The Monuments Men (Movie Review)

Once again Actor/Director George  Clooney has raided the vault of history to bring  us another fine film. Unless you are a history buff, chances are you might not have heard of the pillaging of Europe’s art by Hitler’s SS organization. This is the story of the Monuments men, a small group of art experts appointed by FDR, to find and recover stolen art taken from the Nazi occupied countries. Even though the war is in the last stages, after the normandy Invasion, they are still in great danger. These are all middle-aged men who otherwise would be at home and not in harms way, doing their bit for America and the world at great cost. They get their name from the real life MFAA (Monuments Fine Arts and Archives) section of the United States Army. They aren’t stuck in the rear with the gear they enter some towns either on the heels of the Germans, or before the Germans are completely gone.

While the Monuments men are trying to recover the art, the germans are working to destroy it.The Russians who are fast approaching Berlin are busy trying to recapture as many priceless pieces as they can, for war reparations; that’s the official line anyway. It is literally a race against time to save the great art works of western civilization.

I found the movie to be very entertaining and chock full of character actor goodness. John Goodman, Bob Balaban and Bill Murray are always interesting guys to watch and this was a great vehicle for all three. George Clooney, Matt Damon and Cate Blanchett all put in respectable performances, as did Hugh Bonneville and Jean Dujardin. This movie is not only informative but a welcome change from the usual mindless claptrap that spews forth from H-Wood. You can always count on intelligent works coming from Clooney, I’ve been a big fan ever since Good Night and Good luck (2005). The Monuments men is well worth the five dollars that I spent on the Matinee. If you haven’t already, go see it. If you want to know about the real monuments men check out this link

The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson

Cover of
Cover of The Girl Who Played with Fire (Vintage)

I’m not into fiction that much, but once in a while I will read books that are recommended by family members, or that I stumble upon at my local book store or Barns & Noble. So far I have not been disappointed. So when I discovered a Steig Larsson book on the back seat of my ex-wife’s car I asked if she was still reading this. She said take it and give it back when I was done. I saw the movie the girl with the Dragon tattoo and decided that I wanted to check out the book. I never got to that point, so when I had a chance to read the sequel I jumped at it.

The book starts out very slow and strange with a new and improved, less punk Lisbeth Salander in the Caribbean.She is living off a pile of money that she apparently embezzled by hacking the secret account of corrupt Billionaire Hans-Erik Wennerstrom. The action at the beginning of the book is incidental, but demonstrates just how crafty and self reliant that Lisbeth is, When she rescues a woman from her murderous husband, in the middle of a hurricane.

Meanwhile back in Sweden Mikael Blomqvist The hero of the first book, wonders and frets over the disappearance of Lisbeth Salander.  After a year of traveling around the world Lisbeth returns home to the apartment bequeathed to her by her mother. We learn about Mikaels new found celebrity after publishing a book about the Wennerstrom affair, and the rise of Millennium magazine where he works. Millennium’s newest project is a series of articles on sex trafficking in Sweden, by a young freelance journalist named Dag Svensson . The series is based on a  yet to be published exposé by Mia Johanssen who is publishing her doctoral thesis on the sexual exploitation of underaged eastern European girls. The research that Mia has done, has unearthed a hot bed of corruption. Government officials, policemen and judges are on a list of Johns who regularly partake of the taboo fruit. Mia and Dag know that they are sitting on a powder keg but decide to go ahead and publish anyway.

Lisbeth being the naughty little hacker that she is gets involved when she hacks into Mikael’s computer and discovers the files which mentions the mysterious Zala, a fearsome underworld figure with seemingly no criminal record. Some time in Lisbeth’s past she had the misfortune to make Zala’s acquaintance. I won’t give away the secret, but the mere mention of his name sets off alarm bells in her head. She goes to Mia and Dag’s house to warn them and maybe ask questions. This is were things start to go south.

Mia and Dag are brutally murdered and all fingers point to Lisbeth Salander.  A third victim Nils Bjurman Lisbeth’s sexually abusive guardian is also found murdered. His weapon is missing and was recovered at the first murder scene. Lisbeth’s finger prints are all over the gun. Rather than do a thorough investigation cheesy journalist run with the circumstantial evidence. Soon Lisbeth’s picture is all over the media. She is branded a psychopath, a satanist,ex-prostitute and a mental defective. The people in her life all know better. Mikael Blomqvist and her former boss Dragan Armansky dig up the dirt to prove her innocence. Two cops are also not convinced of Lisbeth’s guilt, Inspector Jan Bublanski and detective Sonia Modig. The discrepancies in Libeth’s case file as a juvenile do not match the opinions of the people who have a professional or personal relationship with her.

