This movie is what 3D was made for.


As a kid in the 60s, Dr. Strange was one of my favorite characters. And it hardly needs to be said that his Grand High Excellence Mr. Cumberbatch is perfect for this rôle.


This was the film that absolutely begged to be done in 3D, and while many films have tried with varying degrees of success to bring a new dimension to the screen, the result here was, to be blunt, breathtaking; a good summary of why is found at CinemaBlend.

I will spoil nothing, but I was desperate to see this before the 3D version left the theatres; I missed Pacific Rim that way, and I think my experience was poorer for it. Today I got my chance, and it was worth the drive to a neighboring city.

There’s a lot to love about this film; the effects, the story, the music, and a fun little fillip of anticipation at the end (oh yes, that’s the only spoiler I’ll leave here – don’t leave before the credits have rolled.)

It may not be for everyone… Strange was truly one of the stranger Marvel characters in the canonical universe. I’m powerfully pleased by what they did with this film, and look forward to more coming down the pipeline.

I’m a huge fan of Mr. Cumberbatch – I think he’s one of the most versatile and gifted actors of the present day. This film did nothing if not raise him in my estimation even farther.

If you haven’t seen Dr. Strange, see if you can find a 3D showing near you. I think you’ll find the experience was worth it.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Klaatu Barada Nikto

When I purchased the relatively recent remake of “The Day the Earth Stood Still”, it included a nice remastered copy of the 1950 original so my money wasn’t a total waste.


If you’ve never seen it (Ai! What rock have you been living under?) it is based on the timeless story by Harry Bates, “Farewell to the Master,” which is worth a read all by itself.

Long seared having been seared into my mind since the first time I saw it as a child, I’m gratified that this film ranks 7th on Arthur C. Clarke’s top-10 science fiction film list, because even 65 years later – coincidentally my age – it’s just as relevant now as it was then. It’s a tight film, without a second wasted, and made with the intention that it would:

a) be as realistic as the technology allowed, and
b) transmit the message that mankind needs to get rid of its violent nature if it cares to survive.

Having spent a career as a linguist, I some time ago watched the film again with the intent of listening to Klaatu’s language, and transcribing what he said as accurately as possible. There is so little dialog that it can’t really be considered a conlang, but it was interesting to me nonetheless.

Klaatu barada nikto!” is one of the most famous lines ever uttered in a science-fiction film, but was not the only thing that Klaatu said. The remainder of the dialog is:

Gort! Deglet ovrosco! (Said after Klaatu is shot the first time)

Imray Klaatu naruwak.
Makro [pluvau|pluval], baratu lokdeniso impeklis.
Yavo tari [axo|axel] bugletio barengi degas.
(Klaatu’s instructions – ostensibly to his Federation – for his “demonstration of power”; this linguist’s best transcription. Two words are nearly impossible to pinpoint without a script or screenplay. You can listen to the dialog here.)

Klaatu barada nikto! (Probably something like “Klaatu needs help!”)

Gort, berengo. Probably much like “Mirab, his sails unfurled,” i.e. Gort, let’s blow this bait shack.

I never tire of watching this film – its value to the human condition, and as an early example of outstanding science fiction cinematography, will never diminish.

Here is the text of Klaatu’s speech, for your consideration:

