Monthly Archives: December 2016

Natalie Portman Is “Jackie”

In Jackie, Natalie Portman give an astoundingly accurate portrayal of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy in the days just after President Kennedy’s assassination.  Jackie Kennedy was a quiet beauty with an inner strength and stubbornness that people continually underestimated.

Natalie Portman perfectly captures the stylized,  precise, almost-a-whisper  way in which Jackie Kennedy spoke . Director Pablo Larrain intersperses actual newsreel footage into the movie with incredible effect.

Jacqueline Kennedy & Natalie Portman

Jacqueline Kennedy & Natalie Portman

Despite being in a state of shock after the assasination, Jackie Kennedy fought to make sure that her husband’s place in history would always be remembered. While others wanted a small family funeral in Massachusetts, Jackie insisted on a grand state funeral, modeled on that of Abraham Lincoln.

Caroline, Jackie & "John John" Kennedy at President Kennedy's funeral

Caroline, Jackie & “John John” Kennedy at President Kennedy’s funeral

Jackie shows how Jacqueline Kennedy also managed the press after JFKs death to create the “Camelot” myth of the Kennedy years. Billy Crudup is perfect as LIFE Magazine  reporter Theodore H. White whose lengthy interview with Jackie was read by every person in America.

1964 Issue of Life magazine featuring Jackie Kennedy

1964 Issue of LIFE magazine featuring Jackie Kennedy

Much of the film is the interaction between the reporter and Jackie, and shows how she was able to manipulate the press in a way that no politician or celebrity would ever be able to do today.  Jackie essentially wrote and edited the LIFE story, including the references to Camelot. Amazingly, Mrs. Kennedy gave this lengthy interview only 1 week after her husband was gunned down in Dallas.

Peter Sarsgaard & Natalie Portman in "Jackie"

Peter Sarsgaard & Natalie Portman in “Jackie”

Peter Sarsgaard is Robert Kennedy who tries to protect Jackie and also unsuccessfully tries to control her.  As always, Peter Sarsgaard gives a masterful performance.

Caspar Phillipson as "John Fitzgerald Kennedy" and Natalie Portman as "Jackie Kennedy" in JACKIE.

Caspar Phillipson as “John Fitzgerald Kennedy” and Natalie Portman as “Jackie Kennedy” in JACKIE.

Casper Phillipson is Jack Kennedy, and accurately captures the smooth confidence  of JFK.

Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy on her wedding day

Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy on her wedding day

The script by Noah Oppenheim and the acting of Natalie Portman bring Jackie Kennedy alive as a real person. Not as just a legend or a caricature, but as a actual woman, who despite her youth, was able to show dignity and strength when America needed it the most.

Lyndon Johnson takes the oath of office, with Jackie Kennedy still in a state of shock

Lyndon Johnson takes the oath of office, with Jackie Kennedy still in a state of shock

Many First ladies have come and gone without being remembered, but people will never forget Jackie Kennedy.

 

 

 

Starz “Power” – Sexy, Raw Adrenaline-Pumping Excitement

Power on Starz, is the perfect show to binge watch to get your heart pounding and your adrenaline flowing.  It is a raw, sexy series that somehow is a combination of The Godfather, American Gangster and The Great GatsbyThe story line is terrific and keeps getting better each season. It beings together an exciting mix of actors, many of whom were not well known before this series.

Omari Harwick & Lela Loren on Power

Omari Harwick & Lela Loren on Power

In  Power, the drug lord “Ghost”, like  Gatsby, tries to use his illegally gotten money to fabricate a place in legitimate society and win back the woman whose family rejected him in his youth for  not being “good enough”. Like The Great Gatsby, James St. Patrick (Ghost) discovers that you can’t have it all and that denying who you really are can result in ripping you apart and destroying all those around you.

