Monthly Archives: September 2016

Ghost Man – a terrific crime novel by Roger Hobbs

Ghost Man by Roger Hobbs is an exciting  robbery novel. In fact, it is about two  robberies. One is a casino heist in Atlantic City New Jersey, and the other is a bank robbery in  Malaysia. The novel begins after both robberies have ended in disaster and death.

The “Ghost Man”  is the guy in any major robbery whose job it is to make sure that everything runs perfectly. He is the one who does all the intelligence work before the heist. He checks out the alarm system, sees where the guards are, times the police patrols, sees what kind of vault or armored car is used.

Bank robber with Uzi

Bank robber with Uzi

After the casino heist in Atlantic City goes bad and the money disappears, Jack Dalton is sent in to figure out what happened and to find the missing money before the cops do. Jack is the best Ghost Man in the world. Of course, his name is not really Jack Dalton. He changes his name and his appearance after each robbery and simply disappears. (Hence the term “ghost”).

The only reason Jack is willing to get involved in such a mess after the fact is that he owes a debt to the crime boss Marcus. Jack was the person who screwed up the Malaysian robbery years before. It was the kind of mistake that got a lot of people killed and there are still  lot of people still trying to find Jack to kill him.

Don't we all really fantasize about being able to bathe in money?

Don’t we all really fantasize about being able to bathe in money?

As soon as Jack starts to check things out in Atlantic City he realizes the situation is more dangerous than he ever imagined.  Not only must he avoid the police and FBI, but it turns out that Atlantic city has a drug lord called “The Wolf”who is a hundred times more violent  than Marcus. The Wolf wants to find the casino money for himself, and doesn’t care who he has to kill to get it.

Author Roger Hobbs

Author Roger Hobbs

In any crime novel what matters is attention to detail and pacing. Ghost Man is great at both.  Roger Hobbs has shown himself to be a master of the big crime genre.  Step by step he lays out how to pull off a major robbery down to the smallest detail. Let’s face it, haven’t we all secretly fantasized about what it would be like to rob a bank or casino?  Haven’t we  imagined what we would do with millions of dollars in cash?  Ghost Man shows how you might actually get away with it.  Then Ghost Man lets us see how even  a slight mistake can get you killed or sent to prison for life.

Ghost Man is terrific and we highly recommend it.  Roger Hobbs has also published Vanishing Games which continues with some of the same characters. Best to start at the beginning with Ghost Man, which we are sure you will love as much as we did.

Melancholia movie review

Melancholia is a 2011 movie by Lars von Trier about a dysfunctional family facing what may be the end of the world. A rogue planet is passing through our solar system. Most scientists believe that it will slide harmlessly  past Earth giving everyone a spectacular celestial show. However, there are doom predictors on the internet warning there will be a collision which will end all life.

The planet Melancholia approaches Earth

The planet Melancholia approaches Earth

This is not really a science fiction movie. Like the movie Another Earth, Melancholia is a psychological drama. Most “end of the world” movies have huge crowd scenes with thousands of fleeing,  panicking people. Melancholia portrays a much more intimate and philosophical mood.  No one is panicking or screaming. Instead they are introspective and depressed, trying to come to some sort of inner peace.

Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourgh as sisters in Melancholia

Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg as sisters in Melancholia

Kirsten Dunst is Justine, a young bride who has struggled with depression her whole life, and who is convinced the world will end. Charlotte Gainsbourg is her sister Claire, who has suffered with the burden of caring for Justine and wants nothing more than a perfect wedding for Justine. Claire is married to John (Kiefer Sutherland) who is a wealthy man with little patience for his crazy in-laws.

Charlotte Gainsbourgh and Kiefer Sutherland watch the approaching planet

Charlotte Gainsbourg and Kiefer Sutherland watch the approaching planet

Melancholia is a spectacularly  filmed movie with gorgeous scenes that are meant to show the beauty of life on Earth. There are shots of the two sisters riding horses through the woods in the early morning when the Sun is just lifting the fog. Kirsten Dunst has an artistically stunning nude scene lying down by a clear cold stream. These are all reminders that no matter what happens with the rogue planet, Life is short and should be cherished for the miracle it is.

Lars von Trier and Kirsten Dunst at the Cannes Film Festival

Lars von Trier and Kirsten Dunst at the Cannes Film Festival

Unfortunately, when Melancholia was presented at the Cannes Film Festival it was somewhat overshadowed by what was considered a pro-Hitler statement by the director Lars von Trier. In an interview, he mentioned that he had been brought up Jewish, only to discover later in life that his real father was German. Lars von Trier then went on to say that maybe that was why he had always been sympathetic towards Hitler.

This caused such an uproar that Lars von Trier and all his movies were banned from the Cannes Film Festival for a year. He explained later that he had been drunk and on drugs at the time of the interview and was in such a state that he thought he was making a witty joke when he spoke about Hitler. Lars von Trier is now clean and sober, but states that his film making was much more creative when he was on drugs.

Kirstin Dunst

Kirstin Dunst

Like many artists before him, the works of Lars von Trier are somehow greater than the man himself. Despite the personal failings of Lars von Trier, his movie Melancholia is beautiful and we highly recommend it.

