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Where have all the Scarecrow's gone?
This is yet another of Patrick McGoohan's fine performances. As Dr. Syn, McGoohan is a gentle but wise Vicar. Yet when he transforms into the Scarecrow he acts and sounds like the roughest dock-dweller you would ever want to avoid. It's a role that showcases McGoohan's remarkable range.
The story is sort of a what-if. In this case, what if the people of Britain had the same strong spirit of freedom that Americans possessed in their revolutionary past. The Scarecrow and his gang are "smugglers", i.e. free-market traders who avoid heavy excise taxes by the state. McGoohan, who is a Libertarian in real life, must have approved of the script.
Today, with sleepy populations in both the USA and Britain accepting a tax rate close to 50%, strong state control, speech-laws (aka "hate" laws) and tariffs on imported goods, it makes me wonder where all the revolutionary Scarecrow's have disappeared.
Root of All Evil? (2006)
Weak reasoning why we should fear Christianity
I'm an Atheist, but I found Richard Dawkin's behavior around religious people in this series to be disrespectful. He visited an evangelical church in the US, similar to the type in my city, and he was just rude. The pastor has 3 sins against an elitist like Dawkins: 1) He has a southern accent 2) He was religious 3) He was positive and outgoing. I noticed Dawkins lip trembling through the conversation in apparent anger, and he did *not* approach the conversation coolly as he should have. It is possible to remain friendly and have a debate, something the minister realized but Dawkins seemed oblivious to.
I also noticed he seemed to favor bashing Islam and Christianity, but when he visits Jerusalem he is extremely sympathetic to the Jews, even though they behave like the Third Reich when it comes to Palestinians.
When he meets with a New York Jew who converted to Islam and now lives in Palestine, he seems curiously relaxed at first, then when he realizes the fundamentalist is hard core he loses his temperament again. The fundamentalist raises good issues - in our lands (the Western world) we are seeing more and more human degradation on TV, on the Internet, and in our daily lives. He argues that our women are dressing and acting like whores, and Dawkins doesn't seem to have an answer to this and doesn't seem concerned about this, saying women are deciding to do it themselves. The truth is these young girls are being fed these messages from TV and society - it isn't coming from within these young girls. The culture is becoming bankrupt, and the people foisting these values on the Western world certainly are not Islamic, and they are not devout Christian. Why isn't Dawkins concerned about what Atheists are doing? Overall, I was not impressed with his supposed free thinking. He seems very leftist establishment oriented to me.
L'enfant sauvage (1970)
Does it really contrast socialization with instinct?
The film is well made with good performances by Victor the wild child as well as Truffaut as his doctor and father figure.
Truffaut's main concern is studying what humans really are when you strip away the socialization process. Do we have morals? Language abilities? Compassion? This was also the main question for Dr. Itard who raised the boy after he was found.
However, the legitimacy of the wild child is called into question early in the film. Is Victor a normal human child or was there something abnormal about him that caused his family to abandon him? If he was abnormal to begin with, then we really can't conclude anything about what humanity would be like without the socialization process.
Reading through Dr. Itard's notes, many have concluded that Victor was an autistic child. His parents probably found him uncontrollable and abandoned him in the woods. So while Dr. Itard believed he was seeing the results of a normal boy with no socialization, he was probably seeing the results of a normal autistic child.
Despite this problem, the film is still interesting to watch but it ends up raising more questions than it answers.
Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964)
Man-Monkey Tension on Mars *spoilers*
Your first shock will be realizing Adam West aka Batman stars in the film. Your second shock will be that some guy who should probably be an extra has the lead role, and West is a secondary player.
