January 2012

Clint Eastwood #1

You may wonder what films we’ve been watching the last month. I got the Clint Eastwood collection for Christmas, and with some added additional Eastwood films (such as the No Name Spaghetti Westerns), worked through most of the filmography of Clint Eastwood. Clint primarily portrayed two characters, the first being the silent cowboy who shows up from nowhere and disappears into the sunset. In the meantime, he could shoot a handgun with precise accuracy and immense speed, thus terminating all opponents. His western films would be labeled revisionist, in that the good guys were the Indians and the outlaws, and the bad guys were the government officials. Older westerns would have a moral theme, but revisionist westerns remain morally ambiguous. Thus, John Wayne would typically refuse to star in Eastwood’s films as an objection to the revisionist genre (although John Wayne rarely portrayed a morally pure character himself).
The other character of Clint is the quiet cop or detective who bucks authority, somehow seems to have the criminal figured out beforehand, usually has incompetent bosses and political figures telling him what to do, and Clint eventually solves the issue by working around the authority, usually terminating the criminals.
A lesser character of Clint seen is later years is the cranky old man, who knows better, but has to put up with the younger crowd. Such movies as Million Dollar Man and Gran Torino fit this category. Clint often has religious scenes, usually Catholic, many of them with him contending with the priest, or going against the advice of the priest. In a very strong way, Eastwood suggests that being a mister tough guy and standing up for yourself is the most important thing in life. All of his movies, regardless of his role, portray this character and theme. Sadly, as good as many of Clint’s films are, they all fail to offer any suggestion of a higher morality or virtue. It is just another form of Nietzsche’s Übermensch. Hitler would have loved Clint’s films.
I find that except for the spaghetti westerns and Dirty Harry series, Clint’s early films are generally quite bad. There is a significant improvement in the quality of his later films, though even then a moderate number are not worth watching a second time.
These films are reviewed mostly in the order in which they were watched, which was in alphabetical order. The chronological order would have been a more natural way to watch his films, but the alphabetical order allowed for a better mix-up of Clint’s films. Because of the length of this post, it is given in three sections.
Absolute Power ★★★★★
This is one of Eastwood’s later films and is a mishmash of the Nixon scandal mixed with the scandals of the Clinton administration.  The president is observed by a break-in artist (Clint Eastwood) in a rape/murder, which is covered up by the secret service. Realizing that he (Clint) cannot go to the police to report the crime, he then devises the means of bringing down the president. The action is fast and suspenseful, and the plot is unpredictable but a touch realistic.
Any Which Way You Can ★
Clint Eastwood is a retired prizefighter, now pursued by the syndicate to do one last fight, against his own personal will. He, his orangutan, and girlfriend eventually resolve matters. This is supposed to be a comedy, but we didn’t find it to be very funny, and really didn’t have any significant plot or objective.
Bird ★
Clint Eastwood does not star in this film. It is supposed to be a biographical sketch of Charlie Parker, one of the great jazz saxophonists of the past. The action is very slow-moving, and is constantly taking chronological jumps as Charlie relives his past before committing suicide. Betsy and I were unable to endure more than 40 minutes of this film.
Blood Work ★★★★
Clint Eastwood as an aging FBI officer has a massive heart attack while chasing a man and requires a heart transplant. He eventually learns that the heart came from a murder victim, whose sister is now asking Clint to solve the case. The plot is great with multiple unexpected turns until the case is solved.
Bridges of Madison County ★★
The Red Green Show once commented that the Bridges of Madison County failed as a movie since nobody was killed, and none of the bridges were blown up. There is truth to that statement. The only reason this movie received two stars is that the acting by both Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep was superb. Two middle-aged people are going through the remains of their just-deceased mother, and discover that many years ago she had an affair. This affair is the main body of the film, which occurred when a photographer (Clint) stops at a farmhouse asking for directions to a bridge. The remainder of the family is off to the Illinois State Fair, and so she then spends the next four days in an increasing relationship with him and they separate for good. Many parts of the film go so slow that we had to fast forward them. It was torture to watch this film. The message of the film unavoidably states that anything is okay as long as nobody finds out. The higher values of truth and purity are forgotten.  This is not a film worth watching.
Bronco Billy ★★
Clint Eastwood stars in Bronco Billy, the ex-convict who is now head of a roving circus cowboy show. It’s a rather lame film, with various characters getting in trouble with themselves and the law, mixed in with a somewhat spastic rich lady whose husband runs off on her, and she is left to live with the low lives of the circus until she realizes that they have something she doesn’t have with her wealth.
Changeling ★★★★★
This is the last film Clint Eastwood produced, and he does not star in the film. Supposedly, this film is based on a true event. Angela Jolie is a single mother with a 9 yo son in 1928 Los Angeles. The son is kidnapped, leading Angela to seek the child using the LAPD. A child is produced, which is very clearly not the son, even though the LAPD insists that it is. When Angela pushes the issue, she is committed to an insane asylum. Through the work of a Presbyterian pastor who was fighting corruption in the police system, she is released, and eventually, a reasonable clue is found as to what happened to her son. This movie is unusual for Clint Eastwood, in that Eastwood’s characters are usually police that takes the law into their own hands since the city and courts are incapable of that function. The roles are here reversed, where the police are found to be too aggressive. The common theme in Clint’s movies is the ultimate corruption in government, and this point is well made in this movie. It is only wishful thinking to imagine that matters aren’t any better nowadays – just different.
City Heat ★★
Burt Reynolds is a private detective, and Clint is a police lieutenant, Clint rescuing Burt from various entanglements of the syndicate, in a film set within a big city gangster town of the prohibition ’20s. Clint definitely proves a better actor than Burt in this otherwise very mediocre film.
Coogan’s Bluff ★★
Clint Eastwood is an Arizona cop sent to NY to return a criminal that he caught (how he got to NY wasn’t explained) to bring back to Arizona for trial. In the process, the NY police give him great grief, the criminal gets away, and Clint goes on a lengthy manhunt process independent of the NY detective agency. Clint tends to sexually attack every female that comes into his presence, which I guess makes him cool.
Beguiled ★★
Clint Eastwood is now a wounded Union soldier, who ends up in a private girls school at the end of the civil war. The headmistress ends up keeping him and nursing him back to health, all the while preparing him to be picked up by confederate soldiers to be hauled off to prison to die. Meanwhile, he falls in love with a number of the girls in the school and is caught making love to one of the older students. This leads to a series of tragedies since he was caught, ultimately leading to his demise. Poor Clint.
Dead Pool ★★★★★
Clint stars in the last of the Dirty Harry series, and this film is at his mature best. Lists of celebrities were published with wagers as to the greatest number of people who would be dead in a given span of time. Started as an innocent game, it turned bad when it was realized that somebody was individually picking off characters on the list. Dirty Harry happens to be on the list and proceeds to eventually find the killer and terminate him. A second storyline is Clint having to contend with the press, including an obnoxious female.
Dirty Harry ★★★★★
This is the first Dirty Harry film with Clint Eastwood. A sniper is knocking off people in the city of San Francisco, with a monetary ransom to have the killing stopped.  The killer and Clint interact and then are released on legal technicalities. The killer then frames Clint for police brutality. Eventually, the killer hijacks a school bus with children, only to be rescued by the ever-resourceful Dirty Harry.

