Book Review – Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child’s “The Book of the Dead”

Following the previous posting, another book that I read within the past year was The Book of the Dead, the next novel in the Special Agent Pendergast series of thrillers written by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child.

Set immediately after the events in Dance of DeathThe Book of the Dead begins with a strange package arriving at the New York Museum of Natural History.  The package contains not just ordinary dust (or anthrax as originally suspected), but rather the museum’s former diamond collection pulverized into grit.  This was the work of Diogenes Pendergast.

The press quickly learns about the diamond dust, and the museum’s director needs to find a way to distract the public from this embarrassing moment.  The answer quickly arrives in the form of a telegraph by a mysterious person named Comte Thierry de Cahors.  In exchange for a donation of ten million euros, de Cahors wants the museum to renovate and reopen the Tomb of Senef, an old Egyptian exhibit that was part of the museum’s originally collection of exhibits.  The director quickly agrees and anthropologist Dr. Nora Kelly is tasked with not only getting the old exhibit ready for the public in only six weeks, but making it a spectacular experience as well.

Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child — The Book of the Dead

Meanwhile, FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast is being held in the Heckmoor Federal Correctional and Holding Facility until being sent to trial for the murder of FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Mike Decker.  He’s placed in solitary confinement and FBI Special Agent Spencer Coffey wants to make sure that Pendergast suffers, both physically and mentally.  Coffey is also leading the charge to get Pendergast placed in a death penalty trial. Read more…

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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - February 23, 2017 at 6:24 am

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Book Review – Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child’s “Dance of Death”

A while back (so long ago that I cannot remember) I read Dance of Death, the sixth book in the Special Agent Pendergast series of novels written by authors Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child.  The events in Dance of Death take place immediately after the previous book, Brimstone.

Set primarily in New York CityDance of Death begins with a sudden and traumatic death of a college professor.  One moment he’s well and lecturing to his students, and the next he’s violently ill and then dead, right there in front of his students.

Meanwhile, NYPD officer Vincent D’Agosta is one of many people dealing with the aftermath of FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast‘s apparent death at the end of Brimstone.  Vincent and fellow NYPD captain Laura Hayward are officially a couple and now living together.

Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child — Dance of Death

Out of the blue, Vincent receives a note that instructs him to visit Pendergast’s mansion outside of the city.  When he arrives there, Constance Green, Pendergast’s female companion and apprentice, gives him a note that Pendergast wrote shortly before he disappeared.  In the note, Aloysius warns Vincent that his brother, Diogenes, is planning on committing a terrible crime on January 28 — about a week from that point in time.  There’s no clue as to what Diogenes has planned, but Aloysius knows to take his estranged brother’s arrogant warning very seriously.

In order to attempt to stop Diogenes, Vincent takes a temporarily leave of absence from the NYPD.  One of his first stops is to visit Pendergast’s great-aunt.  The elderly lady tells Vincent about the early days of Aloysious and Diogenes, and that there was a turning point when Diogenes developed a deep hatred towards his brother. Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - February 18, 2017 at 10:22 am

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Understanding the 2017 Oroville Dam Crisis

Chances are likely that unless you’ve lived in or visited northern California, you’ve never heard of the Oroville Dam.

I’m one of those people.  I’ve never been to that part of the country, and that dam never popped up in any of my geography or geosciences classes in high school or college.

My awareness of the dam changed last night when I began seeing news reports of mandatory evacuations as part of the dam was expected to collapse, jeopardizing the lives of over 100,000 people living immediately downstream.  Needless to say, this grabbed my attention and I’ve been focusing on the dam’s situation, following streaming news stations along with people who live out there posting updates on Internet forums.

Oroville Dam

Located in the mountains about an hour north of Sacramento, California, the Oroville Dam is one of the biggest dams in the country.  The dam is 770 feet tall and forms Lake Oroville.  The dam and lake are situated on the Feather River.  The Feather River is one of several sources of water that continually feed into the dam.  Water flows through the hydroelectric power station and is released back into the Feather River where it flows downstream ultimately to the Sacramento River and all points beyond.

