Breaker Morant

81RW8yyHS5L._SY606_Breaker Morant is the story of three Australian soldiers serving in the British army during the Boer War in South Africa at the turn of the 20th Century.

Acting under orders from British army command, Lieutenant Harry “Breaker” Morant (played by British actor Edward Woodward), Lieutenant Peter Handcock (played by veteran Aussie actor Bryan Brown) and Lieutenant George Ramsdale Witton (played by Lewis Fitz-Gerald) track down and execute  Boer guerrillas. The Boer War was one of the he first wars where uniformed soldiers (British) fought against civilian-clad guerrillas;  the rules of warfare were changing rapidly.

As the war wound down and the British command was looking for scapegoats to appease the opposition.  Morant, Handcock and Witton were court-martialed for war crimes by the very same British army command, who were responsible for issuing the orders in the first place. In order to obtain a quick and easy conviction, the British command stacked the deck against Morant and his comrades: the court appointed a lawyer for the three only a day before the trial who specialized in “land conveyancing and wills” not criminal defense. The court dismissed much of the testimony given for the defense as irrelevant and therefore inadmissible.

The defense hinged on that they were “only following orders.” Four and a half decades later, many of the defeated Nazis would use the same defense.

Breaker Morant is an compelling look into the changing nature of warfare in the 20th Century. The guerrilla conflict of the Boer War was a harbinger of what warfare was to become.

As a bonus, MDE’s copy is a new release from the Criterion Collection

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Breaker Morant

Worth a look if you like legal thrillers or movies about the military.

Skip it if courtroom dramas leave you cold.

  • Steve



Cerebral Movies: Predestination

predestinationPredestination is a modern-day adaption of Robert Heinlein’s short story “All You Zombies.”  The story revolves around a character played by Ethan Hawke named The Barkeep. It seems he is a Temporal Agent whose job it is to travel through time to prevent atrocities before they happen. He never seems to be able to catch one elusive criminal who always seems to be able to set off a bomb which ends up killing thousands.

One night in the past, The Barkeep strikes up a conversation with a character who looks like a man, but is named The Unmarried Mother (played by Sarah Snook.) She tells him the fantastic, almost unbelievable story of her life.

As the fantastic story unfolds, The Barkeep finds his fate inexorably intertwined with that of the Unmarried Mother. The truth emerges and builds to a horrifying conclusion.

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Worth a look if you like heady, time-travel stories.

Skip it if you don’t like science fiction.

– Steve


Makerspaces: The Gizmo Dojo’s Kickstarter Campaign






The Gizmo Dojo, a local Broomfield makerspace has launched a Kickstarter campaign.

Serving the Broomfield/North Denver area, the Gizmo Dojo is a non-profit makerspace whose goal is to offer community space for makers, tinkerers, thinkers, artists, entrepreneurs, and innovators of all backgrounds and ages. The group endeavors to offer a  space filled with tools which might not normally accessible. They offer classes which encourage learning through doing including: robotics, textiles, woodworking, electronics, metal working, computer science, chain maille, 3D printing, crafts, backyard forging and anything else which can be imagined.

If you can envision it, the Gizmo Dojo wants to be able to give you the space, knowledge and tools to make it happen. The Kickstarter campaign will give them the necessary funds to enable members to create.

Click here to check out their Kickstarter campaign:

Currently, the group meets on Mondays at the Mamie Doud Eisenhower Public Library in the Discovery Lab at 7:00pm. Come by and check them out.


Jackie & Ryan

jackie&ryanJackie & Ryan is a love story involving Ryan (played by Ben Barnes), a musically-gifted drifter who rides trains across the country while honing his craft. Much like Woody Guthrie, Ryan rides the rails, stopping here and there to perform. He is a free spirit and is not tied to any particular place.

Jackie (played by Katherine Heigl) is a soon-to-be divorced mom who is trying to pickup up the pieces of her life while dealing with a nasty divorce. She is a has-been: once she had a promising music career, money, and a rich husband. Now she ekes out a living as a soon-to-be single mom in Ogden, Utah.

When a chance meeting brings them together, each finds something that the other lacks. For Ryan, Jackie symbolizes stability, rooted in her hometown with no compulsion to wander. For Jackie, Ryan symbolizes wander lust; not being tied down to a set place. Jackie has lost her freedom due to losing her recording contract, but more importantly, her young daughter ties her to home.

