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Stephen Pletko "Uncle Stevie" (London, Ontario, Canada)

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A Few Good Men (Special Edition) (Bilingual)
A Few Good Men (Special Edition) (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Tom Cruise
Offered by Fulfillment Express CA
Price: CDN$ 26.82
44 used & new from CDN$ 0.93

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One man will stop at nothing to keep his HONOUR and one will stop at nothing to find the TRUTH, Jan. 30 2014

"The facts of the case are these:

"On midnight of September 6, the accused entered the barracks room of their platoon mate, P.F.C. William Santiago. They woke him up, tied his arms and legs with tape, and forced a rag into his throat. A few minutes later, a chemical reaction called lactic acidosis caused his lungs to begin bleeding. He drowned in his own blood and was pronounced dead at 37 minutes past midnight.

These are the facts and they will not be disputed."

The above comes from this mesmerizing American drama becoming a courtroom drama at the end. It was adapted from Aaron Sorkin's play of the same name by Sorkin himself. (Sorkin also has a bit part in the movie.)

It tells a conventional but compelling story.

This movie stars Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson, and Demi Moore with Kevin Bacon and Kiefer Sutherland in key supporting roles.

It centers around the court marshal of two U.S. marines charged with the murder of a fellow marine (as revealed in the quotation above) and the tribulations of their inexperienced lawyers (Cruise, Kevin Pollock, Moore) as they prepare a case to defend their clients.

What I especially enjoyed is that this is a good talking movie with no special effects.

And the acting--superb! Both Cruise and Nicholson give unforgettable performances especially when there is verbal sparring between them.

The final courtroom showdown is riveting--you can't miss this!

Here's a typical line from Nicholson's character when he's being cross-examined:

"What do you want to discuss now? My favourite colour?"

I also liked the background music. It added to each scene.

Finally, the DVD itself (Special Edition, released in 2001) has four extras. I found them all interesting.

In conclusion, you can't miss this movie!! It turns what could have been a dull courtroom drama into something unforgettable. And what is the message of this movie?

"You don't have to wear a patch on your arm to have honour."

(1992; 2 hr, 15 min excluding end credits; wide screen; 28 scenes; rated `R')

<<Stephen PLETKO, London, Ontario, Canada>>


Cold Hard Truth: On Business, Money & Life
Cold Hard Truth: On Business, Money & Life
by Kevin O'Leary
Edition: Hardcover
12 used & new from CDN$ 11.79

5.0 out of 5 stars Even though I'm still leery of O'Leary, I must admit this book is...excellent!!, Jan. 22 2014

"In these pages, I'm sharing with you life-changing moments and powerful lessons that have shaped my business philosophy. Along the way, I'll provide succinct summaries of those lessons and some questions designed to get you thinking about your own financial goals and dreams.

Not everyone wants to be an entrepreneur, or to start and grow a business. But one things for certain: everyone wants to be financially successful and to make more money.

I'll share my simple, clear-cut philosophy for investing, growing wealth, and becoming financially secure. I'll tell you exactly how I built my fortune."

The above comes from this surprisingly good book by Kevin "Mr. Wonderful" O'Leary. O'Leary is a Canadian businessman, investor, writer, and TV personality. He is, perhaps, best known as one of the venture capitalists on the Canadian TV show "Dragon's Den" and its American counterpart "Shark Tank."

(I said above that O'Leary is generally a businessman. Specifically, he's "a born marketer and avid salesman." I wonder if O'Leary has read Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice," written circa 1595, with its central character "Shylock?")

Oh, I forgot one small thing: O'Leary's estimated net worth is $300 million. He also is chairman of a mutual and investment fund management firm that handles over $1.5 billion (known as {surprise, surprise} "O'Leary Funds").

This book is written in an autobiographical format. Along the way, O'Leary shares his secrets, experiences, insights, and lessons on entrepreneurship, business, money, and life as well as advice for budding entrepreneurs.

I first saw O'Leary on Canadian TV's "Dragon's Den." (Note that this show was in the ratings basement when it first began but due to some lucky events that happened during season one, it has become hugely successful.) I, like probably many people who watched this show, took an immediate dislike to O'Leary.

