David Knights' Weblog

May 23, 2019

Movie review: Harper (1966)

Filed under: General — dknights @ 9:13 am
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This is why I don’t get more modeling done.  Last night, exhausted after work, kids care, etc. I should have modeled.  Instead I turned on the TV and on TCM found Cool Hand Luke running.  It was a third of the way in, but it is a compelling film and I sat and watched it, though I had seen it many times before.  After it ended, it turns out that it is Paul Newman month on TCM.

The next film they were showing was this one, Harper.  It was shot in 1966, but was based on a late 1940s noir novel called The Moving Target.  It is a typical PI story, with a down and out PI getting hired for a case with a bunch of twists and turns.  I won’t spoil the plot, because it is worth watching.  It isn’t the best film ever, or the best Newman film, but it is good.  There are a number of good performances, starting with Newman.  Also, since it is set in LA/Southern California in the mid-60s, you get some great shots that make you realize how wonderful California was in the 60s, before the sprawl, the crime, the corruption, etc.  If you had to pick a time and place in the past to live, a top contender would be LA from 1940 to 1965.

Like many films in the 60s, this one has an ambiguous ending.  I suspect you could get 5 people to watch it, and no two would agree on what the ending meant.  It is a good film, well worth watching.  A solid 3 out of 5 stars.



May 14, 2019

Movie review: Doom (2005)

Filed under: General — dknights @ 1:14 pm

Why?  Why do you find yourself sitting in front of the TV watching a movie that you’d never in a million years pick out to watch.  If I knew the answer to that I wouldn’t have found myself watching Doom.  Two things of note. 1. I never played the video game, so I am sure that some inside stuff was lost on me. 2. I have never seen a movie adapted from a video game that was any good. This was no exception.

I like Karl Urban and who can resist The Rock, but this was a terrible movie, with not much of a script or plot and only barely qualified as entertaining.  I’d never choose to sit down and watch it again.  Heck, I am still not sure why I watched it the first time other than I was too tired from work to reach over and change the channel. The film was a box office disaster, and I can see why.  2 out of 5 stars, and that is being generous.


April 3, 2019

Movie review: Doodlebug Summer (2012)

Filed under: Modeling,Technology — dknights @ 6:31 am
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One of my areas of interest is the late war development of Germany’s hi-tech weapons.  Doodlebug Summer isn’t really a movie, but rather a 6 part British documentary.  I initially started watching for my interest in the weapons themselves and their development.  Sadly, there is very little of that.  Rather, the episodes consist mostly of interviews with people who experienced the V-weapon attacks.  The stories were fascinating and the scale of the tragic losses, almost all civilian, were horrendous. There was some footage and discussion of the attempted defenses against the V-1 (there was no defense to the V-2), but mostly there is archival film of the sites of the weapons impact with survivor stories.  While not what I had originally expected, it was well worth watching.  It was on Amazon Video and included free with Prime.  4 out of 5 stars.

March 26, 2019

Movie review: Passengers (2016)

Filed under: General — dknights @ 6:02 am
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I managed to finally get around to watching this the other day.  Normally, this is a movie that I’d have made a point of seeing when it came out.  It is a big budget sci-fi movie and that is usually what I like.  However, I didn’t catch this one until now.  It was OK.

Just OK.  Not bad, not great, just OK.  The CGI and set designs were excellent.  The special effects were very good.  The female lead is Jennifer Lawrence, who geographic loyalty says I have to like. (She is from Louisville). She is very popular right now, but while she does a good job in this film, it isn’t great.  Its just a workman-like good job.  Chris Pratt is the male lead and he does a very good job as a character put in an impossible position who makes a choice that he regrets and doesn’t regret at the same time.  He did a very good job of conveying the emotional conflict that is the heart of the film.  At this point I’d usually talk about the plot, but in the case of this movie, you are better off not knowing, as the plot is a lot of what makes the story watchable.

I’d give this one 3 out of 5 stars.

March 2, 2019

Movie review: Dennis Miller: Fake News, Real Jokes (2018)

Filed under: General,Politics — dknights @ 6:40 am
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I’ve been a Dennis Miller fan since his SNL days.  His signature rants were some of the funniest comedy I’ve every seen.  Miller morphed from a stand up comic into a libertarian radio show host in his later years.  As such his last few comedy specials have taken on more and more political subject matter.  Frankly, I think politics is ruining comedy, but I don’t find Miller’s stuff as troublesome.  I suspect that this is because many of his political attitudes are very close to my own.  His latest stand up special, Fake News, Real Jokes, filmed in 2018 is now out on Amazon Prime.  As he’s gotten older, I think Miller has lost a bit of his edge and is maybe a step or two slower, but then again aren’t we all.  When he is at his best he can make obscure sub-reference after obscure sub-reference and make me laugh hard.  I enjoyed this special and it was 58 minutes well spent. 4 out of 5 stars.

