Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Historical drama

During the 1850’s citizens of the United States were divided on the question of slavery. Campaigning leading up to the Presidential Election in November 1860 was split on this issue: the Democratic party was divided into Northern and Southern factions while the Republican party led by Abraham Lincoln opposed slavery and wanted it abolished.

Lincoln won the election with less than 40% of the popular vote but did not carry one slave-holding state. Secessionists had threatened that were he elected, their fifteen slave-holding states would leave the Union. This they did in February 1861 becoming the Confederate States of America.

At Lincoln's inauguration on March 4, 1861 the new president said he had no plans to end slavery in those states where it already existed, but he also said he would not accept secession. He hoped to resolve the national crisis without warfare. The Confederate Army of Northern Virginia under the command of General Robert E. Lee fired on Fort Sumter on April 12,1861. Thus began the long civil war.

On January 1, 1863 Lincoln exercised his constitutional authority as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces to sign an executive order known as the Emancipation Proclamation which ordered the Army to treat as free men the slaves in the 10 states still in rebellion. This was an explicit war goal in addition to reuniting the Union. As a consequence 3 million people in Confederate territory became free men.

On April 8, 1864 the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution which outlawed slavery and involuntary servitude was passed by the Senate. To become law it had to be passed by the House but prolonged partisan debate caused delays. In December 1864 Lincoln expected the war to end within a month. He was concerned that the Emancipation Proclamation would be thrown out by the courts once the war concluded. He therefore endeavoured to have the 13th Amendment passed by the House before the end of January 1865 thus removing any possibility that those freed would be re-enslaved.

Daniel Day-Lewis: President Abraham Lincoln
David Strathairn: Secretary of State William Seward
Tommy Lee Jones: Thaddeus Stevens, Chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee
Lee Pace: Fernando Wood, democratic supporter of Confederacy
Sally Field: his wife Mary Todd Lincoln
Gulliver McGrath: the Lincoln’s youngest son Tad
Joseph Gordon-Levitt: his older brother Robert

Worthy of an Academy award, the performance by Day-Lewis is but one of many fine character impersonations this film has to offer. It also provides an insight to Lincoln’s interpersonal skills with people and his clear-sighted judgment in face of a terrible dilemma: end slavery or end the war. It soon becomes apparent that Lincoln accomplished more in the last four months of his life than most people do in a lifetime. 

It can be a bit confusing at times while trying to follow the House discussions (more like a yelling match than debate) and understanding the implications of the back room makeovers not to forget the under-the-table deals to outwit his opponents but the effort is worthwhile in order to get the gist of it.

Production values are first rate and the score by John Williams is one of his best. At 2 hours and 30 minutes it is not a minute too long given that the story being told is such an important one.

 for an intense scene of war violence, some images of carnage and brief strong language. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Action and adventure

Daniel Craig: James Bond, agent 007
Judi Dench: his boss, M, head of M.I.6
Naomie Harris: field agent Eve Moneypenny
Ralph Fiennes: Gareth Mallory, Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee
Ben Whisaw: Q, the M.I.6 quartermaster
Bérénice Marlohe: Sévérine
Javier Bardem: Raoul Silva, former MI6 agent
Helen McCrory: Claire Dowar, chairwoman of the public inquiry

The action sequences are nothing short of spectacular with some of the “traditional” elements clearly in evidence (think fruit stands) which pretty well sums up this latest version of the series: a mix of the old and the new.

Beautiful locations which are a trademark of the series include Istanbul, London, Shanghai, Macau and the Scottish Highlands. The beautiful girls (another Bond staple) are there as well. The acting is uniformly good with less tongue-in-cheek than in some earlier editions. To me, this is the best Bond yet in part because of the strong cast along with the work of Sam Mendes as Director and Roger Deakins in charge of cinematography.

Although a tad long at 2 hours and 23 minutes, there are very few slow spots that could be left on the editing floor.

for intense violent sequences throughout, some sexuality, language and smoking.

  • Bond gets hit on the right shoulder but later when he attempts to extract the bullet it’s now in his left shoulder.
  • During the assessment of his shooting skills, Bond fires off 8 or 9 rounds but when he checks the target there are twice as many bullet holes in it.
  • The night security man in Macau was shot approaching the ground floor door not at the top of the escalator where Bond walks around him.
  • Bone describes the dress worn by Bérénice as backless but it is not: the back of the dress is a sheer fabric encrusted with sparkles.
  • Silva says he survived the cyanide capsule which is patently impossible given the deadly nature of the substance.
  • When the tube train plunges off the tracks the interior lights remain lit; once the train leaves the rails that carry the electricity the train would have been in darkness.
  • When M is being questioned by the panel her watch shows it to be 3:37 but it is 3:00 according to the clock on the wall and moments later on Bond’s watch we see it to be 3:50.
  • Big Ben shows it to be 5:30 when Eve gets to the rooftop but seen over Bond’s shoulder it is almost 6:00 o’clock.
  • When Bond falls through the ice we can see it is only 2” thick. Thin ice like that cannot support the weight of a grown man. Ice of at least 4” thick is safe to walk on; 3” or less … keep off!
Although there are a number of songs and books that have remained popular for years, this is the 50th year of the franchise which is a remarkable achievement in cinema.

