Monthly Archives: November 2014

Escape From Tomorrow – movie review

One of our readers asked that we review more independent films. One very interesting 2013 independent film which is now available ion DVD is Escape From Tomorrow.

This movie was filmed without permission at Disney World and Disney Land. Much of it was filmed using small video cameras and iPhones so that the film crew would just look like ordinary tourists.

The story is about a typical American family on vacation in Disney World with their two small children. The movie all takes place on the last day of their vacation. Just before they are to start the day’s activities the father receives a call from his boss letting him know that the father’s position at the company has been eliminated.  The father does not want to ruin the   vacation so he does not tell his wife or kids that he is now unemployed.

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As the day goes on in the theme park the father starts drinking a lot of alcohol. That combined with the hot sun begins to take a toll on him. One thing the movie demonstrates is that there are an amazing number of places in Disney World which sell alcohol in large quantities.

Strange things start happening. The film is excellently done, since as the movie progresses you are never sure whether certain events are actually happening, or if they are all just in the imagination of the father.

What makes the movie so good is that the family  is so true to life. Roy Abramshon plays the father Jim White. Jim loves his wife Emily (played by Elena Schuber) but still can’t help noticing two sexy young French girls who are also vacationing in the park.  The girls seem to be flirting with Jim and he purposely goes on certain rides just to follow them.  Do the girls really find him attractive, or is he just being a creep?

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There are also some mysterious things going on in the background. There are rumors that there has been some serious outbreak of illness in the park that Disney is keeping hidden from public knowledge.  We see a hint of this when Jim takes his daughter to the first aid station for her scrapped knee and a very stressed nurse ask a number of medical questions that have nothing to do with a scraped knee.

Jim and his wife  get sort of sick of each other during the day and decide to each take one of the kids to visit different parts of the park just to get away from each other for a while. (Another realistic touch for the movie). Once they are apart the really bizarre things start happening to Jim.  He meets a man in  a wheelchair who seems to be making veiled threats. He encounters a woman who claims to be a witch. Is Jim drunk, or feeling the effects of illness, or is he really just encountering the strange type of people you sometimes run into when you are trying to relax?

We will not say anything more about the plot since it is a mystery/fantasy movie and we do not want to give too much away. We will say that the last 20 minutes of the film are bizarre and unexpected.

We give this movie Four Stars ****

 

Killing Ivan Boesky – A story of John Mulheren

The following is a true story about Wall Street trader John Mulheren, who the Editor of East Coast Stories met in 1988, when Mulheren was being prosecuted for allegedly trying to kill Ivan Boesky.

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In the wild financial days of the 1980’s there were a lot of flamboyant characters on Wall Street. However, none was more interesting or more fun than John Mulheren. He was brilliant, athletic and personable, and made as much as $25 million in 1986.

He also thought Wall Street should be fun. He like to say that trading stocks was so simple that even a chimpanzee could do it. He proved his point one day by taking a chimpanzee dressed in a suit and tie and letting it run loose on the Floor on the New York Stock exchange. (There was a slight nod to this in the movie The Wolf of Wall Street where at one point Leonardo DiCaprio is briefly shown carrying a chimp in a suit.)

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Then in 1988 it all came crashing down. Ivan Boesky who had been a friend and mentor of John’s was arrested for insider trading. In return for a lighter sentence, Boesky cooperated with the the government  and named people who were also involved in insider trading. John felt sorry for Ivan, until one day John was at home listning to the news and heard the newscaster say that “John Mulheren” was one of the people Boesky named.

John went berserk. He rummaged through the house looking for his gun. His wife asked him what he was doing and he he told her he was going to go kill Ivan Boesky. She knew from the tone in his voice that he was not kidding.  She ran to the phone and called the police.

John suffered from bi-polar disorder. His wife knew that when John was up he was really up but when he was down there could be real problems.  Killing Boesky was not just an idle boast. He could really do it.

John found his gun and was in his car pulling out of his driveway when the police arrived. But the police could not arrest him. They had made the mistake of driving  onto his property.  Mulheren pointed out that it was perfectly legal for a man to have a registered firearm on his own property.

The police left and John went back into the house. But he left the gun in his car. One hour later he got back in his car the  and drove out to kill Boesky.  He was only about a mile from his house when the police arrested him. They had waited down the road just in case he came out again.

John ended up spending 1 month in Rikers Island jail. The charges were eventually dropped. His lawyers were able to convince the court that the whole incident was the result of John’s failure to take the Lithium he needed to manage his bi-polar condition.

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Still, one month on Rikers is a long time. It turns out that John’s time on Rikers Island was made somewhat easier by another celebrity inmate. Anthony Solerno also happened to be on Rikers Island at that time. He was better known as “Fat Tony”, and was the Street Boss of the Genovese crime family.

John Mulheren was petrified being on Rikers Island. He was scared being locked in a cell and even more scared when the cell door opened. John did not realize that for a few hours each day the cells were open and the prisoners could wander around and visit each other. John decided that the best thing he could do was to just sit on his bunk and never leave his cell except to eat. He just wanted to stay out of trouble until his lawyer could get him out of jail.

The cells were all open and John was sitting on his bunk when Fat Tony and two very large muscular prisoners walked into the cell. John started sweating profusely, but Fat Tony gave a friendly smile and said, “Hi. I’m Tony Solerno and I run this place.”

Fat Tony was thrilled to have a multi-millionaire in “his” jail.  He sat down on the bunk next to John and explained how things worked. Once a week someone would show up at John Mulherne’s house and John’s wife was to give that person an envelope full of cash.  In return, John’s life at Rikers was going to be very easy. No one was going to bother John in any way.  He would be as safe as if he was still in his Wall Street office.

For a little extra cash Tony could arrange special items. There was no point eating the terrible jail food when Tony could bring in any kind of gourmet items requested.  A nice beer, or a vintage bottle of wine would also make the time in jail pass faster.  Tony could even arrange for a certain type of woman to visit John in his cell, if that was desired.

John, of course, was no fool and he quickly signed up to be one of Fat Tony’s best “customers”.  He bought the protection, the special food, and even the vintage wine. In fact, he got everything on Tony’s menu except the prostitute.

John Mulherne was out of jail but not yet out of legal trouble when I met him. I was with a group of people who visited his house in Rumson New Jersey. We were trying to get him to invest $1 million to help buy a company in Canada.

With all he had been through and with all the problems still hanging over him, it would have been understandable if he were depressed or even morose. Instead, he was friendly, funny and a charming host.

At one point, someone asked a very insensitive question. The head our our group actually said, “With everything that has been going on, do you actually have a million dollars to invest right now?”

Instead of being insulted John gave a hearty laugh and said, “Are you kidding? I spent more than a million dollars last month on legal fees.”

John Mulheren was found guilty of securities fraud in 1990, but in 1991 his conviction was overturned on appeal.  He eventually returned to the business and with the money he earned  became a well known philanthropist.

