Thursday, December 7, 2017

How justice will prevail if Trump tries to pardon his way out of trouble

To paraphrase Sun Tzu, "know your enemy" when it comes to conservative President Trump's strategies to combat Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe and possible charges. And after hearing about son Donald Jr.'s bizarre assertion of attorney-client privilege in regards to his conversations with his father and refusing to answer some questions , we should examine the president's strongest defenses. Once we see then, we can also see a way to counter them. So, there is hope the blonde hair, orange skin tyrant can be brought to justice. Trump may try two defenses. One, he fires Mueller. Two, he pardons his son-in-law and White House adviser Jared Kushner,  Donald Jr. and maybe himself. There could be others he may try to pardon.

First, Trump may try to fire Mueller. I don't think he would try this. He has already fired FBI James Comey for that "Russia thing." (CNN) It would become crystal clear that he would be doing so to obstruct justice. It's the Saturday Night Massacre all over again. Even with the Republicans in control, there is probably going to be enough of them in the House to join the Democrats to vote for impeachment. And it's quite possible that a new special counsel could be just as dedicated as Mueller is.

The second is for Trump to try to pardon his way out. Looking at his history, this seems most likely. Remember that Trump's businesses filed for bankruptcy four times. For Trump, the power to pardon under the Constitution is like filing for bankruptcy to extinguish his debts. He could save Jared Kushner and Donald Jr. from criminal jeopardy. And if you think Trump won't rescue them then you should learn how to spell nepotism. Heck, he might also try pardoning himself.

Yes, the power to pardon is powerful. But it's not the perfect get out of jail card that Trump might think it is. First, and most important, the power to pardon cannot be used to stop an impeachment. Yes, Congress can still remove Trump. And isn't that what we really want?   Second, even if Trump pardons Kushner and his son then they would be exposed to testifying at any hearing. There is no Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination if they no longer are in danger of being criminally prosecuted.

Trump's power to pardon does not stop state prosecutions.  Remember that Trump Jr.'s meeting to get dirt on Hillary Clinton occurred in New York  at  Trump Tower.   In this excellent    NBC News web article, former White House prosecutor Nick Akerman points out that possession of hacked emails is a crime in New York.    And here's something that's going to cause Trump to puke his Kentucky Fried chicken.  Former National Security Adviser Michael  Flynn not only agreed to help with Mueller but also pursuant to his plea agreement, he's got to help out on the state level.  Lawfare It's a brilliant move by Mueller. He's inoculated the Russia investigation from ending by Trump's pardon power. It should be noted that there is reporting that Mueller is already working with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. See Politico.

It might be "up to you New York." Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York" below. By the way, Nancy Sinatra says late father, would never support Trump since he's a bigot. (Teen Vogue) Amen.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Stephen Colbert: Melania Trump responds to Ivana Trump

Last week, Stephen Colbert on Late Night ran a funny skit where Melania Trump responds to Ivana Trump's (Donald's first wife)  public disrespect.  Melania is played by the talented and lovely Laura Benanti.  Check out the video below. 

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Lady Bird review

At Rotten Tomatoes film review site, the movie Lady Bird is averaging at 100%. Dictators running for re-election don't get that approval, well except for Kim Jong Un. My favorite film, Casablanca (1942) scores at 97 %. Maybe it's not fair to compare the two. One is a romantic drama during the dark times of World War II and the other is a coming of age, slice of American life film at the dark times of the George W. Bush administration. Sorry, I know that's political but in the background of Lady Bird, somebody is watching news of the Iraq War.

We're introduced to Christine McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) and her mother, Marion (Laurie Metcalf) driving in their car and listening to John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath. Yeah, that's their shared enjoyment. Christine likes to call herself, "Lady Bird" because that's what artsy high school kids do. Marion is loving but judgmental. She also wants her daughter to go to UC Davis, primarily because it's cheap. Lady Bird wants to go to an East Coast school like Yale or Columbia in New York. Hold on. What's wrong with Sacramento, California? Do you know how big the cockroaches in New York are?

But I digress. The movie shows Lady Bird's life at her Catholic high school, and her relationships with her friends and her mother. Then one day a giant mutated spider attacks the school. Lady Bird becomes a superhero because she's actually half-eagle. Um... okay that stuff about giant mutated spider and Lady Bird becoming a superhero is not in the film. It's basically about Lady Bird's life as a high school girl dealing with premarital sex, her friends, mother and her desire to get out of Sacramento to go to an East Coast college.

Saoirse Ronan is excellent as the colorful, teenage dreamer, Lady Bird. Laurie Metcalf turns in an Oscar winning performance as Lady Bird's mother. She's strict, judgmental but is loving in her own way. Life has been tough on Laurie. The McPhersons are financially struggling and literally live on the wrong side of the tracks. Yet, there is enough generosity of spirit for Lady Bird's father Larry (Tracy Letts) and Laurie to adopt two other children.

Director and writer Greta Gerwig has made a warm, and funny movie. It's clear she's writing about what she knows. It's life in Sacramento. Unless Ms. Gerwig had giant mutated spiders attack her Catholic high school. The dialogue in the screenplay sounds like what people would say in real life. The jokes work too. I enjoyed following Lady Bird's journey. The film has small imperfections like the need for better exposition. For example, there was some confusion as to what exactly Lady Bird told her rich friend about living in a dream house, and Sacramento should have been a bigger influence on their lives. The movie played too small. Not all small films play that way. Little Miss Sunshine (2006) was not an epic yet it had big ideas.

Your enjoyment of Lady Bird might depend on your memory of high school. There were things I liked about high school and there were painful memories. This is a cinematic slice of life. The grade is B Plus.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Flynn pleads guilty to only one count of lying to FBI which means bad news to the White House

Former National Security Adviser Gen. Michael Flynn pled guilty to admitting to lying to the FBI. Here's the truth. Flynn did talk to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak about lifting the Obama sanctions placed on the Russians for interference in our election. Flynn obviously lied about that. This is now about Russia, President Trump. It was never a hoax as you put it. Now we have to find out if this was about paying the Russians back for assistance to the Trump campaign. As we know, Fynn's legal team has stopped working with the Trump legal team. That's a sign that Flynn may have flipped. And that could have happened months ago.

Note that Special Counsel Robert Mueller had Flynn plead to only one count. And before you say, "That's it?" Note that Flynn was an agent for the Turkish government and that he failed to report that. There's more we don't know about. Remember that Trump went to great effort to get fired FBI Director Comey to drop investigating Flynn. Something that I feel proud blogging about as I put the Trump-Comey meetings together. (My post.) Note that Trump has contact with Comey virtually every time that there was a Flynn event. And the point was to pressure Comey to let Flynn go. If Mueller could get Flynn for more, why didn't he? Because folks, he's cooperating. That's why Trump wants Comey to let go of Flynn. He knows too much.

This is all bad news for Trump. There's very few people higher than Flynn if he's cooperating. Hmm. Let's see. Vice President Pence. I haven't heard much about him so not much to say here. Son Donald Jr. Big time contact with Russians in June of 2016. Meeting with Russians to get dirt on Hillary Clinton with the knowledge that Russia was helping the campaign. And yeah, you may say these Russians were not connected with the Russian government. But they still wanted the help. It' s like robbing a bank and finding out that there's no money there. it's still illegal and an attempt. Next big fish. White House adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Remember he tried to set up a back channel with the Russians to defeat the FBI and CIA. He was also at the June meeting with the Russians. And of course, the big orange himself, Conservative President Donald Trump.

Remember, folks. Vote liberal Democrat if you want to live.

Stephanie Ruhle's MSNBC report

Friday, December 1, 2017

Conservative Republicans tax plan is literally being hand written and will add 1. trillion to deficit

Conservative Republicans tax plan will add 1 trillion that's trillion not billion to the deficit. That's according to the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation. (New York Times Report.) What hypocrisy! Conservatives have been such deficit hawks and now they plan to add to our children and grandchildren's debts. Now so they can give the big rich tax breaks, they don't care.

And at this time. Conservative Republicans are literally hand writing changes to the tax bill. I'm guessing it's going to pass. Folks, these conservatives will pass significant legislation with freaking handwritten notes on the side. Huffington Post. Stop this nonsense now. Call your congressman. And vote liberal Democrat if you want to live.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Avengers: Infinity War trailer

It's here. The first trailer for The Avengers: Infinity War. Oh, the hair that you see on Peter Parker's arm rising is his Spidey Sense. Wow. That's a lot of superheroes. Memo to Danny Elfman. Alan Silvestri's Avengers motif is how you write a superhero theme. Epic. Bold. Graceful. Note that Silvestri studied at Berklee College of Music in Boston. Can't wait for this movie.

Seth Meyers: Conservative Republicans will raise taxes on the poor

Seth Meyers in yesterday's Closer Look on Late Night explains that the conservative Republican tax plan will raise taxes on the working people and the poor. This will happen in future years. Forbes. Check out the video below. (4:50 regarding the increase on the working and the poor) The point is that the raises are to make up for the nice tax cuts for the rich and corporations.

