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Found 11 results

  1. "First Blood" may be my favorite of the original "action-adventure" pictures featuring the lone anti-hero against the mob. We've all seen "First Blood," but Sylvester Stallone (who plays John Rambo) draws an interesting parallel between "Rambo" and "Frankenstein": From Amazon X-Ray: "Stallone compares John Rambo to the monster of Doctor Frankenstein, and Colonel Trautman to The Doctor, in the respect that Rambo is a war machine monster created by America [Sam Trautman is named after Uncle Sam] to do its bidding, but then he escapes and runs amok, but also wants to fit into a society who shuns him, and Colonel Trautman was basically instrumental in making Rambo into what he is and feels remorse for how he turned out and does what he can to help make things right." *** SPOILER ALERT *** Don't click on either of these if you haven't seen "First Blood" or "Mulholland Drive" It's startling how much Rambo's jump-scare knife attack against Sheriff Will Teasle (Brian Dennehy) appears to be a direct, visual influence for David Lynch's "jump-scare diner scene" in "Mulholland Drive." If you have the fortitude, and haven't yet seen the films, I urge you not to click on these thumbnails, although I've tried not to give too much away. More than anything else, even the darkened skin, it's the demonic grins that link these shots together.
  2. And so I watched the 1993 movie, "The Gathering." I'm pretty sure that this is going to be a necessary prerequisite for understanding the series, even though the series will apparently have a very different cast of characters. On its own, the movie played like a better-than-average, one-hour TV episode - it was clever, with nice plot twists, and set the stage for the viewer to hit the ground running when watching the series. The "I'll have what she's having" line has a lead-in that goes: "Someday, I'm going to find the guy that thought up the idea of renting telepaths to businessmen, and I'm going to kill him."
  3. When I was young, I saw a film titled, "Man in the Wilderness" (1971), which I still remember. "The Revenant" is based upon the same story (also titled "The Revenant," but written nearly 30-years after "Man in the Wilderness" was filmed). Of the two, the latter is *way* more spectacular, and - from what I remember - just plain better: a lot, lot, lot better. Leonard DiCaprio's performance won him an Academy Award for Best Actor, and from the other performances I've seen in 2015, it is fully deserved. Both DiCaprio and Supporting Actor Tom Hardy give two of the greatest performances I've ever seen in a single film - off the top of my head, I can't think of one movie with two better performances. "Midnight Cowboy," maybe, or "Rush?" If you enjoy films dealing with the human struggle to survive against all odds (and don't mind a bit, okay, a *lot* of graphic oomph), you'll really like "The Revenant" - it's not condescending at all. It even mentions Pawnee! Is Emmanuel Lubezki the best Cinematographer in the world? Don't be so sure he's not. Unless you've seen the film, you'll have no idea what this is, but it's a clear homage to prehistoric cave art, and just a beautiful shot: How good is "The Revenant?" I'm going to try and find, and watch, "Man in the Wilderness" - right now, knowing full well that I'm going to be disappointed. And there's no way that "Spotlight" - good as it was - should have taken Best Picture honors from "The Revenant." --- ETA - Make sure to watch "Man in the Wilderness" *afterwards*, and don't make the mistake of assuming that "The Bear" scene will be any less troubling.
