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ANOTHER ONE JUST LIKE THE OTHER ONE: PANASONIC LUMIX DMC ZS-25

Panasonic Lumix DMC ZS -25

Panasonic Lumix DMC ZS -25

I had no intention of buying a camera. I wasn’t looking for myself. Someone else was looking for a camera and I was just doing a little research.When Adorama popped up with a refurbished Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS-25 16.1 MP for under $100, I said “wow.” (There were only two at that price and both have been sold.)

Lazy daisy

Lazy daisy

It came with a Sony 16GB SDHC card and a cute little case (original from Panasonic). It is not new, though it certainly looks and feels new. It’s refurbished by Panasonic and comes with a new camera warranty. Resistance was futile.

I have a legitimate excuse. No jury would convict me.

Day lily, back lit

Day lily, back-lit

My “go everywhere” camera has been the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS-19 and the ZS-25 is essentially the same camera, with a higher resolution. My old camera has a nasty dent on the lens where I gave it a whack about a month ago. So far, it has been okay, but hitting a lens hard enough to dent its case has inevitable repercussions. It doesn’t owe me anything.

The ZS-25 uses the batteries and charger I already own. It’s the same size as its predecessor. So, of course I bought it. Then I had to do a little test drive.

Japanese maple and sunlight

Japanese maple and sunlight

Although the specs make it seem they are the same camera, they are not.

The Leica lens has the same zoom (20X). Both old and new lens are F3.3-F6.4. But the depth of field is different. It’s noticeably shallower working close on the ZS-25 and it has a more attractive bokeh. The color is true — less green, more neutral. It focuses faster and recycles much faster. All useful improvements.

The menus have been simplified and it is noticeably easier to find the functions I use. I like the streamlined controls, too, though I miss the on/off switch. It’s now a button, like every other camera. The view screen has the same specs, but because you can adjust it for varying light conditions, it seems brighter and sharper.

My last red lily

My last red lily

The little ZS-19 has performed yeoman’s service for me. I’ve carried it with me everywhere for two years. It has shot more frames than the rest of my cameras combined.

I am pleased to be able to continue using essentially the same piece of equipment. It suits me well. Compact and light, good lens. Not the longest super-zoom available, but long enough — and wide enough — for most purposes.

My ZS-19 has been a very satisfactory camera and its granddaughter, the ZS-25, seems likely to be equally satisfying. I’m more than pleased.

Camera Effective Pixels 16.1 Megapixels
Sensor Size / Total Pixels / Filter 1/2.33-inch High Sensitivity MOS Sensor / 17.5 Total Megapixels / Primary Color Filter
Lens LEICA DC VARIO-ELMAR / 12 elements in 10 groups / (3 Aspherical Lenses / 6 Aspherical surfaces / 2 ED Lens)
Aperture F3.3 – 6.4 / Multistage Iris Diaphragm (F3.3 – 8.0(W), F6.4 – 8.0(T))
Optical Zoom 20x
Focal Length f=4.3 – 86.0mm (24 – 480mm in 35mm equiv.) / (28-560mm in 35mm equiv. in video recording)
Extra Optical Zoom (EZ) 25.3x (4:3 / 10M), 30.0x (4:3 / 7M), 36.0x (4:3 / 5M), 45.0x (under 3M)
Intelligent Zoom 40x

SUMMER MOVIES, SUMMER NOT – GARRY ARMSTRONG

I just read an article about this year’s summer movies. Apparently, box office watchers don’t believe we’ll have any block busters. No matter because we don’t go to the movies very often these days. Chalk it up to boredom with product, exorbitant prices, and sheer laziness. But it got me to thinking about summers past.

This is nostalgia, the summer-themed films I remember seeing at the theaters during those lazy, hazy halcyon days. Some of them were fine movies, acclaimed cinema. Many were not. But it doesn’t matter because these are movies I fondly remember enjoying during the long, hot summers of youth.

JAWS

I covered the location filming on Martha’s Vineyard and did some of the “Great White” scare stories when the movie came out. I absolutely loved seeing the film — especially knowing the back stories. It still works for me!

Jaws-movie-poster

AMERICAN GRAFFITI

Saw it at a drive-in in 1973. The 50s — 60s nostalgia and music were terrific. I was driving my first convertible, a flame orange 1969 Dodge Challenger, fully loaded. You know what I was thinking

SUMMER OF ’42

I’m a sucker for summer romance stories. The ’42 setting (the year I made my début) made it extra special as did the gorgeous Jennifer O’Neill. Saw the film with friends from the small Connecticut TV station I worked at before coming to Boston. A special summer night

THE SOUND OF MUSIC

Saw this one summer of ’65 at the Syosset Theater on Long Island. My companion was the sweetheart of our college radio station. We sang the songs all the way home.

