Worth a Second Look Films: John Carter

MV5BNjkyOTI5MDA0Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwOTU3NzExNw@@._V1_SY317_CR0,0,214,317_AL_Based loosely on A Princess of Mars, John Carter is Disney’s realization of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ classic story of  a Civil War veteran who is miraculously transported to Mars. The titular character (played by Taylor Kitsch) finds himself  enslaved by the native non-human barbarians. Once free of the barbarians, John Carter becomes embroiled an a conflict between two humanoid factions waging war on each other. He falls for Deja Thoris (played by Lynn Collins), the princess of the good faction. Carter must help her overcome the evil faction, whose leader is in league with beings who have tremendous, god-like powers.

The movie flopped at the box office. Which is sad because it is an enjoyable fantasy film. This film was meant to be seen on the big screen. I did manage to see this in the theater, and I am glad I did. But don’t let this dissuade you from watching this on a small screen, it is still well worth seeking out this film to view.

Disney spent a lot of money on this movie and it shows.  The visuals are stunning and the Martian environment is fully realized; the wide wide open vistas of the Martian landscape look convincing. The red cast of the scenes set on Mars lets us know that we are indeed on the red planet. There is a enormous Martian celestial temple at the end of a tributary. Deja Thoris’ palace is large, yet elegant, befitting her royal status. The costumes are beautiful and the weapons (swords and long rifles), Martian air ships and sets looked convincing. There is a lot of action: airship battles, swordplay (Martian blood is blue), ground battles and arena combat. Even so, the film is not overly violent and is suitable for the whole family. There is even a wacky sidekick that kids will love; it is a Disney movie after all.

To be fair, the movie does not follow Burroughs’ book closely. The movie itself feels very long and erratically paced in spots. Still, I found the film very enjoyable and is great escapist fantasy fare. The strengths of the film greatly outweigh its minor flaws.

Click on the following link to request a copy:

http://nell.boulderlibrary.org/record=b1945749~S13

Worth a look for fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs or those who like action/adventure fantasy in general.

Skip it if swords & sandals on Mars is not your thing.

-Steve
MDE’s Self Appointed Movie Critic

 

Films Worth a Look: Man of Tai Chi

MV5BMTUxMzU5NjM3Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTc1OTcxMDE@._V1_SX214_AL_I was very surprised by this film, on the surface it looks terrible: a martial arts action flick with a Tai Chi fighter tricked into competing a  in a cage fighting tournament,  starring and directed by Keanu Reeves in his directorial debut.

Like many martial arts films, I expected this to be pretty bad. Many things can go wrong in the martial arts genre: bad acting, bad choreography, weak storyline, etc. But I was pleasantly surprised by this film: decent acting, excellent choreography and a compelling storyline.

Keanu Reeves can be one of those polarizing actors: some really like him; others really hate him. I wouldn’t call him a great actor, but he delivers a competent performance in this movie. His mostly wooden acting style suits the amoral, villainous character he plays.

Tiger Hu Chen plays Chen Lin-hu , the titular character,  a conflicted Tai Chi student who is at odds with the teachings of his style and sifu (kung fu master).  He lusts for something forbidden: validation as a great fighter.

Chen firsts seeks validation in traditional martial arts tournaments by competing with other traditional Chinese martial arts styles. After besting most of his competitors, he catches the notice of Reeves’ character, an underground NHB (no holds barred) fight promoter named Donaka Mark. At first Chen Lin-Hu is reluctant to compete, but Donaka Mark convinces him otherwise with some dirty, underhanded tactics. We see Chen conflicted over wanting to live by traditional values of Tai Chi, but losing that focus and wanting to become a powerful NHB fighter and ultimately a killing machine.

The real star of the movie is the choreography, like many martial arts films. The fighting scenes are very well done pitting Chen’s Tai Chi against Taekwondo, Southern-style kung fu, mixed martial arts and Pentjak Silat. The spectacular fight scenes were choreographed by Woo-ping Yuen (Forbidden Kingdom, Iron Monkey, Kill Bill: Vol. 2 and Kung Fu Hustle.) Interestingly enough, Tai Chi is shown as a formidable fighting art. Outside of China, Tai Chi is mostly shown as super slow-motion exercise for elderly people who practice in groups in parks. In China, Tai Chi has a long history of being regarded as a devastating fighting art. It was interesting to see how Woo-ping Yuen translated the super-slow movements of Tai Chi into full-speed martial arts fighting techniques. There were also the obligatory “master-trains-pupil” scenes showing Chen sparring with his sifu. However, hardcore mixed martial arts fans may find the fight scenes unrealistic. But it is a kung fu movie after all, not about realistic hand-to-hand combat.