Clint Eastwood #2

Eiger Sanction ★★★★
Eiger Sanction could have done better on the plot, with Clint acting as a retired hitman, called back into duty to the service of his country to knock off several killers involved in an international spy ring. Strangely, Clint needs to perform this action while climbing the north face of the Eiger. Clint eventually discovers that he was deceived but comes out in the best. The most spectacular part of this film with the video of the Eiger climb, which unfortunately led to the death of a climber assisting in the filming.
Enforcer ★★★★
This is the third Dirty film. Dirty Harry is teamed up with a female that he considers incompetent in an effort by the city to make the police force more diverse. In this episode, they have to fight a militant revolutionary gang, that leads them all over the city and even out to Alcatraz, Clint also has to do battle with the SF mayor, until he is required to rescue him from the gang.
Escape from Alcatraz ★★★★★
One of Clint’s better films, illustrating a breakout from Alcatraz. The head jailor is in the best form, as Patrick McGoohan (Secret Agent/The Prisoner). The acting is superb, the storyline is superb, the description of the very inhuman life in prison is notable, and you end up cheering for the prisoners that got away.
Every Which Way But Loose ★
This film was absolutely awful. It is a prequel/sequel to Any Which Way You Can, with Clint acting as a prize street fighter. The entire film was nothing but casual sex (not seen visually), bad language, beer-drinking, indiscriminate violence, but worse of all, country-western music. Clint falls in love with a country-western singer who doesn’t let on that she has no interest in him until he’s chased her all over the country. A sick motorcycle gang, renegade policeman, and others are after Clint. Ho-hum.
Few Dollars More ★★★★
Clint Eastwood starred in a number of spaghetti westerns in the late 1960s, this being one of them, and also included in the “Man with No Name” trilogy, which includes “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”, and “Fist Full of Dollars”. Here he teams up with Van Cleef as bounty hunters after the big nasty gang located along the border of the US and Mexico. Van Cleef has some awesome acting very much the equal of Clint, and a young Klaus Kinski shows up in this movie. The biggest winner in the Trilogy is the music of Ennio Morricone, who deserves an Oscar of his own for the genius of the accompanying music.
Firefox ★★★
Clint is a retired fighter pilot jock, called back from retirement to assist in the theft of a highly secretive high-tech stealth airplane of the Soviets (pre-1990). The graphics are good, the plot is suspenseful, the action is quite exciting, the acting is somewhat mediocre, and the reality of the plot is marginal, making the film a three-star. Though Clint does a better “top-gun” than Tom Cruise, between playing secret agent man, top-gun, and himself, he fails.
Fistful of Dollars ★★★★
Another of the spaghetti westerns, and the first of the No Name trilogy with music by Morricone.   Clint is a Whitey that rides into town along the Mexican border to find a feud between two clans is leading to the death of the town. By pitting the clans against each other, he manages to eliminate both clans. There is a wonderful mix of suspense and humor in this movie that makes up for an otherwise short storyline.
Gauntlet ★★★★
Clint is a policeman in Phoenix sent to go up to Las Vegas in order to pick up a criminal to be delivered for testimony in court back in Phoenix. It ends up that both the police chief in Phoenix and the mob set him and his prisoner (Sondra Locke) up to be eliminated. There is much shooting and tough-guy action as Clint and Sondra work their way back to Phoenix to establish real justice with the police chief. Much of the storyline is not terribly believable, such as a bus driving through many streets of a firearm, and Clint on a motorcycle escaping by bare centimeters firing from a sharpshooter in a helicopter. But, things get blown up, so the movie is worth watching.
Good, Bad, and the Ugly ★★★★★
This is one of Eastwood’s best films, a spaghetti western and last of the “Man with no Name” trilogy, staged during the time of the civil war, where three gents, one being Clint, and another Van Cleef, are in search of buried gold. The tales of finding the clues to the location of the gold, the interactions of “the good, the bad, and the ugly” characters create suspense in a film that is entertaining even after watching it a number of times.
Gran Torino ★★★★★
Betsy and I had low hopes at the start of this movie, thinking it was going to be just another Clint Eastwood “adoration of the fictitious self” movie. It looked like he was going to racing cars or something of that sort. It instead turned out to be something quite other. Clint is a just widowed old man who had a heroic war past but now sits on his porch drinking beer and smoking cigarettes and watching the neighborhood being taken over by foreigners. The next-door neighbors are Hmong people. Slowly, he gets to know them, and eventually comes to their rescue by offering himself up totally for them. There are Catholic religious references throughout the film which suggest that Clint has no idea about true faith, but that doesn’t denigrate from this film, which actually suggests a moral lesson. I particularly liked the Clint character, a gnarly old man, similar to a few that I know.
