Monday, July 21, 2014


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Reviewing 'Shoplandia': Shop 'Til Your Credit Cards Drop

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If you ever wondered what the inner workings are behind the scenes of the various shopping networks, Shoplandia is for you. A raucous novel resplendent with anecdotes about the machinations of the always striving-to-get-ahead employees of one of our nation's leading capitalistic ventures brought into your home. Today no one has to go to a mall and be malled. No one has to go into a big city to "go shopping." No one has to go to the corner store to pick an item up. With a click of one's TV control, one can shop endlessly for almost everything under this sun and its rays shining all over Europe, Asia, Africa, le monde entier. This home shopping experience is powerful. And so it James Breslin's novel, Shoplandia.
Breslin has been an employee of QVC for 17 years and now steps forward as an author to reveal the secrets of this monstrous capitalistic venture. He writes with wit and a terrific eye for snappy revealing dialogue. He is always aware not to add too many details or too much description to make his point. Chapters address the famous personalities, the gymnastic enthusiasts, the beauty experts, the stars greying at the temples, the inebriated athletes, the motivational speakers as one faux pas happens after the next. Breslin is not mean-spirited; rather he is insightful in his remembrances of things past.
As a new production assistant at Shoplandia, Jake Meecham soon realizes that all the star-studded guests are eager to cash in on the riches at the end of the American Dream of a rainbow. The cast of characters are written with talent and verve by Breslin. And as one laughs through this short and rapid read, one recalls the bonds that form in the work place that often reflect those bonds we have formed within our own family.
While I must say one of the channels I truly hate to watch is anything to do with home shopping, but I have been humbled by a dear friend who allowed me to help her become sober. She had a gambling addiction during which she would drink to the point of drunkenness and shop on QVC till her credit cards dropped. Alas, after getting sober, she lost weight and could no longer wear these garments and gave them to me. And so I have learned to become grateful to home shopping sur le television and also because of James Breslin's delightful novel that has made some semblance of sense out of this bizarre fascination with which our nation is obsessed.

Friday, July 18, 2014


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Planes, Fire and Rescue: Disney Does It Again! Well, Sort Of.

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Seated amidst an audience of mini people, I wondered what I was doing at this screening. When I put on my 3D glasses and sat back to munch my popcorn, I was pleasantly surprised by the stellar cast of voices and the terrific soundtrack. But alas, the plot is a cookie-cutter repeat of The Little Engine That Could. Still, it was enjoyable, as the special effects are fun and I found myself truly feeling that these cars, fire trucks, ambulances were people of sorts and had hearts. And heart is what this film is about.
In the end the audience applauded as I left, eager to see the first episode of Ray Donovan.
But I did not regret my experience to be a member of the audience of the citizens of tomorrow. The color is bold and the star power in the voices carries this Disney wonder. We have the voices of Ed Harris as Blade Ranger, Julie Bowen as Lil' Dipper, Hal Holbrook as Mayday, Terry Hatcher as Dottie, Stacey Keach as Skipper, Cedric the Entertainer as Leadbottom, Anne Meara as Winnie (as in Winnebago), Jerry Stiller as Harvey to name a few of the stars.
The plot is simple. Dusty Crophopper (Dane Cook), learns his plane is damaged and he may never fly again. Out of frustration and sheer courage, he joins the fire, rescue and rescue helicopter team, the Smoke jumpers. This film features a dynamic crew of elite firefighting aircraft devoted to protecting historic Piston Peak National Park from massive fires. Dusty is launched into the world of aerial firefighting and learns about becoming a real hero.
Aw shucks. I had a good time and your little tots will, too. I am pleased these great actors got a paycheck out of Hollywood, but I would have preferred to see their faces in an African Queen, On the Waterfront or Lawrence of Arabia. But Disney is not into these kinds of films. However, if you are, watch the latest TV installment of let's say, Ray Donovan, instead, and save your loot and leave Planes, Fire and Rescue to the tots.