THE GREAT ESCAPE

It was the summer of ’63. I lost count of how many times I saw this in first run. I tried to emulate Steve McQueen by wearing the cutoff sweat shirt. Matter of fact, I had that sweat shirt for almost 40 years. Just ask Marilyn. And, no, I never tried to mimic Steve on a bike. Never that crazy!

great-escape-poster

SUSAN SLADE

Summer of ’62. I had a BIG crush on Connie Stevens! I still do. In my mind, that wasn’t Troy Donahue romancing Connie on-screen. Of course, Troy is long gone, but hey, Connie, I’m still here.

A LOSS OF INNOCENCE

It was also called “The Greengage Summer.” I saw it at the Hempstead Theater, Hempstead, Long Island. Summer of 1961 and the beginning of my crush on Susannah York.

A SUMMER PLACE

One of the first films I saw at a drive-in. 1959 on Long Island. Saw it with my best buddy and a gorgeous redhead. Another special summer night. Marilyn and I saw this again the other night at home. It wasn’t quite the same.

HOUSEBOAT

Summer of ’58. I was madly in love with Sophia Loren. I didn’t think Cary Grant was good enough for her. Years later, I met Sophia and told her the story. She laughed and gave me a kiss.

PEYTON PLACE

Summer of ’57. I was a sophomore in high school and quietly, desperately in love. The object of my unrequited affection was a dead ringer for Diane Varsi who played Allison in the movie. I’d read the Grace Metalious novel, including “those” parts several times. It’s still a guilty pleasure.

PICNIC

Summer of ’56. My baby brother, Anton, was just a few months old. I was his primary baby-sitter. “Picnic” was my first movie night out that summer. William Holden was my favorite actor. His “Moonglow Theme From Picnic” slow dance with the lovely Kim Novak did something to my precious bodily fluids. Years later, I met Holden and he laughed at my recollection of the movie. He said dancing with Novak did something to his precious bodily fluids too.

picnic-55-holden-novak-poster-1-f15

 

THE ROAD TO DENVER

A “B” western with John Payne. One of a bunch of westerns I saw during the summers 1950 through 1954 at a local movie theater where tickets were 11 cents for kids. I saw all the Audie Murphy, Rory Calhoun, Rod Cameron, Roy Rogers, etc. westerns. The Universal and Republic oaters were my favorites because the good guys had nice outfits and handsome horses. The coming attractions were exciting. I couldn’t wait to see the next film. The women? Forget ‘em.

SHANE

A memorable summer night in 1953. First encounter with one of my favorite westerns. Saw it with Mom at the Loews Valencia in Jamaica, New York. The Valencia was one of those old fashion palatial movie venues. You sat under the stars while watching the stars on the big screen.

shane poster-2

HOUSE OF WAX

Summer of ’53. Saw this with my Mom at the RKO Alden in Jamaica, Queens. The original 3-D version with Vinnie Price. One of the few films to scare the bejesus out of me. We walked home. A long walk. Mom held my hand. Don’t tell anyone. Years later, I told Vinnie Price this story. He laughed at me too.

SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN

Saw this with Mom during the summer of 1952. We sang the music walking home on a perfect summer night with the fire flies providing the chorus.

THE THING

Summer of ’51. Mom and me again. Scary, scary movie. Saw this at our neighborhood movie theater, The Carlton, in Jamaica, Queens. The short walk home seemed a little longer. I kept looking over my shoulder for things that go bump in the night.


Lots of diverse, fond memories probably enhance my recollection of these movies seen over the summers of more than half a century. I treasure the memories and the movies.

AWAKENINGS: THE LOST SPIRITS – SHARLA SHULTS

See on Scoop.itBooks, Writing, and Reviews

Today is a quiet day…a co-o-o-old day so definitely a day to stay inside simply enjoying the warmth of hearth and home. Just finished reading The 12-ft Teepee by Marilyn Armstrong (featured below) and thought I would take some time to visit blogs I am following. How surprised I was upon coming across The Lost Spirits @A Misbehaved Woman.

What better topic to revisit than that of the American Indians?

Disturbing, however, is the fact this story is not totally past history…it is tied to history, yes, but it is also right here, right now, in America, in New York City.

Read the rest of the story on Awakenings!

Marilyn Armstrong‘s insight:

So much good stuff to read in this post … including (blush) the best review I’ve ever gotten of my little book.

