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Holiday Break Movie Reviews January 7, 2011

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Our holiday season is wrapping up and as is my annual tradition now, I have a bunch of movies to review now. The holidays were fast and furious. The boys were super wound-up. We got lots of family time and even some quality time outside sledding, but ultimately, we needed some down time.

The boys went to school more days than we had originally planned, but that meant we got some extra time to relax and get in some movies. We went to the theater twice and watch a bunch more Netflix… catching up on discs that had been sitting on the shelf for a month. I also watched some stuff in my Instant Queue and a bunch of stuff on Hulu.com. And yet as I get back into the flow of work again, my podcasts and other online content is piling up again. I love the Internet and yet I hate it!

So here goes…. my holiday movie reviews, plus a couple that I watched before and am only getting to now to review. Please comment, especially if you have seen these movies.


New Private Blog December 19, 2009

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This week I started a new blog. It is private – an online journal of sorts. But as you can see the direction of this blog has turned more into a review site. I am certainly enjoying that because it is something I look for in the web. I am also searching for other people’s thoughts on video games, products or movies. And I am trying to get the most of my Netflix memberships, so I am sure there will be lots to write on based on that alone. But I hope to include Wii games, electronic gadgets, books, magazines, podcasts and other things more and more.

I will still include personal things here, but I will use the new blog for truly personal thoughts. I look forward to having a new place to empty my thoughts and clear my mind. It will be private because I know not every thought should be open to the public. And yet I will keep this site going to keep my conversation going with the outside world open too. If I write it, I hope they come….

Movie Review: Couples Retreat October 17, 2009

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Here is my first post using my new Apple Touch. My wife worked hard to win a raffle and this was her motivation, a prize specifically for me. Anyway, I am trying to use the WordPress app. I say “try” because it is certainly more difficult trying to type on this little screen than it is on normal keyboard.

So, let me get on to the review before I ramble on any further. Couples Retreat is a funny movie – not necessarily as funny as some of Vince Vaughan’s other movies, but still funny. What I found most interesting about this one is the amount of “truth behind the jokes” there is. Every couple is different. What makes them tick, what makes them work is always different. And there are ups and downs, but the couples that stay together figure out ways to work through their problems through teamwork and communication.

So, I did enjoy this movie, but when you watch it you can’t help think about how important what you do, what you say, and how hard you are willing to work really is.

Movie Review: Gran Torino October 3, 2009

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Netflix Synopsis: Curmudgeonly Korean War veteran Walt Kowalski (Clint Eastwood, who also directs) must confront his Hmong immigrant neighbors — and his own long-held prejudices — when the family’s teenage son, Thao (Bee Vang), tries to steal Walt’s beloved 1972 Gran Torino. Walt soon assumes the unlikely role of guardian angel to young Thao and his sister Sue (Ahney Her), both of whom are vulnerable to local gang influences.

Movie #2 this week – most people have heard about this one as it was critically-acclaimed – and rightly so. This was a great movie, I would say very similar to another good Eastwood movie, Million Dollar Baby with Hillary Swank. In this one, the only real star is Eastwood, but his supporting cast builds a captivating scene and entertaining relationships that make this film enjoyable. It is easy to get immersed in this Michigan based story.

Movie Review: The Good Shepherd October 3, 2009

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Netflix Synopsis: Matt Damon and Robert De Niro (who also directs) star in this partially fact-based drama that examines the early history of the CIA as seen through the eyes of a dedicated agent. An upstanding, sharp-minded Yale student, Edward Wilson (Damon) is recruited to work for the fledgling CIA during World War II. Though loyal to his country, Wilson begins to feel the job eroding his ideals, filling him with distrust and destroying his personal life.

My first of three movies from Netflix this week, The Good Shephard was very entertaining and informative. Based on real events revolving around the Bay of Pigs incident and the CIA work. I admit I am not very well educated on these events, but was interested in the history of the time period.

However, the presentation of this movie was rough. It was nearly three hours in length and I think that was in part because of all the timeline transitions. Each new scene seemed to jump from one time period to another. The movie covered from about 1910 to 1970 and while this made for an interesting story, this jump disrupted my enjoyment of the film.

Movie (Documentary) Review: Man on Wire October 2, 2009

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Netflix Synopsis: Philippe Petit captured the world’s attention in 1974 when he successfully walked across a high wire between New York’s Twin Towers. This Oscar winner for Best Documentary explores the preparations that went into the stunt as well as the event and its aftermath. Obsessed with the towers even before they were fully constructed, Petit sneaked into the buildings several times to determine the equipment he needed to accomplish his daring feat.

I first heard about this movie during one of favorite podcasts, Think on NPR’s KERA station in Texas. The passion that came through of Philippe Petite was captivating. I knew then that I had to find it on Netflix. Well, this week, I finally got around to it from the “Watch Instantly” queue.

Now, I have to say this, 8 years after the events of September 11th, 2001, this movie was very errie. That being said, for a documentary, this story is amazing and the performance is absolutely breath-taking. If you can get past the reminders of 9/11, this is a can’t miss movie. It celebrates one man’s passion, possibly slight insanity, determination and skill. And the photography is spectacular.