“I am leaving soon, and you will forgive me if I speak bluntly. The universe grows smaller every day, and the threat of aggression by any group, anywhere, can no longer be tolerated. There must be security for all, or no one is secure. Now, this does not mean giving up any freedom, except the freedom to act irresponsibly. Your ancestors knew this when they made laws to govern themselves and hired policemen to enforce them. We, of the other planets, have long accepted this principle. We have an organization for the mutual protection of all planets and for the complete elimination of aggression. The test of any such higher authority is, of course, the police force that supports it. For our policemen, we created a race of robots. Their function is to patrol the planets in spaceships like this one and preserve the peace. In matters of aggression, we have given them absolute power over us. This power cannot be revoked. At the first sign of violence, they act automatically against the aggressor. The penalty for provoking their action is too terrible to risk. The result is, we live in peace, without arms or armies, secure in the knowledge that we are free from aggression and war. Free to pursue more… profitable enterprises. Now, we do not pretend to have achieved perfection, but we do have a system, and it works. I came here to give you these facts. It is no concern of ours how you run your own planet, but if you threaten to extend your violence, this Earth of yours will be reduced to a burned-out cinder. Your choice is simple: join us and live in peace, or pursue your present course and face obliteration. We shall be waiting for your answer. The decision rests with you.”

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Why *do* we need another Cinderella?

I mean, there are so many. The Disney animated version, “The Slipper and the Rose,” “Ever After”, “Ella Enchanted”, at last count eight other movies just called “Cinderella,” and a host of others.





Each one of those that I mention had its strong points and approached the story from a different angle. I was particularly fond of “Ever After” for a number of reasons, not the least of which was watching the evil stepmother get what was truly coming to her. Not that I’m really into Schadenfreude, but in this life there are and must necessarily be consequences of action – it was satisfying to see a bit of karma at work there.

So why did Disney bother to do another one?


Because it was absolutely magical, that’s why – and in the end analysis, despite the fact that I suspect Walt would not approve of many of the things his beloved company has done over the years, nobody does magic better than Disney.

The performances carried the movie along with nothing to detract from the miracle. Some of the characters were weaker than others, but Helena Bonham Carter, Cate Blanchett, and Lily James were brilliant. Wonderfully brilliant. We’re now technologically to the point that the effects were seamless and delightful.

And lastly, the message of the film is one that the world desperately needs.

“Be brave, and be kind.”

How much needless suffering and judgment would be done away if we could all live in a world where those two virtues were assiduously cultivated? To break the walls of fantasy and return to the real world for a moment, that’s exactly the message that one finds in Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. Other human beings can take away from you everything you have – your clothes, your home, your food, your very life – but if we retain our bravery and our kindness, then no one can steal our humanity. Living in the poorest circumstances is not, in the end, an excuse for cruelty or parsimony or cowardice.

I left the theatre today with a heart full of gratitude that there are those in the world who are willing to put messages like this into the public stream of consciousness. Sure, they did it to make money, but that doesn’t bother me in the slightest. I want desperately to live in, and work for, a world where kindness and beauty and bravery and goodness are the rule rather than the exception.

Cary Elwes was the perfect Westley, Robin Wright the perfect buttercup. The Princess Bride should never be defiled with a remake. In my book, Cinderella has reached a zenith with this production, and needs never more to be tampered with.

Overall rating – ten out of ten stars.



Dang, those slippers, though.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

The Top 100 Anime Movies of All Time (with some sources)

This list was compiled originally by redditor /u/PixelPenguins, and a link to images, reasons for selection, and short synopses was provided at Imgur. /u/DisposableFox texted the list, and /u/Rydel6 went hunting  to see which ones were available at Netflix or elsewhere. Below, the list with source where available.

Naturally, this is only one person’s preferences, but the list is comprehensive and includes every Anime I have ever seen, plus many, many that I have not. I have a lot of watching to do.


Colorful, the No. 1 anime as selected by /u/PixelPenguins.