See on awakenings2012.blogspot.com

A CURIOUS ACCOUNT OF NATIVE PEOPLES IN NORTH AMERICA

THE INCONVENIENT INDIAN – A Curious Account of Native People in North America

By Thomas King

University of Minnesota Press
Publication Date: September 1, 2013

272 Pages

Before starting it, I was a bit dubious about the book. The title seemed just a bit … I don’t know. Off-center? I wasn’t sure if I was about to read history, anecdotes, opinion, humor or what.

It turned out to be all of the above and more. This is an entertaining book — humorous, elegantly written and witty. It’s also serious, but the seriousness is somewhat cloaked by its style. Unlike so many books written by oppressed minorities that aim — almost exclusively — to make one feel guilty for not being one of the oppressed, this book helps you help see the world through the eyes of Native Americans. What we see is beauty, horror and hilarity … a mad world in which you can’t trust anyone and you have to make your own rules because that’s the only way to survive.

We have slaughtered our Native Americans. Hated them, admired, adulated, tortured, enslaved, jailed and utterly misunderstood them since our first encounters.

The single thing we non-Natives have never done is accept the Native American claim to this country as more legitimate than ours. At the core of the relationship between Native peoples and the white “settlers” was and will always be land. It was theirs. We wanted it. We took it. They objected. We killed them. And we kept the land and tried improve our position by slander and slaughter.

These days, feelings towards Native American runs the gamut from awe, to bigotry and loathing. Despite the passing of centuries, there is little understanding. That the Native community is less than eager to let outsiders into their world should surprise no one. Their experience with us has not been reassuring. To quote Calvera from The Magnificent Seven: “Generosity. That was our first mistake.”

For anyone interested in discovering the meaning of cognitive dissonance, growing up Native in today’s America is a good start. Natives are by no means the only minority to have to hold completely incompatible world views simultaneously, but Natives have a legitimate claim to first place for the most cock-eyed and complex relationship with the larger society in which they must live.

This isn’t exactly history. It isn’t exactly not. It’s stories, history, opinions and anecdotes presented in a non-linear, almost conversational style. It is easy to read, lively and not at all pretentious. It shouldn’t surprise anyone, but probably will. Logic would dictate that our Native population regard us with at the very least, skepticism and possibly deep-rooted hostility.

This isn’t a deep analysis of the history of this relationship, though for some I suppose it would be revelatory. I would call it “Native American History Lite.” It is a good starting place for those who don’t know anything — or know a lot of things, all of which are wrong.

About the author:

Thomas King is an award-winning novelist, short story writer, scriptwriter, and photographer. His many books include the novels Medicine River; Green Grass, Running Water; Truth and Bright Water; two short story collections, One Good Story, That One (Minnesota, 2013) and A Short History of Indians in Canada (Minnesota, 2013); nonfiction, The Truth About Stories (Minnesota, 2005); and the children’s books A Coyote Columbus Story, Coyote Sings to the Moon, Coyote’s New Suit, and A Coyote Solstice Tale. King edited the literary anthology All My Relations and wrote and starred in the popular CBC radio series, The Dead Dog Café. He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Western American Literary Association (2004) and an Aboriginal Achievement Award (2003), and was made a member of the Order of Canada in 2004. He has taught Native literature and history and creative writing at the University of Lethbridge, the University of Minnesota, and the University of Guelph and is now retired and lives in Guelph, Ontario.

The Inconvenient Indian is available in Kindle, Hardcover and Paperback and worthwhile in any format.

85,000. What it means. What it doesn’t.

To put this into perspective, my “about” page and five top posts account for around 35,000 hits. “The Me Page” alone has gotten more than 12,000 hits.

75-85000-NK

Still, the cumulative effect is that a lot of people have visited this little blog of mine, for whatever reason and it’s a bit humbling to realize that’s the number of people in a pretty big town, more than a packed crowd in Yankee Stadium. I know there are people out there whose statistics put them into the hundreds of thousands. What’s weird is I see if I don’t quit, I’ll get there too. Not tomorrow, unless something I write goes viral (unlikely) … but I’ll get there. Because every day, I get around 200 hits, unless the première show for the 2012-2013 season of Criminal Minds is playing — in which case I get closer to 1000 hits (that’s how I know the show is airing).

I am writing this before I quite hit the 85,000 mark. At this moment in time, I’m at 84,958, so I’ll cross that bridge tomorrow. I don’t have the exact numbers, but it ought to be more than 85,000. I’m probably jinxing myself.

Number of posts? Closer to 1500, but I deleted several hundred and I’ll probably have to do it again to keep the website from collapsing under the weight of too many posts. I’ve been a busy writer. Meanwhile, I’m beginning to rerun posts because — hey — I think they’re pretty good and worth running again.