Hang Em High ★★★★
Clint is an ex-lawman now rancher that was lynched and hung, only to be rescued by a lawman in the Oklahoma territory. He is now out to get the nine men that lynched him after he is re-made a lawman. Seeing much injustice in the system, including a couple of kids, caught cattle rustling and hung, he finds it hard to adjust to his role in the system. He eventually gets most of the lynchers, but only after they shoot him up. The action line is very irregular, and incomplete, in that he doesn’t get all nine players. Also, there is a lengthy hanging scene where hymns were sung and the preacher active, all of which seemed to make a mockery of religion, without realizing that that religion is what instilled a sense of justice to begin with.
Heartbreak Ridge ★★
Clint is a non-cooperative drill sergeant with war experience now assigned to a young group of Marines in boot camp. He establishes his presence going against authority and eventually proves himself in the Grenada invasion. If Clint is supposed to be the Marine role model of the tough – guy, he fails miserably.
High Plains Drifter ★★★
Clint is now a no-name cowboy, that rides into a lonely town in the early west where the people refuse to defend themselves from roving gangs. An old gang is supposed to return to town, and they pay Clint to defend the town. For inexplicable reasons, he has flashbacks of a previous episode when the town allowed their sheriff to be whipped to death without lifting a finger. Clint gets even by knocking off the gang, but also by knocking off the town. Ho-hum.
Joe Kidd ★★
Just another Clint western, with him as a good-bad guy Joe Kidd, who is supposed to help a dishonest wealthy man knock off a renegade Mexican who seems to be doing nothing more than trying to honestly defend his land. Eventually Clint takes the side of the Mexican and helps knock off the rich dude and his henchmen.
Honkytonk Man ★
This is probably the worst Clint Eastwood movie of the bunch, with nothing good to say about it. Clint is a country singer in the depression 1930’s of Oklahoma. He wants to go to Nashville to sing in the grand ole Opry and takes along his nephew and uncle. On the way, he teaches his 11 yo nephew to drive, since he is too drunk to get behind the wheel. He then teaches his nephew to drink, steal, and visit whore houses. The movie has no redeeming moral lessons, and worst of all, the viewer has to be tortured with country music, even worse from Clint himself. Don’t waste your time on this film.
In the Line of Fire ★★★★
One of the late films of Clint, he is a secret service agent protecting the president. He is being tracked by an ex-CIA agent who plans on assassinating the president. In his typical role, Clint is the outsider who figures out eventually who the killer is and manages to stop the assassination by jumping in the line of fire. Though many of the elements of the movie are predictable, it does make suspense and is well filmed and acted.
Invictus ★★★★★
Clint directed but did not star in this film. The stars were Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon, both of whom had superb acting. This movie was based on a real historical event, though the details I’m sure were Hollywood fictions. It is the story of Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela, being released from prison and becoming president of the country, but being able to set aside the long-standing grievances of the past, using Rugby to spirit the nation into breaking down the racial divide. The movie is quite moving, and wonderfully enacted by Eastwood’s direction.
Kelly’s Heroes ★★★
This is a WWII not to be taken seriously, with many anachronistic elements, like Don Sutherland playing a 1960’s hippy. Actually, Don Sutherland was probably the funniest actor in the movie. A small group of GI’s discover that the Germans have a load of gold in a bank 30 miles across the front line. They work out an effort to retrieve this gold without their commanders knowing what was happening. The film had too many unreal aspects, such as an unorganized group simply breaking through the German offensive line, and a pile of gold sitting around practically unguarded. How they got a number of well known actors to participate in the movie is a mystery to me. It was pretty bad, but at times, funny.
Letters from Iwo Jima ★★★★
This is a story of the Iwo Jima from the viewpoint of the Japanese, and mostly from the eyes of a young kid who was a baker in Japan, but pulled away against his will to fight in the war. He remained one of the few survivors of the bloodbath. The movie was mostly in Japanese with under-titles. The filming was excellent. Clint directs but has no acting in this film. One wishes he would have cameoed himself like Alfred Hitchcock used to do.
Magnum Force ★★★★
Clint stars in the second Dirty Harry film in Magnum force. Clint is out to solve the mystery of a rash of assassinations of prime crime suspects that defy conviction. He eventually resolves that it is a group of four rookie cops led by in boss the lieutenant. There is lots of fast action and stunts making it enjoyable to watch, but is typical Dirty Harry.

