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Reviews Written by
Roger J. Buffington (Huntington Beach, CA United States)

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Rudy: The Rudy Giuliani Story
Rudy: The Rudy Giuliani Story
DVD ~ James Woods
Offered by biddeal
Price: CDN$ 18.64
11 used & new from CDN$ 1.83

3.0 out of 5 stars Woods is great but the film is a hatchet job on Rudy., Jan. 2 2004
I have always liked James Woods and I always will. I did not much care for this film despite Woods' fine portrayal of Giuliani. The film is watchable, and more than watchable, that I'll grant. But it focuses obsessively on Giiuliani's marital problems and foibles, and only touches briefly on the truly wonderful things he did for New York. Golly, you don't suppose the producers were Democrats, do you? I mean, you could almost feel the pain of the producers of this film each time they were forced to discuss something intelligent that Giuliani did as mayor, and then of course the film would snap back to its main theme--that Giuliani was possibly a less-than-ideal husband or has other faults as a person, i.e. ego, ambition, vanity. What great man or woman lacks these traits, anyway? Nothing wrong with including this as part of the film, but I felt that the story lacked balance and shows an underlying hostility to what Giuliani set out to and did accomplish as mayor of New York.
I was disappointed in the film and the only good thing about it is James Woods. He makes the film watchable, but this movie falls far short of its potential. Then again, one cannot realistically expect Hollywood to make a movie about conservative politics rescuing New York City from turning into an ungovernable mess.

The Hunt for Red October (Bilingual) [Import]
The Hunt for Red October (Bilingual) [Import]
DVD ~ Sean Connery
Price: CDN$ 14.10
27 used & new from CDN$ 2.81

5.0 out of 5 stars A superb film version of Clancy's excellent novel!, Jan. 2 2004
This is one of my very favorite movies of all time. It is, of course, the story of a Soviet submarine captain attempting to defect to the United States with his state-of-the-art "first strike" submarine during the latter days of the Cold War. The bestselling novel upon which the movie is based is the one that made Tom Clancy famous, and the movie hews close to the original story, rarely straying from it.
Sean Connery is magnificent as Captain Marko Ramius, the Soviet sub captain. He absolutely becomes the role, and whenever I re-read the novel I see Connery in my mind's eye as Ramius. Alec Baldwin does fine as Jack Ryan, although I don't find him to be nearly as good as Harrison Ford, who plays Ryan in the subsequent "Jack Ryan" movies (e.g. Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger). He's wildly better than Affleck though. While some reviewers have been critical of Baldwin as Jack Ryan, my own opinion is that he succeeded, and probably made a serious career mistake by not ensuring that he played Ryan in the subsequent films. Sam Neil does his customary stellar job as Ramius' second-in-command and co-conspirator. By the way, I thought that the actors who played the other Russian submarine officers all did fine jobs. They seemed Russian, at least to me.
The entire supporting cast does very well in this film, and everything comes together very effectively, making this one of the truly great films about the Cold War. The story transports from novel to Silver Screen beautifully, and the DVD is excellent. This is one that belongs in everyone's collection, and it is one that you will watch over and over again.

Starman (Bilingual)
Starman (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Jeff Bridges
6 used & new from CDN$ 3.31

5.0 out of 5 stars Impossible not to like--a love story with a twist., Jan. 1 2004
This review is from: Starman (Bilingual) (DVD)
This film is simply impossible not to like. Jeff Bridges is unforgettable as an alien from an incomparably advanced race who is stranded on Earth (after taking human form) and seeking to return to his own civilization, and his excellent performance as such earned him an Oscar nomination. He really gets into the role, and plays it to perfection. His gestures and mannerisms as the alien trying to understand human beings are uncannily plausible. Karen Allen is also superb in her role as an ordinary human being caught up in the struggle between Bridges, seeking to escape the Earth, and those darned nasty Big Government agents who fear the alien and seek to capture and destroy him. Darned gummint, isn't that just like them?
There are few special effects in the movie, and none are needed--this is a movie that gets through by sheer excellent storytelling and wonderful acting by Bridges and Allen. It manages to be touching without being sappy, and although our human government is viewed as being narrow-minded and overly paranoid, the alien in the end forms a high and joyous opinion of mankind, which I found uplifting and optimistic.
Well worth watching and owning.

