Category Archives: Movies

Only the Brave – The Story of the Granite Mountain Hot Shots

The family went to see “Only the Brave – The Story of the Granite Mountain Hot Shots” last weekend. It is a great movie about a group of 19 elite firefighters who died fighting a fire in the Weaver Mountains near Yarnell, Arizona in 2013. It was a shocking loss by any measure but especially because these were guys who were trained to avoid such disasters. I mean the movie was great but it was based on a true event and to me that kind of overshadows everything.

Below is one of the eeriest videos I have ever seen. It includes some footage shot by the guys who died soon afterward.

There is a lot of commentary and articles speculating about what happened. Just google it and you can find plenty of articles with all sorts of speculation about how these guys ended up in such a terrible situation. It is all overwhelming especially since nobody knows for sure.

There is now an Arizona State Memorial for the hotshots. It is definitely on my bucket list. Check the link. It has brief profiles of each of the guys who died. It is heartbreaking, these guys were in the prime of their lives.

How much of the movie is true? A lot of apparently on the stuff that matters. The USA Today has a great article on that.

 

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One of my favorite shots of Dad.

I had a very personal interest in the movie. My father, who passed away in August, worked in the Forest Service and although he wasn’t a hot shot, or spent much time on the front lines, he fought forest fires for years. When I was a kid, during a dry summer he’d be gone almost the whole season, Idaho, Montana, California, Nevada, Arizona. We didn’t hear anything from him, and then he would show up one day covered in dirt and soot, smelly, and exhausted. Afterwards he would have to be very careful around my mother to give the impression that he didn’t like the work.

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Payson, Arizona

When I was a kid, the hotshots, the smoke jumpers, and helitack crews were hard as nails men doing back breaking labor. The hotshots rode in trucks to as close to the fire as they could and then humped across country with their equipment, food, shelter, and water on their back to the fire. The theory was that you get these guys on a fire fast to keep the fire from getting bigger. They were expected to handle anything that came up. I remember my mother talking of the hotshots as being a rough bunch.

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Payson Hotshots, playing frisbee football

So nowadays, they have a little bit of glamor to them and have really nice vehicles to ride instead of the backs of trucks that I remember but the work itself is just as hard if not harder. After a half century or more of fire extreme suppression, and perhaps global warming, the fuel to burn is more than ever and the weather conditions hotter and drier than ever and so the work may be  difficult and dangerous than their predecessors had it.

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Forest Fire in Idaho, 1960’s, photo by my father.

I have only seen a few fires and they have been from a distance and they definitely puckered me up although I was miles from them.

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Forest Fire in Idaho under control, photo by my Dad.

I can only imagine what being  next to one would be like. It is hard to figure out what my Dad went through. He tended to downplay everything to no big deal and my mom’s Irish tended to embellish things perhaps a bit much. She was part of the Forest Service wives club that was pretty close knit so she could find out about stuff that dad didn’t like to talk about. She said she heard one time he drove a truck through a fire to get a guy that had been stranded behind the lines and that the paint had got burned off the truck in process. Dad said nonsense, he got the guy sure, but there was no danger, and no paint was burned. And it wasn’t just Dad. In the small towns we lived in, the Forest Service guys were the dads who took the Boy Scouts camping and led all sorts of other things. They were community minded men, and so were their wives. It was very close knit. Whenever dad got transferred somewhere we generally knew people where we were going.

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Slurry bomber in Idaho, mid 1960’s, photo by my Dad.

So anyway, it is a great movie. I think it accurately shows how brave these guys were. And like I said, I have never been anywhere close to a fire but I think it shows accurately what being near a fire is like and how backbreaking building a fire line and clearing brush is. So as you can probably guess, I strongly recommend this movie.

The Hero with Sam Elliott

We went to see The Hero on a flaming hot Saturday afternoon. The movie stars Sam Elliott, of the craggy face, big mustache, and wonderful voice, playing an actor, Lee Hayden, who had one great film, The Hero, forty years ago and has been living on that fame ever since. He now spends his time doing voice overs for commercials, drinking bourbon, and smoking pot. He has an ex-wife, played by Elliott’s real life wife, Katherine Ross, and an estranged daughter, other than that he keeps to himself until he finds out that he has a very lethal form of cancer, and he immediately doubles down on the pot smoking and whiskey drinking. On an outing to a former actor buddy who is also his pot dealer he runs into Charlotte, played by a smoking hot Laura Prepon, who is also there picking up some weed. So we start this May December romance thing that just appears out of nowhere.