This book is a joy to read just on a technical level. I take it that editors in Sweden aren’t the useless bums that they are in this country. I didn’t find a single typo in the entire book. Who ever translated the book also did a fantastic job it read smooth and flawless. The prose reminded me of my love of fiction and my love of the written word. Stieg Larsson excites me like F. Scott Fitzgerald or Ernest Hemingway or modern masters like Neil Gaimen and William Gibson. The plot is full of ups and downs  and twist and turns and literally had me in a state of anxiety at the suspense levels, (I hate suspense). I am not a fan of murder mysteries but I am a fan of Stieg Larsson. I am presently reading the sequel The Girl who kicked the Hornet’s nest That’s how much I loved The Girl who played with Fire and Stieg Larsson. He will be missed by all of his fans, because writers like this only come along once in a life time. I highly recommend the entire Millennium trilogy.

The Sony, Google TV internet player

My Beef of the week is the Sony make-believe google TV internet player, that’s a mouthful. I know that I have a technology deficit in my brain, but I did manage to get the thing up and running. The problem is that you have to have a Google account to do anything with it and that for me is a BIG PROBLEM. I recently dropped my Google account because I was dissatisfied with the way it kept dropping mail and being very intrusive about my personal history. I don’t hate them as much as I hate steam, but they aren’t the sharpest tack in the box.  Recently,( Wednesday as a matter of fact) I purchased the Sony make-believe internet player; and that’s just exactly what it is because if you squint real hard, you can pretend that it does all of the things that it claims to do.

It handles like a blimp in a thunderstorm and then it crashes liKe the Hindenburg, “OH THE HUMANITY!” So far I have paired all three of my apple devices but according to the onscreen prompts, devices are paired but not connected. What does that even mean? they are turned on they are receiving the internet so how are they not connected. While still trying to figure that one out I moved on to the next phase trying my Amazon account. It doesn’t recognize my old email or my password so I can’t edit my account I can’t do anything. So I put that one on hold and moved on to phase three playing videos, I am a fan of J-Urban girl group Foxxi misQ, I know they have been defunct for three years now but I miss them.  So I put them on my all regions DVD player which usually works fine when only connected to the TV, but connected to the Sony device they freeze they skip and they crash. Just to make sure that the flaw wasn’t with the disc I played them on my Mac and they worked just fine. so obvious the problem is with the make-believe player. Who came up with that loser name anyway they probably jinxed it.

With You Tube my luck was a little better but I couldn’t navigate as fast as with my i Pad or i Pod touch. It seemed very insistent that I open up an Amazon account. It won’t let me just rent a movie with out an account.  I haven’t tried NETFLIX yet but I am wondering what hazard that holds for me. I did try Pandora however and again it tried to force me to get an account. I have been listening to Pandora ever since Last fm decided to charge Americans for mobile devices; after I scobbled hundreds of dollars of my personal collection of music for others to listen to. I am not one of those persons who gets free music and doesn’t ever buy what I listen to. I buy  the music that I like and that amounts to a lot. But back to my main point I couldn’t do anything on pandora it just kept crashing and restarting.

Now comes my biggest beef I have been watching HBO GO on my I pad since I first discovered that I could get Deadwood from start to finish for free. I am already a subscriber to HBO and Starz so why should I have to pay $1.99 for episodes that I have already seen or that are more than a year old. The answer is, I shouldn’t. To my surprise and angry astonishment I Went to HBO GO and found that I have to pay to watch programs that I have already paid for through my subscription to HBO. If this is the business model of google TV they can shove it. I can truly say that this was a waste of time and money, and although I do not plan to return it I am thoroughly disappointed I thought Sony was better than that I do own a Sony. TV my first one lasted 20 years with only one repair.

I should have known better, google chrome on my mac was a nightmare I finally got rid of it and received a refund after many hours of fruitless fixes by customer service.  Still Sony takes some of the blame it is definitely not like browsing on your computer. It’s clunky, glitchy and odd. It detected my mouse but not my keyboard. What’s up with that? My mouse wasn’t even connected. As Siskel and Ebert would say I give this internet player two thumbs down.