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The Men Who Owned America

by Melanie - 0 Comment(s)

The fascinating period of American history after the Civil War seems to be foremost on a lot of TV minds recently as evidenced by popular Western series such as Deadwood and Hell on Wheels. The new-to-the-library documentary series The Men Who Built America (on DVD and blu-ray) casts its eye Eastward to the financiers who profited in the extreme from the technology innovations and discoveries of the time to the end of the Gilded Age.

Rockefeller, Carnegie and Frick, J.P. Morgan, Vanderbilt, and Ford are the focus of this interesting miniseries that follows their various monolopies of the rail lines, oil, steel and then gasoline production, the stock market, and even the White House when they set rivalries aside to ensure their president was elected. The castles they built for themselves, such as Frick's next to Central Park, and the billions of dollars they held led some to call them Robber Barons.

The Men Who Built America credits these larger-than-life investors for the automobile, skyscaper, and development of the West. At the same time, it records their exploitation of workers and the deaths ultimately resulting from their free reign over the marketplace.

The series' editing reflects its original TV broadcast, so there is quite a bit of repetition at the beginning of episodes and where ad breaks would have been. However, the historical content, visuals, and interviews with historians, investment gurus, and motivation speakers (who analyse the qualities that both made and broke the men) make for good watching.

 

Great TV Part 3 - AMC

by Trevor - 0 Comment(s)

It was a while in the making but here's the third list of great shows you just can't find on cable. Just like HBO and FX, AMC produces television that is far better than the majority of shows the basic cable networks put out. Expect all of these shows to be gritty, realistic, and extremely entertaining.

Walking Dead – If you hadn’t noticed, we’re living in a bit of a Zombie renaissance. Like the infectious horde they are, they’ve taken over every media outlet whether it’s film, TV, videogames, or books. Walking dead is a perfect example of why this is a good thing. A Zombie show that is much more about the living survivors than the monsters trying to get them, The Walking Dead positively oozes drama and tension. In a world ruled by the dead, we’re finally forced to start living.

The Killing – I’m cheating a bit with this one as I’ve only seen the first few episodes but this one certainly seems to deserve the praise it’s recieving. The entire series revolves around the murder of a teenage girl and the show pulls no punches when showing the despair such a loss can cause. Far more realistic than the typical Law and Order crime procedural, The Killing looks to be something special.

 

Breaking Bad – Bryan Cranston has won 3 Emmys for his role as a Nobel prize nominee turned high school teacher turned cancer victim turned meth cook. To say that his acting is phenomenal is an understatement as this is one of the most complex TV characters I’ve ever seen. We root for him while at the same time cringing at the horrible things he does. We hold our breaths as he nearly gets caught, but we know that he deserves to. His motives are crystal clear one minute and inscrutable the next. As exciting as it is emotional, Breaking Bad deserves your attention.

Mad Men is a great show for the same reasons as Breaking Bad: characters that are complicated, nuanced, and realistic. Though the show undeniably belongs to the suave and chauvinistic Don Draper, the supporting characters are just as well developed and intriguing. So well are the characters developed that a single interaction or offhand comment may give insight into seasons worth of wondering. This one will get you hooked.

Check out Great TV Part 1: HBO and Great TV Part 2: FX for more suggestions.

These guys don't come cheap

by Moe - 0 Comment(s)

I almost went to see The Expendables 2 then changed my mind at the last minute and decided to wait for the DVD. The main appeal is all these big action stars and even bigger egos in one pic. And that got me thinking about action stars/movies and how much $$$ they generate for studios. The amount is staggering- actually it is rather surreal. Collectively the actors in this film have made a lot of movies over the years, some good, some bad, and some better than average that showcase their actual acting chops and not just their pecs. So I have pulled out some of my fave movies featuring some but not all of the stars.

Sylvester Stallone- Rocky of course, but only the first and possibly the 2nd. It tends to gets dismissed too easily because the series got steadily worse as it progressed from 1 through 5, but there is no denying how really good the original is. Especially given that Stallone wrote, directed and starred in it all because he needed work and was having trouble finding anything so decided to write himself a part.

Jason Statham- The Italian Job is a very solid heist movie, as is The Bank Job.

