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A documentary filmed by National Geographic
Warner Independent Pictures
Narrated by Morgan Freeman
Directed by Luc Jacquet

by jala

Every winter a most extraordinary journey occurs in the most inhospitable, merciless terrain on earth -- Antarctica. Probably since they have existed, thousands of Emperor penguins leave their sea home and make a perilous journey to their traditional breeding grounds where the ice is thicker (and hence safer), icebergs offer a semblance of protection from the fiercest of the gale force winds and no predators exist at this time of year. They are instinctually driven by an overpowering urge to reproduce and ensure the continuation of their species. In single file, they march through impossible weather in a land of ice for hundreds of miles to pair off and mate. As the days grow shorter and the weather becomes even more brutal, the females lay a single egg. They are exhausted and starving, having been away from the nourishment of the fish-filled seas for weeks so they return across the ice field to eat, leaving the eggs behind in the care of the males. The return journey is equally hazardous and when they get there, leopard seals are waiting to prey on them. Meanwhile, the male Emperors are left to guard and hatch the eggs, making a cradle for the precious cargo on the top of their feet. The eggs are vulnerable, given the subzero temperatures of the harsh polar winter and many will not survive. Much like humans, regret and sorrow were evident in the penguins when this happened.

The eggs take two months to hatch, during which the males have nothing to eat. They all wait for the mothers to return with food in their bellies to feed their offspring and if they are late or fail to return, the penguin chicks will perish. Once the families are reunited, the roles reverse; the mothers remain with their new young while the exhausted and starved fathers make the long, treacherous trek back to the sea to feed. Meanwhile, with the return of warmer weather (warming in this case is around 58 degrees below 0 F), the penguin chicks are prey for returning giant petrels. The marching penguins reprise their dangerous journey back and forth innumerable times until the chicks are mature enough to return home on their own and dive into the waters of the Antarctic.

This film has apparently struck a chord with moviegoers, as evidenced by its outgrossing both War of the Worlds and Batman Begins per screen in July. Perhaps people are tired of watching movies replete with wanton violence. Perhaps they are also weary of hearing about all the carnage occurring in the world and need a respite. Or perhaps it is because March of the Penguins is far more than a nature film. When I saw it, the movie was sold out.

I loved this film. Not only were the subject matter and story fascinating and the scenery truly awesome, but the universal theme of survival despite great odds was unequivocally inspiring. If these creatures can survive in such dire conditions and situations, so too can we. Human beings, after all, are supposedly the more intelligent species. However, the only way the penguins do survive is through cooperation with each other. They keep each other warm and both genders share the caretaking of the littlest and most vulnerable. The real point of the story is that the survival of the species is only accomplished through cooperation, sharing and unity. There could be no survival and no new generation of Emperor penguins if there were competition, selfishness and strife within the group. The only criticism I have is that the threat of global warming surely endangers this ancient way of life as well as the Emperor penguins themselves and the film never addresses this. However, perhaps the focus is where it needs to be in that survival is ultimately contingent on cooperation and consensus and not on competition and conflict that seem to drive the current world we live in. Are humans so very different from these creatures? The penguins, I think, can teach us a profound lesson, if only we could heed it.

Rating: 3 ½ thumbs up


The Complete War of The Worlds
A nifty pairing H.G. Wells's classic 1897 SF novel, The War of the Worlds, including the original magazine illustrations, together with Howard Koch's radio play adaptation made famous by Orson Welles in his October 30, 1938, broadcast, which fooled thousands of listeners into thinking the East Coast was under Martian attack. In addition to a foreword by Ray Bradbury and an afterword by Ben Bova, Sourcebook editors Holmsten and Lubertozzi supply an absorbing account of the broadcast's impact, which puts the hoax in historical context; an article on Orson Welles and the Mercury Theater; a survey of both imaginary and actual space flights to and from Mars and a succinct profile of H.G. Wells. It is interesting to learn that Wells at first resented the radio broadcast, believing Welles was going to read the novel, not dramatize it.