The prosecution and the jail stay along side some very dangerous criminals would have made most people bitter. But John had always been different than most people. After the September 11, 2001 attacks, John gave so generously to charity that Mayor Rudolf Giuliani named him an “honorary police commissioner.”  What is incredible about this is that before being mayor, Giuliani was the U.S. attorney who had prosecuted John Mulheren.

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In case you are wondering, John never did invest the $1 million into the Canadian venture we were pitching to him. It turned out that he was right too. It ended up being a terrible investment.

John Mulheren died in 2003 at the age of 54. Today’s Wall Street has a lot more computer trading, and a lot fewer characters.  It is more regulated and supposedly safer for the average investor. But some of the magic of it is gone too. There is probably not a single person trading stocks today whoever brought a chimpanzee in a suit to work.

The Richest Boys in New England

The following is a true story told to the Editor of East Coast Stories by Raymond J. Farrell. When I knew him he already  seemed impossibly old, and was just known as “Papa”. This is the story of what it was like many years earlier when he was still a poor young boy in northern rural Massachusetts. The season was mid-winter and it was so long ago that there were not yet even any cars in that rural town.

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It was still pitch black when Raymond woke up. He ran into town with his ice skates hanging around his neck tied together  by their laces.  He had to get to the newspaper factory while the presses were still going or it would be too late.

Raymond’s boots crunched on the packed snow, and the air was so cold that it hurt his lungs as he ran. Ray got to the factory just as his friends Joey and Billy arrived. They went in together and felt the sudden rush of warmth from the newspaper  presses.

Big men ran the presses and did all the heavy work. Ray. Billy and Joey were just the scrawny kids that folded newspapers at the end of the line. The presses usually ran fast each morning and the boys had to work as hard as they could to keep up. Between the exertion and the  heat from the machines, the boys were soon sweating profusely.

When the presses finally stopped and the folding was done the boys got their pay. There was no money. They were each given a few newspapers to sell or trade and they thought it was a great job.

Now it was time for breakfast. One newspapers was traded to  Mr. Mitchell the  baker for a loaf of bread.  He was a heavyset nasty man  who always looked at the boys like they were about to steal something. Still, they traded a newspaper for bread with him every morning. He was a mean man, but he was a terrific baker.

Then another paper they traded  to get hot chocolates from Mrs. O’Shea who ran the tea shop.  She was always happy and chatty and wore flowery dresses even in the the darkest days of winter. She gave them 3 big mugs of hot chocolate  and trusted the boys to return the mugs when they were done. They always did. The boys saved the rest of the papers to sell after they were done skating.

They sat by the side of the road at the far end of town  eating their bread and drinking their hot chocolate.  They had to wait a while before the first sleigh would come through town.  Only the rich people could afford horses and sleighs and rich people got up a lot later than everyone else. The working classes like Ray and his friends had no horses. If you needed to go somewhere you walked.

While they waited for the first sleigh they took off their boots and put on their ice skates. Then they went out to test the ice in the  road.

In those days streets were not plowed.  There were  no automobiles and the sleights depended on the snow. In the beginning of winter the snow was soft, but as the winter continued and hundreds of sleighs passed through town the snow got packed down more and more until the snow on the main road through town was nothing more than a sheet of solid ice.

The boys skated up and down the street and looked for any ruts that might cause problems later. Then they heard the bells and knew a rich person’s sleigh was approaching.

It was an open sleigh pulled by one magnificently strong white horse. The man and woman riding in it were bundled in furs and scarfs.  Before the sleigh even reached town, Ray, Billy and Joey started skating as fast as they could. They had to really build up speed to be able to catch on to the back of the sleigh.

It was a real athletic feat to catch a sleigh. If you skated too fast you could end up in front of the sleigh and be trampled. If you were too slow you missed the sleigh entirely.

Billy was the strongest as well as the fastest skater and he had no trouble grabbing on to the back of the sleigh. Joey’s right skate hit a rut in the ice, and he fell face forward onto the ice. Ray skated past Joey and at the last second reached and grabbed hold to the sleigh right next to Billy.  His arms felt like they would be pulled out of their sockets as he held on.

The speed was incredible.  Ray and Billy held on as the powerful horse trotted through town. The rich folks had undoubtedly noticed them but paid no attention. To them the  poor kids in town were a minor annoyance that was just part of day-to-day life.

This sleigh was not stopping at the end of town so Ray and Billy let go  after having ridden about 3 miles. Their arms were exhausted, and their legs were tired, but it had been such a great ride they laughed as they watched the sleigh continue off and disappear in the distance.

They skated back to where they had started and found Joey sitting next to their pile of newspapers. Joey’s face was bruised and a little bloody. He had made a snowball and was holding it against his face with a gloved hand, so his face would not swell.  Joey did not complain. Sometimes you could catch the ride and sometimes you missed.

The town was starting to fill up, so the boys took off their ice skates and put on  their boots. They returned the mugs to Mrs. O’Shea. Then they divided up the newspapers and split up. They boys each went to different parts of town to sell the papers for whatever they could get.

Papa was 8o years old  when he told this story. One of the listeners  mentioned how terrible  it  must have been to have to work that hard as a little boy for just a few newspapers.  Papa smiled and shook his head. “It was wonderful” he explained.  “To be young and strong and fearless and flying over the ice as fact as a big horse can run. We were not poor. We were the richest boys in New England. ”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Outlander – TV Review

We normally do not watch the Starz network, since many of its shows are basically just soft-core pornography thinly disguised as “historical dramas”.  The Pirates in Black Sails for example, almost never set foot aboard a ship; and the audience is shown many more naked prostitutes than sea battles. The Spartacus series combines both porn and a disgusting amount of violence. Heads are repeatedly chopped off in slow motion with gallons of blood splashing towards the camera.

So we were not expecting much when we decided to try the  Starz “historical drama” Outlander.  However, it turns out that it is an excellent show with real character development and a complex and exciting plot.

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The  show begins in 1945 right after VE Day.  Clair and Jack Randall are an English couple who have come to Scotland on a Second Honeymoon to get re-acquainted after the long separation because of  the war.  Clair (played by Caitriona Balfe) was a nurse serving near the front lines, and Randall was in the British Intelligence service.

They stay in a remote village in the Scottish Highlands where the people appear to be secretly practicing some  Druid rituals at night.  One morning, Clair goes out alone to investigate the ancient Druid stones (sort of a Scottish Stonehenge). When she touches them she is suddenly transported back in time to  1743, where most of the series takes place.

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Now we have always loved time travel stories and this a a particularly good one. In 1743 the English ruled Scotland but were hated by the Scots. (Of course some militant Scots today would argue that nothing has changed. ) Clair immediately  finds herself considered an outsider (an “outlander”) by all sides. The Scots do not trust her because of her English accent. The British do not trust her since she spends so much time with the Scots. Both sides believe she is a spy for the other.

Clair must use all her wits just to stay alive in what is a violent part of the world. Her biggest problem is trying to explain who she is, how she got there and what she is doing in Scotland. We will not give away how she manages this. At one point she considers telling the truth about traveling through time, but soon realizes that in 1743 that  would probably quickly lead to her being burned as a witch.

