Friday, February 18, 2022



In 1898 Pierre and Marie Curie working in a Paris laboratory discovered two radioactive elements, Polonium, named after her native country of Poland, and Radium.  Both are radioactive, and the Curie's showed for the first time that radioactive energy comes from inside atoms and that such radioactive elements decay into other elements.  This refuted the existing notion that atoms were indestructible.  For these discoveries, they won the Nobel Prize together.  After her husband's death, Marie Curie won the Nobel Prize a second time in the field of chemistry.

The Amazon Prime movie Radioactive won me over, but not till the sentimental ending, which is similar to the ending of "Edge of Darkness".   The movie has been criticized for focussing on Marie Curies' sex life, and also for some bizarre and jolting editing choices where the film will switch from the discovery of Radium, suddenly to the dropping of the atomic bomb and the Chernobyl nuclear accident, as if the Curie's should have foreseen the terrible consequences of radioactivity decades into the future.

Also, the movie jumps decades quickly.  This is what happens when you fit a person's entire life, especially one as rich as Marie Curie's, into 100 minutes.

Marie Curie died in 1934 at age 66 from anemia caused by her frequent exposure to radioactive substances.  Her husband, Pierre, died in an accident in 1906, but he was also sick from radiation.

The movie portrays Marie Curie as not the most pleasant person in the world.  She was not the best at personal relationships nor very amicable.  She was a very down to business kind of person who as a woman struggled to get the respect that she deserved.  She would eventually become highly regarded in the scientific community. 

Rosamund Pike's performance as Marie Curie is particularly good.  

Rating:  B+.


I rewatched "Contagion" after seeing it in the theater when it came out ten years ago.

I have never seen a more prophetic movie in my entire life.  At least 80% of the film seems applicable to the current COVID-19 pandemic.  The biggest difference is the deadliness of the disease, which instead of being about 2% for known cases is around 25%.  But detail after detail comes up that I only recently learned about during the COVID crisis.

The movie has an 85% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, although not all the critics were equally enthusiastic.  The audience score is only 63%, so I suspect that the subject matter might have turned off some people.  Rotten Tomatoes describes it as, "Tense, tightly plotted, and bolstered by a stellar cast.  Contagion is an exceptionally smart -- and scary -- disaster movie."   I agree.  It tells a fantastic story.  My favorite movie critic, Richard Roeper, gives it 5 out of 5 stating, "Contagion" is a brilliantly executed disease outbreak movie."

The film puts much emphasis on how easily disease can spread and this adds to the tension.

The ending is great, giving a nice emotional catharsis followed by a revelation about how the pandemic started.

Rating: A+.

Superman Returns


I feel like Superman Returns gets a bad wrap.  Roger Ebert said, "This is a glum, lackluster movie in which even the big effects sequences seem dutiful instead of exhilarating."  On the other hand, Richard Roeper said, "... while I can't call it a home run, I'll say it's a solid base hit."    

Perhaps the problem with the 2006 film is that it was an attempt to make a more modern Superman movie.  Something that fits into a post 9-11 world.  It has a more realistic feel to it compared to the 1978 original, although the year 2006 no longer feels modern.  The movie is starting to feel dated.

I like the movie. I like the many themes it touches on. I love Kevin Spacey's performance as Lex Luthor. Somehow the execution is faulty. Its ideas are better than its implementation. Everything rushes by too quickly.

The film really is a bit more glum.  It turns into a well-made soap opera.  There is an extreme emphasis on a love triangle between Superman, Lois Lane, and her new husband, as if dealing with relationships makes the movie more modern.  It is a more emotional take on Superman, but interesting nevertheless.

The movie is essentially a sequel to Superman II.  Brandon Routh looks similar to Christopher Reeve who played in the previous Superman movies, but he doesn't look as muscular as Christopher Reeve did.  He doesn't fit the muscular image of Superman that audiences are used to.

For a movie with a 200 million dollar budget, I would have expected more. It doesn't look as good as it should. Most of the film is too dark or too murky. However, it still makes for passable entertainment.

The movie sets us up for a sequel that never came.  Superman Returns was supposed to be a reboot of the franchise, which got rebooted again in 2013 by Man of Steel.  Apparently, this wasn't the Superman we were looking for.

Rating:  B.

Munich: The Edge of War

In September 1938, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain along with representatives from other countries went to Munich to negotiate a peace agreement with Adolf Hilter.  As part of this agreement, they conceded part of Czechoslovakia to Germany.  Chamberlain returned to England with agreement in hand claiming victory having secured peace with Germany.  History regards Chamberlain as a naive pacifist who got bamboozled by Hitler, as many people in the British government also regarded Chamberlain at the time.  When war broke out one year later, this lead to him being replaced as Prime Minister by Winston Churchill in May 1940.

Part of my problem with this two-hour Netflix movie is that I was confused by what I was watching.  I thought maybe I was watching a historical reenactment of actual events, but the story is an adaptation of a spy novel, "Munich", by author Robert Harris.  It is about two classmates and friends at Oxford who go on to serve their respective governments in England and Germany.  Paul is part of a plot to overthrow Hitler, and he doesn't want the peace agreement to be signed.  The plan is to arrest Hitler after he aggressively invades Czechoslavakia.  He arranges for his estranged friend, Hugh, to be part of the British delegation to Munich so that he can pass stolen documents to him to dissuade Chamberlain from signing the peace agreement.  The documents outline Germany's plans to invade the rest of Europe.  The conspirators succeed in getting the documents to Chamberlain, but he has no interest in them because he wants to continue the peace process.


The two-hour movie covers such a limited time period that I felt shortchanged.  I wanted to know more about these characters and the events that followed, but the movie ends with Chamberlain's return to Great Britain and the failure of the spy plot.  

However, the high production quality and good acting make this movie worth watching.  Jeremy Irons is delightful as Chamberlain.  George MacKay and Jannis Niewöhner are good, playing their characters as people a little in over their heads.  Hannes Wegener is great as a sadistic SS officer who is a former classmate of Paul's but suspects him of being part of a cabal.

The movie has been called revisionist because the ending portrays Chamberlain as being more clever than he may have actually been.  According to the film, Chamberlain made the peace agreement with Hitler to buy time for England to prepare for war.

Rating:  B+.

Wednesday, February 9, 2022