Courtney Kemp Agboth creator of Power

Courtney Kemp Agboth creator of Power

Power was created by Courtney Kemp Agboth who,  at the the end of each episode, gives a fascinating look into the minds of the writers. For example, she points out that throughout the series there is a  use of mirrors to reveal the true Ghost. Every time James St. Patrick begins to believe he really is a legitimate night club owner, his reflection in the mirror will reveal that his true self is the murdering drug dealer known as Ghost. In one episode he comes home from a successful party at his nightclub, looking like a typical New York businessman. However, if you look at his reflection in the mirror, you will see that his white shirt is stained with a tiny drop of blood from when he had killed an enemy. The subtle touches like that make Power so much fun to watch.

A show with the street violence, rough sex scenes and gang warfare of Power is completely opposite to the upbringing of Courtney Kemp Agboth. She is an African-American who grew up in Westport Connecticut, graduated from Brown University and earned a Masters Degree in English from Columbia University. Still, she was always fascinated with the “other side” of the  African-American experience. The side that her parents had taken great pains to keep her away from.

Joseph Silkora & Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson on Power

Joseph Silkora & Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson on Power

Someone who does have first hand knowledge of life on the streets is Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson who is not only an Executive Producer on Power, but also one of the main actors in the series. He plays Kanan, one of the  most frighting gangsters ever to appear on screen. Kanan is an “old school” thug, and hates the way Ghost is trying to walk away from his past.

Naturi Naughton is Tasha St. Patrick on Power

Naturi Naughton is Tasha St. Patrick on Power

Omari Harwick is perfect as “Ghost”James St. Partick as is Naturi Naughton as his beautiful wife Tasha. Ghost ad Tasha were married young and built the illegal drug business together. Now Tasha is furious that he husband wants to pretend to be a legitimate businessman and leave her for another woman. The “other woman” is Angela Valdes (played by Lela Loren) who also happens to be an assistant district attorney investigating the illegal drug trade in New York.

Lucy Walters is Holly on Power

Lucy Walters is Holly on Power

Ghost’s partner in crime is Tommy Egan (Joseph Silkora) an Irish-American thug who has been like a brother to Ghost since childhood. Unlike Ghost, Tommy understands that there is no way out of their life of crime other than jail or death. Even’s Tommy’s domestic life with his beautiful girlfriend Holly (Lucy Walters) is only possible because she is just as crazy and violent as he is.

In case you have not caught up with Power, we will not spoil the Season 3 season finale. We will say that it is as exciting as it is unexpected. For a time there were rumors that Power was cancelled and there would be no Season 4.  Fans of Power, of course,  went crazy on the internet until the rumors were put to rest and it was announced that there will be a Season 4 of Power.

 

Half A Life And Other Stories – Kirill Bulychev’s masterful Sci-Fi Stories

In 1977, Americans were introduced to Kirill Bulychev, a science fiction writer from the Soviet Union, when Half A Life And Other Stories was first published in English. Even today, these stories still hold up as beautifully crafted tales.

The reason these sci-fi stories have not gotten stale is that Kirill Bulychev is much m ore concerned with the emotions and motivations of the people than with the imagined  technical innovations of the future.

Half A Life by Kirill Bulychev

Half A Life by Kirill Bulychev

Kirill Bulychev’s stories were very popular in the Soviet Union, and the authorities never seemed to catch on to the fact that there were hidden anti-Soviet messages in many of the stories. In totalitarian countries, science fiction stories have often been able to get “radical” ideas past the government censors, since Sci-FI is never considered “serious literature.”

The title story Half A Life is about a young Russian woman named Natasha, who is suddenly captured  by robots from outer space. The robots are collecting samples of intelligent life forms from throughout the galaxy and taking them to a sort of prison ship for examination.  Natasha struggles to retain her humanity and dignity, and slowly begins to form a coalition with the other prisoners against the robots. Although the prisoners know there is almost no chance of escape, they agree that their lives would be a waste if they did not at least try to fight back.

Igor Vsevolodovich Mozheiko whose pen name was Kirill Bulychev

Igor Vsevolodovich Mozheiko whose pen name was Kirill Bulychev

Somehow the Soviet censors failed to notice that this alien spaceship actually represented the Soviet Gulag prison system. Natasha simply disappeared one night and her family had no idea what had happened to her or if she would ever return . This is exactly what happened to thousands of ordinary Soviet citizens as they were sent to prison.