I saw this 1953 version of War of the Worlds as a child and remember being scared by it, especially the part where the alien space craft is plowing up magma. It made me afraid even the ground wasn't safe.

War of the Worlds: Same Game, Same Shame
by Alllie

Thanks to : JanK for her beta help
Spoiler warning: Yes, I do reveal many plot points, but little that will come as a surprise if you've read H. G. Wells' War of the Worlds. You have, right?

I just saw War of the Worlds, and it reminded me of the Iraq war, especially Falluja. I believe this was what Falluja was like during the American attack with alien machines of tremendous power raining down fire, death and destruction on a helpless city while many people fled, some cowered in their homes, and a few tried to fight. I even asked myself: When Ray (Tom Cruise) managed to plant two grenades in the alien machine trying to kill him, do you think the aliens labeled him a terrorist? Probably.

With American machines flying overhead, roaring like aliens; with advanced American machines rolling down streets, encasing their occupants in safety; with American soldiers clothed in body armor killing Fallujans clothed only in flesh; how was the US military different from the aliens in this movie? The aliens came to kill, to exterminate, as did the soldiers sent to destroy Falluja. The aliens came to steal a world for their own use. We came to steal a country, or at least the oil in it. The aliens destroyed mindlessly to eliminate resistance. We destroy just as mindlessly to eliminate resistance. The aliens took captives to torturously use. We take prisoners to torture and use. The aliens watered the soil with human blood in order to transform the world into something useful to them. Americanss water Iraqi soil with Iraqi blood in order to transform the country into something that is profitable for the American plutocracy. The aliens sported through the ruins. Americans play in the ruins and make fun of corpses and grind their bodies into mush with their machines, just for sport. (Ya want a url for the pictures? Email me.)

How are we different? Well, for a start, ordinary germs are no threat to us.

War of the Worlds also reminded me of Apocalypse Now. Remember that scene where US helicopters attack a small Vietnamese village? The village was primitive; the houses almost looked as if they were built of sticks. When the attack started the little kids were led from their schoolroom down into a bomb shelter while the adults uncovered their one gun and attempted to fight against the overwhelming force of technology aimed at them. In an attempt to further scare the inhabitants, Wagner's stirring The Ride of the Valkyries blared from speakers on a helicopter. War of the Worlds was like that. There were even scary alien sounds. The weight of overwhelming technological superiority was used to crush people like they were insects, but in real life, it is the American machines that seem like undefeatable alien ships.

It's called the Backbird.

The Stealth B2 bomber.

The Stealth Fighter

The B2 bomber.

Don't they look like alien craft? They could be dropped into War of the Worlds (or Star Wars or SG-1 or Battlestar Galactica) fighting for the alien side and be credible. But back to the movie.

The War of the Worlds was okay. It went by very fast which is generally the mark of a good movie. It was well-written, and the special effects were very good and generally seamless and believable. The malevolent alien machines seemed almost alive. (My one complaint about their design is that the legs tapered down too much, almost to nothing.

The legs were meant to look spidery, but something that big and heavy can't walk on tippytoes. ) People occasionally acted stupidly, but not as much as in many scifi and horror movies. Tom Cruise was okay, as well. Never my favorite actor, never an actor I'd go to a movie just to see, never an actor who can make me feel what his character is feeling; still, he has been in a lot of good movies. He's rarely made a bad one and didn't in War of the Worlds.

Young Dakota Fanning, who played Cruise's daughter Rachael, showed flashes of the authenticity and talent she displayed in the SciFi channel's miniseries Taken. Even though WotW didn't require much acting from her, and Spielberg had her scream a little too much, she still delivered. This is probably one of Dakota's last childhood roles. She's about to be a teen, and I could already see the shadow of the woman she is about to become flickering across her face. Barring an attack of fatness, incurable acne or teenaged imbecility, she's our new Jodie Foster, and we'll be watching her till she dies or we do. I just hope she doesn't grow up to be something bad that will keep me from enjoying her future performances, say a serial killer or a Republican.