If you are a working man and or poor, contact your congressman now and ask them to kill the bill. And vote liberal Democrat if you want to live.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Keith Olbermann signs off

Political commentator Keith Olbermann has done his last video for the GQ sponsored series The Resistance. Over the last year, Olbermann has been pretty accurate about President Trump. Remember when he did a piece where he projects that General Michael Flynn has flipped ? (May video.) Well, it looks like he just did or flipped in the past. Anyway, in the below video, Olbermann predicts that President Donald Trump will not complete his first term.

America thanks you, Keith. Viva la resistance. Impeach Trump now. And vote liberal Democrat if you want to live.

Justice League review

I'm betting that executives with Marvel Studios are happy that they got most of their cinematic universe out years before DC Comics and Warner put out this month's Justice League. That's because Marvel's Avengers (2012) movie and Justice League basically have the same plot. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the franchise that the studio calls it, there are these things called Infinity Stones which are magical and of course, bad guys want them. Not to be outdone, Justice League has magical boxes?!

Justice League takes place after the events in Batman v. Superman: The Dawn of Justice (2016). While busting a criminal, Batman aka Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) runs into an alien scout. Sensing this is the start of an invasion as told to him by Lex Luthor in Batman v. Superman, Wayne starts to recruit superheroes to defend the planet. Wonder Women aka Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) receives a warning from her mother Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) that Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds' voice) has come back to earth to retrieve the three magic boxes on earth and use their power to perform "Born to be Wild." Um... sorry. That's from the rock band Stepppenwolf. he wants to conquer the universe.

Bruce Wayne meanwhile goes around the planet to recruit his team. Wonder Woman tells Wayne of the threat. She joins. He wants to get Flash aka Barry Allen (Ezra Miller), Aquaman aka the man who sleeps with the fishes. Er... okay, that's Aquaman (Jason Momoa) aka Arthur Curry as the man who talks to the fishes and Cyborg aka Victor Stone (Ray Fisher). The band forms and they set off to tour the country doing Steppenwolf covers. Um... no. They set off to stop Steppenwolf from getting the magic boxes.

This should all sound familiar. It's pretty much the plot to Marvel's The Avengers. (2012) Both had super villains seeking magic "MacGuffins". The super villain uses said MacGuffin to conquer the world along with his army of cute, yellow minions. Sorry, they're supposed to be evil minions not the cute ones. So,  this movie Justice League has to be as good as its competitors, the Avengers. Unfortunately, it's not. And stop rejoicing Marvel comic book fans. Need I remind you of Iron Man 2 and Iron Man 3?

There are problems with this film. The screenplay by Chris Terrio, and Joss Whedon is uneven in how it does the backstories of the superheroes. That was a problem with Suicide Squad. (2016) Sometimes, these forays are contrived or they stop the drama. There's no reason to have Wonder Woman still "pining" after the late Steve Trevor. (Chris Pine in this year's Wonder Woman) Bad pun, I know. But really, Trevor has been dead for about one hundred years. Through the decades, I mean Prince could have had dates with Clark Gable, John Wayne, or Rock Hudson. Strike the date with Rock Hudson. Speaking of gay, she could have become a lesbian and then we could have a scene that would satisfy the radical feminist criteria for the Bechdel Test which requires a scene where two women are talking to each other and the subject cannot be about men. God forbid. Do aliens count in a conversation? Anyway, we already know about Wonder Woman's past from the earlier movie.

But I digress. Cyborg's origin was not compelling. Maybe we needed to see the tragic accident that killed his mother. We know very little of Aquaman or why he's so grouchy. Well, actually we do know why he's pissed off. He never gets respect. I mean he's seen in  cartoons  riding seahorses and of course, he talks to fishes. That's kind of goofy.   And it doesn't help that the show Family Guy skewers him as being lame when he can't really do anything out of the water. (Video below.)

I guess that's why they cast Jason Momoa as Aquaman. Rather than an Aryan looking blonde, he's like a Polynesian biker.

Then there are the plot holes, villain development and exposition problems. Other than he wants to take over the universe, we don't have a lot of motivation for Steppenwolf. That makes him a black and white character. It's not very interesting. And as the trailer shows, Superman (Henry Cavill) makes an appearance. Okay, but if you watched Batman v. Superman, the last scene indicates Superman is not dead but perhaps is in a dormant state. Okay. So how the movie shows the appearance of Superman doesn't jibe with it. Plus Superman's behavior when he appears is not explained. Then without spoiling the movie, let me just say that Steppenwolf's minions aren't happiest of employees. Yet, their motivations are not explained.

Another problem is Danny Elfman's musical score. I'm not usually a fan of Elfman. I find his melodies in other films to be musical mcnuggets. No long melodies. Perhaps it's his rock and roll background. But in this movie, I can't remember any original melodies. That doesn't help. For example, there is a scene where Aquaman saves the team. It badly needed a strong original theme for inspiration. Elfman does use his 1989 Batman theme and the legendary 1978 Superman theme by John Williams. That's good but then he uses them as whispers rather then heroic statements that would give you goose bumps when you hear them.

As for the cast, they're all good. But one performance stands out. It's Ezra Miller's Flash. He steals the movie or should I say he runs off with the film. He's got that awkward, geeky delivery that demonstrates superhero worship and naivete. Kudos to him and the writers for creating a likable and funny character.

It should be noted that  Joss Whedon also directed  The Avengers.   In Justice League, he has crafted a movie with exciting and heroic set pieces but the weaknesses of the script makes a shallow film. Justice League is just a big budget, live action Saturday morning cartoon. The grade is B.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

John Oliver: Conservatives and Trump use Russian techniques

In this funny video Emmy Award winning satirist John Oliver demonstrates that President Trump and conservatives use Russian techniques in public debate. And folks, it's not good. Because we're not getting at the truth but are being driven by fear and anger. In the HBO video below, Oliver highlights the three Russian techniques that conservatives and Russians use. Caution: The video contains language and jokes that are mature in nature. Just so you know, the techniques are: 1) Discredit the press; 2) Use of "what about-ism?" and 3) trolling. They are all un-American in their use.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Only a moral military can stop President Trump from launching nukes

Here's more for the argument to impeach conservative President Donald Trump.  The blonde hair, orange skin demagogue can unilaterally launch nuclear missiles.   For example,  Trump is mad that Denmark is happier since they have universal healthcare.  Hey, that's socialism to him and his right-wing buddies.  He decides to nuke them for embarrassing him.  Trump does have narcissistic personality disorder.  (The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, Edited Dr. Bandy Lee, 2017)

What could stop him? The moral courage of a soldier. They can disobey an immoral order. ( Huffington Post) Let's just hope it doesn't look like the opening scene in WarGames (1983) where two Air Force officers are faced with the decision of launching nuclear missiles. (Video below.)

The Foreigner review

Adapting a film from a novel can present special problems. Books may not be cinematic. And sometimes, novels can have too much detail that makes it difficult to cram into a movie of two hours long. That seems to be problem with The Foreigner , actor Jackie Chan's latest film.

Jackie Chan plays Quan, a former Vietnamese special forces soldier. who has a "particular set of skills."   After the Viet Nam war, he's now living in London as an owner of a gay fundamentalist Baptist bakery.  No.  I'm kidding about the bakery.  He runs a Chinese restaurant.  While taking his daughter to a  dressmaker, she's killed by a bomb set off by a group called the "Authentic IRA."

Quan wants answers.  So he confronts northern Irish government official, Hennessey.  (Pierce Brosnan)  Hennessy's got a bunch of secrets, one of them was that he was a former member of the IRA.  Quan follows Hennessy back to Ireland and "pressures" him for information about his daughter's killers.

Chan's age makes him perfect for this old soldier.  His fighting style and stunts are slower and less Buster Keaton.  Chan gets to show his acting chops as weary and depressed warrior.  Pierce Brosnan gets to let his Irish accent hang out.  He's not Bond, James Bond here.  His Hennessy is both practical and conniving.

There's one big problem to this film.  It's David Marconi's script.  You see it's adapted from a novel by Stephen Leather, The Chinaman.   I'll admit I didn't read the 1992 book.  So, I've got to make some assumptions.  First, let's hope the title of the book is satirical. Because being a Chinese American, the term "chinaman" is racist because it was used by bigots as an early racial epithet. But I digress. I'm presuming that the book had much more detail about the political atmosphere of the conflict between the IRA and Great Britain since it was written during the times of armed conflict. That makes turning the novel into a two hour movie difficult. It's hard to put all the political and personal details into a two hour film. Plot threads in The Foreigner are not explained or merely hinted at without any context. For example, people are killed with little or no context. The result is confusion and it makes you not care. This makes the movie an empty experience.