It’s an impressive structure located in an extremely scenic part of the country.  You can read more about it on its Wikipedia page.

What brings us here today is the recent development of the mandatory evacuation of parts of the town of Oroville and other communities immediately downstream of the dam. Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - February 13, 2017 at 3:56 pm

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Blaming Others for Your Poor Life Choices

Today’s case of mind-boggling stupidity (and a blatant socialist agenda) comes from an opinion post courtesy of the Washington Post.

In her ranting, JoAnn Wise is heavily against Andrew Puzder (the CEO of CKE Restaurants) becoming the new Labor Secretary in President Trump’s administration.  After all, Joann claims to have worked for Hardee’s for over twenty years, and her pay has basically been just above minimum wage the entire time.

Wait.  What?

She’s been there for over twenty years and hasn’t advanced further in the company?  And we’re supposed to care about her obviously negative attitude towards the CEO of CKE Restaurants, the parent company of Hardee’s, Carl’s Jr., and Red Burrito?

In the Washington Post article, JoAnn says that she was initially hired as a cashier, and after a month she was promoted to a shift manager.  And that’s basically it.  Keep in mind that in the CKE Restaurants (my wife is the general manager of one of them), the shift managers (now called shift leaders) are NOT salaried positions. They are technically hourly workers who have management responsibilities when the general manager and assistant manager are not in the store.  It’s a part-time position where the workers can easily quit and change jobs at the drop of a hat.

Despite the pay remaining low (shift managers are NOT entitled to any bonuses), she chose to remain at the job, and to continue working at that low rate of pay for what I’m guessing is the brunt of her working career.  The decision to keep working there was on her, not the company. Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - February 9, 2017 at 10:52 am

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Book Review – Stephen Baxter’s “Ark”

Recently I finished reading Ark, an interesting science-fiction / space travel book written by Stephen Baxter.  The book is a direct sequel to Flood.

In Flood, readers were introduced to a frightening vision of a near-future scenario where vast underground chambers of water stored in the Earth’s mantle were released, unleashing an unending surge of water that, over the course of many years, flooded the entire planet.  As the waters continued to rise, countries were destroyed and people were forced to keep moving to higher ground and fighting to survive.

At one point in Flood, some of the characters witness a rocket launching into the sky, carrying what’s rumored to be the fate of humanity in search of a new home.  That’s what brings us here today.

Stephen Baxter — Ark

Ark begins with rising flood waters and a partially flooded planet.  There’s no end to the flooding in sight, and scientists are tasked with finding a way to ensure that at least part of Earth’s humanity will survive, should there be a worst-case scenario of the planet being completely submerged.

Ships and rafts are easy solutions, but maintaining them (and their occupants) years later could be a challenge.  It’s not a permanent answer to humanity’s survival.

In Ark, it’s decided that humanity will have to find a new home in outer space.  The only catch is that the closest planet that might be able to sustain human life is several light years away, a distance far too great for today’s conventional rockets.

Regardless, plans begin immediately for a rocket, an ark, to carry a small part of humanity off this planet and to a new home somewhere in the stars.  Children of the scientists and engineers are selected to become part of a rigorous training program to prepare them for their destiny in space.  These children are known as Candidates. Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - February 8, 2017 at 9:20 am

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Mandela Effect – False Memory or Shift in the Multiverse?

Have you ever come to realize that something you’ve always believed to have been true is actually false, like a verse in a song or the spelling of a name or product?

There’s a popular theory going around the Internet that when these realizations happen, it’s not because your memory is off, but that it’s the universe instead.  Every once in a while there are these shifts in the universe where alternate versions are split apart or combined with one another, creating these situations where people seem to have incorrect memories of past events.

The Mandela Effect is the term given to this alleged shifting and realigning of the universe, or rather, this plane of existence in the universe.  The multiverse theory argues that there are an infinite number of universes out there, all stacked next to each other.  Each time a decision is made, then a new universe is created for the opposite side of the decision.  This pattern goes on infinitely until the end of time.