Clair only has three things to help her. She is very intelligent, she is beautiful, and she has medical knowledge two centuries more advanced than anyone else.  For these reasons the Scottish clans find her intriguing and useful, even though they do not trust her.

There are also two romances intertwined in the plot. Clair loves her husband  (played by Tobias Menzies) and desperately is trying to find a way to get back to her own time to be with him. At the same time she finds herself being more and more attracted to the rugged Scottish Highlander Jamie Fraser (played by Sam Heughan).

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There are explicit love scenes, but they are actual love scenes, as opposed to the crude displays seen in Black Sails and Spartacus.  There are also some explicit battle and torture scenes, but they fit in with the plot of the ongoing confrontation between the Scottish and the English.

This is an excellent series and we give it four stars ****

 

 

 

The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 1 – movie review

The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 1 opened this weekend to packed theaters.  All the main characters are back including the the evil President Snow played by the incomparable Donald Sutherland.

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President Snow is the best movie villain since Auric Goldfinger. Snow never raises his voice or swears. He simply crushes all enemies in a cold and precise manner.  One of the few people who never underestimates President Snow is Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence).

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At this point in the 4-part movie series, some of the Outer Districts are in open rebellion against The Capital and there are grumblings of discontent in the other districts.  Both Snow and the rebels are engaging in propaganda warfare. The rebels are eager to use Katniss as their revolutionary symbol, a role she feels very uncomfortable with.  Snow himself is using Peta (Josh Hutcherson) as his spokesman against the rebels. Katniss is convinced that Peta must be being forced to make propaganda speeches. However, there is no proof that his feelings are anything but real.

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Some moviegoers thought the movie did not have enough action, but we loved the complexity of the propaganda war.  Katniss has always been much more multifaceted than the standard movie heroine.   Even in the first movie, the main goal of Katniss has always been to protect her family and loved ones, rather than to lead a revolution. Both sides have always wanted to use her to their own ends and she resents them all for it. Jennifer Lawrence even sings in this movie and it turns out has a a lovely soulful voice.

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The film is dedicated to the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, who did a wonderful portrayal of Plutarch Heavensbee. Plutarch used to be the Propaganda Minister for President Snow, and is now doing the same job for the rebels using the same tricks. As we now  know, Mr. Hoffman tragically was facing inner demons of his own for some time and died of a drug overdose.  He was one of the most gifted actors of our time and will be greatly missed.

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There are some new characters in the film. The rebels of district 13 have their own “President” Alma Coin (Julianne Moore). Katniss is one of the few characters who objects when President Coin uses tactics just as ruthless as those of President Snow. At one point when aircraft from The Capital are bombing another district, President Coin does nothing to help since she does not want to give away the location of the District 13 air defenses.

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Natalie Dormer portrays Cressida, a movie director working for the rebels and using Katniss to make propaganda videos. Cressida has no qualms at all about intruding on the most private moments  if it will make for good video.

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Of course, since this is the third part of a four part movie series, the ending of the film leaves you hanging.  It wonderfully builds to a finale, which unfortunately we will not get to see for at least another year.

We give this movie four stars ****

 

Gentle Woman Jumping Bunny Video

Our Gentle Woman Bunny  stories have been some of our most popular posts. We have tried adding videos to the blog , but the problem is that the technical limitations of Word Press means that we can only load a video a few seconds long directly to the blog.

However, we can upload our videos to You Tube and then link the blog to that.

Therefor, for the enjoyment of our blog readers, (and now watchers) that is what we have done.

So, to see East Coast Stories’ first You Tube Video entitles Bunny Jump, just click this link.

Please realize that this is a very rough cut as we are still learning the technical aspects. Going forward, we will hopefully improve our skills.

Let us know if it works, and what types of videos you would like to see.

The Alchemist – book review

The Alchemist is a delightful new book by Paulo Coelho. Despite its title the main story is not about an Alchemist by about a Spanish shepherd boy  named Santiago and his adventures.  When exactly it takes place is never stated but it appears to take place sometime before the First  World War.

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Santiago is not a typical shepherd. he was educated to be a priest but wanted to see the world instead. In the rural part of Spain he was from the only people who traveled were shepherds so he becomes one.

But then he had a dream about finding a fortune in a far away place. He consults a Gypsy woman who tells him he must travel to the Pyramids in Egypt to find his fortune. Santiago sells his sheep and the rest of the story is about his travels through the Middle East searching for his treasure.

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Santiago also has unusual powers. He can read the omens and the signs of the animals and has dreams that can foretell things.  Along the way he meets an English Chemist who is trying to earn the secrets of the ancient alchemists  who could supposedly  turn lead into gold.

Paul Coelho is what is called a “spiritual” writer.  Some readers may not like to book since they may feel the author is trying to force a religious point of view on them disguised as an adventure story.

However, he is really not profession any specific religion. The book basically portrays the world as being a mixture of the physical the spiritual and the unknown.  The English chemist, for example cannot turn lead into gold since he is trying to approach it only using what he knows of the physical world. Santiago, on the other hand, learns more in his travels than the chemist since he is willing to accept the concept of gaining knowledge from any source, whether it be standard learning, or a symbol from two hawks flying.

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I found this book very enjoyable to read. Paulo Coelho has written an entire series of such books. I am not sure I would read many more in the series, however,  since he does push the spirituality side a little too hard.  I think it would be better if he were to concentrate more on the story and let the readers come to their own conclusions on how to interpret the events.

However, I would certainly recommend that everyone read at least Coelho book and see if they like this style.

 

Who Moved My Cheese? – a stupid overrated bestseller

I was looking at the unemployment statistics the other day and the continuing high figures for older Americans and the long term unemployed caught my eye. That got me thinking about a classic business advice book about being out of work.

Who Moved My Cheese?   by Spencer Johnson was published in 1998 and has sold millions of copies. It is a business/self-help book that gives instructions on how to face the ever changing work environment. I hate this book.

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I know it seems ridiculous to get so emotional about a business book, but I really do. It drives me crazy that this book continues to be a big seller year after year. When I hear anyone mention Who Moved My Cheese?  I feel like the little boy from the Hans Christian Anderson Story The Emperor’s New Clothes. In that story the little boy is the one who points out that the Emperor is not wearing fine clothing but is actually naked.  Prior to the little boy pointing it out all the people had been afraid to admit that they did not see the clothing either. A con man had convinced the people that if you could not “see” the Emperor’s clothing it was evidence that you were stupid.

Who Moved My Cheese? is an idiotic little story that is pretending to be one of the world’s greatest treasures. Business people are afraid to admit that they don’t think the book is great. They are afraid that if they say don’t like it they will be considered “stupid”.

The story basically says that in today’s world there is no such thing as a permanent job and that you should be prepared if your job disappears.  No one “owes” you a job and you need to just move on and get something new without getting angry or worrying about what you “deserve.” Moving on to new things is stressful but also  exciting.