Saturday, May 31, 2014


Movie Review: Edge of Tomorrow... Don't Go There

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To see Tom Cruise play a schmuck is great fun. And he is good at it. Of course this is the beginning of Edge of Tomorrow ,but, sure enough, he redeems himself and becomes our hero. As Rage, an officer in a war against aliens, he is not eager to go to war and tells this to his commanding officer Brendon Gleeson who is not impressed and arrests him. It's a trip to see Rage arrested, but suddenly scenes begin repeating and repeating and you are told that Rage has an ability to see the future and to die and to be reborn only to begin his life back where he started.
If this sounds confusing, so is this film. Chaos has become plot and this is never a good thing according to an old chum, Norman Mailer. Frankly I got a bit dizzy with the whole thing, especially with the 3D glasses et al. The aliens are called mimics and make a weird squawking sound as they run into your special effect glasses. Doug Liman, director of the great Bourne films, directed this, but Edge of Tomorrow ain't no Bourne film. Rage could take a tip or two from dialogue of Jason Bourne in clarity and precision. Christopher McQuarrie wrote this bumbling script and, yes, Cruise does his acting in 'his you can count on me' bravura performance, but the script is the problem. And a leaning on special effects for plot. Give me an old-fashioned story line, you want to shout to the 3-D aliens. "I wanna watch Fargo on FX tv!"
Emily Blunt is her usual over-the-top damsel in distress with a tough exterior that gets cracked by the spidery aliens. But everyone is dying then coming back to life and then dying and then coming back to life, that you kinda want more popcorn to fiddle with while the plot finds itself.
Brendon Gleeson is top drawer in his tough guy General Brigham roll and Bill Paxton, as Master Sergeant Farrell, matches Gleeson's toughness to a T. You don't want to be in their army if you have a choice. And you don't want to linger too long while the credits role. A hasty getaway is called for and not much looking back. You could have had a more unpleasant evening, but then again, you could have a more pleasant evening. Miss this one.
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Wednesday, April 9, 2014


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Review: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

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Riveting. Stunning. Surprising. Curves are thrown at you at unsuspected moments. A great plot is filled with hair pin turns and witty one liners. Laughter erupts at unpredictable moments. In the very beginning when the logo Marvel is flashed on the screen, the audience goes wild. Everything about this film is about precision -- the tight bodies, perfect hairdos, impeccable timing of its actors, inventive sets.
Chris Evans as Steve Rogers aka Captain America has an innocence that should be patented. Cuddly and wide eyed, he has a kind of lost look that is rare in film today. A quizzical expression makes him -- while being the most viral man on the planet -- appear at times almost helpless. Until someone pisses him off.
And Robert Redford does. Redford shines as the villain, Alexander Pierce. It is good to see him go for a commercial film of this magnitude. And this is what Captain America: The Winter Soldier is about -- magnitude. Gigantic space ships, perfect women and then there is the always enchanting Samuel Jackson as Nick Fury who just does not want to die. You will fall in love with him if you are not already. He withstands one disaster upon another and you think this can't keep happening.
Jackson had never worked with Redford and to break the hero-worshiping-ice Jackson played golf with Redford and this eased their working relationship. There is ease between each member of this cast. Anthony Mackie as The Falcon glides through his part as a smooth and loyal witty friend of Steve Rogers while Scarlett Johannsen as the Black Widow does not miss a beat. Her acting is precision as is all in this film thanks to directors Anthony and Joe Russo and the stellar cast. The editing by Jeffrey Ford is tight as just when you think you've had enough of this scene the action moves to a new experience. You are held in the palm of this crew's technical expertise as this film is told in a series of layers that are peeled away, but we never see the core as there will be a sequel made apparent if you stay beyond the initial final credit role.
One complaint is that Captain America: The Winter Soldier at two and a half hours is too long. Perhaps cutting some of the early action scenes would have eased the desire to check your watch.
Portraying Councilwoman Hawley, Jenny Agutter has a meaningful role and it is a delight to see her after all these years. Her calm, friendly presence leads nicely to a contradiction that her character offers up.
Those familiar with the Marvel comic book series know the plot. Steve Rogers must battle a threat from the Soviets in the modern world in the form of the Soviet agent Winter Soldier. There are car chases, fisticuff scenes such a one in an elevator particularly memorable, motorcycle races, and an actual kiss that Rogers plants on the Black Widow. While the romance never actualizes, we are left with longing. Just as we are left with longing for the return of Captain America as soon as possible.
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4 people are discussing this article with 4 comments
Great review! At 2 1/2 hours... I never felt it. Never had the urge to check the time. This is a near perfect movie!
Saw the movie last night and it was fantastic. Good story, good acting, great action. I don't know if I'd say it's the best Marvel movie so far but its easily top 3 in my book.
With this cast and plot I won't be missing this!
Arguably the best Marvel film to date, "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" really just takes everything you love about superhero films and meshes it together with every great thriller/action film ever made, and it makes for a fantastic time at the movies. With some great twists, and things you may or may not have seen coming that still come off as very effective. As always, Chris Evans plays his role perfectly, but Samuel L. Jackson and Scarlett Johannsen get a lot of screen time as well and they do their characters justice. Anthony Mackie, a newcomer to the Marvel Universe, is a very likeable character and I cannot wait to see more of him in the future. Pulling from many aspects of the first film while still acknowledging the Avengers, this is one of the strongest stories that almost holds up on it's own. They are leaving so many options open for the future of this Universe and I cannot wait to see the directions they take. I had a blast watching this film, and really, aside from a few minor complaints, it's perfect for what it is.