Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Monuments Men review

During World War II, the Allies tasked art academicians the duty of preserving culture from destruction. These men and women ("Monuments, Fine Art and Archives" program) were also asked to find art that the Nazis had looted. It also meant that these scholarly types were asked to put on the uniforms. In 2009, a book written by Robert Edsel about these scholars was published called "The Monuments Men." Now comes a new fictional movie with the same name based on the book with a screenplay by George Clooney, and Grand Heslov. Clooney also directs.

George Clooney plays Frank Stokes, a man who asks President Roosevelt to preserve the artistic culture of Western civilization from the destruction of war. The President agrees and lets Stokes form an army unit with the purpose of preserving the art of Europe. That might mean persuading the military from bombing a certain church but as the Nazis retreat with their stolen art, it turns into the job of art recovery. Stokes enlists art academicians from all walks of life. Many are middle aged unlike the soldiers fighting the war. There's James Granger (Matt Damon) who's a curator for New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. Walter Garfield (John Goodman) who's a sculptor. Preston Savitz (Bob Balaban) is a Renaissance man who's an adept expert at ballet and painting. Richard Campbell (Bill Murray) is the unit's architecture expert. Other members of the unit are Free French officer Jean Dumont (Jean Dujardin) and British soldier Donald Jeffries (Hugh Bonneville) who's had a troubled past and in need of redemption.

The performances are fine if a little static. If you didn't know she was based on a real person, Cate Blanchett's character Claire Simone feels like a throwaway love interest for Matt Damon. It's good that the real and fictional Simone had an important role in the recovery of the stolen art in real life and the in the movie. Best moments in this movie are the more emotional ones that deal with the character's personal lives, that is the lives they left. They belong to Hugh Bonneville who's trying to turn his life around. There's a heartbreaking moment with the usually comic Billy Murray when he hears a recording of his granddaughter sing, "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas."

But there's a coldness to the film. That lies with the screenplay and Clooney's direction. Yes, there are speeches. That's okay because the message to preserve art needs to be told. But the movie fumbles the ball when it depicts a dying soldier. There's nothing that can be done for him, the wounds are too serious. Yet, Clooney declines a gut wrenching death scene. It just sits there. Then there's an ill advised depiction of Granger's undercover work in occupied France. It was not needed and slowed down the dramatic drive. Maybe this was in the movie to give star Matt Damon more screen time. I do appreciate the humor in the movie. And with the passing of Harold Ramis, there's a scene where Murray shoulders a rifle that reminds me of "Stripes."

But one can't leave this film without thinking about the film's central idea. If the Nazis steal and destroy the art of Western Europe, it would be like erasing the history of Western civilization. I applaud Clooney for bringing this story to the screen. For its earnestness, the movie delivers a strong message on the importance of art. The grade is A.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

National clown shortage?

The Huffington Post is reporting that there is a national clown shortage. Nah. Just look at some of the clowns in the Republican Party, like the rape guys. Todd "legitimate rape" Akin. Richard "rape is God's will" Mourdock. Phil Gingrey. And let's not forget my muse, Sarah Palin.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Stephen Colbert rips Fox News' Bill O' Reilly over his egotistical sale of his Obama interview notes

Hooray for Stephen Colbert! He rips Fox News' Bill O' Reilly for tooting his own horn over his interview with President Obama. How big an ego does O' Reilly have? He's auctioning off his notes for the interview. Here's great satire from Stephen Colbert.

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Stephen Colbert is France's what?!

Stephen Colbert attends a White House State Dinner in honor of France's President Hollande. In this funny piece, Colbert says he is now France's First Lady.

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Sunday, February 16, 2014

Buddy Cole on the 2014 Winter Olympics and Russia's anti-gay laws

Here's some funny satire from Buddy Cole (Scott Thompson)on the 2014 Winter Olympics and Russia's anti-gay laws. He appears on Stephen Colbert's show with a piece called "From Russia With Love. But no gay stuff." I've included parts one and two. Check out his hilarious talk with the U.S. men's speed skating team.

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Friday, February 14, 2014

RoboCop (2014) review

In 1987, the science fiction film Robocop was the perfect combination of Director Paul Verhoeven's over the top violence and social commentary on corporate corruption. So I was not enthused with the announcement of a remake. Why? if I may paraphrase the first film, Robocop is product and MGM has got to milk the franchise for more profits.

This new version of Robocop starts out with right-wing TV news host Pat Novak (Samuel L. Jackson) doing a story on the use of American military robots and drones to subdue Iran. While the machines are successful in killing, they're without remorse or compassion. Fearful of that, Congress has passed the Dreyfuss Act which prevents robots from being used in law enforcement applications in the United States. That's a problem for OmniCorp which makes the robots since they can't make money in the American market. CEO of OmniCorp Raymond Sellars (Micheal Keaton)comes up with a plan. Put a human policeman in the robot. He enlists the corporation's top robotic prosthesis expert, Dr. Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman) to create the cyborg.

Meanwhile in Detroit, police detective Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) is investigating weapons hitting the streets. During an undercover operation, he's exposed and things go bad when his partner Lewis (Micheal K. Williams) gets hurt. Things get hot when he gets information of the main arms dealer. Corrupt cops place a bomb on his car and when he investigates the malfunctioning auto alarm, it detonates. Murphy is critically injured. Murphy's loving wife, Clara (Abbie Cornish) is forced into allowing OmniCorp fit him with robotics. He becomes RoboCop.