From there the movie plods along and we have lots of long walks on the beach and more drinking and pot smoking along with pills and mushrooms. We have indecipherable dream sequences and a sound track that features lots of iPhone sound effects. Things kind of brighten up a little bit as Hayden starts telling people about his illness. Overall though the movie doesn’t seem to have much of a message and is pretty much a downer. I’m kind of fifty-fifty on it. If you like Sam Elliott, you will love this movie. Otherwise, its a movie that seems confused about itself.

Leave the kiddos at home, lots of casual drug use, a little side boob view of Prepon and some suggestive scenes.

The Ape-Ocalpyse Now – War for the Planet of the Apes

The family went to see “War for the Planet of the Apes” and it actually turned out to be a decent flick. I was kind of dreading it because as a child in the 60’s I saw the original movies and they were pretty bad. This movie, a reboot as they say, has great costuming, and a pretty good story line. Basically the apes are the good guys and the humans are pretty much the bad guys. Woody Harrelson does a great job playing the psycho colonel.

The movie has superficial references to the film Apocalypse Now and Joseph Conrad’s novel  “Heart of Darkness.”

The film has some great battle scenes, especially at first, and the costuming for the monkey characters is truly phenomenal. Everybody keeps their clothes on but I think some of the battle scenes and other cruel scenes might be too much for some kids (and almost for this old guy.)

I loved this movie.

Spiderman Homecoming with Tom Holland, Robert Downey Jr. and Michael Keaton

The family went to see Spiderman Homecoming this evening. My son tells me that it is a reboot of Spiderman and that this is the third reboot of the movie. I guess a reboot is where the studios say, okay we are going to try again. Anyways this movie is pretty good. Spiderman is only 15 years old this time, a lot younger than some of the previous ones. This Spiderman is a teenage klutz. He saves people and stops crime but causes a lot of collateral damage. It really is hilarious if you have ever had a teenage boy in your family.

So this Spiderman, well played by Tom Holland also has school status issues. He doesn’t have any status and everybody looks down at him. He so wants to be cool but of course he cannot reveal his identity especially to the girl he likes. He doesn’t get any respect from Ironman, Tony Stark, the leader of the Avengers. But don’t worry. I could tell you the ins and the outs of the plot but just take it from me that everything works out and is nicely wrapped up for a sequel next year. My son tells me that the plan is incorporate Spiderman into the Avengers.

So I give this film a thumbs up. Nice plot, lots of action and suspense, no language problems, everybody keeps there clothes on and the good guys win.

Check the movie’s web site for more trailers, lots of pics, background information, a game and all sorts of good stuff. Check their IMDB site for bios of the full cast, trivia and other interesting info.

Baby Driver by Edgar Wright Starring Ansel Elgort and Lily James

The family went to see Baby Driver on July Fourth. Wow, what a movie. Ansel Elgort plays Baby, a getwaway driver for bad guys who hold up banks and such. He gets an equal share of the loot because he is so good at what he does. This movie has some incredible chase scenes made even more amazing because Baby does his thing in nondescript sedans instead of muscle cars. The other thing about Baby is that music is his thing. His whole thing, and only thing. He has tinnitus and he plays music to quell the ringing. He plays music all the time. Music is central to his life.

Music is central to the movie as well. All the action is set to the soundtrack, all of it. The movie opens with a bank heist and buddy times the whole thing to his ipod. The opening chase scene is one of the most mesmerizing chase scenes I’ve ever seen. It is like a ballet it is so smooth and flowing. A day after the getaway the movie shows Baby fetching coffee for his crew. His walk with the four coffees is also choreographed and smooth as he moves along the streets of Atlanta on foot.

He meets a girl (the cutest girl next door in ultra short dresses and high heel hiking boots you have ever seen!) in a diner who sings a song that catches his ear. They meet and fall in love and everything is great. Not!! The next job turns sour, and the rhythm is off, stuff goes wrong with the getaway. The next day is coffee walk is off also. Instead of elegance he bumps into people.

