DVD

After Life

ISBN: 
717119733049

I was told once that it is bad form to start an article or speech with a question, however this film seems to require a question to be asked … so now that I have the statement out of the way let me ask you that question.  If you could have just one memory in your life to live in forever what would that memory be?   This is the question proposed in Hirokazu Koreeda’s movie After Life.  The premise is simple, after death the dead arrive at a sort of clearing house and are given one week to choose a memory from their life in which to spend eternity.   At the end of that week the moment is reconstructed and the dead spend eternity in that moment.  There is a catch.  Read more »

The Monkees – Head

ISBN: 
081227446024

The Monkees were one of the most controversial bands of the 1960’s.  They were controversial because many people could not decide if they were really a band or not.   Conceived first as a television series the group was made of up two established musicians Michael Nesmith and Peter Tork, an English Broadway performer, Davy Jones and a former child star, Micky Dolenz who was also toured with his sister as part of a folk singing duo.  Read more »

The Fab Four Films

In 1964 the United States developed a love affair with four young men from Liverpool, England known as The Beatles.  I’m sure you’ve heard of them.  By the time they reached the United States they had already been popular in England for two years and had been contracted to film their first movie A Hard Day’s Night.  That was soon followed by their second Film Help!  Then came two semi psychedelic films Yellow Submarine and Magical Mystery Tour.   If you haven’t seen them they are worth a look, if only for the history of both the music and the band. Read more »

Atomic Café

ISBN: 
767685949634

In the early 60’s I remember going through atomic bomb drills in school.  We were dutifully herded by our teachers down to the depths of Roger’s Elementary school here in Bloomington, past the furnaces, and seemingly below the floors to the area in which we were to remain until the radiation levels dropped enough for us to come out.  I can still remember the big storage cans of water stacked along the walls and under stairwells marked with the Civil Defense emblem.  I assume, though I can’t really remember seeing them, that there were food rations that were available for us to eat as well.  Along with the television advertisements for cereal, candy and toys we saw public service announcements with “Burt the Turtle” teaching us how to “duck and cover” if we should ever see the flash of an atomic bomb.   How naïve these advertisements and steps seem today when more accurate information about atomic blasts and radiation is common knowledge.   We know for example that we can’t survive an atomic blast by hiding inside of a refrigerator. Read more »

My Cousin Vinny

ISBN: 
630592970X

Imagine if you will traveling across the country with your best friend and stopping for snacks at a small town gas station.  Shortly after you leave you, glance in the mirror to see and hear the flashing lights and the siren of a police car.  You are about to be charged with the cold blooded murder and robbery of the proprietor of the gas station you just left.   Your only hope for freedom is your eccentric cousin Vinny, a New York lawyer who has yet to win a case.  Read more »

The Prestige

ISBN: 
9780788868856

Opening Lines:  “Every great magic trick consists of three parts or acts. The first part is called "The Pledge.” The magician shows you something ordinary: a deck of cards, a bird or a man. He shows you this object. Perhaps he asks you to inspect it to see if it is indeed real, unaltered, normal. But of course... it probably isn't. The second act is called "The Turn." The magician takes the ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary. Now you're looking for the secret... but you won't find it, because of course you're not really looking. You don't really want to know. You want to be fooled. But you wouldn’t clap yet. Because making something disappear isn't enough; you have to bring it back. That's why every magic trick has a third act, the hardest part, the part we call "The Prestige."

While growing up in Bloomington, I had the pleasure of knowing a professional stage magician.  He made a small living performing at various conventions and meetings around the United States.  As a small boy of 10, I found him fascinating.  He took me under his wing for a while and gave me what he called a beginning magic kit.  It wasn’t the type you found in magic stores. This was something special.  Read more »

100 Essays I Don't Have Time to Write

ISBN: 
9780865478145

This collection of mostly mini-essays is a great find for anyone interested in either writing or theatre. Ruhl, a Pulitzer Prize finalist for her play “In the Next Room,” displays her skills at language, views of playwriting, and her both playful and utterly serious response to the stage.

Several titles display her marvelous sense of humor: “Bad Plays and Original Sin,” “On Nakedness and Sight Lines,” and “Watching My Mother Die on Stage.” (Her mother is an actress.)  Others are more philosophical: “God as Audience: A Non-syllogism,” “Is There an Ethics of Comedy, and Is It Bad When Comedies Make People Laugh?” “On Knowing,” and “On Lice.”  Whoops, the last one isn’t philosophical, but very practical.

The smallest essay is three words not including the title. I quote in full from “An Essay in Praise of Smallness”: “I admire minimalism.” Read more »

Monuments Men

ISBN: 
043396424883

It’s not often that a World War II film comes my way that stirs my soul.  It’s even rarer that what stirs my soul is not the personal story of an individual or a small group  of people standing up for what is right against the Nazi’s or an escape from a German internment camp despite impossible odds.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy a good war film, but most war films have the same basic features, Read more »

Adjustment Bureau

ISBN: 
025192060571

The Adjustment Bureau (2011) stars Matt Damon as Senate candidate David Norris.  He has been tapped by an unseen group to win a seat in the Senate . . . just not this election year.  If you were to read the basic plot of the movie it would sound like a typical political thriller.  An unseen group is grooming its candidate for a high office.  Suddenly this candidate becomes enthralled with a woman who they believe will be detrimental to his career and the group’s agenda.  This unknown organization begins to exert every effort to keep their candidate away from the woman and focused on the job at hand.  As the candidate continues to try to find the woman he loves he begins to find out more about this hidden organization and begins to fight against their control and seek his own way. Read more »

The Shootist

ISBN: 
097360890440

A while ago I wrote about one of my favorite John Wayne Movies, The Quiet Man.  The Quiet Man was a romance and a departure from the War and Western films that John Wayne was most well known for.   My second favorite John Wayne film, The Shootist is also a departure from his usual role even though it is a western, it is the story of an older gunfighter now battling a greater battle; cancer. Seeking a place to spend his last days, he takes up residence in a boarding house run by a widow who is against everything the gunfighter’s life represents while her teenage son harbors a secret desires to be just like the old shootist .

The cast for The Shootist is among the best.  Besides “The Duke” as the shootist J.B. Books, the film features Lauren Bacall as boarding house owner Bond Rodgers and Ron Howard as her son Gillom.   Despite the film’s title you won’t find a lot of shoot outs in the film.  It’s the story a dying man, who wants to die with dignity and perhaps regain a little taste of the life he could have had if his life had not taken the violent turn it did.  Yes, John Wayne is still the tough guy, but his view is now tempered as he faces his cancer and the knowledge that there is nothing he can do to win his battle against it.  Each character must in the end examine themselves as they are faced with Books’ mortality and eventual death. 

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