Director Martin Campbell who directed Brosnan in the entertaining Bond movie Goldeneye (1995) which also starred Brosnan has made a dull movie. That's hard to believe with Chan and Brosnan.    But given the screenplay, it maybe less of his fault. I mean the climatic confrontation between Quan and the terrorists takes place in cramped apartment. How about a foot chase culminating with Jackie Chan taking down the bad guys mano a mano?

The Foreigner is a strange action movie about IRA terrorism being that the threat of terrorism to Great Britain  today comes from those that adhere to a philosophy of radical Islam.  But perhaps that's not political correct.   This current threat of terrorism would have been more interesting.  Or the filmmakers could have fleshed out nebulous and confusing plot threads.   Either one would have made The Foreigner a better movie.   As it stands here, The Foreigner is not boring but not great.  The grade is B Minus. 


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Thor: Ragnarok review

Does Thor: Ragnarok signal the end of the superhero movie? I say this because I remember the Adam West Batman (1966) movie and the eighties Flash Gordon (1980). Those two films were not serious. Both were campy. And both weren't particularly funny but just goofy. The problem was that they tried to straddle total comedy and some sincere nod to the source material. We would not get a good Batman film until Tim Burton's Batman in 1989. With the large amount of comedy in Thor: Ragnarok, will anyone take Thor or any superhero movie seriously in the future?

Thor: Ragnarok takes place after Thor: The Dark World. (2013) And if you didn't see that movie or The Avengers (2012), you may not get some of the jokes. So, I'm going to spoil a little of those two movies. Anyway, we find Thor (Chris Hemsworth) fighting a big horned creature who says he is going to destroy Asgard. And if you saw the prior Thor, you know that Loki (Mr. Taylor Swift.. er. Tom Hiddleston ) has taken the form of Odin, the ruler of Asgard and is ruling in his place. Thor exposes the ruse in a funny scene if you saw the prior Thor. Loki tells Thor that the real Odin (Anthony Hopkins) is on earth.

The two travel to earth. They find him. And for some reason he dies. This we are told will lead  to Hela (Cate Blanchett) coming back.   She's the power hungry sister of Thor who wants to rule Asgard, and of course,  the universe.  That's when all Hela breaks out.  She easily defeats Thor and destroys the Mjolnir.  What's that you say?   You don't know what a Mjolnir is?   Geek alert.  It's Thor's mighty hammer.  Anyway, she sends Thor and Loki to the planet Sakaar.  Thor is forced to play in gladiator games for The Grandmaster.  (Jeff Goldblum?!)   The rest of the movie is about Thor's attempt to get off the planet and save Asgard.   On the planet he reunites with  the  big green guy aka The Hulk that you see in the trailer.

There are two actors having a lot of fun in this movie.  It's Cate Blanchett and Jeff Goldblum.  Blanchett really hams it up as the all powerful villain.  Goldblum  is a cross between his Dr. Ian Malcolm from Jurassic Park (1993) and Dom Deluise's Nero from History of the World,  Part One.  (1981)  Chris Hemsworth and Mr. Taylor Swift, um...  sorry about that, Tom Hiddleston  know that they're in a silly superhero movie and they deliver their lines and jokes with  hidden winks at the audience. 

The screenplay by Eric Pearce, Craig Kyle and Christopher  Yost  is subversive when it comes to the comic book superhero movie.  These guys aren't playing it dark and serious.  There are a lot of jokes many of which are self-conscious.   Director Taika Waititi goes along with this approach.  He knows how to stage a joke and uses bright  neon colors as the palette for the movie .  The Dark Knight this is not. Their collaborative effort has led to very humorous movie.

Thor: Ragnorok is an entertaining and funny film.  Just don't take it seriously.  The grade is B Plus.

Where's the radical feminist outrage for Thor: Ragnarok?

In a scene from Thor: Ragnarok,  there is a shirtless Chris Hemsworth as Thor. He's really cut as they pointed out in the first Thor movie. Beefcake for the ladies and gay guys. You remember the brouhaha for Star Trek Into Darkness's Alice Eve underwear scene? I got in a big fight with a radical feminist and political correct types who accused me of being evil for defending Star Trek's playful sexuality. And I'm a liberal. Well, radical feminists where's your outrage over the shirtless Hemsworth? Isn't that objectification? Yep, the silence is is deafening.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House review

Sometimes a film will premiere before a real life event which echoes the subject matter in the movie. That happened with The China Syndrome (1979) a movie about a nuclear plant meltdown. Its debut occurred twelve days days before a nuclear power plant accident happened at Three Mile Island, Pennsylvania. Now comes Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House, a film about the Watergate scandal. Just in time for the Trump-Russia scandal.

It's May, 1972. The film opens up with FBI deputy associate director, Mark Felt (Liam Neeson) telling President Nixon's White House counsel John Dean (Micheal C. Hall) and his other men that the FBI has kept secrets and that they are safe with the FBI. Then legendary and controversial Director, J. Edgar Hoover dies. This leads Felt to order the destruction of Hoover's personal files which contain a bunch of dirt. What dirt? The movie doensn't tell you but it's done before President Nixon's people can get it.

In June 1972, burglars break into the Democratic National Committee's headquarters at the Watergate hotel. Some of the perpetrators have FBI and CIA employment histories and are connected to President Nixon's  campaign.  Acting FBI director. Patrick Gray (Marton Csokas) seems to be under pressure from the White House and Justice Department to clear Nixon and wrap up the investigation before the FBI can get  the truth out.   Felt decides to leak to the press, specifically reporter Bob Woodward  (Julian Morris) of the Washington Post.  He becomes a secret source called "Deep Throat."  Meanwhile Felt must deal with the disappearance of his daughter and his wife Audrey's (Diane Lane)  depression.

Movies based on real life people and events often take dramatic license to tell the story.  There are reasons.  Time issues.  But more importantly, dramatic license allows filmmakers to make a movie that is more cinematic giving it more drive and tension.    As long as the the film is substantially correct, I don't see a problem.

Mark Felt:  The Man Who Brought Down the White House  really needed more dramatic license.  Peter Landesman's script and direction are stodgy and pedestrian.    The film does not show the audience the stakes or the danger of what Nixon was trying to get away with.  As a result, the performances  of the cast were pretty  much dry with the exception of Diane Lane's Audrey.

I never got the impression of the risk and need for Felt to leak information to the Washington Post.  Yeah, Felt talks about that no one stops an FBI investigation and a metaphor on how corruption can bring down a government.  But what is required here, is the importance of a free press and the leaker who believes she or he is doing something right.  It's all done to get the truth out.  Thank God for the First Amendment's protections of a free press.  And it's even more relevant now with the specter of President Trump looking to either fire Special Counsel Bob Mueller or pardon himself out of the Russian scandal.  If those things happen then the only way the truth gets out is through the press.

This film could have used a little "corn."  There should have been a discussion about the free press and the need to expose Nixon..  A "no man is above the law" speech would have been helpful for dramatic purposes.  Daniel Pemberton's score was too much musical wallpaper.  Themes would have  given the film more emotional weight.

Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House is earnest, relevant and important but it's also arid.  One can hope there will be a better movie about Felt made in the future.  The  film to see about Watergate is All the President's Men.  (1976)  The grade is B Minus..   

Friday, October 27, 2017

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women review

Did you know that the creator of the comic book Wonder Woman was a feminist man? Or that he had a sexual relationship with two women? How about the fact that he also created the first lie detector machine? Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is the fascinating film about this man Professor William Marston and his two loves, Elizabeth Marston and Olive Byrne.

We meet Professor William Moulton Marston (The Hobbit's Luke Evans) about the year 1946  as he is being interrogated by Josette Frank (Connie Britton) of the Child Study Association for his controversial creation, Wonder Woman. She's upset with the comic book's sexual and bondage themes. Marston defends his work. This interrogation becomes a framing device similar to Cervantes defending his story in Man of La Mancha. The movie flashes back to a time where Marston is teaching psychology and his DISC theory regarding human behavior. (DISC stands for Dominance, Inducement, Submission, Compliance) Watching his class is his wife, Elizabeth. (Rebecca Hall) Also  attending is a student, Olive Byrne. (Bella Heathcote)

Marston finds himself enraptured with Byrne. He wants her as a research assistant. Elizabeth immediately sees the sexual attraction that Marston has for her but agrees to allowing Byrne work for him. Their initial work is the development of the lie detector. During the testing of the device all three discover that they have feelings for each other. This leads to a polymorphous relationship.

After losing his job, and with Byrne having given birth to a child, Marston finds   the need to support this growing family,   But first, he's got to stop by a local lingerie store which is also a front for a bondage group.  Well , maybe he doesn't need to shop for lingerie and um... ropes but it turns him on.  This leads him to introduce his wife and lover, Olive to some light bondage.  Add that with  his feminist views,  the feminist inspiration from the women in his life and voila, Wonder Woman.  He takes the idea to DC Comics and they agree to produce a comic.  So, you know where the Lasso of Truth comes from.  Don't tell the kids.

