Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)***
Creepy, visually arresting horror flick with Price playing a character who never opens his mouth. Lots of nifty art deco interiors and laidback direction that lets the story unfold in its own time.
The Keep (1983)**
Early, interesting Michael Mann effort, with a stellar cast including Ian McKellan and Gabriel Byrne, nevertheless fails to amount to much more than a middling allegory about the allure of fascism. Could have used a better soundtrack and better effects.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Quantum of Solace (2008)**
Reasonably successful Bond, but the action sequences are edited so it's impossible to know who is hitting/shooting/maiming whom until it's all over and the dust clears. So it's just a succession of ultra-short clips. One action sequence is top-notch, the Bond perennial of falling out of an airplane with only one parachute between two, or more, people.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Pete Peterson Has Won - New Economic Perspectives:
"The truth is, we’re not broke.The US dollar comes from the US government (not from China, as we’re led to believe). The US government is not revenue constrained. It is the Issuer of the currency, not the User of the currency like you and I. It plays by a completely different set of rules, yet it behaves as if it is still bound by the shackles of a gold standard. It behaves irresponsibly when it proposes policies to reduce the deficit when unemployment is high and inflation is low. We’re letting millions of Americans suffer because Pete Peterson and his ilk have convinced virtually everyone that we face a fiscal crisis in this country. We live in fear of the Chinese, the Ratings Agencies, the Bond Vigilantes, Indentured Grandchildren, and so on. And this fear is used by politicians on both sides of the political aisle to sell “sacrifice” to the rest of us. And we keep buying.

"And here’s the really sad part. It will never be enough."

Monday, October 22, 2012

Bringing Out the Dead (1999)***
Echoes of Taxi Driver and After Hours haunt this film also about the mean streets (sorry!) of NYC and three days and nights in the life of an EMS medic who is having a crisis of self. Well put together by Scorsese, with Nicolas Cage in fine form.
Casino Royale (2006)***
Possibly the best Bond film, markedly different from all the rest. Gone are the cutesy wink-wink double entendres, as are the excessive gadgetry. Bond is about as physical as he can get and the action sequences are unsurpassed while at the same time appearing plausible. The female lead is a weak spot and the film is, as are most Bonds, too long. But the direction is smart and involved and Daniel Craig puts a fresh spin on the character.
Die Another Day (2002)**
The best of the Brosnans, with some top notch action sequences plus Halle Berry, but director Lee Tamahori adds a bit too many camera tricks and they start to feel forced and gimmicky as hour two comes around.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Pee-wee's Big Adventure (1985)***
Viewed solely as a movie on its own, it's a failure. But viewed as a sort of meta-satire/homage of pop culture, which is what Pee-Wee is, it's a triumph. Director Burton, admirably, makes no effort to clue the audience in to what he's up to, expecting them to either get it or not, which is also Pee-Wee's aesthetic.
The Washington Post Tries to Scare You on Public Sector Pensions | Beat the Press:
"At their peak, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were costing an average family about 2 percent of their income or around $2,400 a year in the current economy. In the same vein the patent protection that we give to drug companies costs the average family around $1,800 a year in higher drug prices. The implicit subsidy that the government gives large banks by protecting them against failure costs an average family around $500 a year. This is in effect the money that we are being taxed to help the struggling CEOs and top executives at the major banks.

"The other part of this story is that workers did work for these pensions.This was part of their pay package, which is generally comparable or even slightly less than the compensation of private sector workers with the same education. Most public sector pensions are relatively modest, with the median less than $20,000 a year."

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Frankenweenie (2012)***
Clever and witty stop-motion riff on the Frankenstein story that is essentially an homage to horror films of yesteryear. Expert animation and design, but a flawed ending keeps this very good film from being a great film.
The Week the World Stood Still: The Cuban Missile Crisis and Ownership of the World
"The two most crucial questions about the missile crisis are: How did it begin, and how did it end? It began with Kennedy's terrorist attack against Cuba, with a threat of invasion in October 1962. It ended with the president's rejection of Russian offers that would seem fair to a rational person, but were unthinkable because they would have undermined the fundamental principle that the U.S. has the unilateral right to deploy nuclear missiles anywhere, aimed at China or Russia or anyone else, and right on their borders; and the accompanying principle that Cuba had no right to have missiles for defense against what appeared to be an imminent U.S. invasion. To establish these principles firmly it was entirely proper to face a high risk of war of unimaginable destruction, and to reject simple and admittedly fair ways to end the threat."

Friday, October 12, 2012

Read This Book, Win The Election | The Baseline Scenario:
"In Ms. Bair’s persuasive account, both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations were primarily focused on protecting the large banks. Both administrations consistently ignored the relationship between the need to fix our bloated, free-wheeling financial sector and sustaining our broader economic prosperity. And both administrations paid insufficient attention to the persistent problem of mortgages."

This is essentially the message of Neil Barofsky's book. Also pretty self evident by looking at the actions of both administrations. Is there a new FDR somewhere?

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead (1990)**
Tom Stoppard directs, for the first and so far only time, his own play and the result is flat. It's well-written of course and the actors, costumes, sets are fine, it's nice to look at but not engaging. (I was shocked to find that it was released in 1990 since the film has a definite 1970's look and feel which is interesting.)
To Paris with Love (1955)**
As presented onscreen, the story of a father-son vacation trip to Paris is a sophisticated, civilized roundelay between consenting adults. But as read between the lines and in the margins of the film, it's quite risqué which provides much needed interest. It's colorful and well paced, but ultimately not memorable.
The Return of the Vampire (1944)*
Tries some mildly interesting twists on the Dracula myth, and inexplicably includes a wolf-man sidekick for the vampire, but it's just barely above Plan 9 level and must have gone through a dozen fog machines during filming.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)**
Considering the cast includes both Teri Hatcher AND Michelle Yeoh, this Bond is disappointing. It is also not very well shot with lots of background glare and dark interiors. Brosnan does the action scenes well but appears annoyed otherwise. Lots of car crashes, explosions and gun play but not much in the way of breathtaking stunts. Mercifully clocks in at just under two hours, which helps.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Salome's Last Dance (1988)***
Witty, funny and risqué, this Ken Russell riff on Oscar Wilde is fast, colorful and fun.
Hocus Pocus (1993)**
Intermittently enjoyable Disney Halloween kiddie-flick with a few jarringly inappropriate sexual jokes to keep the adults from snoozing. The lovely Vinessa Shaw accomplishes that all by herself.