10 reasons to go see Interstellar again

Just when you thought Black Holes were getting dull....

Coming to a theatre near you, more previews!

Good things can come in small packages...

Snow Black and White (and those wacky midgets)

Silent films rock -- even new ones...

Who Really Shot JFK?

You won't find out in this lame excuse for investigative journalism. The cover-up lives!.

They Should be Letting us do the new Star Wars movies

We've got lot's of ideas, why isn't anyone calling???.

Guardians of The Galaxy Rocks

The most awesome mix tape - secret formula for success?

10 Reasons why I will go see Interstellar Again

It's been two weeks since the movie came out, but it is still scratching around in the back of my mind. There seemed to be a torrent of inexplicable criticism that lashed the Net the weekend Christopher Nolan's latest epic, Interstellar, was released.

This criticism was in fact rather bizarre considering that most other major movies being made today are actually based on comic books. Christopher Nolan took time to develop an intelligent story and had his brother, Jonathon, on the project working the script. The Nolans went so far as to reach out to several physicists including Kip Thorne. Interestingly, this Fall seems to be the season for Black Holes given the recent release of the Stephen Hawking biopic, "The Theory of Everything."

Suffice it to say, a lot of thought went into this movie, and not just thoughts about how to create the next funky visual effect or thoughts on viral marketing. This movie is in a sense the true heir to the 2001 Legacy (which didn't quite play out as expected with 2010 - although fun fact - John Lithgow was in that movie and this one).

The criticism leveled at the movie called it preposterous and attacked the science. It also attacked the philosophical stand within the science presented, which is even more disappointing. Physicists have some humanity too - although to combine the two topics seems to be taboo for many critics who perhaps understand neither too well.

One thing is certain, great movies provoke strong feelings - often times those feelings are negative. There are parts of the science presented in Interstellar that I don't fully agree with, yet that in no way diminishes the experience of the movie or its greatness - this is a film that will stand the test of time.

I for one, will demonstrate my support for Interstellar by going to see it in the theater (in IMAX) again. Here are ten reasons why:

  1. Because, as stated, this film is a classic and seeing it while it is still in theaters helps to demonstrate my support for more intelligent films. I'm sick of all the comic book crap lowering the general IQ - this movie proves that intelligent cinema can be entertaining and successful.
  2. Because the night I went, the movie sold out and I had to sit in the front two rows. Seeing Matthew McConaughey's ten foot nose for two hours took a little something away from the experience and a return trip with the proper aspect ratio would be nice.
  3. Because it is great seeing Matt Damon as a bad guy (can't get enough of it).
  4. Because I need to learn that gravity watch manipulation trick.
  5. Because this is the first of dozens of wormhole movies and TV shows that actually considers what a wormhole might be like (as opposed to just driving through it).
  6. Because the smart-talking robot is the most interesting AI on screen since HAL - and the retro aspects are a nice touch.
  7. Because Interstellar shows that even with the planet dying, NASA is poised to save us (as long as we don't cut all their budget).
  8. Because being stuck on a deserted planet with Anna Hathaway might not be so bad.
  9. Because time isn't always on our side, but sometimes it works out pretty well.
  10. Because I'm hoping Nolan will make more movies like Memento, Inception and Interstellar and never sell out to the comic book mafia again.

copyright 2014, Stephen Lahanas

Edging Towards Tomorrow - Groundhog vs. Aliens

For the second year in a row, Tom Cruise has headlined an interesting, one might even say offbeat Science fiction thriller - last year it was Oblivion and this Summer we were treated to "Edge of Tomorrow." Each movie came prepackaged with a core gimmick - in Oblivion, it was Tom Cruise clones, in Edge it is the Tom Cruise multi-verse.  One might say that Cruise has latched onto a moderately successful formula with these two films - one that seems a bit more interesting than the Jack Reacher or Mission Impossible type vehicles.

The Formula:
Place the affable and ultimately sympathetic Cruise in a solitary, soul-searching predicament - (and alone in this sense can be an actual lack of people around or a lack of people who are sharing the same experience as him - in both cases / movies that translates to basically one or two other characters). In both scenarios of the formula, Cruise is ultimately responsible for saving planet Earth. In both scenarios he hooks up with the girl that seems out of reach and in both films there's a fair bit of action - although much more so in Edge.

Recognize the slogan ? - remember the Mad Men episode where they discuss the invention
of the ad slogan; rinse, add, repeat?
Beside having this new Cruise Sci-Fi formula at its center, what else does this movie have going for it; here's the bullet point rundown:
  • The Groundhog Day like transformation of Cruise from scoundrel to hero (we're explore this more in a moment).
  • The very cool special effects (even better in IMAX of course).
  • An excellent performance by Emily Blunt as tough babe extraordinaire (she is the hard to reach love interest from the formula).
  • Lot's of funky, hard to kill aliens - sort of like Tasmanian Devils with an attitude.
  • Mind-bending time looping plot twists - just complicated enough to keep it intriguing without becoming too confusing.
  • A classic over the top drill sergeant performance by Bill Paxton - who seems to be channeling his old Aliens character in reverse.
  • Great exoskeleton body armor combat suites. 
  • Lot's of our favorite Sci-Fi cleashes - like the central alien hive mind command and control (won't these aliens ever learn how to decentralize!).

The official Trailer for Edge of Tomorrow

The film reminds me a lot of Groundhog Day and I think the connection here is deliberate. The comparison may seem like a stretch as Tom Cruise is no Bill Murray, but there is actually a fair bit of humor in this film and Cruise pulls it off rather nicely. And the repeating joke in Edge is Cruise getting killed - over and over again. This may appeal both to Cruise's fans and those who can't stand him equally well (thus potentially increasing the audience reach for this film). Although this wasn't enough to beat out some rather lame movies like the Godzilla reboot or 22 Jump Street. Cruise's transformation in Edge of Tomorrow is both entertaining and believable (well, for a sci-fi  premise anyway) and includes lot's of training and new skills (like Bill Murray's piano lessons in Groundhog Day but more violent).

