Showing posts from May, 2014

How to write good movie reviews

Although I’ve written literally over a thousand reviews about many different products, it’s a fair bet to say that my favorite subject to write about is movies, both theatrical and made-for-TV ones.

It all started when I was struggling to find out which beat or section of my high school student newspaper I wanted to be assigned in.  Because I’d been “drafted” into my first journalism class by my ninth-grade teacher before I even set foot inside South Miami High, I literally felt like a fish out of water in Mr. Gary Bridge’s Newspaper Reporting and Editing class.

Fortunately, we students were issued a huge hardcover textbook that covered all the essential points of a journalism course.  Topics ranged from what a pica and a font are to the thorny issues of what constitutes libel, and somewhere in between there were chapters devoted to each section (News, Features, Sports, Op/Ed) in an average student newspaper.

I browsed through these chapters rather half-heartedly, not really feeling …

The 10 best WWII movies list

World War II. 

It was the largest and bloodiest conflict in human history, with battles raging on the air, land, and sea from the steppes of the Soviet Union to the steaming jungles of Guadalcanal. Every major world power was a combatant, and after six years of fighting, over 50 million human beings were dead, millions more were wounded or left homeless, and the seeds of the Cold War were planted as the balance of power now shifted to the United States and the Communist-ruled Russia and its unwilling allies in Eastern Europe. 

Naturally, even during the war, World War II became a popular subject for filmmakers in all the warring countries. not only as entertainment but also as part of the war effort; both the Axis and Allied camps infused their wartime films with propaganda, sometimes grossly heavy-handed (such as the Nazis' The Eternal Jew, which stirred up anti-Semitism in Germany and the countries it occupied), sometimes subtly (Casablanca, which on the surface seems to be just a…

Star Trek: The Next Generation episode review: The Bonding

The Bonding
Stardate 43198.7 (Earth Calendar Date 2366)
Episode Production Number: 153
Episode Number (Aired): 52
Original Airdate: October 23, 1989
Written by: Ronald D. Moore
Directed by: Winrich Kolbe

The Episode: On Stardate 43198.7, the Galaxy-class USS Enterprise (registry number NCC-1701-D) is in standard orbit over an uncharted and seemingly uninhabited Class-M planet. An away team led by Security chief Lt. (j.g) Worf (Michael Dorn) is exploring the surface.

After the away team makes its initial survey, Capt. Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) learns that the planet was once inhabited by a culture known as the Koinonians. The Koinonian culture had apparently wiped itself out in a war, leaving only archaeological relics behind.

Before the away team beams back up to the Enterprise, Lt. Marla Aster (Susan Powell), an archaeologist, is killed when one of the leftover bombs from the Koinonian war explodes.

"Away team is aboard, captain. One dead on arrival."
Beverly Crusher, announ…

An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa 1942-1943 (Book One of The Liberation Trilogy) - Book review

For as long as I can remember, I've been interested in almost every aspect of the Second World War, partly because movies such as The Sands of Iwo Jima made the war seem like an exciting adventure with "good guys" and "bad guys,' but more importantly because as I grew older I realized that even though wars aren't something to be longed for, the conflict between the Allies and the Berlin-Rome-Tokyo Axis was one of the few justified clashes of arms of modern history, even if some of its causes were the result of bad decisions made by the victors of World War I.

As I've grown older, I've noticed that non-fiction books about World War II have evolved from the almost propaganda-like the Anglo-American Allies fought a brilliant campaign of liberation from 1942 to 1945 with an unprecedented spirit of cooperation and strategic savvy to the more realistic view of while the western alliance was one of the most successful coalitions in history, the wartime pictu…

The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy 1943-1944 (Book Two of the Liberation Trilogy by Rick Atkinson) - Book review

Pros:Strong narrative, a fine tribute to a theater overshadowed by the Normandy invasionCons:A bit mawkish at timesThe Bottom Line:The second entry of The Liberation Trilogy has its literary flaws at times, but it really gives readers a good look at the war in Sicily and Italy. When most people who aren't into military history much or have learned just the basics about World War II in high school history classes think about the war, more likely than not they'll recall the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the D-Day landings on northern France, or the Battle of the Bulge.