There, I just saved you the cost of the book and you don’t have to read it.

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OK, if you want to know the plot of the actual book, here it is. There are 2 mice and 2 little people who live in a maze. The little people are the same size as mice.  The mice are named “Sniff” and “Scurry” and the little people are named “Hem” and “Haw” . They all work very hard in the maze to find bits of  cheese until one day they discover a huge pile of cheese. This is Cheese Station C which Hem and Haw believe has enough cheese to last them the rest of their lives.

This is when Hem and Haw become very lazy. They stop looking for any new places where there might be cheese and they comfortably go to Cheese Station C every day. They are so relaxed that they don’t even notice that the pile of cheese is getting smaller every day. One day they go in and the cheese is all gone.  They immediately ask “Who moved my cheese?”

They continue to go back to Cheese Station C every day waiting for things to change but of course they do not. They complain a lot about how unfair it is.  The two mice Sniff and Scurry immediately leave and look for cheese elsewhere in the maze. However, Hem and Haw just can’t accept reality.  Finally Haw decides to leave Cheese Station C for good in search of new cheese. He says,

“Sometimes  things change and they are never the same again. This looks like one of those times, Hem. That’s life! Life moves on. And so should we.” This of course, is the point of the entire book.

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Finally Hem himself moves on. He finds new and different cheeses in other parts of the maze. He never finds a pile as big as Cheese Station C and he never is a comfortable as he once was, but he also has more adventure and more variety in his life than he once  had.

It is not a terrible book and it does make a point about being able to move on in life.  However, I have a number of reasons for disliking the book so much. The first is that the author treats his readers like they are idiots. The entire book is only 93 pages long. However, the story itself is only 36 pages. The rest of the book are pictures of cheese, a foreword and a discussion after the story. The author seems to be using the old  advertising technique called, “Tell them what you are going to tell them. Tell them. Then tell them what you told them.”

The other complaint I have is the simplistic way it depicts the disappearance of a person’s job. Everything is Hem and Haw’s own fault. Hem and Haw created nothing. They did not help make the cheese and they ate all the cheese at Cheese Station C . Therefore, they are depicted as lazy and stupid.

The reality of the workforce in American life is vastly different. People do work very hard and make companies successful. They did not “find” the cheese. They made the cheese themselves. Sometimes through no fault of their own, workers are laid off. There is still a big pile of cheese there but the worker is told that  he or she is no longer allowed to partake.

There are companies which lay off thousands of middle management and lower level people while the CEO of that same company is paid tens of millions of dollars. The book does not discuss the many forms of discrimination (age, sex, race) which still exist today.  Hem and Haw do not get replaced by two younger workers.

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The realities of competing in an ever more competitive work environment are much more complex and difficult to deal with than this simplistic book portrays. If you are 61 and no one will even  look at your resume because they want someone “dynamic” ( code word for younger) you need some good specific advice as to how to provide for you family.  Just being told, “the quicker you let go of the old cheese the sooner you can enjoy the new cheese” really does not help much.

 

 

The Affair – Television Review

Normally we do not do television reviews. In fact this is the first. However, The Affair series on Showtime is go good, we thought it deserved special mention.

The Affair is a true East Coast Story, since it all takes place on Montauk Long Island. It is an erotic thriller set in current times. What makes it so good is that all the characters are absolutely real. Unlike many television shows none of the characters are written as stereotypes.  We see the good and bad parts of all the people, even the minor characters.

Dominic West plays “Noah Solloway” a school teacher/author who is married to a very wealthy woman (Helen).  The Solloway’s and their four children are spending  the summer on Montauk with Helen’s rich parents.  That is where Noah meets Alison Lockhart (played by Ruth Wilson) who is a local waitress and the two begin an affair.

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When you describe the basic plot this way it  sounds very standard. What makes it  different is that all the characters are completely true to life. For one thing the show captures love/hate relationship the people who live on Montauk full-time feel towards the rich New Yorkers who come out every Summer. On the one hand the locals depend on the money from the New Yorkers to make a living. On the other hand they hate the way the New Yorkers are gradually urbanizing what was once a rural portion of a densely populated island.

By having an affair with one of these rich outsiders, Alison is breaking two taboos. In some ways Alison is taking a bigger risk than Noah. Locals who hook up with the New Yorkers are given the label “Summer Sluts” by the rest of the community.

The affair between Noah and Alison is about more than sex. They are both at very unhappy points in their lives. Noah has money but it all comes from his wife’s family. Noah himself is a public school teacher who is also a struggling writer. He has had one novel published and that did not sell very well. His main goal for the summer is to write his second novel.

In addition to the pressure that any writer would feel, Noah’s father-in-law is a world famous author. In fact, that is where all the family’s money comes from. The father in law never misses an opportunity to point out how much more successful he is than Noah.

Alison is in a state of deep depression when she first meets Noah. She has tragically  lost her child and has never been able to move on from that. Her husband keeps pushing her to move forward, but at the same time, everything he does reminds her of parts of her life she wants desperately to move away from.

Alison and Noah come together not just to be with each other, but to escape the rest of their existence.  When they are together they can at least pretend to be running away from the real world.

Overlying all of this is a murder.

All of the episodes are told in flashback in two parts. Noah and Alison are being interviewed separately by a homicide detective. Adding to the mystery is that we are not told who was killed.

In each episode Noah and Alison each tell the story of a particular day from their own perspective. Ofter they remember the same events completely differently. As an audience we do not know which version is the truth, or if the truth lies somewhere in between.

If you have not started this series, we recommend you watch it for the beginning.

We give this series Five Stars *****

 

 

 

 

Dumb and Dumber To – movie review

Most movie Reviewers are afraid to give Dumber and Dumber To a favorable review. Probably most highbrow reviewers feel it will hurt their own intellectual reputations to admit  that they thought this kind of movie is funny.

Well we liked it. In fact we thought it was great.

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Sure the characters are idiots, the jokes are crude or gross and there are a lot of slapstick gags. But you know that going in. Criticizing the movie for those things would be like criticizing a  Three Stooges  short for not having enough character development.

In fact, Dumb and Dumber To actually does have a plot.  It takes place 20 years  after the first movie, and Harry (Jeff Daniels) discovers he has a grown daughter he never knew existed. He decided to track her down to re-connect but also because he needs a kidney transplant and she would be the best match. His friend Lloyd (Jim Carrey) comes along, mainly because he has seen a picture of the beautiful daughter Penny (Rachel Melvin)

In fact this is the old time comedy “road trip” movie, where the duo has an actual destination and a deadline, but bad guys and bizarre events conspire to stop them  all   along the way.

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Rob Riggle plays 2 of the bad guys (twin brothers) who are big and tough, but only slightly smarter than Lloyd and Harry. One of the twins is a Special Forces soldier who is an expert in camouflage.  However, since there is no jungle to blend into he paints his body to blend into backgrounds in a more suburban environment like a hotel snack machine. One interesting note is that these gags were not computer generated. The makeup artists actually spent hours painting Rob Riggle’s body for these scenes.

