Category Archives: movies

Almost Famous – Tiny Dancer

*This is slightly off the beaten health path, but I enjoyed this movie so much that I wanted to share it with you. Briefly, I am a member of Amazon Prime and buy a lot of things from them thus saving me the time and trouble of going out to stores ( also saving shipping costs ).* I have heard that about half the households in the U.S. are Prime members, so it is about even money that you too can enjoy this video for no cost as I did.

I got an email from Amazon the other day mentioning that I had access to dozens, maybe hundreds, of movies and TV shows at no cost on my Prime membership. I clicked on their link and started selecting movies for my Watchlist. There was Almost Famous, Cameron Crowe’s wonderful film from the year 2000 about a high school-aged journalist writing a piece for Rolling Stone after traveling with a rock group. I had seen it when it came out, but, that was nearly 20 years ago, so I selected it to watch.

Here is a look at what Wikipedia had to say about the movie.

Almost Famous is a 2000 American comedy-drama film written and directed by Cameron Crowe, and starring Billy Crudup, Kate Hudson and Patrick Fugit. It tells the fictional story of a teenage journalist writing for Rolling Stone magazine in the early 1970s while covering the fictitious rock band Stillwater, and his efforts to get his first cover story published. The film is semi-autobiographical, as Crowe himself was a teenage writer for Rolling Stone. Continue reading

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An afternoon at the movies – The Accountant

in November of 2012, I wrote a post somewhat off topic for the blog asking the question “What about heroes without empathy?” I was am confused when it comes to admirable people with heroic dimensions who just happen to be unable to relate to other fellow human beings.

While the post had nothing to do with losing weight or living a long, healthy life, it proved very popular and stimulated interesting comments from readers.

That brings me to yesterday. I went with my girlfriend to see Ben Affleck’s new film, The Accountant. Lo and behold, here we are three years later with a powerful hero very much unable to relate to his fellow human beings.

The Accountant suffers from autism. Autism Speaks defines this as  a general term for “a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors.”

The film surprised me on a number of levels. After seeing the trailers, I expected a high level thriller with Ben Affleck kicking a lot of bad guy butt.

I was pleasantly surprised to experience not only a high level thriller with Ben Affleck kicking butt, but also a detailed exposition of autism and how it affects personal development.

With only one reservation, I would like to recommend the movie as an engaging couple of hours in a dark theater with a small bag of popcorn on your lap. Continue reading

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Ode to Billy Joe – Bobby Gentry

I wrote this for my other blog, but since it is a post of gratitude and appreciation to an artist for a splendid creation, I thought it belonged here, too.
Tony

Willing Wheeling

I have Sirius Satellite Radio in my car and my presets include music from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. On a recent ride, Ode to Billie Joe came on and I found myself haunted by the writing as well as being transported by the eerie music backing it. I was really happy to learn that Bobbie Gentry, the singer, wrote it and this was her debut recording.

Although it was created just short of 50 years ago, I doubt that any current readers are not familiar with the song.

Here is the first verse:
It was the third of June, another sleepy, dusty Delta day
I was out choppin’ cotton and my brother was balin’ hay
And at dinner time we stopped and walked back to the house to eat
And Mama hollered out the back door “y’all remember to wipe your feet”
And then she said “I got some…

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What About Heroes Without Empathy?

I am asking about heroes without empathy because I really don’t know the answer  Over the past few years, we have been offered several heroes that have become hugely popular yet who do not seem to care at all about other people. They have no empathy.

Empathy is defined as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.” Wikipedia says, “By the age of two, children normally begin to display the fundamental behaviors of empathy by having an emotional response that corresponds with another person.”

A hero is someone admired for achievements and noble qualities. Someone who demonstrates a lot of courage. The heroes below are over the top on achievements, but seem utterly lacking in empathy, a quality I consider a noble one.

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I like movies and TV and as a retired guy indulge in my share. I am thinking of two heroes of popular TV shows and one of books and movies.

Noome Rapace as Lisbeth Salander

Lisbeth Salander is The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest and Played with Fire in Stieg Larsson’s captivating and very popular trilogy. Abused as a child, Lisbeth forged a successful life for herself that included physical combat, computer hacking, bisexuality, higher mathematics and a general off the grid existence. She hijacked the focus of millions of fans worldwide, but appeared incapable of fathoming the feelings of the person seated across from her in a room. Lisbeth is the first of my three heroes.

Jim Parsons as Dr. Sheldon Cooper

The Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon Cooper is  number two. A Cal-tech theoretical physicist, according to Wikipedia, “Sheldon exhibits a strict adherence to routine, a total lack of social skills, a tenuous understanding of irony, sarcasm, and humor, and a general lack of humility or empathy.”

Jim Parsons who plays Sheldon has won Primetime Emmys, a Golden Globe Award, A TCA Award and a Critics’ Choice Television Award for his work on the series.

Sheldon dominates his roommate, Leonard, with The Roommate Agreement, a multi-page document that Leonard signed to come aboard. It is heavily weighted in Sheldon’s favor. He has a similar agreement with his girlfriend, Amy Farrah Fowler, about which she laments in one episode that she didn’t consult with a lawyer before signing.