Does he save the world and get the girl - well, what kind of formula would leave him alone as the world's biggest loser?

Copyright 2014 - Raving Reviews


Top 10 Reasons We Still Love Wrath of Khan

It's hard to believe that it's been 32 years since Star Trek II, The Wrath of Khan hit movie theaters across the world. Wrath of Khan is a remarkable picture on many levels, including:

  • the fact that this was indeed the success that actually rebooted the Start Trek franchise
  • this is the first movie that used modern CGI animation sequences in a significant way
  • it showcased perhaps one of the great movie villains of all time...

Original movie poster from 1982
So, any of you who know much about Star Trek perhaps remember that Khan (played by Ricardo Montalban, former leading man in both Hollywood and Mexican cinema) was a character in the original series from the 1960's. Wrath of Khan brings him back seeking vengeance against Kirk and the Federation. Those who may have caught the latest Star Trek reboot episode - Into Darkness - will no doubt realize that Benedict Cumberbatch's character is if not a direct re-visioning of Khan, certainly an homage to the character. Although, honestly as good as Benedict is, he just doesn't match the intensity Montalban brought to the character.

Khan and Kirk go at it back in the day

But enough of the preliminaries; here are the top ten reasons we still love Wrath of Khan:

  1. Wrath of Khan is the ultimate 80's big hair movie. Who knew that genetically superior humans in exile if left to their own devices would resemble Whitesnake?
  2. Wrath of Khan gives us the best one word one liner in movie history, oft repeated never equaled - Khannnnnnnnnnnnnnn !!!!!!!!!
  3. Kirstie Allen as a Vulcan was quite the treat.
  4. It highlights what is without a doubt, William Shatner's best toupee ever - that thing could act all by itself. 
  5. Khan provides us the best movie cleavage of 1982, narrowly beating out Arnold Schwarzenegger's Conan for the top honor.
  6. Best medical procedure ever filmed (application of brain slugs).
  7. We get to see the Star Wars planet destroying device fully realized - the special effect was produced by ILM so one can only assume they started off where Star Wars left off. 
  8. Best Bromance death scene ever - "the needs of the many..." This would make the toughest veteran or linebacker get teary-eyed. 
  9. The most fashion conscious villains ever - the things they can do with sand slug leather!  
  10. Best ensemble performance by the original series cast. Now they got together in several follow-ons including the whale hijacking one - but Khan was definitely the best of the lot.  

The official Wrath of Khan Trailer

Our only regret is that there wasn't a way to keep Montalban around for another couple duels with Kirk or maybe even they could have brought him back to kick off the Next Generation TV Series (instead his next major role was as a comic villain in Leslie Nielson's Naked Gun).

Brain slugs, anyone?

It just doesn't get any better than this - another classic that has stood the test of time.

Copyright 2014 - Raving Reviews


Guardians of the Galaxy - The Ultimate Playlist ?

It wasn't so long ago that some of us had tape decks in our cars, and the only way to get great tunes while cruising in those days was the "Mix-Tape." It was more or less like the first bipedal hominid in an ultimate evolution to the Cro Magnon near perfection that is the Cloud-enabled, mobile device disseminating Playlist.

The mix tape was an art form - it took time and it didn't always turn out perfect. Sometimes you even had to write out the songs you were thinking about on a piece of paper to keep track and then getting the music - that wasn't always so easy.

The good guys may be funny looking - wait - they're funny too...

The Mix Tape takes center stage in this Summer's biggest hit - Marvel's The Guardians of the Galaxy. It helped inspire us to do our own 70's playlist here this week (of course we had the full power of the Internet working on our side so it's a bit longer than the tape highlighted in the movie).

For us, this movie came out of nowhere, yet easily surpassed ever other Marvel inspired movie we've seen thusfar except one (the original Hulk with Eric Bana). That's not to say that the other Marvel movies haven't been good, a number of them certainly have, but they just weren't in the same league as Guardians and we think we know why - the music. Oh, and it's funny too.

Easily the most under-appreciated film of its time, Ang Lee's 2003 Hulk was perhaps
too edgy to go really mainstream (especially with Nick Nolte's wonderful over the top performance as papa Hulk)
When we first saw the trailer for this - it looked well, pretty stupid (maybe it was the raccoon that threw us). It was one of those rare cases where the movie outshines the trailer. We heard about this one word of mouth. What a contrast this film is to all the gloom and doom floating around in all these other blockbusters - Dark this and Darkness that. Now, Guardians has some darkly disturbing villains - but it makes fun of them rather than reveling in their pathological pursuit of ultimate power or evil. The film builds around a core formula, which turns out to be pretty darn popular; it goes something like this:

  • Build clever and sympathetic characters around the good guys
  • Make them all underdogs (or Raccoons as the case may be)
  • Have them use humor consistently throughout (sharp wit directed at the dark villains and each other)
  • Make the villains over the top and fun (sort of) 
  • Pack in lot's of action - but not the non stop migraine-producing type of action seen in any Transformers film or even in Marvels the Avengers.
  • Add music (mostly from the 1970's) and mix well.

This little tape proved to be box office gold
The manner in which the mix tape became a central theme throughout the movie was clever and endearing at the same time. It gave the movie the excuse to break into song and to let loose with a consistent set of genre music. Even more remarkable is how the film even sets us up the sequel through a sneak peak at volume two of the Awesome mix tape. Genius...

This is the actual mix tape (playlist) from the movie - it is mostly 70's music and quite good

It's not that we don't think that the plot itself isn't worth mentioning - well maybe it it isn't. It's been a couple of weeks and it is getting hard to remember. What has stayed with us are the jokes and silly touches like the dancing sapling (tree dude voiced by Vin Diesel). During the movie itself, we were entertained - it all fit and flowed together and made for a very good time. and in a crowded theater it's even better as a it becomes a group experience.