The ups and down of statistics can produce a lot of anxiety, so … you gotta have faith. I don’t just look at raw numbers because they are only a part of the puzzle. I don’t have more visitors or even as many as I did — the total number of visitors is down considerably from the peak last fall. It was the election and the Internet was a wild and crazy place. Yet the overall hit count has remained reasonably steady because guests spend more time on my site, read more posts, look at more pictures. The average number of posts hit per visit is greater than 2, sometimes a lot more. That tells me I’m doing something right.

It tells me I’m writing more interesting stories, posting better pictures. This matters to me far more than raw numbers. To know you come and stick around, enjoy my work enough to read more than a one post makes me feel pretty good.

The numbers of followers I’ve got has topped 400 from WordPress. I’ve got a bunch more from Twitter and Tumblr, maybe a couple of dozen from Facebook (not quite as many as WordPress counts them). A year ago I couldn’t even imagine so many followers.

Followers get  emails. Many people read posts in email and don’t bother to visit the website. It’s a peril of email notification. If you can read it in email, there’s no incentive to go to the main site since the emails contains 90% (or more) of the post. It’s a trade-off. Followers are good to have, even if they only read the email. Honestly, I don’t care if they read my posts on a telephone pole. Where isn’t important.

Sudden drops in hits are alarming and baffling, especially when numbers pop back up the next day. What was that all about? You will never know. One of the great mysteries of blogging. Numbers by themselves don’t mean everything, but they don’t mean nothing, either. A lot of hits indicates interest at the very least. Hit counts on individual posts tell me a lot too.

There are two kinds of posts in the blogging world. There are posts that are highly topical and burn really hot for a short time. Most of these involve breaking stories, current events, scandals, stuff like that. And there are slow burners. Timeless material, fiction, reviews.

Reviews can have a very long shelf life. People keep coming to read them over and over. Many of these are informational in nature, reviews of technology, books, movies. Oddly, reviews of extremely obscure movies do quite well, maybe because it’s difficult to find reviews of them anywhere. Camera reviews seem to have an eternal life. Book reviews of popular authors continue to be accessed months after original publication.

The posts with a long shelf lives gather a lot of hits over the months. One of my top three posts has more than 5000 hits, but it took more than 9 months. As long as the material remains relevant, people will find it. Good placement on Google helps too, but over all, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the longevity of reviews in general, technology in particular.

So for all that WordPress doesn’t think much of my work, a lot of other people apparently feel otherwise and in the end, that matters. It matters a lot. My followers, my readers have become a kind of family. We share each others’ lives, pains, joys. We celebrate and mourn together. We’ve never met, but we aren’t strangers.

I still save every “like” and every notification of a new follower. I would follow all my followers, but I’m out of time. I can’t keep up with that many blogs. I can barely keep up with the books I’m supposed to be reading and reviewing.

I can’t imagine how people do this when they have full-time jobs and young children. I’ve never been more impressed than I am with homemakers and career men and women who manage to handle their family obligations, jobs and blogs. All honor to you. You are the real rock stars.

Notes on a Cowardly Lion: The Biography of Bert Lahr — Review by Garry Armstrong

It’s been more than a week since I finished reading the Bert Lahr biography, “Notes on a Cowardly Lion“, written by his son, John. I am still emotionally involved. Why?

Why does a book written more than 40 years ago about a show business figure who peaked more than 70 years ago still sit front and center in my mind? I’m a retired TV and radio news reporter with more than 40 years in “the business”. The “news biz” is journalism, but it’s also performance, even for those of us who strive for objectivity.

Part of the job is celebrity too. When you appear on television five or six days a week for more than four decades, you become a household face. People ask for your autograph. You receive special treatment in stores and restaurants. Twelve years into retirement, folks still recognize me, tell how they grew up watching me on TV and ask for autographs. Mine is a regional celebrity although I’ve encountered fans almost everywhere I’ve travelled in the United States and overseas. I’ve always enjoyed and appreciated my celebrity. Yes, I miss it a bit when I’m not recognized but I don’t get depressed if I go unnoticed. I needed to share a little of my life because it puts my feelings about the story of Bert Lahr’s life into perspective. I really understood in a very personal way where the man was coming from.

Bert Lahr as the Cowardly Lion in Wizard of Oz...

