Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Gore Vidal, celebrated author, playwright, dies - Yahoo! News:
"'Because there is no cosmic point to the life that each of us perceives on this distant bit of dust at galaxy's edge,' he once wrote, 'all the more reason for us to maintain in proper balance what we have here. Because there is nothing else. No thing. This is it. And quite enough, all in all.'"
Writer Gore Vidal, 86, has died - latimes.com:
"'Style,' Vidal once said, 'is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn.' By that definition, he was an emperor of style, sophisticated and cantankerous in his prophesies of America’s fate and refusal to let others define him."

I found him and his writings always interesting, intelligent, entertaining, remarkable.
The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)**
Just when Roger Moore really gets into the role, Barbara Bach shows up comatose. Still it's probably the best of the Moore films with lots of money on the screen and exotic locales.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)**
Britt Ekland looks great in a bikini and Roger Moore is more awake in this Bond flick that boasts Christopher Lee as one of the better villains. Too long, but some nifty car stunts utilizing, probably for the only time ever in a major film, an AMC Matador and Hornet. A Matador!
Ride the High Country (1962)**
Interesting mainly because of the casting, but this is a pretty good old fashioned Western with some characters able to hit targets a long way off and others, inexplicably unable to hit the broad side of a barn at close range.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

More TARP Bashing | Beat the Press:
"The serious question is how bad could we reasonably expect the downturn to have been if we had gone the cold turkey route [no bailout]. The place to look for insight on this question is Argentina, which went the financial collapse route in December of 2001. This was the real deal. Banks shut, no access to ATMs, no one knowing when they could get their money out of their bank, if they ever could.

"This collapse led to a plunge in GDP for three months, followed by three months in which the economy stabilized and then six years of robust growth. It took the country a year and a half to make up the output lost following the crisis.

"While there is no guarantee that the Bernanke-Geithner team would be as competent as Argentina's crew, if we assume for the moment they are, then the relevant question would be if it is worth this sort of downturn to clean up the financial sector once and for all. I'm inclined to say yes, but I certainly could understand that others may view the situation differently.

"Anyhow, this is the debate that we should have had [at] the time and at least be acknowledging in retrospect. The cost of not doing the bailout was not a second Great Depression."

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

J. Craig Venter: The Biological-digital Converter, Or, Biology At The Speed Of Light @ The Edge Dinner In Turin:
"The idea that you're basically a DNA-driven software device is not the view that people necessarily have of themselves. But every cell on this planet works that way in a biological-to-mechanical kind of fashion. No brain controlling what happens with DNA reading and protein synthesis in your cells. The combination of one hundred trillion cells gives different people different abilities to make wonderful music, to make science advances, to think, but every one of those cells operates in the same fashion. And that means we will be able to decode how the brain functions by understanding these same mechanisms. There's no need to evoke mysticism or a higher being. That's what Schrodinger did seventy years ago. He couldn't explain things, so he did what people do when they can't explain something. He evokes mysticism. But science is getting very advanced with regard our understanding life. We know what it is, and we now know how to reproduce it. We produce life by writing new software."

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Last Command (1928)**
Emil Jannings is wonderful as the former Russian general now working as an extra in Hollywood, but he can't do all the heavy lifting himself. The film is too hurried and uninvolving.
Live and Let Die (1973)*
Not good at all. The "action" consists of extended stunt scenes usually involving automobiles or speed boats. Roger Moore as Bond confuses somnolence with "cool" and the script...could this have been considered "hip" and "urban" in 1973? Today it's cringe worthy from start to finish. Embarrassing.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)***
Preposterous, overlong, relentlessly cynical and exploitative, this is nevertheless a supremely well crafted film. Avoids most cliches and has a good ear for dialogue for an action flick. But seriously, it is WAY too long and could have lost a good hour of editing without damaging its very fine finale.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Fred Willard fired from PBS after arrest | Daily Dish :
"The 'Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy' star, 72, was taken into custody on Wednesday night after undercover vice officers allegedly caught him masturbating while watching a porn film at adult movie cinema Tiki Theater in Hollywood....Ironically, his arrest comes almost 21 years to the day that actor Paul Reubens, aka Pee Wee Herman, was booked for indecent exposure in July, 1991, after police officers allegedly caught him masturbating in an adult theater in Sarasota, Fla."