This may not become a cult film but it certainly could. Chris Pratt does an incredible job of breaking out of his TV persona and almost instantly transforming himself into a megastar. Zoe Saladana is good in her role but it's almost like she is playing the same character in every film nowadays. Dave Batista as the muscle beach alien steals the show every chance he gets - his character is very fun to watch. We also liked former Pushing Daisies star Lee Pace as the super dark villain goof - although he's a lot better in is silicon valley TV series.

Vin diesel is Groot - a character well-rooted in humor

If you haven't already seen Guardians of the Galaxy, you owe it to yourselves to see it in the theater and get the full experience - and if you have already seen it - go see it again

Copyright 2014 - Raving Reviews


That California Sound

I had the great fortune to spend some time in Northern California this Summer. I've got all my favorite places there; Santa Cruz, Monterey Bay, Muir Woods and Sausalito among others. There is literally nothing like driving up the Pacific Coast highway on a sunny day (on foggy days it's not quite the same). Sometimes words don't do a place justice and then of course we have to turn to music to help capture the experience.

What is the sound of California? Is it the sound of the ocean, the sound of a perpetually sunny clime and clear skies, the sound of a culture that has helped define Western culture for the rest of the world? Or is it the way we feel when we're in California. I tend to think it may be the latter.

A view from this Summer's trip to Northern California, near Monterey - BTW: this isn't far from where they filmed the cliff scenes for both versions of the PBS series "Cosmos."

Naturally, I had to produce a playlist to capture that feeling - it's called "California Dreaming" and its on Spotify. I played it while I was there and now I can play it again and think about where I was while listening to it on my adventure. Hope you enjoy it.

* California Stars is on the soundtrack of a great, yet underrated 
Michael Douglas flick, "King of California"

Copyright 2014, Raving Reviews


The Great American Preview

I have a confession to make.

I love previews. In fact, I like them better than the actual movies themselves. I could easily sit through 90 minutes of trailers - and have - and remain totally absorbed, in awe really. Why is that?

Trailers are the lost American art form, the sad forgotten cousin the more famous TV commercial (which at least now gets worshiped during Super Bowl halftime). It comes from a long line of short features, newsreels and movie cartoons that have largely gone the way of the dinosaur. Now, some theaters have pre-movie programming - but it is just TV in disguise, isn't it?

The Trailer is the one 'short' that can trace its lineage all the back to the Silent era - continuously.  In fact, if we go back far enough, all "movies" were shorts, most of them no longer than a trailer, so the entire realm of film making in some degree owes its existence to the ability of early directors to create visually stunning scenes that had to convey a lot of meaning very, very quickly.

examples of early trailers are hard to find...

When Edison wasn't busy stealing other people's inventions, he was helping to create the foundations of american cinema - or the guys who were working for him were anyway

So, what makes a great movie Trailer anyway? And why is the act of watching them possibly the most satisfying part of any visit to the theater?

Sometimes great Trailers predict great movies, sometimes...

Top 5 Elements of a Great Movie Trailer:

  • The mini-soundtrack - only the best of the best gets used - for Jaws, we get the da-da, da-da - well you know. In the actual movie you have to wait 30 minutes to hear it.
  • The plot goes out the window; which in some cases is a good thing - but what we're referring to here is an artistic "meta-license." It's the little story that might be related to the movie's story - but it really doesn't have to be.
  • The "rapi-cut" - and no that's not the x-ray machine at the airports. This refers to the super quick cutting between scenes which is necessary to jam all the good stuff into 90 seconds or so. 
  • The most stunning images. Often in a movie there is great cinematography that's not very important to the story - sort of like window dressing. Well, this is the place to highlight the window dressing... 
  • Showing off the talent. So, say you hired Brad Pitt but could only afford 5 minutes of airtime for him? In the trailer you can give him 45 seconds, thus increasing your investment tenfold. False advertising, nonsense - the trailer is its own thing you know - and in that Brad really is the full-time star. Think of it like a music video, but less annoying.

So, how can watching trailers possibly compete with the "Feature." You know most people don't even probably recognize the difference between 'Shorts' and 'Features' anymore. But even though the Shorts have been losing ground, the war isn't over quite yet.

A lot of times the Trailers are way better than the movie

5 Reasons why Trailers Rule and Features Flop

  1. In the battle between expectation and experience, expectation invariably loses. I'd say the ratio is about 10 to 1 against any Feature movie living up to its hype and your expectations walking in (unless of course you have really low standards). Now, the Trailers don't play fair in this game - they do one hell of a good job peaking your interest because that's what they're designed to do. But don't be surprised if every good second in the Feature can fit in a two minute trailer - it happens, a lot.
  2. Trailers just keep coming, the more the better. Forget Speed Dating - Previews are the ultimate sensory overload experience - a virtual smorgasbord of rapid fire entertainment. And by the way, Trailers have gotten longer in recent decades - they're beginning to turn into Shorts...
  3. Trailers are the mini-movies that the Features should have been. The guys who did the trailers ought to be making most of the movies - unfortunately they only get brought in at the end of process.
  4. Trailers never disappoint; even if the Feature is a dud, you can be sure that one or more of the previews will be excellent. 
  5. Trailers are designed to push our buttons, elicit responses, to interest us into our next impulse buy - the ticket for that Feature that will probably let us down - but we've got to go... 

You don't have to feed your addiction for trailers at the theater anymore - there's youtube and cable on demand services which provide the trailers an enticement to buy. But of course, who needs to buy when one can watch the trailers?

One can only wonder why this movie didn't propel Carrot Top to Super stardom, 
I mean the Trailer is great isn't it?

Copyright 2014, Raving Reviews


That 70's Playlist

Well, we're back. Yes, it's true we were in hibernation mode for awhile, but when it comes to movies and popular culture, there's no statute of limitations on good reviews.