Zombies Represent Gerascophia -A Fear Of Getting Old

Zombies really represent Gerascophia, which is a fear of getting old.  The Zombie genre  is so popular since the fear of getting old is universal. In fact, many  people fear the incapacitates and indignities of old age more than they fear death itself.  The Who song My Generation, comes right our and says  “Hope I die before I get old.”

When the young beautiful people run from  Zombies in movies, they are really running from old age. Here are the hints that show what Zombies are really about.

  • Like old people Zombies don’t remember who they once were. However, they congregate at places like malls which they used to enjoy. Walking aimlessly in malls seems to be a big attraction for zombies (and old people in the real world).
Zombies and old people in Cockneys Versus Zombies

Zombies and old people in Cockneys Versus Zombies

  • In most movies, Zombies walk slowly like old people. (Of course, newer movies have brought in faster Zombies to add to the excitement).
Zombies slowly fall apart as if aging

Zombies slowly fall apart as if aging

  • Zombies never seem to actually die. They just look worse and worse like someone slowly aging.
  • In a huge portion of the zombie movies the people are never able to actually escape the fate of becoming a zombie. No matter how far you run or what you do the zombies (old age) eventually catches up with you.
Beautiful young women fight in Price & Prejudice & Zombies

Beautiful young women fight in Price & Prejudice & Zombies

  • The people best at fighting zombies are the young ad beautiful
  •  In most zombie movies, there is no cure, although many potions get tried. (Just look on the internet sometime and see how many “anti-aging” pills and creams are for sale.)
  • Euthanasia is often practiced in zombie movies.
Einstein points out there are some advantages to being older

Einstein points out there are some advantages to being older

  • If you are touched or bitten by a zombie you will become one. This goes back to fears that many children have of extremely old people. In fact, the terms Gerascophobia (or Gerontophobia) are used to describe both  the fear or getting old and the fear of old people themselves.  People are so afraid of the elderly that that  subconsciously end up envisioning aged people as monsters (Zombies).

So the next time you are screaming at a zombie movie remember that you may really be letting loose your primeval fears of aging. Of course, that means that the primitive part of your brain may be thinking of kindly old Grandma and Grandpa as horrible zombies that would be better off dead.  But don’t feel too bad.  After all you are doing it subconsciously.

So have a good scream. Bring those fears to the surface and let them out. Besides, no matter what you do the zombie (old age) is going to catch up with you in real life, even if the people somehow manage to  get away in the movies.

Then stop worrying about it. Maybe that’s why we love animals so much. They don’t sit around worrying about how old they are or what will happen when they get older. Animals don’t spend their time worrying about their life. They spend their time living it.

 

 

 

Little Bunny Blogger

Little Bunny Blogger is a wonderful  website for Bunny  lovers. It features terrific pictures of rabbits and has useful facts about the care and feeding of these gentle creatures.  It is authored by Carlee, who  has always loved rabbits. One of her earliest memories  as a little girl  is that of hopping around the house pretending to be a rabbit.

Pup, Luna & Carlee from Bunny Bloggers

Pup, Luna & Carlee from Bunny Bloggers

Little Bunny Blogger includes a section on random rabbit facts. We never knew before that rabbits can run 35 miles per hour or that they have 28 teeth and 18 toes.  It also emphasizes that rabbits are not toys, but a “member of the family” that need to be treated with love and care.

Pup enjoying some Timothy Hay

Pup enjoying some Timothy Hay

Little Bunny Blogger is especially useful for those who are first-time rabbit owners, or who are thinking of adopting a rabbit. It has a whole section of “dos and don’ts” explaining useful items like what foods are good and which can be dangerous.

Piper who was found wandering in Arkansas

Piper who was found wandering in Arkansas

Carlee’s love of animals extends to dogs and cats as well. There is an adorable picture of Piper, a Labrador/hound/Beagle mix who was found wandering streets in Arkansas when only 3 weeks old.

It is great to meet another blogger who loves bunnies and other animals as much as we do. We wish Carlee and Little Bunny Blogger great success.

Steve McQueen – The Man & Le Mans – the best documentary about The King Of Cool

Steve McQueen -The Man & Le Mans on Showtime is the best documentary ever made about “The King Of Cool.”  Steve McQueen was a rare combination of strong conflicting forces. He was a brilliant actor, accomplished motorcycle and race car driver, astute businessman and loving father. He was also a philandering husband, unnecessary risk-taker,  and one of the most insecure men ever to be a movie star.

Steve McQueen The King Of Cool

Steve McQueen The King Of Cool

All of these forces came to a head when McQueen set up his own production company to make a movie called Le Mans, about the world-famous 24 hour French auto race. But Steve McQueen was not content to just make a regular Hollywood movie with a romantic plot where car racing was a backdrop. McQueen was obsessed with filming  something where the audience would truly feel exactly what it was like to be  racing in a car at 260 miles per hour. He was so obsessed with the feel of the race that he ignored  other aspects of the movie. They were millions of dollars into production and there was still no script or even a plot.  People began to realize that maybe McQueen didn’t really know what  he was doing.

