The Revenant – A combination of The Motivation of Revenge and the Patience of Job

Imagine if you will watching an NFL playoff game between two 10 and 6 teams – neither of which has any offense and after not one – not two – but three overtime periods the losing team fumbles a punt and the winning team falls on the ball in the end zone. It was an epic defensive battle!

After two and one half hours of the most patience I have showed since since watching a baseball game back when I was recovering from my second rotater cuff surgery – on 40mg of morphine washed down with Long Islands – The Revenant finally came to an end. I was really so proud of myself for sitting through the entire film! When we got up from the luxury reclining seats at Cineopolis in Jupiter and the blood rushed to my brain I said out very loud to no one in particular “I feel like I just read Gone With The Wind.” I know you would have been more impressed if I said “War and Peace” but I did read the comic book condensed version for Senior English in High School.

My new found patience of Job aside – I must say that Tom Hardy and Leonardo did a great job of acting. Tom Hardy you ask? Who is that? Mad Max, Legend, Batman, Warrior and Inception – mostly as “the bad guy.” OK, I’ll admit that Leo did a great job in the lead role. He was outstanding! The only people that deserve more credit than Leo are his make up artist and who ever computer generated the bear mauling scene. Even I winced at that one – very realistic – if you are into bear maulings.

The leading role however was played by the entire crew who operated in the magnificent yet extremely cold scenes that were beautifully and dramatically shot in Argentina, Canada and Montana. Who knew it was cold in Argentina? I thought they play polo there. On behalf of the harsh and bitter cold reality the actors, film crew, directors, make up and costume artists and assorted casts all went through to bring you this bloated 2.5 hour film – the Oscar goes to the “harsh yet beautiful and stunning reality of nature above 9,000 feet.” On behalf of God and his creation the Oscar will be accepted by some agnostic location producer we should all be praying for.

SPOILER ALERT! If you have not read the book do not, I repeat do not go on line and read how the book ends. Good news – if you cheated and went on line – the movie has a far more satisfying ending than the book – though I did not read it and only looked at the ending of Tony’s paper book version.

To misquote the wise and ancient philosopher Clint Eastwood “Go ahead punk – are you feeling patient today!”

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi – Powerful and Emotionally Stirring

No greater love has a man than to lay down his life for his friend!

“13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi” is not a movie to be reviewed but is a dramatized fact based experience of one of America’s darkest moments. Every American Patriot, Citizen or any person with a conscious and a sense of morality and responsibility should see this film. “13 Hours” will definitely arouse an emotional response in you, be it compassion, concern or maybe anger or some of all the above. You will not be surprised to hear that mine was anger!

The film opens slowly but when the plot is developed it’s full throttle action! I’ve not been to Libya and Lord willing I never will. However, the scenes appeared very realistic as did the military equipment, action and violence. Speaking of violence if you or your children are sensitive to violence and blood being spilled this movie and war in general are not for you.

Before seeing the movie I read comments by the leading actor John Krasinski, who played Jack Silva CIA Operative. He said the movie was not about fixing political blame on anyone in particular but was a factual telling of the lives and events of these men. I agree with that.

Having said that – what the movie does raise is QUESTIONS about the failure of: preparation – decision making – use of our Military support and hardware – the focus needed to support the civilian and military people the US Government put in harms way and someone stepping up and calling the ball.

Before seeing this film I was of the opinion that we have had at least one too many Republican Committees Investigating Benghazi. Now my view is 180 degrees opposite. Our elected representatives should have full on and non-politicized investigations until the parties responsible for this failure in both the Military and Civilian branches of our Government are unveiled and hung out to dry and their careers hung by a rope until dead.

All that said I am glad we saw the movie and I encourage you to do the same.

Fannie and Freddie give Birth to a New Mortgage Bond – a Derivative

As the wise and now eternal philosopher Yogi Berra once said “It’s de javu all over again.”

If you are knowledgable about Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS) – have seen the popular movie “The Big Short” – have read my review of same at which placed the blame on a wider base – and or have lost money as an investor in AAA “Derivatives” you may want to hold your breath as you open the link below in todays Wall Street Journal – which in essence says Fannie and Freddie are going to start issuing their own “derivatives” based on – wait for it – wait for it – and I quote “all but their safest mortgages.”

I may not be the shiniest nickel in the bag but if I tell you the bond I want to sell you is backed by “all but their safest mortgages” can this be translated as “this derivative is guaranteed by the crap that is left over once we sell our safe mortgages to someone else” SUCKER!

To confirm this opinion by Yogi and Larry they go on to say they are “laying off the cost of defaults on private investors.” Can this be translated as “we are going to take a bunch of crap and package it and get the ratings agencies Moody’s and S&P to rate this as Double A (Aa)” and sell it to you because it says Fannie or Freddie on it and you just believe it is guaranteed by our Government even though they say they aren’t – SUCKER!

Now I know that you are far too wise and mature and have learned from the mortgage debacle of the first part of the 21st century that when you buy crap you often get crapped on. Yet somehow a smooth talking Bond Salesman or even worse yet a Retail Broker from your Investment Firm that would not know a derivative from a football tells you he can get you “a Fannie or a Freddie at 50 basis points more than the market you say bring it on because I need YIELD!

This is my first and final warning to you as a potential investor in something that is based on “all but their safest mortgages.”

Your former friendly Bond Salesman!


PS When is someone going to offer me a slot on Fox Business News so I can rant and rave against the evils of the Commercial and Investment and Government Agency Banking World that are looking to take advantage of your kind and naive nature and leave you penniless on the side on the Jericho Road waiting for the Good Samaritan to save your greedy – – – ?

The Big Short – A Well Acted But Sometimes Boring and Incomplete Documentary

The Big Short got a split vote in our home. Tony loved it – Marty was generally bored and having been in the business during that time I felt the screen play overly narrowed the focus of the root causes (plural) of the Great Recession of 2008 – putting the blame or credit if you will at the feet of too few players in the Financial Sector.

If I were just writing about the Big Short as a piece of entertainment I would say it was well written, directed and acted. As my friend Curt Fonger said “Larry – this should be required viewing for all young adults.” I agree but if you aren’t really interested in Economics or the significant decline in the Real Estate market and resultant loss of jobs, etc. this movie may not interest you. I would not describe the Big Short as a “general interest” movie and can recommend it only to people with some interest in the topic.

I agree with the premise of the film that unscrupulous Commercial Bankers, Investment Bankers and Mortgage Brokers committed fraud, deceit on the investing public, colluded and were for the most part well rewarded for their bad deeds. Other than Bear Stearns and a few Mortgage Brokers the doers of these evil deeds escaped virtually unscathed and you and I – the little people – the outsiders – otherwise known as the tax payers picked up the bill. As far as The Big Short went I agreed with the events as they were described.

What did they miss! In my view:
1.”Mark to Market Accounting” FAS 115 (1993) and FAS 124 (1995)
2. An overreaching yet protective NYC Fed – Timothy Geither, President
3. The US Treasury Department headed by ex Goldman Chairman and CEO Hank Paulson and
4. General IGNORANCE of what was going on in the Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS) Market and it’s Derivatives by the ratings agencies (Moody’s and Standard & Poors) – The SEC, President Bush and both Houses of Congress.

At the risk of putting you sound to sleep – the base of the mountain of the collapse – in my opinion – began when Congress rolled over and acquiesced to the position put forth by the SEC that every item on a Commercial Bank’s Balance sheet – be it a 30 day UST Bill or a 30 Year MBS had to be “marked to market.” In other works if the value of a Bank’s long term asset declined the Bank had to recognize that loss on it’s balance sheet in the current month – even though it had no intention of selling it in the current month or maybe never.

Additionally, and more to the point in the MBS Derivatives Market, sometimes there was no established market value for such products as High RISK MBS, High Risk Collateralized Mortgage Obligation (CMOs), Collateralized Debt Obligation (CDOs) and especially Credit Default Swaps (CDS).

Why does this matter? The President of the NYC Fed and the US Treasury Secretary knew full well that the largest Commercial Banks and Investment Banks held large positions in these products. If what could not be valued in a panic situation became valued at 10 cents on the dollar it’s Catie bar the door for America’s leading Financial Institutions.

This wasn’t about saving the homeowners and Mom’s and Pops of America – it was all about feathering the nest from which our Government leaders came – saving the Big Financial Institutions and sticking Mom and Pop tax payers with the bill.

What else could have been done say the talking heads? We had to bail out the big banks and allow them to continue to pay big salaries and fat bonuses.

Here’s what else could have been done. If unbiased – non-affiliated – not in the pocket Government leaders would have said “Stop – Calm Down – Take a Breath – Chill.” Let’s suspend this “mark to market business for a reasonable period of time – figure out what mortgages are really worth – assess both their present and potential future value and then in a calmer manner see what the Commercial and Investment Banks assets and their short and long term value really are.

For example: look at the real estate listings for homes in your neighborhood! The prices of homes in almost all real estate markets are back to or above where they were in 2008. The sky did not fall!

Correction – the sky did fall on the Mom’s and Pops tax payers who paid the bill for the TARP and the Big Bank Bailout.

Mercifully I will bring this to a close. Government did what Government always does. It protects the special interest and sticks it to the tax payer. And that my friends The Big Short got right.

Uncle Larry

Star Wars – If you like the Star Wars and Star Trek Films you wil LOVE this one!

For Star Wars fans this is a 5 out of 5 stars. See it as soon as possible and get ready to clap and have a great time! Kids of all ages will love this film and every kid under under 12 is going to want the new Sphero BB-8 toy. Heck I would like to have one myself. Seven out of ten kids aren’t as expressive as BB-8 and he/she doesn’t even speak English. New answering systems will now have Press 1 for English, 2 for Spanish and 3 for BB-8!

If you did not see any of the first six films it’s probably a 3 out of 5! Why do I say this? There has to be a reason you missed  38 years worth of Star Wars and Star Trek. Those reasons probably still hold. In addition if you haven’t seen the other films you won’t know the story and won’t identify with some of the characters and (spoiler alert) will not feel the pain when – – !

I really don’t see the point in telling you about the movie because its Star Wars! Enough Said! Get out there and see it ASAP! We all LOVED it!

That said the technology and cinematography only got way better. The new young stars are easy to like and they have a bond with the historical cast. The time frame is only one or generations removed from The Original and you will recognize all the space craft and other assorted accessories. I can’t wait for the next Episode when we find out who is whose parents!

Feel free to e mail or post if you have any questions but that’s all I’m saying and I probably already said too much!

A Two Dollar Red Box Recommendation – The Man From Uncle

Are you feeling bored and cheap but still want to have some fun? Not that kind of fun!

Tony picked up The Man From Uncle Movie – the 2015 version of the TV series Marty and I loved from 1964 to 1968 for $2 at Publix Red Box.

This movie was so hot it starred Superman and The Lone Ranger. Don’t believe me – look it up or read on!

If you are old enough to remember Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) and his partner Illya Kurykin (David McCallum) in the TV series of the same name you will get a real nostalgic kick watching this funny action re-do starring Henry Cavill as Napoleon (Superman) and Armie Hammer as Illya (The Lone Ranger). Tony – who is 43 laughed harder than we did and also enjoyed the action scenes and the last quarter entry of Hugh Grant as the British MI-6 Agent who rode to the rescue on a – – – no spoiler here.

Will it win any awards? No way Jack – who is Jack anyway?

Is it slow in parts? Absolutely and that’s what’s great about a $2 rental from Red Box – you have plenty of time to put it on pause three or four times to get some ice cream, fix a drink or see a man about a dog.

It started with a good action scene by the devilishly handsome Henry Cavill – sort of reminds me of myself in my dreams – then moved into introducing his future partners and gave us a nice combination of comedy and action. There was no skin, no gore and yet it was entertaining – imagine that – and all for $2.

Creed: Deja Vu All Over Again – Solid A Rating by the Stephens Family

In the 12th round there wasn’t an un-stirred emotion or a dry eye in the house. Marty, Tony and I all highly recommend you see Creed – or as many folks call it Rocky 1 revisited.

Creed started out with good pacing and I am pleased to tell you between the script, the acting, the relationships and the action this movie never had a flat line. I needed to “see a man about a dog” but just had to hold it in!

Stallone should be nominated for an Oscar – I’m just not sure in which category? Is he the “leading actor” – the “supporting actor” or simply an older man reprising his life defining role and stirring the ghost of the best of Rocky’s past.

Michael B Johnson brought Apollo Creed’s “son” to life. He was cut like a rock and the women will enjoy the shirtless scenes. Tessa Thompson was warm and believable as his significant other. Phylicia Rashad did a fine job as “Ma” and the list could go on and on. The guys on ESPN’s PTI were good – Jim Lamphly describing the fight and the “lets get ready to rumble” boxing announcer all added an air of realism to the event.

If you did not like any of the Rocky movies then wait for home viewing. However, in our theater the surround sound made you feel like you were right in the boxing ring with various sounds and voices and added a lot to the enjoyment of the film and fight scenes.

I was skeptical going into Creed but it won me over as did almost all of the characters. No “spoiler alert” here but you will enjoy the last 20 minutes of the film and the absolutely final scenes.

When it comes out on home rental we will watch it again!

Larry, Marty and Tony

Vegetarians – I just don’t get it!

Tony had an old college friend in town and he was joined by some other friends and we had a great time with them reflecting on the good old days. Tony’s friend’s name is Joe and he was a lot of fun.

While we were enjoying a wonderful seafood fest at Captain Charlie’s Reef Grill Joe raved on about how great the food was. I said to him – “next time you are in town bring your wife with you and we’ll bring her here.” He said something like oh no she would never like this place because she is a vegetarian. I asked what that means and he replied: “She doesn’t eat beef, pork, chicken or fish. However, she loves French Onion Soup.”

In a moment of clarity I said to Joe – so help me understand this. She won’t eat any of the things we enjoy because she doesn’t want to kill cows, pigs, chickens or fish but she has no whims about murdering thousands of Frenchies?”

I guess I don’t really understand the vegetarian thing or the contents in French Onion soup either!

James Bond: Spectre – Of all the Bond Films Marty and I rate Spectre a 4 out of 10. As a general interest movie we give it a very weak B Minus!

Christ said “What do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your soul?” It could be asked what does a Director benefit if he takes two hours and thirty minutes to present what could have been more entertaining in one hour and fifty five?

Don’t get me wrong there were some great scenes in Spectre: The first time we saw the custom Aston Martin built for this film and then watching Bond race it through the streets of Rome. The dramatic opening scene in Mexico City where Bond saves the locals from a terrible bombing and narrowly escapes with his life. The times he turns and firing on instinct alone saves the innocent damsel, then breathing heavily on her neck he then must bed for her satisfaction – is anybody still believing that? We enjoyed the great panoramas of London, Rome and other exotic parts of the world where Bond travels – even though he has been deactivated from MI-6 and presumably had his “Double O” credit line suspended. The classic scenes on the train ride that I thought was going to last forever – the boredom of which was broken by Bond and his latest “Bond Girl” dressing for dinner and undressing for? Action and adventure – of course. Like all the Bond films there were some very, very good action sequences. I would guess they consumed thirty of the 150 minutes this film ran.

On the other hand for there to be a hero there has to be a villain. Christopher Waltz plays the evil “Spectre” who almost brings civilization to its knees. Yet when I saw him on the screen and heard his wispy voice I thought to myself – if we come across this guy in the parking lot and he gives me one of his threatening lines I would beat his skinny ass to a pulp. The Producers probably had to look far and wide for some one to play the “bad guy” that made Daniel Craig look more like Bond than Mister Rogers.

Pardon me for droning on but some of the scenes and plot lines were simply not believable. Late in the film James is secured to a high tech operating chair and two rapidly spinning needles drill into each side of his brain – to reach the area where he will no longer be able to remember his friends says the evil and scary Spectre – yet James does not bleed and within seconds he escapes and once again saves the day. The plot line that the entire “Double O” program has been decommissioned with “M” sadly thanking them for their service – Who is going to buy that? How is their going to be a new Bond Film in 2017 if there is no “007?”

OK, so does this review make you feel like I did seeing the film. Some of it was very good but like me and this review it just went on too long.

Wait for home viewing and trust that some where out there Sean Connery had a son we were never told about and he had a son who will once again restore the Bond Legend to the heights it once enjoyed.


It is with deep regret that Marty and I can not recommend Sandy Bullock’s New Film – Our Brand is Crisis

Those of you who know us well remember the early nineties when Caravan Productions used our condominium in Lake Point Tower in Chicago to film the scenes of the wealthy lawyer (Peter Gallagher) in Sandy Bullock’s second big movie – While You Were Sleeping.

Sandy was just a doll. She was sweet, friendly, kind to Marty and traded quips toe to toe with Uncle Larry. We love Sandy. We see every movie she does and have liked them all and recommended all of them to you until now.

The good lines and the clever humor in Our Brand is Crisis were indeed good and clever. Sadly however, there were just not enough of them and there was way too much down time in between the “good stuff” for us to recommend you see this film on the big screen.

With even more regret I feel obliged to tell you that unless you love Sandy the way we do that you should not spend $5.99 or what ever it costs on home rental – but rather wait for free viewing on which ever cable or broadcast outlet picks up Our Brand is Crisis.

While Our Brand is Not Crisis Marty and I feel like we are in one by giving Sandy’s movie a poor review.

Uncle Larry and Saint Marty