Nov 28

Blood Sweat + Gears, Racing Clean to the Tour de France ★★★★

This film is yet another bicycle documentary, looking at the origin of the Team Garmin Slipstream and their rise from humble origins to competition in the Tour de France, with Christian Vande Velde placing 4th in total standing. The prevailing theme was a determination to do bicycle racing clean without the use of performance enhancing drugs. It is a moving and well done story, inspiring one to hop on the bicycle and take off.

 

 

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Nov 28

Bicycle Dreams ★★★★

This movie is a documentary on the Race Across America, the longest and cruelest ride in bicycle racing. The ride goes over 3000 miles, and is often done in 9-12 days, with an average of 350+ miles/day. The competitors rarely sleep more than two hours a night, and often spend the entire night and day riding. During this documentary, which was made during the 2005 ride, one of the competitors, a surgeon from Minnesota, was killed by a semi truck. This was his sixth time to ride the RAAM. There was one lawyer attempting the ride, who didn’t last more than two days. The agony of the riders is well documented. It assured me that this is a race I would never ride, even if I could. The film won numerous awards, fitting for the quality of this documentary.

 

 

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Nov 28

 

Concert Masterpieces, by Robert Greenberg ★★★★★

Greenberg does it again, producing a delightful review of eight concert pieces of value from the classical repertoire. In this set of 32 45-minute lectures, each four lectures covers a given piece of music. Included are the Mozart 25th Piano concerto, Beethoven 5th piano concerto, Dvorak 9th symphony, R. Strauss Death and Transfiguration, Beethoven Violin Concerto, Brahms violin concerto, Mendelssohn Mid-summer night’s dream, and Liszt Totentanz. Each set of four lectures covers in the first lecture a broad survey of the musical scene. The second lecture then focuses on the particular piece in its setting with other similar pieces of music, and then the last two lectures delve into the details of the piece of music itself. The entire lecture set remains very easy to listen to because of Greenberg’s humor mixed with a steady stream of fascinating information. He is never too technical, and spends much time filling in the listener  to the music theory and technical details of the piece. This set is a wonderful way to familiarize yourself to these eight pieces of music. It also helps build one’s ear for listening to any piece of classical music.

 

 

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Nov 26

Höllentour

By Kenneth Feucht Media, Movies No Comments »

Hell on Wheels (Höllentour), starring Team T-mobile ★★★★ Hell on Wheels is a documentary of the 2003 Tour de France from the viewpoint of the riders on the T-Mobile team, with special focus on Eric Zabel. It was an intimate account that documented the frustrations, exhaustions, and rare joy that occurs when competing in the Tour. The film is in German, with a moderate amount of French, and occasional English, but with subtitles to make it all work. This movie did not show what would be seen on television. It showed rather what one would see and sense as a rider or intimate spectator of the tour, including the set-up of cameras, conversations with the T-mobile riders between days, and expression of the moods of the moment when riding the Tour. Between scenes, clips of historic Tour de France scenes were shown. The Tour has come a long way! For Tour de France aficionados, this film will be a delight.

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Nov 26
Harry Potter Complete 8-film collection ★★★
If one were to read the Amazon.com reviews, you would find to sets of reviews, those that are 4-5 stars and those that are 1 star. The 1-star ratings are offered simply because sufficient extras were not included in the set, and that certain director’s cuts were not included with the films. I have read the Harry Potter series, and it was a “cute” children’s story, which became darker and more foreboding with each episode. The movie seems to follow reasonably closely the book story line. On a second time through the Harry Potter story, a number of thoughts come to my mind.
1. I don’t think that this story glorifies witchcraft and evil too much more than the CS Lewis stories. Contrary, the greatest failure is for the series to fail to offer a true distinction between good and evil, and the source of both, other than that Harry and his closest friends were good, and that Voldemort was bad. Sure.
2. Character development left shallow personalities in all, including Harry Potter. The characters were flat, and never showed evidence of advancing or truly growing up. This is especially true of the students, who were either just good, or just bad. The kids are smarter than the adults, but just not as powerful as the adults.
3. Filmography on dvd was oftentimes way too dark, leaving much clipping when presented on a large screen tv. Otherwise, the graphics of the film were fairly stupendous.
4. Each book had its own separate story line or challenge that Harry Potter had to face, but there was a prevailing theme of the return of Voldemort, and his eventual defeat through the “chosen” one, Harry Potter. Who chose Harry is never mentioned. Which leaves a larger question mark with the entire series. Each story of itself had a strong sense of unbelievability, with Harry and his friends getting into trouble, and just somehow coming across the solution in the nick of time. Some of the plot was very poor, such as having Severus Snape swear allegiance to Voldemort in order to infiltrate his attack on Harry. It’s not exactly what you want to teach kids, of true heroes standing up to their word, especially when their word is sworn.
5. In the long term, the Harry Potter craze will wear off, and the series will be confined to the dustbins of countless other chronologically failed novels. There is no reflection of higher virtues. There is no basis for good and evil. Harry Potter is a flawed savior who passes into ignominy with time. The book/movie series has no compelling reason to be considered great other than the phenomenal graphics.
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