Clint Eastwood #3

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil ★★★
Apparently this movie is based on a book relating a true story of a murder in Savannah, Georgia. Clint directs but does not show in the film – his daughter does some acting in the film. An upcoming extremely wealthy young man is convicted of murdering his employee. Much of the film takes place in the trial, where truths about the wealthy person are exploited, but eventually exonerating the man of murder save for self-defense. Many other themes are woven through the book including a voodoo practitioner, a transvestite, wealthy society woman and Haute society life in Savannah. It gave one a good feel for the superficiality of life in the South, where appearances were more important than reality. I presume that unless one has read the book, the movie tends to drag a bit. The directing is superb, but many scenes did not contribute to the flow of the movie, though probably made sense in the book itself, such as the graveyard scenes. Many of Clint’s later movies are better than this one.
Million Dollar Baby ★★★
Clint runs a boxing center and trains the pro boxers. He has a girl pestering him to have him become her trainer, which he initially refuses to do. She goes on to great success, only to have an attack from the rear by her opponent long after the bell rings, rendering her quadriplegic. She eventually gets Clint to pull the plug on her since she doesn’t wish to live. The movie has lots of slow action, and unnecessary scenes, making it drag, and a terrible moral ending that suggests that killing (euthanasia) is occasionally ok. Otherwise, it wasn’t a bad movie. The acting is superb, including that of Clint, Hilary Swank, and Morgan Freeman. The movie does an excellent job of portraying the agony of one who makes decisions against his better judgment and then has to live with the consequences of those decisions.
Mystic River ★★
Three childhood friends eventually grow up and go their separate ways. One of them has a child that was murdered, another was the suspected murderer, and the last is the detective trying to solve the case. The movie begins in a very slow and confusing fashion, and we almost turned it off out of boredom. The movie does a good job of psychoanalyzing the effects of child abuse and broken relationships, yet never offers ultimate redemption for any of the characters.
Outlaw Josey Wales ★★★★★
This was a western starring Clint that is truly a decent film. Clint is a farmer in Missouri whose farm is overrun and his family was slain by renegade union men just after the civil war. Clint seeks justice but finds that the Union remains deceptive and corrupt. Plus, the union now has a price on his head. Running from bounty hunters and ex-outlaw partner, he is continually placed into tight situations where he narrowly escapes but is befriended by Indians and settlers who also are fighting for existence in a land without justice.
Paint Your Wagon ★★★
This is a fairly lame musical, even having to bear with Clint singing. He doesn’t do too bad. The cinematography and scene setups are awesome, but then, beaucoup bucks were spent to make this film. The scene is the Sacramento area during the gold rush, when Clint and Lee Marvin stake out a profitable region yielding much gold. They also end up with the same wife, purchased off of some Mormons. The story leaves much to be desired. Worth watching once.
Pale Rider ★★★★
The scene is in the gold rush basin of central California, and a downstream mining company is harassing the upstream settlers to leave. Clint comes into town as a preacher man, and eventually settles matters, when the mining company decides to hire a gang of renegade sheriffs to remove Clint from the scene. All are exterminated, and Clint goes riding into the sunset. Actually, this is a rather well-done film, with good acting, and a good flow of action.
Perfect World ★★★
A couple of jailbreakers kidnap a young boy, Philip. Kevin Costner, one of the jailbreakers, kills his partner and then runs off with the kid. A massive police search is done, with Costner adequately evading capture while creating havoc and murders along their path. Costner is the main star, engaging in conversation with the kid, learning that he had a “deprived” childhood, since his mom was a JW and would not let the kid celebrate Halloween or Christmas, etc. So, Costner endears himself to the child, painting a fantasy world to him.  Eventually, Costner is wounded by Philip, and then is cornered by the police, with Clint in charge. Costner is again shot against Clint’s instructions, and the child goes home with mommy. The worst part of this film is that it painted fantasies that children should experience or else they would be “deprived”. The kid was a good actor.
Pink Cadillac ★★★
Clint fills the bounty hunter role in the 1960s of seeking out a lady who skipped out on paying her bail bonds. This leads him into getting entangled with a gang of outlaw soldiers of fortune dudes hiding out in the Sierras with the kidnapped child of the lady. They eventually get the baby back. The movie had much humor giving it 3 stars, but the typical worn-out Clint dodging bullets, driving recklessly, and managing an uncontrollable female all at the same time.
Play Misty for Me ★★★★★
This movie is “Fatal Attraction” before that movie ever came out. It is a suspenseful psycho-thriller of a lady who falls in love with a disc jockey and then pursues him relentlessly to her ultimate demise. Clint is quite young at the time, and I’m told this is his first movie that he directed. He definitely ran a low-budget but brilliant directing and acting created a masterpiece.
Rookie ★★★★★