And the movie veers from cute and interesting to predictable. People get hurt, cops get kills (I hate to see cops getting killed in movies. One bad guy in particular turns into the indestructible enemy who just keeps showing up. I loved the first half of the movie and could do without the gratuitous violence and silliness in the second half. Sorry.

I’d go see it again though. Yes the first half is that good.

Leave the kiddos home because of the language and the violence. Everybody keeps their clothes on.

Wonder Woman – Rise of the Warrior, with Gal Gadot and Chris Pine

Sunday night the family’s last official act of vacation was going to the movies to see the latest Wonder Woman flick.  And it is fabulous. Gal Gadot has the title role and she is perfect. Sweet when she has to be, glamorous during a gala, and and fierce when fighting the bad guys or sticking up for the little people. Chris Pine plays British spy, Steve Trevor.

What is the story you ask? Diana is cavorting about with the other Amazons on their own island when somehow Trevor’s plane that he stole from the Germans (World War I) comes crashing into the sea followed by a German ship and boatloads of troops. The Amazons fight off the Germans and find out about World War I for the first time. Diana takes off, against orders, with Trevor to go back to London to report to the authorities, except she doesn’t really want to follow procedure, she wants to go to the front and fight bad guys.

So a battle ensures between the forces of good and evil and you will just have to go see for yourself which side won. This was a very satisfying movie to watch and as a rule I’m not a big fan of super hero movies. They spend a good amount of time developing character and the back story and the chemistry between Pine and Gadot is great.  I highly recommend the film. Also, everybody keeps their clothes on,  and the fighting scenes are not gory.

Check out the movie web site, games, more trailers, and lots of other good stuff.

Hidden Figures – The Story of the Black Women Mathematicians at NASA

Hidden figures movie poster

The whole family went to see Hidden Figures today. The story of the black women mathematicians who helped American win the Space Race back in the 60’s. It follows the lives of three black women “computers.” Back before digital computers were used, humans who were held the jobs named “computers” did the calculations for lots of scientific endeavors.

The movie is set in Langley, Virginia, part of the South, and the computers were divided into white and “colored” groups. The movie follows three of the women. One who was the the supervisor of the colored group but did not receive the title nor the pay of a supervisor, another who had a crucial role in calculating the trajectory of John Glenn’s trajectory out of orbit back to earth, and another women who although had advanced engineering degrees, was seeking to become the first women with the title “Engineer” hired at NASA.

The movie follows these women as they deal with and overcome the petty and smothering stupidity of segregation and discrimination against black people and women. It reminds me of how far we have come and it also reminds me how far we have left to go.
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The movie is set in 1961 and what strikes me is that I entered engineering school in 1973 a mere 12 years later. By then we had we had big mainframe IBM computers and we had learned the Fortran programming language in high school. In 1973 all the engineering students still used slide rules and much of the classes were about how to use them in engineering calculations. A few of the “rich kids” had calculators. By the end of my Sophomore year, nobody used slide rules and everybody used scientific calculators.

Fast forward to the mid 1980’s and I was building pipelines in Mississippi and Louisiana. I dealt with lots of local people while buying right of way from landowners and arranging for contractors to build the line and dealing with various state and county officials in getting necessary permits. By that time black people had the right to vote and the “colored” and “white” restrooms and water fountains were a thing of the past but race seemed uppermost on man people’s minds. I’d get leading questions from people on first meeting them where they were trying to determine what my attitudes were towards the subject and I’d get baited on various subjects. I heard some outrageous things I’ll tell you.

And we have come a long ways and we have a long ways left to go. I get on facebook and there is still a lot of racisim out there in my opinion.  Most of is coded and obtuse and a lot of it is denial that there is still a problem but it is there.  Sometimes I think we are in danger of sliding backwards to the bad old days. We are also in danger of thinking that we have the race issue solved. We don’t, we have come a long ways and we have a ways to go.