I enjoyed the biographical side of the book. It speaks to history, the history of vaudeville and burlesque, show business venues that are frequently misrepresented. As a self-proclaimed trivia maven, I received a little education. Case in point: Clifton Webb, long perceived as a middle-aged effete, film actor actually was a well-received song and dance man in vaudeville. I learned the difference between vaudeville and burlesque. I came to appreciate the art form of what I used to perceive as Bert Lahr’s overly broad slapstick comedy. I understood how Lahr’s art form suffered at the hands of Hollywood film directors who tried to minimize his well honed craft and squeeze it into their movie concept of musical comedy.

Lahr’s comic genius never really had a chance  to shine in Hollywood. “The Wizard of Oz” was the exception. But that success also spelled disaster in Tinseltown because Lahr never again received a film role like the Cowardly Lion. Years later, he would find similar frustration with television which tried to restrict his comedic moves in variety shows. Lahr didn’t think much of TV comic legends like Milton Berle and Sid Caesar. Ironically, both Berle and Caesar spoke highly of Lahr in lengthy interviews with me — even as they lamented the fading of their celebrity. But that’s another story. Back to Bert Lahr.  Born into poverty, Lahr was always very conscious about being financially secure.

BertLahrEven when he returned to Broadway where he found his greatest success over the years, Lahr never felt financially secure even though he was earning top star salaries. In later years, as a TV pitchman for Potato Chips, Lahr earned more money for a thirty-second commercial than he ever did for starring in a play, movie or TV special. He still didn’t feel financially secure.

Bert Lahr did find some unexpected late professional success with surprising turns in work like “Waiting For Godot” co-starring with the likes of E.G. Marshall. Lahr savored critical acclaim, but was never satisfied even when he received it. For all of his professional and financial success, he was an unhappy man. He was insecure as an aspiring comedian/actor seeking stardom. He was insecure as a star thinking others were always trying to undermine him. He was insecure as an aging, respected legend believing people had forgotten him even though he was recognized everywhere he went. Lahr was miserable as a husband and father — demanding but not giving. Lahr desperately needed the audience — the laughter, the applause — throughout his life. Sadly,  he never appreciated the love and admiration he got from his family.

As the curtain closed on his life — with his loved ones gathered around him — Lahr still longed for his audience and their laughter and applause. He couldn’t let it go and move on, nor appreciate the good things life offered him. Lahr’s loneliness haunted me. The deeper I got into the book, the more painful I found reading his biography. I know first-hand how intoxicating and addictive celebrity is, especially when you fail to appreciate real life. Bert Lahr was never able to see the joys and sorrows of family and friends as “the real thing” that makes it all worthwhile. It’s the celebrity that is unreal and ephemeral.

It’s the people who love you who will sustain you after the curtain closes and the audience departs the theatre. That Lahr was never able to recognize what he had and accept the love that was there for him was his personal tragedy.

It’s a fine biography, but not a joyful reading experience. It is in many ways a cautionary tale, a reminder of how important it is to keep ones perspective and ones feet on the ground.

‘The Last Stand’ is a glorious action filled blast from the past

See on Scoop.itForty Two: Life and Other Important Things

The action is hot and heavy on store shelves this week as a truckload of new releases are becoming available for the couch bound movie watcher. “The Last Stand” is a gonzo action flick that marks the return of one of the biggest action icons of the 20th century to the big screen.

As sheriff of a sleepy little town, Ray Owens (Arnold Schwarzenegger) who is now semi-retired after years in the LAPD narcotics division has never had a lot of action in his new post and that’s just the way he likes it. However that is all about to change when drug lord Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega) busts out of FBI custody and makes a beeline for the border at 200 mph in a supercharged corvette and makes the mistake of running into Ray and his inexperienced deputies who will defend their small town at any cost.

Debuting to North American audiences for the first time, director Kim Jee-Woon brought a frenetic sense of energy and fun back to the R rated action movie that people just didn’t seem to connect with. That being said they really should have as this film kept the action going at a fantastic pace as we jump into this universe that while admittedly is filled with a little bit of corny dialogue, knows exactly what it is doing. Jee-Woon doesn’t mess around with exposition anymore then he absolutely has to and brings a lean and mean sensibility back to the action genre that we haven’t seen since the 1980’s. All the while with a script that has its tongue firmly planted in its cheek, only asking us to strap in and go along for the ride. Rather than try to be taken dead seriously, this modern-day western just wants us to have a little fun with it, and this ensemble cast knows exactly what kind of film that they are trying to deliver on and they do not disappoint.

