Anyone else see the new space movie?

My husband and I both like sci-fi and went to see Ad Astra yesterday. It was showing in a small room, and only a handful of viewers were there. So I wondered whether it would be any good.

Without giving much away, I would say that I enjoyed the plausible technological and political vision of our future.  There was an “airport” for going to the moon.  The effects were beautiful, and much of the acting was good. There were original aspects to the plot. I also appreciated the conclusion lMILD SPOILER below, then more to read.]... [Read More]

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Claws of the Red Dragon

Huawei and 5G logosSteve Bannon, former head of the Trump 2016 presidential campaign, chief strategist in the Trump White House, and executive chairman of Breitbart News, has produced a movie, Claws of the Red Dragon, a fictionalised account of the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Chinese technology giant Huawei, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, in December 2018.

Huawei, founded by Meng’s father, Ren Zhengfei, is described as “China’s largest private company”, and is the world’s largest telecommunications infrastructure provider and the second largest manufacturer of smartphones.  It is estimated that networks using its gear provide mobile communication services to one third of the Earth’s population; its global revenue in 2018 was estimated at US$ 105 billion.  Huawei is a leader in developing infrastructure for 5G mobile networks, which are viewed as a key component of the communications and computing infrastructure of the next decade.... [Read More]

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Hold My Beersheba

In the recent Star Wars movies, the character Rey, the ostensible protagonist, never fails, never grows, never overcomes — she just wins and grins.  Or grimaces at some points, but her travails are all patently boring, as we know that she will succeed.  She succeeds at everything.

Star Wars is not the point.... [Read More]

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Engineers of the Human Soul

Stalin said, “The writer is the engineer of the human soul.” One of the characters in the film The Lives of Others slightly misquotes Stalin to include all artists as engineers of the human soul. It seems that Stalin was a few decades ahead of Andrew Breitbart’s politics is downstream from culture. Totalitarians know their stuff.

This is not a movie review but I do recommend this film. It’s about the Stasi in East Germany, set a few years before the fall of the Berlin Wall. It’s in German with subtitles, streaming on Netflix. I enjoyed this joke from the movie:... [Read More]

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Bride and Prejudice: Bollywood-style fun!

Bride and Prejudice (2004) is billed as a romantic drama. It’s directed by Gurinder Chadha, who is well-known for the highly-successful Bend it Like Beckham (2002). Chadha wrote the screen play with Paul Mayeda Berges, which is based on Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin. This Bollywood-style adaption of the novel is light-hearted fun. It opens by throwing the audience straight into Bollywood-style singing and dancing, and this sets the tone for the film.

The Bennets, the English family of Austin’s novel, become the Backshis in the film, an Indian family. The mother is desperate to have her four daughters marry respectable and rich men. The daughters have their own ideas as to whom they want to marry; especially Lalita Backshi. After some misunderstandings, Lalita marries Will Darcy, a handsome and rich American, and her older sister, Jaya, marries Balraj, an English barrister. They have a joint wedding, and ride off on elephants, to live happily ever after. This leaves everyone happy, including the parents.... [Read More]

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Do You Like Opera?

Pavarotti (2019), is a documentary based on the life and music of opera singer Luciano Pavarotti. Directed by Ron Howard, it’s not a great film, but it’s well-worth seeing.

What I liked most about it is that there was lots of music. It is made clear that the training to become an opera singer in the Italian bel canto tradition is not easy. Pavarotti’s glorious, dramatic tenor voice had to be developed and trained, and this involves a lot of hard work. It’s a lifetime project, as the film shows. The many clips taken from notable performances by Pavarotti are a joy to see and hear. Those high Cs have to be experienced to be believed.... [Read More]

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Widows, a film with a difference!

Widows (2018) is a heist film with a difference. The main characters are women. These include one of my favourite actresses, Viola Davis, who plays Veronica Rawlings, the brains behind the heist. I was reminded once again how Viola can convey so much in a glance, in an expression fleeting across her lovely face. She is a real actress in that she becomes the part she is playing, it isn’t the part being played by her. The perfect part for her hasn’t appeared yet. She does such great work, it seems to me she has so much more to give. She moves me by her performances: she needs a part with a broader depth than those she has been given up till now. Whatever film she is in, I’ll be there. In Widows, she does a wonderful job, and I thoroughly enjoyed her performance. She is the first black actor to win an Oscar, an Emmy, and a Tony Award.

My friends of my Film Group, all enjoyed the film. A very lively discussion ensued after we had viewed it. John, said he liked that it was mainly a female cast, and that they won in the end. We noticed that it is different from other movies of this genre. The story wasn’t told in a straight-forward manner, and it almost seemed as if the editing hadn’t been done too well. In a further discussion a day later in our Coffee Group, Alice explained that it is done in a post-modern style. This is realistic, and tells a story more as it would unfold in real life, rather than to a formula.... [Read More]

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Recommended (or not) on Prime

I thought I’d do you the favor of listing some more quick Amazon Prime Video recommendations so you don’t have to waste your time wading through mediocre productions. This is assuming our tastes align, but have I gone wrong before?