While not within the Dirty Harry series, this film fits the Dirty Harry tradition, with Clint playing an aging cop, and Charlie Sheen as the rookie. In a break with Dirty Harry tradition, the rookie doesn’t get knocked off, but becomes a Clint Eastwood clone. The action is great, and Charlie does a superb job of acting his role. Clint and Charlie are cops in LA snaking out auto thieves and stumble across a ring of thieves. At first, Charlie makes a series of rookie mistakes but learns quickly in order to get the bad guy.
Space Cowboys ★★★
Clint becomes a space shuttle pilot in this episode. He happens to be the sole designer of a guidance system for satellites, that is now long outdated. It just happens that the Soviets stole his guidance system plans and used them in a supposed communications satellite of their own. This guidance system has gone haywire and the satellite in orbiting on a crash course with earth. For some unknown reason, the Soviets call on the US to repair their satellite. And, it happens that Clint and his three pilot buddies have a grudge with NASA being “dissed” 40 years previously. So, they train, struggle through bureaucratic baloney and finally make the flight. In space, they discover that the satellite is not a communications satellite but loaded with six nuclear rockets aimed at the US, which explains why the Soviets wished to have it fixed. They finally send it to the moon, but, people die and Clint flies the space shuttle home to Florida without a scratch. The graphics were nice in this film, the story was just too hokey to be reasonable.
Sudden Impact ★★★★★
This is the fourth Dirty Harry film. It seems like the later Dirty Harry films are better than the first. Clint is trying to solve the mystery of a series of killings, which are occurring from a lady (Sondra Locke) who was gang-raped. She is out to do justice. Eventually, the killers are knocked off, and Sondra is not identified as the killer except by Dirty Harry, who lets it all slide.
Thunderbolt and Lightfoot ★
Clint Eastwood and Jeff Bridges play Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, two criminals seeking for their next heist when old ex-partners of Clint’s enter the scene and complicate matters. They eventually stage a heist of a bank vault, find previous heist money, and only Clint ends of getting away and surviving. Not exactly a thrilling film, with even a worse message.
Tightrope ★★★★
Tightrope has Clint as a detective on the murder squad in New Orleans. He is tracking down serial rape murders, where the murderer has a past history with Clint and thus is trying to pursue the females that come into Clint’s life. The film starts with a lot of inappropriate nudity from the rape-murder scenes but evolves into a very intense psycho-thriller. Good acting from both Clint and Clint’s daughter Alison.
True Crime ★★★★
Clint is an aging reporter working for the newspaper in Oakland. He’s troubled by a past of heavy alcohol use, and present life of cheating on his wife through liaisons with a coworker’s wife. Then he smells out that a black man is wrongly convicted of a murder that he didn’t do, but the execution is scheduled for 12 hours from now. In the course of 12 hours, he proceeds to solve the mystery of the killer and save the man from execution. It is a good storyline, which isn’t helped by painting the main hero (Clint) as a drunken, philandering godless man.
Two Mules for Sara ★★★
Clint is wandering through Mexico when he runs across a nun named Sara (Shirley McClaine) who is being raped by three gringos. He frees her, then they begin a collaboration to help throw out the Mexican resistance throw the French out of Mexico. This they accomplish though with the inclusion of a number of side events, such as Clint being shot in the chest with an arrow or when Clint discovers that the nun is actually a prostitute. The movie makes for light entertainment but is not your best western.
Unforgiven ★★★★★
Outside of his No Name Trilogy, this is Clint’s best western. He is a “retired” gunman and reformed by his now-dead wife. A young kid comes to his place seeking bounty money paid by a group of whores in town to seek revenge on two cowboys who cut up one of the girls. Clint, the boy, and his “partner” head off to find the two cowboys. A secondary theme is a renegade sheriff in town who tends to do more harm to innocent people than to criminals and make law only to protect himself. Clint and the kid eventually get the two cowboys but return to town to find that the sheriff killed the “partner” for no good reason. Clint eventually gets revenge on the sheriff and then moves himself and the kids out to San Francisco.
Where Eagles Dare ★★★★★
Clint Eastwood and Richard Burton are the two main stars in this film. They are a part of a covert operation to bring back a General held captive in Schloss Adler (supposedly Kehlsteinhaus – Hilter’s hideout in the Bavarian Alps). Between incredible cinematography, stunts, superb acting, a fast-paced storyline, and a highly unpredictable outcome, the film deserves five stars. Its most serious problem is that it has an unbelievable storyline, with Richard and Clint singlehandedly resisting and knocking off squadrons of German soldiers without getting hardly a scratch. If that can be forgiven, the film becomes quite awesome to watch – one of Eastwood’s better films.
White Hunter, Black Heart ★★★
Clint Eastwood plays a rough, eccentric Hollywood director working on a film in Africa. He arrives before the producer and decides to go on an elephant hunt. He can’t get the elephant hunt out of his head until the black guide is killed by the elephant Clint was trying to hunt. The movie portrays Clint as a worst possible movie director, irresponsible, inattentive to the producer, and irresponsible for other people’s lives. The movie left you hating the Clint character. Not a bad film.