What the Mandela Effect argues is that every once in a while these universes merge with each other, and people who may have been living in one universe are suddenly living in an alternate universe, a nearly identical universe where everything is almost exactly the same except for a minor detail that gives away the shift.  Nobody can feel the shift, nor does anybody know exactly when it takes place.  All people can do is take a look at their current world and see if anything is “off” or just not right according to their memory.

Nelson Mandela

The Mandela Effect is named after Nelson Mandela, a member of the African National Congress who was arrested for being a terrorist back in 1962, he was released from prison in 1990, and then he became president of South Africa in 1994.

According to some people, it was impossible for Nelson Mandela to have become president as they are positive that they remember seeing news stories about how Mandela actually died in prison.  How can somebody who had allegedly died later become the president of a country?

Enter the Mandela Effect. Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - February 4, 2017 at 9:20 am

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What would you do if an Asteroid was about to hit Earth?

Recently there have been some conspiracy theory news stories about how asteroid 2016 WF9 (or possibly a comet, astrologists are still trying to determine exactly *what* is flying through the solar system right now) may strike the Earth sometime in the next few weeks.

Asteroid 2016 WF9 on February 25, 2017.

Thankfully, an Earth impact will not happen (this time) as the asteroid’s orbit is only going to bring it to around 32 million miles from the Earth on February 25, 2017.  A distance of 32 million miles is nothing to worry about.  That’s roughly the same distance as the Earth to Mars when the two planets are at their closest (a term known as “opposition”).

But what about 2016 WF9’s return visit in 4.9 Earth years?  What about the asteroid’s orbit after that?  How about its path after that?  And after that?

It stands to reason that if 2016 WF9’s orbit remains perfectly stable and consistent, then at some point in the future it’ll have an extremely close call or possibly impact with Earth, causing catastrophic damage.  It’s just a question of when such an event occurs.

The million dollar question is, What would you do if you knew that an asteroid was going to strike the Earth in a couple of weeks? Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - January 28, 2017 at 9:50 am

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The Death of Retail Shopping

Recently, an article discussed how Amazon (and other online companies) are going to basically destroy a large percentage of jobs in retail stores.

Sadly, shopping in retail brick and mortar stores (a physical store in your town) has been on a decline for decades.  You can trace the start of its decline with the opening of shopping malls, and a steeper decline with the rise of all-in-one megastores like Walmart.  As we advanced into the Internet Age, the shopping trend shifted that way as well, and retailers quickly learned that it’s a hell of a lot cheaper to simply list items on a website and then ship them to the customers, saving tremendous money by not needing a physical store.

Internet

Today, online shopping is more popular than ever thanks to reliable sellers, cheaper prices, and fast and reliable shipping through not only the USPS, but UPS and FedEx as well.  It’s never been easier to order items and have them delivered to your address a few days later.

As companies such as Amazon and eBay continue to grow, just how much of a threat is that to the retail shopping world? Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - January 24, 2017 at 4:13 pm

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The Dawn of a New Day

 

2017 is here and we’re witnessing the transition towards a better tomorrow.

It’s inspirational.

It’s motivational.

And it’s time to finally do something to take advantage of this awareness and positive feeling spreading across the country.

For me, that means getting back into my websites and taking them to the next level.  I’m also aggressively expanding my eBay business, and I’ve started dieting and working out again.  It’s not that I’m overweight — it’s just that I’m not happy with my weight and lack of physical conditioning.  It’s time to change that, and that change begins right now.

Why not start dieting and working out at the first of the year? Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - January 23, 2017 at 6:23 pm

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Movie Review – Fantastic Voyage (1966)

Imagine if medical science advanced to the point where surgeons could operate on a person from *inside* of their body.

That’s basically the premise behind 1966’s hit science-fiction film, Fantastic Voyage.

In Fantastic Voyage, a team of surgeons is miniaturized inside of a special submersible that is sent inside of a scientist’s body.  It’s a race against time to not only battle the hostile environment of the human body, but to also reach the critical injury and repair it, all while racing a clock as well as dealing with somebody sabotaging the mission.