I hated Ray (Tom Cruise) for his treatment of his daughter. His idea of protecting her involved keeping her ignorant, not telling her what was going on or letting her see what was happening. This is an old and repellent form of female repression and not a wise choice during a disaster. Can you imagine a chimp mother covering its young's eyes rather than letting it see the danger of an approaching leopard? We learn by seeing. Ray seemed bent on keeping daughter Rachael unchanged by the horrors around her by keeping her ignorant of them.

I was also disturbed when Ray blindfolded Rachael while he went to kill someone who was endangering them - something he did behind a closed door, making the blindfold doubly unnecessary. The scene had an S&M, pedophile vibe that freaked me out a little. I bet all the peds were titillated and massaging their crotches as they watched it. I bet WotW becomes a ped favorite because of this scene.

I liked how Ray's son Robbie (Justin Chatwin) was filled with war lust. Robbie wanted to see. He wanted to help. Robbie wanted to fight. Ray was just trying to save himself and his kids by running away, but Robbie was filled with the instinct to battle the aliens, to go with the advancing army, to do SOMETHING. Ray finally lets him go in a scene that every parent must face when their son becomes a man, even a man who rushes toward danger rather than away from it. This is the instinct that kept many a group alive back in our more primitive days, the instinct to fight to protect the pack. Too bad that now this same instinct is used by dictators and monsters like Bush to get young people to fight and die for the plutocracy's greed.

I hadn't been to a movie in several years. I was annoyed by two things: ten minutes of commercials BEFORE the movie. When did this crap start? I pay and I still have to look at commercials!! There ought to be a law! And the movie industry wonders why people won't go to movies. Second, since it had been so long since I went to a movie, I decided to splurge and get some popcorn and a drink. They cost MORE than the movie.

I missed the great sound that everyone raved about. The theater where I saw the movie apparently didn't have the ability to blast you out of your seat. Alas.

All and all, War of the Worlds was a pretty good movie, well worth seeing at least once.



The Complete War of The Worlds
A nifty pairing H.G. Wells's classic 1897 SF novel, The War of the Worlds, including the original magazine illustrations, together with Howard Koch's radio play adaptation made famous by Orson Welles in his October 30, 1938, broadcast, which fooled thousands of listeners into thinking the East Coast was under Martian attack. In addition to a foreword by Ray Bradbury and an afterword by Ben Bova, Sourcebook editors Holmsten and Lubertozzi supply an absorbing account of the broadcast's impact, which puts the hoax in historical context; an article on Orson Welles and the Mercury Theater; a survey of both imaginary and actual space flights to and from Mars and a succinct profile of H.G. Wells. It is interesting to learn that Wells at first resented the radio broadcast, believing Welles was going to read the novel, not dramatize it.

I saw this 1953 version of War of the Worlds as a child and remember being scared by it, especially the part where the alien space craft is plowing up magma. It made me afraid even the ground wasn't safe.

Or, How I Spent One Night of My Summer Vacation

Spoiler Warning: Hint of ending (if you don't already know)

OK, bear with me here. This review is going to be a "stream of consciousness" sort of thing because I don't do these for a living. Did I just give you a reason to go do something else? I hope not. Just give me a minute.

The first thing I noticed upon settling into my theater seat to see Stevie Spielberg's latest disaster flick "War of The Worlds" was that I had to go to the bathroom. Now I'm a grown guy and you'd think I'd have addressed this long before I went into the theater but hey, there it is. With a bladder that was pressing into my studded belt, I debated getting up and relieving myself and missing the first few minutes of the film. But I hate doing that. I hate missing setups. I still think they are crucial to the film, or at least my experience with it. I like to "wade in the pool" before the tidal wave comes. Plus, I have this little test involving films and the need to urinate. If it's a really good film, I'll forget about how bad I have to pee. Would I forget about my bladder screaming at me? The test was to come.