Natasha’s struggle against her captors and her pride in survival is reminiscent of the book One Day In the Life Of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn. However, unlike Solshenitsyn, Bulychev was never considered a “dissident.”  The social commentary in Bulychev’s science fiction stories was able to sneak right past the Soviet censors.

Another story titled Red Dear White Dear takes place on a planet where intelligent humanoid life has been wiped out by violent ape-like creatures. The story notes that,

Nature is cruel to intelligence. Still untempered and unaware of its potential strength; it hovers always on the brink of extinction.”

Joseph Stalin believed he could create a “workers paradise” using violence and oppression

Joseph Stalin believed he could create a "workers paradise" using violence and oppression

Joseph Stalin believed he could create a “workers paradise” using violence and oppression

This is a clear reference to the days of Stalin’s “workers’ paradise”, when being labeled an intellectual was a sure ticket to the gulag.

Kirill Buluchev himself outlasted the Soviet Union, despite being an intellectual. Kirill Bulychev was the pen name of Igor Vsevolodovich Mozheiko who lived from 1934 to 2003. He had a PhD in Oriental Studies. He was a prolific writer, although many American’s still have not of heard of him.

So if you love short stories and science fiction we recommend you read the works of Kirill Bulychev. It is best to start at the beginning with his 1977 Half A LIfe.

 

 

St. Vincent – a moving film about unexpected heroes

St. Vincent is a moving film about suffering and goodness in a cruel world. It is billed as a comedy, but is much more than that. St. Vincent stars Bill Murray and Melissa McCarthy, whose combined talents make them perfect for this movie. St. Vincent is a bittersweet story  that shows that when life is at its worst, there can be heroism in just making it through another day.

Melissa McCarthy is Maggie Bronstein, a newly divorced mother who is struggling to make ends meet while caring for her 12 year old son. They move to a small house in Brooklyn and have the misfortune to find Vincent MacKenna (Bill Murray) is their new neighbor. Vincent is a nasty old guy whose life consists of drinking at a bar, seeing a prostitute and being alone in his house with his cat.

Bill Murray & Jaeden Lieberher in St. Vincent

Bill Murray & Jaeden Lieberher in St. Vincent

Maggie has to work long hours at the hospital and desperately  needs someone to watch her son Oliver and prepare food for him. With no other choice, she finally hires Vincent as the babysitter.

This is where most films would have just turned into silly slapstick comedies. Instead, St. Vincent delves much deeper into the complexities of human nature.  Oliver (perfectly played by Jaeden Lieberher) finds that there is much more to Vincent than meets the eye. Vincent becomes a sort of very flawed father figure to Oliver. Vincent teaches Oliver how to defend himself and stand up for himself against bullies.

Oliver finds that Vincent also has reasons for his depression. Oliver and Vincent make weekly trips to a nursing home to visit Vincent’s wife, who is suffering  from the final stages of Alzheimer’s. Unlike his attitude with most people, Vincent is always kind, patient and loving with his wife, despite the fact that she no longer even recognizes who he is.

Chris O'Dowd as Brother Geraghty in St. Vincent

Chris O’Dowd as Brother Geraghty in St. Vincent

Oliver attends a private Catholic school and is mentored By Brother Geraghty (Chris O’Dowd). The school has an annual assembly called “living saints”, in which each child is to give a presentation about  a person still alive but  who has all the attributes of a saint.  Brother Geraghty points out that saints are not perfect people, but people who have done great things despite their own imperfections.

Oliver chooses as his living saint Vincent and decides to secretly research who this old man really is and what his life has been like.

ST. VINCENT (L-R) MELISSA McCARTHY, JAEDEN LIEBERHER and NAOMI WATTS

ST. VINCENT
(L-R) MELISSA McCARTHY, JAEDEN LIEBERHER and NAOMI WATTS

Naomi Watts is Dakota, a tough as nails, pregnant Russian prostitute. Despite her tough exterior she does like Vincent and Oliver and tries to help them in her own strange ways.