To kick things off, how about a new playlist? The 1970's were an under-rated decade as far as music went, yet so much happened; Classic Rock matured, Alternative was born, the 60's transitioned from rebellion to acceptance, pop became the force that it is today and there was lots of Funk to go around... Plus there were the 70's originals - Jim Croce, Harry Nilson, Three Dog Night - voices and harmony that can never be matched; they were the 70's embodied.

Three Dog Night - not sure what their title signified...

Those of you who weren't alive during those years still have the opportunity to experience the music anyway; although it isn't quite the same is it? Some of us still remember where we were the first time we heard 'Joy to World' or 'Saturday in the Park'. The world has changed a lot since then, but lucky for us music holds time hostage and binds memory across the decades.

Just a clarification, this list is not an attempt to track any of the songs played during episodes of That 70's Show; while there may of course be some overlap - our list was plucked from every genre and each little nook and cranny in the deep recesses of our middle-aged brains...  Hope you enjoy it.

Copyright 2014, Raving Reviews


Everything Wrong with Cold Case JFK in 1 Post

Today we're going to mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy by doing something we generally don't do here at Raving Reviews - getting serious. We decided to do this after watching the PBS Nova documentary; Cold Case JFK (you can watch it at that link). Now, generally we have nothing but the highest respect for both Nova as a series and PBS in general, but this show was downright awful and we're going to document just how strange it was by pointing out all the things that are wrong with it (and in using the term we're borrowing from the now very famous Youtube.com series Cinema Sins). We figured that if the logic behind movies can be attacked, why not use the same approach to question a documentary? Plus much of the rest of the evidence we're going to look at comes from youtube.com - something we didn't have not so long ago.

It's not our goal here to speculate as to who may have actually committed the assassination (whether it was a lone gunman or conspiracy is the key question). It's our goal to assess whether this documentary accurately applied its investigative approach towards helping to solve the mystery.

Please note that the picture from show highlights a problem with trajectory...
The documentary opens with  promise to use the latest forensic science to get to the bottom of the assassination. They mention that the majority of their focus will be on ballistics. The main questions that the show asks falls into the following categories:
  1. What type of wound does the Carcano rifle produce in soft tissue?
  2. What type of head wound would a Carcano rifle produce?
  3. Is the magic bullet theory accurate?
  4. Was there audio evidence of another shooter?
  5. What are the realistic trajectories of (possible) different shooters?

Before we start, keep these things in mind:
  • There were two official investigations, The Warren Commission (mid-60's) and the United States House of Representatives Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) in 1978 - the HSCA was initiated as the result of the release of the Zapruder film.
  • There are two well-known films of the assassination (the Zapruder film and the Muchmore film). There were as many as 20 other home movies made that day in Dealey Plaza.
  • There is at least one audio recording (which was examined in the congressional investigation).
There are many, many details associated with the assassination that the documentary does not attempt address; some background information is presented but not in any kind of organized fashion. We will not address most of those issues either.

