March 2007 Archives

Movie Review: Das Boot

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So we finally got our Das Boot fix in.  We watched the 3+ hour "Director's Cut" version, as opposed to the original 7+ hour miniseries or the original 2+ hour US theatrical release.  We didn't, however, do it in a real marathon, as we took a couple of breaks.  We watched it in German with English subtitles, but reading the IMDB trivia makes me think that was a mistake.  All the dialog was later dubbed in anyway, due to overwhelming background noise, and all the original actors did their own English dubbing, so I'm not sure anything was gained reading subtitles.  Usually, the English dubbing is pretty bad, so I prefer to watch it with subtitles, but this might be one time the dubbed would have worked.

What a fantastic movie, though.  You truly feel like you are there, as part of the crew.  The way the camera zooms down the narrow corridors of the tiny, yet fullsized, replica really gets you involved. And the sound is amazing too, although for some reason my surround speakers didn't seem to get as involved as I remember. It may be a hardware glitch on my home theater setup.

The actors are all really good, and the movie does a great job of mixing the thrilling with the mundane.  The way the uptight second in command carefully cuts his food at every dinner is a scream. It truly makes the crew human, even if they did work for the "other side", and were sinking "our" boats. A true classic flick in every sense of the phrase. I need to see if I can get the book.



Vox Hunt: An Interesting Life

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Book: Show us a great biography or memoir.

The Man Who Would Be King is a fascinating account of Josiah Harland, a Pennsylvania Quaker who went out to see the world, and wound up being the first American to explore Afghanistan.  During the mid-1800s, he wandered about that area of the world, meeting kings, being declared a king, dreaming about being a king, etc.  It's a pretty good read, although due to the paucity of material, author Macintyre sometimes had to rely on Harlan'ds own recently discovered memoirs a little too much, and Harland turns some purple prose!  But it's an incredible story about an amazing person.

Here's what the book jacket says:

Soldier, spy, doctor, naturalist, traveler, and writer, Joseph Harlan, with all the imperial hubris of the time, wanted to be a king. In an amazing twenty-year journey around Central Asia, he was variously employed as surgeon to the Maharaja of Punjab, revolutionary agent for the exiled Afghan King, and then commander-in-chief of the Afghan armies.





Der Krieger und die Kaiserin (literally, "The Warrior and the Empress", but the director Tykwer wanted the English title to be "The Princess and the Warrior") is a fun movie by the director of one of my all time favorite movies, Run, Lola, Run.  Despite what they have to say in the "Making of..." short included on the DVD, it isn't very deep and not nearly as energetic as "Lola", but still a fine evening in front of the tv.

The Princess (played by a demur and plain Franka Potente) is Simone 'Sissi' Schmidt, a devoted nurse at an asylum, whose whole life revolves around the patients.  The Warrior (Benno Fürmann) is Bodo Riemer, fighting demons from within himself after being involved in a tragic accidental fire.  The two paths cross in a memorable meeting beneath a hulking fuel truck, and their lives continue to intersect in odd and wonderful ways, as Sissi becomes obsessed with the man who saved her life.

I just love the way Tykwer uses the medium to tell a story. Not satisfied with a simple moving platform to tell a story, he loves to play games with images and time to put you in the movie.  Bodo parts ways with his inner, turbulent, self in a memorably literal way at the end of the film, a very Tykwer sequence.  A little too low key for me, but still a very nice movie.



Last.fm test

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This is a listing of what I'm currently listening to, as reported to last.fm. I may post this once  every couple of days, as it scrolls off.

jdarnold's Profile Page

The Thin Man

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No fair! I'm too tired and busy for this and yet it still happens. I put together a new chair for the home office (still having problems getting all its various adjustments right!) and so I sat down a minute in it to try it out.  Turn on the TV and scan through the HD channels to find nothing interesting on, so I skip down to the regular movie channels and, on TCM, I find The Thin Man just starting and there's no way, no matter how tired I am, that I can flip past that!

What a hoot that movie is.  Loy, Powell and the whole crew looked like they were having a blast filming it. I wonder how much was actually scripted and how much was ad libbed? The TMC host metioned how it was nominated for four Oscars (Picture, Actor, Director, and Writing), but was rightfully puzzled to why Myrna Loy didn't get a nod, as she is wonderful. And he also pointed out that Loy never once in her career received a nomination!