For those thinking that you'll read about the "TV show" Kevin O'Leary, I'm here to tell you that you won't (except for a couple of sections at the end of the book). This book presents a more caring O'Leary. (And NO. I'm not kidding!)

How should you read this book? I recommend reading this book with a business person's mentality. Such a mentality is one where you absolutely love money above anything else and where "greed is good." (For those who believe this, watch the weekly documentary "American Greed" on CNBC, narrated by my favourite actor Stacy Keach.)

If you read this book with this mentality, you'll find that this book is quite good. It is a well-written autobiography. Peppered throughout it are both personal and non-personal black and white pictures. (I especially liked the pictures showing O'Leary with a full head of hair!) What I especially found interesting are the brief lesson summaries found at the end of each chapter. The titles of these lesson summaries include "Are you an employee or an employer," "How to spot winners," "How to present the perfect pitch," and "O'Leary's laws for savvy investing."

The "truth" found in this book's title refers to O'Leary's truths that he has discovered along the way to becoming a multi-millionaire. But there is one truth that he reveals that applies to everything in life including financial life. Unfortunately he buries this universal truth in the acknowledgements section, a section few people read. Here it is in O'Leary's own words:

"And scrutinizing my own career with 20/20 hindsight has made me realize just how much my success is really a mysterious combination of hard work and serendipity [or luck, chance, fate, being in the right place at the right time, accidental good fortune, etc.] Because in the end, fortune shines on only a lucky few and sets them free."

Finally, would I invest in O'Leary Funds?? Absolutely. Even though O'Leary tells us he's known as an a-hole to many people, I need a person like him to manage and make my money grow. (In fact, I plan to get in touch with him as soon as I win the lottery!)

In conclusion, multi-millionaire Kevin O'Leary has written an impressive autobiography that I found to be both enjoyable and educational.

If I had only one question to ask O'Leary it would be this:

"How much is enough??" (He would probably call me a "nut bar" for asking him this question.)

(first published 2011; introduction; 12 chapters; epilogue; main narrative 245 pages; acknowledgements)

<<Stephen PLETKO, London, Ontario, Canada>>


The Great Barrier Reef (BBC)
The Great Barrier Reef (BBC)
DVD ~ Various
Price: CDN$ 20.50
25 used & new from CDN$ 14.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A definitive guide to the secrets of one of the seven wonders of the natural world!!, Jan. 15 2014
This review is from: The Great Barrier Reef (BBC) (DVD)

"Off the east coast of Australia, up to 200 km [124 miles] offshore, a line of surf rises out of the open ocean. Beneath the surface, creating these breaking waves is the most magical marine environment on Earth.

I'm [your host and narrator], I'm a marine biologist and diver and I've always been fascinated by the sea. For me, there's always been one place that is the epitome of everything that's wonderful about the marine environment. It's a true global icon and is a Mecca for anyone who's ever heard of the word "coral." The Great Barrier Reef.

Stretching for over 2000 km [1,240 miles] up the tropical coast of Australia, it is quite simply the largest living structure on the planet. It's made up of almost 3000 different reefs, each one with a different personality. And it's so much more than just coral.

But the Great Barrier Reef is most famous for its underwater world. Here, there is more life than almost anywhere else on Earth. Many of the creatures are exquisitely beautiful. But some seem straight out of science fiction while others can kill in an instant.

And just when you think you know the reef, it changes, every second, every hour, every day, and every year. It's a world of continual surprises.

This is the amazing story of an ever-changing natural miracle, the Great Barrier Reef!"

The above comes from the introduction of the first episode of this truly outstanding documentary. The latest filming techniques are used and there is even some time-lapse photography.

The result is a well-narrated, vibrant-with-colour film showing everything you ever wanted about the Great Barrier Reef. The biodiversity is just staggering!

