manner but we don’t need to see so many of them to get the idea.

Unlike most movies where the dialogue is a key component to the telling of the story, in this movie it is more often from snatched murmurs that we find out what is going on. It is in a sense like “being a fly on the wall”.

However the overall impression is a good one and well worth putting up with these shortcomings.

for sexual content, partial nudity and innuendo.



Corpsmen are members of the U.S. Navy Hospital Corps. They serve as enlisted medical personnel in a wide variety of capacities and locations, including shore establishments such as naval hospitals and clinics, aboard ships as the primary medical caregiver for sailors while underway, and with the Marine Corps units as battlefield corpsmen.

A runner is an enlisted man given the rather lowly job of being a messenger rather than participating in the battle.

Ryan Phillippe: John “Doc” Bradley, U.S. Navy corpsman
Jesse Bradford: Marine Private First Class Rene Gagnon, company runner
Adam Beach: Marine Private First Class Ira Hayes, an American Indian from the Pima tribe
Jamie Bell: Marine Private Ralph “Iggy” Ignatowski
Benjamin Walker: Marine Private Harlon Block
Paul Walker: Marine Private Hank Hansen

One of the most famous war photographs ever taken, the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima by five United States Marines and one Navy corpsman, is brought into sharp focus (sorry about that) in this epic movie replete with realistic action and moments of insight.

It covers a lot of ground and hits upon one of my pet peeves in movies: the use of flashbacks. Too often it’s impossible to tell which time line we are viewing. In this movie, flashbacks are used frequently (and often unexpectedly) and at times there are flashbacks within flashbacks. This jumping back and forth becomes very confusing unless you take note of the colour rendition:
 the Iwo Jima scenes are monochromatic, almost black and white
 the Stateside scenes have some colour in them
 the post-war scenes are in full colour

Despite the fact it runs over two hours, it does not seem that long which is a credit to the director as there are few (if any) dull moments.

for sequences of graphic war violence and carnage, and for language.

High-ranking United States military officers can be readily identified because of the yellow braid worn on the visor of their hats. The common derisive term for these embellishments is “scrambled eggs”. Although great attention to detail is evident throughout the movie, one lapse is evident during a planning session when a low ranking officer slams down the telephone and utters to no one in particular “those damn officers, just because they have scrambled eggs on their chest…” the point being it's not on their chests.

Prior to being introduced to the crowd, the group is waiting below the stands just outside the locker room of the Washington Senators, the American League baseball team. The problem is the team played from 1961 to 1971, some 20 years later.

Immediately before (or just after?) the photograph is taken, the photographer looks up and I think we see the flag from his perspective to be on the left hand side of the men, not the right hand side as published.

After taking the flag-raising photograph, Joe Rosenthal took a second one with the group standing at the foot of the raised flag. When later asked if he had staged the photo, Rosenthal not knowing how the first one had turned out, assumed they were inquiring about the second one which he knew he had. “Sure”, he replied and inadvertently began the false rumour that the flag-raising photo had been staged.

Stick around for the end credits to see a collection of still photographs of the real battle. It is worth noting how the movie very closely approximates these.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Western drama

From the Hallmark Channel:
“This made-for-TV film will be presented during the upcoming Christmas season. It is the fourth installment of Janette Oke's award-winning, best-selling, faith-based Western novel of Missie and Willie LeHaye and their journey of faith and survival in the frontier.”

Logan Bartholomew: Willie LaHaye, homesteader
Erin Cottrell: his wife Missie
Dale Midkiff: her father Clark
John Laughlin: the town mayor and land baron Horace
James Tupper: former preacher Henry
Brianna Brown: his wife Melinda

The first thing that strikes you as unnatural is how everyone so carefully enunciates each word of dialog. However it is the dawdling pace of the movie that makes it seem like it goes on forever. Coupled with some really bad acting (Missie’s dad being the worst) and the very predictable story line, it soon becomes apparent that this is going to be one long haul. Especially when there is a bible-quoting-former preacher around.

I should’ve got up and left at that point and then waited for it to be shown on tv. Then I could change the channel real quickly!

for mild thematic elements.

1. At one point Missie is in bed because she is not feeling well. Her father brings her a bowl of soup. Just before the end of the scene, in the mirror behind them you can see someone wave his or her hand, probably signifying “cut”.
2. When Missie goes into the General Store the storefront is in dark shadow but while she’s talking with the owner you can see behind her that the storefront is now in bright sunshine.
3. While talking about the difficulties the family has had to face, Clark says they are “between a rock and a hard place”. This expression was first used in 1917, some 32 years after the movie setting of 1885.