Cris O’Dowd is fantastic as  Brother Geraghty, who has some of the best lines in the movie. Our favorite is that “Catholicism is the best religion because we have the most rules.”

Even the small parts are filled with wonderful actors. Greta Lee is great as a harried bank teller who has the misfortune to become the focus of Vincent’s wrath. Greta Lee is known to most people as Homeless Hannah in the HBO Show High Maintenance.

St. Vincent is a wonderful film and we loved it.

 

 

East Coast Stories Top 7 Posts of 2016

It has been another exciting year at East Coast Stories with growing readership and subscribers. Here is a list of the top 7 stories in 2016 based on the number of views. If you missed any, click on the title to be directed to the story.

  • Roadies Disrespects Those Who Died at the Who Concert in Cincinnati got a huge number of views. Many readers readers knew nothing of this 1979 tragedy in which 11 people were crushed to death in a stampede. Readers were grateful we published the names of the victims. However, some very emotional  readers hated that we criticized the T.V. show Roadies for using this tragedy as a cheap plot device. They were more concerned with the T.V. show than the actual tragedy.
Police cover dead body at The Who Cincinnati concert

Police cover dead body at The Who Cincinnati concert

  • Yelena Isinbayeva Strikes Back is about the greatest female pole vaulter in the world who was banned from the Rio Olympics along with the rest of the Russian Track & Field team. Ironically Yelena Isinbayeva has never taken any drugs and had always been an outspoken critic of the entire Russian doping program.  She is currently trying to change things in Russia by running to become head of the Russian athletic federation.
Yelena Isinbayeva - The world's greatest female pole vaulter

Yelena Isinbayeva – The world’s greatest female pole vaulter

  • Qasim on High Maintenance is about one of the episodes of this quirky show about an upscale marijuana delivery guy in Brooklyn. In this episode, Anna Rose Hopkins finds out that the great new man she just met gives new meaning to the word stranger.
Anna Rose Hopkins in the Qasim episode of High Maintenance

Anna Rose Hopkins in the Qasim episode of High Maintenance

  • Tijen Karas profiles the Turkish Anchorwoman who was on the air when coup leaders burst into the T.V. studio and at gunpoint forced her to read their demands. Her courage and composure is astounding.
Turkish Anchorwoman Tijen Karas

Turkish Anchorwoman Tijen Karas

  • Is Alicia von Rittberg Pregnant? details how a joking Pinterest photo lead to viral internet rumors about this German Movie Actress. Alicia von Rittberg has a huge following in Europe, and  is best known to Americans for her appearance as Emma in Fury.
German Actress Alicia von Rittberg

German Actress Alicia von Rittberg

  • Peter Dinklage in Basking Ridge New Jersey  is the story of how this world famous Game of Thrones star appeared at a purely local event to help his mother raise money for New Jersey’s Somerset Hills Chorus. It was a very hush-hush local event. The only announcements of Peter Dinklage’s participation came from small notices in the local library.
Peter Dinklage appeared at an unadvertised event in Basking Ridge New Jersey

Peter Dinklage appeared at an unadvertised event in Basking Ridge New Jersey

  • The Girl From Greiz and Her New Trabant – is a true story of a young woman growing up in East Germany just as the Berlin wall was about to fall. These major political events turned out to be simply a distraction to her lifetime dreams of getting her degree and a new car.
The Girl From Greiz and Her New Trabant

The Girl From Greiz and Her New Trabant

We hope you enjoyed all our 2016 stories, and we  look forward to enlightening and entertaining you in 2017. Be sure to post your comments (favorable or unfavorable) on any of the stories. Don’t worry, we do not publish your email.

Thanks for Reading!

 

 

Rogue One a Star Wars Story – All Action- No Plot or Character Development

In Rogue One – A Star Wars Story  – all the new characters are so dull that director Gareth Edwards resorted to using CGI to bring back people who actually knew how to act. He was basically admitting the story of Rogue One was so bad that part of prior Star Wars movies had to be spliced in to make it watchable.

