Waiting for Sunrise ~ William Boyd

Review on Booker page


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1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die ~ Tom Moon ~ The Allman Brothers

The Allman Brothers, At Fillmore East, An Essential Live Rock Document

I admit it. I have blind spots in my music catalogue and the Allman Brothers is one of them. Why this is, is complicated. I was newly back from Vietnam when this album hit. I was out of the south, really, for the first time in my life and was in no particular mood at that time for “Southern” Rock. And my taste for white boy blues was extremely limited. The sight of the Stars and Bars was like fingernails on a chalkboard. But the reverence for this band (especially in the South) certainly is enduring, bordering on devotion, as if they were protectors of a way of life. Still, I was always partial to the energy of live Fillmore albums.

This album (edited from four Fillnore live shows in March 1971) kicks off with the classic “Statesboro Blues”, and its so familiar and such a straight ahead Blues that it’s impossible not to get into that groove. “Stormy Monday” showcases Greg Allman on the Hammond B3. Me? I was listening to Jimmy Smith around about this time

Part of me really believes that their enduring legacy lies on the highway at the feet of the twisted metal of Duane Allman’s motorcycle. But it truly must have been something though to attend a live Allman show back in those days. There are some bands that really not only have to be heard performing live versions of their songs, but you have to be there as well. I can only imagine swaying on the floor to “In Memory of Elizaberth Reed”, a cosmic instruments. That one and “Whipping Post” really show the power of their lineup. I’ve come around.

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Tale of Genji: Week 20, Chapter 20 (The Bluebell)

Latest Chapter

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Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol ~ USA, 2011 ~ DVD

This is the kind of movie you find stuck to the bottom of you seat like an old piece of bubblegum. It’s been chewed, it’s been spit out, and its been forgotten. You can be intermittently entertained if your standards for entertainment have really been leftt to slide.

I prefer my action and thrills straight up – not cut with “witty” dialogue. Guess what? The minimum test for witty dialogue is it has to be witty.

And I still don’t like Tom Cruise. Has he gotten shorter by the way?

And Jeremy Renner: Before your last redeeming scene with TC, I hope you were properly embarrassed by what you had to go through in this film.

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The Kreutzer Sonata ~ USA, 2008 ~ Netflix

Based on a novel by Leo Tolstoy, the film never transcends its origins, relying heavily as it does on novel-like voice over narration. The story takes as its themes jealousy and obsession, and is built around the sonata by Beethoven known as the Kreutzer. A Julliard trained pianist meets and marries a rich philanthropist, and eventually gives up her career after one, then two children. She finds herself trapped in the life she didn’t really want to lead. At her husbands urging, she takes up playing again in preparation for a benefit concert in their home. She selects as her partner a brilliant young violinist, who suggests the Kreutzer. They practice and spend a lot of time together in rehearsals.

The husband, Edgar (Danny Huston) becomes increasingly jealous in an obsessive way which does not contribute to the heath of their relationship. His fears become a self-fulfilling prophecy – or do they? The questions of her faithfulness is never clearly resolved and is left  to the imagination of the audience.

The wife and pianist Abigail (Elisabeth Röhm) is quite good, but Danny Huston has to do all the heavy lifting and appears not quite up to the task, though admittedly, an actor who has to carry a film through extensive narration has an almost impossible task.

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Nobody Knows ~ Japan, 2004 ~ Netflix

The story shown here is based on true events that were a sensational scandal in Japan. Young, single mother Keiko moves into a small flat in Tokyo with her 12-year old son Akira. When they unpack though, there are two more children in suitcases, 12-year old Shigeru and 4-year old Yuki. Wait there’s one more: 10-year old Kyoko, too tall and lanky to fit in a suitcase is waiting around the corner and they sneak her in. These are all children from different fathers.

Keiko lays down the ground rules (it sounds like they’ve been here before): Keep it down and stay inside and out of sight. No school. It sounds like the mother loves her kids, she just has no sense of responsibility. The responsible one, and the one who keeps the family together is Akira, to the best of his ability by cooking, shopping and paying the bills. Soon though, the mother takes off for “awhile”, and Akira continues running the household. Then the money dwindles. The mother never returns, the lights are turned off, the water stops flowing. Things are looking bleak. Still, Akira does what he can.

The descent into abject poverty is slow but inevitable. It’s a painful reminder that some people are just not equipped by temperament and quite frankly intellect, to have children in the first place, although as I said they really do love them on some level. The actress playing the mother (You) really does a good job of portraying this disconnect with a childlike quality, that comes across as love when she’s with her kids. The problem, of course is that she hardly ever is.

All of the kids are perfectly cast, playing with a childlike pathos that bursts forth in an exuberant day out when Akira seems to say “Fuck it. Let’s go have some fun.” And they do. You may not have “fun” watching this. It’s an emotional and heart-rending sequence of events after all (at least in its final stages). But at 141 minutes, you’ll be engaged the entire way with these kids right up to the finale.

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Haywire ~ USA, 2011 ~ DVD

Steven Soderbergh’s action-thriller is fun to watch, but they’re a few problems which knocks it down a notch. The thing that really bugged me is the technique that left it all murky until the end. Motivations and who’re the good guys and who’re the bad guys. There’s such a thing as taking the concept of leaving the audience in the dark too far. This kind of thing adds confusion in the guise of suspense. This was really egregious here.

With the all-star cast (Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor), the acting was surprisingly bland. I’ll cut Gina Carano (Mallory Kane) some major slack. Given the fact that she is not an actor, she acquitted herself quite adequately. And let’s face it, she wasn’t there for her acting ability,  but for her abilities as a Muay Thai MMA specialist. There are plenty of fight sequences and they are all good. There’s even the obligatory showdown on the beach, surf cascading in, which has become an iconic addition to films of this type.

The murky plot is of the world of assassinations, contract spies  and covert ops. If there’s a message to the film it’s that you double cross Gina Carano at your peril. Besides the surf showdown, there’s a nice rooftop sequence and a chase through the streets. This ia a substitute, and a wise one, for the car chase sequence. There’s another sequence where Mallory commandeers a car and its driver, and tells him the story of what’s going on. This was a great idea, but the execution was lacking. Another missed opportunity.

If you  like these types of action flicks, you should go for this, especially with the added twist of female MMA action at its best.

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