In his first leading role since 2003 due to his term as governor of California, an older and wiser Arnold Schwarzenegger brings a certain sense of self-deprecation to the role of Ray Owens and it works to perfection. It’s no secret that he is a 66-year-old man, so the occasional old joke while kicking ass and blowing people away fits the tone of the film like a glove and even years away from the leading man roles, with the right material Arnold still proves that he can carry a picture. Eduardo Noriega chews the scenery as well as anyone as our renegade drug lord and the likes of Luis Guzman, Forest Whittaker, Rodrigo SantoroJohnny Knoxville, Genesis Rodriguez and Peter Stormare populate this story with a wide array of scenery chewing characters making for a frenetic R rated action romp that we can still get a good laugh out of and there isn’t a damn thing wrong with that.

The picture and sound quality on the Blu-Ray are absolutely first-rate and the special features on the Blu-Ray include deleted and extended scenes, a making of “The Last Stand”, behind the scenes looks with actors Johnny Knoxville and Jaimie Alexander and much more.

At the end of the day, I am the first person to acknowledge that “The Last Stand” just might not be for everyone. However, if you miss the lean and mean violent action thrillers of the 1970’s and 80’s that still had a little bit of gleeful wit to them, then you owe it to yourself to pick up a copy of this piece of action gold that will inspire you to pop the popcorn, and revel in the ride that the film takes you on.

“The Last Stand” is now available to rent on DVD, Blu-Ray and via On Demand from all major providers, you can also find it available for purchase from all major retailers.

Don’t forget to subscribe to my feed above or follow me on Facebook and Twitter as the Pop Culture Poet for all the latest and greatest news and reviews from the world of entertainment.

Marilyn Armstrong‘s insight:

Sounds like a fun movie!

See on www.examiner.com

- – – – -

‘The Great Gatsby’ tackles the weight of literary hopes with decent results

See on Scoop.itMovies From Mavens

An adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald‘s Long Island-set novel, where Midwesterner Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) is lured into the lavish world of his neighbor, Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio). Soon enough, however, Carraway will see through the cracks of Gatsby’s nouveau riche existence, where obsession, madness, and tragedy await.

Often lauded as a novel that cannot be filmed, this latest adaptation from Baz Luhrmann potentially comes the closest to capturing the hedonistic excess that is wrapped in this heartbreaking tale of love and obsession. Fans of Luhrmann’s style won’t be able to avoid seeing some of the borderline musical and choreographed sequences but that falls away fairly quickly as his ability to stage some sumptuous and lush looking visual set pieces works incredibly well in concert with the overall narrative. The script that he co-wrote with frequent collaborator Craig Pearce moves through the narrative at a brisk pace that never gives away the films nearly 2 and a half hour running time as he successfully allows to get swept up into this world, in spite of some uneven pacing from time to time, we never once get the urge to look at our watches. Luhrmann’s style allows us as the viewer to get swept up in his vision of utter excess as the rich get richer and retreat into their decadence while the poor suffer under the boot heel of their perceived betters’. It’s a story that shadows the perils of not only success and fame seeking that goes on even to this day, but the destructive nature of obsession and trying to recapture the past. There are admittedly some aspects of the narrative that ring a little hollow, but this might be the first adaptation of the novel where that point finally gets driven home as we are confronted with some fairly unlikable characters. A story like this always depends on the actors playing the roles, and this well cast adaptation works perfectly well thanks to the work from the leads on down.

In a change from the previous big screen adaptation in 1974, Leo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby plays him as a nervous and fragile human being so desperate to be accepted into a world that will seemingly always shun him no matter what he does. DiCaprio makes Gatsby a flesh and blood, and most importantly a flawed one something that ultimately makes him a likeable and tragic character. Tobey Maguire as his neighbour and friend Nick Carraway works wonders in the role as he isn’t necessarily looking for something from Gatsby, something which Gatsby is sadly used to and is only trying to be a good friend to the man, they have great chemistry together as they both navigate the realms of the rich and powerful with varying degrees of success. Carey Mulligan the lost love Daisy Buchanan is OK but not given as much depth or room to work with in order to establish some legitimate character and Joel Edgerton as the pompous old money millionaire Tom Buchanan is a little more muted from previous versions of the film as some of the racial overtones in the novel are a little more subdued then they were in past version of the film. The ensemble is rounded out with the likes of Isla Fisher who gets a moment or two to shine as Myrtle Wilson while Jason Clarke and Elizabeth Debicki as George Wilson and Jordan Baker respectively get pushed a little more into the background then they should have perhaps been.

Ultimately, “The Great Gatsby” is a story that will more than likely never satisfy devotees and fans of the book, but in this latest rendition it manages to at least succeed in capturing the high and lows of the era. The story makes for an entertaining yet tragic love story with some characters that we can actually get behind as it mirrors some social issues that we face even today.