There are three episodes. Their titles are as follows:

(1) Nature's Miracle. Examines the underwater world of the reef.
(2) Reef to Rainforest. Looks at the marine habitats in and around the area of the reef.
(3) The Reef and Beyond. Details why the Great Barrier Reef is an international hub to some of the greatest wildlife spectacles on Earth.

Finally, this is a show you must see with a widescreen TV--the wider, the better!!

In conclusion, this is your definitive guide to one of the most complex and spectacular ecosystems on Earth!!!

(2011; 3 hr; 3 episodes; each episode 1 hr; wide screen)

<<Stephen PLETKO, London, Ontario, Canada>>


Beyond the God Particle
Beyond the God Particle
by Leon M. Lederman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 16.62
43 used & new from CDN$ 15.72

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Learning about the Higgs Boson and what lies...beyond, Jan. 8 2014

"We have told you [in this book] the story of the Higgs boson [the "God particle"]. We have tried to give you an idea about why it exists, based upon what we've learned about the nature of mass in the [twentieth] century. We've seen how the understanding of the basic concept of "mass," known only as the "quantity of matter" since the ancients, became more profound in the late twentieth century at the deepest level of the basic building blocks of nature, the elementary particles...

Throughout the...chapters [of this book] it is our goal to explain in clear and simple terms...why we need the Higgs boson and to give some inkling as to what may lie beyond."

The above comes from the introduction and last chapter of this informative and up-to-date book by Leon Lederman and Christopher Hill. Lederman won a shared Nobel Prize in Physics (1988) for research on neutrinos (a weakly interacting elementary subatomic particle). He is the author of several science books. Lederman is formerly the Resident Scholar at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy and Professor of Science at the Illinois Institute of Technology. He is director emeritus of the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory or Fermilab. Hill is a noted theoretical physicist and former head of the Theory Department at Fermilab.

This book provides the best description of the Higgs boson I've ever read. In fact, I found all the particle physics in this book well-explained.

After an introductory chapter, the next two chapters are designed to explain particle physics (which is the exploration of the smallest things in the world). This leads to the "story of the Higgs Boson" (next three chapters). The last chapter is entitled "Beyond the Higgs Boson."

Two of the middle later chapters are devoted to Particle Accelerators.

Three of the chapters are what I call stand-alone chapters. These chapters are entitled "Rare Processes." "Neutrinos," and "Project X" respectively. The Rare Processes chapter includes the best description of antimatter that I have ever read. Project X of Fermilab is a high-intensity proton accelerator, sometimes called a "proton-driver."

Good, large diagrams permeate this book. These aided me considerably in my understanding of concepts.

Finally, I think a good glossary would have aided me in reading this book. True, all scientific terms are defined in the main narrative but if I forgot the definition of a certain term, I found myself going frantically back to earlier sections in order to find a definition.

In conclusion, this is a fascinating and readable book. If you want to learn about the Higgs boson and what lies beyond it, this is the book to read!!

(first published 2013; acknowledgements; 12 chapters; main narrative 250 pages; appendix; notes; index)


Criterion Collection: To Be Or Not to Be [Import]
Criterion Collection: To Be Or Not to Be [Import]
Price: CDN$ 32.04
22 used & new from CDN$ 20.84

5.0 out of 5 stars Is this movie a tragical farce or a farcical tragedy??, Dec 31 2013

What if I told you that a movie exists that:

(1) pits Jack Benny against the Nazis
(2) is a farce set in occupied Warsaw, Poland
(3) has jokes about concentration camps
(4) has the Gestapo itself foiled by an elegant web of implausibility

Yes, such a movie DOES exist. And this is it!!

In this American black comedy set in occupied Poland, the oddly matched Jack Benny (1894 to 1974) and Carole Lombard (1908 to 1942, her last film role) play Joseph Tura (the "world's greatest Shakespearean actor") and his wife, Maria. Furious at the Nazis for invading Poland and thus ruining his career, Tura takes revenge by turning his acting troupe into spies and his dramatic gifts into espionage.

Every scene Jack Benny appears in is comical. In my opinion, the funniest part of the movie is Benny's classic glare when he observes an audience member (a young Robert Stack, 1919 to 2003) sneaking out in the middle of what he considers his greatest scene. (This occurs several times.)