Science and Faith

Science and Faith, by C. John Collins ★★★★★
This book must not be confused with the book “The Language of Science and Faith” by Francis S. Collins, a book that would not even be worthy of one star even though written by a highly “eminent” scientist. Jack Collins here produces a lay language masterpiece, originally intended to help homeschool parents discuss issues of science, creation, geology, evolutionary biology, the social sciences, the question of miracles, etc., from a biblical Christian perspective. Jack is completely effective, while not betraying the faith as Francis S.C. has done. This book supplements other books by Jack Collins, including “The God of Miracles” which is supposedly a more technical version of this text, as well as texts that I have previously reviewed on this site. Jack Collins has a masters in electrical engineering from MIT, as well as numerous other degrees, and now teaches Hebrew at Covenant Seminary in St. Louis. I happen to know him on an acquaintance basis.
Collins tackles a formidable enterprise in his endeavor to show that the Christian faith and much of what we learn as science are not in opposition with each other. The first two chapters of the book are a basic philosophical discussion of the intention of the book. Collins then undertakes to discuss the creation narratives with a scientific perspective, especially addressing his preference for viewing the days of creation as days in God’s time, not ours. He has a chapter discussing the problem of man’s fallenness in observing the world. He discusses the issues of God’s providence and miracles in the face of the post-Hume worldview of the impossibility of miracles. He even includes a chapter on environmentalism and how Christians should view the world. Subsequent chapters deal with the age of the earth (he is in the “old-earth” camp), evolution, and the development of animals. Two chapters are devoted to the defense of intelligent design. He concludes with thoughts on the social sciences. Finally, the book is ended with a discussion of the culture wars and our approach to the sciences. Though the entire book was excellent, the last two chapters were the best, and it is worth sticking with Collins to the end of the book. He especially notes how Christians have been in a bitter attack against each other over minor differences in their view of the entire creation scenario.  About the only thing I wished he would have discussed would have been flood theories, the tower of Babel incident (especially since Collins is a philologist), and some of the other Biblical miracles that often come under attack by the scientific community (eg., Jonah surviving being eaten by a big fish). This book is one of the must-reads for anybody strongly engaged in the sciences to help form a Christian basis for their scientific thinking.