Click on this link to put a hold on the MDE copy:

http://nell.boulderlibrary.org/record=b2144050~S13

I would recommend this movie to anyone who enjoys martial arts films. Those who enjoy films about people growing and overcoming personal obstacles may want to take a look this film as well.

Skip it if you think martial arts films are stupid or you dislike Keanu Reeves.

– Steve
MDE’s Self-Appointed Movie Critic

 

 

On this day in 1859…

On this day 155 years ago the Rocky Mountain News published its first edition. Some of you Coloradans might remember “The Rocky” -but for those who don’t- here is a snapshot of its colorful history.

William N. Byers circa 1903. Photographer unknown, public domain

Several months after publishing its first edition the Rocky Mountain News moved its building from Uncle Dick Wooten’s Saloon at 1413-15 11th St to a cabin at 14th and Market (Denver).

In August of the same year the RMN becomes a daily newspaper and moves it offices once again to a building elevated on stilts in the middle of Cherry Creek (13th and Walnut) and if you know much about Colorado flood history you know what happened a few years later…

May 1864, a flash flood sweeps away the building that housed the RMN. Consequently the Rocky moved its offices several more times until it settled again at 16th and Larimer, known as the “news block”, until 1887 when it moved to 17th and Curtis.

In 1878 William Byers sells the paper to railroad magnate W.A.H. Loveland. Loveland modernized the paper with telephones, typesetting machines and wire services. Through the 1880s the paper changes part owners until full ownership changes hands in 1894 to influential Democratic Sen. Thomas M. Patterson.

The late 1890s included a few “firsts” for the RMN when the first photograph is published in 1898 and in 1901 colored ink is used for the first time.

In December of 1907 a rift developed between the RMN and the Denver Post resulting in the owner of the Post, Frederick G. Bonfils, giving T.M. Patterson a bloody nose!

Through the early 20th century things are quiet while the RMN goes through some publishing and ownership changes. By 1927 the rivalry between the RMN and the Post has intensified. Until this point the Post was only publishing in the afternoon and the RMN published in the morning, but the Post decided to launch a morning edition and in retaliation the RMN prints an afternoon edition!

Despite the rivalry, the RMN continues to publish and evolve through the mid-century until it reaches another milestone and publishes its first full-color edition in 1993. In April 2000 the RMN is awarded its first Pulitzer Prize for photographic coverage of the 1999 Columbine High School Shooting. This same year The Rocky and The Post enter into a joint operating agreement that is approved by U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno in 2001.

In 2003 the RMN wins another breaking-news photography Pulitzer for Colorado’s 2002 wildfire season, and in 2006 reporter Jim Sheeler and photographer Todd Heis are awarded Pulitzers for their report Final Salute.

In 2008 the owners of the RMN announce they will seek a buyer for the paper. The resulting final issue appeared on Friday, February 27 2009, less than two months shy of the paper’s 150th anniversary.

-Tiffany

(Source: Hudson, Barbara. “Rocky Mountain News History Timeline.” Denverpost.com. Posted Feb. 27, 2009)

 

Gabriel Garcia Marquez

We werGabriel Garcia Marqueze saddened to hear yesterday of Gabriel García Márquez’s death.  Perhaps best known for writing the nobel prize-winning “One Hundred Years of Solitude” he has contributed numerous novels, nonfiction works,  and novellas to the canon of 20th century literature.  If you have never picked up one of his books please come in and celebrate his life and works with us.

We have a lot to tell you…

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We have been wanting to do this for a while; create a place to share ideas, insight and interact with our community- well here it is.

From this blog you can expect to read about adult programs such as lectures and classes, learn about books you might not have heard of or read comments about books you might have read! We hope you also find fascinating ideas on culture and technology- and if you are inspired- interact with us!

Leave comments, notes, messages and pictures… we look forward to hearing from you!!