Fantastic Voyage (1966) - movie poster

Fantastic Voyage (1966) – movie poster

Directed by Richard Fleischer, Fantastic Voyage stars Stephen Boyd as Charles GrantSupporting him in the film are Raquel Welch as Cora Peterson and Donald Pleasence as Dr. Michaels.

Fantastic Voyage (1966) - (c) 20th Century Fox

Fantastic Voyage (1966) – (c) 20th Century Fox

Fantastic Voyage begins with scientist Dr. Jan Benes (Jean Del Val) fleeing from the Soviets and eventually reaching the United States.  However, just after he arrives in the U.S, Benes’s car is attacked by assassins, and Benes is critically injured.  He quickly develops a dangerous blood clot inside of his brain, and the condition will kill him if it’s left untreated.  The only problem is that the type of surgery required to remove the clot is incredibly dangerous. Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - August 5, 2015 at 10:33 pm

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Book Review – James Rollins’ “The Judas Strain”

Today we’re taking a look at The Judas Strain, the fourth book in James Rollins‘ thrilling SIGMA Series novels.

Released in 2007, The Judas Strain takes readers on an adventure as a team of specialized scientists and warriors tracks the origins of a deadly plague.  It’s a quest that circles around the world and dates back to the travels of one of Europe’s most celebrated explorers — Marco Polo.

James Rollins --- The Judas Strain

James Rollins — The Judas Strain

The Judas Strain begins with a brief prologue in the year 1293.  On the island of Sumatra in southeastern Asia, a terrifying disease wipes out most of Marco Polo‘s crew and companions.  It’s a disease so horrifying that its discussion was carefully removed from Marco Polo’s journal after he returned to Italy two years later.

Fast forward to today.

SIGMA Commander Gray Pierce is spending some time in Maryland with his parents when he’s suddenly paid a visit by a dangerous advisory from his past —- Seichan, a member of The Guild, a dangerous international terrorist organization.  She’s been shot, her pursuers are still in the area, and Seichan is carrying a very important artifact, an artifact that has already cost a person his life back in the Vatican.

Gray is forced to allow his parents to join him as he tries to drive Seichan to a safe area.  Their car is pursued by Seichan’s attackers, but Gray is able to lose them in a forest.  He takes them to a SIGMA safe house in the nearby area.  Things aren’t what they seem as The Guild (disguised as an ambulance crew) tries to ambush the gang.  Gray, Seichen, and SIGMA operator Joe Kowalski are forced to flee as Gray’s parents are captured and taken prisoner. Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - August 3, 2015 at 12:12 pm

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Movie Review – The Country Bears (2002)

Today we’re taking a look at 2002’s The Country Bears, a Disney live-action film based on the popular Country Bear Jamboree animatronic show in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World and Tokyo Disneyland.

When the Magic Kingdom opened in 1971, one of its original attractions was Country Bear Jamboree, an animatronic stage show featuring a large cast of musical hillbilly bears.  The show was a hit as the audiences adored the music as well as the loveable bears and their humorous antics.  Country Bear Jamboree was later added to Disneyland in Anaheim, California, as well as Tokyo Disneyland in Japan, but it was ultimately removed from the California theme park in 2001.

Released in 2002, The Country Bears was the second theatrical Disney film based on an attraction in one of the theme parks (the first theatrical film was 2000’s Mission to Mars).  The Country Bears involves a young bear named Beary Barrington, and his quest to discover his true place in the world.  He finds the old Country Bears band members and convinces them to reunite and play at a fundraiser to save Country Bear Hall, their old concert venue that has fallen behind on its bills.

The Country Bears (2002) - movie poster

The Country Bears (2002) – movie poster

Directed by Peter Hastings, The Country Bears stars Haley Joel Osment as the voice of Beary Barrington, a young bear who lives with an adopted family of humans, and Christopher Walken as Reed Thimple, a banker who’s plotting to destroy Country Bear Hall.  Other actors in this film include Diedrich Bader, Darly Mitchell, Brad Garrett, and a host of celebrity cameos.

