How it was shot…

10 Most Iconic Movie Scenes, at least according to the folks at Screen Rant:

Not to sound too snotty but I was aware of most of the examples included (the problems with Bruce, the name given the animatronic shark from Jaws are quite legendary!).

Perhaps the most interesting one was The Exorcist’s spider walk down the stairs.  I knew the scene was cut but as I haven’t looked at the bonus material on my expanded edition of the movie I didn’t realize the reason for not using that particular scene was because when it was filmed, and before the advent of CGI, they were unable to “hide” the strings holding the contortionist up as she moved down the stairs.

It makes perfect sense that now with the use of computers the wires can be digitally removed and therefore the scene re-inserted into the film, though I wonder if it was, in the end, necessary.  I’m ambivalent about its inclusion in the expanded director’s cut but there have been plenty of people who felt the scene should have remained on the cutting room floor.

Returning to Jaws for a moment, it is also well known that because of all the problems the animatronic shark had director Steven Spielberg was forced to hold off on showing the shark much longer than he originally intended to in the film.  In lieu of this, he created scenes where we adopt the perspective of the shark and/or the shark attacks and we barely see it.

The problems with the shark turned out to be a blessing in disguise.  By not revealing the “villain” of the piece fully until the last acts, Mr. Spielberg created a film whose suspense grew with each new attack/victim.  I distinctly recall having my breath taken away when the shark was finally revealed in all its terrifying glory toward the later stages of the film.

Which just goes to show that sometimes as much as a movie benefits from good acting or directing or script, etc. etc., sometimes you have to also be lucky.

I’ve made it known before how much I like the theatrical version of Walter Hill’s cult classic The Warriors.  That version of the film is one of, in my opinion, Walter Hill’s all time best movies.

And yet because of budget and time he was unable to show “his” vision of the film.  Years later he released an “ultimate director’s cut” of the movie which included new material, mostly in the from of comic book frames, as well as some different cuts of several of the film’s classic scenes…and the end result was, in my opinion, terrible.

While I can appreciate the man who created the film wanted to see it released closer to the way he originally envisioned it, sometimes when the pressure is on and a creative person is forced to make something within rigorous time/budgetary/logistical constraints, the results can be all the better.

Cop Car (2015) a (mildly) belated review

To create a successful action/suspense film, one has to make something that viewers wind up submerging themselves into.  In the best of all circumstances the viewer is no longer watching actors acting, they’re witnessing real life play out before them.  We root for the good guys/gals and hiss at the bad guys/gals and, as the action/suspense torque up, we fearfully wonder how and whether our hero(es) will make it out of their predicament alive.

This is, of course, easier said than done.  There are plenty of films out there, some very well made, which simply don’t engage the viewers in spite of the best attempts of the actors and directors.  A few years back I felt that way about the Tom Cruise film Jack Reacher.  As I noted in my review of it (you can read the full review here):

…the main problem with Jack Reacher and what keeps it from rising from being a good action film to being a truly great one is that there is never a point you don’t feel like you’re watching a movie.

Which brings us, inevitably, to Cop Car.

Cop Car is a low budget film which aims, as the trailer I’m about to present below points out, to fit into an odd niche.  It attempts to be a modern day Huckleberry Finn-type story merged with a bloody No Country For Old Men-type Coen Brothers feature.  See for yourself…

While the attempt is interesting, perhaps even unique, the movie itself, unfortunately, doesn’t deliver and what we have is a suspense film that is never all that suspenseful.  We also have a movie that, like Jack Reacher, never felt like something that would happen in “real life”.

Part of the problem is the setup itself.  The movie starts with our protagonists, two 10 year old boys who may (or may not, it is never made totally clear) be running away from home.  They walk a flat field and obviously live out in the middle of nowhere.

They walk on, talking childish things, until they spot a (ta-da!) cop car parked in a ravine and under some trees.  At first they think the cops are after them (again, they may have run away from home) but when they realize the car is empty, they approach it and, after playing inside it for a while, discover the car’s owner left the keys behind.  They start the car and, soon enough, drive off with it.


We then backtrack a little in time to find that the man who drives the car, Sheriff Kretzer (Kevin Bacon playing a very oddball character), parked the car in this out of the way place to get rid of a corpse.  He had taken the body out of the trunk of his car and dragged it to a hole in the ground where he tossed it in.  When he returned to his car, he discovers it is gone and, of course, “hilarity” ensues.

As a viewer, I found all this set up so damn hard to swallow.

Our dirty cop leaves his car behind and goes somewhere so far away on foot -and dragging behind him a very heavy corpse- that he doesn’t hear his car start up?  Considering most of the land around them is flat, wouldn’t there have been some way for our evil cop to park his car much, much closer to where he intends to dump that corpse?

If not super-near, at least near enough to hear when the car is started?