All these meteors are flying all around Mars making loud whooshing sounds. To avoid one the ship goes into low orbit for some reason. The copilot warns Batman they won't have any fuel left, but he says "We can deal with that later". Can they really? How do you deal with no fuel when you are in space? It's like watching NASA if it belonged to a banana republic. There are apparently no procedures at all. The astronaut lands one of the modules on the edge of a crater and it tips over into some flames shooting out of the ground. He gets out with his monkey (don't ask) but forgets to close the hatch and a huge fireball makes a B-line for the door and his ship blows up. Damn the luck! Then he opens his visor and starts choking on sulfur air. Then he goes to the edge of a cliff, doesn't notice it, and falls off. You can tell right away that this dude has the right stuff.
He finally makes it through the fire to a cave, and his first survival instinct is to light a fire. On a searing hot planet with flames all over. Nice instincts. Apparently NASA equipped him with top of the line Kailoa Klub matches. Like I guess a lighter would have been too expensive for the budget. He also pulls out a gun from his pack and it's an old .44 magnum that looks like it was from the Wild West. What kind of people at NASA are packing his supplies anyway? Insane for fire, he tries using a diamond crystal for a magnifying lens and eventually gets his fire going. At that point, he realizes lighting a fire on a fire planet is probably not going to help him survive after all. These NASA types are pretty smart.
Commander Draper then stows his O2 tanks in a very hard to reach spot in the cave and falls asleep. When he wakes up he's gasping for oxygen and barely makes it to the O2 he so conveniently stowed.
At this point in the movie it looked hopeless for Draper and his monkey, but then he sees his pilot is also landing. Why they land miles from each other is a mystery. Unfortunately, compared to Draper, Batman does not have the right stuff. He crashes and burns, leaving only charred long pig behind. Soon, with only Mona the monkey and Draper left, the tension becomes so thick you could cut it with a knife.
It's a crazy movie where you aren't sure why the characters do really stupid stuff for no reason. Like why are they there in the first place? But it's really quite enjoyable.
You would have to be cynical not to receive enjoyment from a film like this. It's done before they really knew a lot about Mars, so there is some funny stuff, like the astronaut can breath the Mars air for long periods (only needs to suck oxygen every hour or so). In addition, there is water in caves and some underground plants that are edible. Oh yeah and there are aliens on the surface. Obviously those do not exist in real life but it makes the movie that much more funny.
Guns, Germs, and Steel (2005)
Egalitarian Science is a Dead End
Jared Diamond made a point in the first episode that other peoples of the world didn't have animals to domesticate but Europeans did, and that accounts for why we were able to make steel and invent complex machines.
But then in the third episode he says that when the Europeans in South Africa got too far north they ran into Zulu people and other tribes that *herded cattle and planted crops*. So what explains their lack of technological, economic, and artistic achievement if they had the key things the author claims are needed for success?
Diamond also claims germs in the form of smallpox (brought to North America by black slaves) were our biggest weapon. Well, if 150 Europeans can defeat 20,000 native warriors and 400 non-military South Africans can defeat 10,000 Zulus *without a single casualty* in either case, then I think you have to conclude that germs are irrelevant. With or without germs, we were going to succeed.
He says Malaria stopped Europeans from colonizing further North, killing "thousands" of Europeans while not affecting Africans. (I'd like to know real numbers but he doesn't say.) Then at the end he says today Malaria is killing thousands of Africans and that is why they can't catch up with us. So which is it, Jared? Did Malaria help the Africans by halting Eurpeans or hurt them? And how come Europe did okay despite massive plagues throughout our history?
He also seems far too eager to say that the reasons Europeans succeeded was because of dumb luck. At times when the evidence threatens to overwhelm his rickety theories he's reluctant to admit that maybe Europeans were successful because they worked for it. It's sad watch this obvious neo-Marxist contort reality to try to prove his point.
C'era una volta il West (1968)
So Simple, So Powerful
This movie has very little dialog and sometimes almost nothing seems to happen. By the end of the film, however, it has turned into one of the most compelling story lines with some very complex characters.
Henry Fonda in a Sergio Leone film! He's a blast playing a bad guy. His character is by far the most interesting because he's violent and crude, yet has big business aspirations. He's all tanned and wrinkled and looks like he's a survivor.