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Rachel Melvin does a fantastic job  as Penny who is every bit as intellectually challenged as LLoyd or Harry. Her step father is  a world famous scientist but he is too sick to attend a scientific conference so Penny must attend instead. Harry finds out that is where she will be and he and Lloyd travel there to meet her.

Some of the funniest scenes in the movie take place when Harry shows up and since he is Penny ‘s father he is mistaken for the reclusive scientific genius. The intellectuals at the conference keep mistaking his idiotic ramblings for deep philosophical pearls of wisdom.

This movie is a lot of fun. It does not take itself seriously and does not pretend to have message or some hidden meaning. However, you should be warned that it may not be appropriate for kids.  It is a silly comedy, but a lot of the humor is crude and some is of a sexual nature. When we saw it there were some children in the audience who were way too young to be there.  Many parents mistakenly assume that if a movie is a comedy it must be OK for kids.

We give this movie 4 stars ****

 

 

Meeting Eleanor Roosevelt

The following is a true story about when Jack Farrell met and spoke to Eleanor Roosevelt during World War II.

Jack stood in the cold along with hundreds, perhaps even thousands of other people on the lawn in front of the Columbia University library waiting for the First Lady to arrive.  Eleanor Roosevelt was going to give a short speech before attending a meeting on campus.

ELEANOR ROOSEVELT

 

Jack was there with two of his friends. All three of them were in the uniforms of Army Privates.  Jack wondered if the other two felt like complete frauds the way he did. After all, Jack was not really a soldier.  He was just a guy going to medical  school who happened to be in an Army Uniform.

It was not supposed to be this way. Jack was supposed to be out there in the front lines as an officer in the greatest war in the history of the world. Jack had even gotten an appointment to West Point. Appointments were very hard to get. You had to be recommended by a U.S. Congressperson which meant that a lot of times only the sons  big campaign contributors even got the chance to try to get in. You still had to have the right grades and pass the physical, but first you had to get someone in Congress to recommend you.

Jack did not come from a wealthy family. His father owned  a used car lot and his father’s father had been a poor farmer in rural Massachusetts.  But it turned out there was another way to get an appointment to West Point.  Jack’s father had been an artillery Captain in World War I. West Point had set aside places for the sons of World War I combat veterans. Jack had excellent grades and he was all set for West Point.

Until the Physical.

As a boy Jack had suffered a ruptured appendix which had nearly killed him. Toxins had poured into his body from the rupture and an emergency operation had to be performed to save him. In fact, he had needed a whole series of operations over the  course of almost a year, to get his insides right again. The doctors at the hospital joked that he had so many operations he should have a zipper installed in his abdomen. Jack thought that was so funny he named his little puppy dog “Zipper”.

Jack had recovered and grown up into a muscular six foot three inch tall young man. It never occurred to Jack  that he could not pass the physical at West Point.  But when Jack took off his shirt for the exam the doctor immediately saw that the entire front of Jack’s body was a mass of intersecting scars. Jack pleaded with the West Point doctor to mark him as fit, but the doctor refused.

“I’m sorry young man, ” said the doctor, “but those kinds of operations never fix things one hundred percent. Under extreme physical  stress there could be complications with internal tears or bleeding. And let’s face it, the Army  would put anyone under extreme physical stress. ”

West Point

So instead of going to West Point, Jack had gone to Columbia University. America got into World War II just as Jack was graduating from Columbia. If he had been at West Point he would have gone directly into the war as an officer.

Instead,  Jack applied to and got into Long Island University Medical School.  Anyone else would have been thrilled with that. But Jack felt like a coward, hiding out in school while guys he knew were fighting and dying in the war.

As the war went on, Jack read stories about  how the Army needed so many men it was lowering its physical standards. He decided this was his chance. Jack and two of his medical school friends took the train to New York  and went to enlist at the Army recruiting station in Times Square.  It was great. They filled out all the forms and as far as they knew they were in. No one even asked for a medical history or gave them  physical.

Seeing their ages, the tough looking  recruiting  Sergeant asked them what they had been doing all this time and why they had not enlisted earlier. When one of Jack’s friends blurted out that they were in  Medical School, the Sergeant gave them a strange look, but did not say anything.

The Sergeant told them the paperwork would take a few days that they should  come back the beginning of the following  week. Jack and the other guys were ecstatic. They were going to finally be “real men” and get into the war! Medical school would have to wait.  A few more days and they could finally put on a uniform.

The next day, Jack and his friends were heading to class when a professor spotted them and said, “The Dean would like to see all of you. Right now.”

The Dean of the Medical School was a very serious man. A superb  surgeon who still taught classes as well as being Dean. He was also very formal and completely serious at all times. He was the kind of man  who you could not imagine ever smiling.

Jack and the other 2 young  men sat in the plush leather chairs in the Dean’s massive wood paneled office.  The Dean himself sat behind a large oak desk and turned his glare on them.

“I got a very disturbing call from an Army Sergeant yesterday,” said the Dean. “He and I had a long conversation. He was quite an intelligent man. You see, unlike you three, the Sergeant understood that what this country needs right now is more doctors, not more men to carry guns.  Even if this war ends tomorrow there will be hundreds of thousands of people who desperately need medical care.  The type of care you are begin trained to provide.  That is where your duty lies.  Don’t walk away from that responsibility.”

Jack and his friends felt very ashamed as they returned to their classes. They realized that they should  have been thinking about how to best serve their country instead of just what would make them look good to other people.

JACK 003Jack Farrells’ medical bag & Army cap

In the end, Jack and his friends and all the other  men in the medical school got to wear an Army uniform anyway.  Almost losing 3 medical students had worried the Dean so much that he spoke to some very senior officers in the military. A few weeks later the U.S. Army drafted every man in the Medical school.  They were all given uniforms and issued a direct order. Their assignment was to stay in medical school and become doctors. Upon graduation the Army would  find an assignment for them.

So that is how Jack and his friends ended up in Army Uniforms, standing in the freezing cold with a crowd of people waiting for Eleanor Roosevelt to speak. They had taken the train in from Long Island  to Jack’s old college, just to see her.  There was a sudden push in the crowd and then a cheer. She had arrived.

There was a little wooden platform set up for Eleanor to make a short speech to the crowd before she went into the University for a meeting.  The photographers with her wanted to get a good shot for the papers. Suddenly a photographer spotted Jack and his friends in uniform. Some of Eleanor’s entourage jumped off the stage and pulled Jack and the other guys up to stand behind Eleanor. It was always  good to have soldiers in  uniform in a picture with the First Lady . They tired to protest that they were not really soldiers but the entourage was not listening. They were only interested in how to line them up for the best possible picture.

Jack only got to speak to Eleanor for a few seconds. He wanted to ask her how she felt about his being safe in medical school while guys he grew up with were being killed every day. But up close she looked so tired and so stressed that he realized how inappropriate it would be to try to burden him with his own problems.