100: The Sky Crawlers (2008) – Google Play – Rental 2.99 | Purchase 9.99
99: Nitaboh (2004) – None Listed
98: Asura (2012) – None Listed
97: Spriggan (1998) – Amazon DVD 59.89 | Blu Ray 68.91 (really?!)
96: You Are Umasou (2010) – None Listed
95: Ninja Scroll (1993) – Amazon Rental 1.99 | Purchase 9.94
94: Pyschic School Wars (2012) – None Listed
93: Gauche the Cellist (1982) – None Listed
92: Half-Broken Music Box (2010) – None Listed
91: Hal (2013) – Unclear. Ask later.
90: Welcome to THE SPACE SHOW (2010) – None Listed
89: They Were Eleven (1986) – None Listed
88: Swan Lake (1981) – None Listed
87: Wonderful Days (2003) Amazon DVD 75.95
86: Vampire Hunter D: Blustlust (2000) – None Listed
85: Escaflowne: A Girl in Geae (2000) – None Listed
84: Lupin III: Farewell to Nostradamus (1995) – None Listed
83: Redline (2009) – Unclear. Ask later.
82: Mobile Police Patlabor 2: The Movie (1993) – None Listed
81: Mai Mai Miracle (2009) – Amazon DVD 75.99 | Amazon Blu Ray 97.98
80: Elemi (2009) – None Listed
79: Trigun: Badlands Rumble (2010) – Hulu Plus (subscription) | Vudu Rental 2.99 | Digital Purchase 9.99
78: The Perfect World of Kai (2007) – None Listed
77: Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise (1987) – None Listed
76: Japan, Our Homeland (2007) – None Listed
75: Glass Rabbit (2005) – None Listed
74: Yobi: The 5 Tailed Fox (2007) – None Listed
73: Aura: Koga Maryuin’s Last War (2013) – None Listed
72: Castle in the Sky (1986) – Amazon DVD 22.76
71: Who’s Left Behind? (1991) – None Listed
70: The Place Promised in Our Early Days (2004) – None Listed
69: Origins: Spirits of the Past (2006) – None Listed
68: The Tree of Palme (2003)- None Listed
67: Nasu: Summer in Andalusia (2003) – None Listed
66: Children Who Chase Lost Voices (2011) – None Listed
65: Little Witch Academia (2013) – None Listed
64: Mind Game (2004)
63: Lupin III: The Secret of Mamo (1978) – Hulu (Subscription) | Amazon DVD 19.99 Blu Ray 37.39
62: Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984) – Amazon Blu Ray 29.52
61: Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade (1998) – None Listed
60: Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro (1979) – Amazon Blu Ray 39.98
59: Oseam (2003) – None Listed
58: Mahou Shoujo Madoka★Magica: Rebellion (2013) – None Listed
57: The Wind Rises (2013) – Netflix DVD (Subscription) Amazon DVD 18.81 Blu Ray 23.52
56: Cencoroll (2009) – None Listed
55: Chie the Brat (1981) – None Listed
54: 5cm Per Second (2007) – None Listed
53: Porco Rosso (1992)- None Listed
52: Garden of Sinners (2007 – 2009) – None Listed
51: Ghost in the Shell (1995) – Netflix DVD (Subscription) | Digital Rental (various) 1.99, 2.99 | Digital Purchase (various) 9.99 | Amazon DVD 7.87
50: Steamboy (2004) – Netflix DVD (Subscription) | Digital Rental (Various) 2.99 | Digital Purchase (Various) 9.99 | Amazon DVD 8.97 | Starz (Subscription)
49: Death Billiards (2013) – None Listed
48: Steins;Gate: Burdened Domain of Déjà vu (2013) – None Listed
47: Rainbow-Colored Fireflies: The Eternal Summer Vacation (2012) – None Listed
46: End of Evangelion (1997) – None Listed
45: Cowboy Bebop: Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door (2001) – None Listed