Rogue One consists of 2 absurdly long battle scenes, 1 cameo appearance by Princess Leia, and a couple of cameos by Darth Vader. The rest of the movie is just  a sketchy plot filler with one-dimensional characters designed to get us to the battle scenes as fast as possible.

Ingvild Deila provides the body for a CGI superimposed Princess Leia in Rogue One

Ingvild Deila provides the body for a CGI superimposed Princess Leia in Rogue One

A young Princess Leia makes an appearance, with the CGI face of Carrie Fisher. Carrie Fisher herself did not get any work out of this gig. Norwegian actress Ingvild Deila supplied the svelte body for Princess Leia and computers were used to superimpose the young Carrie Fisher’s face from the original Star Wars film.

A dead actor also make an appearance. Peter Cushing reprises his role as the evil empire’s Grand Moff Tarkin. This is quite a feat, since Peter Cushing died in 1994. Actor Guy Henry played Grand Moff Tarkin and Peter Cushing’s image was superimposed.

Guy Henry provides the movement for Peter Cushing who died in 1994

Guy Henry provides the movement for Peter Cushing who died in 1994

At least James Earl Jones does play Darth Vader with his beautiful and powerful voice. Unfortunately, Darth Vader is not in the movie for very long and we don’t learn anything about him we did not know before.

In the original Stars Wars movies, time was taken for the audience to get to know and care about each character. We loved the action scenes since we loved the people who were in them. Who can ever forget the wise cracking Hans Solo or the scene where Darth Vader tells Luke “I am you father.”

Kids do seem to like Rogue One, especially really young kids. Over the years, the Star Wars movies have morphed from Sci-Fi films exploring the meaning of good and evil in the future, into  action based kids movies whose main goal is to sell toys. Even before the movie started there were a number of commercials in the theater for a multitude of Star War Toys.

So, if your kids are clamoring to see Rogue One, go ahead and bring them. They will love the action and the noise. However, if you are expecting to see anything at all  like the original Star Wars films you remember, you will sadly be disappointed.

 

 

 

 

The Right Burgee – the book that shocked the Yacht Club set a half a century ago

The Right Burgee by Henry Lee was a novel published in 1965 which created an uproar in the Yacht Club crowd. It put in writing all the unspoken truths about yacht clubs, and the fact that they have nothing whatsoever to do with yachts. The East Coast yacht clubs in 1965 were a social class measuring tool.

You could not  just pay a membership fee and get in.  How much money you had was only one factor. You also had to be of the proper race, religion and ethnic background. How you made your money was also important. “Old money” was many times more valuable than “new money”. If you came from Old Money it meant your family had been part of the upper classes for generations.

How to display a burgee

How to display a burgee

The Right Burgee takes place in the fictional Housatonic Yacht Club. Of course, readers in the know realized it was actually the Stamford Connecticut Yacht Club, of which Henry Lee was a member. It is well written and the characters all come across as real people rather than stereotypes. 

The Right Burgee cleverly  shows the incredible stress on people and families when their main goal in life becomes trying to prove to the world that they belong as part of the chosen few. You see, just getting into a yacht club is not enough. It has to be the right yacht club.  A bugree is that little triangular flag that people fly on the front of their boats to show what yacht club they belong to.

Burgees of Yacht Clubs

Burgees of Yacht Clubs

Not all burgees are created equal. The top of the top in The United States was the New York Yacht Club, which in 1965 still proudly displayed the America’s Cup trophy in its clubhouse. In their hearts, the members of the Housatonic Yacht Club know that despite all their pretensions their bugree really ranks somewhere in the middle rather than closer to the top.

The main character in The Right Burgee is a man who in the beginning of the story has completely bought into the whole system. His goal in life is to become Commodore of the club, and wear the stripes on the sleeve of his yacht club blazer. He has no interest in boating, but keeps a small sailboat, since that is the only way to obtain “flag rank”.

