Film special effects without computers

We are so used to computer-generated special effects in films that we have become blasé about them. While producing these effects takes a lot of skill and tedious hard work, there is something about it being done on a computer that makes it seem to be not as clever somehow, though that does an injustice to all the programmers and artists who work so hard to produce these magical effects. We also know that the actors are not in any real danger, that they are safely on some sound stage in front of a green screen and that the dangerous effects are being produced in a studio.
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TV Review: Discussion of Sherlock (spoilers galore so enter at your peril!)

I mentioned in my review of the last episode of Sherlock that there were some gaping plot holes in the storyline. For those of you who have seen the series and are as puzzled as I am about some of the decisions made by the writers, at the suggestion of Eric Riley, I decided to open up the discussion because sometimes there are subtle and fleeting references that address some of the issues that one misses on the first go-round. I picked up some of them when I watched some of the episodes the second time. I hope that those who have not seen the show yet will come back here later and join the discussion.
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TV Review: Sherlock: The Final Problem (no spoilers)

I watched this final episode of season 4 last night and frankly found it disappointing. You can see it online in the US here until January 29. Unfortunately, the writers have once again succumbed to the temptation to go in for surprise plot twists at the expense of plausibility, which was also the big problem with their Christmas special The Abominable Bride from a year ago.
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TV Review: Sherlock: The Lying Detective (no spoilers)

The second episode in the latest series was shown on PBS on Sunday and is now available online. This was a good episode, even if Sherlock was more manic than usual. There were, as has become the custom, some major surprises at the end that left a lot of questions open, presumably to be resolved in the final episode of this series to be shown on Sunday. I am not sure if that marks the end of the run for this show or whether future series are scheduled. The two main stars have other engagements and they may not want to be too identified with their roles here.
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TV Review: The new episode of Sherlock (no spoilers)

Series 4 of the BBC series Sherlock starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman aired the first of its three episodes on PBS stations last Sunday and it will be available for streaming online until January 14. After getting rave reviews early on, the series creators have come in for considerable criticism for going over the top in their plot twists in later episodes, and its Christmas special that aired in January 2016 episode was heavily panned, including by me.
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Film review: Julius Caesar (1953)

This is an excellent film. It is so good that after watching it over the weekend, I wondered, “How could it be that I did not see this gem a long time ago?” The film is based on William Shakespeare’s play and featured an outstanding cast. Eyebrows were initially raised over the surprise casting of Marlon Brando in the role of Mark Antony, as people wondered how the notorious mumbler would handle one of the best known speeches from Shakespeare, the funeral oration for Caesar. At 29, he was also considered somewhat young to play the role of a senior Roman senator who would have been around 40.
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‘Manuel’ of Fawlty Towers has died

The actor Andrew Sachs who played such a memorable role as the long-suffering Spanish waiter Manuel at the hands of the irascible Basil Fawlty (played by John Cleese) has died at the age of 86 after suffering from dementia for the last four years. As the foil for the more famous Cleese, he was a major factor in providing the humor in that series. He was by all accounts an extremely nice person who had a knack for farcical comedy.
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Francis Ford Coppola on making The Godfather

The Godfather (1972) is a film that one never forgets and spawned two sequels that, unlike in the case of so many sequels, managed to maintain the quality of the first. Director Francis Ford Coppola was only 29 when he was asked to direct the film version of Mario Puzo’s book. Coppola kept a notebook during the making of the film, with his ideas of what to do and what traps to avoid and those notes have now been published. In an interview today on Fresh Air, he talks about the making of the film and I found it fascinating. You can listen to it.
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TV review: Black Mirror

The British TV series available for streaming on Netflix is set in the near future and each episode features a new story with a different cast and deals with the impact of technology on people’s lives, especially miniaturized communication technology that does not yet exist but seems tantalizingly possible, such as tiny chips embedded in our brains that record every aspect of our lives and can be played back at will or software that, by accessing as much information that exists about a person, can re-create a replica that is indistinguishable from a person who died, or immersive virtual reality worlds that are indistinguishable from the physical one.
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Film review: Eye in the Sky (2015)

The 2015 film Eye in the Sky starring Helen Mirren and the late Alan Rickman is about a joint British-US operation using drones to spy on and kill suspected terrorists in Kenya. The central tension is created by a child who sets up a stand to sell home-made bread in the vicinity of the target and the film deals with the debate in London as to whether the possible death of the child is worth it to stop a pair of suicide bombers from carrying out attacks that will kill many more. It is the equivalent of the trolley problem commonly used in ethics discussions. It is the British who are in charge of the operation, though the drones are operated by the US.
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