Steve McQueen, Neile Adams, Chad McQueen

Steve McQueen, Neile Adams, Chad McQueen

At the same time the movie set was a disaster, McQueen was trying to turn Le Mans into a fun family bonding experience. He had brought his wife Neile Adams and their son Chad to Le Mans and they all lived in a rented castle.

Elga Anderson - actress in Le Mans, now a Swedish member of Parliment

Elga Anderson – actress in Le Mans, now a Swedish member of Parliament

Steve McQueen had conflicting goals in his life.  He was having illicit sex with beautiful actresses in his movie trailer every day, and then going home to his lovely wife and son after work.

Steve McQueen with wife Neile Adams

Steve McQueen with wife Neile Adams

At the same time Steve  McQueen was being disloyal to his wife, he demanded absolute loyalty from everyone around him.  One of his close advisors called the studio chiefs to report that the movie was over budget. After that call, Steve McQueen never spoke to that man again for the rest of his life.

One of the most crushing moments in Steve McQueen’s life came when his wife Neile Adams admitted that she too and once had an affair. Although Steve had been unfaithful hundreds of times, he just could not forgive her.

In the end; Le Mans the movie was made and opened to mixed reviews.  People were not sure what to make of this new gritty, realistic style.

Le Mans still has a cult following today, with car enthusiasts praising it as the most true-to-life  car film ever made.  Race car drivers themselves praise it as the one film that depicts who they truly are.  Steve McQueen would be very pleased with that.

 

“Genghis” Episode of High Maintenance required watching for Teachers

The “Genghis” episode of  the HBO series High Maintenance should  be required watching for anyone considering becoming a public school teacher. Avery Monsen stars as Mr. Waxman, a teacher in training assigned to a Brooklyn summer school semester. His enthusiasm could not be higher. He is going to use his humor, his magic skills and his love of people to enthrall the students.

"Genghis" episode of High Maintenance should be required watching for student teachers

“Genghis” episode of High Maintenance should be required watching for student teachers

It does not take long for Mr. Waxman’s dreams to be crushed. The kids don’t want to be there, the other teachers are burnouts, and the school rules do not allow him to do anything creative.  At one point a student can’t take notes since he has forgotten a pencil. An astonished  Mr. Waxman is told that school rules do not allow him to loan the student a pencil.

Jenn Harris who plays the burned out teacher Ms. Farad

Jenn Harris who plays the burned out teacher Ms. Farad

Jenn Harris is great as Ms. Farad,  a teacher burn-our who seems barely able to keep her eyes open. She views the enthusiastic Mr. Waxman with a mixture of disgust and pity.

The curriculum is idiotic as well. They are trying to teach about Genghis Kahn, which is of  absolutely no relevance or interest to kids in modern day  Brooklyn.

Juliannah Vasquez plays "Keesha" in the Genghis episode of High Maintenance

Juliannah Vasquez plays “Keesha” in the Genghis episode of High Maintenance

The actors playing the kids are great too. Juliannah Vasquez (Keesha) and Jason Cruz (Daikeen) notice every nuance of the teachers’ attitudes. Their acting skill makes us feel proud that a whole new generation of talented young  actors is thriving in the New York area. The tradition of theatrical  excellencin our local community continues.

The climax of the episode comes when everyone is asked to write down 2 “truths” and 1 “lie” about themselves. When it comes time for Mr. Waxman to read his list he says.

  1. “I miss making a lot of money.”
  2.   I am more selfish than I thought.
  3.  I still think it’s a good idea to teach in Brooklyn.”

The kids immediately guess that number 3 is the lie. However, it is not played for laughs. The look on Keesha’s face shows how very disappointed she is that  a so called “adult” has given up on them after such a short time.

Ben Sinclair & Katja Blichfeld The creative geniuses behind High Maintenance

Ben Sinclair & Katja Blichfeld The creative geniuses behind High Maintenance

Katja Blichfeld & Ben Sinclair wrote the episode. Ben admits that he himself had tried to become a public school teacher and did not even make it through the training period.

 

Meet The Hitlers

Meet The Hitlers sounds like a horrible name  for a terrible sitcom, but it is really a very interesting documentary about people all linked by the name “Hitler”.  It is a psychological drama about how some people accept who they are, while others spend a  lifetime hiding, while still other pretend to be something they are not.

There is a family in Long Island, whose members are direct descendants of the nephew of Adolf Hitler. Their father (the nephew) came to American during World War II and publicly denounced Adolf. Despite this, the sons changed their last name. In fact,  they were so ashamed of their lineage  that they made a pact never to have children. They hide in their houses if a member of the press ever shows up. They will not  appear on film.

Birthday cake for little Adolf Hitler

Birthday cake for little Adolf Hitler

Other Americans with the Hitler last name have refused to take a new name despite the infamous associations. These families come across as much more likable and at peace with themselves. Their attitude is, “this is who I am, judge me for my actions, not those of others.”

Isidore Campbell with son Adolf Hitler

Isidore Campbell with son Adolf Hitler

Meet The Hitlers also has a very disturbing segment about the Campbells, a New Jersey family that named their children Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun. Unlike the other families in Meet The Hitlers, the Campbells have no actual ties to the Hitler name. The Campbells are White Supremacists who like to dress up in Nazi uniforms.