The performances of Luke Evans, Rebecca Hall and Bella Heathcote are superb.   They all have chemistry with each other, sexual and emotional.  Evan's Marston is an idealist.  He wants to use the comic book of Wonder Woman to indoctrinate the youth of America to feminism.  His passion for feminism is matched by his love for his women.  Hall's Elizabeth is a woman who's been educated as a lawyer by must endure sexual discrimination.  She's tough but there's also pain in her performance.  Heathcote's Olive has a lineage to feminism and liberal ideas.  In real life, Olive Byrne was the niece of feminist Margaret Sanger.  Bella Heathcote shows a devotion to those ideas.  But more importantly, she exudes a telepathic performance.  It may seem that Olive is the submissive of the three but she radiates a sexual aura which dominates Elizabeth and Marston.

Writer and director Angela Robinson has created a film that may accurately depict the three and if  it doesn't I applaud the ideas of the movie.   Granddaughter Christie Marston  argues that Elizabeth and Olive were not in a sexual relationship but were more like sisters.  (Hollywood Reporter)   The relationship of the three was certainly radical for the time and it would be frowned upon now.   But this unconventional family is actually conventional in its goals.  If Wonder Woman was going to defeat evil by love (Boston University article) then why can't love exist in a family of two women, a man and children?  Why can't that love defeat fear and bigotry?   Robinson's scenes of the Marston family with evening dinners and playing with children are loving, happy and beautiful.  You root for this family.

As for the sex between the three, Robinson projects some of her ideas.  First, she physically depicts the lovemaking with hand-held camera shots.  There's a slight shake to the picture.  This depicts the emotional, nervous and sexual energy between the three.  But what about the bondage?   Isn't it the objectification of women that radical feminists decry about?  No.  It's consensual.   Robinson seems to show that it is the women who are in charge here.  It's a sexual power that motivates men and women.

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is a warm, loving and yes, family movie that just happens to have a polymorphous relationship with some bondage thrown in.   Radical feminists, feminists, comic book fans and movie lovers should see this film.  The grade is A.     

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Columbus review

Columbus, Indiana is a small town that is the birthplace of Vice President Mike Pence. And I'm guessing that most Americans didn't know this. It is also a place where the late J. Irwin Miller of the Cummins Company led a private-public effort to construct buildings of modern architecture and art. The film Columbus uses this fascinating city as a backdrop.

Jin (Star Trek's John Cho) is a Korean-American who must stop in Columbus, Indiana after his professor father becomes ill and falls into a coma. Cho's performance has empathy and sadness as he is confronting the mortality of his father. Casey (Haley Lu Richardson) is a young woman who is taking care of her addict-mother, Maria played by Michelle Forbes. (Star Trek: The Next Generation) She gives an honest performance as a working class single mother. Unfortunately, Casey is putting her dreams of going to Yale in order to stay with her. Richardson turns in a realistic performance of a woman who is dedicated to her sacrifice but also has a yearning for something more. The two meet and develop a friendship among the art and architecture.

Writer and director Kogonada obviously has a love for this city of art. He uses it as a plot device while also getting Casey to talk about all the buildings and sculptures. It might be contrived except that Kogonada weaves his characters with the art, which obviously includes the architecture. They interact with it.

The look of this film is itself a work of art. Kogonada carefully frames each shot the way Kurosawa did with his movies. It's twenty first century Hopper. Hallways, buildings, furniture, rooms, sculptures even a chain link fence are shot in creative ways. He uses shadow to cover some characters. There are scenes shot with natural light. A mirror is used to reflect an intimate conversation. And in these photographic paintings are moving characters, people.

But among all of this art, this need for perfection are the imperfect lives of people. Jin is also estranged from his father. His dilemma is how long does he stay with him. Casey's dreams may disappear. These are two lonely people with paths that intersect like a work of modern architecture. My only problem with this film is that Kogonada could have used some subtle music as background for the conversations between Jin and Casey. It was a little too quiet.

Columbus is a film that conveys many things. Loneliness. Sadness. Warmth. Love. Beauty. It deserves multiple viewings. The grade is A Minus.

Geostorm review

The film, Geostorm, wants you to know that  the international space station  has a self-destruct system. Okay, I know that this movie is supposed to take place in the future. But "Why?" The movie says it's to stop the station from crashing into the earth. But seriously, we know when things in orbit enter the atmosphere, they break up anyway and are burned up. And by the way, the self-destruct system can't be turned off once it's been turned on. What? I say again, "WHAT?!" It does make sense if you're trying to make a contrived, suspenseful plot point. But even then, it's got to make sense. This is one of the problems of Geostorm, the lack of logic.

The movie takes place in the near future. It's a time when the world is working together to control climate change. And in this day of Trump, it's a fantasy. The world has used  technology to control the extreme weather through satellites and they are controlled by the International Climate Space Station. The creator of the life saving system, Jake Lawson (Gerard Butler) is testifying to Congress about turning over control from America to the world when he yells, "This is Sparta!" Okay, that's from 300. He shows disrespect which angers his brother, Max (Jim  Sturges) who's some type of government official.

One of the satellites malfunctions and  flash freezes some poor villagers in Afghanistan.  President Palma (Andy Garcia) sends Jake to the space station to fix it before more people are turned into popsicles.    But he finds out that somebody is sabotaging the system.  Hold on.  Maybe this is not a fantasy in this day of Trump sabotaging Obamacare.   Anyway, Jake's got to stop anymore malfunctioning satellites or else there's going to be something called a "geostorm" which is a cool sounding term for worldwide storms that will destroy life on the planet.

I usually comment on performances but what's the point?  The characters are given ridiculous things to say and do.  Abbie Cornish plays  Secret Service agent Sarah Wilson.  She's dating Max though the script says that's illegal.  Huh?  Really?  I  laughed when she pulls out her gun and did some other action things because it was so over the top.  Ed Harris is Secretary of State Dekkom.  He probably wishes he was back in Westworld.   Richard Sheehan is Taylor, a British crew member of the space station.  He's cocky, annoying  and basically a jerk.  You  just wish somebody would flush him out of an airlock or kick him down a well.  Calling Gerard Butler.  Speaking of Butler, he's okay but it's the writing and the direction that hurts this film.

Writer and director Dean Devlin (Independence Day) is competent as a director.  Action scenes and special effects all work.  But it's the writing.  Characters spit out exposition unnaturally.  Jake's daughter literally tells Max that he's not been in her life instead of subtly implying it.  That's telling not showing.    Bad guys are shot with menacing closing shots.  I get it.  He's a bad guy.  The film wants to be some type of political thriller.  But there's not enough of this plot thread.  It spends too much time on the personal lives of the main characters.  I don't care about Jake's daughter.  Okay?  Then there's the  lack of logic and silliness.  Jake goes on a space walk to  retrieve a panel.  Something goes wrong and he's hurtling through space and literally bouncing off the space station.  And get this?  He suffers no breach in his space suit.  Really?  And I forgot this hilarious scene.  A gigantic tidal wave hits the beaches of Brazil.  A bikini clad woman runs from the wave.  As she is running down the street, a jet plane crashes and is about to crush her.  Yet, she is able to outrun it and survive.  Yeah, it's a little overkill.

Geostorm is not bad enough to laugh at.  At best, it's not boring.   It's just a big budget SyFy television movie without flying sharks.  The grade is C Plus.   

Monday, October 23, 2017

General Kelly has become a four star idiot

Lost in the President Trump-Rep. Frederica Wilson controversy is the fact that Chief of Staff, General Kelly has made idiotic statements in the past in the defense of conservative Republican Trump. Last May, he defended trump's son-in-law for trying to establish a back channel through the Russian embassy that would defeat the CIA and FBI.

“I don’t see a big deal. I think any channel of communication, back or otherwise, with a country like Russia is a good thing.” DHS Secretary John Kelly From Fox News Sunday; Politico.

Yep. That was a four star general defending son-in-law, Jared Kushner, for attempting to set up a secret back channel that would run out of the Russian embassy to defeat the FBI and the CIA. An idiot would not wonder "Why do this?" A smart person would be suspicious because there's one major reason you would do this. To do something illegal with the Russians. You see this is not something to keep out of the press. The press don't have the ability to surveil the Russians that the FBI does. And if you're doing something legal, the FBI wouldn't do anything.

So, again General Kelly made an idiot of himself. When conservative President Trump made a "condolence" call to the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson and said Sgt. Johnson "knew what he was getting himself into" or "knew what he signed up for", Kelly defended him. (Video below) The phrase "he knew what he was getting himself into" is not a statement of empathy or respect. It means that a person is at fault for his situation. For example, if you go to a baseball game and get hit with a foul ball, you knew what you were getting into. It's similar to the legal defense, assumption of the risk. It is not a phrase of empathy or nobility.

And by the way, General Kelly. Rep. Wilson did not eavesdrop on Trump's "condolence" call. The widow, Myeshia Johnson put it on speakerphone. She was a close friend of the Johnson family. (Huffington Post with ABC video.)