The music adds to the character of the film by using an eclectic variety of instruments, like saloon piano, harmonica, whistling, and banjo. The few bad parts in the film aren't even worth mentioning.
An honest look at the problems of our North American culture
In Spanglish, Tea Leoni plays a modern woman who is the product of mixed media messages. She tries to be the "strong" type that the media pushes so hard, but in the process she's lost her humanity and capability to love. She's also a basket case.
Adam Sandler plays a good man who seems to have had the masculinity whipped out of him by a male-hostile media culture. He's too scared to disagree with his wife and refuses to make a stand on any decision. As a result, the very thing that makes a man attractive to a woman is no longer there. He's become a woman, as his Mexican maid observes.
This film is a sharp look at modern couples and the effects of the North American culture where a feminist agenda has gone haywire. It's a bit of a chick flick to be sure, especially all the stuff with the Mexican girl and her mom, but still interesting. Maybe this should serve as a wakeup call to men in North America: don't stop being a man. Just because you are masculine and sometimes stand up even to your wife, it doesn't make you a jerk. It makes you more attractive in her eyes.
An enjoyable family movie
I enjoyed the innocence of this film and how the characters had to deal with the reality of having a powerful animal in their midst. The gorilla looks just terrific, and the eyes were especially lifelike. It's even a little scary at times and should have children slightly frightened without going over the top. Rene Russo plays her role wonderfully feminine. Usually these type of Hollywood films that take place in the past feel the need to create a straw-man villain but the only adversary is the gorilla. It's an interesting look at how close some animals are to humans, how they feel the same emotions we do, and yet how we really can't treat them just like people because they aren't. Not many films venture into this territory and it's worth seeing if you want to contemplate the human-animal similarity.
In Good Company (2004)
This film has a lot of heart
To me, this is the type of film Hollywood should make more often. It's a fairly realistic portrayal of the difficulties of trying to have a family life while trying to support a family. Dennis Quaid is perfect as the father with one more on the way who has the respect of all his coworkers, but is unknown by the conglomerate that takes over the company. As a result, people are arbitrarily fired or demoted by the "new guys" that come in to manage the place.
The movie seems like it was written by someone who has actually been in the business world, rather than some ignorant Hollywood hack who feels it's his duty to demonize business. The writer truly respects business, yet also addresses some of the lesser aspects of todays business world without condemning it. Quaid represents someone who loves business and does it well, and also loves his family.
Topher Grace is the new guy who comes in to save the day when the advertising department gets into the red. In a very funny scene he addresses his workers and starts talking about the dreaded Synergy. I hate the word Synergy and people who use it, but he somehow manages to turn it into a rousing speech that gets everyone behind him, which was pretty clever.
It is generally a movie you can feel good about, with a few seedy exceptions. Topher's wife cheats on him and leaves him. The cheating part was overkill given the scenario because she was just fed up with his over the top work ethic. She could have just walked out and it would be just as painful. Seems like Hollywood can't help but push that image of the cheating wife for some reason. Why do they keep forcing that image? It's like they are on a mission to undermine the confidence of todays working man. Also, the character played by Scarlette Johanson sleeps with Topher on pretty much the first date. Again, it's like Hollywood is pushing for a slutty image for women in almost all their films. According to study after study, women have a natural, biological impulse to take it slow, but it's like the media wants to pressure women into being slutty. Aside from those two negative images of women, it's a gripping, quirky, and uplifting movie from start to end. That's pretty rare these days.
24 Hour Party People (2002)
Film making doesn't get more creative than this
The makers of this film decided the best way to make a film about the unconventional life of Tony Wilson was to make an unconventional film. Crazy things happen in this film, like Steve Coogan breaking character and talking right to the camera about the real Tony Wilson, and things like that. It's very uneven but that is to its strength, and it's consistently engrossing from start to end. The film is hysterically funny, and had me doubled over at the outrageous antics of some of the musicians employed by Factory Records.
This film is for people who love raves and techno and want to know where it all began.