Once again a movie seems to suffer in terms of quality when someone is responsible for more than one key position. In this case it was written and directed by Michael Landon Jr.



Christopher Walken: Dobbs' manager
Robin Williams: Tom Dobbs, talk show host
Lewis Black: Dobbs’ speech writer Eddie Langston
Laura Linney: Eleanor Green, an employee of Delacroy Voting Systems
David Alpay: her friend Danny
Rick Roberts: Hemmings CEO of Delacroy
Jeff Goldblum: his legal council, Stewart

This is a bit of a mixed bag. Robin Williams is at his best when given a chance to do his own thing but falters badly when having to deliver some lines written by someone else. Some of the comments/jibes are right on but others are unfunny, having been around for ages or simply in poor taste pandering to the pre-teen crowd I guess.
The supporting cast does a fine job but the editing needs to be addressed: the movie runs almost 2 hours which is far too long as a lot of the dialogue we could do without.

for language including some crude sexual references, drug-related material and brief violence.

Eleanor walks past her car which is parked facing the motel unit and gets change from the front desk. She then gets in the car and drives off without first backing up to get turned around.

Election of the President and Vice President of the United States is indirect. Although ballots list the names of the candidates, voters are actually choosing Electors when they cast their vote. These Electors, who have pledged to vote for a specific candidate, then cast the official (electoral) votes for those positions. There are currently 538 Electors. Therefore, in order to win the Presidency, it is necessary for the successful candidate to gain 270 electoral votes (a majority of 538).

Friday, October 13, 2006



Milton Obote was a Ugandan political leader who led the country to independence from the British colonial adminstration in 1962. He was overthrown by Idi Amin Dada in 1971.

On June 27, 1976 Air France Flight 139, originating in Tel Aviv, Israel carrying 248 passengers and a crew of 12 took off from Athens, Greece heading for Paris, France. Shortly after takeoff, the flight was hijacked by four terrorists, two from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The flight was diverted to Libya for refuelling then flew on to Entebbe International Airport, about 35 km. from the Uganda capital of Kampala.

James McAvoy: recent graduate Dr. Nicholas Garrigan
Adam Kotz: Dr. David Merrit physician at the Mogambo mission
Gillian Anderson: his wife Sara
Forest Whitaker: Ugandan dictator General Idi Amin
Kerry Washington: Amin's third wife Kay
Simon McBurney: Foreign Service Officer Nigel Stone

Idi Amin was such a complex man prone to fits of anger one minute then could quickly become the most charming person in the room. His moods changed so rapidly it is a wonder anybody can portray him. But Forest Whitaker gives one of the most riveting performances seen in years. The supporting cast does an excellent job too, but my vote goes for Whitaker.

Based on historical fact, it is inevitable that some of the awful things that took place during Amin’s reign come to light. Several scenes make for unpleasant viewing but if you can handle it, this is one terrific movie.

for some graphic violence and several gruesome images, brief sexual content and language.

The title is so misleading some would write it off and not bother going to see it simply because they have no interest in Scottish history. But the movie has little to do about Scotland other than the fact the young doctor comes from there and Idi Amin has a passing interest in things Scottish.


In Inuit and Danish, with English sub-titles

Pakak Innuksuk: Avva, tribal elder
Jens Jorn Spottag: anthropologist Knud Rasmussen
and lots of others

After one-half hour all that had transpired was the group sat around in the igloo, had several cups of tea, smoked a pipe or two, someone sang a couple of songs and that’s it.

I simply could not bring myself to spending another hour and half of that stultifying action while peering at the screen trying to read the sub-titles (white letters in a white winter snowscape is not the best choice) so I left.


Monday, October 9, 2006


Police drama

Matt Damon: Colin Sullivan, police recruit
Leonardo DiCaprio: another recruit, Billy Costigan
Martin Sheen: Captain Queenan of the Massachusetts State Police
Mark Wahlberg: his second-in-command, Staff Sergeant Dignam
Alec Baldwin: State Police Commander
Vera Farmiga: State Police psychologist Madolyn Madden
Jack Nicholson: Frank Costello, 70-year-old career criminal, head of the Boston Irish mob
Ray Winstone: his right-hand man, Mr. French

This is one gritty, tough-guy movie with language and violence to match. For fear of giving away too much of the plot, I'll say little except it can get a bit confusing so pay attention to what’s going on, especially at the beginning. After that things play out well enough but you need to get it straightened out right at the start.

In addition to the crisp editing (which makes the 2 hours fly by) there are excellent performances by several of the actors. Nicholson for one is at the top of his game. This part was made for him.

for strong brutal violence, pervasive language, some sexual content and drugs.

At one point in time an envelope is slipped beneath a pile of others and what is written on it is pretty much hidden. But in the next scene the person picking it up can clearly see what’s written on it.