Lawrence O' Donnell's excellent video essay on why General Kelly made racist comments by referring Rep. Wilson as an "empty barrel."

Friday, October 13, 2017

Stephen Colbert on the unraveling Donald Trump

Well, President Donald Trump is unraveling according to Vanity Fair.  .  And just remember he has the nuclear codes.  Sigh.  We need a laugh before we all die.  Here's Stephen Colbert.  Enjoy. 

Hey, Bubba. Trump looks to hurt you and millions of Americans

Yo, Bubba. Yes , you the white working class male that voted for Trump because he would make America great again. Trump really hates you because he's going to make your health insurance go up. By now you should know he lies a lot and so when his administration says they're going to get you great health care. Don't believe it. Time for a little ole education Bubba. Let's look at yesterday's two mean actions he took yesterday to kill Obamacare or The Affordable Care Act. Source: Huffington Post

1. Allow Insurers to sell product-without pre-existing coverage and bare bone insurance plans.

Okay, Bubba. I know this sounds good. But it ain't. Here's how insurance works. Private insurance companies make money off your premiums and not paying claims. I repeat they profit by not paying claims. So the more customers they have, the more premiums they get. Now they're going to have to pay for Aunt Billie Jo's operation but if they get enough premiums, they can keep the costs to you and your Aunt down. Remember all those premium s per month where they don't pay a claim. Now if you offer something to healthy people that is cheaper and not as good, some people are going to go there. BUT AUNT BILLIE JO'S PREMIUMS'S GO UP BECAUSE THE INSURANCE COMPANY WILL HAVE LESS IN PREMIUMS. THE INSURANCE COMPANY WILL MAKE IT UP BY CHARGING AUNT BILLIE JO MORE. And if she can't pay? No healthcare. She could die. You don't want that.

2. Trump is going to refuse to pay cost sharing reduction payments.
These subsidies are payed to insurance companies to lower your cost in deductibles, and co-payments. And if you're sayin' "How's that going to help me?" It doesn't. That rich, blonde haired, orange skinned president ain't on your side.

Now where is all dat money they are going save in Trump's refusal to pay those subsidies. Tax cuts for the rich. So, what to do? Contact your congressman and senator. Tell them to save Obamacare.    VOTE LIBERAL DEMOCRAT IF YOU WANT TO LIVE.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Colbert and Stewart give Trump equal time

The moron aka President Donald Trump (conservative Republican) has demanded equal time because he's getting hammered by late night comics. Well, Donald you are an easy target because the Secretary of State says you are a "moron." Well last night, Stephen Colbert with the help of Jon Stewart have given you equal time. Enjoy this hilarious bit. And vote liberal Democrat if you want to live.

Trump attacks the First Amendment

Conservative Republican President Donald Trump has declared war on the First Amendment.  Angered by the NBC news story that this moronic president wanted a tenfold increase in nuclear arms, Trump has threatened to have NBC's broadcast license revoked.  He can't get the FCC to do that to the network but he can go after NBC  local stations.      (New York Times)    This is an attack on free speech and a free press as guaranteed by the First Amendment.  At the very least, it's what we call a chilling effect on the exercise of the free speech.   IMPEACH TRUMP NOW.  VOTE LIBERAL DEMOCRAT IF YOU WANT TO LIVE.

The latest threat from Trump...

Blade Runner 2049 review

Do Androids Make Good Movies? Well after last year's HBO mini-series Westworld and the recent release of the film Blade Runner 2049, I would say yes. Okay, androids didn't make these productions, at least I don't think so. But the use of androids as characters in drama has done some important things. It has allowed science fiction to explore what it means to be human.

Based on  Philip K. Dick's novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Blade Runner 2049 is the sequel to the 1982 film Blade Runner. It takes place about 28 years later. Rogue replicants which are sythetic humans or androids are hunted down.. That doesn't mean there aren't replicants. It's just that the new versions are obedient to humans and don't cause trouble. In fact, some replicants are sued to terminate the rogue replicants. They are called blade runners.  K (Ryan Gosling) is one of them.  He's also a replicant.    When K terminates a replicant posing as a farmer, he finds a trunk of bones which has an extraordinary secret that could lead to war between replicants and humans. Oh I forgot, Deckard (Harrison Ford) from the first movie shows up in the last third of they movie. Hey, no spoiler, it's in the trailer.

Also, I didn't spoil the movie by telling you that K is a replicant. It's in the first few  minutes of the film. Yeah, unlike Producer Ridley Scott who made the first one and has been running around saying that Deckard (Harrison Ford) was a replicant. That's not clear in the first movie and I'm pretty sure Deckard in the novel is human. ( But I digress. Ryan Gosling again demonstrates he's a fine actor. Here, he's a replicant but he's one that borders on having human empathy. He has virtual girlfriend, Joi (Ana De Armas) whom he dotes on. that begs the question, "Can androids love?" Harrison Ford turns in an atypical Ford performance. He's not a rogue, or particularly macho. His Deckard actually has warmth. Jared Leto should be  happy that he got the part as the blind Wallace, the morally challenged industrialist who is now producing replicants for a slave force.  It makes up for that frightening Joker in Suicide Squad.   Sylvia Hoeks is Wallace's replicant henchman or should I say henchwoman.  She is strikingly similar to Rachel from the first movie and the novel.   She's a terminator without empathy.   

Blade Runner's writer Hampton Fancher returns  to write the sequel's screenplay along with Michael Green.   (Logan).  These two are experienced at marrying film noir with science fiction.  And like the first film, this is a film noir.  And like that genre, this movie is more than action picture or science fiction opera, it's an essay on the human condition.  Themes on human existence are present.  What effect are human memories, a theme in some of Dick's novels.

Director Dennis Villeneuve (Arrival)  picks up Ridley Scott's mantle and produces a  magnificent looking film.  As much as I wanted more city landscapes, one must remember that this is earth after a great war.  That's why there is so many dusty scenes.  Perhaps, that is a weakness, the lack of exposition and why in the first movie there was a first person voice over.  Blade Runner 2049 requires you to pay attention.  There's a scene where K interviews an expert in memory construction for replicants.  I wanted to criticize it for tts length.    But in the scope of the entire film, I now realize how important it was.

Another theme  in both the novel and these two movies is  the definition of life.  Do humans have souls?  Is that why there are scenes of eyes.?   Are they windows to souls?    In Blade Runner 2049, there are scenes of female nudity.  It's sexual.  But it's relative to the human condition.  The act of sex is what creates humans.  Women are the sex of the species that brings life into the world.  And what about androids? If they become sentient, do androids reproduce? Or is that the human condition?

Traditional film noir mysteries don't give any solutions to the mysteries until the third act.  You'll be able to deduct fifty percent of the mystery in this movie after the announcement of the first plot point, i.e. the bones in the trunk.    But that's not the point of this movie.  Blade Runner 2049  shows the world with light and shadow.   It's not clear as to who is right and who is wrong.    This film is literate, intelligent and thought provoking. It will stand along its predecessor and like it, get better as time goes by.  The grade is A. 

Moron Trump wants tenfold more nukes

NBC News is reporting that conservative President Trump wanted a huge increase in nuclear weapons. By increase, he wanted a tenfold amount. Late, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called Trump a "moron." Check out the discussion by the Morning Joe crew below. Senator Bob Corker who is retiring is probably the only Republican sounding the alarm. And by the way he's the chair of the Foreign Relations Committee. We have a moron for a President who knows nothing of history. It was an arms race that led to World War I. VOTE LIBERAL DEMOCRAT IF YOU WANT TO LIVE.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Battle of the Sexes review

I never took the 1973 "Battle of the Sexes" " tennis match between top woman's player, Billie Jean King  and has- been Bobby Riggs seriously. First, it was between a 29 year old King and a 55 year old Riggs. I was surprised that Riggs didn't have a heart attack. Second, all of the publicity before the match indicated that Riggs was part Muhammed Ali, and part circus clown. He said he was putting the "show" in chauvinist. Then you had the silly pre-match ceremonies. King was brought in on a litter carried by hunky slave men. Riggs was escorted by scantily clad women. But looking back, it was a turning point for women's tennis and the women's movement. The match does make for a fascinating story that's depicted in the film Battle of the Sexes.

The film takes place in the early seventies and starts out with Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) being informed that the prize money for the woman in an upcoming tournament would be one twelfth that of what the men's winner would get. Infuriated, King and nine women tennis players with the help of Gladys Heldmen (Sarah Silverman) form The Women's Tennis Association. The goal would be to increase the payout to women players and get some equality for the woman athlete. 

Meanwhile, over-the-hill tennis player Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) is struggling with his gambling addiction and left to play on the senior circuit. The time period is also the dawn of the women's liberation movement. There were many men who felt threatened by women who wanted equality and were downright sexist when it came to women.  Riggs seizes upon the moment and challenges King to a match.  She initially declines and Riggs plays top player and homophobic tennis player Margaret Court.  (Jessica  McNamee)  He defeats her and King finally accepts the challenge for the big match.