This movie manages successfully to balance political satire, romance, slapstick, and wartime suspense. In other words this is a well-crafted complex satire that's also a screwball masterpiece.

The title refers to the famous "To be or not to be" soliloquy (speech a character gives when alone) in William Shakespeare's tragic play "Hamlet."

At the time this movie was released, it was not well-received by the public, many of whom couldn't understand the notion of making fun out of such a real threat as the Nazis. Since then, it has become a comedy classic.

This movie has been digitally restored. It probably looks better than when it was originally released!!

This movie was selected in 1996 for preservation in the U.S. National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."

Finally, the DVD set (Criterion Collection, released in 2013) has a second disc full of interesting extras. Also, a booklet is included that contains yet more interesting material.

In conclusion, this is a rare movie that interweaves farce and disaster and does justice to Jack Benny's comedic brilliance.

"Heil Hitler!!"

(1942; 1 hr, 40 min; black and white; full screen; 2 discs; 12 scenes)

<<Stephen PLETKO, London, Ontario, Canada>>


Robocop (Widescreen) (Bilingual) [Import]
Robocop (Widescreen) (Bilingual) [Import]
DVD ~ Peter Weller
Offered by moviemars-canada
Price: CDN$ 6.47
38 used & new from CDN$ 2.35

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Come quietly or there will be...trouble", Dec 21 2013

"There's a new guy in town. His name's Robocop."

The above is what the creator of Robocop says as he looks over his creation.

In this movie, we get to see how exactly police officer Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) becomes the cyborg, Robocop. He is created just in time since he is now the first defence between the city ("Old Detroit") and a group of thugs determined to take over this city.

Making Robocop's job even tougher, is the fact that corruption extends into the upper echelons of the police hierarchy.

What makes this movie even more interesting is that Robocop still has memories or flashbacks of being fully human. As well, there are subtle themes regarding the media, corruption, privatization, identity, human nature, etc.

Beware that this movie can be quite violent but this violence is counter-balanced with comical elements.

I have to give kudos to Peter Weller's acting. Despite having on some hefty hardware, he still manages to bring out the humanity of Robocop. And Ronny Cox gives a tremendous performance as a corrupt corporate official.

As well, I found that the main background music added to each scene of this movie.

Finally, the DVD itself (the one released in 2001) has only one extra: the original theatrical trailer.

In conclusion, this is a sci-fi action movie that seems to work on several different levels. Also, it could very well show

"the future of law enforcement."

(1987; 1 hr, 37 min excluding end credits; wide screen; 16 scenes; rated 'R')

<<Stephen PLETKO, London, Ontario, Canada>>


The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism
The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism
by Naoki Higashida
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 15.68
9 used & new from CDN$ 9.18

5.0 out of 5 stars An autistic, thirteen-year-old boy answers 58 questions about autism!!!, Dec 14 2013

"My big hope is that I can help a bit by explaining, in my own way, what's going on in the minds of people with autism...

I hope that by reading my [answers to the questions] about autism and its mysteries [in this book], you can come to understand that all the obstacles that present themselves [to us people with autism] don't come from our selfishness or from ego. If all of you can grasp this truth about us, we are handed a ray of hope. However hard an autistic life is, however sad it can be, so long as there's hope we can stick at it...

I also hope that, by reading this book, you might become a better friend of someone with autism."

The above comes from the preface and after word of this extremely interesting and unique book by Naoki Higashida. He was born in 1992 and was diagnosed with autism at the age of five. He graduated from high school in 2011 and lives in Kimitsu, Japan. He is an autism advocate, motivational speaker, and the author of several books of fiction and non-fiction.

The person who wrote the excellent introduction to this book states:

"[This book] was a revelatory godsend. Reading [this book] felt as if, for the first time, [my] own [three-year-old autistic] son was talking to [my wife and me] about what was happening inside his head through Naoki's words."