44: House of Small Cubes (2008) – None Listed
43: Tales from Earthsea (2006) – None Listed
42: Whisper of the Heart (1995) – Amazon DVD 20.95 Blu Ray 24.96
41: Howl’s Moving Castle (2004) – Netflix DVD (Subscription) | Amazon DVD 22.89 Blu Ray 27.19
40: Princess Arete (2001) – None Listed
39: Patema Inverted (2013) – Netflix DVD (Subscription) | Digital Rental 0.99 (Vudu) / 3.99 (Various) | Digital Purchase 9.99 (Various) | Amazon DVD 19.49 Blu Ray 22.99
38: The Door Into Summer (1981) – None Listed
37: Metropolis (2001) – Amazon DVD 8.69
36: Junkers Come Here (1994) – Hulu (Subscription) | Amazon DVD 4.71
35: The Dog of Flanders (1997) – Digital Rental 2.99 (Vudu) | Digital Purchase 9.99 (Vudu) | Amazon DVD 11.98
34: K-On! Movie (2011) – Unclear. Ask later.
33: Hotori: I Only Wish For Happiness (2005) – None Listed.
32: Saint☆Onii-san (2013) – None Listed.
31: The Secret World of Arrietty (2010) – Amazon DVD 22.17 Blu Ray 25.89
30: Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya (2010) – Amazon DVD 119.99
29: My Neighbor Totoro (1988) – Netflix DVD (Subscription) | Amazon DVD 19.99 Blu Ray 26.14
28: Sword of the Stranger (2007) – Hulu (Subscription) | Netflix DVD (Subscription) | Amazon 29.99 Blu ray 59.99
27: Pom Poko (1994) – Netflix DVD (Subscription) | Amazon DVD 22.30 Blu Ray 24.99
26: Ponyo (2008) – Netflix DVD (Subscription) | Amazon DVD 19.99 Blu Ray 25.76
25: Akira (1988) – Amazon DVD 12.49 Blu Ray 16.79
24: Revolutionary Girl Utena: Adolescence of Utena (1999) – None Listed
23: Leafie: A Hen into the Wild (2011) – Amazon Blu Ray 53.95
22: From Up on Poppy Hill (2011) – Amazon Blu Ray 19.95
21: Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989) – Netflix DVD (Subscription) | Amazon DVD 19.99 Blu Ray 24.99
20: Summer Wars (2009) – Netflix DVD (Subscription) | Amazon DVD 59.99 Blu Ray 17.40
19: Tekkon Kinkreet (2006) – None Listed
18: Into the Forest of Fireflies’ Light (2011) – None Listed
17: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (2006) – Amazon DVD 5.75 Blu Ray 22.99 | Xfinity (Free)
16: Paprika (2006) – Netflix DVD (Subscription) | Digital Rental 2.99 (Various) | Digital Purchase 9.99 (Various) | Amazon DVD 9.72 Blu Ray 7.99
15: Millennium Actress (2001) – None Listed
14: Garden of Words (2013) – None Listed
13: Tokyo Godfathers (2003) – Netflix DVD (Subscription) | Amazon DVD 34.95
12: Grave of the Fireflies (1988) – Amazon Blu Ray 17.66
11: Macross: Do You Remember Love (1984) – None Listed.
10: Barefoot Gen (1983) – None Listed.
9: Summer Days with Coo (2007) – None Listed.
8: Spirited Away (2001) – Netflix DVD (Subscription) | Amazon DVD 19.96 Blu Ray 99.98
7: Princess Mononoke (1997) – Amazon Blu Ray 23.52
6: Only Yesterday (1991) – None Listed.
5: Perfect Blue (1998) – Netflix DVD (Subscription) | Amazon DVD 99.95
4: Wolf Children (2012) – None Listed.
3: A Letter to Momo (2011) – Netflix DVD (Subscription) | Digital Rental 3.99 (Google Play) | Digital Purchase 9.99 (Google Play / XBox Points) | Amazon Blu Ray 41.99
2: Time of Eve (2010) – None Listed
1: Colorful (2010) – Hulu Plus (Subscription) | Digital Rental 3.99 (Apple) | Digital Purchase 9.99 (Apple)