Emma Stone turns in an excellent performance as the conflicted King.  She's fighting three battles.  One is to lead women's tennis to equality.  Then there is the match with Riggs.   The other is her burgeoning lesbianism leading to an affair with her hairdresser.  She suffers  a guilt knowing that she could hurt her husband.     It's also ironic that Court is portrayed in the film as the two in real life have had recent run-ins over homosexuality.  (Sydney Morning Herald)

The supporting actors also rise to Stone's performance.  I've watched Sarah Silverman's work as a comedian for years from Star Trek: Voyager to her stand up.   Here's she plays a tough feminist promoter for woman's tennis.  Got to love the scene where Silverman's Gladys and King barge in on a men's club.  Simply put, Steve Carell is perfectly cast.  He captures Riggs tongue in cheek personality.  His Riggs was not really a male chauvinist.  That was Riggs in real life.  I'm not saying he was a feminist but clearly he was playing the clown.  He was teasing the public while using his shtick to get one more day under the sun.  Carell  knows this and uses his comedic skills for his portrayal.

Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire)'s  screenplay does a good job at capturing the events surrounding the match which was called "The Battle of the Sexes."  The slight problem here is that he has all these King plot threads.  They're interesting but Riggs also has an interesting story too.  I would have loved to see a little more of the clown.   Still, the comedy works and the movie is touching.  Also, kudos to directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (Little Miss Sunshine) for staging some excellent tennis shots.

The King-Riggs match was a big event.  Fifty million people in the United States watched it on TV.  Thirty thousand saw it at the Astrodome making it the largest audience to watch a tennis match live.   (Wikiepedia)   As I said, it was a turning point of women's tennis.  It brought attention to the woman's game and propelled it to popularity.  As for women, the idea of equality for women was now firmly placed in the public domain.  And it was a legendary reality TV show  demonstrating how a reality TV event or reality TV star  like Trump could affect society. .  Battle of the Sexes captures the moment beautifully.  The grade is A minus. 

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Stephen Colbert on the Secretary of State calling Trump a "moron."

You knew when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called President Trump a "moron" that satirist Stephen Colbert would have fun with it.  Well, he did.  Enjoy his monologue from The Late Show.

American Made review

I'm guessing that the late Barry Seal would love American Made, a film based on his exploits as a pilot for the CIA. First, who wouldn't like being portrayed by the handsome Tom Cruise. Second, it's a fine movie that may not be historically accurate but is both complicated and fun. Oh yeah, Seal may have flaws but doesn't come off that bad. Seal was a real person whose personality could not be described as black and white.

American Made starts out by showing TWA pilot Barry Seal (Tom Cruise) bored of flying people around the country and smuggling Cuban cigars. The smuggling bit catches the attention of CIA agent Schafer (Domhnall Gleeson) who recruits Seal to fly for the agency. The adventure appeals to Seal who initially flies sorties through Latin American countries taking pictures of communist insurgents. Later missions would include delivering money to Panamanian dictator Manual Noriega for intelligence. Seal's skills catches the attention of drug dealer Pablo Escobar. (Mauicio Mejia) With a need to feed his wife and children, Seal agrees to run drugs to America for money. And I mean it was a boat load of money.

Tom Cruise as Barry Seal turns in one of his better performances of his career. This should make up for The Mummy. Cruise is able to turn his good looks and charm into an individual that believes he can escape the DEA, FBI and enjoy the fruits of his criminal acts without feelings of guilt. Seal's greed blinds him to the illegality of his actions. Sarah Wright as Lucy, Seal's wife. is a sexy country goddess. She may not like the drug smuggling but she enjoys the benefits. Irish actor Domhnall Gleeson does an excellent American accent. You would never have known he was a Weasley in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I. His CIA agent Schafer is just as greedy as Seal. Only it's a greed that needs success for the mission, no matter how dubious.

Director Doug Liman (Edge of Tomorrow) and screenplay writer Gary Spinelli have made a period piece that mixes eighties' greed, conservatism, the war on drugs and the Cold War into forces of motivation. Yes, Nancy Reagan's "Just say no" to drugs looks naive. Thee was hubris in politics. Perhaps, it is the era's greed that overwhelms everything. Whether it's about money or politics, the desire to achieve these goals led people like Barry Seal, and Colonel Oliver North to ignore morality. The film also mixes funny satire, and sharp drama. It's a lively, entertaining concoction  that is slightly let down by a lack of intensity in the third act. And let me say something about the Doug Liman's direction of the flying sequences. They're astounding. Planes are swooping down into the Columbian jungles. They're outlasting DEA jets. Exciting stuff. I  hope as a tribute to the two pilots, Alan Purwin and Carlos Berl who were killed in making this film that Liman used some of their work regardless of the suits filed against the production companies. (Hollywood Reporter) It would be a nice memorial to their work in creating some gorgeous flying sequences.

American Made is a funny and smart film. The grade is A.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Kingsman: The Golden Circle review and the rules for action sequels.

Following the success of the spy movie Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014) is the sequel Kingsman: The Golden Circle. And like any action sequel there are rules, at least for big budget sequels. Yeah, this is inspired by the rules from Scream 2. (1997)

Rule 1. Bigger action set pieces. Come on you got more money because of the first one. It's a franchise. Rule 2. More carnage. That means more dead bodies. Rule 3. Bigger explosions. See Rule 1. Rule 4. Big dramatic plot surprises. Yeah, everybody wants to make The Empire Strikes Back. Rule 5. Give the audience more of what they saw in the first one. But what about creativity? You want art, go to The Louvre. We're trying to make a boatload of money from our franchise.

In The Kingsman; The Golden Circle, super drug dealer Poppy (Julianne Moore) destroys The Kingsman headquarters. She's this crazy nostalgia freak for the fifties, and the sixties. And her Cambodian jungle headquarters shows it. There's an old fashioned bowling alley, and yes it could be a nod to The Big Lebowski. After all Jeff Bridges is in this movie. At the center is Poppy's headquarters which is fifties hamburger diner complete with robot dogs and a gigantic meat grinder for turning your human enemies into meat patties. She's also captured Elton John who has some very funny moments. Anyway, she's got a plan. Since she supplies most of the world's drugs, she's decided to spike the supply with a poison and blackmail the world since she has the antidote.

Kingsman Eggsy aka Galahad (Taron Egerton) and Merlin (Mark Strong) must seek out help. They are directed to Kentucky where the Statesman are headquartered. The Statesman are American version of the Kingsman. They're led by Champagne aka Champ aka as The Dude. (Jeff Bridges) Um... okay, he's not known as The Dude. But come on, there's Julianne Moore here and bowling. They find Harry Hart still alive. (Colin Firth). Hart was shot in the head by Samuel L. Jackson in the last film. Halle Berry is here as the American version of Merlin or Q. But she's given very little to do. Hold on. Berry, Bridges, Moore and Firth. A law firm? No. But these four actors have Oscars. Whoa. Bet you a dollar, nobody is going to get an Oscar for this movie.

Director Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman have made a screenplay that follows the rules of action sequels. It's got bigger action, there's more carnage, bigger explosions, big dramatic plot surprises, and it gives the audience the same stuff from the last movie. Action and comedy. So what's not to like? Well, too much of a good thing may not be a good thing. The movie is bloated. For example, Poppy grinds a henchman into ground... well, ground henchmen and then cooks the um... said beef and makes a burger out of it. She then feeds it to another henchmen. You guys are trying to turn us into vegetarians. And then the way they bring back Harry is kind of ridiculous. The Statesmen have nano technology to repair head shots. Really? How about just having him shot as glancing flesh wound? And if you thought the first one was campy, this one seems to get its inspiration from the sixties Batman TV show. There was also no need for the demise of some of the characters. Guys, you're not making The Godfather II here.

Director Vaughn certainly knows how to frame and set up the action set pieces. He relies less on editing and more on slow motion tracking shots. It makes sense and there is less confusion. There's some good comedy here and some cringe worthy comic material. The later stages of the poison causes people to dance. As Steve Martin would say, "Comedy is not pretty." I will say this. Elton John's last sentence is one of the funniest lines in cinema this year.

Kinsman: The Golden Circle is fun. But it's like eating ice cream too fast. You'll get a headache. The grade is B.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Trump shows the world he's a racist and Colin Kaepernick's mother's response

On Friday, conservative Republican President Donald Trump showed the world he wants the angry bigoted white man vote and that he is a racist. You see he was in Alabama, the heart of the angry , racist white male nation. Remember what Bull Connor did to civil rights protesters in the sixties? Anyway, Trump in a political rally said this about NFL players kneeling in protest to racial injustice during the national anthem,

"Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, he's fired. He's fired!" CNN REPORT

Now let's not be suckers here. We know who he is referring to. It's African American quarterback Colin Kaepernick who kneeled in protest to the treatment of black people by the police. Trump said this in front of a white audience full of angry white males. He said it in Alabama, the heart of angry, white, racist male nation. Alabama has a history of opposing civil rights. It's a message of support for bigots. And before you say there was nothing about blacks in that statement please remember that Trump did not call Nazi protesters "sons of bitches." In fact, he said there were "fine people" in the Nazi ranks. (The Atlantic) Guess who are the bad guys according to conservative Trump? The African Americans. And what about free speech/ This is not just saying that the NFL can punish protests therefore not a government suppressing speech. Trump as President is the government. By urging the suppression of free speech, he's violating the guarantees of free speech under the First Amendment.