The Campbells gained national attention when Shoprite supermarkets refused to make a cake with “Happy Birthday Adolf Hitler” on it.  Mr. Campbell is a self-professed Nazi, and is covered with tattoos of swastikas.

Deborah & Isidore Hitler claim their children were taken due to their political views

Deborah & Isidore Hitler claim their children were taken due to their political views

The Campbell’s children were taken away by Social Services. The State claims the children was abused. Deborah and Isidore Campbell say their children were taken simply punishment for their parents  political views. The segment does give a fascinating look at the  issue of free speech. Are their limits to free speech? Does teaching children to hate all other races constitute child abuse?

Meet The Hitlers is certainly worth watching and demonstrated the power of a single word. When you see the people linked by “Hitler” you will like many,  hate others, and feel profound sorrow for some.

 

 

Sully – unjustly vilifies the NTSB

Sully is an exciting  movie, but depicts  the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) as a bunch of evil buffoons out to destroy  Captain Chesley Sullenberger (Sully). In reality, the NTSB was very respectful of Captain Sullenberger and praised him profusely. The actual events were interesting enough without Director Clint Eastwood having to invent bad guys like this was on old time Hollywood cowboy movie with Sully as the Sheriff.

Clint Eastwood & Tom Hanks on location for Sully

Clint Eastwood & Tom Hanks on location for Sully

The amount of time Sully spends on the NTSB committee hearings also takes time away from the more interesting events of the real  “Miracle On The Hudson” . The parts of the move that take place in the air and on the water are great. The NTSB hearings come across as unnecessary filler.  Lets take a look at the true events.

“Not again!” was the  thought that ran through the minds of thousands of people in New York and New Jersey  on January 15, 2009 when they looked out their windows and  saw a jet crash into the frigid Hudson river. Only 8 years earlier, on 9/11/01, terrorists had flown two jets into the World Trade Center. Then,  on on 11/11/01  a jet crashed into a Queens neighborhood. On October 11, 2006, New York Yankees Pitcher Cory Lyle crashed his plane into a Manhattan apartment building.

Captain Chesley Sullenberger (Sully)

Captain Chesley Sullenberger (Sully)

The “Miracle On The Hudson” was a huge group effort  that saved all 155 people aboard US Airways Flight 1548.  After a bird strike destroyed both engines, Sully  was able to execute a perfect water landing on the Hudson. The plane was evacuated and the people were rescued by ferry boat crews and the NYPD. The movie depicts all of this wonderfully, and we wish it had spent more time here than in the committee rooms.

Because of the amount of time the movie spends vilifying the NTSB, it ends up only lightly touching on many of the more interesting aspects of all the people who worked to save the passengers. The police and ferryboat crews are shown only briefly. The fast thinking of the ferryboat captains on that day deserved more screen time.

Sully did not show that the Hudson river has a tremendously strong current and the jet  was being carried downstream at a rapid pace. The Hudson is no calm lake. The ferryboat captains performed a tremendous feat of seamanship by pushing their vessels in a delicate maneuver to stop the jet from being carried away by the current.  Too little power and the jet would have gone downstream. Too much and the ferryboats could have crushed and sunk the jet. The movie ignored completely  the passengers on the ferryboats, who also helped.

Real Miracle On the Hudson

Real Miracle On the Hudson

The other problem with the NTSB hearing scenes in Sully was that they looked suspiciously like scenes from the movie Flight staring Denzel Washington.  There was also an amazingly large amount of product placement in Sully. The signs for the Marriott downtown hotel was shown so many times that Sully began to look like an informercial. Yes, we know that we have ads on our site; but at least we admit they are advertisements and don’t pretend they are part of the story.

Miracle on the Hudson

Miracle on the Hudson

Don’t get us wrong. Captain Sullenberger, and First Officer Jeffrey Skiles really were heroes. So were the Ferryboat captains and crew, the NYPD & Fire & Rescue teams and all the NY & NJ EMT & hospital workers.  However, you don’t need to have bad guys to have heroes.

 

 

Victims of 9/11 Tell Politicians to Shut Up

If the victims of 9/11 could speak from beyond the grave, it would probably be to tell the politicians to “Shut Up and leave Our Families Alone!” For 15 years we have been watching as American politicians of all political parties  have been jockeying to get close to the families of those who died on 9/11. Memorials and plaques and speeches and dedications seem designed to give the maximum boost to political careers rather than any real comfort to families. Maybe the best way to  honor families is to let them grieve  in private.  Yes, 9/11 impacted all Americans, but not all equally.

Flower wreath for a dead son

Flower wreath for a dead son

One of the strongest childhood memories  I have comes from a day when I was playing on a deserted beach, and a very old man and woman hobbled down to the water’s edge. They threw a handmade wreath of flowers into the ocean and stood still for a long time as the waves carried it out. Then they turned and slowly walked away without looking back.