On Reading

I tend to read quite a bit, and even once had a full-page ad written up in World Magazine with my photo, about my love for books. I’ve occasionally been accused of reading too much. I recently encountered the blog page of M.N. (http://www.allthingsexpounded.com/) who I find also has a tremendous fascination with books. There are friends of mine who are quite fascinated with books, one person, in particular, D.D., who probably owns about 10 x as many books as me, is quite familiar with the content of the books he owns and the public sentiments toward the book, can recommend just about any book on any topic and be correct, but has rarely ever read a whole book. It reminded me of brother Lewis, who had a library full of books, all with bookmarks about 30 pages into the book. M.N. seems to be more like me, with a long list of books, and a book doesn’t get filed until it is either read, or I realize that it is not worth reading. I read a modest amount on the internet, mostly for news. Facebook annoys me, especially for its triviality, yet it remains a good way of staying in touch with many people without fear of going deeper than superficiality.
My old list of every-morning internet news pages has changed. I rarely ever read World Net Daily anymore. The only columnists that I read regularly are Pat Buchanan, Judge Napolitano, and occasionally George Will. My favorite internet sites for news are…
1. http://www.drudgereport.com/
2. http://patriot-newswire.com/
3. http://www.infowars.com/
4. http://townhall.com/
5. http://www.newsmax.com/
6. http://www.spiegel.de/
7. http://www.bild.de/
I skim through World Magazine every other week, and Bicycle Magazine once monthly. A friend subscribed me for a year last year to National Review, which I enjoyed reading, though I had some problems with its Neo-Con and Papist orientation. My current reads, of which you will be seeing reviews, include God & Time – Four Views, and Dostoevsky by Peter Leithart (Kindle edition).
My reading list this year is….
Kindle – wise
The Gambler – Dostoevsky
The House of the Dead – Dostoevsky
The Idiot – Dostoevsky
Gulag Archipelago –  Solzhenitzyn
In the First Circle – Solzhenitzyn
The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich – Shirer
The Prince – Machiavelli
Babbitt – Sinclair Lewis
Affirming the Apostles Creed – JI Packer
History of the Christian Church – Schaff (read once already)
Devotional Treasures from the Holy Land – Delaney
Systematic Theology – Charles Hodge
Durch die Wüste – Karl May
Kinder und Hausmarchen – Grimm und Hauff (read once already)
Hard Books
The God of Miracles – Jack Collins
Enjoy every Sandwich – Lipsenthal
The Emperor of all Maladies
Cutting for Stone
Life Together – Bonhoeffer
The Revelation of God – Jensen
The Person of Christ – MacLeod
Collected Writings on Scripture – Carson
Christ of the Covenants – OP Robertson (read once already)
Mein Kampf – Hitler
Die Deutschen – Guido Knopf
Redemption Accomplished and Applied – Murray
The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination – Boettner
Historical Theology – Cunningham
Several Photography How-To Books
The Systematic Theologies of
Erickson (maybe???)
There are other books on the shelves, but, that’s enough for now. I think it will take me about 3 years to get through all these texts, but then I’ll probably add on another dozen or more in the next year.

The Joy of Bach

The Joy of Bach, featuring Brian Blessed ★★★
This short movie is a wonderful tribute to the greatest musician of all time, our own Johann Sebastian Bach. The movie is an amalgam of Blessed reenacting fictitious though highly possibly true scenes from the life of JS Bach, and modern-day performances of Bach. The modern-day performances were both done in standard orchestral classical style, though the emphasis was on how musicians have incorporated Bach into the most unique circumstances, such as performances on steel drums, guitars, Moog synthesizers, and you name it. Blessed effectively communicates that the music of Bach is so great, that it continues to live today regardless of how it is played. Perhaps there is no other composer that has ever or will ever achieve this distinction to the extent that has happened with Bach. This movie can inspire even those who dislike the music of Bach.