The bulk of this book is written in a question and answer format with 58 questions about autism being answered. Here are some of those questions:

(1) Why do people with autism talk so loudly and weirdly?
(2) Why do you ask the same questions over and over?
(3) Why do you do things you shouldn't even when you've told a million times not to?
(4) Why don't you make eye contact when you're talking?
(5) Do you prefer to be on your own?
(6) What's the worst thing about having autism?
(7) What's the reason you jump?
(8) Why do people with autism often cup their ears?
(9) Why do you like spinning?
(10) Why do you flap your fingers and hands in front of your face?

Interspersed among the questions and answers are stories of a few paragraphs in length written by Naoki. I counted seven such stories.

At the end of this book is a superb short story of about twenty pages written by Naoki. Here is the actual foreword to this short story:

"I wrote this story in the hope that it will help you to understand how painful it is when you can't express yourself to the people you love. If this story connects with your heart in some way, then I believe you'll be able to connect back to the hearts of people with autism too."

Finally, the only problem I had is that this book does not list (with page numbers) the questions being asked. Instead, you're forced to thumb through the book to discover these questions. In fact, the entire book is one of discovery as there is no table of contents. (Because of the exceptional and courageous nature of this book, I decided not to forfeit a star from my rating because of this small problem.)

In conclusion, this is truly a unique book--an exceptional book. What does this book prove?

"It offers up proof that locked inside the helpless-seeming autistic body is a mind as curious, subtle, and complex as yours, as mine, as anyone's."

(first translated 2013; first published 2007; introduction; preface; 58 questions with answers; foreword to short story; short story entitled "I'm Right Here;" after word; main narrative 140 pages; a note from the illustrators; about the author; about the translators; about the illustrators; about the type)

<<Stephen PLETKO, London, Ontario, Canada>


An Appetite For Wonder: The Making Of A Scientist
An Appetite For Wonder: The Making Of A Scientist
by Richard Dawkins
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 20.05
46 used & new from CDN$ 2.05

5.0 out of 5 stars One of the greatest minds of our time shares how he became the thinker he is, Dec 7 2013

"I became a secret reader. In the holidays from boarding school, I would sneak up to my bedroom with a book: a guilty truant from the fresh air and the virtuous outdoors. And when I started learning biology properly at school, it was still bookish pursuits that held me. I was drawn to questions that grown-ups would have called philosophical. What is the meaning of life? Why are we here? How did it all start?"

The above comes from this tell-all memoir from the author of such best-sellers as "The Selfish Gene" (1976), "The Blind Watchmaker" (1986), "The God Delusion" (2006), and "The Magic of Reality" (2011), RICHARD DAWKINS. He is a Fellow of both the Royal Society and the Royal Society of Literature. Dawkins has received numerous honours and awards especially in science. He retired from his position as Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University in 2008.

In 2012, a new genus name called "Dawkinsia" was created in recognition of his contribution to the public understanding of evolutionary science. In 2013, Dawkins was voted the world's top thinker in "Prospect" magazine's poll (of 10,000 readers from over 100 countries).

This book is actually the first book in his two-part memoir. (The second book will be released sometime in 2015). As Dawkins tells us:

"Publication of 'The Selfish Gene' [in 1976] marks the end of the first half of my life."

In this first book, Dawkins tells us everything from his birth in Africa in 1941, his parents, and he even delves a bit into his family tree. Then he moved to England when he was eight. We learn of his early school and family experiences. After this he went to Oxford University in 1959 where many positive influences on his life occurred. This first book, as already mentioned, culminates with the publication of "The Selfish Gene," thought by many to be one of the most important books of the twentieth century.

Along the way, Dawkins tells us his views on such things as religion, critical thinking, how he was entranced with computers, his regrets, etc.

I especially enjoyed the last two chapters of this book. The penultimate chapter deals with the phenomenal "The Selfish Gene" while the final chapter, amongst other things, is a tribute to Charles Darwin, Dawkins' "greatest scientific hero."

Finally, there are three sets of glossy photographs in this book (some in colour, some in black and white). I found that these enhanced the main narrative.

In conclusion, this is the first in a two-set autobiography by one of the greatest minds of our time: Clinton Richard Dawkins.