It was obvious that she wanted light conversation, so Jack asked her if her last name was pronounced “Ruse-a- Velt” or “Rose-a-Velt”. To his surprise, she said the proper pronunciation was “Ruse-a-Velt”. The entourage loved the banter.  This was a happy photo-op appearance. They did not want anyone asking any deep philosophical questions.

The medical students were technically in the Army and wore the uniforms to class each day.  However, the war ended just before they graduated. The army was trying to wind down its numbers dramatically so it gave all the medical students honorable discharges. Jack and his fiends never got to become “real soldiers”.

JACK 004Jack’s prescription pad

Jack became a well known doctor in Connecticut and had a long career. However, he always felt guilty about not getting into West Point.  Of the West Point class he would have been in, 25% were killed in the war and many more were wounded. There is a good chance that Jack’s ruptured appendix as a child had actually saved his life; an example of what is now called the “butterfly effect.”

If anyone ever said Jack was in the Army during the war he would quickly correct the person and note how he was never in the “real” Army.  He also would quickly correct anyone who mispronounced Eleanor Roosevelt’s name.

John Farrell_Columbia University Yearbook_8_26_12

John Farrell_Medical School Yearbook_8_26_12

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How I Live Now – movie review

How I Live Now is a very unusual movie taking place in the very near future.  It stars Irish actress Saoirse Ronan as a spoiled American teenager (Daisy) from New York City who has been sent to live in England for the summer. She is not happy about being there, and knows that her very wealthy father really sent her away so that he could be alone with his latest trophy wife.

Saoirse (pronounced sir-sha) is an extremely talented actress who is known for her ability to do every kind of accent perfectly.  In this movie she does a great job not only with the accent;  but also with  portraying an American teenager’s attitude (rude).

However, once in England Daisy begins to warm up to the relatives she is staying with and becomes a more likable person as she slowly lets  the wall of rudeness around her begin to fall. She even begins to fall in love with a very down to Earth nice guy.

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But this is not just another teenage “coming of age” movie. While the adolescents are enjoying their Summer there is something sinister going on in the background. Snippets of news programs the adults are listening to show that the countries in Europe are on the verge of major war. It is scary but it seems so very far away from this remote part of Northern England.

Then terrorists detonate a nuclear bomb in London and the Summer changes.

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I will not give away the rest of the movie other than to say that the war has reached England full force and the lives of Daisy and the other kids are forever changed.  As the title of the movie implies, most of the events are about the lives of the kids after the war begins. How they cope, what pains they endure and what choices they are forced to make are what makes this movie so compelling.

This is a forceful movie for a number of reasons. The acting is superb and the plot is excellent.  It is not too far fetched to think that these events could actually happen. The movie shows that there is really no such thing as true security and that kids are no longer protected from the events of the adult world.

We give this movie Four Stars ****

 

 

Intersteller – movie review

Intersteller opened this weekend and it is definitely worth going to see. It takes place in the not too distant future and the Earth is dying. At least the species of humans on Earth is dying.

A blight has devastated one food crop after another making it impossible to grow enough food to feed the World’s population. There is no end in site and the U.S. has entered into another Dust Bowl.

A group of scientists has come to the conclusion that there is no way to save human life on Earth.  The only hope is to find a new world to inhabit. This interstellar travel is suddenly made possible by the mysterious appearance of a “worm hole” near Saturn. Some force or someone has  caused this door to appear and humans need to go through in search of their destiny.

This movie accomplishes the rare feat of having amazing special effects while at the same time having real character development. Mathew McConaughey stars as “Cooper” an ex-astronaut turned farmer, who is brought out of retirement to lead the mission.

Some of the most touching parts of the movie are Cooper’s interactions with his 10 year-old daughter “Murph”. Her reaction is completely natural. She does not understand that her farther is off the save the World. She is just angry and hurt and feels betrayed that her father is leaving for years and may never come back.

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The young Murph is played by Mackenzie Foy who is an incredibly talented  young actress.  She has previously been in two of the Twilight movies.

Intersteller takes place over a number of years and the older Murph is played by Jessica Chastain who gave the powerful performance in Zero Dark Thirty.

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Anne Hathaway plays Amelia Brand the scientist who is also one of the astronauts on the mission to find a new world. Despite her obvious beauty the director  takes the high road keeps her as a realistic astronaut with the gear a real astronaut would  wear.   The movie does not  have any  idiotic scenes designed to show her in skimpy outfits, like we have seen with other Sci-Fi movies   that happen to have a beautiful female star.

Intersteller 1

Be warned ahead of time that this is almost a 3 hour movie. However, it moves amazingly quickly.  It also has a lot of qualities similar to  2001 A Space Odyessy, made by famed director Stanley Kubrick.

This is a great science fiction movie with real charter development. It has to be seen on the big screen to get the full impact.

We give this movie 5 Stars *****

 

 

The Witch – book review

I love when I find great new author. Well, it turns out that Jean Thomson, is not new at all, but I am embarrassed to say that I had never read any of this wonderful writer’s works before.

WITCH BOOK 1

The Witch is a collection of eight short stories that are loosely modeled on well known  fairy tales. Most of the stories take place in modern day and are beautifully  crafted tales.

The stories are in many different styles and locations and all but one take place in modern times. The title story The Witch is an adaptation of Hansel and Gretel to modern day.  The parents of a young boy and girl are judged to be unfit and the children are shipped off to live with a foster mother. The children soon come to think of her as a witch since she keeps them locked in the house and only acts sweet to outside visitors. I will not give away the rest of the story other than to say that it has a more satisfying ending than the original Grimm Brothers story.

My favorite story in the book is entitled Inamorata. It Is the story of a college-aged young man who has slight brain damage from when he was hit by a car as a child. He is usually fine, but there are times when he simply loses the memory of something. The night after a college party he wakes up with a wonderful feeling.

He knows for certain that the night before he had met the woman of his dreams who he is destined to be with. However, he is devastated  by the fact that he has suffered one of his memory losses and he simply cannot remember who she was. He is certain that he will know her if he sees her again. The story then becomes an amusing and Quixotic  quest with he and his roommate trying to track down every girl that was at the party the night before. This is, of course, an adaptation of Cinderella with a very modern twist.

Good, complete, short stories are extremely difficult to write. I know, since I have tried in this very blog. Jean Thompson has been able to accomplish the task and do it with stories in many different styles.

I highly recommend this book and I am delighted to discover that Jean Thompson has also written six novels and five other collections of stories. I look forward to reading them all.

 

Vietnam Diary – Part 4 Going Home

This is the final part of a 4 part series by and about Steve A. who was a draftee combat soldier in Vietnam. If you missed Part 1, Part 2 or Part 3 just click on the link to read them. Steve continues to live in New Jersey and almost never speaks about his Vietnam experiences. These are the true stories as told to the Editor of East Coast Stories.

It was my last day in Vietnam and I had never been more scared.  There were hundreds of  us lined up at the airfield waiting  for transport planes to arrive to take us home. Everyone was nervous and there was not much taking.

