Showing posts from August, 2016

'Zero Dark Thirty' movie review

Zero Dark Thirty, director Kathryn Bigelow’s controversial 2012 thriller, is a riveting account of the 10-year hunt for Osama bin Laden and the May 1, 2011 raid that killed him. Because the outcome of SEAL Team Six’s mission is well-known, Zero Dark Thirty isn’t a typical spy tale where the ending is kept under wraps. Instead, it’s a tribute to the intelligence agents and military personnel who spent a decade tracking Al Qaeda’s elusive leader.    

Zero Dark Thirty is also a good example of what happens when a script begins to tell one story and, by twists of fate, ends up telling a different one. In the case of Zero Dark Thirty, screenwriter/producer Mark Boal was working on a script about bin Laden’s escape from U.S. and allied forces after the Battle of Tora Bora. Boal and Bigelow (who had collaborated on 2009’s The Hurt Locker) intended to make a movie about the CIA’s failure to find bin Laden. Boal was halfway done with this project when news came that the SEALs had raided a compo…

'A Bridge Too Far' book review

Fifty miles south, in towns and villages close to the Belgian border, the Dutch were jubilant. They watched incredulously as the shattered remnants of Hitler's armies in norther France and Belgium streamed past their windows. The collapse seemed infectious; besides military units, thousands of German civilians and Dutch Nazis were pulling out. And for these fleeing forces all roads seemed to lead to the German border.

Because the withdrawal began so slowly -- a trickle of staff cars and vehicles crossing the Belgian frontier -- few Dutch could tell exactly when it had started. Some believed the retreat began on September 2; others, the third. But by the fourth, the movement of the Germans and their followers had assumed the characteristics of a rout, a frenzied exodus that reached its peak on September 5, a day later to be known in Dutch history as Dolle Dinsdag, "Mad Tuesday."

Panic and disorganization seemed to characterize the German flight. Every kind of conveyance w…

'Close Encounters of the Third Kind' movie review

“Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” Steven Spielberg’s 1977 UFO classic, is the thematic antitheses to 1996’s “Independence Day.” While Roland Emmerich’s retelling of “War of the Worlds” is a throwback to 1950s “invaders from space” flicks, Spielberg’s vision of a “close encounter” between humanity and extraterrestrials is more mysterious and, in the end, more hopeful and awe-inspiring. Instead of exchanging bullets and “heat rays,” humans and aliens communicate by using musical notes.

Spielberg’s screenplay divides “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” roughly into three acts, basically corresponding to each of the three kinds of “encounters.”

In the first category, sightings of a UFO, we first see a very strange sight in the Mexican desert: an international team of researchers led by French UFO expert Lacombe (the late Francois Truffaut) and guided by several Mexican “federales” finds five World War II vintage Grumman TBM Avengers. The planes are abandoned but strangely intact, as th…

'Star Wars: The National Public Radio Dramatization' book review

Star Wars: The National Public Radio Dramatization
Radio Play by Brian Daley
Based on characters and situations created by George Lucas

Star Wars: If you missed the thirteen-part radio series, you haven’t heard the whole story. – Brian Daley
A long time ago (35 years ago, actually) in an efficiency apartment on the West Coast, a young novelist named Brian Daley undertook a mission worthy of a Jedi Knight – to adapt George Lucas’s original Star Wars movie into a thirteen-part radio drama for National Public Radio.
Daley was chosen to translate Lucas’s cinematic work into an audio-only dramatization by Carol Titleman, the Lucasfilm executive who oversaw the Radio Drama, because she’d liked what the author had done with Star Wars material in Han Solo at Star’s End. Daley spent three months working on the scripts for theRadio Drama, which premiered in the spring of 1981 as part of NPR Playhouse
Star Wars: The Radio Drama was a spectacular success: 750,000 listeners heard the show when it o…

'The Conquering Tide: War in the Pacific, 1942-1944' book review

On August 7, 1942, exactly eight months after the devastating Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, elements of the First Marine Division landed on Guadalcanal and two other islands occupied by enemy forces. Two months earlier, the U.S. Navy had won a decisive engagement at the Battle of Midway and stopped Japan’s eastward offensive by sinking four aircraft carriers and a heavy cruiser and thwarting Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto’s plans to destroy the American Pacific Fleet. Now, for the first time in World War II, American forces were seizing the strategic initiative and taking offensive action against a major Axis power.
Code-named Operation WATCHTOWER, the landings on Guadalcanal, Tonombago, and Gavutu had one goal: the capture of a new Japanese airfield under construction on Guadalcanal’s north coast. If the Japanese completed it, the air base could be used to cut the lifeline between the U.S. and Australia. If this occurred, Australia could face a Japanese invasion and America would lose a…

'Pacific Crucible: War in the Pacific, 1941-1942' book review

On Sunday, December 7, 1941 – “a date which will live in infamy” – a massive Japanese aerial armada swooped over Pearl Harbor and struck a devastating blow against the U.S. Pacific Fleet. 
Almost six months later, four of the six aircraft carriers – Akagi, Kaga, Soryu, and Hiryu – which had launched those planeswere ambushed and sunk by American naval aviators at the Battle of Midway. In less than 180 days, the battered but determined Pacific Fleet, commanded by a soft-spoken and strategically savvy Texan named Chester W. Nimitz, halted the seemingly unstoppable string of Japanese victories and gained the initiative in the Pacific.
Ian W. Toll’s “Pacific Crucible: War at Sea in the Pacific, 1941-1942” is a vivid and searing account of the early months of the long, bloody and vicious struggle between the United States and Japan. In its 640 pages, Toll – a former Wall Street analyst, Federal Reserve financial analyst, and a political aide and speechwriter – describes “the planning, the st…

'Stephen King's Silver Bullet' movie review

“Silver Bullet” (1985)

AKA: “Stephen King’s Silver Bullet”

Directed by Dan Attias

Written by Stephen King, based on the novella “Cycle of the Werewolf”

Starring: Gary Busey, Everett McGill, Megan Follows, Corey Haim, Terry O’Quinn

Uncle Red: I mean, uh, what the heck you gonna shoot a .44 bullet at anyway... made out of silver? Mac: How about a werewolf?
Stephen King’s prolific nature  has earned him the dubious honor of having written the most novels or stories adapted for theatrical release. Ranging from the ridiculous (“Maximum Overdrive”) to the sublime (“TheShawshank Redemption,” “Stand By Me”), movies based on King’s fiction have attracted audiences since Brian De Palma made “Carrie” in 1976. Some King fans say, tongue in cheek, that if Hollywood ever got its hands on the best-selling author’s laundry list, it, too, will be adapted into a movie

If you ask me on which end of the quality spectrum I’d place 1985’s “Silver Bullet,” which is based on the illustrated novella “Cycle of the We…