Ives: The Symphonies

Ives: The Symphonies, performed by Dohnanyi, Marriner and Mehta ★★★
These are reasonable performances of Charles Ives, an early 20th-century American composer (1874-1954). Ives uses many American folk tunes and American hymn motifs in his writing. Together, he makes for very poorly convincing symphonies. His are symphonies that I would never use for my “Desert Island Collection” or attend in formal concert. I’ll settle on listening to these symphonies from time to time simply to stay knowledgeable in American music. They are not enjoyable. Better classical music in the 20th century is Russian and German.  The English speaking world flunks in the classical music realm.

Historical Theology

Historical Theology, by Gregg Allison ★★★
Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology text is deficient in any historical context. This is a serious deficit to an otherwise excellent systematic theology textbook, and Allison attempts to provide in this text what Grudem left out. Each chapter is arranged topically following the chapters in Grudem. This creates a textbook of historical theology that has strengths but also serious weaknesses. Oftentimes, a theological discussion demands the environment of multiple topics, such as the Christological controversies of the 2-4th centuries which cannot be discussed void of the trinitarian controversies. This leaves a text that is only half complete. Allison’s text would not be good for a neophyte in historical theology, as he would lose the entire nature of many controversies. For this reason, JND Kelly’s text for early church theological developments, or  Schaff’s History does a far better job of giving the reader a flavor as to the content of the historical debates. Allison’s text would work better if designed as an advanced text, but this would mean a very large section for each of the topics covered, accompanied by a large amount of repetition. Many areas are woefully incomplete, such as a very poor discussion of subordinationism, the iconoclastic controversy, and the rise of covenant theology, just to name a few. The text has strengths in that it is easily readable, and could act as a jumping-off point for further reading. As a primary historical theology text, others do better when they stick to a chronological discussion rather than a topical agenda.

Crime and Punishment

Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoevsky ★★★★★
It’s been quite a few years since I’ve actually sat down to read a novel, and I’m not exactly sure why I chose Dostoevsky or this book, but I’m grateful that I did. This book was read on the Kindle. It is the story of a student-intellectual self-driven to poverty, and then committing a double murder. Most of the book engages in his thoughts and actions in the weeks after the incident until he finally breaks down to turn himself in. The book moves quite slowly most the time, with the necessity of reading through quite lengthy dialogues and monologues. Yet, there is a sublime virtue in this book that truly makes it a great novel. Dostoevsky is a complete master of the art of describing pathos. One reads in a cold sweat. One feels guilty even though not the criminal. The reader experiences the anger, depression, the dilutions, the decisional uncertainty of the characters. In most novels, you are a fly on the wall, watching the scene. In Dostoevsky, you are the character, you are in the brain of the character speaking.
Dostoevsky had an interesting upbringing, being born in Moscow in 1821, and dying in 1881. His parents died (perhaps his father was murdered) when he was young, and he scraped for himself. He almost was executed as a political criminal, spent 4 years in a prison camp in Siberia where he became a devout Christian and spent the rest of his life writing novels in the realist mode, describing the true Russia of the time. Dostoevsky artfully brings up topics of the basis for morality, the existence of God, and the Christian faith. The point of sanity in the sea of insanity through this novel is the few characters with a Christian faith, such as Sonya. Raskolnikov’s sanity exists only in the last paragraphs of the book as he inquires of the Christian faith. The book ends as though there would be a sequel.
I’ll be reading much more Dostoevsky in the months ahead. I’m now working on The Brothers Karazamov and will then attack others, so sit tight.


Oceanography, Teaching Company Course, by Harold Tobin ★★★★
Tobin is a superb teacher, and except for his habit of excessively rolling and waving his hands, has a wonderful skill of conveying his knowledge and interest in oceanography. I appreciated the way he made oceanography quite personal, explaining how he developed an interest in the subject, and how the study of the ocean still drives him. I certainly learned more in this course than in many of the other science courses from the Teaching Company. My major complaint with the course material is the occasional excess preoccupation in some topics that were only peripheral to oceanography. It was not necessary to spend a whole lecture on plate tectonics, or on cosmology, as it didn’t contribute to the understanding of the ocean beyond what a brief mention would have accomplished and referral to other Teaching Company series. I appreciated the lecture on ocean ecology and pollution, but there was excess time spent on global warming and its effect on the ocean in several other lectures. Save for the criticisms, this was a valuable series and spurred an increased interest in being more observant of the ocean, and considering our human impact on the sea.