That’s ignoring, by the way, the whole rather large coincidence of two runaway boys just happening to stumble upon a cop car in the middle of nowhere with the keys inside it and an evil cop doing evil things while just out of sight.

If you can get past that, there’s also this: The two 10 year old children who swipe the car are shown to not know how to drive.  When they start the cop car, it is clearly the very first time they’ve ever started any car.  In short order they’re driving off, though they don’t even know (yet) what the “P’ or the “R” stands for on the automatic shift (they state this later in the film).

Not only do they drive off with the car, they’re soon on the road and moving about without all that much trouble.  Granted, we are in the middle of the boonies but still, this is yet another hard fact the audience is expected to simply accept.  What makes the whole thing all that much worse is that there was an easy way to explain at least this part of the movie away: Just have one of the children say their older sister/brother or mother/father/uncle has allowed them to drive their car a couple of times.  They don’t have a great skill at driving, but at least they have enough to get the car moving.

But even if such a line of dialogue existed, it still doesn’t explain our Sheriff leaving the car alone with the keys inside, especially when he’s up to no good.

What follows is essentially a chase where the Sheriff searches for his car which, it turns out, has another surprise in its trunk.  Unfortunately, the movie’s languid pace and almost comical presentation of the Sheriff (as I said above, Kevin Bacon’s character is pretty odd and reminded me at times -by his look as well as some actions- of Lieutenant Jim Dangle from Reno 911!) further dilute the suspense we’re meant to feel.

When we reach the bloody climax, our heroes, the two children, are reduced to trapped witnesses as the bodies fall around them.  Afterwards, a final car chase feels hard to swallow given (again) our heroes just started driving that day.

I feel bad knocking Cop Car like I am.  As with Jack Reacher, the film was made by people who were attempting to deliver a solid, even unique, piece of entertainment.  Unfortunately the end result simply wasn’t all that good.

Too bad.

Oh my…

Stumbled upon this article by Elliot Hannon concerning one Lenny Dykstra and the startling allegations he makes concerning the years previous when he played professional baseball:

Lenny Dykstra Says He Hired Private Investigators to Dig Up Dirt and Extort MLB Umpires

Years ago I went through what turned out to be a sports watching phase.  I watched local sports –all sports– that I stumbled upon.  Football, hockey, basketball, and baseball.  I was very lucky because my interest in watching all sports all the time they aired coincided with the then Florida Marlins (they have since changed their name to the Miami Marlins) 2003 World Series winning season (the stats).

I’m not exaggerating when I say I saw almost every single game presented that year, missing no more than a handful (five or less) when they aired on TV (I didn’t go to any of the games).  Of course, going into that year I had no way of knowing whether the team would be good enough to make it to the playoffs, much less wind up winning the World Series, yet there I was, watching it all.

You would think that would make me a fan for life yet the opposite occurred.

After watching that magical year from start to finish, I looked back and realized just how much time I spent -wasted, really- watching these games and realized I just didn’t have the energy or time to do this again.

I still watch football games.  They’re manageable, one game a week for approximately 16 weeks and then, if my team makes it to the playoffs -and they haven’t in an awful long time- a few more weeks at most before season’s end.  I still enjoy watching basketball, though I cut back tremendously on the amount of games I watched from start to finish.  As for hockey and baseball, I essentially cut them out completely.  In stark contrast to the 2003 season, I can say with all sincerity that since that year, I have yet to see a single baseball game all the way through since.

Of course what I find interesting or not so interesting doesn’t apply to others and I don’t begrudge anyone’s enjoyment of watching their favorite teams in their favorite sports.

Which is why the statements Lenny Dykstra makes above are so abhorrent.  I understand the burning desire to win a game.  I can even understand the lengths players will go to get and “edge” and when it leads to them cheating.  This past year considerable focus was on New England Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady.

Let me be clear here: In time he may well be considered the best Quarterback there ever was, but the things his team -and he– was involved in should give anyone pause.

But that don’t compare to what Lenny Dykstra states he did during his playing days.  There are those who have pointed out in the comment section that Mr. Dykstra is a liar and generally an awful person (I’m only pointing out what the comments state.  Other than a familiar name, I wouldn’t know Lenny Dykstra from the Man on the Moon) and that therefore his assertions regarding investigating Umpires is likely another fabrication.

I kinda hope so.

Yet the fact that he’s willing to go out in public and state he did these things, whether they are true or not, are shocking and, in my opinion, hardly make the guy look good.

The dark side of sports exists, that’s for certain.

Yet more Star Wars musings…or, Is Luke evil (part deux)

A few days back Disney released the first full trailer for the new Star Wars film.  Notably absent from it was Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker.