Unlike Lisbeth Salander’s crushingly dark character, Sheldon is a bright incredibly comic character whose antics propel The Big Bang Theory to the top of the sitcom charts every year.

Lucy Liu as Dr. Joan Watson and Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock Holmes

The third hero is none other than Sherlock Holmes himself, in his latest incarnation on TV’s Elementary. Brought to life by Jonny Lee Miller, Holmes is a recovering drug addict with the lovely Lucy Liu as his ‘sober companion’ Dr. Joan Watson.
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The Dark Knight Rises But Lets Us Down

I got a rare invitation last month to see a private screening of The Dark Knight Rises on July 19, the night before the opening. It turned out to be a fascinating experience.

I could bring a guest, so I invited my daughter who will turn 18 in December. She came down early and we had a lovely lunch in which I totally over-indulged on pizza. Isn’t it interesting how easy it is to abuse food when eating out with friends and loved ones? I am sure I consumed about double my normal lunch calories. Once again, I sympathize with you folks who have to eat out on your job. I will note, though, that neither my daughter nor I had dinner. So that kind of balanced the overindulgence at lunch. We went to the film later that afternoon and did eat some popcorn.

As it turned out if I had known the content of the film beforehand, I am not sure I would have taken her. It was mind-numbingly long and ponderous. The cinematography was spectacular, but just short of three hours? Sorry, too much of a not very good thing.

Ann Hathaway as Cat Woman provided some of the few bright moments

Christian Bale reprised his role of the angst-ridden caped crusader. And Michael Caine brought back Alfred in all his caring ways. Anne Hathaway was a welcome relief to the story as Catwoman. She brightened the screen every time she appeared. Tom Hardy, looking like a refugee from pro-wrestling played the heavy – Bane. More about that name later.
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How To Win The Hunger Games

Some $152.5 million was spent by avid viewers of the new teen film The Hunger Games on opening weekend. It ranks third behind one of the Harry Potter films and The Dark Knight. Not bad. I went to see it on Monday.

By now everyone must know the story of the two teens picked from a dozen districts who must survive on an island while trying to kill each other. There is an ironic phrase used repeatedly by the Games’ hosts, “May the odds be ever in your favor.” Right. It starts out 23 to one against you. Hard to find much favor in those odds.

Jennifer Lawrence taking aim in The Hunger Games

The games are a macabre reality show staged by a tyrannous government to keep the populace amused and subdued. One thing I personally enjoyed was seeing a government leader as the baddie instead of some business man as is so often the case in these left coast offerings.

As an avid fan of the last craze, Harry Potter, I didn’t find myself nearly as caught up in these games. Also, I could have done without some of the details of the killing and maiming of teens.

Reflecting on the name, however, made me wonder why so many of us lose our own personal encounter with our hunger games. We have 60 per cent of us overweight and 30 per cent outright obese. Again, “May the odds be ever in your favor” has a hollow ring to it.
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Seeing The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo as Exercise

You know you aren’t well yet when half your exercise for the day is walking to the multiplex to see the latest release of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

My Christmas Nightmare this year was an horrendous head cold kicking off on Christmas eve. You can read about it here.

Suffice it to say three days later I was still not able to do anything as strenuous as riding my bike.

So, what about Stieg Larsson’s international whodunit and whodunwho bestseller just made into a major movie … The Girl …?

First, you need to dissect the dichotomy of viewers. I happen to be one of the 43 million readers who inhaled The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo trilogy. In addition, I also saw (and own the videos) the three Swedish made versions of the trilogy. The Swedish film version earned more than $100 million at the worldwide box office and was the biggest foreign-language art-house hit in North America since the Edith Piaf biopic La Vie en Rose, according to Time Magazine.

As Joe Morgenstern said In the Wall Street Journal, “If you saw it, however, there’s no way of unseeing it, and nothing in the new one to top it.”

Noomi Rapace

The main reason you can’t unsee the original is the job Noomi Rapace does in breathing fire into The Girl. Rapace’s Lizbeth Salander is a force of nature in the guise of a waif-like little girl who happens to be an ace computer hacker and general ass-kicker. While NFL Royalty Rooney Mara’s version is more of an alien creature from another planet still learning our ways on earth. Mara creates a viable character but she seems more reactive  as opposed to Rapace’s high energy proactive version.

Rooney Mara

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“I’m Just a Little Bit Caught in the Middle” From Moneyball

I saw Moneyball last week because I am a sports fan and have enjoyed other books by Michael Lewis. I liked the film a lot. Really good cast, including Brad Pitt, Robin Wright, Philip Seymour Hoffman all of whom gave some fine performances. Fascinating story about how using statistics revolutionized strategy in major league baseball. Super screen writer Steve Zaillian did a really good job, too.

The most striking scenes for me, however, took place between Brad Pitt and Kerris Dorsey his early teenaged daughter in the film. Pitt’s character is divorced and he is clearly working to keep up his relationship and loves his daughter very much.

There was one scene in which they go shopping for a guitar. In the store, she tries one, picking out some notes and humming along with it. Pitt suggests she sing the words. She agrees with some reluctance. To her small accompanying guitar notes she sings in her little girl voice, “I’m just a little bit caught in the middle, Life is a maze and love is a riddle, I don’t know where to go, can’t do it alone, I’ve tried and I don’t know why …”

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