If they are serious war movie buffs, they might even mention the Battle of the Atlantic (via such films as The Enemy Below, Das Boot, or U-571), the Battle of Britain, or the strategic bombing offensive against Germany.

If the air war over Gernany, the Battle of the Atlantic and the campaign to liberate Northwest Europe have overshadowed the long, bloody, and often frustrating campaign in Italy, it's probably …

The Guns at Last Light - Book Three of The Liberation Trilogy by Rick Atkinson (book review)

In 2002, Rick Atkinson, a former staff writer and senior editor at the Washington Post, published the best-selling An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943, Volume One of the Liberation Trilogy. Critically acclaimed as “the best World War II battle narrative since Cornelius Ryan’s classics, The Longest Day and A Bridge Too Far,”* An Army at Dawn won the Pulitzer Prize in history the following year. In An Army at Dawn, the author covers the trials and tribulations of the inexperienced U.S. Army and its allies in Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia as they sought to eject German and Italian forces from North Africa.

Five years later, Atkinson continued the saga of the Anglo-American campaigns against Nazi Germany inThe Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944.  Again, Atkinson’s account of the long and almost forgotten Mediterranean ventures against what Winston Churchill called “the soft underbelly of the Axis” earned critical and commercial success. The New York Times…

The Departed (2006) - movie review

The Departed, Martin Scorsese's 2006 Academy Award-winning remake of Hong Kong's Infernal Affairs, marks the New York City native's return to the gritty crime drama genre in which he made his mark back in the 1970s.

Instead of turning his cinematic eye on the mean streets of the Big Apple, Scorsese (Taxi Driver, Goodfellas) explores the dark underside of Boston, Massachussets in a tale about corruption, the rivalry between the Irish and Italian mobs, and internal strife within Boston's law enforcement officers.

Written by  William Monahan (Body of Lies, Kingdom of Heaven) and based on the original Infernal Affairs script by Alan Mak and Felix Chong, The Departed features Jack Nicholson as an aging but wily mobster named Frank Costello. Costello (loosely based on the notorious Whitey Bulger) is a menacing yet seductive gangster who early in the film recruits 12-year-old Colin Sullivan (Conor Donovan) into his circle of criminals. (Costello is shaking down a grocery store …

Trekking in HD: Star Trek: The Next Generation - Season Three (review

Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season Three

But it was in the third season that (Star Trek: The Next Generation) began to come into its own, at least in part due to the arrival of Michael Piller as head of the writing staff. Piller had both written and produced for the TV series “Simon & Simon”…. Says Piller, “I can’t claim full credit (for the success); we had a lot of good writers here. I will claim credit for my contribution, which is that I just have an idea for what I think makes a good dramatic story….”  - J.M. Dillard, Star Trek – Where No One Has Gone Before: A History in Pictures

The third season of Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek: The Next Generation (ST-TNG) was yet another period of transition for the series, albeit one with good portents rather than bad ones. Maurice Hurley, one of the show’s co-executive producers, left the staff, as did several other writers, including Michael Wagner.

 Meanwhile, Roddenberry, the series’ creator, took less of an active role in running…

Man of Steel (2013) movie review

Man of Steel, director Zack Snyder’s ambitious 2013 reboot of Warner Bros. Superman film franchise, is an earnest but sometimes dour and plodding retelling of the DC Comics superhero’s origin story.

Starring British actor Henry Cavill (Stardust) in the dual role of Kal-El/Clark Kent and co-starring Amy Adams, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Russell Crowe, and Michael Shannon, Man of Steel reinvents Superman’s backstory from the ground up. In essence, it tells Superman’s Moses/Jesus-inspired saga of how Kryptonian scientist Jor-El (Crowe) sends his newborn son to Earth to save him from his home planet’s destruction.

Because the screenplay by David S. Goyer (based on a story by producer Christopher Nolan) pretends that the Christopher Reeve/Brandon Routh Superman films don’t exist, Man of Steel begins on Krypton. As in the comics and the Richard Donner Superman: The Movie, the planet is doomed. However, in Goyer’s reboot, Krypton’s red sun has nothing to do with the planet’s impending destruct…