At the time, I wrote that his absence made me wonder whether the movie’s big surprise would be that Luke Skywalker is evil. (You can read the full post here)

Since then and a few days ago, I linked up to another article, this one arguing that Luke Skywalker is not evil and offering as evidence his clothing (or at least the clothing we’ve seen him in in a couple of leaked photographs…you can read that post here).

Now comes this article, by Rob Conery and for Huffington Post, which goes into great, great detail on why my original thought, that Luke was going to be revealed as “evil” is indeed what we’re getting in the new Star Wars film:

This Luke Skywalker Theory Destroys Everything You Think You Knew About Star Wars

So much reading about a movie I’m at best only mildly interested in…

Which means I’ve gotta give the folks behind it a hell of a lot of credit: They’ve managed to get people talking about this new Star Wars film and it would not surprise me at all that whatever is revealed vis a vis Luke Skywalker, the one’s who will benefit the most from this speculation are the studios.

Because you had to know! (part the seventh)

How to Fart in Public and Get Away With It

The article linked to above is by Patrick Allan and appears on

Hilarious, hilarious -yet informative!- stuff.  I laughed out loud (yeah, that kind of humor appeals to me…what can I say) just by the opening graphic:

How to Fart in Public and Get Away with It

Click the link and get to know such wonderful terms as “crop dusting” and understand the “rule of three or more”.

And remember…whoever smelt it dealt it.

Invaluable stuff! 😉

X-Box One vs. Playstation 4

For those interested, Thorin Klosowski for offers a comparison between the X-Box One and the Playstation 4, now that two years have passed since their respective releases:

If you haven’t bought either system and are considering doing so, the article offers an interesting comparison between the systems.

Not a terribly big shock to find (SPOILERS!) they’re very comparable in many respects.

The 1938 Aircraft That Came From The Future…

I love love love seeing “futuristic” material created in the 1930’s.  Something about the flights of fancy (pardon the pun) of that epoch really hits me.  From the art deco designs to the futuristic musings of authors and artists, there’s a reason that era’s sci-fi works were considered a “golden age”.

Back in 1938 Ettore Bugatti and Louise De Monge designed a futuristic aircraft that, because of the advent of World War II, never made it beyond a single model that was created and never flown before being cut up and hidden from the Nazi’s.

However, though never flown the model was not forgotten and a model has been created and shown to fly and a full sized replica created, which will be flown very soon, and you can read all about it in the article below, found on and written by Luke Plunkett…

The 1938 Aircraft That Came From The Future

In that link you’ll see images of both the full sized replica as well as see a video of the smaller model in flight.  I won’t post both here, but I will post this beautiful painting of the plane in flight as envisioned by an artist…

The 1938 Aircraft That Came From The Future

Great, great stuff.

Is Luke evil…?

So my hunch following seeing the full trailer for the new Star Wars film that Luke Skywalker might be evil was (shock of shocks) not a terribly original idea (you can read those mutterings here).

Forrest Wickman for browbeat has also heard the fan musings and offers a strong rebuttal against the idea that Luke Skywalker is evil in the upcoming film.

Incredibly, he bases his idea on… Luke’s clothing?!?

I kid you not…read for yourselves:

Sorry, Star Wars fans, Luke Probably Isn’t Evil in The Force Awakens.  Here’s How We Know

While on the surface the idea that we can assume Luke isn’t evil in the new Star Wars film based on his clothing -more specifically clothing color– may seem a silly thing, I have to give Mr. Wickman all the credit in the world for his forceful (pardon the pun) argument.

For the color of clothing plays a strong role in the Star Wars films.  It allows viewers to instantly identify evil and good characters not unlike the westerns of yesteryear, where characters in black were evil while those in lighter colors were good.

Mr. Wickman’s strongest argument, to me, in that respect revolves around this leaked picture of Mark Hamill as the older Luke Skywalker:

Screen Shot 2015-08-13 at 5.49.25 PM

As Mr. Wickman states: Have you ever seen a Star Wars villain wear a robe like that?

Kudos, Mr. Wickman.  I say this without tongue in cheek: I believe you are on to something!

Adaptive Learning Software…

I found the article below, written by Will Oremus for, a fascinating look behind what may be the future of education:

No More Pencils, No More Books:  Adaptive Learning Software is Replacing Textbooks and Upending American Education

As a father whose children are finishing up High School and in College, respectively, I’ve been amazed at the differences between their education and mine.  At the High School Parent/Teacher meet up this year, everything from the classroom design -including some truly comfortable new seats!- was a revelation.

But what continues to amaze me is how few textbooks these students need.  In this particular school they use Google laptops and all lessons/homework flows through there.  Some teachers, we found, quickly adapted to this new system while others are less inclined to do so yet I couldn’t help but marvel at how the computer and internet have again wormed their way into another aspect of our lives.

For the better, I feel.

However, just because something is new and shiny doesn’t mean it works perfectly out of the gate, and Mr. Oremus’ article goes very deep into the pros and cons of these new systems.