Enhanced view of Zapruder film

Here are the problems we found with the film:
  • The film interviews the Secret Service agent who jumped on the back of the President's limo to cover Kennedy and the First Lady. He describes having to cover the President's head in order so that the first Lady will let him go at the hospital - yet the film fails to ask the unbelievably critical question - what did the head wound look like?
  • The film does not mention anything about what the Dallas ER doctors saw while treating the President and examining him after his death. 
This is how the surgeon at Parkland hospital described Kennedy's head wound. It shows an exit in the back of the head. 
  • Here's the quote from Dr. McCelland (who treated Kennedy at Parkland) - "I was about 18 inches above that wound. I got a better look at it than anybody in that room. It was way back in the back (of the head), which may lead to the thought that he was shot not only from the back, but also from the front.”  This is never mentioned in the show.
  • The film does not attempt to find rifle experts with expertise shooting the Carcano 6.5 rifle in question. There is no mention made of the rifle's poor reputation. You would think that given this show's focus on ballistics there'd be more discussion about the rifle.
Oswald  with the Carcano - no mention of how odd this photo was or the differences in the shadows
  • The show does not present any history of the Carcano 6.5 rifle Model 38 Fucile Modello 91/38 - other than stating it was a military rifle with full-metal jacket. The history of the Carcano is very, very complicated. This discussion also highlights that the Carcano was nowhere near as accurate as the M14 sniper rifle and very difficult to fire quickly. It was originally meant to be used a Calvary rifle - it was modified to be used as a short carbine with limited accuracy at a distance (testimony given during the Warren Commission was misleading in this regard). Also, worth noting all of the remarkable characteristics that the ballistics experts in the Nova program seemingly discover on their own are widely known and available in other websites describing the history of the gun. The particular model Oswald used was produced in 1940 and production was discontinued in less than 1 year (in favor of another model). Read this testimony from people at the firing range where Oswald practiced - note the discussion of the odd "ball of fire" coming out of the barrel. Now, this is interesting because of all the eyewitness testimony in both official investigations, the only reports of a flash (like the one that might be produced from a gun muzzle upon firing) was seen coming from the Grassy Knoll. If 3 shots had been fired from the book depository building, why did no one see flashes from there - and from the same gun that other witnesses at the firing range said produced flashes?
View from 3rd floor of Dal-Tex building (straight line trajectory - no trees) - multiple reports place a gunman there
  • The show mentions how incredibly unusual the rifle was (there was no evidence of it ever being used in a crime before in the U.S.), but doesn't ask the question why someone would want it (except by stating it was cheap - so we're given to believe it was chosen because it cost $19.99 in a mail order magazine). It is worth noting, that even though the rifle itself was cheap, the ammunition for it was not (and was very hard to come by at that time). The lack of attention to or examination of the rifle itself by the film / investigators is beyond strange (they only focus on the ammunition, but even that isn't done thoroughly). How can you have a ballistics investigation and not talk about the gun??? [and BTW - they never mention if the 'pristine' bullet found on the stretcher in Parkland Memorial Hospital matched tests done on firing bullets from the actual (retrieved Carcano pictured below) gun - this is the most basic component of any forensic ballistics investigation]. 
The Carcano 6.5 we're told fired the shots in Dealey Plaza - note that it's a Carbine (short rifle)
  • Almost no discussion is made regarding the time it takes to recycle the rifle (see video 2) between shots. Nor is there mention of what it might be like to try to use the scope under those (rapid fire) conditions. 
  • The show's investigators, supposedly a bunch of brilliant forensic experts, fail to ask basic questions time and time again about the actual shooting - instead of their mocked up tests. For example, never once do they address why Oswald if he was the lone shooter, didn't take any shots at the President's limo while it was on Houston Street before turning onto Elm. This shot would have provided Oswald with a direct line of sight and no trees to obstruct it. 
Note that the right corner 6th floor window of the book depository provided nearly a straight angle shot onto Houston Street
  • There's no mention that Oswald bought the gun in March of 1963. Oswald moved to Dallas in late 1962. How could he be planning for an assassination attempt in March given the Dallas JFK trip wasn't announced until September?
  • Very strangely, the show doesn't not mention that the Warren Commission claims that Oswald using the same rifle from Nov 22, tried to assassinate Gen Edwin Walker in Dallas on April 10 (just weeks after the gun arrived). According to the Warren Commission two suspects were involved and importantly, they missed the General who was sitting stationary at his desk. Ballistics tests done later seem to confirm it was the same gun. Please remember that all the shots at Dealey Plaza were taken at moving targets. 
  • The General Walker story is even more bizarre when you consider that the JFK administration had charged him with treason, arrested him and put him in a mental facility prior to the Dallas visit - and were afraid his followers in Dallas were a security threat. So why did Oswald try to kill someone JFK considered an enemy of the state?
Excellent photo showing the relative position of the limo just before the shots were fired, Book Depository (left behind trees) and the Dal-Tex building (directly behind the limo with a straight and flat line of sight)
  • Lot's of inane and irrelevant details are paraded in the show - such as the Secret Service breaking off the handles of the President's casket, etc.
  • While discussing the autopsy at Bethesda Naval hospital does not address the controversy about the back of the President's head (which was mentioned by the doctors at Parkland hospital - e.g. that there was a large exit would in the back of the head). They don't mention anything about the possibility that the scalp may have been placed back over the wound (there's been a lot of discussion about that ever since the autopsy photos were made public). 
  • The show does mention that that the autopsy doctors noted that the 1st shot that went from the back through the throat came from behind not above. This is critical.
  • The show neither acknowledges or shows the other home movies taken of the assassination.
  • They mention that Kennedy was given a Tracheotomy at Parkland Memorial hospital - no one asks why - they had just gotten through mentioning how much of his brains had been shot out - why do a Tracheotomy? 
  • They do mention the 30 frame interval (1.6 seconds) in between the two main shots (Kennedy's shot that comes out of his throat and the fatal head shot). This is the reason given for the need for the magic bullet. Rather than questioning why anyone would go out of their way coming up with the Magic Bullet theory (e.g. trajectories and timing) they focus on trying to prove it instead.
  • They show Kennedy's clothes and you can clearly see the bullet exited the left side of the tie (and shirt collar) - no mention is made of that. This is also important.
Clearly visible is an exit wound passing out the left side of the President's tie
  • There is a very short section of the Zapruder film which seems to be missing - no one mentions it. It is when the limo rounds the corner onto Elm street - we see a jump cut to the limo about 50 feet down the road. It appears as though maybe 30 or so frames missing. Now, interestingly, in at least 3 other home movies we've seen so far taken of the motorcade passing through Dealey Plaza the section where the car turns onto Elm Street is either missing or damaged (the same spot where the missing Zapruder frames were). It begs the question, what happened during that interval? [this is important due to some reports that a first shot actually occurred at that point - one that likely missed).
  • They mention that Kennedy is hit in frame 224 or 225 of the Zapruder film. Governor Connolly is only noticeably hit around frame 236. That's about a .3 second lag between the two hits. To give this context the film does mention that upon exiting the gun, a Carcano bullet travels at nearly 2100 feet per second. The distance between Kennedy and Connelly is perhaps 3 feet. Even at a 1000 feet per second, there shouldn't be any noticeable lag between the two hits (in what is called the magic bullet). Nowhere in the following Magic Bullet theory discussion do they spend any time exploring the inexplicable lag time between frame 224 and 235 or 236.
Note the relative position in the car of Kennedy and Connelly (left side of Kennedy's tie points to Connelly's left not right)
    • They do mention how forensic specialists were not used to do the autopsy but don't make any statements regarding the experience or skills necessary for attorney Arlen Spector to have made his assertions about the Magic Bullet (his expertise or lack thereof is never called into question).
    Arlen Spector's notes on the Magic Bullet - this is not shown in the film
    • They acknowledge it takes 2.3 seconds to fire the Carcano 6.5, but never talk about whether someone could fire and aim it that fast.

    Video 2 - Here's what firing a Carcano looks like
    • Despite being able to clearly see the trees that potentially obscure a shot from the 6th floor of the book depository, it is never mentioned in the show. 
    • Despite the documentary showing off gee-wiz laser mapping technology and trajectories, they never show or otherwise describe the trajectory from the window where Lee Harvey Oswald was supposed to taken the shots (just from the grassy knoll)
    A map of Dealey Plaza and the parade route - note the relative positions of the buildings behind the route (the X's mark where the 2 shots identified b y the Warren Commission took place).
    • While the show does examine, in a very cursory manner, questions about the Grassy Knoll, it doesn't in any way address any other possible shooting locations (such as the park between main street or the Dal-Tex building).
    • The show does not include any eyewitness testimony (except for the testimony of Governor Connelly that he was hit by a 2nd bullet - the throat shot to Kennedy being the first - which does contradict the Warren commission findings which say the throat shot was second).