3 out of 5 stars

“The Great Gatsby” is now playing at theatres all across the country, check with your local listings for show times.

Marilyn Armstrong‘s insight:

Worth a look-see. They keep trying, but so far, none of the versions has really gotten it. Maybe this time?

See on www.examiner.com

The Company You Keep (2012)

See on Scoop.itMovies From Mavens

See on www.myfilmviews.com

Surprises are the cherries on top of the cake of life (or something else if you don’t like cherries). They can brighten up your day because they show that the one giving them has taken the time to think about you and therefore are so cherished. They are the little moments you would like to have all the time and as a movie watcher I enjoy it when a movie is able to surprise me. I make sure movies are able to do that to read as little about them as possible and not watching trailers and for this movie, The Company You Keep I knew nothing. I knew Robert Redford and Shia LeBeouf were in it because they were on the cover, but as I was watching I was treated to one nice surprise after the other.

Robert Redford not only stars, but also has directed this movie (which is his 9th one) and has been able to get an amazing list of actors and actresses together to appear in this movie. Scene after scene I was thrilled to see another well-known actor play a role (some smaller than others) and this kept happening all through the movie. Susan Sarandon, Anna Kendrick, Stanley Tucci and Richard Jenkins are just a few examples, but there are many more. It’s a funny thing, but seeing familiar faces can really add to your enjoyment of a movie. Of course it is the reason why some actors get payed so much, because the general audience likes to see them and buys tickets. If you walk into a party and you don’t know anyone you won’t be as comfortable as when people you have seen before are present. As you know I watch all type of movies, also ones not starring well-known actors, but with this movie it was a joy to be surprised by the appearance of those actors/actresses.

Review of the Company You Keep

You might be wondering though: “That’s all fine Nostra, but what is this movie about?” It is about former members of the Weathermen, a radical left organisation who protested against the Vietnam war and tried to overthrow the government. A couple of them have been on a “wanted” list for years and when one of them is captured over 30 years later the other ones are also in danger of being discovered. Ben Shepard (Shia LaBeouf) is an investigative reporter who looks into the case and wants to question a local lawyer, Jim Grant (played by Robert Redford) who has declined to do the case. Once he starts investigating he finds out that Grant might have a reason to not take part in the case. When he disappears with his daughter he decides to follow the breadcrumbs and track him down. He’s not the only one doing so however.

Review of the Company You Keep

I thought The Company You Keep was an enjoyable movie, with enough unexpected twists to keep you guessing where it was all going. The appearance of all those actors only added to my enjoyment, but I have to say the journey was more interesting than the destination, which I thought was extremely disappointing. Although he movie is partly based on some true events, it is obvious this is a work of fiction. Because of its ending I really didn’t take away too much from it, but it was an enjoyable time waster.

Marilyn Armstrong‘s insight:

Sounds like a good one. At the very least, good entertainment.

See on www.myfilmviews.com

Roger Ebert, RIP – Whatever

See on Scoop.itIn and About the News

I can’t say that I ever spoke to Roger Ebert, but I can say I was once in the same room with him — specifically, the critics’ screening room in Chicago, where as the entertainment editor for my college newspaper I watched a terrible movie called Farewell to the King, and he and Gene Siskel were there as well, sitting, if I remember correctly, in the back of the little theater. Other critics were snarking and catcalling the screen (I mentioned it wasn’t a very good film), and either Siskel or Ebert (it was dark and I was facing the screen) told them to shut it. They shut it. After the movie was done I rode down in the elevator with him. And that was my brush with greatness, film critic style.

For all that I consider Ebert to be one of my most important writing teachers. He was my teacher in a real and practical sense — I was hired at age 22 to be a newspaper film critic, with very little direct practical experience in film criticism (not withstanding Farewell to the King, I mostly reviewed music for my college paper). I was hired in May of 1991, but wouldn’t start until September, which left me the summer to get up to speed. I did it by watching three classic movies a night (to the delight of my then-roommates), and by buying every single review book Roger Ebert had out and reading every single review in them.

He was a great teacher. He was passionate about film — not just knowledgeable about films and directors and actors, but in love with the form, in a way that came through in every review. Even when a movie was bad, you could tell that at least part of the reason Ebert was annoyed was because the film failed its medium, which could achieve amazing things. But as passionate as he was about film, he wasn’t precious about it. Ebert loved film, but what I think he loved most of all was the fact that it entertained him so. He loved being entertained, and he loved telling people, in language which was direct and to the point (he worked for the Sun-Times, the blue-collar paper in town) what about the films was so entertaining. What he taught me about film criticism is that film criticism isn’t about showing off what you know about film, it was about sharing what made you love film.