You’re welcome.... [Read More]

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Long-Lost First Movie of a Solar Eclipse Found, Restored

In May, 1900, British magician Nevil Maskelyne, Jr., travelled to North Carolina in the United States to observe and attempt to photograph the total eclipse of the Sun on May 28th of that year.  Maskelyne was the son of John Nevil Maskelyne, a celebrated magician who was also the inventor of the pay toilet.  (Neither should be confused with the unrelated Rev. Dr Nevil Maskelyne, the fifth British Astronomer Royal from 1765 to 1811.)  Solar eclipses had been photographed before, with the first completely successful photograph taken of the eclipse of 1851-07-28, but Maskelyne wanted to take the next step and make a motion picture of the eclipse.  He used a camera with a telescopic adapter developed by his father, which he had previously attempted to use to photograph the eclipse of 1898-01-22, but his film was stolen during the return to Britain so we’ll never know what it contained.

The film from the 1900 eclipse was stunning.  I have photographed four total solar eclipses (1999, 2001, 2008, and 2010), and even with modern equipment, dealing with the rapid and dramatic changes in light level in the seconds before and after totality is very challenging.  However Maskelyne managed to do it (nothing is known about his equipment or technique), the result was a total success, which was shown in British theatres.  The film disappeared shortly after its theatrical presentation and was believed to have been lost for over a century.  In 2018, a copy (it is unknown whether this was the original or a print) was found in the archives of the Royal Astronomical Society, whose curator did not know what it was, and upon consultation with the British Film Institute’s (BFI) curator of silent films, it was identified as the Maskelyne eclipse film.  The BFI’s conservators re-photographed the original celluloid film onto 35 millimetre film, which was then digitally scanned and restored as a 4K video.  Here is the restored film.  It is embedded here as a smaller video: click on “Watch on YouTube” to watch in full resolution.... [Read More]

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All About Eve

All About Eve (1950) is an American drama, and was written and directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. The film was based on a short story, The Wisdom of Eve (1946), by Mary Orr. Beautifully written and directed, the film won the Academy Awards for Best Film Director and Best Adapted Screenplay for Mankiewicz.

Bette Davis as Margo Channing and Anne Baxter as Eve Harrington, both won a nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role at the Oscars: Celeste Holm as Karen Richards, and Thelma Ritter as Birdie, both won a nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. George Sanders, as Addison DeWitt, won Best Actor. The film also won Best Picture for producer Darryl F. Zanuck. The lovely music, by Alfred Newman, was nominated for Best Original Score. The film won many other awards and glowing reviews.... [Read More]

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Borderless

Lauren Southern has a new documentary, Borderless, released on 24May2019. It concerns the immigration crisis in Europe. As with her previous documentary, Farmlands about attacks on white farmers and the general disorder in South Africa, her new documentary has professional-level production values. She traveled to several locations with her crew to investigate the nature and scope of human trafficking in Europe and Asia Minor. Even though it’s only been out for about two days, it already has about a half million views. It is free to view on YouTube (at least for now)* and on BitChute.

... [Read More]

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The White Crow (2018)

The White Crow (2018) is a British film on the early life, and defection to the West from Russia, of Rudolf Nureyev, the ballet dancer. It was inspired by the book, Rudolph Nureyev: The Life, by Julie Kavanagh. I found the film interesting, and it inspired me to do a little research on Nureyev, to learn about his later life in the West.

The title of the film, the White Crow, is the nickname given to Nureyev in his childhood. It is the Russian term for an outsider, unusual, extraordinary, not like others. This does describe Nuyerev, as he is also said to have been narcissistic. This kind of personality certainly would not have been able to fit happily into the rigid Socialist system of Russia at that time.... [Read More]

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Bridge of Spies (2015)

Bridge of Spies (2015) is another excellent film from Steven Spielsberg and Tom Hanks. It was a United States and German international co-production.

My Film Group settled down with their wine, chips and chocolate, and were glued to the screen for the 141 minutes the film took to show. Afterwards, during our discussion around the film, everyone expressed their admiration for the film, and said how much they had enjoyed it.... [Read More]

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Unplanned

The film Unplanned tells the story of Abby Johnson, erstwhile director of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Bryan, TX. It is based on her book of the same title. Ms. Johnson first joined Planned Parenthood as a volunteer when she was a student at Texas A&M in nearby College Station, TX. She eventually rose to become the director of the Bryan clinic. Her growing unease with Planned Parenthood’s policies and procedures culminates with her participation in an abortion with the aid of sonography. Visualization of the process finally pushes her over the edge and she quits, becoming an anti-abortion activist. She has previously told her story in speeches.

As expected this film as been controversial, leading Google to label the film as propaganda. The film is certainly polemical. Any film with a point of view could arguably be labeled as propaganda but that would mean almost everything coming out of Hollywood is propaganda. By applying the word this way it loses all meaning. Unplanned is reasonably balanced. People on both sides of the issue are generally portrayed as being well-intentioned rather than good or evil. The main exception is Ms. Johnson’s superior at Planned Parenthood, who is the film’s villain. Some of the anti-abortion activists are also depicted as being less than well-behaved.... [Read More]

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