I used to think that there was some sort of relationship between technology and social justice. In other words as we progressed technologically then all these smart people would all insist on doing the right thing. I’ve lost faith in that as we see countries like China and Russia progress technologically and expand their middle class but they remain repressive in a different manner. They don’t threaten people with torture any longer, they threaten them with losing their jobs.

Anyway, I’ll get off my soapbox and say that this is a great movie. It is based on a book that I have ordered from the library.

 

La La Land with Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling

Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone

The whole family went out to see La La Land Friday night. Talk about a great movie! It is like an old fashioned musical with a bittersweet note. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling do really well together in this movie. She is a struggling actress working as barista in a movie lot coffee store and Ryan plays a jazz pianist trying to make a living while staying true to his craft. They meet, they are a little bristly with each other and then they fall in love and they struggle to stay there as they through life together. Like I said it is bittersweet and in the meantime there is lots of singing and dancing. The costuming is beautiful and the dialog is sharp.

This is a feelgood movie deluxe and one of the best ones I have seen in a long time. I give it five stars out of five, or four out of four or just whatever scale you want to use this comes out at the top.

Office Christmas Party with Jennifer Aniston

Friday I had my every other Fridacation and Heather didn’t do her Friday morning Zumba gig so we could go have breakfast together and go do some Christmas shopping.  So most of the plan worked. We had breakfast at Full Moon on Peoria, one of our favorite spots and then we checked out Lululemon right next door but they didn’t have much of any sales going on but they did have their music crancked up considerably, I mean the music was not being able to think loud.

So we went up to Athletica at Utica Square. They are just as cool as Lululemon but the music, although not quite as cool, was a lot lower in volume. Also they had a little bit of a sale going on. Turns out that they offer exercise instructors a 30% discount. So we shopped a little bit and Heather is going to get her certification in hand and we’ll go back and do some serious shopping. I guess cuz we are cheap. So then, heck with it, lets go to a movie. We were wanting something fun so we went to see Office Christmas Party.

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The movie is entertaining. There is a story line but the story line is not important, the party is important. The company’s Chicago branch is about to be closed and so they decide to throw a party to end all parties so open bar, lots of decorations, a DJ, and things rapidly get out of control, clothes end up on the floor, Bad decisions are made, office relationships are deepened, and in the end it all works out. You have the all the office types there, the burned out old guys, the striving young guys and gals, the enthusiastic interns, the overzealous HR goons, spoiled out of touch executives. They all play a part.

So everybody makes a lot of bad decisions but it all is well in the end. The evil management sees the light and the branch is saved! Yeah!!

Keep the kids home on this one. Rated R and deserves it and lots and lots of bad language. Also, you have seen before in movies where people sit naked on the copy machine, well in this movie, they make use of 3D printers. I’m not going to spell out what they were copying with the the 3D printer for you. Isn’t technology great!!

I’ve never been to a wild office Christmas party but I have been to parties where people have drank too much and made bad decisions. I’ve been to a lot of nice Christmas parties. One year, a former employer flew Heather and down to Houston for a company party at the the Hyatt Regency downtown, that was nice, very nice. And everything in between. Usually it was a nice sit down dinner and a cocktail or two. Nowdays its a luncheon at the office. I’ll take it.

How about you? Does your employer have a Christmas or “Holiday” party?

Oh, yes, the movie. I loved it, Heather didn’t. So you are on your own!

Almost Christmas with Danny Glover

We went to see the Almost Christmas on Sunday afternoon. We loved it. It is a dysfunctional family type Christmas story. The Fandango synopsis of the movie is:

“An African-American widower (Danny Glover) asks his family — which includes his sassy sister-in-law (Mo’Nique) and four adult children (Kimberly Elise, Romany Malco, Gabrielle Union, and Jessie Usher), as well as the latter’s spouses and kids — to join him for their first Christmas since his wife passed away. However, having all of them under one roof leads to a number of personal confrontations as secrets are revealed and marriages are tested.”

The movie is fun and good hearted and a great Christmas time movie. Everybody in the movie (except the kids who are of course extremely cute and precocious) has issues and they have problems with each other and they pull some bone headed stunts but somehow it all works. It is along the lines of a Hallmark Christmas movie but with some soul and bite.

Everybody keeps their clothes on but there are some suggestive scenes.

I loved this movie.