    Listen for yourself to the actual witnesses...

    • No discussion was made at all about the parade route. 
    • They acknowledge that the Magic Bullet theory calls for 1 bullet causing seven wounds and still not showing much if any damage (the pristine bullet). They show the Carcano 6.5 shooting a bullet through 3 feet of pine wood. Then they're test show the bullet becomes lopsided as it exits a flesh like material. So, even if the bullet were to come out of Kennedy undamaged, hitting Connelly sideways at a lower velocity and passing through multiple bones should have produced some more deformation to the bullet. The film does not address the fact that the bullet passed through multiple bones in Connelly's wounds. So, their tests of passing through gelatin is not accurate for what happens when the bullet hits Connelly. They try to explain this by saying the bullet is actually quished a little (flattened sideways).  
    • While they are showing the animated trajectories in their Magic Bullet discussion, they never show the full trajectory (where it emanates from - the window in the book depository).
    View from 6th floor book depository window - note the view is partially obscured
    • When showing the trajectory of Kennedy's neck wounds, the show inserts a diagram which seems to imply Kennedy was leaning forward - this helps to potentially line up with a sharp downward trajectory for a shot fired from the 6th floor of the book depository (because in Kennedy the entry wound in the back and exit wound in the front seem more or less level - or at least with a limited downward angle). 
    Problem here - Kennedy was not facing down showing that the bullet could not have come from a steep angle above
    • When looking at the diagrams from Governor Connelly's wounds it is clear that there is a sharp angle of descent. The bullet enters just under the right shoulder blade and exits just under his right breast. According to some diagrams it appears to be about a 30 degree angle (or 27.03). Not only that, but if we accept that Connelly was still sitting facing forward (which you can see as the limo emerges from the sign when Kennedy is first hit around frame 225 of the Zapruder film) then his right wrist was likely folded over his lap and thus the bullet was also coming from the side as opposed to being directly behind him. So, high angle and from the right side. For Kennedy, the same "Magic" bullet was on a relatively flat trajectory from behind and slightly to the right (hence the bullet leaving the left side of his shirt and tie).
    A more accurate representation of the 30 degree trajectory Connelly's wounds
      • So from the previous discussion - how could a bullet clearly coming flat from behind and heading left (say 15 degrees or more) enter Connelly 3 feet ahead of him under Connelly's right shoulder if Connelly was facing forward? And if the Kennedy bullet didn't actually hit Connelly - where did it go? The show never considers the possibility - even though it acknowledged Connelly himself saying he was hit by a later shot. Where did it go - well, if it was headed downward at 15 degrees and to the left of Kennedy then? There was no discussion about forensic examination of the Presidential limo - which for example might have shown a bullet lodged in the back of middle row or front row seats towards the center.
      Governor Connelly's wounds.
      • Nova goes out of the way to highlight that the ballistics expert endorses Arlen Spector's Single (Magic) Bullet theory after merely testing the Carcano 6.5 through gelatin and noting it's wobble upon exit (3 times). He makes no mention of any of the relative trajectories of the 7 wounds when making that endorsement.
      The strange trajectory of the Magic Bullet. Proponents for Spector's theory try to make up for this by showing Connelly had already turned backwards even though the Zapruder shows he didn't until almost 1.5 seconds later.
      • No mention was made of the fact that the limo was not properly searched for forensic evidence and was completely rebuilt beginning within 3 weeks of assassination in Cincinnati, Ohio. Thus it was not available for review by the Warren Commission (or anyone else) in its "assassination" condition.
      • The strangest moment in the film is truly bizarre as they tackle the visual evidence that Kennedy's head was pushed backwards from a shot emanating most probably at the Grassy Knoll. They make the contention that the head shot triggered some sort of nerve cluster reaction that jolted the head and body backwards even though the entry wound supposedly came from behind. Yeah right... No evidence for this whatsoever is presented - just the preposterous theory. 

      One of many eyewitness accounts regarding the direction of Head wound entry
      • The show went out of their way to dismiss dozens of eyewitness accounts on the number of shots fired by stating that urban acoustics can make pinpointing locations of shots impossible.

      Interesting examination of audio taken the day of the shooting plus eye-witnesses
      • They dismiss the audio tape evidence without even playing the tape and then bring in an audio expert to do an audio test. They then say that the Carcano 6.5 would present two sounds for every shot - yet the audio tape evidence doesn't seem to indicated double shots. 
      • The show identifies a drawing of Kennedy's brain as key evidence without disclosing who provided it (they just mention a commission). The real brain is lost of course and no one wanted to listen to the doctor who treated Kennedy or even ask the Secret Service agent what the back of his head looked like. Instead, we're being given a potentially self-serving and undocumented piece of evidence that may have been used to help cover up a conspiracy, not prove one. Yet, Nova doesn't disclose these issues. This is the primary evidence supporting a head entry wound from behind.
      JFK Exhibit F-302 - The drawing the show says proves rear entry of the fatal head shot
      • If you look at the x-ray they say is Kennedy's skull, they posit that a bullet entered the lower portion of the back of the head (causing fractures to radiate upwards) and then exited the front top. But, this seems entirely contrary with the notion of a trajectory pointed downward at the President from the book depository (say at a 25 degree angle). You can't have it both ways - if the shot came from behind it would have had to hit somewhere near the top of the head, right? And worse than than - it would have been heading downwards so it should have exited Kennedy's face, not the right portion of his forehead. (and again if you look at the diagrams they used to illustrate the trajectory, it shows Kennedy's head leaning forward - which we know it wasn't).
      • So, again the show fails to connect trajectory and wound behavior or position of the subjects. Also, even in the film they show of the skull tests - the skull shot from behind is pushed dramatically -forward. The extended expert testimony Nova provides even emphasizes that the bullet is 'arching upwards' into the top of the head without any mention as to why or how the bullet could have entered from that low and from that angle. 
      Nova ends the show basically saying that science has proven the Magic Bullet theory is correct (without having in any way done so) and that the testimony of one guy (who worked at the same lab that was trying to prove the Magic Bullet theory was correct) who says the backward movement of Kennedy's head was in fact some type of instantaneous seizure.