The Scholastic Assessment Test (better known as the SAT test) is a standardised test frequently used by United States colleges and universities as an aid in the selection of incoming students. The test results have been linked with IQ; Mensa accepts individuals who score 1300+.


Children’s animated cartoon

Martin Lawrence: Boog, a a 900-pound grizzly bear
Debra Messing: National Park Service Ranger Beth
Ashton Kutcher: Elliot, a deer
Gary Sinise: mean ol’ hunter Shaw
Billy Connolly: McSquizzy, boss of the squirrels

It has all the requisites of a movie for kids even though it’s somewhat toned down compared to others of this type: rude bodily noises, potty jokes, “pretend” violence, a pair of odd-ball buddies, candies and sweets for the taking and best of all, the good guys (the animals) win out over the bad guys (those nasty human beings).

The adults in the audience will find it mildly amusing but it lacks any double-entendre dialogue that only the grown ups will catch, leaving the kids wondering what is all that funny.

for some rude humor, mild action and brief language.



The U.S. Coast Guard is one of five branches of the US Armed Forces and is the nation's oldest continuous seagoing service with responsibilities including Search and Rescue, Maritime Law Enforcement, Aids to Navigation, Ice Breaking, Environmental Protection, Port Security and Military Readiness. In order to accomplish these missions the Coast Guard has 38,000 active-duty men and women, 8,000 Reservists, and 35,000 Auxiliary personnel who serve in a variety of job fields ranging from operation specialists and small-boat operators and maintenance specialists to electronic technicians and aviation mechanics.

Boot camp is located in Cape May, New Jersey and lasts 8 weeks. It is tough, both mentally and physically. Its purpose is to prepare the new recruit for life in the Coast Guard. Much of the training takes place in a classroom where valuable skills such as first aid, fire fighting, weapons handling, practical seamanship, and general Coast Guard knowledge are taught. In addition there are daily physical fitness classes and lessons in the pool being taught water survival techniques.

Kevin Costner: U.S. Coast Guard Senior Chief Ben Randall
Clancy Brown: Capt. William Hadley, commanding officer of the Kodiak Alaska duty station
Sela Ward: Ben’s wife Helen
John Heard: Capt. Frank Larson, commanding officer of the Training Center
Neal McDonough: drill instructor Jake Skinner
Ashton Kutcher: Jake Fischer, a champion swimmer and new recruit
Melissa Sagemiller: Emily Thomas, a teacher living in Cape May
Bonnie Bramlett: Maggie McGlone, owner of Maggie’s Bar

Perhaps not the most original movie about people who want to serve others, it is nevertheless one that is entertaining. In part because there is a lot of action, mostly in and around water. But what would you expect to see in a movie about the U.S. Coast Guard?

Some criticism might be levelled at the length of the movie (2 hours and 15 minutes) but time goes by quickly and it doesn’t seem that long.

for intense sequences of action/peril, brief strong language and some sexuality.

In all boot camps, beds have to be made up each morning ready for rigorous inspection.

Sunday, October 8, 2006



Beatle John Lennon
His wife Yoko Ono
Journalist Carl Bernstein
Noam Chomsky, political activist
Walter Cronkite, retired CBS television news anchor
Black Panthers Bobby Seale and Angela Davis
U.S. Senator George McGovern, outspoken opponent of the Vietnam War
Tom Smothers, half of the musical comedy televison showThe Smothers Brothers
President Richard Nixon
Social activitsts Jerry Rubin and Abie Hoffman
Gore Vidal, famous American writer
Mario Cuomo, former Mayor of NYC
G. Gordon Liddy, Chairman of the Committee to Re-Elect the President
H.R. Haldeman, White House Chief of Staff under Nixon
Geraldo Rivera, a Fox News correspondent

Although the soundtrack includes some of Lennon’s songs this movie is not about his song-writing career. Instead it’s about his post-Beatles involvement in the peace movement back in the ‘70’s. Not surprising, this caused him some difficulties with the authorities with many people displeased by his unconventional methods.

To many the movie will be an overview of those times. To some it will be an insight to what really happened.

for some strong language, violent images and drug references.

Thursday, October 5, 2006



Rowan Atkinson: Reverand Walter Goodfellow, vicar of a tiny village church
Kristin Scott-Thomas: his wife Gloria
Tamsin Egeton: their 17-year old daughter Holly
Toby Parkes: her younger brother Peter
Patrick Swayze: Lance, an American golf pro
Maggie Smith: the family’s housekeeper Grace Hawkins

British humour is evident almost from the get-go: with a witty script, frequent use of understatement and some clever puns the chuckles and smiles come easily (if you like that kind of thing of course). There is some great acting by the women but Atkinson is a little out of character, less frantic than usual.