Rollerball (Widescreen/Full Screen)
Rollerball (Widescreen/Full Screen)
DVD ~ James Caan
Offered by boutiquecinemaniac,com
Price: CDN$ 24.95
19 used & new from CDN$ 3.82

4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating speculation of a possible future society., Jan. 1 2004
This is a story dealing with the struggle of one man to stand against society's establishment in a future society dominated by huge mega-corporations. Nation states are gone, bankrupt, and society's needs are met by huge corporate entities that demand complete loyalty and obedience in exchange for material comfort and security.
Wars are no more, and people's need for aggression and conflict are directed to the violent sport "Rollerball" in which the players are routinely killed and maimed. The subtle, underlying purpose of Rollerball is to show the futility of individual achievement, and that individual stature and excellence must always be subordinated to society and the larger organization of the corporation. Players play and then are maimed or killed off, but the game goes on. James Caan is superb as "Jonathan E" the longest-surviving star of the game Rollerball, who seeks to rise above the game rather than either retire from it, or be destroyed by it. John Houseman does his usual fine job playing the consummate establishment "corporate executive"--which is the ruling class. This is a man-versus-establishment story with an interesting twist.
By the way, the cinematography and special effects of this film are quite good even by today's standards. The Rollerball scenes are very well done, and very imaginative.
In some respects the movie is campy, reflective of its 1970s origins, but it still entertains. The storyline moves along briskly, with very few pointless interludes and draggy mid-movie scenes that are so typical of too many movies today. While the film does intend to send a message, it also manages not to take itself too seriously, and is much more fun as a consequence.
By the way, this film is incomparably better than the remake "Rollerball" which recently came out, and don't confuse the two. This is the original, and this is the one to get.

Earth Abides
Earth Abides
by George R. Stewart
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
14 used & new from CDN$ 5.80

5.0 out of 5 stars A timeless story of a global biological holocaust, Jan. 1 2004
The premise of this novel is that mankind suddenly experiences a biological holocaust in the form of a new disease--a form of super-measles that wipes out all but a tiny remnant of mankind. The author explains that "mankind had too long been rolling an endless succession of sevens" and that like all animals that had multiplied out of turn, the sudden catastrophe was inevitable to set the balance back to what nature intended. This novel tells the story of a very small group of survivors, and suggests what life would be like under in the aftermath, and perhaps, more profoundly, what such a scenario might mean for mankind.
The author's premise is that little or nothing of civilization would survive such an event. In the story **very minor spoiler** although the survivors make attempts at preserving the skills and lessons of civilization, this eventually becomes impossible against the tide of events sweeping mankind back not just to barbarism (in which some skills and beliefs might have survived) but to downright savagery and superstition. The most profound thought that the author successfully imparts is that all of the traditions, skills, and manifestations of our civilization could--and would--be lost in a single generation. Unforgettable is when one of the characters in the story looks out at the ruins of the San Francisco Bay Bridge (before it too passes away) and asks--"who built this." The protagonist thinks for a second and answers: "the Americans built it." The next question is "who were the Americans?" I have never forgotten this exchange, which I felt illustrated brilliantly how important it is for one generation to impart the best ideas of civilization to the next, and how easily all our achievements and successes might be lost in the face of a global catastrophe.
The reader need not and probably will not agree with all of the author's conclusions about what would happen in this scenario. Would we really lose the skill of a written language? Would we really fall all the way back almost to the Old Stone Age? The author will challenge the reader's own thoughts on this subject, and that is fine. One need not agree with all of the conclusions that the novel contains to enjoy this story.
Although written many years ago, upon re-reading this novel recently I found that it had lost little or none of its impact or relevance. It features a bit more prudishness than a modern novel might contain, but in my opinion is none the worse for this. The story is well-told, the prose is quite good, and the storyline moves along all the while capturing and retaining the reader's interest. This is a novel that I would recommend to everyone.