When I asked my parents about them, I was told  that the old man and woman were honoring their son who was a Sailor killed in World War II. They did this every year on the anniversary of their son’s death. People in the area stayed away from that part of the beach each year on that day to give the old couple privacy. It was only by mistake that as a child I had witnessed this moment.

Those grieving parents did not want plaques or Fourth of July parades or even medals. What they wanted was to privately remember their son, and that is what the people of the town gave them. In the years that followed, I always remembered to stay away from the beach on the anniversary of that Sailor’s death. Even  as a child I knew that the best way I could help the parents on that day  was to leave them alone.

I know it is a lost cause, but I would still like to ask American politicians to show a little class on 9/11. The best thing the politicians could do on 9/11 is to stay home. It is a day for the families of the victims – not for you.

 

 

 

Qasim on High Maintenance

If you have ever met someone you thought was your perfect match only to discover that individual is totally insane then you will love the Qasim episode of High Maintenance. Anna Rose Hopkins plays a young woman who meets a perfect guy (played by Jordan Dean) in her spin class. The guy (Jordan) is like a dream come true. He is great looking, super-athletic, an accomplished artist, and completely unattached.

Anna Rose Hopkins in Qasim episode of High Maintenance

Anna Rose Hopkins in Qasim episode of High Maintenance

But like all things too good to be true, so is Jordan. At first Jordan just appears to have some odd quirks, like the fact that he exercises constantly and only sleeps for 2 hours a night.

Jordan Dean in Qasim episode of High Maintenance

Jordan Dean in Qasim episode of High Maintenance

Then right after having sex,  Jordan reveals that he is a deep believer in Qasim, “A multi-dimensional alien angel who uploads to an individual in Arizona.”  Then he explains in detail that all followers of Qasim must insert special crystals into their genitals.

This is where the short vignette style of High Maintenance is perfect.  Anna Rose Hopkins gives a wonderful  ending to the episode without having to say a word.  The expression on her face says it all. As she lies quietly  in bed next to Jordan the look in her eyes says, “How can I get my clothing on and get out of here before this muscular nut-job kills me? How could I have been this stupid? Why do these things always happen to me?”

High Maintenance great. Each episode is only as long or as short as it needs to be. It also gives us a chance to see young New York actors who are already masters of their craft. We look forward to seeing each episode.

22 Pushup Challenge Is The Wrong Way To Help Veterans

Doing 22 pushups may be the wrong way to help veteransPeople are ignoring the 81 suicides a day of Americans who are not veterans.  Many of those  patriotically doing 22 pushups mistakenly believe that the 22 suicides occur because the victims  are veterans.  Then people demand  special veteran-related solutions.   That is going down the wrong path and does not fix the problem. Suicide is an American-wide problem, not limited to veterans.

22 Pushup Challenge ignores the 81 non-veteran suicides per day

22 Pushup Challenge ignores the 81 non-veteran suicides per day

Many of those 22 who commit suicide are older people who  left the Armed Forces decades ago, and never served in any war. They killed themselves not because of what happened in the service, but because  of the same stresses faced by non-veterans. Mental illness, drug dependency, poverty and disease are taking their toll on veterans and non-veterans alike. Being a veteran does not protect someone from the ravages of mental illness or the fall into deep depression that leads to taking one’s own life.

The best way to lower veteran suicides is to work on programs to lower All suicides. America needs more drug treatment centers, suicide hotlines, and mental health centers. We need to remove the way Americans are stigmatized if they ever admit to having a mental illness, or needing psychological help.

Dwayne Johnson (The Rock) explains the 22 Push Up Challenge

Dwayne Johnson (The Rock) explains the 22 Push Up Challenge

The one thing the 22 Pushup Challenge has done is to open up a discussion of suicide in America.

Like most people when we heard the 22 a day statistic we thought it could not possibly be that high. When we looked into it, we found that the situation is much worse. In total, about 38,000 Americans per year kill themselves. That comes to 103 per day.

Now that the 22 Pushup Challenge has gotten everyone’s attention, let’s fix the problem.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Breathe – will leave you scared breathless

Don’t Breathe will leave you scared breathless.  Stephen Lang as the Blind Man is the toughest and most frighting bad guy to come along in years. At first you cheer for him as a blind Iraq War veteran who is only protecting his home from 3 invading young robbers. But as Don’t Breathe progresses we come to realize that he is the incarnation of unimaginable hatred and violence.

Daniel Zovatto & Stephen Lang in "Don't Breathe"

Daniel Zovatto & Stephen Lang in “Don’t Breathe”

Director Fredrico Alvarez has created a horror film with multiple twists and scares. Jane Levy is “Rocky”, a beautiful young woman who teams up with her nasty boyfriend, “Money” (played by Daniel Zovatto) to rob houses. They are joined by mild mannered Alex (Dylan Minnette) who is really more interested in Rocky than the robberies.

Jane Levy as Rocky in "Don't Breathe"

Jane Levy as Rocky in “Don’t Breathe”

The Blind Man is rumored to have a large stash of cash from a court settlement hidden in his house. The 3 robbers think stealing from him will be easy. However, they have overlooked the fact that The Blind Man is a tough as nails combat hardened soldier with a stash of weapons and a vicious dog. The robbers have also not thought about what happens if the lights go out.