Do we really need to have cops patrolling ADULT cinemas looking for pervs? I mean, isn't that the whole point of adult cinemas? Isn't there enough REAL crime around to keep these cops busy?
Blow (2001)***
Sort of "Goodfellas"-lite, this is another example of our keen ability to self-delude. The protagonist is only likable because Johnny Depp plays him but director Ted Demme admirably lets the viewer make up his own mind with a fast-paced (almost TOO fast paced) script and a fine cast.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The High Commissioner (1968)**
Top notch cast and nice production values don't quite make a satisfying spy thriller. Holds interest and has some really sharp moments, just not enough of them. The script and direction needed tightening.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Diamonds Are Forever (1971)***
Bond enters the '70's. Possibly the creepiest of the series, with strange, sadistic bad guys and a much older looking Connery. The production values are appropriately schlocky as befitting the times and much of the action takes place in big bad Las Vegas in those pre-Disneyfied days. Jill St. John never looked better and Shirley Bassey never sounded better.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959)*
Starts off great with Criswell in full closeup intoning ominously. Then...well let's just say it really is as bad as everyone says.
The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)**
Basil Rathbone is the only one here who takes this pic seriously unfortunately. Lots of mugging and winking at the camera with southern California obviously filling in for "jollye olde Englande". Nice sword fight at the finale.
Murphy's War (1971)**
As a man obsessed, Peter O'Toole is appropriately over the top but there's not enough story here to carry the picture.
Sunrise (1927)***
Pretentious melodrama that nonetheless acts as a showcase for some pretty advanced special effects and production design for its time. For that reason it's an important film. Minimal use of title cards helps too.

Monday, July 09, 2012

The Rum Diary (2011)**
It has a good cast and beautiful Caribbean locations but the story never gels and it is shot so darkly you'd think it was a 3D film.
On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)**
George Lazenby really isn't that bad and this one has Diana Rigg too. But it's very long, very talky and takes itself a bit too seriously.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Solaris (1972)**
Desperately needs to be edited, but manages to maintain interest thanks mainly to Natalya Bondarchuk. Steven Soderbergh's 2002 remake was far superior.
Play Misty for Me (1971)***
In his directorial debut Clint Eastwood shows he has a good cinematic eye in this proto-stalker flick set in and around Carmel, CA. Lots of quirks in style and cast as Clint eschews the typical thriller cues and tropes.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Malta Story (1953)**
Despite location filming and actual footage taken during the siege of Malta, this British war pic is dull and drab. Not a good performance by Sir Alec Guinness.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

When Eight Bells Toll (1971)**
Interesting, realistic spy adventure flick at least until the finale. Jack Hawkins is unrecognizable as a shipping tycoon and Anthony Hopkins does well as a super spy. Soundtrack is wildly out of place though.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Men in Black 3 (2012)***
Enjoyable, silly comic book flick doesn't take itself seriously and that's a welcome relief. Barry Sonnenfeld keeps the action and sight gags moving with a very mobile camera, obviously for the 3D effect. Still the overall effect is fun.
From Here to Eternity (1953)***
Slick melodrama about life on an army base in Hawaii in 1941 made compelling by almost all the lead actors. Even Sinatra is good. It's Montgomery Cliff that sticks out like a sore thumb.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

The Naked Jungle (1954)***
Highly entertaining old style Hollywood adventure/drama flick with Chuck Heston almost a self-caricature at times. But it's colorful, interesting and the two leads work well together. This is the one with all the ants.