There are some good themes in this version of RoboCop. The use of robots to fight wars. Losing one's humanity to machines. But all of this is lost in the execution. There are many problems with this movie. First, let's start out with Joshua Zeturner's screenplay. He makes the mistake of writing a movie about how a man becomes a robot. As a person, Murphy is cold like the movie. Add to that, he digresses with needless training scenes of RoboCop. The original movie had RoboCop hit the Detroit streets after his transformation. The training scenes sap the energy from the themes and the human story of Murphy. There's also a disconnect between between the street crime and the corporate crime. One of the main themes of the original RoboCop was that there was no difference between your street crook and the white collar ones.

Director Jose Padiha cannot handle action scenes. First, let me harp on the over use of hand-held camera shots. Not needed in action sequences. It's a cheap way to to add excitement to an action scene. But there's usually no need to do that. Instead Padiha's use of the hand-held camera adds confusion. For example, I had to think whether it was Murphy's partner who got hit in firefight. And other action scenes were noise and confusion. That's because they're badly set up and Padiha overuses RoboCop's computer HUD displays. It's a mess. The music to this movie is unmemorable. Composer Pedro Bromfman's score is musical wallpaper and emotionless. He does use Basil Poledoouris's heroic them from the original but not enough. It's hardly there. Maybe because there are no scenes of RoboCop doing heroic things. As a result, I didn't care about RoboCop.

The one good thing about this movie is the acting. I don't think Joel Kinnaman will go down in history as the next Klinton Spilsbury. (The Legend of the Lone Ranger) He does well with what he's given. The same could be said about everybody in the cast. I'm impressed again by Jennifer Ehle (Contagion)who plays a cold and heartless corporate advisor to Sellars. One thing. Please stop having Samuel L. Jackson drop the "F" bomb. It's now parody. Yeah, it's funny but it's also distracting.

This remake of RoboCop is not a bad movie but is merely a competent one. But that's hardly a compliment. Stick with the original. This modern version is as cold as it is here in Cincinnati. The grade is B Minus.

Hilarious Stephen Colbert interview with Pussy Riot

Well, who would have thought that American sarcasm would translate to Russians. In case you missed it, here's Stephen Colbert's very funny interview with the human rights Russian protest band Pussy Riot Riotous.

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Stephen Colbert sends a message to Russian president Vladimir Putin on behalf of Pussy Riot.

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Is Sean Hannity leaving New York?

Well, it looks like Fox News' Sean Hannity is leaving New York. He's put one of his estates up for sale. And he's thinking of going south of course. Texas. Florida. All of this was because Governor Cuomo said extreme conservatives have no place in New York.

A couple of things here. Hannity's outrage is now an admission he's an extreme conservative. Make him a right-winger. Second, might I suggest that he think about some extreme right-wing states more to his tastes. Oklahoma. And of course, there's Alabama and Mississippi. I'm sure all those right-wing rednecks will love his company.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Jon Stewart goads Sean Hannity to leave

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo tells extreme conservative Republicans that there's no place for them in New York. Sean Hannity takes offense and threatens to leave. Great comic fodder for Jon Stewart of The Daily Show.

MSNBC should not have apologized

MSNBC apologized and fired the staffer who wrote a Tweet that indicated some right-wingers would not like interracial marriages. What the ... ? GOP head Reince Preibus demanded the apology. Okay, let's go over the facts. Which political philosophy and party is likely to have the racists? Who had the Southern strategy designed to appeal to prejudiced white people to elect Republicans? Conservative Republicans. Which party head in Orange County California sent a picture of Obama with a head on a chimp? A Conservative Republican. Which party has prominent members who question whether Obama is an American and constantly reminds us that he's not a white Anglo Saxon American? Conservative Republicans. See my post on GOP racism. Still want more? Conservative Ann Coulter recently said that Latinos would "wreck the country" and uses Phyllis Schafly concept that the Republican Party is better off being a white people's party. And let me say this. Not all conservative Republicans are racist. But which political philosophy and party is likely to be racist? Conservative Republicans.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Andy Dalton App

Tung N. Cheek reporting.


Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton has a new app just like Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. In Wilson's app, you can ask him about his football dreams. Here's some feelings and football dreams from Andy Dalton.

"I want to be able to throw the ball to A.J. Green in his stride rather than him waiting twenty minutes for the ball."

"When I grow up, I want to be just like Tom Brady."

"I want to stop throwing the ball to the other team."


Bill Maher slams pc liberals

Amen. Bill Maher slams pc liberal Democrats for their puritan attitude. What set him off was the backlash to Lis Smith who wanted to be a major part of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration but was denied. Her crime? She's dating disgraced politician Eliot Spitzer, who by the way is getting a divorce. I'm a liberal but there's a wing of the left that goes pc nuts that stifles freedom. For example, see Alice Eve's underwear scene in Star Trek Into Darkness which drove pc radicals crazy. Here's Maher's funny New Rule courtesy of Mediaite and HBO.

Grand Theft Auto V Deathmatch: cheating with tanks?

So I'm playing team Grand Theft Auto V online team deathmatch when the opposing team starts to use tanks. Now my team was leading by using automatic weapons but against tanks it's no good. Eventually, one by one my team quit. You see there were no RPGs or sticky bombs to take on the tanks. Now either the other guys cheated or this is really a dumb map from Rockstar. My gut feeling is the other team cheated by using a tank cheat to spawn tanks. Rockstar got rid of the counterfeit cash which affected their bottom line. It's time for Rockstar to stop the other cheats that make the game unplayable for people who want to play by the rules of the game.

Bill Maher destroys the "macho" right-wing

Right on. Bill Maher ripped right-wing Republicans for their "macho" bullying attitudes. Britt Hume of Fox News called Chris Christie as an "old fashioned masculine muscular guy." Really? He's more like a bully. Anyway courtesy of Mediaite and HBO, here's Bill Maher's funny New Rule.