Dylan Minnette as Alex in "Don't Breathe"

Dylan Minnette as Alex in “Don’t Breathe”

Stephen Lang as the Blind Man does not speak at all for at least two thirds of the movie. When he does, the things he reveals about who he really is are unimaginably horrifying.

Confirmation – is Clarence Thomas a sexual predator or innocent?

The HBO movie Confirmation examines whether Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is a sexual predator or an innocent man who was brutally attacked by political opponents. It revolves around the 1991 Senate confirmation hearings, during which Anita Hill, a former subordinate to Thomas,  testified that Clarence Thomas had repeatedly sexually harassed and humiliated her.

Kerry Washington as Anita Hill in Confirmation

Kerry Washington as Anita Hill in Confirmation

The testimony was a new low in American Politics. Anita Hill described in lurid detail about the ways Clarence Thomas had described pornographic movies, sexual acts and even the size of his own penis. This testimony took place on live T.V.  in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee chaired by Senator Joe Biden.

Wendell Pierce as Clarence Thomas in Confirmation

Wendell Pierce as Clarence Thomas in Confirmation

Anita Hill’s testimony was so graphic that newscasters had to warn people not to let their children watch the evening news.

Confirmation does an excellent job of reporting the events without taking sides as to who was telling the truth. The movie has a cast of extraordinarily talented actors. Kerry Washington as Anita Hill is able to portray the personal and psychological toll the hearings took on her.

Greg Kinnear as Joe Biden in Confirmation

Greg Kinnear as Joe Biden in Confirmation

Wendell Pierce is perfect as Clarence Thomas.  Wendell Pierce’s performance is riveting when he gives the speech where Clarence Thomas describes his ordeal as nothing more than a “high tech lynching”.

Greg Kinnear is Senator Joe Biden who at the time was the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.  He believes that Anita Hill’s allegations must be brought to light, but at the same time is disturbed that such filthy testimony is destroying the reputation and dignity of the U.S. Senate.

Jeffrey Wright as Professor Charles Ogletree in Confirmation

Jeffrey Wright as Professor Charles Ogletree in Confirmation

Jeffrey Wright is Harvard Professor Charles Ogletree, who risked his tenure by volunteering to help Anita Hill.

So what was the truth behind the allegations? Even 25 years later no one knows for sure. Intelligent people to this day completely disagree. Either Clarence Thomas is a sexual predator who made it to the Supreme Court,  or he was a victim of an unsuccessful political attack to derail his nomination.  Watch Confirmation and come to your own conclusion.

 

High Maintenance – A Perfect 8 minutes of television

Complete episodes of High Maintenance are shorter then the commercial breaks of some network T.V. shows. Episodes of High Maintenance are perfect little vignettes in the surreal life of a drug dealer and his upscale New York clientele. Originally made for the web, High Maintenance is now on HBO. We give it our highest rating of Five Stars.

Forget all about the stereotype of a drug dealer  standing on a dirty street corner selling to passing motorists. That was 25 years ago.  Marijuana has  become so mainstream that you can now have it delivered to your apartment just like getting a pizza.

Ben Sinclair is “the guy” – the laid back fellow who bicycles through New York City delivering marijuana. The term “High Maintenance” refers to his clients, most of whom are so high strung it is immediately obvious why they desperately need his product.

Brenna Palughi tries to drown out mouse screams on High Maintenance

Brenna Palughi tries to drown out mouse screams on High Maintenance

Whether he wants to or not, The Guy ends up getting involved in his clients lives. In the episode Jaime, Molly Knefel and Brenna Palughi are two very sensitive women who have caught a mouse in a sticky trap in their apartment. (Jamie is what they have named the mouse).

Molly Knefel on High Maintenace

Molly Knefel on High Maintenance

When The Guy arrives to deliver pot, the women are semi-hysterical from the screaming of the mouse. Of course, they immediately enlist The Guy to take care of the situation. He solves the problem by putting the mouse in a bag and all 3 puff marijuana smoke into the bag until the mouse is calm and stops screaming. Then the episode ends with a jolt. Just when the women have calmed down and are happy with this “kinder & gentler” solution, The Guy smashes the bag with a cast iron skillet and flattens the mouse.

Greta Lee as Homeless Hedi on High Maintenance

Greta Lee as Homeless Heidi on High Maintenance

The pot Guy sometimes inadvertently let out secrets. One client is enchanted with a beautiful woman he met the night before and who has slept over with him. The Guy inadvertently blurts out that this is “Homeless Heidi” (Greta Lee) who has no apartment and just lives from man to man. The Guy leaves, not realizing he has crushed the client.

Ben Sinclair & Katja Blichfeld

Ben Sinclair & Katja Blichfeld

Each episode is introduced by Ben Sinclair and the casting director/co-creator Katja Blicjfeld. This married couple obviously loves the show and the people on it.

Any writer will tell you that creating a perfect  short story is actually more difficult than doing a novel. Likewise, a perfect  8 or ten minute show is in many ways more difficult to bring off than an hour long series. High Maintenance has been able to produce an entire series of perfect shorts. Take 10 minutes and give High Maintenance a look You won’t be disappointed.