Jet Li- I'll go with Hero and Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

Dolph Lundgren- sorry Dolph, just couldn't find one

Chuck Norris-his hugely popular Walker Texas Ranger television series

Jean-Claude Van Damme is another tough one. I know this is a cheat but the Muscles from Brussels is at his best as a voice in Kung Fu Panda 2

Arnold Schwarzenegger-what to write about Arnold that hasn't already been written? We all know The Terminator franchise, but I think True Lies is his best. He also has a new autobiography modestly titled Total recall : my unbelievably true life story

Bruce Willis- now Bruce I can really get into. Of all of these guys he is easily the most talented and versatile. I remain a big fan of his and recommend any of these---Die Hard 1 2 3 4, 16 Blocks, The Sixth Sense, Hart's War, and my fave-12 Monkeys.

Now that surreal $ amount I mentioned at the beginning? A quick calculation based on IMDB's Box Office figures, not including DVD sales, not adjusted for inflation, and only for the movies I have linked above---almost $4 billion. Would you believe The Die Hard Franchise alone has generated world wide---$1,126,935,581.00!

And incidentally, Expendables 2 is doing well at the Box office and getting some decent reviews. On an estimated budget of $100 million, as of Sept 23rd it has made $264 million. We have the original Expendables, which has gross worldwide sales of $274,470.00. I smell another sequel.

XXX Summer Olympics

by Moe - 0 Comment(s)

I have to admit - I'm a bit of an Olympic junkie. There's just something very appealing about the entire world coming together to compete in fair minded play and to celebrate the efforts of all these hard working incredible athletes. Now having said that, we know that the reality often falls far short of the ideal; but for every doper trying to beat the system there are still hundreds of athletes playing their guts out for the love of their sport and country and these are the competitors that draw me back year after year.

If you are not watching the Olympics (CTV) (NBC) which start tomorrow, do the next best thing and watch a movie about the Olympics. Multi award winner Chariots of Fire is certainly worth your time and features the haunting score by Vangelis.

CPL has a great many titles that are not necessarily about the Olympics, but sports movies, and it is quite a mixed bag. Some of my faves are Invictus, Million Dollar Baby, The Natural, Bend It Like Beckham, Field of Dreams, and Iqbal. Or spend some time with The Flying Scotsman- you won't be disappointed. When We Were Kings is a compelling documentary of the 1974 heavyweight championship bout in Zaire between then champion George Foreman and underdog challenger Muhammad Ali. Not my cup of tea, but it did win cutey-pie Sandra Bullock an Oscar---The Blind Side. Or from this year, Money Ball with Brad Pitt in his Oscar nominated performance. And even though the franchise did go steadily downhill afterward, there is no denying the original Rocky is still one of the best sports movies ever made. Try any of these: Pride of the Yankees, Eight Men Out, Raging Bull, Brian's Song (have the hankies ready), Remember the Titans and the original The Longest Yard. You will barely recognize Batman (Christian Bale) in The Fighter, more cautionary tale than true sports movie, but very good. Warrior earned Nick Nolte an Oscar nod for best supporting actor this year. The Wrestler helped resurrect Mickey Rourke's career and is a gut wrenching look behind the scenes of the wrestling world, just as Requiem for a Heavyweight looks at the underbelly of boxing.

There are numerous movies about equestrian sports and many more about golf. But I just can't bring myself to watch a golf movie- it's almost as boring as watching a golf game (with apologies to all you golfers).

For the younger crowd there is Ice Princess, Air Bud (at least 5 different ones), Sandlot, Space Jam, Bad News Bears (original only) and any of the Karate Kids- new or old.

Teens: Stick It, Rudy, and Whip It

Series: Friday Night Lights- we have all five seasons

Funny: It's been quite awhile since I've seen it but have a look at Cool Runnings- the story of the Jamaican bobsled team that competed in the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics. Or Nacho Libre---Jack Black's take on Luchadors (Mexican wrestlers), and Will Ferrell in Taladega Nights and Blades of Glory.

The opening ceremonies are being produced by Danny Boyle, who you will know from such films as Slum Dog Millionaire, Trainspotting, The Beach, Millions and 127 hours. They held a dress rehearsal on Monday night and the word is ' unlike anything you have ever seen before'. I was dazzled by the Vancouver opening ceremonies in 2010 so am eager to see what Boyle has in store for the 80,000 in the stadium and the 100's of millions out here in tv land.

Let the games begin.........................