So, what did Colin Kaepernick's mother say about this? Here's her glorious tweet.

You go girl. Impeach Trump now. Vote liberal Democrat, if you want to live.

The Bengals' season is over

Is it too early to call the 2017 Cincinnati Bengals season over? After last week's game where the Bengals couldn't score a touchdown against the Houston Texans who had their two starting cornerbacks injured and now the Bengals drop a game to the Green Bay Packers after leading them 21-7, this long suffering Bengals fans has had it.

Yesterday's game against the Packers had all the hallmarks of your typical Bengals epic meltdown. After leading the Packers at halftime by 21-7, the Bengals scored just 3 points the remainder of the game. It's time to sit Bengals cornerback Adam "Packman" Jones down. His new nickname should be "Toast." Because he got toasted on a 72 yard pass play to set up the Packers winning field goal. Not only has he lost a step, he's an embarrassment off the field and do you all remember his meltdown against the Steelers in that 2016 Playoff game? His temper in that game caused a unsportsmanlike penalty which gave the Steelers a chip shot field goal. (Check out this News Record op-ed piece on Jones.)

Yesterday, the Bengals lost in the usual heartbreaking way. I've seen this movie before. Time to call the season. Not really interested in writing about the Bengals until they do something sustainable in a positive way. Time to think about the draft. Here's Lance McAlister's report.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Sen Bill Cassidy aka Doctor Death fails two oaths and Jimmy Kimmel torches conservatives

Conservative Senator Bill Cassidy (R-La.) who is a doctor violated his primary medical oath which is to do no harm and then fail his own coined term "The Jimmy Kimmel Test." Cassidy after hearing Kimmel make a public plea to Congress to provide health care to everyone even those who could not afford medical care. Kimmel was grateful that he had health insurance to cover his infant son who had a congenital heart condition. Kimmel was urging Congress to either fix Obamacare or provide insurance to everyone even the poor. Cassidy told Kimmel on his show that any plan he would support would do so.

Kimmel unfortunately trusted a conservative Republican. You see they view government assisted healthcare as socialism That comes from their god, Ronald Reagan. (My post with Reagan's audio on the issue.) So now Cassidy has proposed a new healthcare plan. It would repeal Obamacare. And it would slowly kill Medicaid. Place caps on how much insurance would pay for one patient. And get this it would allow states to opt out of mandating insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions. Since his plan would cause millions to lose coverage and likely lead to deaths. So, let's call Cassidy, "Doctor Death."

Here's Jimmy Kimmel on the Cassidy 's "healthcare" plan.

Cassidy then said he didn't lie to Kimmel and then indicated that Kimmel didn't understand healthcare. Bad mistake. Kimmel torches him. Thank you Jimmy Kimmel for fighting for Americans' healthcare. Here's Kimmel's response. And vote liberal Democrat if you want to live.

Monday, September 18, 2017

mother! review

mother! is the second movie this year to deal with the idea of creativity. The second was Alien: Covenant. Whereas that movie was more conventional science fiction. mother! is a film that answers the hypothetical question of what a movie made by Luis Bunuel, Salvador Dali and Stephen King would look like.

Mother (Jennifer Lawrence) and Him (Javier Bardem) are husband and wife. They have no children. Him is a poet. They live together in a large house somewhere in the country. One of the opening scenes of the film has Him placing a crystal on a mantle. The crystal was recovered from previous house which burned down inspires Him to write. However, Him is having a bit of writer's block. A doctor (Ed Harris) stops by and asks to stay. Later, doctor's wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) joins him. She lectures Mother that she should have a child. They are basically boarders from hell. Speaking of which, when the doctor breaks the crystal, all hell breaks loose. It doesn't happen all at once. But actions in the movie are murder, blood seeping in floors and walls, riots, cannibalism, a strange creature living in the toilet, and idolatry. You know the stuff in Disney movies.

You get no bad performances with this A list cast. Jennifer Lawrence suffers quite a bit in this movie. Physical and emotional. In keeping with the surreal nature of the movie, the insane events seem to be real to her. Javier Bardem initially seemed a little to intense for me but his performance makes sense as a man who needs the approval and worship of a crowd. As his career winds down, Ed Harris is making some excellent acting choices. His Man in Black in Westworld was more than evil he was complicated. In this film, he strikes me as a hypocrite. Michelle Pfeiffer's wife has a Lady Macbeth vibe happening here.

Director and writer Darren Aronofsky's camera follows Mother around with either over the shoulder, first person or cover shots. She is in virtually in every scene in the movie. The effect is that we feel her suffering. This film is certainly metaphorical and surreal. With all the gore and violence, it becomes quite intense. That's a problem for mother!. Aronofsky's film needed editing. Was there a need for all the murder, people getting shot and rioting? It got to a point where it slowed down the movie. Still, the film is fascinating. I spent the time trying to understand the multiple allegories crashing into each other.

mother! is a thought provoking, surreal and disturbing movie. Big studio Paramount should be praised for producing this piece of avant-garde art. The grade is B.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

What?! Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was advocating building Middle East Nuclear Power plants with Russians while in the White House

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that former National Security Adviser Micheal Flynn was supporting the construction of nuclear power plants across the Middle East with Russians while he was working in the White House. (Wall Street Journal) Rachell Maddow covers the scheme in the video below at the 8:30 minute mark. Flynn did not disclose any contacts with foreign individuals as required by his security clearance. Maddow then goes over all the things that Flynn did not disclose as required by law. It's at the 14:25 mark. It's a lot of failures. He's in a lot of trouble.

What did conservative Republican President Trump know and when did he know it? Impeach this guy now. Vote liberal Democrat if you want to live. And General Flynn. Do the patriotic thing. Do the thing in your self-interest. Do the thing to save your family. COOPERATE AND TELL THE TRUTH ABOUT TRUMP AND RUSSIA. HELP THIS COUNTRY GET RID OF TRUMP WHO IS A CANCER KILLING THIS COUNTRY.

How dirty Russian money is laundered in a Trump property

Ever wonder how dirty Russian money might be laundered in conservative President Trump's properties? Found this July article from Craig Unger of The New Republic. (New Republic: Trump's Russian Laundromat) Basically, if you are a Russian seeking to launder dirty money, you would buy an apartment say in Trump Tower. Unger traces Trump's Russian connections back thirty years. And he also covered Trump adviser Felix Sater, who has become more relevant lately as it has been reported that he was trying to set up another Trump tower in Moscow in 2015. Unger appeared on MSNBC's the 11th Hour to summarize his report. Below.

Impeach Trump. And vote liberal Democrat if you want to live.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Trump wanted a tower in Moscow

Conservative Republican President Donald Trump says he had no contact with Russia. Should we believe him when his son was colluding with the Russians to win the election? Now, there are reports that Trump adviser Felix Sater in late 2015 set up a deal for Trump to build a tower in Moscow. Trump allegedly signed a letter of intent. Check out this video from Rachel Maddow. Guest David Corn (Mother Jones) was the reporter that broke the Steele dossier. Yeah, I agree with Corn. It's clear. Trump is good to Russia because he wanted to and wants to do business with Russia.

Impeach Trump. And vote liberal Democrat, if you want to live.

Comedy Central shows that Trump supporters are idiots

Jordan Klepper (The Daily Show) trolls Trump supporters and finds out that they are really idiots. I mean they are so obsessed with Hillary Clinton that they are signing petitions to impeach her. Hey you Trump fanatics. She isn't in office. Any office. Not president. Not senator. Nothing. This is what is wrong with some conservatives. It's all blinding hatred. Facts don't matter to these folks.

People, vote liberal Democratic if you want to live. Anyway, check out the video.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Trevor Noah shows that Breitbart's Steve Bannon was a product of immigration

On Sunday, former White House adviser Steve Bannon and head of Breitbart "News" told CBS 60 Minutes how he feels about immigrants. Which Bannon says that America was built by the citizens but he fails to note that those citizens were derived from immigrants. So, Trevor Noah of The Daily Show investigated Bannon's roots. His great grandfather was from Ireland. (Video below at 3:50) So why is it that it's okay for his great grandfather to come to America. Oh, I get it. He was white. What a racist hypocrite.

Vote liberal Democrat, if you want to live.