  4. Lately I've been catching Batman episodes on IFC. I probably haven't watched since I was 7 or 8. It's hilarious. Check it out if you get a chance. I didn't realize how many big showbiz names made guest appearances as the villains. Do you remember Otto Preminger and Eli Wallach as Mr. Freeze? Liberace as Chandell? Milton Berle as Louie the Lilac? Mmmm, Catwoman. (Julie Newmar or Eartha Kitt, doesn't matter)
  5. Okay, so you're saying to yourselves, "What on earth is Rockwell doing reading a book aimed at children?" One day last year, I was in Sacramento, CA, and visited the State Capitol Building, a beautiful, Classical Revival building that is considered one of our nation's loveliest state capitols - and it is, too, especially when taken as an ensemble with its stunning grounds. Sacramento is not all that far from the bay area, and taking a day trip to see the State Capitol will be a day well-spent - it is a truly stunning building, and the grounds alone are easily worth an hour or two - an abundance of restaurants are within a mile. Anyway, my guide had earlier mentioned the California Gold Rush - a topic about which I know precious little - and also told me of The Donner Party <--- SPOILERS ABOUND: a pioneering excursion out to Sacramento which ended in great tragedy and suffering for many, and a very famous local legend (which also happens to be true). I hadn't even heard of The Donner Party, and when I stumbled across the State Capitol Gift Shop, I saw this little book: "Patty Reed's Doll - The Story of the Donner Party." It looked like a relatively new printing, as it was originally written in 1956 by Rahel K. Laurgaard - then, an English Literature graduate student at what is now Sacramento State. Does that sound obscure enough? Well, apparently, *someone* thought highly enough of this book to print it and sell it, and at least one copy now resides in the Washington, DC area - let me tell you something: I'm glad I read this. It was about 140 quick pages - maybe a 3-4 hour read with charming black-and-white illustrations - and written at a teenage, perhaps even an elementary-school level (many comments that you see about it online are fond reminisces of ladies reading it to their granddaughters - it's that kind of book). So why am I reading a book written for teenage girls? (I confess also, when I visited Prince Edward Island, I bought, read, *and enjoyed* Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery) I have no problem whatsoever with teenage literature if it's *good* teenage literature, and there was nothing condescending at all about "Patty Reed's Doll" other than it was *clearly* toned down, and written by a woman, for young girls (and I suppose also young boys) as its target audience - but it was done so intelligently. SPOILERS FOLLOW FOR THE REST OF THIS POST --- There's one word that isn't mentioned, or even hinted at, in this entire book, and it's a five-syllable, ultra-taboo word which begins with the letter C. The Donner Party, you see, became stranded in the Sierra Nevada Mountains during the winter of 1846-1847 (*), having been given (if you'll excuse the pun) one bum steer after another, especially from Lansford Hastings who wrote a little book about Hasting's Cutoff, a route that was supposed to take 300 miles off the arduous voyage for these brave pioneers, and which ultimately led to this disaster - the book also does not mention that, aside from reports of cannibalism, 48 of 87 people died during passage. The book is told from the fascinating perspective of "Dolly" - 12-year-old Patty Reed's 4-inch-tall, wooden doll which she secretly kept inside her pocket for the duration of the voyage. This ingenious perspective gave Laurgaard the exact literary device she needed to conceal the more gruesome aspects of this tragic voyage from the reader, and to spare children details of consuming human flesh. The fact that Dolly belonged to the Reed party - instead of the Donner party - also gave her one more level of concealment from the horrible fate which befell many of the parties, as the Dinner (I keep accidentally typing that word) ... the *Donner* Party wasn't staying in the same cabin - it was easy to use these conveniences to forego the more taboo subjects of the story. Most people might tell you that this isn't a good "first book" to read about the issue, but I disagree. Going into the book, I knew about the snowstorm, and I knew that accusations of cannibalism had been made, and apparently, because of the sensationalism, these two bits of information are the only things that most people know. Since this book doesn't touch on the latter, you get a real feel for what it must have been like to be a pioneer. In fact, you felt as if you were actually one of the party members, taking part in the passage - you really got the whole story of the trans-continental journey, and a real feel for what the life of a pioneer must have been; if you want the gory details, just click on the Donner Party Wikipedia link at the top - it has extensive references to all the gore and misery you care to handle; personally, I'm glad I read the toned-down version, as there are only so many "disaster stories" I can endure during my lifetime - I just do not enjoy reading about human suffering, and this book conveys the essence of the voyage while sparing the reader the awful realities that accompany it. Yes, you could say it was whitewashed, and it was, but that's because it was purposely written for a young audience. Undoubtedly, in Sacramento, this story was already widely known - certainly by the parents who bought the book for their children - and to rehash its cruelest aspects would be, if you'll forgive the phrase, beating a dead horse. Unless you go to Sacramento - where Laurgaard ended up being an English Professor for over 15 years at the university - or unless you call somewhere out there and ask where to find the book, you're likely never to see it. But you can find it if you look for it; unfortunately, this is something of a "charming relic" from a more innocent era - one in which it wasn't necessary to graphically show or describe every gruesome detail for the viewer or the reader. I appreciated its restraint very much, and *now* I can choose to go in and read about the more difficult realities (I still haven't, and I might not, although now that I'm thinking about it, I probably will). Using the wooden doll as the narrator was brilliant, and afforded the author an elegant solution to a difficult problem. It may surprise you to hear that, despite the "prim and proper" language used throughout (think: the five daughters in Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice" (whom I can still name in descending order of age: Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Kit, and Lydia (JEM KILL - that's how I remembered)), I didn't feel like I was reading some Victorian moralist child's tale; I just felt like I was reading a well-written book for teens learning about California history - teens who were spared the gory details of one of the worst possible conundrums human beings can find themselves facing. I recommend "Patty Reed's Doll" for just about anyone, and you certainly will not regret the three-hour investment of your time in learning about this distinctly American tragedy. The actual Patty Reed's Doll is on display at Sutter's Fort in Sacramento (visitor information): 11/13/12 - "Sutter's Fort Offers Visitor Enhancements and Return of Patty Reed Doll" by Tracie Rockefeller Cusack on sacramentopress.com I'll be happy to lend a copy of my book to anyone not able to find it. (*) When you think that this was less than 10 generations ago, it's no wonder we're still so primitive. We've had a lot of industrial and technological advances, sure - too many for our feeble minds to deal with - but we had no electricity, we had slavery, we were fighing the Mexican-American War, the Civil War wouldn't take place for another generation, the western frontier of the U.S. was Independence, Missouri, we had no automobiles, no telephones ... we're not that far removed from all of this.