The Country Bears (2002) - (c) Buena Vista Pictures

The Country Bears (2002) – (c) Buena Vista Pictures

The Country Bears begins with a brief overview of the The Country Bears, an all-bear country rock band that broke up in 1991.  The footage includes the bears singing “Let It Ride” (a good song, by the way) at what we presume to be one of their final concerts.

Fast forward years later. Read more…

1 comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - July 24, 2015 at 12:55 pm

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Movie Review – Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985)

How far would you go to find something that you have loved and lost?

That’s basically the premise for 1985’s classic film, Pee-wee’s Big Adventure.  In Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, somebody steals Pee-wee Herman’s prized bicycle, and Pee-wee embarks on a zany adventure to reclaim it.  His quest takes him through exotic lands in the American Southwest, and it ends with a mad chase through a movie studio in Hollywood.

Pee-Wee's Big Adventure (1985) - movie poster

Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985) – movie poster

Directed by Tim Burton in his directorial debut, Pee-wee’s Big Adventure stars Paul Reubens in the lead role of Pee-wee Herman.  Supporting him are Elizabeth Daily in the role of Dottie, Mark Holton as Francis Buxton, and Diane Salinger as Simone.

Pee-wee's Big Adventure (1985) - (c) Warner Bros.

Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985) – (c) Warner Bros.

Pee-wee’s Big Adventure begins with Pee-wee Herman (Paul Reubens) riding his prized bicycle in a bike race.  It turns out that he’s competing in the prestigious Tour de France race.  The race ends and Pee-wee finishes in first place.  Just as he’s about to be crowned as the winner, an alarm sounds and the crowd quickly scatters.

It’s revealed that Pee-wee was only dreaming.  He wakes up, crawls out of bed, and begins his day with his playful antics.  Pee-wee has elaborate contraptions cook his breakfast while he finishes preparing for his day.  After a quick meal he goes outside and unlocks his bicycle from a secret hiding place. Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - July 22, 2015 at 10:50 pm

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How Much Money Does It Cost These Days To Watch Sports on Television?

Last weekend I had the desire to watch the NASCAR Sprint Cup race on Sunday.

I knew that it was that time in the season for NBC to take over coverage of the races.

Okay.  No problem.  I’ll just check the local NBC channel and . . . . . . . there’s no race coverage.

Strange.  I’ll check it again.  Maybe it’s a race on the west coast and it has a later start time.

Nope.  There’s no mention of any NASCAR race at all on NBC on Sunday.  That’s rather peculiar since the local NBC channel has been covering races in the second half of the season for years now.

Just for fun I decided to do a search for “NASCAR” in the program guide for television.  Sure enough, it was listed.  It was being broadcast live on an NBC channel.  The only problem was that the race was being broadcast on NBCSN, NBC’s premium channel that they use for live sports.  As you can guess, my wife and I don’t receive that channel.  We just have a basic package with Dish Network.

So no NASCAR races for me while they’re being broadcast on NBCSN.  That’s not really a problem as NASCAR has been going downhill for a while now, and it’s actually difficult to sit and watch a race from start to finish.  These days I’ve mainly had the races on television as a background noise while I’ve been working on my computer.

It’s still annoying though that as long as NBCSN is broadcasting the races, then I won’t even have the option of watching them unless I upgrade to Dish Network’s “America’s Top 200” package (or higher).  I’m sorry, Dish Network, but we cannot justify spending the extra money on a vast majority of extra television channels that we will not watch.  It’s not worth it paying the higher monthly fees just for a couple of extra channels. Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - July 21, 2015 at 11:13 pm

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Movie Review – Sharknado 2: The Second One (2014)

In honor of tomorrow night’s premier of Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No! on Syfy, today we’re taking a look at the second film in the series, Sharknado 2: The Second One.

Back in 2013, the made for television film Sharknado created a media frenzy with its completely ridiculous plot of deadly tornadoes filled with killer sharks.  The film was aired for three nights in a row on the SyFy Channel, with each night having a larger number of viewers.  This was a film that was so bad and corny that you just had to watch it not just once but several times.

So what do you do when a low-budget film is a hit?

You make a sequel!  You strike quickly while the iron is hot!