Wall Street Journal: Lawyers recommend Kushner should resign

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that White House lawyers recommended that adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner resign. Fordham Law Professor Jed Shugerman indicates that the recommendation occurred about the same time that Kushner was seeking a Russian bailout for the property at 666 West Fifth Avenue, New York, New York. (Video below and great analysis by the Last Word panel.) His problems could entangle the White House in legal jeopardy. I've already surmised that conservative President Trump's proposed unilaterally lifting of Russian sanctions could be done to get Kushner a loan. (My post.)

Impeach. Vote liberal Democratic, if you want to live.

Monday, September 11, 2017

It review

The protagonists in It are preteens but that does not mean you should bring children to see it. The film is violent with mature themes. And don't go if you are scared of clowns or are a clown because you are going decry clown discrimination. That means Trump won't like this movie.   Yeah, we heard about that boycott by Trump supporters.  Okay, the Trump boycott was about author Stephen King's strong dissent to the blond hair, orange skin one.  Not about Trump being a clown.  Still, the boycott  didn't work.  (Huffington Post)

It's 1989 in Derry, Maine. Bill (Jaeden Lieberher) is a preteen student at Derry Middle School. His brother Georgie is missing and presumed dead. In fact, his arm was bitten off and he was dragged down a sewer by Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard), a clown. Hey, I told you don't take the kids. Anyway, Bill is the leader of The Losers Club.  It's a group of nerdy outcasts. They include Richie (Finn Wolfhard), a trash talker. Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor) is chubby and literate. Beverly (Sophie Lillis) is the pretty girl who smokes and has earned an undeserved reputation as being sexually promiscuous. She also has an abusive father. Stan (Wyatt Oleff) is the son of a Rabbi. Eddie (Jake Dylan Grazer) is the kid with multiple health problems and an overbearing mother. Mike (Chose Jacobs) is an African American kid. All of them are tortured by the bullies led by Steve Bannon, Brietbart "News", and Sebastian Gorka. Um... sorry.   The bullies are led by a slightly older kid named Henry. (Nicholas Hamilton)  The Losers are not ordinary kids. They receive visions of their fears and Pennywise terrifying them.

The ensemble cast is simply outstanding.  Any notion that children can't act is put to rest here.   I'm looking at you, Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. (1999)  And yeah, I might be biased here, being a geek but I want to be a member of The Losers Club.   I would love to have friends like these.  Affection.  Loyalty.  Caring.    Anyway, two performances stand out here.   Finn Wolfhard as Richie, the trash talker.  He steals every scene with his jokes.  Kudos to the writers for the one liners.  Wolfhard delivers them with relish.  I love this kid.  Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise  turns in a performance that almost doesn't require any special effects.  His movements are inhuman.  He's a predator with human flesh on his mind.   He's that scary.  There's no empathy in him.  Kind of like Trump.  Sorry, wrong clown.   Pennywise only wants to survive by instilling fear and killing.

Film is a collaborative art. And when everybody is clicking, you have a good movie. It works on all levels.   First, this film has excellent writing.  You start with Stephen King's source material which is his novel.  King's story is a mash-up of Stand By Me and The Shining.  Then there is the screenplay by Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga and Gary  Dauberman. The dialogue is all genuine and there is quite a bit of warmth here.  Yes, the writers put an emphasis on the friendships of the members of The Losers Club. You root for them as they face their human monsters and the paranormal one. I will add that I wish all the adults weren't all jerks but that's a small point.

Director Andy Muschietti certainly knows how to frame a shot. And for the most part, he wisely lets his camera do the story talking versus letting the editor substitute fast cuts for the action. There are some hand held shots but again he doesn't let those dominate the movie. There must be praise for the director of photography Chung-hoon Chung. This is a movie about things that go bump in the night. Chung gives enough light and shadow to let you know there is something there in the darkness. And it's not a kitten. Production designers Mara LePere-Schloop, Claude Pare, art director Peter Grundy, and set decorator Rosalie Board all deserve Oscar nominations for art and set direction. The surreal things like the haunted house, those multiple clown heads in a room surrounding a coffin, black and white photos with Pennywise photo bombing, and creature creations will give you chills down your spine.

For those of you wondering how they cram King's long novel into one film, this movie is only part one. And there is an ending. Unfortunately, we'll have to wait for about two to three years for part two.   Or you can watch the excellent 1990 mini-series or read the book.   It arrives just in time after an August of dreary movies and before the scary times happen.  And I mean Halloween not the antics of the Trump administration.   The grade is A.

Bungle in the Jungle: Bengals lose opener

The Cincinnati Bengals started the day by introducing its greatest players for the fiftieth anniversary.  They should have stopped there and not play their opening and first home game with the Baltimore Ravens.  You knew the day was going to be bad when Bengals quarterback Andy "Opie" Dalton threw a red zone interception.  Doh.  Bengals humiliated,  20-0.  If you want the depressing details, read Lance McAlister's summary. 

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Bill Maher destroys Rush Limbaugh, the conservative coward

Republican Rush Limbaugh has been touting that Hurricane Irma is this liberal conspiracy between the media and retailers to get people to by water and supplies. In essence, he's saying it's not that big a deal. Well, the "big fat idiot" as Senator Al Franken once called him is evacuating his Florida digs. CNN report. What a hypocrite and coward. IF he really thought Irma was nothing, he would not be running. Thank goodness for Bill Maher. Here's his monologue for Real Time where he torches the idiot. Be warned, he drops an F bomb. And remember folks. Vote liberal Democrat, if you want to live.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Stephen Colbert skewers Steve Bannon

Conservative former White House adviser, Steve Bannon made a mistake by making up a story that the Catholic church loves immigrants so they can give money to it. Well, Stephen Colbert is a Catholic. Bannon just invited Colbert to slap this idiot around. Check Colbert's piece below.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Steve Bannon insults the Irish

Former White House adviser told 60 Minutes that Chris Christie would not get a cabinet job because  he did not stand up for conservative President Trump after the Hollywood Access tape.  That was the tape were Trump bragged about sexually molesting women because he was a celebrity.  (CBS News)  Here's what he said:

"Rose: Boy, you took names on Billy Bush Sunday, didn't you?

Bannon: I did. O – I gotta – I gotta – you know, I'm Irish. I gotta get my black book and I got 'em. … Christie, because of Billy Bush weekend – and – was – was – not looked at for a Cabinet position."

Bannon is a punk.  I know Irish and the ones I know I consider friends. None of them are vindictive.  It's an ethic slur to paint the Irish as angry, revengeful people.

Hey Kirk Cameron, God is sending hurricanes because of global warming

Conservative actor Kirk Cameron and I agree on one thing.  God is sending hurricanes to strike at America.  We seem to disagree as to why.  Camerons says they are,  "sent to cause us to respond to God in humility, awe and repentance." (Huffington Post.)

Okay.  But how about this.  God is sending a message to conservatives that global warming or climate change is real and is making these hurricanes into monsters.  It's all that warmth that is driving up the energy of the hurricanes.  Check out this excellent Vox video.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Trump Jr. lies just like his father

Donald Trump Jr. is as big liar as his conservative President father. Today, in a meeting with Senate staffers, Trump Jr. told them he met with Russians so that he could learn about the fitness of opponent Hillary Clinton. (Huffington Post) Ha. First, the guy said the meeting was about Americans adopting Russian children. By the way, that would mean repealing the Magnitsky Act for the quid pro quo. Then a day later, he said it was about getting dirt on Hillary. Which is illegal if such information were given to the Trump campaign by a foreigners. Now he's got this patriotic angle.

Impeach Trump now. And vote liberal Democratic, if you want to live.

Seth Meyers: "Hillary, Don't blame Bernie"

In her new book, Hillary Clinton blames Bernie Sanders for the "Crooked" Hillary campaign pitch by the Dear Leader Donald Trump. Really? Seth Meyers tell Hillary why Senator "Woodstock" did not cause this.

I'm not buying Destiny 2

I'll admit I was a Destiny addict.  In case you don't know, Destiny is a first person shooter, massively multiplayer online. role playing video game. Or try saying MMORPG FPS video game. Whew. But my addiction was broken and I'm not buying Bungie's game.

Here's why I'm not buying Destiny 2. The first Destiny had major problems. The story lacked exposition. Remember the Stranger. Yeah, she had the great line, "I don't even have time to explain why I don't have time to explain." So you didn't care about anybody or anything in the world. Then there were the Raids. These were large form missions that you needed other players to perform They were sadistic. Because many times if one player didn't perform his task in a puzzle of a raid then the whole raid would fail. That led to the other people yelling at the guy who screwed up. And yes, I've messed up. So, it was me at times. Finally, there was the nerfing of weapons. Nerfing means that a developer will weaken a weapon or power. In the first Destiny, if a weapon or power became popular, Bungie would nerf it. So all the work you put to getting that great gun was for naught. This led me and other players to say, "F...k you Bungie."

Now if Destiny 2 fixed the sadistic raids and the nerfing, I might reconsider. But in the future, I'll look to the new Wolfenstein game.