Archive for October, 2012

Updates pending

October 5, 2012

Hi, folks. I just wanted to let you know that I will probably not be able to update this blog for a day or two due to computer problems. Sorry about that. I hope to have a new post online no later than Monday night. Enjoy your weekend!

Captivating ‘Atonement’ turns on a tragic mistake

October 4, 2012

About half of the film Atonement is set on a posh English country estate during a scorching 1930s day. The estate, which belongs to the Tallis family, is being visited by the Quincey children, a teenaged girl and her two younger brothers, who are cousins of the Tallises, and by two young men.

One of those men is Robbie Turner. Like middle child Cecilia Tallis, he has just graduated from university. In truth, he lives on the family estate; his late father was and his mother is a longtime household servant. In the fashion of virtually every love story involving upper-crust Britons, Turner and Cecilia must fight to acknowledge their feelings for one another.

As the youngest Tallis child, 13-year-old Briony, watches Turner and Cecilia over the course of the day, she becomes convinced that he is a sex maniac.

That night, what should be an ordinary dinner party is disrupted when everyone abruptly realizes that the two Quincey boys have run away. During a chaotic search, Briony runs across Lola Quincey being raped. Neither she nor Lola see the face of the rapist, but Briony is a girl of fierce conviction. She accuses Turner.

Cut to the French countryside some years later. The Nazis have routed the English expeditionary force; Turner and two fellow soldiers make their way to the coast to await rescue by the British navy. But that turns out to be no sure thing: The Luftwaffe is bombing troop carriers in the Channel, and thousands of men are now trapped between the water and the advancing Nazi war machine.

Read the rest of this entry »

‘And Another Thing’ proves to be a worthy sixth entry in ‘Hitchhiker’s’ trilogy

October 3, 2012

By Matthew E. Milliken
Oct. 3, 2012

I am not, for various reasons, the kind of person to make a big deal of my birthdays. I did precisely nothing in observance of my last two birthdays, one of which marked a significant milestone. Looking back, I can only remember what I did on two relatively recent birthdays; those were memorable because my then-girlfriend made some arrangements.

One of the few other birthday memories that I have comes from my childhood. I don’t recall how old I was turning, but I would guess that my age might have been somewhere from 10 to 14.

What happened? Simply this: My mother handed me a gift consisting of a small stack of new paperback books. One must have been a Star Trek novel of some sort. The only other one I can name was a copy of a 1979 book called The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

I’ve written elsewhere on this blog about the work of Douglas Adams, the comic genius behind the Hitchhiker’s series. What I did not realize until a few weeks ago was that in 2009, Eoin Colfer penned a sixth entry in what has sometimes been described as the increasingly inaccurately named Hitchhiker’s trilogy. Read the rest of this entry »

Eastwood survives lynching, but ‘Hang ’Em High’ leaves me cold

October 2, 2012

Many many (many many) years ago, when I was a student, my college had a film program called Sunday Night Flicks. (Films were also shown with varying frequency on Monday and Tuesday and Thursday nights, but be that as it may.) The movies were a mix of recent hits, usually light fare, and classics.

One of those classics was The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, the seminal 1996 “Spaghetti Western” directed by Sergio Leone and memorably scored by Ennio Morricone. It was a gritty but humorous adventure film, and — for a few hours, at least — it kindled some interest in me about Westerns.

The star of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, of course, is the iconic actor Clint Eastwood. A celluloid immortal for his performances as a Western white hat and later as Dirty Harry, the violent San Francisco cop, Eastwood has also crafted an impressive career as a director, with 35 films to his credit. (He starred in many but not all of those movies.) Eastwood’s odd ad-libbed speech at this year’s Republican National Convention, of course, also secured the former California mayor a permanent footnote in the annals of American politics. 

But that’s a post for some other blog. In a recent canvass of second-hand bookstores, I came across a Clint Eastwood Western twofer DVD and snapped it up. The first of the films that I watched on the disc was a 1968 Eastwood picture I had never seen before, Hang ’Em High. (In truth, I’ve seen very few of his movies.)

Eastwood stars here as cowboy Jed Cooper, who has just driven a newly purchased herd of cattle across a river when he is accosted by a posse. They accuse him of killing the cattle’s rightful owner and rustling the herd; Cooper, a former lawman, protests his innocence. He produces a bill of sale and describes the man who sold him the herd. But the description doesn’t match that of the dead man, and the posse strings up Cooper. Read the rest of this entry »

‘Last Action Hero’ needn’t be at the top of your list

October 1, 2012

Arnold Schwarzenegger has played the lead in any number of action films. Of the ones I’ve seen, Last Action Hero, the 1993 feature helmed by John McTiernan, is probably the least impressive.

Which isn’t to say that Last Action Hero is bad. It’s not. There’s just nothing that really stands out about the film, despite an interesting premise and some humorous touches.

This is an offbeat buddy movie in which Schwarzenegger, as Los Angeles supercop Jack Slater, provides the brawn. The brains are mostly supplied by his pint-sized sidekick, Danny Madigan, played by Austin O’Brien. The two normally wouldn’t join forces to investigate either the killing of Slater’s favorite second cousin or a bloody war between Southern California drug gangs. But this is, of course, a movie.

And that’s the running joke of this film: Most of the action occurs in Jack Slater IV, a movie within a movie, after Madigan uses a magical ticket to insert himself into the action during an advance screening.

After surviving a pursuit through the streets of suburban and industrial Los Angeles — as well as what I believe is the flood control system featured in Terminator 2 and many other movies — the pair drop by the swank (movie) headquarters of the Los Angeles police department. Read the rest of this entry »

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