Frog Music

Frog Music by Emma Donoghue is a fascinating historical thriller taking place in 1876 San Francisco. The plot revolves around the murder of a young woman, but the true star of the story is San Francisco itself.

Emma Donoghue and Frog Music

Emma Donoghue and Frog Music

In 1876, San Francisco was an odd mixture of people from different cultures, all of whom had come to the city to make their fortune. There were wealthy silver & gold  miners, and destitute miners who had never found a nugget. There were Chinese coolies and Italian businessmen trying to make it big in America. Then  there was a whole “other” layer of society consisting of prostitutes, pimps, thieves, madams and corrupt policemen.

California Dreaming

California Dreaming

One of the people trying to earn her fortune is the French  dancer/prostitute Blanche Beunon. She is a star dancer, who earns extra for “special performances” for rich men. She is doing do well she has been able to save money and even  purchase a house.

Prostitutes in San Francisco 1876

Prostitutes in San Francisco 1876

Then Blanch’s view of the world is turned upside down when she meets Jenny, a young  woman who forces Blanche to see things differently. Jenny is what we would call today a Feminist. Jenny wears men’s clothing (which was illegal at the time), carries a gun, and depends on no man to make a living.

Gold Miners

Gold Miners

Jenny prods Blanche into  realizing  that Blanche’s  “fancy man”  (pimp) and his friend are really just parasites living off her work. With Jenny’s prodding Blanche decides to make a painful journey to find out what really happened to Blanch’s  baby; who her “fancy man” insists was given to a loving farm family. She soon discovers the horrors of what really happens to unwanted children.

Chinaman carrying supplies, San Francisco c1870

Chinese man   carrying supplies, San Francisco c1870

Frog Music begins with Jenny being brutally murdered. The rest of the novel is the story of what lead up to that event, and clues as to who committed  the crime. As the story unfolds we find out that Jenny is much more complicated than Blanche eve suspected. Was Jenny the real target, or was the murderer really after Blanche?

Frog Music is a wonderful book, which we highly recommend. Frog Music is based on a real murder, and the characters actually existed. It tells a fascinating historic tale.

Joy Williams as Janine on Roadies

The pivotal role of Janine on Roadies  is played by singer/songwriter Joy Williams  in her acting debut. Joy Williams gave such a great performance that most viewers assumed she had been a professional actor for years. Joy Williams, of course,  was half of the duo The Civil Wars with John Paul White. Ironically, despite the fact that Roadies continually pokes fun at Taylor Swift, The Civil Wars once teamed up with Taylor Swift to sing Safe & Sound for The Hunger Games.

Taylor Swift & Joy Williams

Taylor Swift & Joy Williams

In Roadies, Janine  is the ex-lover of  Christopher,  the band’s lead singer. Janine is also the subject of the Staton-House band’s most famous song. Janine is more or less the Yoko Ono of Staton-House. Christopher is still madly in love with her, while the other band members and Roadies consider Janine toxic. When she finally does show up for a concert, the fears turn out to be correct. Jeanne goes berserk, and reveals to Christopher that she once slept with Bill.

Joy Williams

Joy Williams

The only disappointing part of  having  Joy Williams as Janine is that we never get to hear her sing.  It seems like a no brainier that if you get Joy Williams on a music show; you have her sing.

It was also very anti-climatic that in the Season Finale Janine and Christopher are back together.  There was just way too much “tying  up of loose ends ends”  in the Season Finale plot line. It was much more interesting when Janine was  a total bitch threatening lawsuits that would bankrupt the band and ruin the reputation of Staton-House.

There is real doubt as to whether or not Roadies will have a Season Two. If the tour is really over, then we will never get to find out who is the real Janine. Is she the gentle lover back with Christopher, or is she still the psycho-chick out for revenge any way she can get it? We may never know.

The Civil Wars - John Paul White & Joy Williams

The Civil Wars – John Paul White & Joy Williams

In her own career, Joy Williams is no stranger to backstage drama. She and John Paul White broke up The Civil Wars in the middle of a tour, stating there was “internal discord and irreconcilable differences of ambition.” That sounds like something right out of the plot of Roadies itself.

The good news is that Joy Williams has continued her solo career with all new music including the hauntingly beautiful “Someone To Love You.”

We are not really sure if we like Janine, but we definitely like Joy Williams.

 

Safe Haven Rabbit Rescue Bun-Nanza Returns!

Safe Haven Rabbit Rescue’s annual Bun-nanza returns on Sunday October 9th. This  year it will be held at:

Bunny snuggles with the bear

Sunshine snuggles with the  Teddy the bear

  • the Clinton Community Center
  •  Halstead Street
  • Clinton, NJ 08890
  • 11am- 4pm

If you love domestic rabbits, or are just curious about them, this is a great event for the whole family. You can even bring your own bunny, to get a nail trim and grooming.