It all had to do with the old-time war movies. In every war movie every one of us had ever seen as a kid, there is always some guy who gets killed just before he is going to go home. It sounds stupid, but that kind of thing ends up having a real impact on your subconscious.

We had been standing in line in the oppressive heat for hours and no transport planes had arrived.  Finally a whole group of them landed in succession and we thought we would be getting on them any minute. But the lines did not move. The planes had to be fueled and prepped and that takes a long time.

Then it got dark.

If ever a VC sniper was going to start picking us off now would be the time.  That’s right, the airstrip sniper rumor was back and it was making the troops nervous as Hell.  Guys started to push forward. They could see the planes and they wanted to get on them.

About 50 feet in front of me 2 guys got into a fight. Other guys tried to break it up but these two just kept at it. They were both big muscular guys and both of them were getting bloody.  Whistles blew and  eight  MPs  with batons and helmets came running in and   grabbed the two guys. They were wrestled to the ground and then loaded into jeeps to be taken to the Stockade. The worst fears of these guys had come true. They would not be getting on the transports home. They would be remaining in Vietnam for a while.

About a half hour after the fight the line began to move and I boarded a  plane. I got to sit in the middle. I did not know any of the guy around me.  Unlike today’s Army, men did not move in and out of the war in complete units. We came in and went out as individuals whenever our time happened to be up.

The plane rolled down the runway and the engined roared as it built up speed. Then it lifted off and the wheels left the ground.

A huge cheer went up from all the men.  It was the best cheer I ever heard in my life. Better than the cheer from any crowd at any sporting event.

We were out of Vietnam. And we were alive.

The engine hummed on an on  and men started to dose off.  We thought it was all over, but the Army had one more piece of shit to throw at us. One more thing to remind us that we were  draftees that did not matter to them.

Guam

It was not a non-stop flight. The plane landed in Guam to take on fuel. Before it landed were were ordered to stay in our seats and not get off.

When the plane landed in Guam the door opened and onto the plane came a Sergeant, a Major,  a civilian woman and two small children. It turns out that the Major and his family were going back to the States. Due to his rank, four soldiers were going to be bumped off the plane so that the Major and his family could travel.

The Sergeant picked 4 seats and ordered 4 men off the plane. So four men returning from war were going to have to wait on Guam instead of going home; so that some Major and his family would not have to wait for the next plane.

At the time I wasn’t even angry about it. That was just the kind of thing you expect the Army to do.  I was just glad I was not one of the 4 men told to leave the plane.

After the re-fueling the door closed and the plane left Guam.

This time there were no cheers. We were going home. We had made it through the war and we were going home.  I guess I was supposed to have some great revelation about everything I had been through but I did not.

A lot of people over the years have asked me how I felt coming home from Vietnam . They expect some complex philosophical answer.  But here is the truth.

All I felt was tired. Just absolutely, completely tired.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vietnam Diary – part 3 – Satchel Charge

This is the third part of a 4 part series  about one man who was a draftee into the Vietnam War. If you missed Part 1 or Part 2 please click on the link to read them. Steve A. lives in New Jersey and related this story to the Editor of East Coast Stories. The first 2 parts were told in the first person.  However this episode is so painful to Steve that he still has trouble speaking about it directly.

The days continued to pass slowly in Vietnam and Steve actually did something he never thought he would do. He lost track of how many days he had been there and how many were left. Somehow in the transfer North to The Tower and then back South he had lost the special calendar he had created to tick off the days until he went home.  After a while he was glad he had stopped counting, since the days actually seemed to go faster that way.

Steve was beginning to feel pretty good about things. He had been been in some terrible firefights but had not been wounded.  He was starting to accept what he calls the “absolute randomness” of combat. Sometimes a great soldier or a officer with lots of combat experience will be killed, while a complete klutz with little training survives the same battle.

Steve was back in Saigon and looking forward to getting drunk. He walked into a bar,  and had a few beers.  He decided not to stay since he did not see anyone he knew and the place was a little dull.  As he walked out he thinks he remembers two guys going in but he is not sure.

Steve was halfway down the street looking for a place with more action, when the bar he had just come from blew up. It was a tremendous explosion and he could hear screams.

Then Steve did what he calls the biggest mistake of his life. He decided to run back into the bar and see if there was anyone he could help. He wishes he did not.

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There was nothing anyone could do for what was left of the people inside the bar. Steve will not describe exactly what it looked like other than to say that they were not really people anymore.

The next day the rumors started about what had happened.  Guys on the base were saying it was not the Viet Cong that had blown up the bar. They said it was two soldiers who had gotten “Dear John” letters on the same day. They had stolen satchel charges, brought them into the bar and blown themselves up.

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Steve did not want to believe it.  Even on the plane ride to Vietnam there had been ridiculous rumors that turned out to be false. Still, in the back of his mind he seemed to remember two guys going in as he was coming out. Were they carrying or wearing anything that looked like satchel charges? For years Steve has asked himself that question and finally had to admit that he just can’t remember.

The official story was that the Viet Cong had planted a bomb. No one could explain why that bar was chosen. It was not very crowded and had no officers in it.  Maybe the complete randomness of it was the point. The Viet Cong always wanted to create maximum terror and were very successful at it.  Steve admits that as strange as it sounds he hopes it was the Viet Cong and not some depressed fellow draftees.

So that’s the story of what Steve identifies as his worst day in Vietnam.

The next  and final post of this Vietnam Series will be about what Steve calls his happiest day of the war. That is the last day and his trip home.

 

 

Under The Skin – Movie Review by Gregory F. Farrell

Under The Skin starring Scarlett Johansson is the type of movie you will either love or hate. Most people will hate it. However, true independent film buffs will love it.

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Scarlett is an alien from outer space that is using her beauty to lure and then entrap men. The exact reason for this does not become clear until towards the end of the film. She  has no compassion for what she is doing to the men.

She is inhabiting a body which is not her own, and slowly she begins to experience and enjoy the sensations from that body. When that happens she finds herself becoming unexpectedly more human.

It is one of the strangest and unusual films we have seen in a long time. How the movie was made is as unusual as the film itself.

It was filmed in Northern Scotland and Scarlett has black hair and a very good British accent. She drives around in a van and pulls up to men saying she is lost. Then she asks if a man will get into the van and guide her with directions.

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Most of the men in the movie were not actors. There were hidden cameras in the van, and Scarlett really was approaching complete strangers. Because of the dark hair and the accent they did not realize it was the famous movie star.  Because of her beauty and charm she was very successful at getting men into the van. Of course, at some point the director had to tell the men what was going on and get their permission to be in the movie.

Scarlett Johansson has always been know as a very talented actor willing to take risks. In this film she not only plays an Alien (who is never given a name), but even appears completely naked as the Alien discovers her own sensuality. As far as we know this is the first time Scarlett has appeared naked on camera.

One of the drawbacks to using real Scottish working class people is that most Americans will find their accents almost impossible to comprehend.  We watched this on DVD, and although they were speaking English, the Scottish accents in some parts were so thick that we had to turn on the English subtitles to find out what was going on.