Next up is a night in a submarine, as I hope I can finally schedule the Das Boot viewing.


I have been too busy at work to post to any of my various blogs. Other places you can read me include InAbsinthia, where I post news, notes and ideas on absinthe, and The Game Chair, where I sometimes contribute computer game reviews.  I also have a FreeBSD dedicated blog called Daemon Dancing in the Dark, as my server and my personal workstation all run FreeBSD.  But all of them have been quiet, as I've been heads down at work and just too darned tired to face a keyboard by evening time.

I have been reading.  I am nearly done with The man who would be king : the first American in Afghanistan by  Ben Macintyre and am finding it a fascinating read.  I have also been skimming The Novel 100, a ranking of the "best" 100 novels of all time.  Of course, I haven't read most of them, but I'm also surprised at just how many I've never even heard of.  Just what I need - another whole group of books to add to my Must Read list! Maybe I'll try to work up the list and post it here, much like the last 100 book meme that went around.

Haven't had the energy for much movie watching. We did watch a couple more episodes from Lost, the first season.  I think they were episodes 8 and 9.  It is fun, albeit in an almost "guily pleaasure" kind of way.  Nothing too deep, but fun nonetheless. I've certainly been hearing a lot about it in the media.  From connections with Heroes to a class on it at Northeastern. Given my complete lack of knowledge about Lost, I'm trying to avoid any spoilers. It's kind of funny though. The friend I'm watching it with has been watching it right along. I complained after we watched one episode that the cable found buried in the beach wasn't explained at all afterwards.  He said that in last night's episode, it came up again for the first time since!

Another friend might come down tonight so we can watched the 3 1/2 hour version of Das Boot, in remeberance of the book's author, who died recently.  I've always said that it has among the very best sound imaginable. When they go quiet on the sub and the surface ships start pinging, you can feel the tension as the sounds come from the various speakers.

I haven't yet reread The Bourne Identity, although I should.  In general, most mass market best-selling "thrillers" leave me cold - bad writing, stilted characters, and tired plots (authors Dan Brown, John Grisham and Nelson DeMille come to mind).  But Robert Ludlum was a favorite for years, and I always thought The Bourne Identity was one of the best thrillers I'd ever read.  And as the movie got some good reviews, and I like the lead actors, I was looking forward to it.  I wasn't disappointed.  I originally watched this on Sept. 25, 2003.


The Bourne Identity is the 2002 blockbuster based on the best-selling Robert Ludlum novel, first published in 1980. Starring "Goodwill Hunting"'s Matt Damon and "Run Lola Run"'s Franka Potente, it takes the basic premise of the novel but otherwise doesn't follow it at all.

When I first read The Bourne Identity oh so many years ago, I was totally enthralled.  For a while there, I would have called it my all time favorite book.  My tastes have matured over the years, but it still ranks as one of my favorite pop-lit books.  It's a great roller coaster ride, that leaves you guessing and breathless from start to end. It may have just been because it was my first Ludlum, as his books suffer from what I call the "Heinlein Syndrome" - where the first few books you read by the author are really good, but then a certain sameness sets in. Now I'm convinced it doesn't matter which books of either author you read first, you'll love the first few, and the rest are dull.  But I think The Bourne Identity still would stand up pretty well.  Perhaps I'll give it another try.

However, I had heard that the movie didn't really follow the book all that closely, like the earlier miniseries that starred Richard Chamberlain and Jaclyn Smith(!) did, so I wasn't hoping for a miracle.

The movie starts with an unconscious Matt Damon being dragged out of the water in a driving rainstorm by the men on a small fishing boat out of Marseilles.  The captain pulls 2 bullets out of his back, as well as a small metal tube that shows in red lights the address and number of a Zurich bank account.  When Damon comes to, he cannot remember anything - who he is, where he came from, or what he was doing in the water.  After working on the boat until it returns to harbor, he gets dropped off and makes his way to Zurich (not sure how, with no identification at all, but hey....)