I saw how much Roger Ebert loved film that summer, through his reviews and his words. By the end of the summer, I loved film too. And I wanted to do what he did: Share that love and make people excited about going to the movies, sitting there with their popcorn, waiting to be entertained in the way only film can entertain you.

I left newspaper film criticism — not entirely voluntarily — but even after I left that grind I still loved writing about film and went back to it when I could. I wrote freelance reviews for newspapers, magazines and online sites; I’ve published two books about film. Every year I make predictions about the Oscars here on the site. And I can tell you (roughly) the domestic box office of just about every studio film since 1991. All of that flows back to sitting there with Roger Ebert’s words, catching the film bug from him. There are other great film critics, of course (I also have a soft spot for Pauline Kael, which is not entirely surprising), but Ebert was the one I related to the most, and learned the most from.

In these later years and after everything that he’d been through with cancer and with losing the ability to physically speak, I read and was contemplative about the essays and pieces he put up on his Web site. Much of that had nothing to do with film criticism, but was a matter of him writing… well, whatever. Which meant it was something I could identify with to a significant degree, since that is what I do here. It would be foolish to say that Ebert losing his physical voice freed him to find his voice elsewhere. What I think may be more accurate was that losing his physical voice reminded Ebert that he still had things he wanted to say before he ran out of time to say them.

His Web essays have a sharp, bright but autumnal quality to them; the leaves were still on the trees but the colors were changing and the snap was in the air. It seemed to me Ebert wrote them with the joy of living while there is still life left. I loved these essays but they also made me sad. I knew as a reader they couldn’t last. And of course they didn’t.

I had always meant to send Ebert a copy of Old Man’s War, for no other reason than as a token of appreciation. I knew he was a science fiction geek through and through (he had a penchant for giving science fiction films an extra star if they were especially groovy in the departments of effects and atmosphere). I wanted to sign the book to him and let him know how much his work meant to me — and for him to have the experience of the book before the movie, whenever that might be. I tried getting in touch with one of his editors at the Sun-Times, who I used to freelance for in college, to get it to him, but never heard back from her. Later it would turn out he and I had the same film/tv agent, who offered to forward on the book for me. I kept meaning to send off the book. I never did. I regret it now.

Although he can’t know it now, I still think it’s worth saying: Thank you, Roger Ebert, for being my teacher and for being such a good writer, critic and observer of the world. You made a difference in my life, and it is richer for having your words in it.

See on whatever.scalzi.com

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Digital Camera reviews – Olympus – Olympus PEN E-PL5 – Fisooloo.com

See on Scoop.itIn and About the News

Compare Olympus cameras: Olympus PEN E-PL5 prices , stores , reviews , specifications and videos at Fisooloo.com.

Marilyn Armstrong‘s insight:

This website, set to Olympus if you click over from here, is a useful tool for comparing models of camera equipment in a variety of ways. If you’re thinking of buying, but aren’t sure what model … or for that matter … what manufacturer … to go with, this is a good tool to help you sort it out. The site includes reviews, specs for those of us who like to know exactly what we are getting. And more.

There are other categories: computers, fashion, gaming consoles, other things … but you can use it however it suits your needs.

See on www.fisooloo.com

The PC is dead? ZDNet turns stupid.

See on Scoop.itIn and About the News

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ZDNet

ZDNet (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Summary: PC shipments are expected to decline for the first time in over a decade. Is it the economy, or a post-PC evolution?

This is the kind of article that makes me wonder if the people who write them live on the same planet I do. Have they never considered that most of us have enough computers, so we are buying devices we don’t already own? Are they seriously so stupid and out of touch?

Do they think I’m going to write my next novel on my telephone? Or an iPad? Or edit my photographs on anything but a large high-definition screen PC with a lot a memory and a hell of a big hard drive? I might use a Mac rather than a PC, but it won’t be any kind of mobile device. No one else who is the least bit serious about their art would ever consider using any of these toys to do real work.

Sure they are fun, but they aren’t serious machines and remarkably, there are still people who actually take their work seriously. It makes me wonder whether these so-called writers actually work for a living. It makes me wonder how they got a job writing about technology since they are obviously ignorant and not particularly bright.

Oh, and if they think I’m insulting them? They are right. I am.

ZDNet used to be an intelligent source of information. These days, they are blatantly in the pocket of whoever is buying the most advertising.

Credibility? Facts? Another classic example of a kind of stupidity that has taken over the media. That so many people actually believe this crap is appalling.

Plug back into reality, ZDNet. Or just shut up.

See on www.zdnet.com