Alas Babylon
Alas Babylon
by Pat Frank
Edition: Paperback
19 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars A classic although dated story of nuclear holocaust, Jan. 1 2004
This review is from: Alas Babylon (Paperback)
This book is a superb look at what a nuclear war might have been like had it occurred in the late 1950s. Although some of the weapons issues that the book discusses are now dated (the book features a pretty good discussion of the missile-versus-bomber issue that was very real in the late '50s but which is now passe) in my opinion this detracts not at all from the novel's relevance. This is a gritty, hard-hitting novel about what life might have been like had mankind not managed to avoid nuclear conflict during the bad old days of the Cold War. Nuclear weapons are still around in abundance, and this book is still worth reading, and it is an enjoyable read that I personally found impossible to put down.
The story is set in a small Florda town that manages to be outside any of the blast or target zones. The novel begins prior to the outbreak of nuclear conflict, and takes us through it to its aftermath--an aftermath of anarchy, hardship, and economic chaos, as the agricultural and economic back of the country are broken, and perhaps a majority of Americans are dead, in common with people in many parts of the world. This could have happened and still could. This stark fact is what makes this novel as relevant today as it ever was, despite some of the dated military-political issues that it occasionally discusses.
The book does show the citizens of this small town surviving with dignity and even some optimism. But it never lets us forget that a nuclear war would be a catastrophe for mankind. Although we have dodged this bullet so far, surely current events show that we cannot be complacent, and books like this are as important as ever.
A good novel that I recommend to everyone.

The Dark Side of Camelot
The Dark Side of Camelot
by Seymour M. Hersh
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 14.44
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Dark Side of JFK revealed with all its warts., Dec 30 2003
First, the disclaimer: although I am a conservative, I like and admire much of what JFK did as president, and I admire the man. Few readers will begin reading this book without a pre-existing opinion of Kennedy. That is/was mine.
Hersh does a workmanlike job illustrating the apparently undeniable fact that Kennedy had medical problems, integrity issues, and personal problems that the country would probably not tolerate in a president today. This book appears to be well-researched and well-documented. It does not present a flattering portrayal of Kennedy and it does not intend to.
First, the infidelity. Hersh goes into depressing detail as to his theme that JFK's marriage was a sham. According to Hersh, JFK never missed an opportunity to philander whenever Jackie Kennedy was away, and sometimes when she wasn't away. Much of JFK's inner circle conspired with him in this regards (according to Hersh) to a degree that is hard to imagine. Hersh speculates that part of Kennedy's abnormal libedo was induced by various drugs he took for his Addison's condition. Hersh develops this theme further in his discussion of the Cuban Missile Crisis and speculates that the cocktail of steroids and other drugs that Kennedy evidently needed to get through the day affected his judgment and his willingness to take risks. This in turn may have caused him to be more prone to the kind of brinksmanship that Hersh claims characterized Kennedy's handling of the Missile Crisis.
Personally I'm not so sure. Despite the fact that the US had an overwhelming nuclear and overall military superiority over Soviets in 1962, Kennedy did not bomb the missiles out but instead negotiated. Here I felt Hersh was unfair to Kennedy.
On the other hand, it seems clear that Kennedy's marriage was a sham and his image of youthful vigor was even more of a sham. Hersh is convincing that Kennedy could not get through the day without a battery of probably illegal drugs. Kennedy was suffering from Addison's disease, which is a very serious condition, and had many other health issues, including the famous back problem, which put him in constant pain.
Personally I found this book convincing as regards the infidelity, drug, and health claims that it made about Kennedy. Hersh is on thinner ice when he theorizes that these issues caused Kennedy to endanger the country. While this book or one like it is probably needed to balance the fluff pieces about Kennedy (and all the Kennedys) that abound, it is not itself a balanced analysis of JFK. To its credit, the book more or less admits this, in its title if nowhere else.