      So, what should we think about this? Is it merely incompetence on the part of the people making the film or a deliberate attempt to obscure and otherwise confuse some very obvious facts:

      1. Neither the show nor the commissions have yet been able to account for the lag time and change in trajectories for the 7 Magic Bullet wounds.
      2. No one can explain (or even tried to in this show) how someone could take a very poor bolt action rifle and make those shots so quickly.
      3. No one can properly explain the fatal head shot. 
      4. No one has asked the obvious question about the Dal-Tex building - which when you look at photos is in a nearly straight line behind where the limo was driving. There were reports of shots fired from the 3rd floor of that building - that trajectory would be consistent with the Kennedy throat wound.  

      No one has yet to properly explain what happened in Dealey Plaza that day 50 years ago this week. We may not know in our lifetimes what really occurred. However, Nova has done us a real disservice with this documentary by presenting such a sloppy investigation. It only serves to remind us of how poorly managed this cold case actually was.

      Copyright 2013, Raving Reviews

      #JFK Assassination

      Apocalypse Then

      What can we say about Apocalypse Now - well, quite a lot actually - which is why we bothered to write this post. We were watching Apocalypse Now Redux last night on AMC and it reminded us of what an incredible movie it really is (well, two movies as the Redux version adds a lot of content and makes some plot changes from the original).

      Movie poster for Apocalypse Now with Brando head

      Where do we start? Apocalypse Now was one of the most talked about movies of the late seventies. Francis Ford Coppola began the project in earnest right as Godfather II was being released (1974) and spent the next 5 years producing / directing it. That means the production for this movie was longer than the actual Korean war but still 3 or 4 years shy of how long the Vietnam War lasted. According to Wikipedia (and they never lie) apparently both Stephen Spielberg and George Lucas encouraged Coppola to make a Vietnam War movie. Perhaps this was a brilliant plot by them to keep Coppola busy and out of the theaters while they released mega-hits like Jaws and Star Wars. Those guys are pretty clever. Anyway, Coppola rose to the occasion and hired rightwingnut / filmmaker and friend John Millius (recall Red Dawn when the Cubans invade Colorado) to write the script. It was Millius's idea to pattern the movie after Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness.

      BTW - if you weren't forced to read Heart of Darkness in High School or College consider reading it for fun - and then ask yourself why you ever thought it would be fun. 

      We digress. The original title was supposed to be "The Psychedelic Soldier" and Millius was originally developing the film with Lucas for four years (hence the need to dump the project off to Coppola so he could make Star Wars). The next five years represented a hellish struggle to get the thing made and Coppola's wife even made a documentary about that called "Hearts of Darkness." Martin Sheen, who along with Marlon Brando starred in the film, suffered a major heart attack during filming and almost died (he was only 32 or so when it happened). Making the movie cost a fortune (much of which Coppola ponied up himself) and took its toll on everyone involved. Was it worth it?

      The original trailer...

      Our answer is an immediate and unqualified, hell yes. While Lucas and Spielberg were making movie magic with Jaws and Star Wars, Coppola created something entirely different; a visually magnificent indictment of the Vietnam War - and a cinema classic every bit as powerful as his previous work in the Godfather series. There's a lot more going in the movie, though, and much of that was due to Millius' more or less brilliant idea to base the script on Heart of Darkness. For those not acquainted with that book, it chronicles a man's journey up the Congo river (we think it's the Congo) in what was the Belgian Congo in the 1890's or so. The Congo was more or less Belgium's only colony and they exploited the heck out of it. By some estimates, as many as 5 million men, women and children were either worked to death or killed during Belgium's cruel tenure as colonial masters. There's a certain insanity to any colonial system and this one was crazier than most - Conrad (who was really Polish but shortened his name and wrote novels in English) captured this insanity well within his fictional tale. That insanity then became the major theme translated to the semi-fictional world of Coppola's Vietnam - and the topic of Colonialism drives much of the storyline within Redux.

      Best ranting Hippie journalist award

      The movie itself is iconic and unforgettable; the best way to chronicle this is through a list of great cinema moments captured in the film/s:

      • The helicopter attack sequence playing Wagner
      • The Playboy show in the middle of the jungle
      • The lighted bridge
      • Surfing on the beach while under mortar fire (and the Napalm one liner)
      • The sacrificed  cow / assassination of Kurtz interplay
      • Martin Sheen emerging from the water on his mission of death
      • Pretty much anytime Dennis Hopper spoke
      • Brando's (Kurtz's) diamond bullet in the forehead monologue
      • The wacked army of Kurtz greeting the boat in their canoes
      • The arrow attack (which was a scene right from the novel)
      • The boat search and shootout
      • The juxtaposition of ceiling fan and helicopter rotors
      • Appropriately place use of Doors music
      • The old head in the lap trick (which reminds us a little of the Godfather horse-head stunt)
      • The tiger in the jungle scene

      There's more of course, but those are the moments and images that stand out for us.

      Best operatic helicopter attack ever

      This is not to say that there weren't problems with the movie. At the time, much fun was had a Brando's expanse, oops, expense due to his large waistline. He was filmed in shadow and wearing shirts that helped to mask his enormous weight gain. There is a sequence in Redux where Sheen has to have dinner with a bunch of petulant Frenchmen who seem to whine relentlessly about losing their Vietnam War. Now this could have been an interesting twist given the focus on Colonialism both in the novel and movie - but it just comes off whiny. And the romantic encounters in the Redux version - all of them - come off a bit goofy and distracting. Perhaps in another 10 years Coppola will re-cut the movie one more time and get it perfect.