Healthcare Plan in the News September 8, 2009

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I am not sure if you have heard, but there is talk in the US of health care reform. Yes, a little sarcasm, but look what this article has to say about how well the INFORMATION is being report…. 8% – that is pathetic. We should be having town hall meetings to discuss how poorly the news media is serving us. Unfortunately, it is all about the ratings and sensationalism and very little to do with the facts.

Quality News Reporting,… NOT!

Equally disturbing to how this debate is unfolding is how little concern some people have for the well being of others. I really do not understand how people think the whole “death panel” was a real thing. Some people are either too gullible or just plain ill-informed. We watched a moving real-life story about Nathenial Ayers last night. The movie is called “The Soloist” and starts Robert Downey Jr and Jamie Foxx… two of today’s best actors, for sure. Anyway, Ayers life was spent mostly as a homeless man in Los Angeles. Watching this film really brought home the problems we have in our society. Seeing the living conditions of the people on the streets – and they were lucky, living in such a mild climate like LA – shows our society can be so inhumane. Because we don’t know what to do, we do nothing. That is unacceptable and that seems to be where this debate on healthcare reform is going.

Great Super Bowl and Commercials February 2, 2009

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What a game last night? Being originally from Pennsylvania, it was nice to have another team to root for, even it wasn’t the Eagles. And the Steelers win again. Yeah!
But as usual the big story is in the commericals. There were lots of good ones again. A couple of interesting stories on them…
1) Since the game is usually on an ABC broadcast channel (a Disney division), the halftime show managed to get in their Disneyland commerical in with Springteen shouting it at the end. It seemed just weird to me.
2) Anyone notice the lack of American car maker commericals? I heard that was a conscience decision based on their financial troubles.
3) And of course, GoDaddy came on the scene a few years ago and made their mark again. Since sex does sell, they had a couple of good “suspensful” ad that probably drew a lot of traffic to their site. For the record, the online ads are much better than the TV version and are no more sexual than previous years’ ads.
4) But I think one of the best spots was from another web site Hulu.com. Their ad features Alec Baldwin and it is a funny, reverse psychology demonstration of their product – a website with millions of hours of TV and movies, clips and full length features. I love their site and have been a member since it was in beta. And the best part, you can catch all the ads from the Super Bowl night there!

Just Walk Away January 16, 2009

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I wish I could. I wish I was able to leave a movie unfinished. I sit here watching what may be the slowest movie since “Dances With Wolves.” And while it feels like it has been 3 hours, this movie is finally wrapping up after 1:40…

“The Savages” stars two great actors in Philip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Linney and yet… argh! It just drags. Now, in part this may have been the intent of the director. The topic is not an easy one and I am sure people that go through the process of learning how to take care of their parents find that it drags on too in a dark way… until the last two minutes!

I am certainly not looking forward to these events, but know they are a necessary part of life. They are an honor for those of us who had wonderful parents taking care of us as children. And I certainly hope my outlook on that process is more bright than this movie.

Maxed Out January 15, 2009

Posted by shwaldman in Politics, Society.
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Last night (while getting in some time on my treadmill), I watched the documentary “Maxed Out.” It was from 2006. TWO THOUSAND and SIX! It has been in my NetFlix queue for a while now. I knew the premise and didn’t think of making it a priority to watch since we have managed to steer clear of financing much of anything. To be honest, I am quite proud to say that we only finance long-term assets – the house, cars, and occasionally furniture and appliances. But enough about me, I want you know why you need to watch this movie.

I like watching different documentaries on various subjects. But this documentary lays out quiet the scenerio…. and wow, here we are in 2009 and the world has finally awaken to a sad reality. The credit companies “helped” a lot of people get very, very poor. I was going to “made them poor”, but there does have to be some personal responsibility in our world. And while I do not blame the NRA for crime and the tobacco industry for my own father’s lung cancer, companies and whole industries should have the same personal responsibilties as our citizens. But yet again, it is the responsibility of our government apply appropriate justice. They eventually took care of tobacco, they are dragging their feet in allowing AK-47s on our city streets, but they definitely dropped the ball with the credit industry. And now it is too late!

Last time I checked, while many people and other companies are filing for bankruptcy, I haven’t heard about many credit card companies running short on funds. It was interesting that the person in the movie that came out and said it was Robin Leach…. “the rich are getting richer and that isn’t going away.” The problem we have is that free-market capitalism just does not work in a democratic society. They just don’t mix.

Now in order for me to justify that statement, I have to include the primary two princples of democracy. The first principle is that all members of the society have equal access to power and the second that all members enjoy universally recognized freedoms and liberties. And my intrepretation of that first princple is regardless of financial situation. In other words, our democratic (little “d”) government MUST protect all people from the all others. And in this situation, it is quite clear the credit industry has preyed on people who can not protect themselves. Watch the movie and see what I mean – you can see on-demand (online) at Netflix.com without even waiting for the DVD in the mail.