He spends the night on a park bench in Zurich, where he gets rousted by a couple of cops.  To both his and the cop's surprise, he exhibits some amazing moves and soon both cops are out cold, flat on the ground.  He runs off, still completely in the dark as to where those moves came from.

The safe deposit box in the bank proves to be equally mysterious, with passports and money from all kinds of countries. The name on most of the passports is Jason Bourne.  We also get shown the inside of the CIA, where it is gradually revealed that Bourne used to work for the CIA in some shadowy fashion.  The order gets sent to take Bourne out.

He manages to escape the Zurich police by ducking into the US embassy, but then there is a good chase scene through the embassy as the noose tightens.  He escapes the embassy, and offers $20,000 to Marie, played with typical exuberance by Potente, to take him to Paris.  She reluctantly accepts and they head off.

Once in Paris, they go to his apartment where there is another attempted hit.  Marie freaks out and they head off in the car.  There they have a really great chase scene, with Bourne driving Marie's mini car through the streets, alleys and sidewalks of Paris, as the French police try to nab him.

More close calls and assassination attempts follow, while Bourne and Marie try to piece together his identity.  He forces Marie to head off without him, as he's become too hot.  He eventually corners the CIA chief in the Paris office and his past comes back to Bourne.  The CIA man's chief is tired of the mistakes that were made, and cleans everything up, leaving Bourne to slide off into the sunset.

Directed with some vigor by Doug Limon, whose previous credits include Go and Swingers, The Bourne Identity manages to keep up a high level of energy.  I think Ms. Potente just might be my favorite actress today, and she does a great job as Marie, but I didn't really feel any "heat" between the principles.  There were some obvious logic holes, especially the ending. It isn't clear why they just let him walk, besides that it made dramatic sense.

The other problem I had with the movie was that the fight scenes, of which there are plenty, were filmed in too tight.  All you could see were flashing hands and feet, with some dizzying camera work, and boom!, it was over.  I think it showed the inexperience of Limon, who is busily at work on the sequel.

One big thing I think the book had that the movie failed to capture was the sense of mystery.  In typical fashion for today's movies, everything was explained up front.  We barely are introduced to Damon's character when the scene flashes over to the CIA building, where we meet his handler and nearly the whole plot is exposed.  So we don't share in Bourne's confusion, which is a real mistake.

The DVD is flawless.  I had a small glitch while viewing it, but a vigorous cleaning fixed that up.  Good sound, nice picture, plenty of extras.  I watched the "Making Of" featurette, and it was mildly interesting. I did watch the "Alternate Ending", but once again it just shows you how often they make the "right" choice.  There's a commentary by Damon and Liman, but I haven't listened to it.

So, in the end, this makes a great rental, and a borderline purchase.  It has some good actors, an excellent car chase, some intense moments - as long as you don't think about it too much.  Give it a try, I don't think you'll be disappointed.



Pedro Almodóvar most recent movie, Volver, was very highly regarded, and it's star, Penélope Cruz, was nominated for an Oscar.  I'm looking forward to seeing it, as I really enjoyed this movie, one that made Almodóvar famous in the US.  I originally watched this June 14, 2002.


Pedro Almodóvar's very sexy, kind of screwball comedy ¡Átame! (which somehow translates to "Tie Me Up/Tie Me Down"), kept me entertained this evening.  It has a young Antonio Banderas as an obsessed young man fresh from the asylum, declared sane by the judge.  He has no morals, as little vignettes show (stealing a knife, pickpocketting, etc), but he's become infatuated by an actress, played by Victoria Abril, with whom he had a one night stand the previous year.

Banderas plays the lovable scamp with endearing charm, especially for someone who is prone to violent fits and is a thief and kidnapper to boot! But the two main leads are quite fetching, and there are a few other memorable characters, like the director of Abril's movie, a horny old man confined to an electric wheel chair.  There are also lots of real interesting cinematography, with overhead shots and eye-catching views through various objects. And love wins out in the end!

There are some pretty graphic details, for those of you who don't approve of cinema sex, but Almodóvar is known for that! And it does have a schizophrenic feel, as Banderas swings from puppy-dog charming to menacingly violent. But it all hangs together very well and in the end was well worth the time. The DVD looks pretty good, although it is a barren DVD, and merely 2 channel Dolby, with the only extra being a trailer.


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