On a hot day, Sunshine relaxes on the cool slate by the fireplace

On a hot day, Sunshine relaxes on the cool slate by the fireplace

Rabbit expert  Darrin Fournier has come all the way from the Bunny Whisperer in  California to be a guest speaker.  There will be  maze set up for bunnies to explore. Anyone who owns a rabbit knows that scrunching in and out of small places is one of the adventures that bunnies enjoy the most.

children 2

Joyce Wang of Elvis Parsley Products will the there with organic edible wreaths and brooms. Artist Susan Bromirski will be offering her unique digital paintings. We will also meet Alice Shope of Country Pet Specialties. Don’t forget that bunnies like to play so be sure to check out the bunny toys from Busy Bunny.

Bunny Contest 004

Safe Haven Rabbit Rescue is a wonderful organization which we have written about many times. It takes care of abandoned and abused rabbits and finds them good homes. My wife and I have a wonderful bunny named Sunshine, who we got from Safe Haven Rabbit Rescue. Sunshine was brought to Safe Haven Rabbit rescue after someone threw him out of a car window at a traffic light.

Bun Day Oct 5 022

Unfortunately, there are many people who treat domestic rabbits as “disposable pets.” They get rabbits thinking they are simple and easy like a stuffed animal. Once they realize this is a living creature that has needs to be cared for and nurtured they just “throw out” the rabbit.

sleepy dog

Many people take domestic rabbits to vacant lots or parks and just “free” them.  But these little guys cannot survive in the wild. They are not wild rabbits any more than dogs are wolves. Just leaving a domestic rabbit in a park or woods is the same as condemning it to a cruel death.

Kind people who find these abandoned domestic bunnies bring them to Safe Haven Rabbit Rescue, for a second chance at life. Please come to the Bun-nanza on October 9 and help rescue these fun little creatures.

“Wrecked” – a spellbinding movie worth watching

In Wrecked, Adrian Brody wakes up, badly injured, in a wrecked car in the middle of the woods. The other men in the car are dead, and there are bags of money and guns. He cannot remember what happened or even who he is.

Adrien Brody i "Wrecked"

Adrien Brody in “Wrecked”

He is in pain and trapped in the car. He finally frees himself but with a broken leg and other injuries, his chance of survival is small. The only way out is to crawl up a mountain, inches at a time.

Good dog or dangerous predator?

Good dog or dangerous predator?

Wrecked is a combination survival story, mystery and horror movie.  Due to pain and lack of food, the man cannot tell which of the things he sees are real and which are hallucinations.

Is the mountain lion real or a hallucination?

Is the mountain lion in “Wrecked”  real or a hallucination?

The man is followed by a large dog, which seems at first  like a hopeful sign that civilization may be near. Then the man realizes that this dog is powerful enough to rip him apart if it turns out not to be friendly.  There are other sightings in the woods as well. A mysterious woman (Caroline Dhavernas) and a mountain lion float on the edge of his consciousness.

Caroline Dhavernas in "Wrecked"

Caroline Dhavernas in “Wrecked”

As the man struggles to remember who he is, there is also the overwhelming realization that he is probably an evil person.  The few flashbacks he  can remember are all violent.

We will not tell you any more else of the plot other than to say that the movie will keep you entranced and guessing. The superb acting of Adrian Brody has you feeling  every part of the man’s pain and mental anguish.  In some ways Wrecked is a metaphor for anyone struggling with life.  Aren’t there times when any of us feels alone, damaged and afraid to discover who we truly are?

 

“Girls” Homeward Bound episode turns terror into beauty.

In the Girls episode entitled Homeward Bound, Hannah (Lena Dunham) does the stupidest thing a young woman can do. She gets into a car with a stranger on a deserted highway.  Hannah is in upstate New York and has an hours  long ride to get to NYC.

Hector (Guillermo Diaz) is the scary driver of the car. He is tough looking, has a Hispanic accent, and keeps a gun partially hidden under a blanket in the back seat. A bad guy right out of Hollywood casting.

Guillermo Diaz as Hector in "Girls"

Guillermo Diaz as Hector in “Girls”

But Lena Dunham does not take the cheap stereotypical shortcuts that other writers use.   Instead of being a typical T.V. bad guy, Hector turns out to be a great guy. He is coming to New York to get away from an abusive girlfriend. The gun was one he took away from the girl so that she would not use it on him.

The beautiful part of the episode is  when the car comes over a hill and Hector sees New York City for the first time. To him, New York City is the chance for  whole new wonderful life.  Guillermo Diaz gives a perfect performance at showing a young man’s pure  joy as the endless possibilities stretch out before him.

Lena Dunham Strolling in New York. She is never a stuck up "star".

Lena Dunham Strolling in New York. She is never a stuck up “star”.

Lena Dunhanm is one of the best writers when it comes to showing what Billy Joel called the “New York state of mind”.   Despite all its faults, the overriding attitude of people coming to New York is one of optimism. They are not so much concerned with what they are now, but what they can be. They will become rich stock  traders, or famous writers or great actors, or high fashion models or even misunderstood artists.  It doesn’t matter that right now they are waiters or mechanics or janitors. The excitement of the City itself constantly reminds them that their dreams will come true.

The next season will be the last for Girls and we will be sorry to see it end. But New York City, and the dreams of people coming to it will live on.