Sharknado 2: The Second One premiered on July 30, 2014 on the SyFy Channel.  The sequel returned some of the original cast and transferred the action from Los Angeles to New York City.  Another superstorm filled with sharks strikes, and it’s up to a small group of people to figure out a way to stop the deadly storm and save an entire city.

Sharknado 2: The Second One (2014) - movie poster

Sharknado 2: The Second One (2014) – movie poster

Directed by Anthony C. Ferrante, Sharknado 2: The Second One returns Ian Ziering and Tara Reid in the lead roles of Finley Shepard and April Wexler.  Supporting them is Vivica A. Fox as Skye, Fin’s childhood friend, Judd Hirsch as Ben, a taxi driver, and about a dozen cameos featuring a variety of celebrities.

Sharknado 2: The Second One (2014) - (c) The Asylum

Sharknado 2: The Second One (2014) – (c) The Asylum

Sharknado 2: The Second One begins with Finley “Fin” Shepard (Ian Ziering) and his ex-wife, April Wexler (Tara Reid) flying to New York City to visit some old friends as well as promote April’s book covering the events from last year’s sharknado in Los Angeles.  A flight attendant (Kelly Osbourne) is a fan of April’s and gladly accepts an invitation to join her at an event in New York City.

When the airliner begins its approach into New York City, the plane flies right through a strong storm filled with airborne sharks.  The sharks repeatedly attack the airliner and break into the aircraft, killing the pilot (Robert Hayes) and co-pilot (Rachel True).  The flight attendant is also killed by a shark along with a passenger (Wil Wheaton).

Fin makes his way to the cockpit and takes control of the doomed airliner.  While he’s trying to bring it down for a landing, one of the aircraft’s doors is ripped open and April is nearly sucked out into the storm.  She uses an air marshal’s (Austin Priester) pistol to shoot at a flying shark, but the shark reaches her and bites off half of her arm.  Somehow Fin is able to land the damaged airliner at the airport (nowhere was it mentioned in Sharknado of Fin having *any* flying experience), saving the lives of the remaining passengers.  April is then whisked away to a hospital to be treated for her amputated arm. Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - at 3:35 pm

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Movie Review – The Producers (1968)

What if it paid to be a failure?

What if you could get away with it, too?

That’s the premise behind today’s movie review, the 1968 classic comedy film, The Producers.

Written and directed by comedic legend Mel Brooks, The Producers tells a tale of a failing Broadway producer who, with the help of his account, figures out a way to scam investors by creating a show that’s bound to fail on opening night.  The only problem is that the play that they think will fail miserable, instead turns out to be a smash hit.  Can the two producers scramble and find a way to pay back their investors, or will they be sent to prison for their crimes?

The Producers (1968) - movie poster

The Producers (1968) – movie poster

As it was mentioned, The Producers was both written and directed by Mel Brooks.  This was the first film that he directed.  Starring in The Producers is Zero Mostel in the role of failed Broadway producer Max Bialystock.  Co-starring in the film are Gene Wilder as accountant Leopold Bloom, and Dick Shawn as Lorenzo St. DuBois.

The Producers (1968) - (c) Embassy Pictures

The Producers (1968) – (c) Embassy Pictures

The Producers begins with aging and washed out Broadway producer Max Bialystock (Zero Mostel) womanizing wealthy old ladies and trying to swindle money out of them.  Although Max has found success in the past, these days he’s down on his luck, miserable, and he’s also behind on his rent.

One day Max is visited by his accountant, Leopold “Leo” Bloom (Gene Wilder), to go through his books and put his money in order.  Leo soon discovers that there is an overcharge of $2,000 from Max’s last play.  He had raised more money than he could repay by accidentally selling more than 100% of the shares.  This is a small oversight and Leo is able to disguise the $2,000 in other parts of Max’s business.  Leo makes a comment that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) isn’t interested in a show that flops. Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - July 19, 2015 at 9:30 pm

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Movie Review – A Fistful of Dollars (1964)

Today we’re taking a look at the 1964 western film, A Fistful of Dollars.