      Best coming out of the mud bath spa assassin award

      One thing we're certain of - part of the reason Charlie Sheen is so crazy is that he had to spend a year or so on the set of this film when he was just a wee tyke. Ironically, less than 10 years later he would himself star in the second most important Vietnam War movie ever made, Platoon. No one else has come close to telling the Vietnam story as well as either of those movies (the only one that maybe came close was Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket - but it wasn't in the same league despite the talent applied to it).

      We will leave you with Jim Morrison's disturbing and hauntingly beautiful self-fulfilling prophecy.

      The horror, the horror... (BTW - that came from the novel too).

      A song perfectly matched to the movie ending 

      Copyright 2013, Raving Reviews


      White House Down vs. Olympus Has Fallen

      Every few years or so we're treated to a unique Hollywood phenomenon - total movie plagiarism - with one film coming out a nearly complete replica of another within a year or so.  Now, this doesn't include films produced by the Asylum, which bases their entire business model on copycat productions (you might recall Abraham Lincoln versus the Zombies [an Aslyum pic] coming out just after Abraham Lincoln Vampire Killer which by the way came out just before Lincoln - Lincoln had a bad year in 2012).


      No, in today's post we're addressing the major studios going head to head trying to copy each other verbatim. We'll do that by conducting a shoot-off between White House Down and Olympus Has Fallen while reminiscing about great copycat moments of the past. Now, there's another category of copycatting as well - that is copying great Foreign films and pretending they're American - we won't forget that today either.

      First, we need to establish that plagiarism did in fact occur between the two movies somehow - now you might complain the following information represents spoilers - however in this case one movie was in fact a spoiler for the other...

      Plot ElementWhite House DownOlympus Has Fallen
      Secret Service HeroChanning TatumGerard Butler
      Secret Service TraitorJames WoodsDylan McDermott
      Cute Kid the the White HouseTatum's DaughterPresident's Son
      Irrelevant Wife 1Travelling First LadyDead First Lady
      Irrelevant Wife 2Divorced bimbo momER nurse wife
      Bad GuysRight WingNutsNorth Koreans
      Initial AssaultJanitorial Explosion CongressHercules Gunship Whitehouse Assault
      Goofy Vice PresidentSome guy who gets blown upSome guy who gets shot
      Speaker of the House / PresidentEvil bald guyMorgan Freeman
      Black President (Obamaman)Jamie FoxxMorgan Freeman
      Ineffective Rescue AttemptDelta Team FX Helicopter AssaultSeal Team FX Helicoptor
      Nuclear AnnilationBlowing up the MiddleEastBlowing up the US
      The PEOCmuch smaller roompretty cool room
      Comc ReliefThe Tour GuideThe whole movie?
      Secret Service subplotCan't get hired Stuck on a desk after letting Irrelevant wife 1 plunge to her death
      Wiping out the Secret ServiceNot so many 100's are shot en masse
      Blowing up the White Houseaverted by flag waving cute kidindecisive Morgan Freeman, although half of the white house does blow up
      Evil Genius HackerLincoln's sidekick from Vampire Killer movieSexy evil korean hacker babes
      Gratitous head smashingprovided by tour guide using an antiqueGerard Butler uses Lincoln's bust (poor Abe just can't get any relief)
      Gratitous head stabbingn/aThis is a Gerard only thing
      Secret inside the whitehouse communicationsSecret service phone, handheldPresident's Satphone, with Blue tooth headset
      Presidential Limo anticsLawn job in the rose gardendriving off a bridge near camp David
      Near World Collapseeveryone with nukes plus middle eastditto
      Cabinet ExecutionsRed Shirt SyndromeRed Shirt Syndrome

      White House Down
      budget 150 million

      Now there were other similarities as well, including the main Secret Service character's military background etc. But you get the picture or pictures. If you visit the wikipedia pages for each film you'll note that each spec script was purchased in March of 2012 (more or less the exact same time). There's no mention of whose script came first although the hint might the guy who got paid more - the one for White House Down earned $3 million. One gets the impression that someone else looked at the first script and decided - hey let's copy this entire concept and sell it to another studio. Another clue is that the second movie (or copycat) spent less than half as much money on their version (Olympus Has Fallen) and threw in some less than stellar leads (Aaron Eckhart and Gerard Butler as opposed to Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx).

      But things don't always work out that way. Back in the early 1990's you might recall the movie Tombstone came out before Wyatt Earp and for less money yet it scored more int he box office. It turns out that Kevin Costner was involved in the original project that became Tombstone but decided to make another version on his own (a bloated, super-expensive 3 hour movie that no one watched and led to his eventual downfall as Hollywood guru).

      Olympus Has Fallen
      Budget $70 million

      Also, in the 90's we were treated to an Asteroid Duel; Armageddon versus Deep Impact, and a volcano shoot-out; "Dante's Peak versus Volcano." On the kiddie movie side of things we got Antz versus a Bugs Life. In the 2000's we got the Illusionist versus the Prestige. And let's not forget the foreign ripoffs with The Grudge, The Ring, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Hunger Games (yes it's a ripoff - check out Battle Royale - a Japanese flick made before [in 2000] the Hunger Games books came out [first one published in 2008]).

      So getting back to the original question; which one was better - White House Down or Olympus Has Fallen. In our humble opinion, after watching one right after the other (on pay per view last night) we'd have to say White House Down was more entertaining on several levels:

      • Channing Tatum's performance had more depth to it.
      • The cute kid in White House Down did a great job.
      • There was more fun and humor in the action scenes, Olympus was pretty grim.
      • James Woods - need we say more.
      • There was the flag waving versus the flag falling (something we should have included in the table above) - the waving was cheerful versus the falling one being a bit somber.

      Neither was particularly believable but that's ok - entertaining will do. But seriously, doesn't anyone get an F for cheating in Hollywood???

      Copyright 2013, Raving Reviews