Saturday, November 3, 2012


Denzel Washington: airline pilot Captain Whip Whitaker
Nadine Velazquez: flight attendant Katerina Marquez
Tamara Tunie: purser Margaret Thomason
Brian Geraghty: co-pilot Ken Evans
Kelly Reilly: Nicole Maggen
Bruce Greenwood: pilot union rep Charlie Anderson
John Goodman: drug dealer Harling Mays
Don Cheadle: lawyer Hugh Lang
Melissa Leo: chief investigator Ellen Block

Expectations are high any time there is a movie with Denzel Washington in it: this time he really nails it giving what is probably his best performance. Because the role calls upon him to handle a variety of human emotions it’s to his credit he never goes over the top, something lesser actors constantly do. But he is not the only one who puts in a terrific performance; it’s just that he’s the best.

Although flying has a lot to do with the movie storyline it’s the human side of things that make it interesting. Questions of morals and ethics abound and that makes for good ol’ fashioned solid entertainment.

Despite the fact the running time is in excess of two hours, it is not a minute too long. One movie goer put it this way: “the movie is never too long when Denzel Washington is in it”.
 for drug and alcohol abuse, language, intense action sequence, sexuality and nudity.

  • In aviation terms the flight level is the altitude in feet divided by 100. For example 9,000 feet is referred to as flight level niner zero not niner thousand as we hear from Atlanta air traffic control.
  • The flight from Orlando to Atlanta takes about 68 minutes not 52 as announced by the flight attendant.
  • The NTSB official would have addressed Whitaker with his airline title Captain, not Mister.
Although he’s in just one scene, James Dale is terrific playing a hospital patient. Can’t wait to see more of him in meatier roles.

Friday, November 2, 2012


In French, Arabic and Hebrew with English subtitles

In sha’Allah in Arabic means God willing.

Evelyne Brochu: Cholé, a Quebec trained obstetrician
Sivan Levy: her friend Ava, a checkpoint guard 
Sabrina Ouazani: Rand, one of Cholé’s patients
Yousef Sweid: Rand’s older brother Faysal

We get to experience the on-going struggle between the Israelis and Palestinians seen this time from the perspective of someone who lives and works with both factions. The contrast between the two sides once more is brought to light: on one hand poverty, endless misery, deprivation, hopelessness; the exact opposite on the other. It’s not pretty but it is realistic with great attention to detail.

A hand-held camera has been used extensively instead of the more professional-looking steady shots. I’m not a big fan of these wiggly jerky shots as it looks like something an amateur would produce.

One more thing: the slow pace results in a movie that seems longer than the 1 hour and 45 minutes actual run time.

Thursday, November 1, 2012



Definition Financial
The technique of simultaneously buying a commodity at one price in one market and selling it at a higher price in another market to profit from the spread between the two prices. Although the price difference may be small, arbitrageurs typically trade in huge volumes so they can make sizable profits.

Richard Gere: billionaire hedge fund manager Robert Miller
Susan Saradon: his wife Ellen
Laetitia Casta: art gallery owner Julie Cote
Brit Marling: the Miller’s daughter Brooke, the company CFO
Stuart Margolin: the company lawyer Syd Felder
Nate Parker: Jimmy Grant, son of Miller’s retired chauffeur
Tim Roth: NYPD detective Bryer

Trying to wrap up the sale of his company to a larger one Robert Miller soon finds he’s got more problems than that. This well-written story brings out one of Gere’s best performances (if not his very best) as he tires to sort things out. In fact the acting is uniformly good and the pacing excellent.

Not wanting to give away anything I will not dwell too much on the plot other than to say that this is one of the few thrillers that does not rely upon car chases to keep our interest. How refreshing.

 for profanity, sexual content and drugs.

  • Ellen helps Robert with his tie and from one shot to another the knot is up or down from it’s previous position.
  • Robert storms in the office and immediately locks the door but when he goes to leave he opens the door without having to undo the lock.
  • Ellen’s workout t-shirt is off her right shoulder when viewed from the front but back up where it belongs when seen from behind.
  • The toll to cross the Triborough Bridge is posted as $6.50 and Syd hands the toll booth person a bill and only gets back the requested receipt but no change.