Released in Italy in 1964 and the United States in 1967, A Fistful of Dollars has been credited for launching the movie career for television actor Clint Eastwood.  The film also brought a tremendous amount of success and fame to Italian director Sergio Leone.  This movie is also responsible for starting the genre of spaghetti western, western films that were produced and directed by Italians.

A Fistful of Dollars involves a mysterious man arriving in a small town in Mexico, and discovering that the town’s two largest families were rivals with each other.  The two families continually fight for power, wealth and control of the town.  The mysterious man figures out a way to manipulate the two families and use it to his advantage.

A Fistful of Dollars (1964) - movie poster

A Fistful of Dollars (1964) – movie poster

Directed by Sergio Leone, A Fistful of Dollars stars Clint Eastwood as the Stranger.  He’s a man with no name and no information about his past.  The film’s music was created by Italian composer Ennio Morricone.

A Fistful of Dollars (1964) - (c) United Artists

A Fistful of Dollars (1964) – (c) United Artists

A Fistful of Dollars begins with a mysterious Stranger (Clint Eastwood) arriving in a small town in Mexico.  Although he doesn’t know or speak to anybody, he knows that some of the people in town do not want him there.  At one point he’s teased and harassed by four gunmen.  The Stranger then visits the town’s inn keeper, Silvanito (Jose Calvo), and learns that there are two families vying for control of the town — the Rojos and the Baxters. Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - July 18, 2015 at 10:11 pm

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Movie Review – The Towering Inferno (1974)

During the early 1970s era of “shake and bake” disaster films, one of the biggest and best was 1974’s The Towering Inferno.

Set in San Francisco, California, The Towering Inferno tells a story of the opening of the world’s tallest building, and a party that celebrates its completion.  Faulty wiring causes a fire to start halfway up the building, and it’s not long before the party guests discover that they’re trapped at the top of the glass tower.  As the flames continue to grow and climb their way up the skyscraper, the people are forced to deal with the threat as they try every way possible to escape from the deadly fire.

The Towering Inferno (1974) - movie poster

The Towering Inferno (1974) – movie poster

Directed by John Guillermin and with music by John Williams, The Towering Inferno stars Hollywood legends Steve McQueen as a battalion chief for the fire department, and Paul Newman as the architect of the skyscraper.  Supporting them are a group of familiar actors and actresses including William Holden, Faye Dunaway, Fred Astaire, Richard Chamberlain, Robert Vaughn and Robert Wagner.  Also in The Towering Inferno is O.J. Simpson in one of his first acting roles.

The Towering Inferno (1974) - (c) Warner Bros. Pictures

The Towering Inferno (1974) – (c) Warner Bros. Pictures

The Towering Inferno begins with Doug Roberts (Paul Newman) returning to San Francisco for the dedication ceremony for the Glass Tower, the world’s largest building, a building that he designed himself.  The Glass Tower is owned and was built by James Duncan (William Holden), a wealthy person who is looking forward to showing off the prestigious building to the top members of society.  He insists that Roberts be there later that evening for the dedication ceremony. Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - July 17, 2015 at 8:31 pm

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Movie Review – Terminator Genisys (2015)

Released to theaters this weekend is Terminator Genisys, the latest film in the Terminator franchise and (hopefully) the beginning of a new Terminator series of films.

Terminator Genisys returns to the origins of the Terminator story, but it’s not what you’re expecting.  This isn’t simply a reboot of the original film.  Instead, Terminator Genisys pays homage to the original film while also offering people a new story as part of an alternative timeline.

Terminator Genisys (2015) - movie poster

Terminator Genisys (2015) – movie poster

Directed by Alan Taylor, Terminator Genisys returns Hollywood legend Arnold Schwarzenegger in the role of the T-800 (Model 101) / Guardian.  Co-starring in the film are Jason Clarke as John Connor, Emilia Clarke as Sarah Connor, and Jai Courtney as Kyle Reese.  Also in the film are J.K. Simmons as Detective O’Brien and Courtney B. Vance as Miles Dyson.