The Last Full Measure: A Novel of the Civil War
The Last Full Measure: A Novel of the Civil War
by Jeff Shaara
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 9.89
94 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars The "End Game" of the Civil War is well told., Dec 30 2003
This is a fine novel by Jeff Shaara, the son of Michael Shaara, the author of "The Killer Angels." The novel deals with "the end game" of the Civil War, in which Ulysses Grant assumes supreme command of the US Army with the mission from President Lincoln of defeating the Confederate Army. Jeff Shaara uses the same technique of examining the conflict from the perspectives of various characters that "The Killer Angels" employed with such effectiveness. It works very well here, and Shaara tells a great story. It is also good history, and this novel does a fine job of acquainting the reader with the events that took place in the Civil War's late phases. Shaara does a good job of explaining what Grant's strengths (and occasional flaws) were as a military commander, and why this man played a pivotal role in finally bringing the war to a close.
In my opinion Shaara does an exceptional job in this novel of telling the story of the Civil War's "End Game." Grant takes over at a time when the Army of the Potomac should have been riding high in the aftermath of Meade's great victory at Gettysburg. But it was not, and that great army still suffered from many of the problems that had caused final victory to elude it for years, despite numbers, and despite the fact that it was the best-organized and best equipped army the world had ever seen. Unforgettable is the scene in the novel where President Lincoln and General Grant are overseeing the unprecedented logistical support being lavished on the Army--Grant points out that if only one certain man--Robert E. Lee-- could see this panorama, the futility of continuing the war would be obvious to him. Unfortunately, Lee leads the Army of Northern Virginia to fight almost to the bitter end; a lesson to foreigners who think that Americans will only fight when the odds favor them. Lee's soldiers were living on grass and acorns by the time Lee finally accepted defeat.
This is a novel that almost all readers will enjoy as well as appreciate for its historical insights.

The Gathering Storm (Widescreen)
The Gathering Storm (Widescreen)
DVD ~ Albert Finney
Offered by niff78
Price: CDN$ 63.97
9 used & new from CDN$ 7.41

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A plausible and moving portrait of Churchill before the war, Dec 28 2003
This film, featuring a bravo performance by Albert Finney as Winston Churchill, absolutely captures the essence of the man in all his complexity--his giant ego, his love of country, and his unwavering determination to alert Britain to the rising danger of Nazi Germany. The film does not whitewash Churchill's imperfections, including his sometime inability to work with colleagues, and the fact that living with Churchill was not always a bed of roses for his family. Albert Finney absolutely absorbs the role of Churchill and "becomes" the man. This is a fine film deriving from this superb performance by Finney.
Why only 4 stars? Because the movie skips the period in which I was most interested--most of the year just prior to Hitler's invasion of Poland and the machinations and appeasement by Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain. Perhaps it was felt that British viewers are so familiar with this period that there was no point in including it. However, American viewers and I dare say those from most other countries would have benefited from and enjoyed seeing Churchill triumph over the utter failure of Chamberlain's policy of appeasement as Churchill assumed power in what had to be Britain's darkest days ever. This was perhaps the most dramatic political event ever, and for this film to omit it in what purported to be a film about "The Gathering Storm" was in my opinion unforgivable, and this is why I deprive the film of that fifth star.
Despite this flaw, anyone interested in the life of one of the Twentieth Century's greatest leaders will want to see this superb film.

North and South
North and South
by John Jakes
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 9.49
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5.0 out of 5 stars A classic novel of America just before the Civil War, Oct. 25 2003
North and South is the first novel in a trilogy dealing with the American Civil War, and it is truly a remarkable work; well worth reading. I myself have read the novel many times over the past twenty years. The novel focuses on two families--the Hazards of Pennsylvania, and the Mains of South Carolina--during the period from approximately 1840 through the beginning of the Civil War. These two families, bound by close ties of friendship (the sons of each are best friends at West Point and serve in the Army together during the Mexican War) and marriage, find these ties tested by the powerful forces of political and social strife that rocked the country during this period, ultimately leading to civil war.
This is a great story. Author John Jakes does a tremendous job of transporting the reader into the period immediately before the Civil War. The country was torn by political strife that could not be resolved by the ordinary institutions of civil government, and Jakes does a masterful job of explaining this within the format of a novel, and showing how this atmosphere affected ordinary people, and their friendships and relationships. The Hazards and the Mains are unforgettable. Jakes shows how decent people (as well as people not so decent) interacted with the institution of slavery on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line.
One of the best parts of the novel deals with the period during the 1840s when the two main protagonists are classmates together at West Point. This is a well-researched tale that is very insightful as regards life and strife at the military academy during a pivotal period of American history. It helps the reader understand the important role that West Point played in the nation's history during the Mexican War and, of course, the Civil War. And perhaps today.
This novel rates the overused label of "classic" and in my opinion represents one of the very best novels of the Civil War. It is, incidentally, the best novel of Jakes" "North and South" trilogy.

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