  6. Sometimes, you just gotta have cheap escapism. I'm watching an HD version of this film on Amazon, and the cinematography is fantastic. The movie starts off strong, then gets progressively more incredible (as in, "not credible"), but it's good, tawdry entertainment, as well as being an important part of American pop culture.
  7. At the beginning of "Raiders of the Lost Ark," when Indiana is running for the airplane, take note of the second arrow shot at him - the one on the right. It's such a *laughably* bad shot that it should not have been in the final cut. I guess they weren't thinking about "rewind," or whatever they call it on digital these days.
  8. I read Lansing's version of "Endurance" before I knew anything about Shackleton (about twenty years ago), and it remains the single most compelling non-fiction experience of my life. I had *no idea* what was going to happen; now, the story has been sensationalized and ruined for people. To anyone unfamiliar with the story: I urge you to buy Lansing's version, and to immediately cover up the photographs in the middle (earlier editions didn't have the photographs at all, and you're much, *much* better off without them). Do not look at them until you finish the book. Again, I consider this the single most enthralling, arguably the greatest, work of non-fiction I've ever read, but for you to say the same thing, you'll need to remain completely unfamiliar with the story throughout the book.
  9. Feeling out of touch with the zeitgeist, I watched the first Hunger Games movie a couple of nights ago. Generally, I'm predisposed to like post-apocalyptic science fiction movies with attractive lead actresses. But I'm also predisposed to dislike movies based on teen novels. So how would these two sources of bias interact? (Plot Discussion and Minor Spoiler Alerts Follow) I guess my conclusion is that if you can convince yourself that the plot device the movie is based on is plausible, then it's a pretty enjoyable movie. The device, of course, is that this society keeps its proletariat in check by having each district submit two teenagers to a yearly battle royale in which only one survives ("The Hunger Games"). Donald Sutherland (the leader of this Nation) explains it as a way to remind the Nation of futility of previous uprisings, and provide hope, but not too much hope (hope for what, I couldn't say - perhaps hope that you or your child can be that one person who survives and lives on as some kind of pseudo-celebrity). I should also say that the Hunger Games are televised and treated like the most popular reality show of all time in this world. Sort of like the Truman Show. So as I'm sort of indicating, you really have to do some mental backflips to make this twisted prison logic make sense. My guess is the reason kids like it is the confluence of action, the there can only be one reality TV/Kardashian component, and the easy to draw social commentary (Obama is President Snow - OPEN YOUR EYES PEOPLE!). It's also not hard, knowing there are two other installments, to figure out where this is all going. But that said, it's a pretty well-executed action movie with a compelling performance by Jennifer Lawrence. It's hard to not make parallels to her coming out party in Winter's Bone, which I'm sure the Hunger Games producers were much influenced by. A lot of similar ground is covered. In both movies she hunts and cooks squirrels, is beat up, and takes care of a younger sister (and is indeed driven by her desire to protect her siblings). Of course, it was all done in a much more evocative way in Winter's Bone, making it even harder to take Hunger Games seriously. That said, Lawrence is a commanding presence, and there are times when she portrayed internal conflict in such a strong yet understated way that I had to pause to movie to try to figure out what I really thought she was feeling. My only other complaint is that, out of no where, we learn that the Hunger Game producers can manifest giant pumas at will and insert them anywhere in the tournament grounds. That was a shocker.
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