Fifteen minutes or so into a lame set up (Tom Cruise, bad divorced father, gets kids for weekend. Uncomfey moments around badly dressed, knocked-up ex-wife and her Queer-Eye, GQ boyfriend. Want some nachos?) and I forget that I have to pee. So far, so good.

When the aliens make their big appearance driving their souped-up, metal scarab beetles on stilts, you remember most of what you paid for - the sound and special effects. Let's give credit where credit is due. Industrial Light & Magic know their smack. The sound was teeth rattling. Enough to cause some arrhythmia if you weren't careful. The ominous looking storms that preceded the alien gangsta's debut were more than real. The crackle and hum of their electro-weapons made you wonder if your palm pilot would have its memory wiped just sitting there. Boo yah. This is what American films are really made for these days, the sturm und drang and ze big bang bang. Who am I to buck a little patriotism?

But then we get into the main problem I have with most American films. Just a few minor details like, say, lack of a good story, good acting, and characters you care about. I'm not saying this just because Tom Cruise is a fucking douche bag cultist who knows about depression like he knows how to fake a good New York accent, but he is really swan diving to the bottom of the outhouse tank in this role. I can see him as a spy, I can see him lip syncing to old Bob Seeger tunes in his underwear, hell I can even see him as a Samurai. Well, OK, a pastey-faced, midwest, corn-fed boy Samurai, but I'm being generous.

But, a hardened New York City dockworker, who is, oddly enough, the only guy on his block that sounds like he just moved to the 'hood from Beverly Hills? Nuh uh. A hamfisted Mr. America who has salvagable brownie points as a father if he can just dodge those metal scarab beetles on stilts for long enough to get the manly hug from his teenage son? Not a chance. If you don't believe me, wait till you see him crying. Yes, Tom Cruise crying. Why is he crying? A feeling of unimaginable fright and hopelesness for the future? The gut wrenching remorse over not demanding near enough money to be in this film? Wondering if Brooke Shields was waiting in the studio parking lot to kick his ass? Who knows. What I do know is that I cringed inside when his face wrinkled like a Shar-Pei and his chin wiggled.

And when will that girl stop screaming? When Lord When? Jamie Lee Curtis had nothing on this little bug eyed, hummus eating syrene.

Alright by now, I realize I have to pee again. Bad sign. Oh but here comes Tim Robbins, one of my favorite actors. Surely HE can save this thing. Hmmm, he's fat. OK, maybe the character is supposed to be fat. Wait, is he coming on to that little girl? The urine poison is beginning to make me hallucinate. Lets just say its an awful thing to watch one of your screen heroes go down like a turd in a punch bowl. Merciful that he only appears in about twenty minutes of the film? You betcha.

Part of the problem is that I have always loved this classic. Orson Wells' original radiocast is still enough to set your hair on end or have you jumping out of a window. Classics are wonderful that way. But in this retro, remake-the-remake-of-the-remake motion picture culture, screenwriters are getting lazy. It's like they think the well of ideas has already been tapped long ago, and they have some sort of entitlement to just milk that sucker until a whole new generation comes up and forgets all this shit has already been said. But really, what's wrong with an angle on the old classic? How about a new twist on an old theme? Other than "Is it terrorists??" (oh, PLEASE). Isn't there something we can do with the great us against them? Perhaps even a little social commentary just to remind ourselves we are still evolving beings as we're yee-hawing the next big explosion? Spielberg used his name, his money and his rep to cover the fact that, artistically, he was really on the ropes with this one (Don't say that too loud, you may wake Mr. Spielberg from his nap).

I'm not telling you to avoid this film. Heavens no. In fact, go in thin clothes so the surround sound speakers feel you up like a 14 year old boy on his first date. But if you're looking for a great (new) story, primo acting and a feeling like you actually experienced something that will last you longer than Chinese food, don't torture yourself. You may be so disgusted that you'll rush the screen at the end and thrust a Tylenol bottle at the dying aliens, so they'll whip this deadly earth cold and take another crack at the invasion.