(first published 2013; 15 chapters; main narrative 295 pages; acknowledgements; text and picture acknowledgements; index; about the author)


I Can Barely Take Care of Myself: Tales From a Happy Life Without Kids
I Can Barely Take Care of Myself: Tales From a Happy Life Without Kids
by Jen Kirkman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 16.30
53 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars A "childfree chick" sets the record straight about not having a child, Nov. 30 2013

"The way most people feel about loving being a parent is exactly how I feel about NOT being a parent. I love it. And I can't imagine my life any other way. I'm one of those people in an ever-growing movement called childfree by choice."

The above comes from this insightful but funny book by Jen "Jennifah" Kirkman. She has two comedy albums to her credit and writes for and appears as a regular roundtable guest on the talk show "Chelsea Lately" and is one of the stars of the spin-off mockumentary show "After Lately."

What I appreciated about this book is that it blends a somewhat serious subject of being childfree with comedy. The result? A super enjoyable read that is frank and candid.

Kirkman takes us through her life-journey thus far, from living in her childhood bedroom while trying to break into comedy (a good birth-control method) to taking the stage and joining a hit TV show and along the way getting married (that is, married...without children), divorced, and attending (eXcruciating) birthday parties for her parent friends.

Kirkman also addresses some of the big issues about being childfree directed to her by the child-having. For example:

(1) "You'll change your mind!!"
(2) "But you'd be such a good mom!"
(3) "Poor thing, you're going to die alone"
(4) "But if people don't have kids, how will the human race survive?"

Finally, this book has four-letter words peppered throughout it. These are not used excessively.

In conclusion, this book is a beacon of hope (actually, hilarious hope) for anyone whose decision of being childfree has been questioned by others. I leave you with this insightful quote from comedian Rita Rudner:

"My husband and I are either going to buy a dog or have a child. We can't decide whether to ruin our rugs or ruin our lives."

(first published 2013; introduction; 12 chapters; main narrative 210 pages; acknowledgements; about the author)

<<Stephen PLETKO, London, Ontario, Canada>>


Lord of the Flies  (The Criterion Collection)
Lord of the Flies (The Criterion Collection)
DVD ~ James Aubrey
9 used & new from CDN$ 19.96

5.0 out of 5 stars "Kill the pig! Slit her throat! Bash her in!", Nov. 23 2013

"Which is it better to be? A pack of painted savages...or sensible...Which is better? To have rules and agree, or to hurt and kill."

Then above quote said by one of the main characters is actually the crux of this extremely interesting movie based on the 1954 novel of the same name by William Golding.

The story is actually a simple one. A plane crashes on an uninhabited island. The survivors are a group of privileged preadolescent British schoolboys including some choirboys. They must learn to survive on this island until they are rescued.

We get to see what happens as the boys adapt to their new environment. We also get to observe how the veneer of civilization slowly erodes from them. We get to see how their primitive instincts overtakes the majority of them and how their moral compasses seem to get lost.

This is not just a tale of lost innocence. It's a case study of the behaviour of kids in the wilderness.

This movie was not filmed in a studio somewhere but the director (Peter Brook) and his young cast of school kids really were on a desert island together. (Filming took place entirely in Puerto Rico and on the island of Vieques)

The actors were young amateur actors, few of whom ever acted again.

For those that have read the novel, this film closely follows the trajectory of the book.

This movie was filmed in black and white, adding yet another dimension to it. This particular disc has a newly, restored digital film transfer.

Finally, the DVD set (the Criterion Collection released in 2013) has a long list of excellent extras including audio recordings of William Golding reading from his novel "Lord of the Flies," accompanied by the corresponding scenes from this film. A booklet is also included which has a superb essay about this movie by a film critic and an excerpt from the director's autobiography.

In conclusion, this is truly a unique movie that shows that even innocent schoolboys can be reduced to the level of...savages.

(1963; 1 hr, 30 min; black and white; 2 discs; full screen; 14 scenes)

<<Stephen PLETKO, London, Ontario, Canada>>


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