Overall it's a rollicking good time.

for language and some sexual content and nudity.

Tuesday, October 3, 2006



George Bessolo Reeves (born January 5, 1914) was an American actor best known for playing the title role in the television series Adventures of Superman in the 1950’s.

At approximately 1:30 AM the morning of June 16, 1959 he died of a gunshot wound to the head in the upstairs bedroom of his Benedict Canyon home. He was 45 years old.

There have always been three primary theories about Reeves' death:
1. The first is that, in an alcohol-induced daze and despondent over the lack of movement in his career, he shot himself. This is what the official record indicates.
2. Another possibility is that, during an argument, his fianceé Lenore accidentally shot him, then used the 45 minutes between Reeves' death and her call to the police to stage a suicide.
3. A third possibility is that Eddie Mannix hired someone to eliminate Reeves because of problems the actor was causing in his marriage.

Ben Affleck:George Reeves, better known as Superman
Robin Tunney: his fianceé Leonore Lemmon
Adrien Brody: private investigator Louis Simo
Larry Cedar: one of his clients
Caroline Dhavernas: Simo’s “secretary”
Molly Parker: Simo’s ex-wife Laurie
Zach Mills: their 10-year-old son Evan
Lois Smith: Reeves' mother Helen Bessolo
Diane Lane: Toni, Eddie Mannix's wife
Bob Hoskins: MGM executive Eddie Mannix
Jeffrey DeMunn: Reeves’s agent
Joe Spano: MGM “fixer” Howard Strickling

With a flock of good actors and a story that needs to be told, the film has tremendous potential. However four things set about to mess it up.

Firstly it’s too long; each scene seems to go on forever and the story unfolds at a snail’s pace. Some might say, “it’s slow and deliberate”. I say “it’s plodding”.

The story ostensibly is about the death of Superman but more screen time is devoted to the personal life of a small-time, down-in-his-luck private detective and the problems he has with his estranged wife. In fact this preoccupation with this secondary character carries on right up to the closing shot which has him sitting in his car waiting for his kid to join him. Like who cares?

Then there is the poor acting:
Adrien Brody: each scene with him and the reporters looks like a replay of the previous one; same with his discussions with his former buddies and with his one client. It’s almost as if he is resting on his laurels now that he has won an Academy Award.
Ben Affleck: many will disagree but I’ve yet to see anything even remotely close to real acting from this man since I don’t consider someone appearing to be reading all the time from cue cards as acting; a pretty-boy he is, an actor he’s not.

The flashbacks: without warning you’re flipped back 10 years then without any apparent sign returned to the present. The use of this technique when done properly adds much to the film by “filling in the blanks”. In this case the layered flashbacks serve only to confuse the whole thing, particularly when the style of dress and general setting of the flashback looks very much like the present. We need clues to catch on to these changes in time.

for violence, gore, profanity, nudity and sexual situations.

Simo meets in a coffee shop with a former colleague from the big detective agency he once worked for. After reading the headline he tosses the newspaper on to the table with it winding up just beside the colleague’s left arm. In the very next shot, taken from Simo’s perspective, we can clearly see that colleague’s left arm is hanging over the back of the seat and not on the tabletop.

The movie takes place in the summer of 1959 and Simo gives Evan an Etch-A-Sketch toy. Although developed in the late 1950s by Frenchman, Arthur Granjean, it was not marketed in the United States until July 12, 1960.

When Simo is checking out the newspaper the headline refers to the firing of General McArthur by President Truman. That took place in 1951 and would not still be a news item in 1959.

The movie title, Hollywoodland, is a reference to the huge sign along the rugged terrain of the Hollywood Hills. Erected in 1923 when the city was in the midst of expansion, it spelled out in 30’ high letters the name the real estate group used in their literature to promote land sales in the surrounding area, which they called HOLLYWOODLAND. To enhance the effect, the sign was lit by 4,000 light bulbs; a nearby cabin housed a maintenance man whose sole job was changing them.

Like elsewhere, Hollywoodland's real estate development experienced a slide in the 1930’s due the 1929 stock market crash. The ensuing Great Depression wrecked the economy and the housing market tumbled along with it. By the 1940’s, no longer able to pay someone to maintain the sign, the developers abandoned it.

The sign was left derelict until 1949, when the 'H' toppled in the wind. Not only was the sign an eyesore, it was becoming dangerous. So the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce stepped in and they offered to remove the last four letters of the sign and repair the rest. Since then it has proudly proclaimed to pilots and tourists alike that they truly are in HOLLYWOOD.