Terminator Genisys begins with a voiceover of Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) explaining how life has changed drastically since Judgment Day, the moment when the machines declared war against humanity and launched a surprise nuclear attack, wiping out most of humanity.  The survivors were forced to band together and fight for their lives.  The leader of the Resistance is a soldier named John Connor (Jason Clarke).

In the year 2029, John Connor leads the Resistance in a final assault in the Los Angeles offensive.  The attack, coordinated with an attack in the Colorado offensive, is aimed at striking at Skynet‘s secret new weapon, a weapon that could change the outcome of the war.  Hidden underneath a remote storage facility is Skynet’s ultimate weapon — a time machine.

The final attacks are launched against Skynet.  The Colorado offensive is successful at stopping Skynet’s main defense grid, but Connor’s Los Angeles offensive is unable to stop Skynet before it sends a lone T-800 cyborg back in time to 1984 to kill John Connor’s mother.  If the cyborg is successful in its mission then Sarah Connor will die and John Connor, the leader of the Resistance, will never be born.

In order to stop the cyborg and save the future, then somebody from the Resistance will have to travel back in time to save Sarah Connor.  Several soldiers volunteer for the dangerous mission, and John Connor selects Kyle Reese.  The Resistance gets the time machine operating and they send Reese back in time.  Just before he travels through time, Reese notices one of the soldiers (a Terminator in disguise) grabbing and attacking John Connor.  Reese then travels through time and has flashbacks to an alternative version of his younger self. Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - July 1, 2015 at 10:38 pm

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Movie Review – Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)

Back in 1968, the film Planet of the Apes introduced people to a concept of a world where apes rule society and human beings are feral creatures.

Planet of the Apes followed along as astronaut George Taylor (Charlton Heston) was forced to deal with being on a strange and hostile planet.  He was ultimately successful in proving to the apes that human beings are smarter and more resourceful than the apes gave them credit.  Planet of the Apes had a shock ending where Taylor discovered that he was really on planet Earth the whole time.  At some point in the past humanity destroyed itself in warfare, and apes evolved to become the dominant species on the planet.

We know that there’s more to the story of what really happened on planet Earth.  We know that there must be more human artifacts out there.  And we know that there’s more to be discovered.

Beneath the Planet of the Apes was released two years later in 1970.

In Beneath the Planet of the Apes, a second spacecraft (one that was sent to search for Taylor’s spacecraft) travels through a time warp and crash lands on the same planet that’s now ruled by apes.  Astronaut Brent meets Nova, he is shocked to witness the ape’s society, and he ultimately discovers a hidden underground city inhabited with mutant human beings, descendants from the war that destroyed humanity.  It’s a race against time as an army of apes advances and aims to crush the underground city once and for all.

Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970) - movie poster

Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970) – movie poster

Directed by Ted Post, Beneath the Planet of the Apes stars James Franciscus as Brent, an astronaut who accidentally travels through time while he’s sent on a mission to rescue George Taylor.  Charlton Heston reprises his role of George Taylor, and so does Linda Harrison as Nova, Kim Hunter as Zira, and Maurice Evans as Dr. Zaius.  This time around David Watson plays the role of Cornelius.

Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970) - (c) 20th Century Fox

Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970) – (c) 20th Century Fox

Beneath the Planet of the Apes begins at the ending of Planet of the ApesGeorge Taylor (Charlton Heston) and Nova (Linda Harrison) find the remains of the Statue of Liberty, and Taylor realizes that he’s been on Earth the whole time, just several thousand years into the future.  Humanity is virtually extinct and apes are in control of society.  Depressed, he and Nova ride on horseback further into the Forbidden Zone, hoping to find other signs of life.

A short while later, Taylor and Nova discover a wall of flames that appears and just as quickly disappears.  This is followed by a few quick bolts of lightning.  Taylor suspects that there’s more to the story of these phenomena, so he grabs a rifle and takes a closer look.  Just as it looks like Taylor discovers the secret behind the apparitions, he suddenly disappears into a rocky wall.  Nova is terrified by the sight, and she flees on Taylor’s horse. Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - June 30, 2015 at 11:27 pm

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