Rabbi, is there a proper blessing for the Czar?

There’s no question in my mind that websites like Yahoo! Answers, FixYa and other such social answer sites are generally not worth the powder to blow them to Hell with. The blind leading the blind is what comes most frequently to mind.

But occasionally one finds an exception.

Listening today to the soundtrack to Fiddler on the Roof, this particular question happened to strike me, and I started wondering… Is there?


From Rabbi Andy Vogel:

Everybody loves this scene from “Fiddler on the Roof”: The townspeople acknowledge that in Judaism, there exists a blessing for everything, and then they wonder, ‘Rabbi, is there a proper blessing for the Czar?’ He thinks for a moment, then, comes up with the answer: ‘May God bless and keep the Czar… far away from us!’ The line is an oldie, but what a goodie.

But then, just a few weeks ago, I found the actual blessing for the Czar. . . .found. . .an old machzor, a High Holy Day prayer book, published in 1895 in Petrokov (today Poland, but until 1919, part of the Russian Empire). I thumbed through it, and saw that it contains the full Hebrew text of the High Holy Day prayers, and includes a Yiddish commentary and translation on every page. What a find! And then, turning to the Torah service, on page 97 of the Rosh Hashanah volume, I saw it, the prayer for the Czar, beautifully composed:

“May the One who gives power to kings, and sovereignty to princes; may the One who is the Ruler of rulers… bless and keep, guard and aid, exalt and raise the Czar Nicholas Alexanderovich, and his widowed mother, Czarina Marie Feodorovna [here, my knowledge of the Russian monarchy is a little weak], and his wife the royal Czarina Alexandra Feodorovna, and their heir, Grigory… May God save them from all harm and pain, and may all their enemies fall before them. And may the Merciful One put in the heart of the Czar compassion and good deeds for the People of Israel…” 

Mazel tov, Rabbi!

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Sex Ed in 1939


Well, not really. This showed up on my Facebook feed, but it’s really a still shot from the 1929 film “The Wild Party,” starring Clara Bow in her first “talkie.”

But it sure looks funny if you re-frame it, and imagine the picture in that context.

Ironically, the girl in the second row on the right, the one with the sweet smile that says “been there, done that, bought the Woot! shirt” looks an awful lot like my mother did as a young girl:

Margaret Ruth Draper 150

But mom was born in 1916, and would have only been 13 that year… these young ladies look a lot older and more sophisticated, but to my eyes the resemblance is striking.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Pompeii: The Movie

Pompeii was an interesting movie. I can see why the critics trashed it; the acting was not spectacular and there was way too much overblown drama and not much more than a sappy, derivative plot. That said: I lived in Naples for around 18 months, right under the shadow of Vesuvio. I spent many hours wandering the byways of both Pompeii and Herculaneum, trying to imagine what life was like there, and what the catastrophe must have been like. Seeing those ash-cast sculptures that used to be real, live people in the museum is terribly haunting; the CG representation of the eruption and its (possible) effects on the city was chilling in the extreme, because however it looked, it would have been terrifying.

Pompeii - December 1970 - 14

 Ash cast of a victim.

Pompeii - December 1970 - 10

 Pompeii – Temple plaza

Jun 1971 - Herculanium - Vesuvius.jpg

 Herculaneum and Vesuvius in the background. Herculaneum was buried more deeply and by hotter ash than Pompeii, hence has a different feel about it. Much has been learned since I was there in the 70s – at the time, it was thought that Herculaneum was buried by hot mud flows rather than ashfall, but this appears not to be the case.

Pompeii - Snow 1

A very rare day of snow in a Pompeiian courtyard. 1970


The ruins of Pompeii with suburbs of modern-day Naples between it and Vesuvius. It is to be noted that if the mountain ever decides to get its rocks off again, the result could be more catastrophic than the eruption of 79 AD.

In the plus column: Jared Harris, with whom I fell in love as David Robert Jones and Moriarty; he’s always a pleasure to watch. I thought the development of the relationship between Milo and Atticus was one of the more satisfying parts of the film; I’d give it 4 stars out of 10 overall.

The Old Wolf has spoken.