February 19, 2019

Movie review: The Great Race (1965)

Filed under: General — dknights @ 12:01 pm
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The Great Race is a slapstick comedy and is an obvious homage to slapstick comedies of the silent era. It is loosely based on the actual 1908 New York to Paris race. The films stars Tony Curtis, Jack Lemon and Natalie Wood, with supporting performances by Peter Falk and Keenan Wynn.  The film is notable in several respects.  First, when it was filmed in 1964, it had the largest budget ever for a comedy, over $12M.  Additionally, though comedies are usually shorter in length than dramas, this film clocks in at 2 hours and 40 minutes.  Make no mistake, this is a slapstick comedy, and has many funny moments.  Its length hurts it, as the film drags in the third act.  Director Blake Edwards (of Pink Panther fame) could have used a good film editor.  30 minutes could have been cut out of the film with little loss.

Natalie Wood is gorgeous, possibly as pretty as she’s ever appeared on film.  She does an admirable acting job in the film, pulling off her comedy bits quite well.  However, in real life, her life was a mess, just having gotten divorced from Robert Wagner.  She reportedly did not want to make this film, and at the end of post production work, she made a half-hearted suicide attempt.

While this movie is by no means, high art, it is worth seeing once, if only to see part of the incredible range that Jack Lemon had.  Here he did slapstick very well, while today he is probably best known for his dramatic roles.  Also, of Kentucky interest, parts of the film (mostly at the beginning) were filmed near Frankfort, Kentucky.

Two and a half out of Five stars.

February 11, 2019

Movie review: They Shall Not Grow Old (2018)

Filed under: Modeling — dknights @ 4:01 pm
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Wow.  Just wow.

OK, now let me tell you why you must go see this, and go see it while it is in theaters.  Peter Jackson of Lord of the Rings fame (and Wingnut Wings fame for all of us modelers) was approached by the Imperial War Museum (IWM) in 2013/14 to take all their archival footage and recorded interviews and do a documentary on the Great War.  He was given no specific theme, just access to all the resources and a request to do something innovative.  Boy did he.

Through the use of groundbreaking digital technologies, some of which they had to invent for this film, Jackson and his crew at Wingnut Films (yes, that is the company’s name) put together a restored and colorized version of these old films that gives real life and impact to them.  It is hard to explain how groundbreaking this film is.  Just go see it.  See it on the big screen.  The song over the end credits is great and if you stay after the credits you can watch the 20 minute documentary on the making of the film, you’ll appreciate it even more.  It will leave you even more impressed and really will make you want to hang out and have a beer with Peter Jackson.

GO SEE THIS FILM.  Needless to say, 5 stars!

February 5, 2019

Movie review: She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949)

Filed under: General — dknights @ 4:49 pm
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Turns out one of my favorite movies of all time was on last night on TCM and I was able to catch it as well as record it.  She Wore a Yellow Ribbon is my second favorite John Wayne movie, and in my top 10 of all time.  It won the 1949 Oscar for best color cinematography.  It is a great story, well-acted and beautifully shot.  It is part of John Ford’s “cavalry trilogy”.  In addition to Wayne, it has an excellent supporting cast.

It is the story of a cavalry captain at a frontier fort who is about to retire when the post-Custer massacre indian uprising takes place.  There is beautiful scenery and plenty of action.  The movie also has some important things to say about masculinity, manhood and brotherhood.  If you’ve never seen this movie, I highly recommend you find it and watch it.  5 stars!

February 2, 2019

Movie review: Viva Zapata! (1952)

Filed under: General — dknights @ 9:45 pm
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Was able to catch this on TCM recently.  Normally, I would not have been interested in the film, but I’ve been listening to Mike Duncan’s Revolutions Podcast series on the Mexican Revolution.  Frankly, I am not sure I would have understood what was going on in the movie without it.  It is the story of Emiliano Zapata, the Mexican revolutionary and land reformer.

Marlon Brando stars as Zapata.  I was never a fan of Brando’s acting style, and I particularly don’t thinks it works with him playing a Mexican peasant.  The movie clocks in at 1 hour 53 minutes, and you feel every one of them.  Also, the actual story of the revolution is badly bastardized in the movie.  It was interesting to see, but not something I’d watch again. Two our of Five stars.

January 30, 2019

Movie review: Song of the Thin Man (1947)

Filed under: General — dknights @ 12:34 am
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This is the last of the six Thin Man films and the only one to take place post-WWII.  In this movie, Nick, Jr., played by Dean Stockwell in one of his early roles, is about 10, which places the movie about 5 years after the last film, The Thin Man Goes Home.  In this movie, we come to the end of the Thin Man saga.  Nick and Nora, who were young, newly married and carefree parties have progressed to a middle aged married couple concerned with family life.  In the first film and through the early ones, Nick and Nora go to clubs and enjoy big band music and drinking.  Now, they’d rather be home. Jazz is coming on the scene and Nick and Nora are fish out of water when it comes to the new musical scene.

The movie starts with Nick and Nora on a gambling and booze cruise among a society party.  They are there because Nora wants to try and fit in more with upscale society.  This is a change from the early films where Nora actively disdained high society and liked hanging out with Nick’s lowlife friends.  Of course, there is a murder aboard the ship and the usual adventure ensues, culminating with Nick solving the murder after gathering all the suspects back on the ship.

While many of the critics rate is one of the lesser Thin Man films, I rate it about 3rd or 4th mainly due to the progression shown in the main characters over the 13 year span of the films. (11 years pass in the timeline of the films)  Still better than most of the dreck put out by Hollywood today.

Five stars.

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