If you want to see a film that pushes the edge of what to try in cinema and want to see Scarlett in something really different; then you will want to see this film. If you like more mainstream movies then your reaction will most likely be “What the Hell was that movie about?”

This movie so much varies with the taste of the viewer that we really do not know how to rate it.

For the first time we are giving a movie a rating of 5 Question marks.  ?????

 

 

NIghtcrawler – movie Review

Nightcrawler starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo opened this weekend to great reviews.

Jake Gyllenhaal is Lou Bloom, a very sleazy guy in Los Angeles  who wants to get ahead and is not very concerned if that means stepping over some ethical and even legal boundaries.

nightcrawler 1

By pure chance he is at a highway accident scene one night and finds out it is possible to actually make good money by just filming accident and crime scenes and selling the footage to T.V. stations.   He gets himself a camera and a police scanner and decides this is the business for him.

Lou Bloom soon finds out the two realities of the business. The first is that there is a lot competition out there.  He has to compete with Joe Loder (excellently played by Bill Paxton). Loder has better cameras, better connections and more experience. Lou Bloom realizes that to beat the competition we will have to be willing to do something extra.

The second reality in the business is that the T.V. stations want blood. “If it bleeds it leads” is the saying in local news.

Bloom is not some innocent guy who slowly becomes jaded by the news business. He is already sort of a sociopath before he even starts.  He has no qualms at all about what he is doing and absolutely no feeling of compassion for the bleeding or dying people he is filming. Those  characteristics are exactly what  makes him rise very quickly in his new profession.

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Lou sells his scenes of death to Nina, the news director of local Channel 6.  She is portrayed by Rene Russo. Nina desperately needs what Lou has to sell. She is the news directors of the lowest rated station and her contract is coming up for renewal (or cancellation) soon. She is no longer the young beautiful news reporter she once was, and if she cannot increase ratings she will be out of a job and out of T.V. news for good.

Nina doesn’t care how Lou is getting his pictures. When others ask questions about how it is possible he is getting to crime scenes even before the police do, she does not want to know the answers. Lou is getting her what she needs and she is willing to give him whatever he wants to get it.

This is an exciting and fast paced movie. It has a lot of action sequences and at the same time brings up some very disturbing truths about T.V. news as it exists today.  Like the fact that violent crimes in White neighborhoods get higher ratings than the exact same crimes in a Black neighborhood.

Nightcrawler 10

There are even small asides about how ridiculous the local news is.  For example, it is noted that the news Director always tries to get  the Weather Girl  (played by Anne McDaniels) to stand sideways to the camera when giving the weather. Of course, this is to make sure that her lovely breasts are more prominently displayed for the viewers.

Michael Hyatt plays a tough police detective who is very suspicious of of Bloom and what he may be hiding. She would very much like to get her hands on some of his unedited video. Of course Bloom is able to hide behind the shield of journalistic integrity and freedom of the press.

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Riz Ahmed is great as Rick,  a naive assistant Lou Bloom hires. Rick is enthusiastic and not too bright, which is exactly why he was hired. Bloom thinks he is great until even Rick begins to figures out t what is really going on.

This is an excellent film and we highly recommend it. After you see it when you go home and watch the local news, you may find it frighting to see how similar it is to the movie.

The next time you watch some especially gory or disturbing images on the news you may find yourself asking this question. “What did they really do to get those pictures?

We give this film our highest rating of Five Stars *****

 

 

Vietnam Diary Part 2 – The Tower

This is the continuation of the story of Steve A. and his days in the Vietnam War. This is a true story as told to the Editor of East coast stories. If you missed Part One just click the link. 

Day 47 – The Tower

It was my 47th day in Vietnam that I was sent to the top of The Tower. I know what day it was, since like every other soldier in Vietnam I counted the number of days I had been there so I could figure out how long before I could go home. The best part of any day was when I could go to sleep, since it meant that when I woke up it was one less  day before I could go home. The officers pretended they did not count the days, but we all knew they did.

I got sent North. Further North than I had even been before and that was a bad thing. The further North you went the stronger the enemy positions. I had never heard of any towers, then suddenly I was told to man one.

The towers were sort of like fortified Forest Fire Ranger stations like they have in the Northwest of the U.S.  They were built so that we could get above the canopy of the jungle and observe what  was going on.

Late one afternoon I was told to climb the ladder to the top of one of the towers.  In the tower was a powerful pair of binoculars and a phone that directly linked to an officer on the ground.  My job was to watch for and report any enemy movement.

For most of the past 47 days I had been in the sweltering jungle, and it was an amazing feeling of freedom when I climbed up the ladder and through the canopy of the jungle. There I was above everything. I could see for miles and miles in every direction. It was like I had suddenly escaped the war by climbing out over the top of it.

Jungle Canopy

Then I began to get scared. I got the feeling that I was a sitting duck for any VC or NVA on the ground. There was some armor plating in the tower, but I was worried a sniper on the ground would be able to get me.

I crouched low and  scanned with the binoculars. I could see that about 10 kilcks to the West  was another tower. Far away to the North was something else that looked like a tower but I could not be sure. Later another guy told me that was the North Vietnamese tower but that the U.S would not bomb it because it was further into North Vietnam than they were allowed to bomb. By this point in the war however, I stopped believing every rumor. It might have been an enemy tower. It might have just been a big tree.

For three days my job was the same routine. When my turn came I climbed up into the tower in the late afternoon and stood watch through most of the night until I was relieved. There was a young Lieutenant who would call on the phone to test it and ask if I spotted any activity. The answer was always no. Nothing was going on.

The one night all Hell broke loose. There was a bright flash to the West and the sound of lots of automatic gunfire. Three seconds after the flash my tower phone rang. It was the young Lieutenant.

“What do you see?”

“Sir it looks like the West tower is being attacked.”

“Anything near us?”

“No Sir. Nothing that I can see.”

I put down the phone  scanned everything around our tower. Then the phone rand again.

“Anything going on near us?”

“No Sir.”

I put down the phone again and 15 seconds later it rang. The Lieutenant asked the same question and got the same answer.  This happened five time in a row.  On the sixth call when the Lieutenant asked his question I screamed into the phone, “Look Lieutenant, if I see anything, you’re going to be the first God-damned person I call!” Then I slammed down the phone.

I watched throughout the night as we all waited for our position to get attacked just like the tower to the West. But nothing happened. We were all petrified.

In the morning when I climbed down the ladder the Lieutenant did not say anything.  He could have had me court marshaled for insubordination, but he let it slide.

I had not thought about my nights in the tower in many years, until I saw an item on the T.V.news.  It was about all the American tourists who go to Vietnam these days. For some extra money they can visit items left over from the war. One of the things they can do is climb the few remaining American observations towers.

The T.V camera showed a view from the top of the tower and that brought back old memories.  There was the old fear and tension that we might be attacked.  But there was also the feeling of that first wonderful  moment when I climbed through the top of the jungle and actually thought I had climbed out of the war.