While the love story is predictable and the acting is serviceable, the real star of this film is the music. Both Barnes and Heigl do credible jobs portraying musicians. The songs evoke Woodie-Guthrie-inpsired folk in many ways:

Directed by Ami Canaan Mann (daughter of Micheal Mann), Jackie & Ryan is a quiet, realistic love story which is made better by the addition of a fantastic soundtrack.

Worth a look if you like folk music, or stories about musicians and life on the road.

Skip it if Katherine Heigl annoys you.

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Jackie & Ryan



Once is the story of an unnamed Irish busker (Glen Hansard), who plays for money in the streets of Dublin to supplement his day job as a vacuum cleaner repairman. A chance meeting with a Czech immigrant (Markéta Irglová) sets them on a path to romance and collaborative songwriting/performing.

Irglová’s character (also unnamed) is a classically-trained concert pianist who practices at a local music shop during the day. At night she does odd jobs and takes care of her daughter and mom.

As the story progresses, the two collaborate on songs and eventually record a demo record for Hansard’s character to take to London to help secure a record deal. As their personal lives intrude on their budding romance, the movie concludes with bittersweet (and realistic) resolution.

Writer/director John Carney cast real-life musicans Hansard and Irglová rather than actors, which gives the film a natural, realistic quality; they seem to be real people caught on camera by chance, rather than big-name actors pretending to be musicians.

However the real star of this film is the music. The  songs are heartfelt, melancholy, and moving. In fact, Hansard and Irglová won an Oscar for best original song, “Falling Slowly:”

Worth a look if you like touching, realistic romances or achingly beautiful music.

Skip it if musicals are not your thing.

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MV5BMjM5NjkzMjE5MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTMzNTk4MjE@._V1_SX214_AL_Jake Gyllenhaal plays Lou Bloom, a small-time, two-bit thief eking out an existence in modern-day Los Angeles: he steals copper wire and chain link fencing and sells it to construction contractors, who will not hire him for construction jobs because he is dishonest.

One night, he comes upon a burning car from which paramedics are trying to free a trapped woman and discovers “nightcrawlers,” people who film violent/gory content and sell it to the local news networks. Lou figures this is something that he could be good at, so he steals a bike and trades it for a movie camera and police scanner at a  pawn shop.

He prowls at night finding the scene of a carjacking gone wrong. Despite being to told to leave by police, he is able to get some graphic footage. He sells the footage to  a local news station, which happens to be the lowest rated in the area. Rene Russo plays the news director, who encourages Lou to bring her more footage.

Lou hires an assistant, played by Riz Ahmed, to help him gather footage to sell. Soon after, Lou and his assistant respond to a crime-in-progress and get to the crime scene before the police. Lou re-stages the crime scene to get “better” footage. He hatches a plan to find the killers and get their arrest on camera to sell to the news stations, but with lethal consequences.

The movie is a timely exploration of the consequences of getting ever-increasing graphic/bloody footage to an increasing desensitized audience. When this footage is gathered by an ethically/morally challenged individual, these consequences are both horrifying and devastating.

Worth a look if want to see a fascinating (if disturbing) glimpse into an amoral creep who will do anything to get bloody/gory news footage to sell.

Skip it if you are tired of ever-increasing grapic news footage.

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– Steve


The Drop

the_drop.phpThe Drop is the story of Bob Saginowski (played by Tom Hardy) a bartender at a Brooklyn bar, ostensibly owned by his cousin, Marv (played by James Gandolfini.) The bar is the location for money drops from Chechen mafia, who actually own the bar. The Chechens move the money around the city to avoid having to use banks.

Unfortunately having large, unreported sums of cash on hand makes the bar a target for two petty thieves who rob Bob and Marv. The Chechen mafia gets wind of it and they threaten Bob and Marv with torture and death if they do not get the money back.

In another story line, Bob rescues a puppy from a trash can, left there to die. Bob meets Nadia (played by Noomi Rapace), who owns the house with the trash where bob found the abandoned dog. Bob and Nadia start dating.  Soon after, Nadia’s psycho ex-boyfriend (played by Matthias Schoenaerts) shows up. He’s an ex-con who brags about being responsible for an unsolved murder.

Based on a short story by Dennis Lahane, The Drop is a taut, gritty crime thriller. As the two story lines converge, there is a surprising plot twist and things are not what they appear to be on the surface. Bob appears to be soft-spoken and low key but the truth is unsettling.

Worth a look if you like smart, well-written crime dramas.

Skip it if you like more happier, more upbeat movies.

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The Drop

– steve