Perhaps the biggest “pro” is the fact that we can have classrooms where students are learning at their own pace, each receiving work that fits in with their individual needs and speed at learning.

But the negatives have to be considered as well and Mr. Oremus gives readers a robust look at the negatives as well as positives regarding the direction of our education system in the age of the computer.

Taken 3 (2014) a (mildly) belated review

Back when it was released, someone said of Taken 3, the (obviously) third film in the surprisingly popular (at least until this point) Taken series:

Taken 3 makes Taken 2 look like Taken.

In other words, as bad as Taken 2 was, and many thought it was a big step down from the original, this one was far worse.

As for me, I agree with the sentiment that the first Taken was the best of the (so far) three made.  However, as much of a step down as the second film was, it did have its pluses.  I wouldn’t rank it among the best action films I’ve ever seen, but neither would I put it among the worst (my full review of Taken 2 can be read here).

And then there’s Taken 3

If you were to see the film in a vacuum without comparing and/or thinking about the previous Taken films, you might find it a passable time-killer and not much else.  As I wasn’t too invested (or, frankly, could remember) all that many details of the previous Taken films other than general plotlines, I was able to watch this movie in that frame of mind and found it an ok time killer and nothing more.

The plot goes like this (some SPOILERS follow, though they are from the start of the film):

Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) continues living his life.  We find he’s still dealing with his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace), whom he cares deeply about even while he stumbles about on dealing with the fact that she is no longer a child but a woman.  In the movie’s opening act we find she is pregnant and, while Mills isn’t aware of this, it doesn’t figure too much into the movie’s story.  Mills also finds time to be a shoulder to lean on for his beautiful ex-wife, Leonore St. Cloud (Famke Janssen).  In those opening minutes we also find that something preoccupies her, and it may relate to her current husband and the souring of their relationship.

When Mills receives a text to come see his ex-wife at his apartment, Mills buys some bagels (this turns out to be ridiculously important to the movie’s plot), heads home, and finds his wife on his bed…dead.  Her throat has been slashed.

Mere seconds after arriving and finding her dead, a pair of police officers bust into the apartment and Mills, right away, is their main suspect in his ex-wife’s murder.

Mills gets away and a Fugitive-like storyline plays out with Mills searching for whodunnit while the cops, including one allegedly super intelligent cop named Franck Dotzler (Forrest Whitaker) nip at his heels.

As I said before, if you were to enter this film without any predispositions or memories for the previous films -along with a willingness to ignore a storyline lifted almost whole from so many other films/TV shows/books, etc- you’ll find Taken 3 is at best a mildly diverting action/adventure film.  It moves along at a fair clip though one gets the feeling the people behind the scenes involved in it didn’t quite give it their all.

Mind you, I’m not knocking the work of Liam Neeson, Forrest Whitaker, Maggie Grace, and Famke Janssen (in what amounted to a cameo).  They deliver their characterizations well.  Unfortunately, the people who produced/directed the film, I suspect, were more interested in making a quick and cheap work, one that would hit the theaters fast and make them some profit.  The storyline, as I mentioned before, is hardly anything new or original.  The action sequences are decent but nothing extraordinary.  The special effects, on the other hand, are mostly cheap.  Two in particular, involving a container rolling along a highway and a car smashing into an aircraft, are almost laughable.

But as with most underperforming movies, the main fault always lies in the story/script.  The movie’s worst offense is turning the Bryan Mills’ character into a standard action hero.  What made him unique and interesting in the first Taken film, in my opinion, was the startling lengths he was willing to go to get his daughter.  At one point in the film he visits an old police friend in France who welcomes him into his house with open arms.  During the course of what appeared to be an amicable visit, Mills shows his teeth.  He knows his friend has knowledge of who the bad guys are that he’s looking for and when his police friend is unwilling to give him that information, Mills brutally threatens the man’s wife to get what he wants.

This, to me, was what made Mills such a unique action hero.  He’s a shark and he’ll do whatever the hell he has to, including not just burning but nuking bridges to get to his goal.

In Taken 3, though, he’s become an ordinary hero, one who even has time for some levity/one liners.  While the use of one-liners can be groan inducing, I have to give the filmmakers credit for at least one thing here: The moment I enjoyed most in the film, the one that made me laugh out loud, was when you have a police officer delivering your typical cliched “You have no hope/we will hunt you down/you should give up right now” speech and Mills replying with something along the lines of “don’t be so pessimistic”.

So, in sum, Taken 3 is, at best, an OK time killer that feels like a lazy effort by those who made it, if not those who acted in it.  I suppose the original adage is correct.  Taken 3 is easily the least of the three Taken films and, based on the critical reaction, perhaps the series will die with it.

In that case, it might be a merciful end.

And now for something completely different…Liam Neeson is absolutely hilarious here: