Category Archives: Movie, Television & Play Reviews

Reviews of Movies, T.V. shows and Plays

Mary Shelley – the sad story of the woman who wrote Frankenstein

Mary Shelley stars Elle Fanning as the woman who wrote Frankenstein in 1816 when she was only 18 years old. The first addition of Frankenstein in 1818 was published anonymously, since the publisher did not believe the public would take a female author seriously.

Douglas Booth & Elle Fanning in "Mary Shelley"
Douglas Booth & Elle Fanning in “Mary Shelley”

Women in 1818 were supposed to admire great works of literature, not actually write any. Lord Byron (excellently played by Tom Sturridge) openly admits that he wants the women in his life to be intelligent enough to see how clever he is, but not so smart as to be able to challenge any of his ideas.

Mary Woolstonecraft Godwin Shelly, author of "Frankenstein"
Mary Woolstonecraft Godwin Shelly, author of “Frankenstein”

Born Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin to a radical literary family, Mary had an unusual upbringing to say the least. Her mother had been an outspoken feminist who died shortly after Mary was born. Mary’s father William (played by Stephen Dillane) educated Mary and her half-sister Claire (Bel Powley) in English literature, Greek and Latin.

Bel Powley, Elle Fanning, Douglas Booth & Tom Storridge in "Mary Shelley"
Bel Powley, Elle Fanning, Douglas Booth & Tom Sturridge in “Mary Shelley”

However, just being an intellectual does not pay the bills or put food on the table. At the age of 16 Mary runs off with the 21 year old Percy Shelley (Douglas Booth). It is obvious to anyone but a 16 year old that Percy is what today we would call a poser and a lech. Percy Shelley is already married, and makes almost no money from his poems. He lives entirely on his father’s money, and when his father cuts him off, Mary and Percy are impoverished. To make matters worse, Mary’s younger half sister Claire has also run off with them and become the under aged mistress of Lord Byron.

The first edition of Frankenstein did not have Mary Shelly's name as the author.
The first edition of Frankenstein did not have Mary Shelly’s name as the author.

Mary Shelley is a excellent film, and shows how the monster in Frankenstein was the manifestation of all the miseries in Mary’s existence brought to life. By the age of 18 Mary had known more sorrow than most people ever have to face in a lifetime. Mary Godwin had been treated horribly by a man she trusted, lived in poverty and had her beautiful baby die.

Elle Fanning poses for a picture with a fan at the premier of "Mary Shelley"
Elle Fanning poses for a picture with a fan at the premier of “Mary Shelley”

The “monster” in Frankenstein was actually Mary Goodwin herself. From the moment the monster is born it is treated badly. It searches for love and kindness and instead is met with violence and misunderstanding.

The film Mary Shelley somehow did not get much attention when it was released, but is well worth watching. It is a psychological drama that is also an excellent “period piece”. Elle Fanning is perfect as Mary Shelley, with a combination of intelligence, vulnerability and iron will. Once you see the film Mary Shelley it will change your view of Frankenstein forever.

We Rate Mary Shelley 5 Stars *****

Be sure to read all our movie reviews.

Read about Elle Fanning in The Beguiled -Civil War Sex but no slaves.


Everything Wrong With “The Deuce” – Sex, Corruption & Money in NYC 1971-1978


The Deuce is the HBO series that is supposed to be a realistic look at 42nd street in the 1970s. While fun to watch, it has a lot of factual errors that make it more fantasy than reality. Here are just a few of the errors:

The prostitutes in The Deuce are too beautiful, too clean and too well spoken. Movie and T.V. producers have a long history of glamorizing prostitution. The most extreme example of this was Julia Roberts as a Street Walker in Pretty Woman. Her character was gorgeous, well-spoken and had no pimp,  drug addictions or venereal diseases. The Deuce on the other hand, pretends to portray the “dark side” of prostitution but has been cleaned things up so much that it makes the business look exciting instead of disgusting. Like many so called “gritty” shows about prostitutes, The Deuce could not resist showing beautiful naked women as often as possible. Consequently, The Deuce, ends up sanitizing the entire business of the virtual enslavement of young women as sex workers.

Maggie Gyllenhaal in "The Deuce".
Maggie Gyllenhaal in “The Deuce”.

The Deuce pretends that violent crime in New York was limited to 42nd Street. Season 1 of The Deuce takes place from 1971-1972. Season 2 of The Deuce happens in 1977-1978.  In those time periods, violent crime was rampant throughout New York City. In 1972 there were 2,026 murders in New York City compared to 290 in 2017. In other words, the murder rate in NYC during the time of The Deuce was almost 600% higher than it is now! Anyone watching The Deuce would think that crime on 42nd street was completely due to lazy and corrupt cops. In fact, the NYC police force in the 1970s was simply overwhelmed by crime in every neighborhood in New York.

Times Square 1970s
Times Square 1970s

The real reason the Mafia was interested in X-Rated movies is never mentioned in The Deuce. The Mafia actually did not care if X-rated films were profitable or not. For the Mafia, the most important aspect of companies making X-rated movies is that they were legal businesses that could file tax returns. The Mob needed someplace to hide all the profits from their illegal businesses. Organized crime bosses feared the IRS more than anything else. The Mafia bosses needed “legitimate business interests” that could explain how they afforded their cars, homes, boats and mistresses. The X-rated film industry provided the perfect cover. That is why in 1972 the X-Rated Deep Throat declared on tax returns gross box office sales of $600 million. In that same year The Godfather took in box office receipts of $133 million. No one knows how much the real box office sales were for Deep Throat. The $600 million figure was a way for the Mob to legally declare its income from drugs, gambling, extortion and prostitution.

Did "Deep Throat" really make more money than "The Godfather?"
Did “Deep Throat” really make more money than “The Godfather?”

The Deuce pretends that Mafia involvement in the porn industry is limited to New York City. At the end of Season 2 of the The Deuce, two of the main characters escape the grip of Organized Crime by simply going to California.  Ex-prostitute, turned porn star Lori (Emily Meade), begins a beautiful new life in the Sunshine of Los Angeles. Wearing a lovely white dress, she steps out of the airport into the arms of her rich, handsome, sports car-driving new boyfriend. By leaving New York Lori has escaped cold, dirt, her pimp, and the Mob. It is an idiotic ending. Emily Meade, of course, is also one of the actresses who is far too beautiful to be playing a street prostitute. Her character also has no drug problem or STDs. Eileen (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is able to get Mob-free financing from an investor in California.

Emily Meade in "The Deuce"
Emily Meade in “The Deuce”

Eileen also has a happy California ending. Her first X-rated production (Red) was almost completely Mafia financed and as a result she got almost no profit from it. (Mainly because her idiot producer, played by James Franco, sold more than 100% of the movie to 2 different Mafia Capos.)

James Franco in "The Deuce".
James Franco in “The Deuce”.

However, at the end of Season 2 of The Deuce it is implied that Eileen will be able to get future “clean” money from California investors. She will continue to make the films in New York, but the money will come from legitimate California sources.  This scenario is absurd. People in Mafia-controlled businesses do not simply “walk away” and tell the mob bosses that they have found different investors. The 2 New York Capos who financed Red are certainly not going to let Eileen continue to make films in New York without their involvement.  Organized Crime is a world-wide phenomenon. The Deuce implying that the mob is not involved in the California porn industry is ridiculous.  By the way, all the Linda Lovelace scenes in Deep Throat were filmed in Florida.

Despite all its flaws, The Deuce is an interesting and well-acted series. People not old enough to have seen Times Square in the 1970s probably think The Deuce is making things look worse than they really were. In fact, The Deuce is considerably understating the sleaze and dirt of the old Times Square. In the 1970s no one would have believed that in the future Time Square would have been filled with tourists and their small children posing for photos with cartoon characters.

Times Square today
Times Square today

The Deuce  Season 3 is planned for this year. Apparently the time-line of The Deuce will jump to 1980s. This is when the combination of AIDS, cocaine-fueled gang violence and soaring real-estate prices kills or forces out of Times Square all the people who used to call it home. Season 3 of The Deuce will probably be rather depressing. The chance of gay bar owner Paul (Chris Coy) living through the AIDS epidemic seems very slight.

Chris Coy in "The Deuce."
Chris Coy in “The Deuce.”

Of course, the biggest change to the entire porn industry actually  occurred in the 1990s with the arrival of the internet. Once the internet really got going, no one ever had to physically venture out of the house to view porn. The difficult part now is trying to avoid pornographic images.  Prostitution and sex trafficking, of course, still exist but the internet has helped it become more hidden from the general public.

Finally, no one ever called 42nd Street “The Deuce”. It has always simply been known as” 42nd Street” or “Times Square”.

The Deuce does its best to try to recreate a time and place that many New Yorkers would rather just forget. The Deuce fails in  some aspects but is still an intriguing show.

IO – Beauty & Courage on a post-apocalyptic Earth

IO on Netflix is the story of a young woman’s will to survive on Earth long after everyone else has fled to a space station orbiting Jupiter’s moon Io. Though technically a Science Fiction film, Io is more a psychological study of the personal choices  that make us who we are.  Margaret Qualley gives a perfect performance as “Sam” Walden, a research scientist trying to find a way for life to continue on Earth. She is carrying on the work of her father, Doctor Henry Walden (Danny Huston) who vocally tried to persuade people not to leave earth.

Margaret Qualley & Anthony Mackie in "Io".

Margaret Qualley & Anthony Mackie in “Io”.

The Earth has been ravaged by events that have left most of the atmosphere poisonous. Small pockets of clean air survive on mountaintops, one of which is where Sam has her laboratory.  She is trying to develop a vaccine which will allow animals and people to breathe the noxious air below. Every day she broadcasts on the radio her father’s speeches, just in case there is anyone left out there to listen. The sacrifice of her research is especially hard for Sam, since she has a boyfriend on the Io space station, who constantly sends messages to her.

Danny Huston in "Io".

Danny Huston in “Io”.

Out of the sky appears a balloon carrying Micha (Anthony Mackie), who has heard the broadcasts and has  come to meet Sam’s father. Micha tells her there is one last shuttle leaving for Io and that they could use the balloon to get to the shuttle. Of course, leaving would mean abandoning the research and giving up all hope of saving life on Earth.

Margaret Qualley in "Io".

Margaret Qualley in “Io”.

We loved this independent film, although Io only got a 42% favorable rating from Netflix viewers. Perhaps the low ratings were because Io has no fast action sequences or dramatic long speeches. There are just people trying to make decisions in situations no one should ever have to face. They are conflicted and unsure what to do, which is exactly how people would really behave in an emergency. There are only 3 actors in the entire movie, and yet they are able to hold our attention and have us care about them.

Io director Jonathan Helpert

Io director Jonathan Helpert

Sam’s last name Walden, or course, refers to Henry David Thoreau’s book about the 2 years he spent living a simple lonely life in Walden Pond Massachusetts. Directed by Johnathan Helpert,  Io is able to capture the beautiful yet lonely existence of a completely independent life.

Io had similarities to Thoreau's "Walden"

Io had similarities to Thoreau’s “Walden”

“FYRE – The Greatest Party That Never Happened” – The Supermodel Scam

FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened shows the disastrous results when people blindly follow the advice of Kendall Jenner, Supermodels and other social media “Influencers.” The best thing that can be said of the 2017 Fyre Festival in The Bahamas is that nobody got killed or seriously injured. Rich Millennials paid thousands of dollars to attend an exclusive music festival on a private tropical island, where they would be served gourmet food, frolic with supermodels and sleep in luxury accommodations.

Supermodels promoting the Fyre Festival

Supermodels promoting the Fyre Festival

Fyre was supposed to be a Woodstock for arrogant wealthy posers who thought they were just too good to mingle with the unwashed masses who attend all those “non-exclusive” rock festivals. Over 3,000 bought tickets with the “VIP Package” costing as much as $12,000. They expected a time in poser Heaven.

The "gourmet food" served at FYRE

The “gourmet food” served at FYRE

What they got was a trip to Hell, with no music and no supermodels. The gourmet food was water and soggy cheese sandwiches. The luxury accommodations were rain-soaked mattresses inside ripped tents that looked like they belonged in a refugee camp. No electricity, no toilets, no transportation, no security, no medical facilities.   The Festival was cancelled after 1 day and no one got a refund.  People were forced to find their own way back to the airport and try to somehow get home.

The "Luxury accommodations" at the Fyre Festival

The “Luxury accommodations” at the Fyre Festival

The Netflix documentary, Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened shows in fascinating detail exactly how all this happened.  It all began with internet promoter Billy McFarland and rapper Ja Rule.  They had zero experience in setting up a concert, but they were experts in internet promotion and raising money. They were able to get venture capitalists to invest millions of dollars just on the idea of Fyre.

Kendal Jenner received $250,000 to promote Fyre, while the Bahamian workers laborers never got paid

Kendal Jenner received $250,000 to promote Fyre, while the Bahamian workers laborers never got paid

The initial money was spent to fly Kendall Jenner, Emily Ratajkowski, Bella Hadid and other models to the Bahamas for a promotional shoot. Instead, it ended up being a wild multi-day party with no direction and very little filming.  Some of the professional models were astonished and even shocked. Paying for professional top models is very expensive. Consequently, these women are accustomed to doing very well organized,fast photo shoots that waste no time. Billy McFarland, on the other hand, was throwing away huge amounts of his investors’ money paying models just to play on the beach.

Ja Rule & Billy McFarland promoting the FYRE Festival

Ja Rule & Billy McFarland promoting the FYRE Festival

The promotional shoot should have been a tip off that Billy McFarland really didn’t know what he was doing, but the investors did not seem to notice. The models posted pictures of the beach party on their professional internet accounts, and talk of the upcoming Fyre Festival went viral. What people did not know was that the models and other internet “influencers” were being paid to continually send out postings to promote the festival.  Kendal Jenner was paid $250,000 just to talk about how great the Fyre Festival was going to be. None of the Influencers disclosed that they were being paid for these posts. In addition, there was an entire agency of paid internet professionals working day and night promoting the festival on-line.

(By the way, East Coast Stories never takes any money from anyone. If we give something a good review, it is because we actually liked it).

The FYRE logo was everywhere on social media before the disastrous festival

The FYRE logo was everywhere on social media before the disastrous festival

Investors thought Billy McFarland was a genius. The Fyre Festival sold out with over 3,000 tickets. The only problem was there was no festival. Everyone was working on doing the promotion and no one was actually setting up a festival. There was not enough money left to give people anything close to what had been promised. But the people hired by Billy McFarland tried.

Billy McFarland went to jail for the FYRE fraud.

Billy McFarland went to jail for the FYRE fraud.

Somehow, Billy McFarland was able to inspire a group of very dedicated hard working people to try to set up the physical project. In addition to the people who bought tickets to Fyre, many of the people who worked for the project got very hurt financially. Hundreds of Bahamian laborers spent weeks building stages and infrastructure and never got paid a penny. One local caterer ended up spending $50,000 of her own money to buy food supplies and  pay her workers. All her money was lost.

In the end, Billy McFarland went to jail for fraud and his investors lost all their money. How Ja Rule escaped going to jail is still a mystery. Most of  the people who worked on the project lost money, lost jobs and reputations. People who bought tickets to the festival went home with nothing and were happy to get away uninjured.

For one group, however the Fyre Festival was a complete success. That is the group of Supermodels and Internet influencers that started the whole hype to begin with. Models and internet influencers have learned long ago that, whatever the project, they are always selling a fantasy not reality.

Unlike those gullible enough to believe their posts, Supermodels and Influencers know the difference between the internet and real life. That’s why in real life they follow the motto, always get paid up-front, and don’t do any work until the check clears.”

Vice- A Funny Farce or a Disgusting Insult?

Vice is an amusing political farce, or a vicious attack on an American patriot. It all depends on your preexisting opinion of Dick Cheney. Christian Bale does an amazing job at capturing the voice, mannerisms and physical appearance of Dick Cheney. However, Vice is always meant to show a caricature of Dick Cheney rather than the real person.

Christian Bale transforms himself into Dick Cheney in "Vice"

Christian Bale transforms himself into Dick Cheney in “Vice”

The funniest part of Vice is the “alternate ending”. Dick Cheney does not become Vice President, but instead stays in the private sector, gets himself into fantastic physical condition and travels the world entering Iron Man competitions. Unfortunately, Vice often cannot decide if it wants to be a serious biography or a spoof. It does not work when a film swings back and forth between these two genres.

Steve Carell as Donald Rumsfeld in "Vice"

Steve Carell as Donald Rumsfeld in “Vice”

Steve Carell plays Donald Rumsfeld as a wisecracking, somewhat crude individual. However, Steve Carell never is able to accurately portray the absolute arrogance of Rumsfeld which ended up making enemies of both Republicans and Democrats. It is also odd that Vice did not use the most infamous of all Rumsfeld quotes. In 2002 Donald Rumsfeld was asked how long the Iraq War would last. With complete confidence, Rumsfeld replied,

“I can’t tell you if the use of force in Iraq today would last five days or five weeks or five months. But it certainly isn’t going to last any longer than that”.

Vice follows Dick Cheney’s rise from a drunken college dropout to the man who ended up being the most powerful Vice President in American history. However, we never learn how Cheney was able to accomplish this. There are large gaps in Vice. We see Dick Cheney as a low level nobody in the Nixon White House. The next time Vice shows Cheney, he has already been Secretary of Defense under President George H.W. Bush and head of Halliburton. In a film about Dick Cheney’s rise to power, why did Vice skip the time period in which Cheney actually rose to power?

Christian Bale & Sam Rockwell in "Vice"

Christian Bale & Sam Rockwell in “Vice”

Sam Rockwell plays President George W. Bush as a complete buffoon, who never notices that he has handed over all his power to Vice President Cheney. Many people have this opinion. An opposing view is that Cheney and Bush were in complete alignment on their political views and that Bush used Cheney to his maximum potential. In any case, President George W. Bush is almost a complete non-entity in Vice, and only appears in 3 scenes.

Alison Pill is Mary Cheney in "Vice".

Alison Pill is Mary Cheney in “Vice”.

The most interesting sub-plot in Vice is the battle over gay marriage between Dick Cheney’s daughters. Mary Cheney (played by Alison Pill) is a lesbian married to a woman. Liz Cheney (played by Lily Rabe) took a strong anti-gay marriage stance when running for the House of Representatives. Liz Cheney won her House seat, but lost the love and respect of her sister forever. We wish that this had been more fleshed out and had been made as a serious stand-alone film. Is Liz Cheney really morally against gay marriage, or did she just take this stand because it was what was required to win in Wyoming?

Lily Rabe is Liz Cheney in "Vice"

Lily Rabe is Liz Cheney in “Vice”

Amy Adams is excellent as Lynne Cheney the wife who demands early in the marriage that Dick turn his life around or she will be gone.

Vice is fun, but it would have been more interesting to see an actual balanced biography rather than a spoof. Perhaps it is still too early for this to happen. Dick Cheney remains such a polarizing figure that it may be decades before any type of neutral treatment is possible.

Thousands of intelligent, ambitious and ruthless people have come to Washington seeking power, but very few of them ever achieve it. Vice never really shows us how Dick Cheney was able to rise to the top while most of the power-seekers remain low level bureaucrats. Like so much in his life, the wizardry that brought Dick Cheney to the pinnacle of power remains a closely guarded secret.

You – A Stalker’s Love Story

Fans of Dexter will love the series YouCan a dangerous stalker really find true love in Soho New York? Penn Badgley is Joe Goldberg, a book store manager who experiences love at first sight when a beautiful young woman walks into his store.

Elizabeth Lail & Penn Badgley in "You"

Elizabeth Lail & Penn Badgley in “You”

Beck (Elizabeth Lail) is a struggling young writer who is the perfect woman for Joe. She shares his love of literature and old books, and has a wonderful sense of humor. Joe and Beck have a flirty conversation in the bookstore and she pays by credit card so that Joe will know her full name and address. Obviously she wants to see Joe again.

However, Joe has already moved past the mere dating stage. He has decided that Beck will be the love of his life and he wants to do everything he can to assure that will happen.  This is when we see that that there is a dark side to this unassuming book store geek.

YOU - Season 1, Episode 2 Penn Badgley and Lou Taylor Pucci star in Lifetime’s new series YOU, Sunday, September 16, 2018 at 10pm ET/PT. Photo by Courtesy of Lifetime Copyright 2018

YOU – Season 1, Episode 2
Penn Badgley and Lou Taylor Pucci star in Lifetime’s new series YOU, Sunday, September 16, 2018 at 10pm ET/PT.
Photo by Courtesy of Lifetime
Copyright 2018

Joe becomes a full scale physical and electronic stalker, and unfortunately Beck has been very lax at password protecting her information. Joe also decides to “improve” Beck’s life by saving her from her bad boyfriends and girlfriends.  It is unclear just how far Joe will go to implement his plans. Is he just a little weird, or is there actual violent potential?

The writing and acting in You is excellent. The same way that Dexter got us to cheer for a serial killer, You has us rooting for a Stalker.  We like Joe Goldberg, since his motivations and insights are real. Beck does have a narcissistic boyfriend who takes Beck for granted, and her girlfriends are no better.  Beck’s  “friends” are all rich girls who treat Beck like a poor step-sister. They consider her attempts to be a writer an unrealistic waste of time.

Beck is a nickname. Her real name is Guinevere, like King Arthur’s wife. This is very appropriate, since Joe sees himself as an ancient Knight, protecting the beautiful Guinevere from the dangers of the world.  However, the questions is now much is Joe really willing to do to protect Guinevere? Is he willing to kill for his true love?

Lou Taylor Pucci is Benji, who is Beck’s current boyfriend and the man Joe must get out of the way if he wants to win Beck’s heart. Benji is a total jerk. Great looking, rich and conceited, he only uses Beck for quick and meaningless “hook-ups”.  Lou Taylor Pucci is perfect at  playing the kind of guy that all other guys instantly hate.

Shay Mitchell as Peach Salinger in "You"

Shay Mitchell as Peach Salinger in “You”

Shay Mitchell is Beck’s friend Peach Salinger, who wants Beck around as long as Beck is unsuccessful and subservient. Peach is wealthy, incredibility beautiful and also connected to the New York publishing community. (Yes, she is related to J.D. Salinger, author of The Catcher In The Rye.) Despite this, Peach does nothing to help Beck. Peach likes Beck as a struggling writer; not a successful one.

Peach is the biggest threat to Joe’s happiness. Being a natural predator herself, Peach sees right through Joe’s nice guy routine. Peach senses there is a  danger to Joe that Beck is to naive to notice. Peach makes it her mission in life to beat Joe at his own game.

You was originally on the Lifetime Channel and now can be seen on Netflix. Take a look, and we think you will immediately be drawn in to the exciting world of You.

The Death of Stalin – a Funny Movie about an Evil Man

The Death of Stalin is a farce about the struggle for power in the Soviet Union after the death one of the most evil men that ever existed. It is hilarious, as long as you don’t concentrate too much on the fact that the events were real.

The Death of Stalin movie is not for everyone

The Death of Stalin movie is not for everyone

The year is 1953 and the people of the Soviet Union live under the constant threat that anyone at any time might suddenly be taken away by the Secret Police. Joseph Stalin has executed by the thousands his perceived enemies -real or imagined.

Olga Kuryenko in The Death if Stalin

Olga Kuryenko in The Death if Stalin

It does not sound like this could make a comedy film, but somehow, The Death of Stalin actually works. It shows in a comedic way the absurd lengths people will go to in order to avoid doing anything that may even slightly displease Stalin.

Andrea Riseborough & Steve Buscemi in "The Death of Stalin"

Simon Russell Beale, Andrea Riseborough & Steve Buscemi in “The Death of Stalin”

The Death of Stalin opens up with a beautiful classical music concert which is being broadcast on the radio. Stalin is in his dacha enjoying the broadcast. He calls the concert hall and tells them he liked the recital so much that he will be sending men over to the concert hall to pick up a copy of the recording.

Steve Buscemi & Jeffrey Tambor in The Death of Stalin

Steve Buscemi & Jeffrey Tambor in The Death of Stalin

The problem is that while the concert was being broadcast it was not actually being recorded.  Of course, no one dares tell Stalin that. The only solution is for the musicians to immediately perform the entire concert again from the beginning and record it. Half the audience had already left, and the conductor points out that the acoustics will be bad in a half-empty hall.  The concert hall manager is forced to literally drag workers off the street to fill the hall.

Jason Isaacs in The Death of Stalin

Jason Isaacs in The Death of Stalin

Steve Buscemi is Nikita Khrushchev, who has worked out a system to make sure he always pleases  Stalin. In The Death of Stalin, Khrushchev comes home after a night of heavy drinking with Stalin. Before Khrushchev goes to sleep, he writes down exactly which jokes and subjects Stalin did or did not like that night. Khrushchev  would review these notes before his next visit with Stalin as if he was studying for an exam. In real  life, Khrushchev actually did this, which only shows that even the highest level people in the Soviet Union depended completely on keeping Stalin happy.

Khrushchev wanted to make sweeping changes to the Soviet Union, like releasing thousands of prisoners from the gulags, and removing restrictions on writers. However, if Stalin ever found out about these plans, then Khrushchev himself would have been sent to a gulag.

When Stalin suddenly dies, you would think it would be a time for celebration. Instead there is open panic. Beriya (Simon Russell Beale), the head of the Secret Police, plans to replace Stalin and begins arresting and executing  anyone who gets in his way.

Caught in the middle of all this is the beautiful concert pianist Maria (Olga Kurylenko). She wants to make a stand and  writes a letter directly criticizing Stalin. Khrushchev feels protective of Maria, since at one time she had given piano lessons to Khrushchev’s niece. Khrushchev must go to extreme lengths to keep the naive, idealistic Maria from being executed.

Throughout The Death of Stalin, all of the actors use their real accents. You are always aware of who they really are, which is part of the point. They are are doing an absurd spoof of a period in time which is almost too terrible to be shown literally.

The real Field Marshal Zhukov

The real Field Marshal Zhukov

One of our favorite actors in The Death of Stalin is Jason Isaacs who plays Field Marshal Zhukov, head of the Soviet Army. Zhukov is the one man who is not afraid of Stalin. The real Zhukov was one of the toughest men that ever walked the Earth, and the one man Stalin was afraid to have arrested. Stalin considered Zhukov a rival, but Zhukov was so popular with the rank and file for the Soviet Army that Stalin never dared touch him.

Khrushchev and Zhukov have a mutual hatred of Beriya, and plan to eliminate that monster. Beriya may control the State Security Forces, but Zhukov has the entire Soviet Army.

Jeffrey Tambor is Malenkov. Theoretically he is second in command after Stalin. However he is a weak individual easily manipulated by the stronger men around him.

1936 file photo shows Joseph Stalin holding his daughter Svetlana Alliluyeva Stalin. Svetlana defected in 1967 and settled in the U.S., dealing the Kremlin a very public and bitter humiliation. (AP Photo/File)

1936 file photo shows Joseph Stalin holding his daughter Svetlana Alliluyeva Stalin. Svetlana defected in 1967 and settled in the U.S., dealing the Kremlin a very public and bitter humiliation. (AP Photo/File)

Andrea Riseborough is Stalin’a daughter Svetlana. It takes her a while to understand how much danger she is in once he father dies. No one looking to take the top leadership wants anyone with the name Stalin around anymore.

By the end of The Death of Stalin you will be laughing, while at the same time thinking, “I really shouldn’t be laughing at this.”

Derry Girls – A Northern Ireland Comedy during The Troubles

Derry Girls on Netflix is a comedy about a group of Irish Catholic school girls in Northern Ireland during the violent period known as “The Troubles”.  It may seem odd to have a situation-comedy set during one of the darkest periods of a country’s history, but the show is brilliant and hilarious.

Derry Girls Stars (L-R) Dylan Llewellyn as James, Jamie-Lee O'Donnell as Michelle, Saoirse Jackson as Erin, Louise Harland as Orla and Nicola Coughlan as Clare.

Derry Girls Stars (L-R) Dylan Llewellyn as James, Jamie-Lee O’Donnell as Michelle, Saoirse Jackson as Erin, Louise Harland as Orla and Nicola Coughlan as Clare.

Derry Girls was created and written by Lisa McGee and every episode is great. The occupation of Londonderry by the British Army is always in the background, but it is not the main focus of the girls’ lives. Derry Girls shows how young people tend to live in their own special world of adventures, petty jealousies and enduring friendships, no matter what is going on in the adult world.

Siobhan McSweeney as Sister Michael in "Derry Girls

Siobhan McSweeney as Sister Michael in “Derry Girls”

In one episode, the girls find a little dog and convince themselves that it is their old dog risen from the dead. They are even able to persuade a young naive priest that this miracle must be investigated. It is only the school principal who notices that this “miracle” investigation happens to be taking place on the same day that the girls would otherwise be taking a difficult history exam that none of the girls had studied for.

Lisa McGee - writer and creator of Derry Girls.

Lisa McGee – writer and creator of Derry Girls.

In an especially moving episode, the girls are at school doing a silly dance for a talent show. Unbeknownst to them, a deadly bomb has just exploded in another part of Londonderry. The juxtaposition of joy and tragedy highlights the complexity of growing up during The Troubles.

The Catholic section of Londonderry during The Troubles.

The Catholic section of Londonderry during The Troubles.

The cast of Derry Girls is wonderful. Siobhan McSweeney is Sister Michael, the school principal whose dry sense of humor is one of the highlights of every episode.  She has developed such a fan base of her own that  entire websites have sprung up devoted to quotes from Sister Michael.

Jamie-Lee O'Donnell poses with a fan.

Jamie-Lee O’Donnell poses with a fan.

Dylan Llewellyn is James, an English cousin who has been forced to move in with his Irish relatives in Derry. James has to attend the girls Catholic school, since it would be too physically dangerous for an English boy to attend school with the Irish Catholic boys. He eventually becomes accepted by the girls and fits in to their group.

Ian McElhinney is Granda Joe whose main joys in life seem to be tormenting his son in law, and hating the Protestants.

Louisa Harland is Orla, a likable but somewhat crazy schoolgirl who may be the world’s worst dancer.  Saoirse-Monica Jackson is Erin, who realizes that the main problem in Derry is that everyone knows everything about everybody else all the time.

Jamie-Lee O’Donnell plays Michelle, one of our favorite characters in Derry Girls.  Michelle is the trouble maker of the group. Her friends never seem to learn that any idea Michelle comes up with is bound to get them all in trouble.

Nicola Coughlan is Claire, the tiniest member of the group, who is perpetually worried and who  holds a secret not revealed until the last episode.

Derry Girls has become very popular in the United States. However, many Americans watch the show with the subtitles tuned on, since they find the Northern Irish accents just too hard to follow. We urge Americans not to use the subtitles, and you will be amazed at how quickly your ear becomes accustomed to the language and slang. Constantly reading the subtitles can make you miss the subtle nuances in tone and dialect that are a part of the presentation.

Derry Girls is a breath of fresh air in a land of look-alike comedies. We loved it.

Is “High Maintenance” actually an anti-drug show?

HBO’s High Maintenance took on a distinctly anti-drug vibe in the last episode of Season 2. The Guy (Ben Sinclair)  is revealed to be a loser with no friends and nothing in his life except drugs. In High Maintenance’s Googie episode The Guy has a broken arm and as result he is forced temporarily outsource the drug business to an Uber Driver (Abdulla Saeed).

Ben Sinclair in The Googie episode of High Maintenance

Ben Sinclair in The Googie episode of High Maintenance

A series of events happen to The Guy that reveal his life is really at a dead end and is  going nowhere.  The Guy goes to a restaurant where he is recognized by a fellow he once knew at college. (Interestingly, The Guy actually went to Vassar class of 2006, which makes The Guy about 33 years old. This is one of the few pieces of personal information we ever learn about The Guy.) As The Guy sits alone at the bar, he sees that his old buddy is now a successful entrepreneur sharing business stories with a table full  of other successful people.

With his days off, the Guy has no friends he can call to spend time with and nothing to occupy himself except take psychedelic mushrooms. When The Guy finally leaves his apartment, he wanders aimlessly  around, looking like the type of crazy person all New Yorkers instinctively know to avoid. When The Guy tries to helps a little girl get her ball back, the girl’s mother immediately takes the girl and runs away.

Katja Blichfeld & Ben Sinclair the writers & creators of High Maintenance

Did Ben Sinclair and Katja Blichfeld put an anti-drug message into a show where the hero is a drug delivery-man? Is the High Maintenance Googie episode warning us that drugs are not really as cool as they seem?

Sinclair at the "underground weed party" for the press.

Abdullah Saeed & Ben Sinclair at the “underground weed party” for the press.

The Guy at first seems t have a terrific life, but it is really all fake. There are a lot of people who are friendly with him, but he has no actual friends. All the friendly people are his drug customers, who don’t even know his name. The Guy lives hand to mouth, and at any minute could end up doing long jail time. Personal possession of marijuana may be semi-legal, but dealing marijuana still carries a jail sentence. The Guy must lie to his father about what he does for a living. His girlfriend cannot even be  bothered to visit him in the hospital when he breaks his arm. His girlfriend ends up leaving him and Season 2  ends with The Guy all alone.

Every episode of High Maintenance is terrific. Season 3 of High Maintenance premiers on January 20, 2019. It will be interesting to see if any of the anti-drug theme continues, or if the Googie episode was a one time event. Either way we want only good things to happen to The Guy in the future.

The “Endless Summer” Movie – Beauty and Innocence in 1966

In 1966, the documentary Endless Summer premiered, and America fell in love with surfing. What strikes us most about Endless Summer is the pure innocence of the film. Two surfers travel around the world looking for the perfect wave, yet there were no security concerns. No hours in  long lines at airports, no sub-machine gun carrying guards in public spaces. Has the world really changed that much since 1966, or were the surfers living in a fantasy world even then?

In 1966 America fell in love with Endless Summer

In 1966 America fell in love with Endless Summer

Endless Summer stars surfers Michael Hynson and Robert August, and is filmed and narrated by Bruce Brown. It was a low budget documentary, but it still holds up as a beautiful film. Bruce Brown was able to get some incredible surfing footage, especially considering that he was working with a hand-held camera. Much of the time, Bruce Brown is on a surfboard himself while he is filming Mike and Robert.

Michale Hyson in 1966 - Everybody wanted to be that cool.

Michale Hyson in 1966 – Everybody wanted to be that cool.

The 3 young men literally travel the world looking for the perfect wave. They visit Africa, Tahiti, California and Hawaii. They do, in fact, find the perfect wave in South Africa. They find a deserted beach, that had medium sized waves that come in at a perfect angle for long rides. Mike and Robert are able to surf on a single wave for over 45 minutes. And every wave at this South African beach is exactly like the one before.

Only 1 of the Beach Boys actually knew how to surf.

Only 1 of the Beach Boys actually knew how to surf.

Teenagers throughout the world wanted to be cool, and in 1966 nothing was cooler than an American surfer. The Beach Boys had released the album Surfin’ Safari in 1962 and it was a smash hit. Their publicity agents hid the fact that only 1 of the Beach Boys actually knew how to surf.

Robert Hynson & Robert August in Endless Summer

Michael Hynson & Robert August in Endless Summer

Endless Summer in 1966  was pure escapism.  Dreaming about spending your life searching for the perfect wave was a way for people to forget about what was really going on in the world.  President Kennedy had been assassinated in 1963, American troops were in Vietnam, the Soviet Union was at the height of its power and racial tensions were growing.

Bruce Brown - a pioneer in the art of filming surfers

Bruce Brown – a pioneer in the art of filming surfers

In fact, in South Africa Nelson Mandela was in prison at the same time the surfers were riding the Perfect Wave not many miles away. Mandel would remain in prison for another 25 years after the surfers left South Africa.

Only a handful of surfers in the world are qualified to ride the big waves

Only a handful of surfers in the world are qualified to ride the big waves

So take a look at Endless Summer and see it for the beautiful film it is. However don’t get overtaken by nostalgia and believe that was the way the World was in 1966. Rather, Endless Summer is a glimpse into how everyone wanted the world to be. Beautiful people riding perfect waves on clean empty beaches. A never-ending paradise in a world that is always sunny and full of love and adventure.

Mister Baseball – Tom Selleck’s best movie

The 1992 film Mister Baseball stars Tom Selleck as Jack Elliot, a major league baseball player who is sent off to play in Japan. There Jack acts like the stereotypical Ugly American. Jack is loud, condescending and thinks that Japan has nothing for him. Slowly he comes to the realization that the Japanese do have something to teach him about baseball, and more importantly, about life.

Tom Selleck in "Mister Baseball"

Tom Selleck in “Mister Baseball”

Mister Baseball is a fascinating look at sports and everyday life in Japan. The Japanese love the American game of baseball, but they play it very much with a Japanese style. Teamwork and harmony are valued more than individual “showboat” behavior, something which does not fit with Jack’s style.

Tom Selleck & Ken Takakura in Mister Baseball

Tom Selleck & Ken Takakura in Mister Baseball

Of course, there is a reason that Jack was demoted from the American Major Leagues and sent to play in Japan. A onetime home-run leader, his batting average had dropped and no American team wanted him. However, the Japanese manager Uchiyama (Ken Takakura) feels he can break Jack’s bad habits and make him a better baseball player than ever. If only Jack will listen.

Aya Takanachi & Tom Selleck in Mister Baseball

Aya Takanachi & Tom Selleck in Mister Baseball

Even if you are not really into “sports movies” we think you will like Mister Baseball. It is actually more about interpersonal behavior than about baseball. All of the characters and actors are terrific.  Aya Takanachi is Hiroko, the beautiful advertising executive who is assigned to help Jack film Japanese T.V. commercials. Hiroko refuses to be treated like the bimbos Jack liked in America. Hiroko is soft spoken and polite, but Jack soon discovers that she is also as tough as a bar of steel.

Toshi Shioya is Yoji, who has been assigned as Jack’s translator, is a master diplomat. Yoji helps make Jack popular in Japan, by purposely mis-translating most of what Jack says. Yoji translates Jack’s rude comments about Japan so that they come out as poetic compliments.

Toshi Shioya is the diplomatic translator in Mister Baseball

Toshi Shioya is the diplomatic translator in Mister Baseball

Dennis Haysbert is Max “Hammer” Dubois, a fellow American ballplayer who has been on the Japanese team for a number of years. The Hammer is as big and powerful as Jack, and takes the time to explain how things really are for foreign athletes working in Japan.

Dennis Haysbert in Mister Baseball

Dennis Haysbert in Mister Baseball

Mister Baseball is a fun movie to watch. There are conflicts but no violence. In some ways, Mister Baseball is like the Rocky of Baseball.

I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore – A Quirky Comedy

I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore is the perfect movie if you feel that rude, nasty people have taken over the world and that being a good person is no longer valued in our society. Melanie Lynskey stars as Ruth, a sensitive nurse trying to survive in an insensitive world. Just when it seems that everyday life cannot get any worse, Ruth comes home to find that her house has been broken into and all her things stolen.  The police are no help and seem to simply blame Ruth for not having better locks on her house.

Elijah Wood & Melanie Lynskey in "I Don't Feel At Home In This World Anymore"

Elijah Wood & Melanie Lynskey in “I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore”

But Ruth has a secret weapon. Her stolen computer has as tracking device built into it, and Ruth discovers that her computer is in another house just a few miles away. Ruth triumphantly brings this news to Detective Bendix (Gary Anthony Williams). She is shocked to discover that the detective cannot just drive over and arrest the thief. There is no search warrant and a convoluted system to try to get one. A bigger issue is that Detective Bendix is going through an emotional crisis of his own and is much more concerned about his upcoming divorce than anything as insignificant as a stolen laptop.

I Don't Feel At Home Alone In This World Anymore - a dark comedy with a violent streak.

I Don’t Feel At Home Alone In This World Anymore – a dark comedy with a violent streak.

Ruth decides to take action on her own and enlists the help of Tony (Elijah Wood), an introverted geek. Together they surprise the people with the stolen laptop and demand it back. They barge in, act tough and successfully intimidate the people into giving the  computer back.

Gary Anthony Williams in "I Don't Feel At Home In This World Anymore"

Gary Anthony Williams in “I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore”

This is when I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore starts to take a very dark comedic turn. It turns out the people with the stolen computer did not know it was stolen, and bought it at a flee market. Ruth and Tony decide to track down the real thieves and bring them to justice.

Christine Woods as a bored housewife in "I Don't Feel At Home In This World Anymore"

Christine Woods as a bored housewife in “I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore”

The problem is that the real thieves are a group of dangerous, violent professional criminals. Ruth and Tony, on the other hand, are simply two average suburbanites pretending to be tough. Tony carries around nunchucks and a throwing star. However, the only thing he knows about real fighting is what he has seen in movies and video games.

I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore is hilarious and the acting of all the characters is superb. The plot has a number of unexpected convoluted twists, mixing farce, comedy and action. You want Ruth and Tony to succeed at their idiotic plans.

In one scene, they decide to pretend to be police, but they need badges. Their solution is to purchase boxes of a kids’ cereal that has inside it a free “junior detective badge.” Christine Woods plays a wealthy housewife who lets herself be interviewed by these two “detectives”. She knows immediately that they are not real cops, but she is so bored that she is happy to let these two strangers into her house and pass the afternoon with them.

We will warn you, however, that the film turns more and more violent as it progresses, although still in a comic way. I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore is definitely not a kids’ movie.

I Don’t Feel At Home Alone In This World Anymore is fun because it never gets “preachy” or tries to take itself too seriously. It is just a comedy about two lonely, sensitive  geeks trying for once to stand up to the so-called real world.

Escape At Dannemora – A Riveting Prison-Break Series

Showtime’s Escape At  Dannemora is an exciting mini-series based on the true story of an escape from an upstate New York prison. It takes pace at the Clinton Correctional facility, which  is a bleak, cold version of Hell, located in the Village of Dannemora, New York. Convicted murders are sent to this frozen wasteland to serve life sentences far out of sight from the civilized people of the world.

Benicio Del Toro & David Morse in Escape At Dannemora

Benicio Del Toro & David Morse in Escape At Dannemora

In 2015, two murders escaped from this prison with the help of a middle-aged  female prison employee. We are not spoiling the series, since this fact is known from the first scene of Escape At Dannemora. The plot then takes us back in time and details exactly what happened.

Ben Stiller behind the scenes on Escape at Dannemora (Episode 4). -Photo: Christopher Saunders/Showtime

Ben Stiller behind the scenes on Escape at Dannemora (Episode 4). -Photo: Christopher Saunders/Showtime

The cast is one of the best ensembles of actors that ever worked together. Escape At Dannemora is directed by Ben Stiller, in a complete switch from his usual comedic work. His direction is amazing, with the ability to show the loneliness and desperation at the  prison with the sweep of a singe camera shot. Somehow, Ben Stiller was able to get permission to film at the actual prison where the escape took place.

Patricia Arquette in Escape At Dannemora

Patricia Arquette in Escape At Dannemora

Benicio Del Toro is Richard Matt,  one of the murderers who is the the mastermind of the escape plan. Richard is tough enough to have the respect of the other prisoners, but clever enough to win favors from the guards and civilian workers at the prison. Richard is a talented artist, and paints beautiful pictures and portraits as gifts for the guards.

Benicio Del Toro & Paul Dano in Escape At Dannemora

Benicio Del Toro & Paul Dano in Escape At Dannemora

David Morse is prison Guard Glen Palmer, who knows that his real job is simply to make sure that nothing violent ever happens at the prison. He is willing to make deals with “boss cons” and even use his tremendous physical  strength to smack some prisoners around when needed.

Paul Dano is David Sweat, a cop killer and the second member of the escape plan. He is young and not too bright, but he has developed a sexual relationship with civilian worker Tilly Mitchell (Patricia Arquette). David is using this relationship only to get extra food. It is Richard who realizes that they may be able to manipulate Tilly into helping them escape.

Escape At Dannemora is a story of the loneliness and desperation of the people who polite society does not want to think about. The Guards and Civilian workers are as much prisoners as are the actual inmates.  The Guards and Civilian workers spend their lives in confined areas outnumbered by dangerous violent men. A combination of boredom  and fear permeate all aspects of their lives.

The inmates have to look out at the vast woods of upstate New York knowing that this will be the only view they will see for the rest of their lives. This situation leads to a slow, inevitable build up of pressure that eventually must explode.

Alone in Berlin – 2 Old Germans Who Stood Up To Hitler

Alone in Berlin is the true story of middle-aged couple Anna (Emma Thompson) and Otto (Brendan Gleeson) who tried to oppose Adolf Hitler. In was an incredible act of bravery in Nazi Germany, but Anna and Otto felt they had nothing left  to lose, since their only son had already been killed in combat.

Brendan Gleeson & Emma Thompson in "Alone in Berlin"

Brendan Gleeson & Emma Thompson in “Alone in Berlin”

It is hard for us in the modern era to understand how difficult it was to oppose Hitler within Germany. There was no free press, no cellphones and no internet on which to post anonymous comments against the government. The couple hand-wrote postcards critical of Hitler and the government and secretly left them in public buildings where people could find and read them.

Adolf Hitler at the height of his power.

Adolf Hitler at the height of his power.

When the postcards began to show up, Germans who found them were petrified. They knew it was dangerous even to read something like this. People who found the cards were afraid that the police had placed the cards as a trap to test German’s loyalty. Distributing anything critical of Hitler was considered treason and was a death penalty offense.

Daniel Bruhl in "Alone in Berlin".

Daniel Bruhl in “Alone in Berlin”.

However, Otto and Anna were relentless and soon had placed more than 100 cards throughout Berlin. When people began turning the cards into the police, the SS Officers and high ranking Police officials were furious. They needed to catch the anti-Hitler writers and punish them as an example to other dissenters.

Postcard placed by Otto & Elise Hampel

Postcard placed by Otto & Elise Hampel

Police Inspector Escherich (Daniel Bruhl) thinks it will be easy to catch these traitors, but they are far cleverer than he imagines. There are no fingerprints on the postcards, no witnesses, and no clear pattern of where they are distributed. What he does not know is that Anna and Otto are hiding in plain sight. No one really pays attention to an ordinary looking middle-aged couple. The Police and SS did not have  that profile in mind when they think of a resistance fighter.

Otto & Elise Hampel - true German Heros

Otto & Elise Hampel – true German Heroes

Anna and Otto know their small gesture cannot stop Hitler. However, Otto is a master machinist and he likens their post cards to putting sand in the German war machine. He says that a little sand will not destroy the gears of a machine. However, if the movement catches on, more and more people will throw sand in the gears, and perhaps the terror of the Nazis will grind to a halt.

Hans Fallada - author of the book Alone in Berlin

Hans Fallada – author of the book Alone in Berlin

The Film Alone in Berlin is from the novel by Hans Fallada. The real people were named Otto and Elise Hampel, and they actually did place cards around Berlin just as in the movie.

Berlin at the end of World War II

Berlin at the end of World War II

Of course, we all know that Hitler was not stopped by resistance from within.  However, the bravery of the Hampels can still be admired all these decades later. We also know from history that there were many thousands of Germans who hated Hitler but who were simply too afraid to say anything, much less take any action. Alone in Berlin is the story of two  old people who showed true bravery in the face of absolute evil.

My Dinner With Herve – The last interview with Herve Villechaize

The HBO Original movie My Dinner With Herve, stars Peter Dinklage as Herve Villechaize, the French actor best know for his role as Tattoo on Fantasy Island. The dinner takes place shortly before Herve’s suicide, as Herve attempts to reveal the truth about of his life.

Jamie Dornan & Peter Dinklage in "My Dinner With Herve"

Jamie Dornan & Peter Dinklage in “My Dinner With Herve”

Herve is being interviewed by Danny Tate, (Jamie Dornan), an Irish journalist who was told to write a short funny piece basically ridiculing Herve Villechaize. However, Herve is having none of that. Herve knows the world treats him as a joke. Herve decides to take control of the interview himself and give the journalist the story of a lifetime.

My Dinner With Herve takes us on a wild ride through the sad and tumultuous life of Herve Villechaize. Throughout the movie, we are never quite sure exactly what parts of the story are true and which are myths created by Herve himself. The movie is based on the actual wild evening Herve spent with Sacha Gervasi, who wrote and directed  My Dinner With Herve.

Herve Villechaize & Sacha Gervasi on a wild night out

Herve Villechaize & Sacha Gervasi on a wild night out

Herve decides to open up to this particular journalist since he recognizes a kindred spirit. Danny Tate is a recovering alcoholic who is at a low point in his own personal life and career. The only reason he was assigned to interview Herve is because none of the other reporters wanted to waste their time with such as has-been.

Herve Villechaize as Nick Nack in The Man With The Golden Gun

Herve Villechaize as Nick Nack in The Man With The Golden Gun

Herve Villechaize came from a wealthy French family.  His mother always was ashamed that Herve was a dwarf, and never showed any kind of love.  Herve’s father was a doctor, who kept trying to cure Herve’s dwarfism. While Herve just wanted to spend time and play with his dad, the father was constantly subjecting Herve to experimental and painful quack medical treatments.

Peter Dinklage & Andy Garcia in "My Dinner With Herve"

Peter Dinklage & Andy Garcia in “My Dinner With Herve”

How exactly Herve became a star is still a mystery. In My Dinner With Herve, he simply shows up in Hollywood, threatens talent agent Marty Rothstein (David Strathaim) with a knife, and thereby gets himself a top agent. Of course, this is a myth made up by Herve himself.

Herve Villechaize’s rise and fall was chronicled in the tabloids. Herve was cast as Nick Nack in the James Bond movie The Man With The Golden Gun, and overnight he became world-famous. However, the money did not last long. His whole life, Herve was a womanizer and spent money like water. He was down t his last penny when he was cast on Fantasy Island, at a salary of $35,000 per week. Unfortunately, Herve’s own self destructive behavior ruined it all.  Drinking, wild parties, a marriage and a divorce, and temper tantrums on the set. Like many other Hollywood stars before and since, Herve Villechaize threw it all away.

My Dinner With Herve, takes place many years after Herve’s tabloid heyday, yet he is still trying to come to grips with the mistakes of his past. The acting and casting in My Dinner With Herve are wonderful. Every part is played to perfection.  Jamie Dornan brings a wonderful complexity to the role of Danny Tate.  Danny comes to realize how hypocritical it is for him to criticize celebrities in his articles, while his own personal life is such a complete mess. Andy Garcia becomes Ricardo Montalban in looks an mannerisms to the point where it seems like Ricardo Montalban was somehow reincarnated for the movie.

Of course , New Jersey native Peter Dinklage is perfect has Herve. We had the pleasure of seeing Peter Dinklage in person in Basking Ridge New Jersey when he helped his mother and brother raise money for the Somerset Hills Chorus. Peter Dinklage brings a powerful presence to any role he is in. My Dinner with Herve is one of his best performances.

Kidding – if Mister Rogers was on the edge of insanity.

In Showtime’s Kidding, Jim Carrey plays “Mr. Pickles”, who is exactly like Mister Rogers except that Mister Pickles is on the verge of a complete mental breakdown. Kidding is a wonderful series, and explores what it is like to try to be a truly good person in a violent and unfair world.

Danny Trejo & Jim Carrey in "KIdding"

Danny Trejo & Jim Carrey in “KIdding”

For a long time life was perfect for Jeff Piccirillo (Mr. Pickles). He had a children’s show loved by the world. He and his beautiful wife Jill (Judy Greer) had twin sons. Then the unthinkable happens. A stoplight malfunctions. His wife and children are in a horrific car accident and one of the boys is killed.

Catherine Keener & Frank Langella in "Kidding"

Catherine Keener & Frank Langella in “Kidding”

How does a family recover from that? In the real world, many families never recover. Jeff and his wife separate, and the remaining child, William (Cole Allen), begins acting out in school and hanging around with older troublemakers.

Judy Greer, Jim Carrey & Catherine Keener at the premier of "Kidding"

Judy Greer, Jim Carrey & Catherine Keener at the premier of “Kidding”

While all this is going on, Jeff must still be the happy Mr. Pickles to the world. He has to show up to work every day and sing happy songs to adoring children and parents who love him. And the truth of it all is that Jeff (Jim Carrey) actually is a good person who believes the world can be a wonderful place.

Ginger Gonzaga plays Jim Carrey's cancer-patient girlfriend in "Kidding"

Ginger Gonzaga plays Jim Carrey’s cancer-patient girlfriend in “Kidding”

Jeff wants to use his own tragedy as a learning experience for children. He does a wonderful, gentle episode talking to kids about death, but the production company won’t allow that episode on the air. The production company is controlled by Jeff’s father Sebastian (Frank Langella). Unlike the gentle Jeff, Sebastian is a nasty son of a bitch who is more interested in the money than the message.

Bernard White & Cole Allen on the set of Kidding

Bernard White & Cole Allen on the set of Kidding

Instead of trying to help his son, Sebastian wants to replace him with an animated Mr. Pickles. A cartoon character would never get depressed or try to introduce messages that would make the sponsors uncomfortable. The real Fred Rogers made sure to never commercialize Mister Rogers. Unfortunately Sebastian has turned Mr. Pickles into a money making machine, with advertisers and product tie-ins to toys and kids food.

The cast in Kidding is terrific. Judy Greer is wonderful as the wife who can no longer take being married to “America’s saint.” She no longer wants to try to be forgiving and happy all the time. She hates the driver who smashed into her car, and thinks it is not natural that Jeff tries to find “meaning” in every event.

Catherine Keener is Jeff’s sister Deirdre. She loves Jeff, but still agrees with her father that Jeff needs to be replaced. It does not help that her own personal life is a mess, with her husband Scott (Bernard White) leading a double life.

Cole Allen (William) is perfect as the troubled surviving twin son. Most shows do not know how to properly portray kids just entering their teens. Most shows either have the parts played by people in their 30s, or else the lines are like nothing a real kid would say. Kids and teenagers don’t handle tragedies the same way adults do. They tend to shut down, act out or both. Cole Allen has remarkable acting skills even at his early age.

Ginger Gonzaga is Vivian, a beautiful cancer patient who Jeff befriends while he is touring a hospital as Mr. Pickles. The two quickly become passionate lovers, but others question if the relationship is healthy. Has Jeff really fallen in love or has he purposely chosen a woman who he knows will not be on this Earth for very long? Is Jeff so afraid of losing another loved one that he went out of his way to pick someone who he knew ahead of time he is going to lose?  Vivian herself is aware of this situation and questions the relationship. However, she and Jeff are kindred spirits who can show each other their deepest fears and emotions.

Kidding is a wonderful show. It is a dark comedy without ever getting too dark or too silly. Jim Carrey plays Jeff as complex and conflicted individual who we want good things to happen to.

  • We give Kidding 4 Stars **** The only reason we did not give it our highest rating of 5 stars is that it has a couple of raunchy sex scenes that the series would be better off without. Some of the gay sex jokes are a little much and don’t really fit with the tone of the rest of the show.
  • Be sure to read all our T.V. & Movie Reviews.

4 Movies Trump Needs to See To Make him a Better Person

There are 4 movies that Donald Trump needs to watch, in order to make him a more knowledgeable and compassionate human being.

Lincoln – This film stars Danial Day Lewis as Abraham Lincoln, and chronicles Lincoln’s  fight to pass the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery in The United States. Lincoln’s great fear was that even after the Civil War ended slavery would continue in the Southern States and that former slaves who had escaped to the North would have to be returned to slavery. Three years after Lincoln’s assassination, the Fourteenth Amendment was passed, which made all people born in the United States citizens. This was required so that former slaves would not exist in a netherworld where they were called “free”but did not have the rights of citizens.  It is this Fourteenth Amendment that Trump erroneously believes he can eliminate with the stroke of a pen. Trump still does not understand The Constitution and seems to think he was elected King rather than President.

Abraham Lincoln was afraid slavery would continue even after the Civil War

Abraham Lincoln was afraid slavery would continue even after the Civil War

The movie Lincoln shows that it was the Republican Party which pushed for the freedom of slaves and the rights for dignity of all people. It is sad and painful that this compassionate Republican Party of Abraham Lincoln has now degenerated into a grotesque mob of haters that welcomes gun-toting, bomb throwing Neo-Nazis and White Supremacists.

Russell Crowe & Jennifer Connelly in "A Beautiful Mind"

Russell Crowe & Jennifer Connelly in “A Beautiful Mind”

A Beautiful Mind stars Russell Crowe as John Nash, Princeton’s mathematical genius.  Nash proved mathematically  that the best solutions to conflicts are ones where all sides do what is best for the group as a whole. This solution also ends up being the best solution for each individual participant. Trump continues to approach every negotiation with the long-ago reputed Zero Sum Theory. Trump believes that the only way the United States can get anything worthwhile is to take it from someone else. This has led to the disastrous policy of ever increasing tariffs, which simply raises prices and destroys wealth in The United States and throughout the world.

Larry Hagman & Henry Fonda in "Fail Safe"

Larry Hagman & Henry Fonda in “Fail Safe”

Fail Safe –is a film about nuclear war starring Henry Fonda and Larry Hagman. Donald Trump has often threatened to launch nuclear weapons, completely ignoring the hundreds of thousands of people who would die as a result. Trump also seems to think there would be zero risk to Americans if he were to attack another country with nuclear weapons. In Fail Safe, a glitch in a computer circuit erroneously sends a coded message to American B52 bombers telling them to drop nuclear bombs on the Soviet Union. There is a desperate scramble to try to prevent the attack. The Soviet Union vows immediate retaliatory strikes. Mr. Trump should learn from Fail Safe that there no such thing as playing with nuclear weapons. A nuclear strike is not a lawsuit against a business rival (for which Donald Trump is famous). Killing hundreds of thousands with the most destructive weapons ever devised is not a game. Once the nuclear bombs begin there is no way to predict when they will stop.

Max von Sydow in "Voyage of the Damned"

Max von Sydow in “Voyage of the Damned”

Voyage of the Dammed is based on the 1939 voyage of the MS St. Louis ocean liner which was taking Jews out of Nazi Germany. When the world was criticizing the Nazi treatment of Jews in Germany, Hitler played a clever political game. Hitler authorized 937 Jews to leave Germany on the MS St. Louis. The problem was that other countries did not want these refugees. The ocean liner went to Cuba but was denied entry. The ship  then turned to the United States hoping for sanctuary. Instead of helping the fleeing Jews,  America sent out destroyers to meet the ship and threatened to sink the MS St. Louis if it tried to enter American waters. Hitler loved this. It validated the Nazi view that Jews were a “problem people” that no one wanted. The MS St. Louis had to wander around the Atlantic until finally The United Kingdom, Belgium and France agreed to each take a portion of the Jewish refugees. About 400 ended up in The United Kingdom. Of the remaining 537 who went to France, Belgium and The Netherlands, most were rounded up and sent to concentration camps when Germany later invaded those countries. Many of the people died in the camps. All would have survived if The United States had welcomed these pour souls instead of chasing them away with destroyers. Today Donald Trump is sending armed troops to chase away desperate people fleeing persecution in Guatemala and other countries. These woman and children will be no match for U.S. soldier’s guns. But when they are turned back is it really a proud day for America? Are we proud the United States sent the Jews of the MS St. Louis back to concentration camps?

Maybe if Donald Trump watches these it will give him a little historical perspective on how Presidential power should be used.  We don’t think so, but in these desperate times, anything is worth a try.

The 4 Best Thanksgiving Movies & T.V. Episodes

Here is our list of the 4 Best Movies & T.V. Episodes with Thanksgiving Themes.

Planes Train and Automobiles. This 1987 movie starring Steve Martin and John Candy continues to hold up as one of the funniest and most moving Thanksgiving films ever made. Steve Martin is Neal Page, a Chicago executive willing to do anything to get back home to Chicago in time for his family Thanksgiving. That is, Neal is willing to do anything except actually be nice to the people around him and notice that he is not the only person in America trying to get home. His nasty attitude makes him his own worst enemy and constantly sabotages his chances of getting home for Thanksgiving. Neal is helped by the happy, optimistic and somewhat crazy salesman Del Griffith, perfectly played by John Candy.

Steve Martin & John Candy in "Planes Trains and Automobiles"

Steve Martin & John Candy in “Planes Trains and Automobiles”

Del makes friends wherever he goes, and never gets angry or lashes out when things go wrong. One the other hand, Neil is so self-centered that he never once stops to wonder why Del is spending so much effort to help a stranger make it home. When Del’s secret is finally revealed it still brings tears to our eyes. John Candy’s performance in this scene is incredibly moving.

Unfortunately, John Candy died in 1994 at the age of 43. His performance in Planes Trains and Automobiles demonstrates that he had the talent to become a truly great dramatic actor. The word lost this talented Canadian far too soon.

Frank Bonner and Gordon Jump in "WKRP in Cincinnati" "As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly"

Frank Bonner and Gordon Jump in “WKRP in Cincinnati” “As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly”

WKRP in Cincinnati Turkey Bombs Episode 1978, has been replayed on T.V. every Thanksgiving for the past 39 years, but is still funny. It is hard to believe there is anyone in America who has not seen it. The WKRP sales manager Herb Tarlek (Frank Bonner) and station owner Mr. Carlson (Gordon Jump) hatch a plot to give a Thanksgiving surprise to the people of Cincinnati. What they don’t tell anyone is that the surprise consists of the release of live turkeys from a blimp over a crowd of unsuspecting Cincinnati citizens. While wild turkeys are beautiful in flight, domestic farm turkeys are too fat to ever get off the ground. Herb and Mr. Carlson release 100 farm turkeys from the blimp expecting them to soar though the sky. Instead they plummet to the ground like 20 pound bombs, smashing windshields, and causing the waiting crowd to run for cover.

Richard Sanders in "WKRP in Cincinnati"

Richard Sanders in “WKRP in Cincinnati”

The funniest part of the episode is Les Nessman (Richard Sanders) reporting the event on the radio exactly like it is the 1937 Hindenburg disaster in Lakehurst New Jersey. Richard Sanders does a perfect impression of radio reporter Herbert Morrison, who broke down on air while reporting the Hindenburg crash.

BEWITCHED - "Samantha's Thanksgiving to Remember" - Airdate: November 23, 1967. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)ELIZABETH MONTGOMERY;DICK YORK

BEWITCHED – “Samantha’s Thanksgiving to Remember” – Airdate: November 23, 1967. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)ELIZABETH MONTGOMERY;DICK YORK

Bewitched – Samantha’s Thanksgiving to Remember (1967), where the entire family is transported back to the original Pilgrim’s Thanksgiving through a magic spell. Darin (Dick York) is so worried that the Pilgrims will figure out that Samantha (Elizabeth Montgomery) is a witch that he fails to pay attention his own behavior. Darin’s use of modern language and slang quickly gets him branded as a witch. Bewitched was a silly, fun show with an ensemble cast of actors that truly enjoyed with each other. Dick York eventually had to leave the show; unable to work due to severe back problems. Actors in those days did not get paid the enormous sums they make today, and Dick York had real financial problems later in life. Despite his health and financial problems he never complained, and spent huge amount of time working tirelessly to help the homeless.

Rocky – Most people do not think of Rocky as a Thanksgiving movie, but Rocky is a film that shows the dark side of Thanksgiving. Rocky is not really a boxing film. Rocky  is a movie about lonely people trying desperately to prove  that they actually matter in the world. When Paulie (Burt Young) ruins Thanksgiving dinner, Adrian (Talia Shire) tells Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) how upset that made her. Rocky, responds, “to you its Thanksgiving. To me its Thursday.”

To many people Thanksgiving is the worst day of the year. People who are alone and desperate see television and movies over and over emphasize that everyone else in America is spending the day with loving friends and family. No wonder that Thanksgiving has one of the highest suicide rates of the year.

Talia Shire and Sylvester Stallone in Rocky

Talia Shire and Sylvester Stallone in Rocky

Rocky is not about winning a boxing match. Rocky is about Rocky, Adrian, and Micky (Burgess Meredith) all winning their self respect. Paulie never does quite get his self respect, but he does have Adrian and Rocky continue to  stand by him, despite his faults.

You may notice that we don’t have any new shows on this list. Perhaps it is just nostalgia, but we really fell that these old shows captured the true spirit of the holiday.

We at East Coast Stories wish our readers a happy Thanksgiving. If like , Rocky you find that the day is not Thanksgiving but just another Thursday, don’t despair. There are thousands of people who feel just like you. Things will get better.

Drinking Buddies -Can a man really be “Just Friends” with a beautiful woman?

Drinking Buddies is a clever independent film about 4 people who each seem to be with the wrong partners. The plot revolves around people work at a small craft brewery. It is nice for a change to have a film where the characters are not cops, doctors or lawyers. They are real people with real issues, that need to be solved without car chases, gunfights or dramatic court scenes.

Olivia Wilde & Jake Johnson in "Drinking Buddies"

Olivia Wilde & Jake Johnson in “Drinking Buddies”

Kate (Olivia Wilde) works at Revolution Brewing with her best friend Luke (Jake Johnson). There is no romantic connection, but they love playing practical jokes on each other and telling silly jokes at lunchtime. Every night Kate and Luke go out with the rest of the workers for drinks and food. In fact, Revolution Brewing seems like the kind of place we would all love to work.

Anna Kendrick & Ron Livingston in "Drinking Buddies"

Anna Kendrick & Ron Livingston in “Drinking Buddies”

Kate and Luke both have full time partners. Luke lives with Jill (Anna Kendrick), who is a Special Education teacher with a masters degree.  She is very different than Kate. Jill is shy and introverted, whereas Kate is outgoing to the extreme. Jill never really gets cray while Kate  loves beer perhaps a little too much.

Olivia Wilde & Ron Livingston in "Drinking Buddies"

Olivia Wilde & Ron Livingston in “Drinking Buddies”

Kate’s boyfriend is Chris (Ron Livingston), an intellectual who loves books, nature and hiking. He invites Jill and Luke to spend a weekend with he and Kate at his beautiful cabin in the woods. Don’t worry, Drinking Buddies does not suddenly turn into a horror movie. No killer in a Halloween mask suddenly comes out of the lake. However,it does become obvious that the matching of the couples seems wrong. Jill and Chris want to spend the time hiking and enjoying nature while Kate and Luke are happy to spend all their time drinking beer, staying indoors playing board games and telling stupid jokes.

A badly written movie would have them all simply switch partners at the cabin, but real life is more complicated than that.  Drinking Buddies takes a realistic approach. The weekend ends with relationships supposedly unchanged. However, you can tell that the encounter has altered forever the way they all think about each other.

Could a man really be "just friends" with Olivia Wilde?

Could a man really be “just friends” with Olivia Wilde?

We will not spoil the plot by going any further, other than to say that the ending is beautiful and satisfying.

Some people might find Drinking Buddies too slow-moving. There never is a real action scene. If you are expecting a Hollywood blockbuster type of plot then Drinking Buddies is not for you. However, if you love independent films where the characters are real, then we hope you enjoy Drinking Buddies as much as we did.

Advice and Consent – A film about a Senate confirmation hearing with Sex, Blackmail and Perjury

Advice and Consent is the 1962 movie about a Senate confirmation hearing where sex, blackmail, and perjury become more important than the technical qualifications of the nominee. Henry Fonda stars as Robert Leffingwell, who has been nominated by the President (Franchot Tone) to be the Secretary of State. He is a controversial pick, and his nomination sets off a no-holds barred fight with both pro and con forces using every dirty trick possible.

Henry Fonda facing a Senate inquiry in Advice and Consent

Henry Fonda facing a Senate inquiry in Advice and Consent

At the time Advice and Consent was released, audiences thought it was an exciting but ridiculously “over the top” piece of fiction. In 1962, the American public still believed in the dignity and decency of its public officials. Of course, that was decades before the confirmation hearings of Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh.

Former Vice President Richard Nixon was offered the role of Vice President  in Advice and Consent, but turned it down. Richard Nixon said Advice and Consent  contained too many obvious errors about how the government actually functions.

However, Advise and Consent does have former Arizona Senator Henry F. Ashurst, who had served 30 years in the Senate. He was 87 years old when Advice and Consent was filmed. Ashurst plays an old Senator who sleeps through most of the proceedings, but who vehemently shouts “Opposed!” whenever something disturbs his slumber.

Advice and Consent shocked 1962 audiences by broaching the subject of homosexuality, and for the first time on the silver screen showing a gay bar. In Advice and Consent, one of the married Senators had a homosexual affair in college, and he is being blackmailed to pressure him to vote in the proper direction.

Charles Laughton & Walter Pidgeon in the 1962 film Advice and Consent

Charles Laughton & Walter Pidgeon in the 1962 film Advice and Consent

The casting in Advice and Consent was a deliberate snub at the McCarthy-era investigations. Many of the actors cast in Advice and Consent had been directly impacted by the Hollywood “black list”. It was also risky to cast Charles Laughton in a film that mentioned homosexuality. Charles Laughton was one of the few actors who were openly gay in 1962.

The 1962 film Advice and Consent was considered exciting fiction that could never actually happen.

The 1962 film Advice and Consent was considered exciting fiction that could never actually happen.

There have been few films that had such an all star cast as Advice and Consent. In addition to Henry Fonda, Advice and Consent features Charles Laughton, Walter Pidgeon, Peter Lawford and Betty White. A part was even offered to Martin Luther King Jr. He was to play an Ambassador, even though in 1962 The United States did not actually have any African-American Ambassadors. However, Martin Luther King Jr. felt that appearing in Advice and Consent would take focus away fro his civil rights work.

Clarence Thomas & Brett Kavanaugh

Clarence Thomas & Brett Kavanaugh

Advice and Consent is an excellent film and is fascinating to watch from today’s perspective. One interesting point is that in Advice and Consent, all the really dirty tactics, accusations and  attacks take place out of view of the American public. Unlike today’s televised hearings, in Advice and Consent, the Senators were able to keep the really unsavory working of the government hidden from the general population. Perhaps this was better. As Prince Otto von Bismarck once said, “no one really wants to know how the sausage is made.”

Mississippi Grind – a losing gambler meets his Mississippi savior

Mississippi Grind on Netflix is the story of a losing gambler and his last chance to set his world right.  Ben Mendelsohn is Gerry, a down-and-outer who owes everybody money. Gerry keeps making things worse by trying to gamble his way out of his debt. Gerry’s world suddenly changes when he meets Curtis (Ryan Reynolds) at a poker game in Dubuque Iowa. Curtis is everything Gerry is not. Curtis is handsome, well dressed, personable and most of all; a winner.

Ryan Reynolds & Ben Mendelsohn in Mississippi Grind

Ryan Reynolds & Ben Mendelsohn in Mississippi Grind

Curtis takes Gerry under his wing and Curtis’ luck begins to change. He starts to win. The two gamblers become friends and Curtis forms a wild plan to solve all of Gerry’s problems.  They will drive south on roads following the Mississippi River and stop to gamble at every legal and illegal establishment they know. By the time they reach New Orleans they will be rich.

Of course it is an idiotic idea, but you want them to succeed. Gerry is a self-destructive loser but you can’t help liking him. Curtis, on the other hand, is something of a mystery. No one could possibly be as relaxed and easy going as Curtis pretends to be. As the trip progresses we begin to see his dark side and worry if he is simply leading Gerry on a path of destruction.

Mississippi Grind accurately depicts how true gamblers are driven more by the need for excitement and companionship than they are by the money. Gerry and Curtis will bet on anything. Poker, Blackjack, Roulette, Dog Races and even flipping coins are just some of the things they try. Telling stories about past big wins and losses and famous gamblers they have met are all part of the fun.

Curtis tells one story which perfectly describes the mindset of a pure gambler. He says that a man went to a Los Vegas casino with only $60 in his pocket. He gambled all day and into the night and kept winning until eventually he had $10,000. Then he bet the entire $10,000 on one roll of the dice, and lost it all. As the man left the casino someone asked him “Aren’t you upset that you just lost $10,000?” The gambler smiled and happily replied, “What are you taking about? I only lost $60.”

Alfre Woodard is a cold as ice bookie in Mississippi Grind

Alfre Woodard is a cold as ice bookie in Mississippi Grind

Mississippi Grind is a fascinating movie, and it is nice to see a “buddy-movie” that is not about cops. The plot is great and the acting superb. Even the actors with small scenes in the film are terrific. Alfre Woodard is a bookie who meets Gerry in a diner and who seems genuinely concerned about Gerry. Then when Gerry admits he does not have the cash to pay his debts, a whole different side to the bookie is revealed.

Sienna Miller in Mississippi Grind

Sienna Miller in Mississippi Grind

Sienna Miller and Analeigh Tipton are Simone and Vanessa; casino waitresses/part time prostitutes who Curtis and Gerry stay with for a short time. Sienna Miller and Analeigh Tipton make these characters complex and in depth instead of going for the easy stereotype stock characterizations.

Analeigh Tipton & Ben Mendelshon in Mississippi Grind

Analeigh Tipton & Ben Mendelshon in Mississippi Grind

`There is a building tension as Mississippi Grind progresses. Curtis keeps talking about the need to know when to finally quit and walk away from it all. He calls it “Machu Piccu Time.”  This is when you give up the gambling life and go someplace far away and relaxing, never to gamble again. The only question is, will he have the strength to follow his own advice?

BlacKkKlansman – a powerful film of race relations in America – NOT a comedy

BlacKkKansman is a powerful and moving film about race relations. Unfortunately it is being marketed as a light comedy. BlacKkKlansman is the true story of Ron Stallworth, an African-American Colorado police officer who went undercover to expose the Ku Klux Klan and its violence in the late 1960s & early 1970s.  BlacKkKlansman is a clever film, since it tricks audiences by starting out as a silly comedy, and then slowly becomes more and more serious as the movie progresses.

John David Washington & Laura Harrier in BlacKkKlansman

John David Washington & Laura Harrier in BlacKkKlansman

At first, the whole idea seems ridiculous. How could a black man go under cover in the Ku Klux Klan? It starts with detective Ron Stallworth (perfectly played by John David Washington) answering an ad which is looking for new members in the Ku Klux Klan. Ron thought he would just get some literature in the mail which he could then file in the police records. Instead, he ends up speaking to the head of the local Klan, and getting invited to a meeting.

Adam Driver & John David Washington in BlacKkKlansman

Adam Driver & John David Washington in BlacKkKlansman

Of course, Ron cannot possibly attend the meeting himself, so he sends an undercover White police officer instead. The undercover cop is Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver), who as the name suggests is Jewish. Flip has to hide this fact, since the Ku Klux Klan hates Jews at least as much as it hates black people. The Klan also hates Catholics, Hindus and Muslims.

John David Washington, Laura Harrier, Adam Driver & Spike Lee at the premier of BlacKkKlansman

John David Washington, Laura Harrier, Adam Driver & Spike Lee at the premier of BlacKkKlansman

Meeting the Klan members is when we begin to get hints that the movie is going in a whole new direction. The Klan members have illegal guns and explosives and plan to use them. Some of the members are active duty Army soldiers and have been stealing explosives from the military.

Topher Grace as David Duke in BlacKkKlansman

Topher Grace as David Duke in BlacKkKlansman

BlacKkKlansman also shows the African-American side of this same period in American history. Some aspects of the late 1960s and early 1970s always seem silly. Giant Afros, sequined Bell Bottoms, and people using expressions like “right-on brother.” However, behind this silliness, were serious life-changing issues. As well as reporting on the Ku Klux Klan, Officer Ron Stallworth has been assigned to infiltrate the Black Student Union at the local college, to see if anyone is considering violent action against the police. There he meets and immediately falls in love with Patrice (Laura Harrier), the beautiful head of the Black Student Union. He cannot tell her who he really is, especially when she refers to all police officer as “pigs” and reserves her highest hatred for Black police officers. Ron keeps trying to convince her that the system can be changed for within.

Heather Danielle Heyer - murdered by a neo-Nazi

Heather Danielle Heyer – murdered by a neo-Nazi

The acting in BlacKkKlansman is powerful and comes from some unexpected sources. David Duke is played by Topher Grace, who most people remember best as Eric in That 70s Show. He is frighteningly realistic in the role as David Duke, the national director of the Ku Klux Klan. He is the well-spoken, reasonable face of the Klan. He states openly that his goal is to make the racist views of the Klan more and more acceptable to main stream America, until eventually a White Supremacist can get elected to the White House.

Harry Belafonte in BlacKkKlansman

Harry Belafonte in BlacKkKlansman

The most moving scene in BlacKkKlansman comes from Harry Belafonte, as Mr.Turrentine, an old man who is brought in as a guest speaker to the Black Student Union. He describes in graphic detail an event he witnessed as a young man. A friend of his had been accused of raping a White woman, and a crowd tortured, castrated and lynched the accused man. None of this is shown on screen. We just see the old Mr. Turrentine and hear his words. Somehow that is more powerful and real.

Trump statement about the KKK and David Duke

Trump statement about the KKK and David Duke

BlacKkKlansman is one of the best movies we have seen this year. It is also the most depressing, because there is the overwhelming feeling that things have not gotten better. The movie ends with news footage showing the 2017 Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville Virginia, with gun toting White Supremacists carrying Nazi Flags. The news footage shows James Alex Fields drive his car into the crowd of peaceful counter-protestors, killing Heather Danielle Heyer. The film then switches to President Donald Trump refusing to condemn the White Supremacists and, in fact, stating that many of the Unite the Right group are “good people.”

So, BlacKkKlansman is a film that sneaks up on the audience and takes it in a totally unexpected path. That is part of what makes it so good. We saw BlacKkKlansman in a very crowded theater and yet there was dead silence when the movie ended. The stunned audience filed out quietly with their heads down; ashamed that America’s racial issues have not been solved, and frightened that perhaps they never will be.

Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee – delightful & fascinating

Jerry Seinfeld’s Netflix series Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee, is a fascinating look at well-known comedians when they are not on stage. Jerry Seinfeld is the perfect host, letting the guests lead the conversation. As the talking meanders during coffee and lunch, the celebrities open up much more about themselves than they ever do on the structured late-night talk shows.

Sarah Jessica Parker & Jerry Seinfeld

Sarah Jessica Parker & Jerry Seinfeld

The setup of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee is exactly what the title says. Jerry Seinfeld picks up the celebrity in a car, and the first part of the conversation takes place in the car while they are driving to the coffee shop. However, Jerry Seinfeld does not just use any car. He specifically picks a car that evokes strong emotions for that celebrity. Sarah Jessica Parker was thrilled when Jerry Seinfeld picked her up in an old Ford LTD Station Wagon.  For Sarah Jessica Parker the station wagon brought back fun memories of her childhood, when she would ride in the way way back with the other kids.

Jerry Lewis & Jerry Seinfeld. Notice the mobster's pinky ring on Jerry Lewis

Jerry Lewis & Jerry Seinfeld. Notice the mobster’s pinky ring on Jerry Lewis

For Jerry Lewis, the car chosen was a Spider sports car, which is exactly the type Jerry Lewis owned when he was a young playboy. Jerry Lewis’ appearance on Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee was his final interview before his death, yet his mind was still sharp as a tack and he had fascinating stories. Jerry Lewis always wears a gold pinky ring, and he explained that it was given to him by a member of organized crime. Lewis said that in the old days organized crime was very big in the comedy nightclub circuit. Jerry Lewis referred to gangsters as “the boys.” Jerry Lewis explained that if one of “the boys” gave you a pinky ring as a sign of friendship then you better wear it all the time, in order to show respect to that gangster. Once you wore that ring it was a symbol other gangsters recognized, and they would come up to you and ask who gave it to you.

Jay Leno & Jerry Seinfeld

Jay Leno & Jerry Seinfeld

Jay Leno also had a gangster story from when Leno was a young comedian. Leno got a call from one of Frank Sinatra’s assistants asking Leno to perform at Frank Sinatra’s birthday party. Leno told the assistant that unfortunately he was booked at a club in the Catskills for the entire month, and would not be able to make Sinatra’s birthday. The assistant politely thanked Leno and hung up. Ten minutes later, Jay Leno’s agent called with the news, “the Catskills club doesn’t need you anymore.”  Leno got the hint, and ended up performing at Frank Sinatra’s birthday party.

Michael Richards seed the battered van Jerry Seinfeld has chosen for him

Michael Richards seed the battered van Jerry Seinfeld has chosen for him

The Michael Richards interview was perhaps the most revealing. Michael Richard’s, of course, played Kramer on Seinfeld. After the Seinfeld show ended, Richards tried to go back to stand-up comedy, with spectacularly disastrous results. His jokes were not funny. In 2006, he responded to an African –American heckler by unleashing a torrent or screaming racial slurs. It was all captured on a cell phone video and went viral, thus making Richards an instant pariah.  When Michael Richards was on Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, we wondered if he or Jerry would mention the racial incident, or just ignore it completely.

For quite a while in the interview, Michael Richards was simply doing his shtick and being his character. Then he finally loosened up and got real. He talked  about how ashamed he was of that rant and how he had lost sight of who he really was and the fact that he was supposed to be on stage to bring enjoyment to people . He also thanked Jerry Seinfeld for standing by him during those dark times. Appropriately, the car chosen for Richards was an old Volkswagen van which had been converted into a flatbed delivery vehicle. It was battered and rusted but somehow still chugging along. Just like Michael Richards himself.

Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee is worth a look. Jerry Seinfeld, of course, is at a stage in his career where he no longer has to worry about achieving fame or financial success. He is relaxed and at ease and does Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee for the pure love of his craft and his fellow comedians.

Marcella – A British Detective series with a Dark Psychological twist

Marcella on Netflix is a murder mystery, with the added twist that the investigating detective might be a murderer herself. Set in modern-day London, the police are trying to track down a brutal serial killer before the murderer strikes again. Anna Friel is Detective Marcella Backland whose personal life is a disaster. Her husband Jason (Nicholas Pinnock) is an ice-cold corporate lawyer who walks out of the marriage to be with his beautiful and wealthy mistress. Shortly after that, his mistress turns up murdered in the same  style of the serial killer that Marcella is tracking. Is it coincidence, or did Marcella just find a perfect way to kill her husband’s mistress and get away with it?

Nicholas Pinnock & Anna Friel in "Marcella"

Nicholas Pinnock & Anna Friel in “Marcella”

No one suspects Marcella, and even she does not know if she is the murderer. For years, Marcella has been hiding the fact that she suffers periodic blackouts when she is under extreme stress. Minutes and sometimes even hours are simply missing from her memory. As the story progresses, Marcella is investigating all the murders, while at the same time doing all she can to cover up any connection she might have to her husband’s mistress.

Ray Panthaki & Anna Friel in Marcella

Ray Panthaki & Anna Friel in Marcella

The plot and acting in Marcella are fantastic. Ray Panthaki is Detective Inspector Rav Sangha, who is not happy that Marcella has been forced onto his team. The fact that Marcella is often investigating on her own without keeping him informed only confirms his suspicions that there is something not quite right about Marcella.

London, UK. Nina Sosanya at The Sky Arts Awards at the Savoy Hotel, The Strand, London on Sunday 7 June 2015. Ref: LMK392 -51429-080615 Vivienne Vincent/Landmark Media. WWW.LMKMEDIA.COM.

London, UK. Nina Sosanya at The Sky Arts Awards at the Savoy Hotel, The Strand, London on Sunday 7 June 2015.Ref: LMK392 -51429-080615
Vivienne Vincent/Landmark Media. WWW.LMKMEDIA.COM.

Nina Sosanya is Detective Chief Inspector Laura Porter, who is trying to keep the investigations on track despite the conflicting personalities of all her officers.

Anna Friel washes off blood in Marcella

Anna Friel washes off blood in Marcella

Marcella is one of those addictive series that is perfect for binge watching. It has 3 complete seasons on Netflix, and once you start watching it you will find it hard to stop. We Marcella our highest rating.

The Affair Season 4- Dull, repetitive, not worth watching

The Affair should have ended the series after Season 3. Brandon Frazier’s character as the friendly prison guard (John Gunther), turned sadistic stalker was perfect. This double twist became a triple twist when it was revealed that Gunther was actually the loving father of an autistic boy and the true attempted assassin was revealed.

Brendan Frasier & Dominic West in Season 3 of The Affair

Brendan Frasier & Dominic West in Season 3 of The Affair

However, with the exception of Seinfield, television producers just cannot walk away from a franchise while it still has a chance to make more money. So The Affair went on to Season 4 with new characters, new locations and new plot lines. They are all awful.

Final Seinfield goodbyes -1998

Final Seinfield goodbyes -1998

One of the problems with The Affair Season 4 is that half of the characters have  moved to California. The hallmark of the prior seasons of The Affair was that it was definitely an East Coast show. The Affair perfectly captured the real-life tension between the local Montauk Long Island residents and the wealthy New York City people who come out for the summer. The locals hate the pushy condescending New Yorkers, but have to suck up to them, since the New Yorkers provide all the money for the community. When the Alison Lockhart (Ruth Wilson) and Noah Solloway (Dominic West) affair was revealed, it was more than just a private matter. The entire Montauk community took sides, because the affair was between a New Yorker and a local. Alison was quickly branded a “slut” by the other locals. Noah was ridiculed by the New Yorkers because he had slept “below his station”. If he had conducted a discrete affair with a professional woman back in New York City, his marriage would probably not have ended. However, he had slept with a local waitress in a vacation town so small they had no chance of keeping it secret.

Maura Tierney, Dominic West, Ruth Wilson & Joshua Johnson in The Affair

Maura Tierney, Dominic West, Ruth Wilson & Joshua Johnson in The Affair

Season 4 of The Affair tries to be bi-coastal, and like all bi-coastal relationships, it  just doesn’t work. The various plot lines are disjointed and uninteresting.  Helen Solloway (Maura Tierney) and the kids have moved to Los Angeles, and Noah has taken a teaching job at a local school to be near them. It is ridiculous that a Charter School would hire a teacher who has just been released from prison after serving a sentence for manslaughter. Noah Solloway’s conviction was big news in the tabloid press. Are we supposed to believe that the kid’s parents’ are OK with a murderer teaching their children?

Noah and Helen fight constantly about who gets to spend time with the kids. This is not an exciting plot. It is just a divorced couple’s squabble that you can hear from any divorced couple anywhere in the country.

Joshua Johnson & Catalina Sandino Moreno in The Affair

Joshua Johnson & Catalina Sandino Moreno in The Affair

The plot on the East Coast is not any more interesting that that in Los Angeles. Alison is working at center trying to help people with PTSD. Cole Lockhart (Joshua Jackson) is now a successful businessman, while his wife Luisa (Catalina Sandino Moreno) is worried she might be deported since she is an illegal immigrant. All you have to do is turn on the news to see 100 more interesting stories about illegal immigrants  than the Luisa immigration issue being forced into The Affair.

Another problem with Season 4 of The Affair is that No One Is Having An Affair! There are just a lot of family squabbles and arguments between married or divorced people. The first three seasons of The Affair had the sexual excitement of reckless behavior taken to the extreme. This was followed by the devastating consequences of the affair, which destroyed whole families, careers and a life. In Season 4 of The Affair, on the other hand, Noah, Cole and Alison are all so reasonable and centered that it is just dull.

There is supposed to be a mystery, which apparently will be dragged out through Season 4. Someone has disappeared (probably Alison, but it could be Luisa). Cole and Noah are working together in Montauk to find her. This scenario seems very forced. Are we really supposed to believe that Noah and Cole are now capable of working together as mature adults, even though Cole believes Noah killed Cole’s brother? This plot line just seems like something a hack T.V. writer came up with after running out of ideas.

Dominic West as Noah and Sanaa Lathan as Janelle in The Affair (Season 4, Episode 1). -Photo: Paul Sarkis/SHOWTIME -Photo ID: The Affair_401_0931

Dominic West as Noah and Sanaa Lathan as Janelle in The Affair (Season 4, Episode 1). -Photo: Paul Sarkis/SHOWTIME -Photo ID: The Affair_401_0931

There are some new sub-characters that have been forced into the West Coast plot, but they all seem like rejects from other T.V. shows. The students at Noah’s school are sassy and speak and act the way no real High School kids speak or act. The Principal is an angry African American (Sanna Lathan) who feels she has to always act formally and never lose control. It angers her that  her son  always wears a hoodie in class and speaks “ghetto” even though he is intelligent and well educated.  Could this portrayal of African Americans in education possibly be any more condescending? When did The Affair turn into an after school special about race in American education?

On the East Coast, Alison seems to be heading towards a sexual relationship with a veteran who helps other vets suffering from PTSD (Ramon Rodriguez).  But who really cares? Neither of them are married and there is a complete lack of on-screen chemistry or excitement between them.

It is a shame to see how much The Affair has gone downhill. We loved the first three seasons of The Affair, but recommend you skip Season 4.

A Stupid and Futile Gesture – The Rise and Fall of National Lampoon

A Stupid and Futile Gesture on Netflix is the fascinating story of the meteoric rise and tragic crash of National Lampoon; the magazine that changed American humor and culture forever.  National Lampoon created Animal House, Caddyshack, the Chevy Chase Vacation movies, and of course, one of the best humor magazines ever published. Saturday Night Live was started by people who were lured away from National Lampoon. Lorne Michaels still gets credit for being a creative genius, but all he did was take the actors and writers of The National Lampoon Radio Hour and offer them more money to come to NBC and start Saturday Night Live.

The Dog Killer National Lampoon Cover

The Dog Killer National Lampoon Cover

Will Forte plays Doug Kenney, and Domhnall Gleeson plays Henry Beard, the two co-founders of National Lampoon. Doug and Henry ran the Harvard Lampoon, and did not want the fun to stop when they graduated.  Henry Beard had been accepted to Columbia Law School, but somehow Doug Kenney was able to convince him to forego law school and join Doug’s quest to start National Lampoon. It was a ridiculous idea.  They had no money, no business experience, and had never managed anything other than a college magazine. Every publisher turned them down, except a company whose only “major” publication was Weight Watcher’s Magazine.

Will Forte & Domhnall Gleeson in "A Stupid & Futile Gesture"

Will Forte & Domhnall Gleeson in “A Stupid & Futile Gesture”

A Stupid and Futile Gesture captures the wild 1970’s. National Lampoon Magazine was based in New York City and was able to attract a group of hugely talented, somewhat insane  writers, artists and actors. They were fueled by caffeine, cocaine, alcohol and creative genius.

Doug Kenney & Henry Beard

Doug Kenney & Henry Beard

National Lampoon Magazine spoofed American culture. The magazine started at a perfect time, since to many it appeared that “traditional” America had gone crazy. The Vietnam War was a disaster, there was social and racial unrest, crime rates were rising and drug use was skyrocketing. In the true tradition of comedy, National Lampoon made fun of it all.

National Lampoon's High School Yearbook Parody- its best selling issue ever.

National Lampoon’s High School Yearbook Parody- its best selling issue ever.

Nothing was sacred to National Lampoon. Perhaps its most famous cover was the one where a nice but worried looking dog has a gun held to its head. In bold letters, the cover says, “If You Don’t Buy This Magazine, We’ll Kill This Dog.”

National Lampoon had nudity, dirty jokes, political satire and very dark humor. In one issue there was an advertisement that was a spoof of the Save The Children Foundation.  The advertisement was for Lieutenant William Calley’s Kill The Children Foundation. Of course, Lieutenant Calley was the man whose unit murdered 22 unarmed South Vietnamese civilians in the My Lai Massacre.

National Lampoon's Nixon cover

National Lampoon’s Nixon cover

Doug Kenney and Henry Beard were ready for anything, except the tremendous success of National Lampoon. As National Lampoon grew, so did the hours and the pressure. They went from being a couple of guys having fun at a college magazine, to being men who had to run a major national publication, a radio show and various movie ventures. Doug tried to cope by using more and more drugs. Henry just wanted out.

The publication company was contractually obligated to offer Doug and Henry a payout based on the magazine’s profits. The profits were by then so large that the bonuses would be a major cash drain on the company, to the point of actually threatening the survival of National Lampoon. Doug and Henry insisted on taking the payout in a lump sum, instead of spreading it out over a number of years like the publication company wanted.

What happened next is accurately portrayed in A Stupid and Futile Gesture, although many viewers will probably assume it was an exaggeration for the movie. Henry Beard took his payout check and immediacy cleaned out his desk.  He then stood in the main room of the magazine and said to the writers and artists, “Goodbye and F*** You.”. Henry Beard then left National Lampoon and never came back.

Doug Kenney stayed on and tried to run everything himself. Neither Doug nor Henry every shared a penny of their bonuses with any of the writers, artists, actors or anyone else who had helped create National Lampoon.

People continue to copy National Lampoon

People continue to copy National Lampoon

Doug Kenney could not run it all alone. Even when Henry had been there, Doug had never been very steady, sometimes disappearing for months at a time. Eventually he just had to get away and he took off to Hawaii.  What happened next is still a mystery. Did he get clean of drugs in Hawaii, or did he fall further into drug dependence? All we know for sure is that he went out for a hike one day, went off a tall cliff and died. To this day, people argue about whether he committed suicide or simply fell.

Henry Beard is often asked whether Doug jumped from the cliff or fell.  Henry always give the same dark humorous answer. Henry says, “Doug probably fell off the cliff while looking for a place to jump.” Some people might find that a sick joke, but it is exactly the type of humor Doug Kenney would have laughed at.

Secret City – An Australian Spy/Diplomatic Thriller

Secret City (now on Netflix) is a fascinating diplomatic/spy series filmed in Australia’s capital city of CanberraAnna Torv is journalist Harriet Dunkley, who is trying to find the truth in a complex web of lies involving escalating conflicts  between  China and The United States, with Australia caught in the middle.

Anna Torv is journalist Harriet Dunkley in "Secret City"

Anna Torv is journalist Harriet Dunkley in “Secret City”

It begins when  young Australian protestor Sabine Hobbs (wonderfully played by Alice Chaston) sets herself on fire in China to protest China’s treatment of Tibet. She does not die, and for some unknown reason, the Chinese make the political blunder of holding her prisoner instead of sending her back home to Australia. This sets off a wave of anti-Chinese demonstrations in Australia. The Americans intend to take full advantage of this and press the Australian Navy to join them in military exercises close to the Chinese coast.

Alice Chaston from Secret City

Alice Chaston from Secret City

Secret City is a fascinating look at the complexities of Australian politics, which most foreigners do not understand at all. Australia finds itself in an almost impossible situation. China is Australia’s largest trading partner, whereas The United States is Australia’s strongest military ally. The government of Australia wants to be friends with both, but is constantly being pressed to choose one side or the other.

Daniel Wylie as Defense Minister Mal Paxton in "Secret City"

Daniel Wylie as Defense Minister Mal Paxton in “Secret City”

Daniel Wylie is the new defense minister Mel Paxton. He is from the Labor Party and wants to keep Australia’s employment rate high and its defense spending low. The best way to do this is to maintain good relations with China. However, there are events in his past that make it possible he is actually being blackmailed into this stance by the Chinese.

Jacki Weaver in Secret City

Jacki Weaver in Secret City

Jacki Weaver is Attorney General Catriona Bailey. She wants maximum power for herself and a complete alliance with the Americans against the Chinese. Minister Bailey wants the country to enact something called the “Safe Australia Act”. This would give the Australian government the power to arrest any journalist who published something “not in the national interest”. Of course, she would have complete power to decide what is and is not in Australia’s “national interest”.

Damon Herriman & Anna Torv in Secret City

Damon Herriman & Anna Torv in Secret City

In the middle of all of this is political reporter Harriet Dunkley who in trying to discover the truth begins to realize that there might be no truth at all . Everyone she meets is lying to her. The only question is whose lies are doing the most harm.

Canberra Australia

Canberra Australia

Harriet’s personal life is as much a mess as her personal life. Her ex-husband Kim divorced her when he decided to go the trans-gender route and become a woman. Damon Herriman is perfect as Kim, who still cares deeply for Harriet and tries to protect her whenever possible. Kim is an Australian intelligence officer with access to most, but not all, of the city’s secrets. Even Kim never knows the whole truth.

In Secret City, Australia’s capital of Canberra is almost a character itself. For outsiders, Canberra is vastly different than the pictures one is normally used to seeing of Sydney.  Unlike Sydney, Canberra is cold and has a somewhat sterile quality. All of the buildings are new and spotlessly clean, but somehow seem lifeless and foreboding. Of course, Secret City filmed them this way to add to the tension,. However, it is quite effective.

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Won’t You Be My Neighbor – a beautiful film about the life of Mister Rogers

Won’t You  Be My Neighbor is a beautiful documentary about Fred Rogers, from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Fred Rogers was an ordained Presbyterian minister, who had a completely new vision for children’s television. Fred Rogers was disgusted with fact that commercial television’s children’s shows were violent or stupid and treated kids as idiots. Mister Rogers wanted a show that would actually communicate with children and talk to them about important issues in their lives.

"Won't You Be My Neighbor" - a must-see movie

“Won’t You Be My Neighbor” – a must-see movie

Despite having no training in T.V.  Fred Rogers was able to get a show on Pittsburgh Public Television. It was low budget, slow moving and kids loved it. The station did not realize how popular it was until one day they ran a promotion allowing kids and parents to come in and meet Fred Rogers personally. Lines of kids and parents stretched down the block like it was a Hollywood premier. Mister Rogers became the first Public Television star.

Mister Rogers believed in actively working t make the world a better place.

Mister Rogers believed in actively working t make the world a better place.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor has some amazing footage of Fred Rogers. In 1969, President Nixon wanted to get rid of all government funding to Public Television and instead use the money for the Vietnam War. Senator John Pastore held public hearings about the cut, which Senator Pastore was very much in favor of. Won’t You Be My Neighbor shows Fred Rogers appearing before a very hostile, rude and confrontational Senate panel. Instead of responding with anger, Mister Rogers calmly discusses the importance of treating children with love and respect, and Mister Rogers even reads the words of one of the songs he sings on Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. Fred Rogers’ words deeply move Senator Pastore who says, “that was beautiful” and the Senator recommends granting $20 Million to Public television.

Children loved Mr. Rogers

Children loved Mr. Rogers

Despite its appearance,  Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was a very structured show and actors had to stick strictly to the script. Fred Rogers had very specific ideas he wanted to teach to children. Most importantly he wanted to make sure kids understood the difference between fantasy and reality. Part of each show, the Magic Trolley would travel into the Land Of Make Believe.  That fantasy world was full of puppets and other special characters, but Mister Rogers himself never appeared in the Land Of Make Believe. Fred Rogers was very upset about reports of kids jumping out of windows thinking they could fly like Superman. He wanted to use Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood to teach kids about what is real and what is not.

Mister Rogers also spoke directly on the show to children about very difficult subjects. After the Robert Kennedy assassination,  Mister Rogers  Neighborhood discussed death. There were shows about divorce and acceptance of other people. Mister Rogers was retired when the 9/11 attacks occurred. Fred Rogers came out of retirement and did a special show to help sooth the fears of children throughout the country.

There is really no one on the air like Fred Rogers today. As the country and the World become more polarized, his message of love and understanding can easily get lost amid the shouting and hatred. Fred Rogers died on February 27, 2003. He is survived by his wife and children. At his memorial service protestors showed up across the street carrying signs that read “God Hates Fags”. One of the mourners walked across the street and asked if they were claiming Fred Rogers was gay. (He was not.) The protestor replied that they did not think Mister Rogers was gay, but that they hated him because he tolerated gays.

Protesters at Mister Rogers Funeral

Protesters at Mister Rogers Funeral

Fred Rogers was a profoundly religious man whose view of Christianity was diametrically opposed to that of the protestors. Fred Rogers believed in a God of love and acceptance. Mister Rogers believed that the good people of the World can persevere and win against hatred, violence and stupidity. Fred Rogers believed that the real message of God is and has always been a message of Love.

On Chesil Beach – love before the sexual revolution

On Chesil Beach is a beautiful, yet sad, film about a young English couple struggling with intimacy. It is a wonderful movie with humor, mystery, and pathos, set in 1962 England just before the sexual revolution takes hold. Florence (Saoirse Ronan) and Edward (Billy Howle) are trying to have a romantic wedding night in a very unromantic location. They are in a stuffy, cold hotel on a rocky beach, where the other guests are all senior citizens. The staff and guests of the hotel seem to treat Florence and Edward as the one source of entertainment in this dreary location.

Billy Howle & Saoirse Ronan in "On Chesil Beach"

Billy Howle & Saoirse Ronan in “On Chesil Beach”

Through flashbacks we see how Edward  and Florence met and fell in love back when they were both brilliant university students. It turns out they both have very complex family situations. Edward’s mother Marjorie (Ann-Marie Duff) is a talented artist who suffered a traumatic brain injury. To most of the world she seem crazy, yet Florence is able to connect with her. This makes Edward love Florence even more.

Anne-Marie Duff as Marjorie Mayhew, Edward Mayhew's mother, in "On Chesil Beach." (Photo by Robert Viglasky/Bleecker Street)

Anne-Marie Duff as Marjorie Mayhew, Edward Mayhew’s mother, in “On Chesil Beach.” (Photo by Robert Viglasky/Bleecker Street)

Florence’s father Geoffrey (Samuel West) seems like a stuffy, yet polite, British middle class family man. However, there are brief intense flashes of anger that make one wonder what he is really capable of.

Despite their deep connection, Florence and Edward do not know each other at all sexually. Both of them are virgins on their wedding night and both are petrified. For them to really succeed in their marriage, they must be willing to be honest and understanding with each other in ways they have never known before.

Ian McEwan & Saoirse Ronan

Ian McEwan & Saoirse Ronan

The acting  On Chesil Beach is wonderful. We come to deeply care for both Florence and Edward and hope that true love really can conquer all. Based on the novel by Ian McEwan, On Chesil Beach is able to keep in the film all the complexities of the characters that were evident in the novel.

Saoirse Ronan and Billy Howle are amazing actors, as are all of the supporting characters, right down to the smallest roles. As you can tell, we are trying to write the review in such a way as to not give away too much of the plot. We will say that it is a deeply moving film and we highly recommend On Chesil Beach.

The Great White Hope – the movie about the boxer Trump just pardoned

The Great White Hope is a film about Jack Johnson, who in 1908 became first African-American world heavyweight boxing champion. In May 2018,  Jack Johnson was posthumously pardoned by President Trump for the federal crime of “transporting a woman across State lines for immoral purposes”.

James Earl Jones in "The Great White Hope"

James Earl Jones in “The Great White Hope”

The Great White Hope is a terrific 1970 movie starring James Earl Jones as Jack Johnson. It is probably hard for you to imagine that today’s rather obese James Earl Jones once played the world’s top athlete.  However, in 1970, James Earl Jones was in such great shape for the film that reporters commonly asked Jones if he had ever been a boxer himself. (The answer is no – James Earl Jones was just a dedicated actor who got himself in the best physical shape of his life in order to perform the role to perfection).  The Great White Hope was a Broadway play before it was a movie, and James Earl Jones had also starred in the theatrical production.  For some unknown reason, The Great White Hope calls the heavyweight champ Jack Jefferson instead of Jack Johnson, although everyone knew who the movie was really about.

Jack Johnson, the first African American heavyweight boxing champ

Jack Johnson, the first African American heavyweight boxing champ

In 1908, being the World Heavyweight Boxing Champion was a much bigger deal than it is today. There were not multiple titles, there was no Ultimate Fighting champ, and no one pushing to ban the sport. The average citizen followed boxing with the same passion that people today follow football, basketball, soccer and baseball.

Unlike other sports of the day, boxing in 1908 was fully integrated. This is an amazing fact, when you consider that Jackie Robinson was the first African American to play major league baseball and that was not until 1947. However, for its entire history, the heavyweight boxing champions had always been White.  From John L. Sullivan in 1882 all the way to 1908 , the heavyweight champs were White men whose accomplishments sports writers spoke of with awe.

President Trump pardons Jack Johnson the first African American heavyweight boxing champ.

President Trump pardons Jack Johnson the first African American heavyweight boxing champ.

Then came Jack Johnson, nicknamed the “Galveston Giant” who won the crown. Of course, there was open racism, but boxing is one of those sports where the winner is absolutely clear. Many White people hated Jack Johnson, but had to grudgingly admit he was the best boxer in the world. Sports writers, fans and boxing promoters started searching for what became known as “The Great White Hope.” Promoters were under pressure to find some White boxer who could beat Jack Johnson.

Then Jack Johnson went one step too far. He married a White woman and had affairs with several other White women. That was when the government charged him with violating the Mann Act, a Federal law forbidding the transportation of a woman across state lines for immoral purposes. The Mann Act was designed as a law to prosecute pimps. It was never intended to be a way to prosecute a man who happens to drive with his girlfriend over a state border.

Hattie McClay & Jack Johnson 1909

Hattie McClay & Jack Johnson 1909

Jack Johnson fled the Unites States and for 7 years lived in Europe continuing to box and defend his World Championship.

The Great White Hope chronicles this exciting period in history, and James Earl Jones is perfect in the lead role. Jane Alexander plays the White girlfriend who eventually becomes Jack’s wife, and  who is naïve enough to think they can somehow have a normal life. Chester Morris is Pop Weaver, Jack’s manager & promoter who is making a fortune on the fights, but who actually cares about Jack as a person.

So what actually happened to the real Jack Johnson? On April 5, 1915 Jack Johnson lost the heavyweight title to White boxer Jess Willard, in Havana Cuba in the 26th round. Fights were much longer than they are today. The match had been scheduled to last 45 rounds! Even though that match was 103 years ago, fight fans still argue about whether or not Jack Johnson took a dive. Johnson always said he never took dive. He pointed out that no one who planned to take a dive would let themselves take a beating for 26 rounds before going down.

In May of 2018, President Donald Trump officially pardoned Jack Johnson of the Mann Act charges. This is long overdue, but a posthumous pardon always has a hollow ring to it. Jack Johnson died in a car crash on June 10, 1946 at the age of 68. It would have been nice if one of the prior Presidents had pardoned the champ while Johnson was still alive.

The 1970 film The Great White Hope still holds up as a good movie to watch today. If you are interested in the fascinating story of the man who Trump just pardoned, we recommend the film.

Steve Martin & Martin Short on Netflix – Like an evening with old friends

Watching the Nexflix special – Steve Martin & Martin Short – An Evening You will Forget For the Rest Of Your Life, is like spending an enjoyable time with old friends. After all, the viewing public has known these two comedians since the 1970s. The Netflix comedy special is terrific. They tell jokes, Steve Martin plays the banjo expertly and Martin Short has a beautiful singing voice. (Who knew?). It is also obvious that these two guys really like each other as people.

Chevy Chase, Steve Martin & Martin Short in "The Three Amigos"

Chevy Chase, Steve Martin & Martin Short in “The Three Amigos”

They first met on the 1986 movie The Three Amigos in which Chevy Chase was the third Amigo. At the time, Steve Martin and Chevy Chase were much bigger stars than Martin Short. Despite this, Steve Martin and Chevy Chase insisted that the studio give equal billing to Martin Short – a kindness he never forgot. Of course, Steve and Chevy could not let the new guy off without a little practical joke. At the premier of the film  the studio told the 3 stars to all wear their complete Three Amigos costumes, and they all agreed. Then Steve Martin and Chevy Chase secretly decided to wear tuxedos to the premier and not tell Martin Short. On the night of the premier, Steve Martin and Chevy Chase looked like sophisticated Hollywood stars in their tuxedos, while Martin Short looked ridiculous in a huge sombrero and skintight toreador pants.

Steve Martin & Martin Short on Netflix

Steve Martin & Martin Short on Netflix

These are the types of stories they tell in Steve Martin & Martin ShortAn Evening You Will Forget For The Rest Of Your Life. They show childhood photos, and talk about their early days in showbiz as well as doing somewhat raunchy jokes. The comedy switches back and forth between the two, each testing what type of comedy the audience likes the best.

Steve Martin as King Tut on "Saturday Night Live"

Steve Martin as King Tut on “Saturday Night Live”

The Steve Martin & Martin Short Netflix special is not very long. Like all great performers they know when to leave the stage with the audience begging for more.

A Good Man In Africa – Sean Connery’s 1994 Comedy

A Good Man in Africa shows that Sean Connery (best known as James Bond) can be terrific in a silly comedy. He plays one of the few sane people in the film, setting up the jokes so that the other actors can “go big”.  The film take place in the fictional African country of Kinjanja, and revolves around the lives of British diplomats who have no interest in the country other than how much they can personally get out of it. Colin Friels plays Morgan Leafy, a lower level diplomat who spends his time bedding as many women as possible, when he is not drinking to excess.

Sean Connery in A Good Man in Africa (1994) Directed by Bruce Beresford

Sean Connery in A Good Man in Africa (1994)
Directed by Bruce Beresford

John Lithgow is the British Ambassador Arthur Franshawe, who hates being posted to Africa and wants only to get reassigned to a “good” diplomatic post. When he meets with the President of Kinjanja (played by Louis Gossett Jr.) the Ambassador condescendingly talks about how violent Africa is. The President responds by pointing out that while Africa remained peaceful, Europe had 2 World Wars, The Holocaust and a Russian Revolution.

John Lithgow as a pompous British ambassador in "A Good Man in Africa"

John Lithgow as a pompous British ambassador in “A Good Man in Africa”

In the middle of all this is the Scottish Doctor Alex Murray (Sean Connery). Unlike the British diplomats, Dr. Murray spends his days treating patients and doing as much he can to help everyone. The Africans have given him the ultimate compliment of referring to him as a “good man”. Through a series of comic events, low level diplomat Morgan Leafy ends up spending a lot of time with Dr. Murray. As this happens, Morgan gradually comes to compare his own life with that of Dr. Murray, and Morgan realizes how useless his own lifestyle is. Morgan belatedly decides to try to become a good man himself.

Louis Gossett Jr. in "A Good Man in Africa"

Louis Gossett Jr. in “A Good Man in Africa”

In a comic way, A Good Man in Africa points out African issues that still exist today. Western counties still condescendingly look down on African countries, and see them as only potential sources of raw material. In A Good Man in Africa the main mission of the British diplomats is to get an oil contract signed before the Americans can offer a better deal.  Diana Rigg plays the Ambassador’s wife, who is completely bored with the whole diplomatic scene and who realizes that the Ambassador is an idiot.

A GOOD MAN IN AFRICA, Sean Connery, Colin Friels, 1994. ©Gramercy Pictures

A GOOD MAN IN AFRICA, Sean Connery, Colin Friels, 1994. ©Gramercy Pictures

Jackie Mofokeng plays Hazel, the African girlfriend of Morgan. Her subplot shows that the British diplomats, despite being posted in Africa are basically latent racists. Although Hazel is an intelligent and beautiful young woman, Morgan never brings her to any embassy parties, or even out to any nice restaurants where they might be seen by other diplomats.

A Good Man in Africa did not get good reviews when it premiered. Reviewers were disappointed that it was not as serious as the novel by William Boyd, on which it is based. However, we liked it. It is meant to be watched and enjoyed as a comedy, not as a “social message film”.  It has slapstick scenes, silly sexual innuendos, and people getting into ridiculous situations. One reviewer complained that John Lithgow’s British accent was “ridiculously exaggerated”. That reviewer missed the point that Lithgow was playing a caricature of a pompous British boor in a foreign country.

A Good Man in Africa, is fun to watch, yet it still gets you to think about what it really  means to be a “good man”.

Marlo Thomas in “That Girl” – The First Feminist on T.V.

Marlo Thomas was the first T.V. feminist in the 1966 show That Girl on ABC. That Girl was a revolutionary show since it was about a single young career woman (Ann Marie) alone in New York. This was 4 years before the appearance of The Mary Tyler Moore Show on CBS. Marlo Thomas had to fight the ABC executives every step of the way to keep the main character in That Girl on track as a career woman. Until That Girl every woman on television was a wife and mother or maybe some main male character’s girlfriend.

Marlo Thomas in "That Girl"

Marlo Thomas in “That Girl”

That Girl is about Anne Marie (Marlo Thomas), who moves to New York City with the goal of being a professional actress. Her goal is not to find a man, or to be an actress until she gets married. Her goal is to be an actress.

Ted Bessell as Donald Hollinger in "That Girl"

Ted Bessell as Donald Hollinger in “That Girl”

However, the T.V. executives insisted that the main character in That Girl must have a boyfriend. They simply refused to make the show without that. Therefore, Ted Bessell was cast as Ann Marie’s boyfriend Donald Hollinger. Although Ted Bessell is a good actor, it is obvious that his character was forced into the That Girl plots. There is simply no on-screen romantic chemistry between Marlo Thomas and Ted Bessell. In his appearances on That Girl he seems more like a family friend or an order brother than a boyfriend.

Ted Bessell & Marlo Thomas in "That Girl"

Ted Bessell & Marlo Thomas in “That Girl”

From the very beginning Marlo Thomas said That Girl would never have a marriage episode. Marlo Thomas told the writers that she would quit the show if they ever handed her a That Girl with a wedding scene. The final episode of That Girl does have Ann Marie getting engaged. Marlo Thomas is still angry about that.  She thinks it would have been much more poignant to have her character break up with the boyfriend and remain in New York completely alone. However when the final episode aired in 1971, ABC was not quite ready for that.

Ruth Buzzi & Marlo Thomas in "That Girl"

Ruth Buzzi & Marlo Thomas in “That Girl”

That girl had a terrific group of supporting actors, such as Bernie Kopell and Ruth Buzzi who would go on to huge television success.

Ted Bessell, Marlo Thomas and Bernie Kopell in "That Girl"

Ted Bessell, Marlo Thomas and Bernie Kopell in “That Girl”

So, if you get a chance, take a look at  That Girl. While by today’s standards That Girl may just seem like a silly T.V. sitcom, it was actually the beginning of a feminist revolution.

Meeks Cutoff – People either love or hate this Independent film

Meeks Cutoff, directed by Kelly Reichardt, is a realistic, gripping drama about the struggle for survival on the 1849 Oregon Trail. It is not fair to call this film a Western, since it has none of the Hollywood clichés usually associated with that genre. It follows a group of settlers trying to cross the high plains by wagon, as they slowly realize that they might not survive the trip.

The settlers are guided by Steven Meek (perfectly played by Bruce Greenwood), who looks like an expert  guide. He is completely self-confident, has the long hair, beard and buckskin jacket associated with pioneer scouts. Meek loves entertaining everyone with tails of his past adventures.

Settlers in Meeks Cutoff in search of water

Settlers in Meeks Cutoff in search of water

However, the settlers have endured weeks of wandering and are running low on food and water. They are quickly coming to the conclusion that despite his bravado, Meek has no idea what he is doing or where they are.

Bruce Greenwood as Mr. Meek in "Meeks Cutoff"

Bruce Greenwood as Mr. Meek in “Meeks Cutoff”

Kelly Reichardt’s direction and filming are wonderful. You can feel the thirst and exhaustion of these travelers. There is no background music and at times there is no sound other than the repetitive scraping of an ungreased wagon wheel.

Rod Rondeaux as the mysterious Indian in Meeks Cutoff

Rod Rondeaux as the mysterious Indian in Meeks Cutoff

There is a panic when the group discovers they are being followed by a Cayuse Indian (brilliantly played by Rod Rondeaux). Meek and the other men capture the Indian. Meek wants to kill him immediately before he can alert other “savages”. However Meek is faced down by Emily Tetherow (wonderfully portrayed by Michelle Williams). Her argument is not that it would be immoral to kill the Indian. Instead, she points out that since the Indian is alive, he must know where water is.

Michelle Williams in Meeks Cutoff

Michelle Williams in Meeks Cutoff

No one, including Meek can speak the Indian’s language. In fact, it is only Meek’s guess that the Indian is a Cayuse. However, they give the Indian a good blanket and try their best to demonstrate that they will give him another blanket in payment if he leads them to water.

The Indian gets the idea, and begins leading the little wagon train, while Meek closely watches him. It is unclear if they are being lead to water, or an ambush.

Meeks Cutoff director Kelly Reichardt

Meeks Cutoff director Kelly Reichardt

Moviegoers tend to either love of hate films by Kelly Reichardt, with no in between. People who hate Kelly Reichardt films find them too slow moving and are frustrated that they many times have no conclusion. Often her movies seem to just stop at a certain point. It can seem like the movies simply end whenever Kelly Reichardt happens to run out of film.

However, we are in the group of people who love Kelly Reichardt movies. The subject material is always fascinating. In stressful situations the characters behave like real people rather than Hollywood action heroes. As for the way Kelly Reichardt ends movies, as frustrating as that is, this is one of the things that make her films so realistic. In real life you don’t get all the answers, see poetic justice, or find out what happened to everyone. The endings of Kelly Reichardt films are what makes people continue to discuss and debate the films years after having seen them.

The Death of Channel Awesome

Sexual harassment, unsafe working conditions, copyright infringement, physical threats and starvation pay are just some of the conditions  that have been rampant at Channel Awesome. This is all according to a 70 page memo issued on line by numerous people formerly associated with the upstart internet company. That’s right seventy pages documenting these abuses.

Michael Michaud CEO of Channel Awesome

Michael Michaud CEO of Channel Awesome

This is disappointing and shocking to those of us who loved watching the shows on Channel Awesome. From the outside,  Channel Awesome appeared to be such a fun place to work, where everyone got along and everyone shared in whatever small profits were to be made. We even posted a story called 6 Reasons Why Channel Awesome Is Great.

Doug Walker - The "Nostalgia Critic" and "That Guy With Glasses"

Doug Walker – The “Nostalgia Critic” and “That Guy With Glasses”

In fact, Channel Awesome was started as an alternative to the internet giant YouTube (which is owned  by Google). Contributors to YouTube complain that it is almost impossible to make much money uploading videos, no matter how many hits they receive. As a near monopoly, Google gets almost all the money, and sets all the terms.  YouTube also takes down videos that receive even the slightest complaint of copyright  infringement, even if the complaint is totally ridiculous.  As a contributor to YouTube, you are basically considered guilty with no right to appeal other than a cumbersome and costly fight.

Holly Brown, former head of H.R. for Channel Awesome

Holly Brown, former head of H.R. for Channel Awesome

However, behind the scenes, Channel Awesome was not the YouTube-alternative paradise  it appeared. Most of the criticism revolves around CEO Michael Michaud, who allegedly is a truly terrible person. Like all great scandals, the Michael Michaud scandal involves sex, violence and money. Michaud is accused of sexually harassing almost every woman who ever worked for Channel Awesome. He also has a violent temper and goes into rages against employees and contributors (those who upload videos to Channel Awesome).

Lindsay Ellis, the former "Nostalgia Chick"

Lindsay Ellis, the former “Nostalgia Chick”

Reportedly Michael Michaud fired the head of H.R. Holly Brown, since she was 15 minutes late for a Skype call. He then made physical threats against her to the point where she had to hide in a “safe house”.

Robert & Doug Walker

Robert & Doug Walker

The money controversy revolves around how much contributors get for their product. Contributors are the people who have their videos on Channel Awesome. Without them Channel Awesome cannot exist. They complain that Channel Awesome became every bit as bad as YouTube, with the contributors doing all the work and Channel Awesome taking almost all the money.  It is tempting to say that maybe this is just a few malcontents complaining. However, the statistics show otherwise.  Contributors to Channel Awesome have been leafing in droves. One year ago there were 41 regular contributors to Channel Awesome. Today there are 10.

Looking at the evolution of Channel Awesome, we are reminded of the George Orwell book Animal Farm. The animals take over the farm, but by the end the new farm is just as corrupt and evil as the old farm.  The Animal Farm line “some animals are more equal than  others” applies perfectly to Channel Awesome. There is a lot of money being made, however, it is being horded by a small few at the top.

There is a lot of debate as to how much blame to attribute to Doug Walker, whose brand names are The Nostalgia Critic and That Guy With Glasses. His show is great,and he seems like such a nice guy in the  videos.  So far, the has been completely silent surrounding the controversies at Channel Awesome.  However, that is the problem. He is too big a star at the station to not take sides. Many say he is committing what Roman Catholics would call Sins Of Omission.  Critics say Doug Walker is a defacto part of management and must take responsibility.

Doug Walker has a real money problem. He does not own the rights to the internet character The Nostalgia Critic. Somehow Michael Michaud was able to get control of that. If Doug Walker leaves Channel Awesome, he has to start over with a completely new character and rebuild followers from scratch. Does he have the courage to walk away from the money to do what is morally right?

However, others say Doug Walker is more directly involved in the problem, especially when it comes to the fun spoof “movies” that Channel Awesome makes. Most of the actors in these films got paid nothing other than airfare. However, Channel Awesome and Doug Walker made lots of money selling DVSs of these movies. The other people involved did not even get a free DVD of the film.

Lindsay Ellis, formerly known as the Nostalgia Chick on Channel Awesome has come out strongly on the side of those criticizing Channel Awesome. This make a difference, as Lindsay Ellis is one of the smartest and most respected people on the internet. Anything she posts or says is fact-based and well researched. If she says something at Channel smells, that you can believe it stinks.

Will Channel Awesome die? In effect, it already has. Even if the company does not go bankrupt, the dream of a place where creators of unique and fun videos would be treated with respect is already dead. The internet continues to be a place where the creators of content are the lowest people on the Totem Pole.  On the internet, budding writers, film makers, video producers and actors make pennies while huge profits go to the the corporations using their work. Maybe someday a new platform will come along to accomplish what Channel Awesome could not.

An Eye For Beauty – A Quebec Love Story

An Eye For Beauty is a love story that takes place in Quebec, but is also a love story about Quebec. The breathtaking beauty of the Province of Quebec is as much a character in the film as the actors themselves.  After watching An Eye For Beauty you will want to immediately pack up and move to Quebec. At the very least you will wish you had paid more attention in French class.

Eric Bruneau & Melanie Thierry in "An Eye For Beauty"

Eric Bruneau & Melanie Thierry in “An Eye For Beauty”

Eric Bruneau stars as Luc,  a French-Canadian architect living in rural Quebec designing incredibly beautiful homes. His life seems perfect. He is surrounded by a group of loving friends. His wife Stephanie (Melanie Thierry) is smart, talented and gorgeous. Then, bit by bit things start to fall apart. Stephanie is slowly falling into a deep depression, and nothing seems to be able to stop it.

"An Eye for Beauty" features beautiful Quebec homes.

“An Eye for Beauty” features beautiful Quebec homes.

Luc is invited to Toronto to be part of a panel of architects judging the work of promising students. Luc realizes he is the “token French-Canadian”, but decides to join the panel anyway. In Toronto he meets Lindsey,  (Melanie Merkowsky) who is running the panel, and the the two of them begin a passionate affair.

Eric Bruneau & Melanie Thierry in "An Eye For Beauty"

Eric Bruneau & Melanie Merkowsky in “An Eye For Beauty”

The love scenes in An Eye For Beauty are lovely and erotic, since they are quite natural. In fact, unlike most movies, all the people in An Eye For Beauty are real and complex.  An Eye For Beauty demonstrates that being successful and attractive and well off does not insulate a person from the tragedies of every day life.

Quebec

Quebec

In some ways, the beauty seems like a cruel joke to Luc’s wife Stephanie. She asks herself “how can she possibly not be happy.” She should be ecstatic with the perfect life, yet her depression keeps getting worse.

Melanie Thierry is Stephanie in "An Eye For Beauty"

Melanie Thierry is Stephanie in “An Eye For Beauty”

Anyone who has ever dealt with someone truly  clinically depressed will realize how accurate Melanie Thierry’s portrayal is. There is often no outside reason for depression, and seeing everyone around you being happy just makes it feel worse.

Skiing in Quebec

Skiing in Quebec

An Eye For Beauty is is French and English, depending upon what part of Canada the people are in and who is speaking. It is interesting that when the French Canadian goes to Toronto he has to speak English to everyone . However,  when Lindsey from Toronto goes to Quebec, she speaks English to everyone, without even attempting a French word. No doubt this double standard in supposedly bi-lingual Canada drives Quebeckers crazy.

An Eye For Beauty is an exquisitely filmed move. There are stunning scenes of rural Quebec with its breathing vistas, wildlife and homes. The love story is real and the tragedies  and heart wrenching. An Eye For Beauty is a film worth watching.

Red Sparrow – Jennifer Lawerence’s Worst Movie

Even Jennifer Lawrence naked does not make Red Sparrow worth watching. The plot is dull, the acting wooden and the sex scenes amazingly non-erotic. It is also a remake of a low budget 1985 movie called Secret Weapons starring James Franciscus, Linda Hamilton, Gina Davis & Sally Kellerman  The low budget Secret Weapons was actually far better than Red Sparrow.

Jennifer Lawrence & Joel Edgerton in Red Sparrow

Jennifer Lawrence & Joel Edgerton in Red Sparrow

Jennifer Lawrence is one of our favorite actresses, so it was a shame to see her in  Red Sparrow, which seemed to have no purpose other than to show Jennifer Lawrence naked as often as possible. She is naked during spy training; naked in hotel rooms, and she is even naked when being tortured. For her whole career, Jennifer Lawrence has fought against taking roles that exploit women. Why she gave in for a piece of junk like Red Sparrow is a mystery.  Either she needed the money (which we doubt), or she actually thought Red Sparrow would be good. Get a new agent to find better scripts Jennifer.

From Russia With Love - 1964

From Russia With Love – 1964

Jennifer Lawrence plays Russian ballerina Dominika Egorova  who breaks her leg in an accident. She is then recruited by her uncle into a spy school. There  they train beautiful young women and men to become seductive “under cover” agents. She is sent on assignment to seduce a CIA agent (Played by Joel Edgerton) and get all his secrets. Of course, she falls in love with him, just like the female Russian spy in  the James Bond movie From Russia With Love.

Boris & Natasha - the Russian agents from the Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoons

Boris & Natasha – the Russian agents from the Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoons

Not a single actor in Red Sparrow is actually Russian, and they all use a variety of Russian “accents”. The result is that they all sound like people mimicking Boris and Natasha from the old Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons.

"Secret Weapons" in 1985 has Sally Kellerman, Linda Hamilton & Gina as seductive Soviet agents

“Secret Weapons” in 1985 has Sally Kellerman, Linda Hamilton & Gina as seductive Soviet agents

The 1985 film Secret Weapons was far better  with more interesting plot twists and even better acting. (The Soviet Union was still around when Secret Weapons was made.) Unlike Red Sparrow, the spy school in Secret Weapons concentrated on much more than the art of seduction. The Soviet spies were being taught to become undercover Americans. They  were trained to have American accents, and were given false American backgrounds. Their goals were to infiltrate the United States and eventually marry high level government and military officials. Red Sparrow would have been better if it had stuck with the original plot instead of concentrating just on the  sex.

Anna Chapman - the real Russian spy who was caught in the U.S. in 2010

Anna Chapman – the real Russian spy who was caught in the U.S. in 2010

The 1985 Secret Weapons actually predicted the real Russian plan which Anna Chapman and her fellow spies tried to carry out over 35 years later. Ironically for the modern Russian spies, the seduction worked in reverse. Anna Chapman and her fellow spies completely fell in love with the materialism of the United States. Instead of gathering secrets they apparently spent most of their time buying expensive luxuries  and demanding more money from their spymasters in Moscow. It would have been much more fun if Red Sparrow had been a comedy about Anna Chapman and her inept secret agents.

Jennifer Lawrence has now chosen 2 terrible movies in a row.  The weird and disgusting Mother, followed by the semi-pornographic Red Sparrow. We hope that she gets back on track and that her next film is worthy of her talents.

The Shape Of Water – A Stupid Choice for Best Picture

The Shape Of Water was a stupid choice for best picture. It plagiarizes Splash and The Creature  From the Black Lagoon but is not as good as either of those two classics. The plot was idiotic and the “creature” absurd. The Shape Of Water is reminiscent of 1950s “monster movie porn”. In the 1950s and even early 1960s movies were very tightly censored. Movie producers knew that they could increase ticket sales by revealing as much of a woman’s naked body as they could get past the censors.

Sally Hawkins (Elisa Esposito) shares lunch with The Creature in The Shape Of Water

Sally Hawkins (Elisa Esposito) shares lunch with The Creature in The Shape Of Water

The solution was what insiders jokingly  called “monster movie porn”. Every monster movie had a beautiful woman and the monster always seemed to attack when that woman was in a nightgown, or a bathing suit, or naked in the bath tub. That way producers could argue that the nudity or implied nudity was “essential to the plot”. In addition, censors tended not to waste much time watching low budget monster movies. The censors main focus was on regulating main stream movies by major studios. Consequently, the cheesy monster movies got away showing a lot more female flesh than  the Feature Films. (Male nudity,  was completely taboo.)

1954 The Creature From The Black Lagoon

1954 The Creature From The Black Lagoon

The Shape of Water pretends to be an intellectual art film about the importance of accepting people of all kinds. However, it manages to get character Sally Hawkins (wonderfully played by Elisa Esposito) naked on screen within the first 5 minutes. The film opens with her alone in her apartment where we see that she is deaf and lonely and poor. Was it really necessary to the plot to then show her naked in the bath tub?

Elisa Esposito & Octavia Spencer in The Shape Of Water

Elisa Esposito & Octavia Spencer in The Shape Of Water

The plot of The Shape Of Water was also ridiculous. The U.S. military has a sea creature locked in a secret facility where Sally and Zelda (Octavia Spencer) are cleaners. There are armed guards and closed circuit T.V. cameras everywhere. That is, everywhere except the actual room where the creature is kept. The whole point of the security is to guard the creature, but for some reason there is no guard or T.V. camera in the room where the creature is kept. In fact, security in that room is so lax that Sally often eats her lunch in that room with no one being aware of this.

Michael Shannon in The Shape Of Water

Michael Shannon in The Shape Of Water

Michael Shannon plays the evil Agent Strickland, who wants to kill The Creature. Michael Shannon’s trademark is playing “over-the-top” semi-insane authority figures. He is perhaps best known for his portrayal of FBI agent Nelson van Alden in Boardwalk Empire. However, in The Shape Of Water he really overdoes it. In one scene, he literally rips off two of his own fingers, throws them away and then continues on his quest to kill The Creature. This really seems like something that belongs in a 1950s drive-in movie horror film and not in The Best Picture Of The Year.

Julie Adams in a very revealing outfit in the 1954 The Creature From The Black Lagoon

Julie Adams in a very revealing outfit in the 1954 The Creature From The Black Lagoon

The ending of The Shape of Water (spoiler alert) is a complete rip off of Splash. At the end of  the 1984 film Splash, Tom Hanks dives into the water after the Mermaid (Daryl Hannah) only to discover that he can actually breathe underwater. At the end of  The Shape Of Water Sally dives into the water after the creature, only to discover that she can breathe underwater.

Daryl Hannah in Splash

Daryl Hannah in Splash

The worst part of The Shape Of Water getting Best Picture is that there were so many wonderful movies in 2017 that would have been better choices.  Ladybird and Get Out were both terrific movies. There was also Dunkirk, Darkest Hour, The Post and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri. Any one of these would have been a better pick for best picture than The Shape of Water.

Ratings for the Oscars ceremony have been falling for years. This is partly due to the fact that the (pompously named) Academy Of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences seems further and further out of touch with the actual movie-viewing public.

Counterpart – a terrific Sci-Fi/spy thriller

Counterpart on the Starz network is a fantastic  sci-fi/spy story thriller with a fascinating plot and great acting. Counterpart explores the possibilities of what our  lives would be like if just one or two decisions had been different. Haven’t we all wondered what the trajectories of our lives might have been if we had just made one key choice differently?

Sara Serraiocco in "Counterpart"

Sara Serraiocco in “Counterpart”

J.K. Simmonds plays Howard Silk, a low level worker at a secret agency that monitors a portal to a parallel world. Until 30 years ago the two worlds were exactly alike, including all the people, places and events. Each person has a duplicate in the other world. Then one day he is confronted by his counterpart (duplicate) from the other world, who expects Howard to help stop a deadly murderer.

J.K. Simmonds in Starz "Counterpart"

J.K. Simmonds in Starz “Counterpart”

For some unknown reason, 30 years ago the 2 worlds began to diverge. Now, the people in the two worlds are still duplicates, but their lives are different. Sara Serraiocco in our world is an accomplished violinist, but in the other world she is a deadly assassin.

Olivia Williams as Emily in "Counterpart"

Olivia Williams as Emily in “Counterpart”

Counterpart is great because it is much more of a physiological spy mystery than it is a sci-fi series. There are plots within plots and each of the characters are complex individuals. In our world Howard Silk is an unsuccessful career man, but a very good person. In the other world he is quite the opposite. Yet,  in the Ying and Yang of life there is no such things as 100% good or 100% evil. All people are a mixture of both.

Nazanin Boniadi and Sara Serraiocco in "Counterpart"

Nazanin Boniadi and Sara Serraiocco in “Counterpart”

Olivia Williams is Howard’s wife, Emily,  who is not what she seems in either world. Nazanin Boniadi is Clare,  whose motives are not truly revealed until the final episode. Harry Lloyd is Peter Quayle, a high level spy who ties to keep peace between the two worlds while sill maintaining secrecy and his job.

Harry Lloyd and J.K. Simmonds in "Counterpart"

Harry Lloyd and J.K. Simmonds in “Counterpart”

As you can tell, we are purposely trying not to give away too much of the plot. Counterpart is fascinating and beautifully acted.   In one moving episode, the Howard Silk (J.K. Simmonds)  from our world exchanges places with the “other” Howard, and secretly goes to the other world.  There he discovers he has a daughter (played by Sarah Bolger) that he never had in his world. What is worse is that the daughter cannot stand him.

Sarah Bolger

Sarah Bolger

The scenes between Sarah Bolger and J.K. Simmonds are moving and beautiful. Howard tries desperately to reconnect with his estranged daughter, without revealing that he is not actually the father she knew.

Counterpart is a series you will definitely want to binge watch. We give it our highest rating.

Chuck- The Bayonne Bleeder or the Real Rocky Balboa

Chuck is the story of boxer Chuck Wepner, the real-life inspiration for Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky. In 1975 Chuck Wepner fought Muhammad Ali for 15 rounds, when everyone said   Wepner would never last more than 3. This should have lead to a happy ending, just like the Rocky movie.  However, after the fight  Wepner’s life went on a  path of arrogance, self-destruction and eventually prison.

Chuck Wepner & Muhammad Ali fight in 1975

Chuck Wepner & Muhammad Ali fight in 1975

People love the movie character Rocky since he is a humble guy who passionately loves Adrian and never even looks at another woman. That’s not Chuck Wepner. After his fight with Ali, Wepner suddenly had the fame and respect he had never received before, and it went to his head.

Liev Schreiber & Elizabeth Moss in "Chuck"

Liev Schreiber & Elizabeth Moss in “Chuck”

Before the Ali fight , Wepner’s nickname had been  the Bayonne  Bleeder, for his tendency to bleed profusely if hit in the face. Although ranked as a “contender”, he was considered a joke in boxing circles.  He could not even make enough money to box full time. Chuck Wepner was a liquor route salesman who happened to pick up  some extra money boxing in clubs and small venues.

In 1975, Muhammad Ali thought he could make a fortune defending his heavyweight title against a White fighter, due to all the racial tension of the times.  Chuck Wepner was the only White fighter ranked in the top 10, and Wepner got the call to fight Ali. Just like the Rocky movie, Ali thought of the fight as a show, but Chuck Wepner trained hard. He even knocked Ali down during the fight.

Chuck & Linda Wepner with Liev Schreiber

Chuck & Linda Wepner with Liev Schreiber

After the fight, Wepner’s new found fame went to his head. He became a jerk, drinking  to excess and cheating on his wife. Then in 1976 the movie Rocky came out and things got 100 times worse. Wepner and his friends  thought he was Rocky, and starting referring to his movie.

Michael Rapaport is Don Wepner in "Chuck"

Michael Rapaport is Don Wepner in “Chuck”

Everyone assumed Chuck Wepner had made a fortune from the Rocky movie. However, Wepner had never even met Sylvester Stallone and never got a penny from the film. But Chuck started spending money like he was a wealthy Hollywood film star. He got into using cocaine and then started selling drugs to support his spending habits.

Chuck is a excellent and honest film. Unlike the Rocky movie, Chuck Wepner was fully involved in the production, which makes its honesty that much more remarkable.

Liev Schreiber is perfect as Chuck Wepner. Very few actors would have the physical ability to portray a 6 foot five inch bruiser, and still be able to show him as a complex character. Elizabeth Moss plays Chuck’s long-suffering wife Phyllis who inwardly is actually much tougher that Chuck as she tries to save her family.

Michael Rapaport is Chuck’s brother Don, who turns out to be a real hero when Chuck needs him most. Naomi Watts is Linda, the woman Chuck turns to as his life falls apart. Naomi Watts is so good at portraying Linda, that we never even realized it was Naomi playing the role.

Like the original Rocky movie, Chuck does have a happy ending. However, the redemption does not take place inside the boxing ring but out in the much tougher real world. Wepner finally comes to realize  that he is not Rocky Balboa, or Sylvester Stallone or even the Bayonne Bleeder. He is just Chuck from Bayonne New Jersey with only a small group of friends and family that actually know him and care who is really is. It turns out that when he finally accepts that and learns to return the love they give him it is better than being with all the shallow adoring fans. Maybe that’s not as dramatic as a Hollywood movie ending. Or maybe it is even better.

Will Season 3 Of “The Crown” Dare Mention Northern Ireland?

The Crown has so far managed to go through two complete seasons without once touching on Ireland or any Irish political struggles. The Crown has covered events in Sub-Saharan Africa, Eqypt, and even showed Prince Philip visiting Antarctica. However, Ireland has been a taboo subject.  This will be a hard policy to maintain in Season 3 of The Crown , which is already in production.

Newspaper account of Bloody Sunday in Northern Ireland

Newspaper account of Bloody Sunday in Northern Ireland

Season 2 of The Crown  ended in 1964, which means that the violent period known as The Troubles are just about to begin in Northern Ireland.  It is difficult to see how going forward The Crown will be able to present a series about Queen Elizabeth II and continue to avoid the topic of Ireland.

Below is a quick timeline of Irish events from one perspective, quoted from Gerry Adams’ Book A Farther Shore.

  • 1964 Divis Street Riots in Belfast
  • 1967 Civil Rights Association established in the north.
  • 1968  The Royal Ulster Constabulary – RUC- attack civil rights marchers in Derry.
  • 1969 Explosions occur which are initially blamed on the IRA. It subsequently emerges that they are carried out by the unionist paramilitary organization the Ulster Volunteer Force – UVF.
  • 1970 – The siege of St Matthews in The Short Strand in East Belfast and the Falls curfew by the British Army leads to significant support for the IRA.
  • 1971 – The war between the British Army and the IRA intensifies. Internment without trial is introduced.
  • 1972 – Fourteen civilians are killed on Bloody Sunday in Derry when the British Army attacks a civil rights march.
  • 1973 Bomb attacks in London.

A file photo taken on June 11, 2010 shows a memorial in Londonderry (or Derry) Northern Ireland, depicting the names of the 13 people who died on January 30, 1972, known as "Bloody Sunday" and John Johnson who died later from his injuries sustained the same day. British police said on November 10, 2015, they had arrested a former soldier for the Bloody Sunday killings in Londonderry in 1972, one of the worst atrocities in Northern Ireland's three decades of unrest. It was the first arrest since a murder investigation was opened in 2012 into the killings of 13 civil rights protesters in the streets that day. AFP PHOTO / PETER MUHLYPETER MUHLY/AFP/Getty Images

A file photo taken on June 11, 2010 shows a memorial in Londonderry (or Derry) Northern Ireland, depicting the names of the 13 people who died on January 30, 1972, known as “Bloody Sunday” and John Johnson who died later from his injuries sustained the same day. British police said on November 10, 2015, they had arrested a former soldier for the Bloody Sunday killings in Londonderry in 1972, one of the worst atrocities in Northern Ireland’s three decades of unrest. It was the first arrest since a murder investigation was opened in 2012 into the killings of 13 civil rights protesters in the streets that day. AFP PHOTO / PETER MUHLYPETER MUHLY/AFP/Getty Images

Season 3 of The Crown will be taking place exactly when all these events occurred. Will The Crown continue to ignore Ireland and instead focus only on the various royal sex scandals? We hope that instead, The Crown will take the riskier approach of trying to show the reaction of  Queen Elizabeth II as a part or her “empire” is being torn apart and its citizens killing each other.

Queen Elizabeth II & Lord Mountbatten

Queen Elizabeth II & Lord Mountbatten

It is hard to imagine that The Crown Season 3 will possibly be able to ignore August 27, 1979. That was the day an IRA bomb killed Lord Mountbatten, who was the great uncle of Prince Charles. He had been a mentor to Charles, who was devastated by his death. On that same day, in an IRA shootout and ambush, the IRA killed 17 British soldiers in Northern Ireland.

Of course, the Queen is forbidden by the Constitution from taking a political stance. However, as we have seen in the first two seasons of The Crown  Queen Elizabeth II is quite determined to have a behind-the-scenes influence on major world events.

What exactly are the views of Queen Elizabeth II in regards to Ireland, Northern Ireland and the various political and paramilitary groups? Did she play any role in bringing  the warring factions together for  the eventual peace process ? Was she aware that the elite British SAS force was  being used as an assassination squad in Northern Ireland to kill suspected members of the IRA with no trial and many times no evidence? Perhaps the producers of The Crown don’t really know and don’t want to take a chance by making wild guesses about such a touchy subject.

Queen Elizabeth II shakes hands with former IRA Commander Martin McGuinness

Queen Elizabeth II shakes hands with former IRA Commander Martin McGuinness

The Good Friday Agreement was only signed in 1998 and many people in Ireland and the U.K.  have been walking on eggshells ever since, worried that the slightest insult, or misunderstanding could set off events in Northern Ireland. Maybe that is just too much pressure for the writers of The Crown to face.

Prince Charles & Gerry Adams share a handshake & conversation.

Prince Charles & Gerry Adams share a handshake & conversation.

Tourists  to Ireland and Northern Ireland often quickly find out how hard it is to get the Irish to talk to outsiders about any political subject. Ask about the IRA or the UVF or any events of The Troubles and you will find the Irish quickly and politely change the subject to a nice friendly chat about the weather or local sporting events.

American author William Faulkner famously wrote that “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” Of course, he was not referring to Northern Ireland, but that quote describes perfectly the Irish “situation.”

Every word spoken about Northern Ireland is a potential landmine, which is undoubtedly why The Crown has chosen so far to pretend that Northern Ireland does not exist. Even today, a fight can quickly ensue depending on whether or not you refer to  a particular town in Northern Ireland as  Derry or Londenderry

So will Season 3 of  The Crown dare take on Northern Ireland? Well, no  matter which direction Season 3 of The Crown takes, we know one thing for sure. We will be watching it.

Loving Vincent – The Mystery of Vincent van Gogh’s Death

Loving Vincent is an exquisitely drawn film exploring the final days of Vincent van Gogh, and the mystery of van Gogh’s death.  Don’t dare call it a cartoon. Over 100 original painting’s in the van Gogh style were commissioned for this film. Top tier actors and a fascinating plot make you feel like you have actually stepped inside a van Gogh painting.

Douglas Booth as Armand Roulin in "Loving Vincent"

Douglas Booth as Armand Roulin in “Loving Vincent”

Loving Vincent envelopes the audience in an 1890 world of vibrant colors, emotions and characters that van Gogh was able to capture for all time in his paintings. The plot delves into the mystery surrounding the death of Vincent van Gogh. Most people today simply accept as fact that the emotionally unstable van Gogh committed suicide. However, Loving Vincent shows that van Gogh actually might have been murdered.

Saoirse Ronan as Margaret Gachet in "Loving Vincent"

Saoirse Ronan as Margaret Gachet in “Loving Vincent”

Loving Vincent is the true story of a quest undertaken by Armand Roulen (played by Douglas Booth) to deliver to Vincent van Gogh’s brother the last letter than Vincent ever wrote. Along the way. Roulen discovers that van Gogh’s death may have been more that just a straight forward suicide.

Final words of Vincent van Gogh

Final words of Vincent van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh died on July 29th, 1980 of a gunshot wound inflicted 2 days earlier. Although van Gogh himself insisted he had tried to kill himself, the physical facts made no sense.  Who shoots himself in the stomach when trying to commit suicide? Was van Gogh trying to protect someone by claiming he had actually shot himself?

The list of murder suspects is long. Today the world reveres Vincent van Gogh as an artistic genius. However, while he was alive, he was considered a crazy trouble maker whose artwork was idiotic and bad.

van Gogh self portrait

van Gogh self portrait

In his lifetime, Vincent van Gogh only sold one painting. He lived off the charity of others. His brother Theo gave Vincent so much money over the years that Theo almost went bankrupt.

Vincent van Gogh’s main patron was Doctor Gachet (played by Jerome Flynn). Doctor Gachet recognized the artistic genius of van Gogh but was also extremely jealous of it. Vincent even lived with the Gachet family for a time, and gave most of his paintings to Dr. Gachet in return for Gachet’s help.

van Gogh painting of Margaret Gachet at piano

van Gogh painting of Margaret Gachet at piano

However, Dr. Gachet did not like that Vincent was becoming too close to Gachet’s daughter Margaret (played by Saoirse Ronan). Doctor Gachet and Vincent had a huge, almost violent,  argument and Vincent was no longer welcome at the Gachet home. Margaret Gachet never married, and her whole live she proudly displayed in her home, a painting van Gogh had done of her at a piano.

van Gogh painting sells for $109.4 Million

van Gogh painting sells for $109.4 Million

Like van Gogh’s paintings themselves, Loving Vincent is not intended to be an exact representation of reality. Vincent van Gogh’s painting were meant to elicit an emotional response. They show the beauty, complexity and hidden colors and feelings in every day scenes that most people take for granted. Loving Vincent shows the beauty and hidden depth of a man who was at the time either ridiculed or overlooked by most people.

Van Gogh’s simple painting of flowers  sold at auction for $109,400,000. Do people really see today what Vincent van Gogh was trying to show them, or are they just interested in a good investment? We wonder what van Gogh would think of the fabulous sums of money rich people are now willing to pay for his paintings. Ironically, van Gogh was never interested in rich people. His painting were not portraits of the wealthy, but views of ordinary people, scenes and events.

Loving Vincent is a wonderful film and we highly recommend it.

Cablevision drops Starz and Encore and Cheats Its Customers

Cablevision just dropped the Starz and Encore networks, without any drop in price to Cablevision customers. In fact, this was just one month after Cablevision had actually raised its prices. Less service for a higher price. Starz has some of our favorite shows, including, Outlander, Power and Ash vs Evil Dead, all of which we have reviewed on this blog.

Cablevision abruptly dropped Starz, but did not lower the fees to Cablevision customers

Cablevision abruptly dropped Starz, but did not lower the fees to Cablevision customers

This move by Cablevision  is typical of the way that all cable providers continue to behave as if they still have a monopoly and can treat customers any way they want. In fact, cable companies should be bending over backwards to be giving more service to customers and lowering their prices. People no longer need cable companies to get access to shows. Many people are going “unplugged “and getting access through the internet or satellite with no payments to any cable provider.

Outlander is gone from Cablevision

Outlander is gone from Cablevision

The behavior of Cablevision and other cable providers is reminiscent of the way that Blockbuster once treated its customers. Blockbuster not only charged a lot to rent movies, it also hit up  their customers with ridiculous late fees. You had to physically return a video before the due date, but the system was rigged to maximize the late fees.

Will Cablevision one day go the way of Blockbuster?

Will Cablevision one day go the way of Blockbuster?

Most people rented movies on Saturday or Sunday, since it was hard to get to Blockbuster during the work week. However, if you rented on a Saturday, the movie was due by Wednesday. If you returned it the next Saturday, you owed as much on late fees as you had paid to rent the movie. In the early days of Blockbuster, they even charged a 50 cent “rewind fee” on tapes. (Remember the days before DVDs when you had to rewind tapes?)

Power is no longer available on Cablevision

Power is no longer available on Cablevision

While Blockbuster was squeezing their customers for every nickle, Netflix was busy reinventing the business. With Nexflix, customers could get videos at home and keep them as long as they wanted with no late fees. Blockbuster could have beaten Netflix, if Blockbuster had reacted quickly. In the early days, Blockbuster actually had many more titles available than Netflix.

Tower records once seemed like a money making machine.

Tower records once seemed like a money making machine.

Blockbuster should have eliminated late fees, and started letting people order movies online and shipping them to people’s homes. At the time, Blockbuster had the financial might, the customer base and the video library to be able to wipe out Netflix. However, Blockbuster was so intent on trying to maximize short term profits, that it ignored the anger of its customers.

Towards  the end, Blockbuster finally realized the danger it was in, and did try  to fight back against Netflix. Blockbuster eliminated all late fees, lowered its rental charges and began using the internet. But it was too late. Angry customers had left Blockbuster in droves and they never came back.  Blockbuster went bankrupt and its outlets closed.

Cablevision thinks it can cheat its customers forever.

Cablevision thinks it can cheat its customers forever.

Will Cablevision and the other cable providers one day go the way of Blockbuster? They are certainly making the same mistakes as Blockbuster, by arrogantly ignoring competition from new technologies. Some day, perhaps sooner than expected, the idea of paying a company hundreds of dollars a month for video content will seem as as antiquated as dial up internet access.

So our message to Cablevision is simple. Ignore the best interests of you customers and soon they will ignore you. If you think you can last forever, just remember Yahoo, AOL, Tower Records and Blockbuster.

Editor’s note: Since the first  publication of this story, Optimum Online Cablevision has announced that it made a deal with Starz. The Starz Network will be returning to Cablevision, along with Encore. This is planned for the end of February 2018.  Of course, Cablevision is not planning any refund to Cablevision customers for the 2 months they did not have Starz or Encore. Congratulations to the thousands of Cablevision customers who called and emailed Cablevision to demand the return of Starz and Enclore. Customers need to continually remind the large cable companies that the ultimate power lies with the customer.

SMILF- Rosie O’Donnell Gives The Best Performances Of Her Career

In Showtime’s series SMILF, Rosie O’Donnell gives the best performances of her career. Her character is “Tutu”, a tough, loud, crazy,  but loving Boston-Irish mother whose entire goal is to make sure that her daughter has a better life than Tutu’s own miserable upbringing. It is the role of a lifetime for Rosie O’Donnell, and she is perfect in the part.

Rosie O'Donnell is perfect as Tutu on SMILF

Rosie O’Donnell is perfect as Tutu on SMILF

The SMILF (Single Mom I’d Like to F**K) herself is Bridgette Bird, Tutu’s daughter. Brigitte is played by Frankie Shaw, who is also SMILF’s creator  and main writer. Frankie Shaw’s writing  and acting talents are amazing.  SMILF has comedy, pathos, fantasy sequences, and yet the characters are always true to life. Some of the best scenes are the interactions between Tutu and her daughter Brigitte. A scene may begin with the two of them having a screaming argument but end with Tutu gently giving her winter coat to Bridgette and making sure Bridgette does not get cold walking  home. SMILF reflects the hate-love-insane relationship between a mother and daughter when both are strong willed, stubborn, independent women.

Frankie Shaw as Wonder Woman on SMILF

Frankie Shaw as Wonder Woman on SMILF

In many ways Rosie O’Donnell is like the character she plays on SMILF. Rosie’s career and life have had huge ups and downs. The downs are usually because Rosie O’Donnell does something crazy to sabotage herself. For example, Rosie O’Donnell at one point said that she thought there might actually be something to the conspiracy theories claiming that the Bush Administration, not outside terrorists, was responsible for destroying the World Trade Center on 9/11. This idiotic statement got her hated for years, especially in the New York area.

SMILF pay homage to the German film Run Lola Run

SMILF pays homage to the German film Run Lola Run

Rosie O’Donnell also managed to get herself fired from The View, not once but twice. The View is that obnoxious T.V. show where a bunch of very loud women sit around screeching about subjects that they think are interesting.  If you can watch this show for more than 10 minutes you deserve a medal. Rosie simply could not take a back seat to any of the other women, especially Barbra Walters or Whoopi Goldberg. In any difference of opinion Rosie just could not let go of the argument. Apparently when the cameras were off,  there were several occasions where Rosie O’Donnell had to be physically restrained from attacking one or more of the other women back stage.

Samara Weaving as Nelson Rose in SMILF (Season 1, Episode 3). - Photo Credit: Lacey Terrell/SHOWTIME. - Photo ID: SMILF_103_1550.R.jpg

Samara Weaving as Nelson Rose in SMILF (Season 1, Episode 3). – Photo Credit: Lacey Terrell/SHOWTIME. – Photo ID: SMILF_103_1550.R.jpg

However, these  very personality flaws are what make Rosie O’Donnell so perfect to play the wild mother in SMILF. In one episode Tutu (Rosie) has a manic episode in whcih she wades into Boston harbor in the middle of winter. She then walks to her local bank to withdraw money. When a concerned bank official points out that she is soaking wet, Tutu calmly and politely points out that as far as she knows there are no rules against withdrawing funds while wearing wet clothing.

Ravin Goodwin & Frankie Shaw on SMILF

Ravin Goodwin & Frankie Shaw on SMILF

The apple does not fall far from the tree for Tutu’s daughter Bridgette. This single mom has a very hard life tying to make ends meet on a series of dead-end jobs. However, she does have a wild fantasy life where she imagines what her life should be. In one episode, Bridgette imagines herself as Wonder Woman, complete with the costume and swordplay. Another episode of SMILF is a takeoff on the famous German film Run Lola Run. (If you have never seen Run Lola Run, we highly recommend it). The Run Bridgette Run  episode of SMILF  even has parts where Bridgette’s hair turns bright red, and she starts speakign German. Viewers who had never seen the German original probably wondered what the Hell was going on.

Frankie Shaw on SMILF. Beautiful, crazy, complex, but a great mom.

Frankie Shaw on SMILF. Beautiful, crazy, complex, but a great mom.

Frankie Shaw has taken a real chance in creating the character of Bridgette Bird on SMILF. Bridgette is not perfect at all. She is beautiful, but also very self centered. There are times where Bridgette is unnecessarily cruel to her friends and especially her mother. However, Bridgette’s redeeming quality is that her son Larry (yes she named her son Larry Bird) is always the most important aspect of her life. No matter what other stresses there are, Bridgette never loses her patience with Larry, and always makes sure he is well taken care of.

Connie Britton as Ally in SMILF Rich but half crazy

Connie Britton as Ally in SMILF Rich but half crazy

The rest of the cast is also terrific. Rafi Gomez is Rafi, the baby daddy, who has his own struggles with alcoholism and relationships. Connie Britton is Ally, a rich Bostonian who Bridgette works for part time as a handy woman and confidant. Ally shows that even people with lots of money can have crazy lives. Samara Weaving is Nelson Rose, Rafi’s new girlfriend. She is optimistic, cheerful and successful; everything Bridgette is not, and it drives Bridgette crazy. Raven Goodwin plays Bridgette’s best friend Eliza, who is responsible for bringing some sense of sanity into Bridgette’s life. Everyone needs a best friend like Eliza.

We recommend SMILF as one of the best new shows.

Hamlet 2 – The Musical sequel to Shakespeare’s classic play

Hamlet 2 is a hilarious 2008  comedy about a high school drama teacher who decides to create a musical sequel to Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The fact that every character dies in the original Hamlet is the first obstacle to overcome. Drama teacher Dana Marschz (played by Steve Coogan) has a bizarre solution.  Hamlet 2 uses a time machine, Jesus, and a collection of semi-obscene musical numbers to set everything right.

Steve Coogan as Jesus in "Hamlet 2"

Steve Coogan as Jesus in “Hamlet 2”

The drama students all realize that Mr. Marschz is having some sort of mental breakdown. His marriage is falling apart and his career is a failure. He so desperately wants Hamlet 2 to work, that his students decide to give it their all; knowing that an idea of a sequel to Hamlet is idiotic.

Joseph Julia Soria in “Hamlet 2”

Joseph Julian Soria is Octavio Marquez, the de facto leader of the students. He pretends to be a tough street-wise kid, but actually comes from a wealthy and well-educated family. When the school administrators decide to ban Hamlet 2, Octavio takes this as a chance to become the rebel he has always wanted to be.

Skylar Astin & Phoebe Strole discuss "Hamlet 2"

Skylar Astin & Phoebe Strole discuss “Hamlet 2”

Elizabeth Shue plays herself, as a frustrated actress who has left Hollywood due to all the insincerity  the business. However, when she sees the passion behind the attempt to make Hamlet 2, it rekindles her love of acting. Phoebe Strole is student Epiphany, who is a star in Hamlet 2 and one of the main singers, with a beautiful voice. Skylar Astin is Rand, who changes from believing that Mr. Marschz is crazy to  simply believing in Mr. Marschz.

Steve Coogan & Elizabeth Shue in Hamlet 2

Steve Coogan & Elizabeth Shue in Hamlet 2

One of the best parts of Hamlet 2 is that we actually do get to see the the play. “Incredible” is the only word that describes it. Hamlet 2 is sort of a cross between Jesus Christ Superstar, The Time Machine, and Grease. One of the parents (played by Marco Rodriguez) states it best when he says. “I am at once both horrified yet fascinated”.

Hamlet 2 is a fun, silly movie to watch. It reminds us how important it is to believe in our friends’  ideas, no matter how idiotic  or impossible to achieve their ideas may seem.

“The Crown” Insults Jackie Kennedy

Netflix The Crown portrayed Jacqueline Kennedy as a drug addicted, anorexic idiot who felt completely inferior to Queen Elizabeth. President John F. Kennedy was portrayed as a wife-beating moron who did not know how properly address Royalty and who pumped Jackie full of drugs against her will. The Crown episode “Dear Mrs. Kennedy”  is an insult to the memories of Jack & Jackie Kennedy.

Jodi Balfor as Jackie Kennedy in The Crown

Jodi Balfour as Jackie Kennedy in The Crown

Jodi Balfour gives one of the worst Jackie Kennedy impressions of all time. This South African actress somehow makes the elegant Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy sound like she has a thick New York accent.  In addition, Jodi Balfour does not look like Jackie Kennedy. The real Mrs. Kennedy was slim and elegant. Jodi Balfour simply looked anorexic; like a bread-stick in an evening gown.

Michael C. Hall as Jack Kennedy in "The Crown"

Michael C. Hall as Jack Kennedy in “The Crown”

Michael C. Hall as John F. Kennedy was just awful. Michael C. Hall, is best known as the star of Dexter, in which he was perfect.  In The Crown, Michael C. Hall kept trying to do what was supposed to be a Boston Accent. It was not. He also had Jack Kennedy being tongue tied and awkward when speaking to the Royal family. The real Jack Kennedy was never awkward. The real Jack Kennedy was at ease addressing people of any station in life. It was one of his greatest strengths.

.S. President John Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy return to the Quai d'Orsay in Paris, France on May 31, 1961. The President and the First Lady return from a formal dinner given at the Elysees Palace as guests of French President Charles De Gaulle. (AP Photo)

U.S. President John Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy return to the Quai d’Orsay in Paris, France on May 31, 1961. The President and the First Lady return from a formal dinner given at the Elysees Palace as guests of French President Charles De Gaulle. (AP Photo)

As bad as the acting was, the plot was worse, and completely false. The Dear Mrs. Kennedy Episode of The Crown  takes place just after the Kennedy’s triumphant trip to Paris, during which Jackie Kennedy charmed Charles de Gaulle with her fluent French. In the  actual historical event President Kennedy was thrilled with the way all of France fell in love with  Jackie Kennedy. Charles de Gaulle was notoriously difficult to negotiate with, and Jackie Kennedy smoothed the way for a successful negotiation between the French and the Americans. Jackie Kennedy was more useful than all the ambassadors and State Department professionals put together.

Jack & Jackie Kennedy with Charles de Gaulle

Jack & Jackie Kennedy with Charles de Gaulle

However, in The Crown,  the show has President Kennedy  being jealous of Jackie to the point where he physically beats her after the dinner with de Gaulle. It also has Jack Kennedy as a drug addict who gives drugs to Jacqueline to make her perform better at public events.

Jackie Kennedy

Jackie Kennedy

This is such a twisting of facts that it it obscene. President Kennedy suffered from Addison’s Disease and also had back pain from injuries suffered in World War II. During the War his PT Boat 109 was cut in half by a Japanese destroyer. He had to swim miles to shore, dragging a wounded man through the water. This gave him permanent back trouble.  Jack Kennedy took doctor prescribed medications for these ailments. He was not a drug addict. He was a war hero. He did have affairs with many women. However, the idea of Jack Kennedy physically attacking Jacqueline is absurd.

05 June 1961 Buckingham Palace Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip host Queen's Dinner for President and Mrs. Kennedy. U. S. Department of State photograph in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.

05 June 1961 Buckingham Palace Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip host Queen’s Dinner for President and Mrs. Kennedy. U. S. Department of State photograph in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.

The real Jacqueline Kennedy took no drugs and was not a heavy drinker. Jackie Kennedy’s father, the strikingly handsome “Black Jack” Bouvier was an alcoholic, and in fact was so inebriated that he could not attend Jacqueline’s wedding to Jack Kennedy. Because of this, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy was very careful her whole life not to follow in her father’s footsteps. She never drank to excess and never got into illegal drugs.

"Black Jack" Bouvier, the father of Jackie Bouvier Kennedy

“Black Jack” Bouvier, the father of Jackie Bouvier Kennedy

In The Crown, Jackie Kennedy is at a party high on drugs and alcohol and says insulting things about Queen Elizabeth II. Later in the episode, Jackie begs forgiveness of the Queen in a private meeting, basically grovelling and confessing that Jack Kennedy beats her and gives her drugs.

Michael C. Hall & Jodi Balfor as Jack & Jackie Kennedy

Michael C. Hall & Jodi Balfour as Jack & Jackie Kennedy

The Crown is generally an excellent show and fun to watch . However, the Dear Mrs. Kennedy episode is such an inaccurate portrayal of Jack & Jackie Kennedy  that it makes one  question the accuracy of any of the historic figures shown in the series.

"The Crown" writer Peter Morgan

“The Crown” writer Peter Morgan

Is The Crown just a fictional result of British writer Peter Morgan pretending that The United Kingdom is the center of the universe? Many people today argue that  the modern U.K. is a third-rate power and that Queen Elizabeth II is closer to a Disneyland attraction than she is to a World Leader. Her only function is to attract tourists to the U.K., much like the Disney Princesses bringing in the crowds to the theme park.  Is the writer Peter Morgan having The Crown change historical events to make it look like Queen Elizabeth II really was a major world leader at one time?

The real Jack & Jackie Kennedy

The real Jack & Jackie Kennedy

If the writer of The Crown wants to make Queen Elisabeth II seem more interesting and stronger than she really is; that is fine. Just don’t do it by insulting the memory of Jacqueline Kennedy who was one of the strongest women of the century in all the ways that truly matter.  She deserves better than that.

ILL Behaviour – The comedy about Cancer & Kidnapping

ILL Behaviour is the British  comedy about Cancer & Kidnapping now playing on Showtime. As bizarre as this sounds, it is really funny. Tom Riley plays Charlie, who has just been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The good news is that chemotherapy has a 94% cure rate for this disease. The bad news is that Charlie refuses chemo and instead decides trying to cure himself using only fruit juices, beet paste and other “natural” medicines.

Tom Riley & Lizzy Caplan in ILL Behaviour

Tom Riley & Lizzy Caplan in ILL Behaviour

Charlie’s Friends Tess (Jessica Regan) and Joel (Chris Geere) decide that they cannot simply stand by and let Charlie die just because he is too pig headed to take chemo. Luckily, Joel is fabulously wealthy. He comes up with a plan to kidnap Charlie, hold him prisoner in a rented castle and pump him full of anti-cancer drugs against his will.

Lizzy Caplan, Chris Geere, Jessica Regan & Tom Riley (seated) in ILL Behaviour

Of course to do this, they will need an actual doctor. In comes Nadia (Lizzy Caplan), an American doctor in England, who also happens to be an alcoholic coke-head in desperate need of money. She agrees to the plot, and the kidnapping is on.

Christina Chong is Kira in ILL Behavior

Christina Chong is Kira in ILL Behavior

ILL Behaviour is a show where  the British understated sense of humor really works perfectly. Even though Joel and Tess have kidnapped Charlie, and hold him in an old castle, they want to make his life “fun.” They even give him an internet Call Of Duty game to play with, unaware that this allows Charlie to contact the other players around the world. When Charlie tells the other players that he is being held in an old castle and being given drugs against his will, the other players think it is just part of the game. “Cool. How do I get to that level?”, is the response from the other players.

Ill Behaviour's Tess (JESSICA REGAN), Joel (CHRIS GEERE) - (C) Fudge Park Too LTD - Photographer: Jon Hall

Ill Behaviour’s Tess (JESSICA REGAN), Joel (CHRIS GEERE) – (C) Fudge Park Too LTD – Photographer: Jon Hall

As the episodes go on, the plot of ILL Behaviour gets darker and darker. Charlie is married to Kira (Christina Chong) and has two kids. Kira, of course, is very upset that Charlie has disappeared, so Joel keeps going over to “console” her. Kira is beautiful and kind and Charlie starts getting used to the idea of this becoming His family.

ILL Behaviour is not for everyone. Some people may find the humor too dark and the concept too strange. However, we loved it.

“Baby It’s Cold Outside” – The Sexual Predator’s Christmas Song

Baby It’s Cold Outside is the sexual predator’s Christmas song that gets played this time of year. It is meant to be a romantic duet. But if  you really listen to the words you will see it  is a song saying that sexual harassment is O.K.  It is  the story of a young woman repeating over and over that she wants to leave.  An older, more powerful  man keeps making unwelcome sexual advances while he pressures her to stay. The “romantic” conclusion to the song is that the young woman finally gives in and stays with the man, even though this will completely destroy her reputation with her family and neighbors.

Ricardo Montalban & Ester Williams singing "Baby It's Cold Outside". Ester Williams definitely looks like a woman being sexually harassed

Ricardo Montalban & Ester Williams singing “Baby It’s Cold Outside”. Ester Williams definitely looks like a woman being sexually harassed

Baby It’s Cold Outside was written by Frank Loesser for the 1949 film Neptune’s Daughter. The surprising part is that the original song in the film is sung by Ricardo Montalban and Ester Williams, who are not known as singers.  In that version, Ricardo Montalban gets very “handsy” with Ester Williams. Several times she tries to leave his apartment and every time, he grabs her arm and moves her back onto the couch.

Ricardo Montalban forces Ester Williams back on to a couch while singing "Baby It's Cold Outside", in the film Neptune's Daughter

Ricardo Montalban forces Ester Williams back on to a couch while singing “Baby It’s Cold Outside”, in the film Neptune’s Daughter

The more times we read the lyrics to Baby It’s Cold Outside, the creepier the song seems. Especially  disturbing is the fact that the woman says “Say, what’s in this drink?” right after drinking something the man gives her. It sounds like the guy is using a page right out of Bill Cosby’s playbook. The song has been covered many times, with Dean Martin singing many versions with many different female vocalists. One of Dean Martin’s versions is what you usually hear on the radio.

Bill Cosby would be the perfect singer for "Baby It's Cold Outside."

Bill Cosby would be the perfect singer for “Baby It’s Cold Outside.”

So, here are the complete  lyrics of the duet  Baby It’s Cold Outside, and we have indicated the man and the woman’s parts. Read them and decide for yourself, if this is innocent flirtation, or a creep trying to force a young woman into doing something against her will?

Woman:   I really can’t stay
Man:          but baby, it’s cold outside
Woman:  I’ve got to go away
Man:         but baby, it’s cold outside
Woman: This evening has been
Man:        been hoping that you’d drop in
Woman: So very nice
Man         I’ll hold your hands, they’re just like ice.
Woman: My mother will start to worry
Man:        Beautiful what’s your hurry?
Woman: My father will be pacing the floor
Man         listen to the fireplace roar
Woman: So really I’d better scurry
Man:        beautiful please don’t hurry
Woman: But maybe just a half a drink more
Man:        put some records on while I pour
Woman: The neighbors might think
Man:        baby, it’s bad out there
Woman: Say what’s in this drink?
Man:        no cabs to be had out there
Woman: I wish I knew how
Man:      your eyes are like starlight now
Woman:  To break this spell
Man:        I‘ll take your hat, your hair looks swell
Woman:  I ought to say, no, no, no sir
Man:        mind if I move in closer?
Woman: At least I’m gonna say that I tried
Man:        what’s the sense in hurtin’ my pride?
Woman: I really can’t stay
Man:       oh baby don’t hold out But baby, it’s cold outside
Woman I simply must go
Man:         but baby, it’s cold outside
Woman:  The answer is no
Man:         but baby, it’s cold outside
Woman: Your welcome has been
Man:       how lucky that you dropped in
Woman: So nice and warm
Man:     look out the window at this dawn
Woman: My sister will be suspicious
Man:       gosh your lips look delicious
Woman: My brother will be there at the door
Man:       waves upon the tropical shore
Woman: My maiden aunts mind is vicious
Man:       gosh your lips are delicious
Woman: But maybe just a cigarette more
Man:        never such a blizzard before
Woman: I’ve gotta get home
Man:         but baby, you’d freeze out there
Woman:  Say lend me a coat
Man:          it’s up to your knees out there
Woman:   You’ve really been grand
Man:          i thrill when you touch my hand
Woman:   But don’t you see?
Man:         how can you do this thing to me?
Woman:   There’s bound to be talk tomorrow
Man:        think of my lifelong sorrow
Woman: At least there will be plenty implied
Man       if you got pneumonia and died
Woman:  I really can’t stay
Man:      get over that old out
Woman: Baby, it’s cold
Man:        Baby, it’s cold outside
The clear message in this 1949 song is that a woman’s “no” does not really mean “no”. The message to men is that if you simply refuse to let a woman leave, keep giving her drinks, and over and over keep pressuring her for sex, then eventually you will be successful.

Time Magazine's 2017 Person Of The Year, "The Silence Breakers"

Time Magazine’s 2017 Person Of The Year, “The Silence Breakers”

Time Magazine just named The Silence Breakers as their 2017 “Person Of The Year.” Along with the five women whose faces are shown, there is a sixth women on the cover, where we see only her elbow. That unnamed women is meant to represent the thousands of women who have been sexually harassed over the years , but whose stories have never become public. Like the woman in Baby It’s Cold Outside, who is trying over and over to politely get away from a man who simply will not stop grabbing at her.

 So we at East Cost Stories say that  2017  is the year that radio stations should finally stop playing that “Christmas Classic” Baby It’s Cold Outside. Goodbye and good riddance to this song.

The Orville – better than Star Trek Next Generation

The Orville is a high quality Sci-Fi show with good character development and great plots. We were afraid that Seth MacFarlane would give us a one-dimensional low brow Star Trek spoof. Instead, The Orville has high production values, great special effects, and plots that give interesting social commentary.

Giorgia Whigham & Seth MacFarlane star in The Orville

Giorgia Whigham & Seth MacFarlane star in The Orville

Our favorite The Orville is Episode  called Majority Rule, which is a about a planet completely run by social media. Every person of the planet wears a badge showing exactly how many “likes” or “dislikes” they have received in their lives. Your career, your social standing, even whether or not you get arrested is entirely dependent on being popular. What is true or real or right no longer matters. All that matters on that planet is being popular. Of course, this is a commentary on America’s current political climate, where truth and facts no longer seem to matter.

Giorgia Whigham and the crew of The Orville

Giorgia Whigham and the crew of The Orville

Seth MacFarlane has been able to bring together a great group of actors for the crew of The Orville and each week’s episode has terrific guest stars. Charlize Theron is a traveler from the future who tries to kidnap the crew. Giorgia Whigham stars in The Majority Rule episode.

Scott Grimes, Charlize Theron & J Lee in The Orville

Scott Grimes, Charlize Theron & J Lee in The Orville

Scott Grimes is Lieutenant Gordon Malloy, and  J. Lee is Lieutenant John Lamarr. Malloy and Lamarr enjoy playing jokes and gossiping about the fellow crew members as much as they enjoy piloting The Orville.

Seth MacFarlane & Adrianne Palicki in The Orville

Seth MacFarlane & Adrianne Palicki in The Orville

Adrianne Palicki is the Kelly Grayson, the second in command of the ship, and coincidentally the ex-wife of the commander, Ed Mercer (Seth MacFarlane). You may remember Adrianne Palicki as the fun contract killer in John Wick. Fortunately, her character’s life expectancy is a lot longer in The Orville.

Halston Sage when she is not in her The Orville makeup

Halston Sage when she is not in her The Orville makeup

One of the most interesting characters is head of security Alara Kitan (perfectly played by Halston Sage). Despite being young and small, Alara is super strong compared to humans, since she comes from a large planet with  huge gravitational pull. Her super strength intimidates all the young men she tries to date and pretty much ruins any change for a love-life. Halston Sage herself is only 24 years old, and does a remarkable job bringing this character to life.

Halston Sage as Alara Kitan in The Orville

Halston Sage as Alara Kitan in The Orville

O.K. Star Trek fans brace yourselves. We actually prefer The Orville to Star Trek Next Generation. The crew of The Orville knows how to have fun and consequently the show is fun too. Star Trek Next Generation, and especially Patrick Stewart were just so serious all the time that it got to be ridiculous.

Patrick Stewart over-acting as Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek Next Generation

Patrick Stewart over-acting as Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek Next Generation

We all know that Patrick Stewart is a great Shakespearean actor, who used to have contests with Sir Lawrence Olivier. However, Star Trek Next Generation was NOT Shakespeare and it got to be a little tedious watching Patrick Stewart pretending it was.

Peter Macon as Bortus in the new space adventure series THE ORVILLE

Peter Macon as Bortus in the new space adventure series THE ORVILLE

Peter Macon is Bortus, a macho alien from an all male planet, who lives with his husband on the ship. One of the most moving and serious episodes of The Orville is when Bortus  and his mate  have a baby that turns out to be female, which is a one in a billion chance for that species.  They have to decide whether to accept the child as is and condemn her to a life as an outcast, or else force a sex-change operation on the infant.

Adrianne Palicki & Charlize Theron in The Orville

Adrianne Palicki & Charlize Theron in The Orville

Completing the main cast is Penny Johnson Jerald as Doctor Claire Finn, who is also trying to be a single mother aboard the ship. Of the two jobs, being the doctor is far easier than being the mother. There is also an episode where Claire has one of the weirdest sexual encounters ever shown on regular. T.V. Let’s just say it includes a naked Penny Johnson Jerald, an alien blob and background music that sounds like a cheesy 1970’s porn soundtrack. It is disturbing and hilarious at the same time.

Penny Johnson Jerald as Dr. Claire Finn in the new space adventure series THE ORVILLE

Penny Johnson Jerald as Dr. Claire Finn in the new space adventure series THE ORVILLE

So have fun watching The Orville. We certainly did.

Rape & Murder in Hollywood – Virginia Rappe & Fatty Arbuckle

In 1921,  Hollywood film star Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle was accused of the brutal rape and murder of beautiful 26 year old actress Virginia Rappe. Fatty Arbuckle went to trial for manslaughter 3 times, resulting in 2 hung juries and finally an acquittal. Despite the “not guilty” verdict, Fatty Arbuckle’s career was ruined and his life left in shatters.  He died in 1933 of a heart attack at the age of 46. Before the rape allegations, he had been earning $1 million a year; an incredible amount for 1921.

Virginia Rappe, who allegedly was raped and murdered by film star Fatty Arbuckle

Virginia Rappe, who allegedly was raped and murdered by film star Fatty Arbuckle

But what really happened the night of September 5, 1921 in Fatty Arbuckle’s hotel room, that resulted in the death of Virginia Rappe? The tabloids wrote  that after a wild party filled with drinking illegal booze (it was Prohibition), Fatty went wild and raped Virginia Rappe. His great weight was such that his attack actually caused the Virginia Rappe’s bladder to rupture. She died in horrible agony.

Film comedian Roscoe "Fatty Arbuckle, accused of rape and murder

Film comedian Roscoe “Fatty Arbuckle, accused of rape and murder

The titillating details of the scandal sold newspapers by the thousands, and the Tabloid Press went into a feeding frenzy attacking Fatty Arbuckle. The public could not get enough. People no longer saw Fatty Arbuckle as the adorable overweight clown. He was now just an oversized sex-crazed monster.

The Fatty Arbuckle story sold thousands of newspapers

The Fatty Arbuckle story sold thousands of newspapers

The truth is that Virginia Rappe did die of a ruptured bladder, but she was not raped and did not even  have sex on the night of the party. Despite her beauty, Virginia Rappe was a very unhealthy young woman. Months of drinking poor quality Prohibition-era liquor had done its damage, as did the several illegal abortions she had undergone. She also had cancer, which is the most likely cause of the rupture that resulted in  her death.

Virginia Rappe who despite her healthy looks was actually very ill

Virginia Rappe who despite her healthy looks was actually very ill

However, the truth did not  matter to San Fransisco District Attorney Matthew Brady. He wanted to get elected Governor of California, and the fame surrounding the Arbuckle trial was his ticket to becoming known as the “law & order” candidate who sent a crazed sex maniac to the gas chamber. Brady intimidated witnesses, kept key information from the defense team, and outright lied.

Minta Durfee- Fatty Arbuckle's ex-wife. Someone tried to kill her outside the courthouse.

Minta Durfee- Fatty Arbuckle’s ex-wife. Someone tried to kill her outside the courthouse.

The public and press had already decided that Arbuckle was guilty, even before the trial began. Fatty Arbuckle’s ex-wife  Minta Durfee came to court to show support and testify as to his good character. Her appearance was cut short when someone fired a gun at her outside the courthouse.

Film comedian Roscoe "Fatty Arbuckle, accused of rape and murder

Film comedian Roscoe “Fatty Arbuckle, accused of rape and murder

The public did not seem to care about the facts of the case. The first fact was that no rape charges were ever even filed, since there was no evidence of any sexual activity. The second fact was that the Hearst newspapers were paying big bucks for the “true stories” of anyone who was at the party or claimed to be. Hearst knew that the headline”actress raped and murdered” sells a lot more papers than “actress dies of cancer.”

Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle on trial

Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle on trial

There was some damning testimony from the Prosecution. An “expert criminologist” was produced, who said he found Arbuckle’s bloody fingerprints all over the wall in  Virginia Rappe’s hotel room. The Defense team, however, brought forth the hotel maid who testified that she had completely cleaned the room days before this so called “criminologist” had ever even been allowed to  examined it. She also stated there  was no blood and no bloody fingerprints on the wall even before she had cleaned the room.

The Hotel Doctor, Arthur Beardslee testified that Virginia Rappe’s injuries were caused by the external force of a large weight on her (like Fatty Arbuckle). In fact, the doctor was really just trying to save his own career and medical license . Early at the party, Virginia Rappe was in extreme pain and Arbuckle  had immediately called the hotel doctor (Beardslee). The doctor’s diagnosis was that “This girl’s just drunk. Let her sleep it off.” Arbuckle followed the doctor’s advice and put her in a separate room while the party continued in the main room. Poor Virginia Rappe died alone and in agony in a hotel room, while a wild party raged a few rooms down.

It took 3 trials, and bit by bit the Defense team was able to bring the true facts to light.  The third jury came in with a Not Guilty verdict, and even wrote a letter of apology to Mr. Arbuckle for all he had been through.

But the stress and financial burden of the trials had been too much. Fatty Arbuckle was never the same again. Even today,  the majority of people who recognize the name “Fatty Arbuckle” identify him as “an old-time movie star who raped and murdered a young woman.”  The Truth has a short lifespan, but really juicy Rumors and Lies live forever.