At any rate, I flew out of the theater before the first credits rolled - straight to the boy's room and did to a shiny urinal what Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise did to a timeless classic.

Thanks for listening.

Scott Lee


War of the Worlds: Sound & Fury
a review by AlKanadi

The title of this review pretty much sums up this film, sound & fury. For those of you who have read the book, you will be pleased with how the filmmakers have remained, more or less, faithful to its basic storyline. As I've not seen the 1953 film version, except for bits and pieces from time to time, I can't really comment, except to say I'm pretty sure you'll be happy with the result.

This movie is about a father, and not a particularly good father at that, having to deal with an alien invasion AND try to reach his estranged wife while keeping his children alive in the process. Tom Cruise, the lead character, is a man who's clearly not cut out for fatherhood, yet when the crisis comes, does what any parent would do, that is, do his best to keep his family alive.

The film begins with a voiceover, done by Morgan Freeman, which is essentially the first paragraph of the book by H.G. Wells. That concluded, we are treated to the usual 15 minutes or so of character introduction. Ray Ferrier (Tom Cruise), his two children Robbie and Rachel, played by Justin Chatwin and Dakota Fanning, and his estranged wife, whom we see little of during the film.

It isn't long before the aliens (whom we'll call Martians, their origin is never actually explained) make their appearance, laying waste to Rays New York City neighborhood in an orgy of rather novel death ray destruction. These are not your fathers Martians and the special effects, in particular the SOUND effects, are not what any sci-fi fan is used to. This movies audio is just incredible, which is why I would encourage anyone who can scrape up the money, go and see it on the big screen. I rather doubt the DVD will do it justice, unless of course, you happen to be blessed with an exceptional surround sound system.

Ray, who barely escapes being turned into human dust by the Martians, makes it home and cowers in his home with his kids for a bit before deciding to head to Boston. Finding one of the few cars that still works (the Martians have, upon arrival, rendered useless just about anything dependent upon electricity, including cell phones and wrist watches) Ray and his kids flee the city, intending on reaching Boston.

Unlike many films, where the protagonist is sort of a Rambo/MacGyver sort of guy who can leap tall buildings in single bound, wipe out legions of bad guys with a six-gun, and build a fully functional armored personnel carrier from an old van and some vinyl siding, our Ray is pretty mundane, an ordinary Joe facing enormous stress and hardship. and it shows. He fights with his kids, they fight with him, and the point is very clearly made that he has not ever really gotten to know them. They arrive at his estranged wife's house and spend a lonely and scary night before narrowly escaping a grim death. Again, they flee.

Its not long before they come to a town crowded with refugees, and the scenes that follow show what can happen when a large mob of terrified people all have the same goal in mind. In this case, they want to board the only ferry crossing a river. But, of course, the Martians make an appearance and the following scenes demonstrate what a disaster at sea is probably really like. Chaos and mayhem ensues, and Ray and his kids barely escape with their skins. Few others do. Watch for a scene involving a passenger train. It is chilling.

Next, Ray and family end up holed up in the basement of a house, occupied by another normal guy under stress. I won't go into detail, but think 'hide and seek', but this hide and seek could have some pretty unpleasant consequences. These scenes are the most creepy and suspenseful of the film, and many gasps could be heard in the audience around us as events unfolded.

I won't describe much else, except to say that things get even worse for Ray and his family. For those who've seen the 1953 movie or read the book, you'll KNOW the 'ending', which is done very well indeed. The film is one of those in which you will likely never glance down to your watch, wondering how much time is left. The action, while not non-stop, is frequent and events progress at what feels like a rapid pace. It is definitely worth seeing, and HEARING. I cannot stress the audio of this film enough. It makes what could have possibly been a good movie into a great movie.

I'd give it a 'three fingers up'.


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