The Stamford Connecticut Yacht Club emblem

The Stamford Connecticut Yacht Club emblem

However, along the way, he begins to question  the point of the whole  system. He sees the stress his wife is under to always be invited to the correct parties. He sees how his daughter is crushed if she does not get to go to the proper cotillion.   He eventually falls in love with a beautiful woman in New York. Getting a divorce and marring her would ruin him socially forever. Not because of the divorce, but because she is Jewish. He will have to choose between love and social standing.

The America sailing Yacht

The America sailing Yacht

The Right Burgee is hard to find, but there are still a few copies floating around on Amazon. It is worth getting, to see a glimpse into the social structure of a half a century ago. It may seem silly that grown men were willing to spend huge amounts of time, money and effort just to be able to wear a blue blazer with little gold stripes on the sleeve. But it wasn’t about the jacket. It was about the right to show the world that you were better than everyone else. The yacht clubs of those days were not about who got in. They were about who got kept out.

The America's Cup when it was on Display in The New York Yacht Club

The America’s Cup when it was on Display in The New York Yacht Club

Even in 1965, the whole yacht club structure was beginning to change. Irish-Americans had recently been admitted to some of the clubs, and there was even talk in some clubs of possibly letting in Italian-Americans. Traditional members argued that letting in the Irish-Americans was the beginning of the end for the whole system. Of course, they could still not even imagine a future where Jewish-Americans or African-Americans would ever be admitted to any club with a proper burgee.

The Right Burgee by Henry Lee (The image on the cover shows someone being "blackballed - refused membership to the club)The Right Burgee by Henry Lee

The Right Burgee by Henry Lee (The image on the cover shows someone being “blackballed” – refused membership to the club)

When I was  young, I met the author of The Right Burgee, Mr. Henry Lee. He was eating at the Stamford Yacht Club, and my mother introduced me to him. I had read the book and I was surprised that he was still a member of the club all those years after its publication. However, it was obvious that the other members of the yacht club had neither forgiven nor forgotten the theme of The Right Burgee. Henry Lee was in the main dining room, eating at a large table, completely alone. The dining room was packed, but Mr. Lee was being studiously  ignored by the other members of the club, while they happily chatted to each other. As you can guess, he never became Commodore of the yacht club.

 

 

 

The Hateful Eight – Cinematic Masterpiece or Disgusting Blood-fest?

Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight is either a cinematic masterpiece or a disgusting blood-fest depending on your tolerance for extreme violence. The dialogue and ever-increasing  tension is spellbinding. However, like many Tarantino’s movies, the violence becomes absurdly graphic.

The Hateful Eight takes place in large stage coach way-station, a few years after the Civil War.  A  group of very different and very dangerous people are stranded by a blizzard.  The group includes a bounty hunter. “The Hangman”  (Kurt Russell) and his prisoner Daisy (Jennifer Jason Leigh). The Hangman is convinced that the other stranded people are going to try to either steal his prisoner for the bounty, or else free her. He may or may not be paranoid.

The Civil War is be over but the hatred from the war is not. Some of the men were confederate soldiers,  and others Union. It does not help that one of the stranded men was a Negro Union Officer. Major Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) was famous for the number of Confederates he killed. Major Warren’s prize possession is a letter hand-written to him by Abraham Lincoln.

Tim Roth, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Kurt Russell

Tim Roth, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Kurt Russell

Quentin Tarantino is undoubtedly the best writer of dialogue in the film industry. From the very beginning of the film we know that some of the people are innocent travelers and others are lying murderers. Through the long and complex conversations, the movie slowly reveals who the people really are and what each of them is trying to hide.

The Hateful Eight also has fascinating side conversations about violence, justice and passion. In one scene the characters discuss that the fact that the very dispassion of a hangman is what makes executing someone justice rather than revenge. If a hangman cared one way or another it would not be justice.

Jennifer Lawrence was turned down for a role in The Hateful Eight

Jennifer Lawrence was turned down for a role in The Hateful Eight

Jennifer Jason Leigh is perfect as the psychotic Daisy , who is being brought to her execution. Every time you think it will be impossible for her to act any more insane, she actually brings it a notch higher.   Jennifer Lawrence really wanted this part, but Tarantino felt she just would not be able to be this “over the top” wacko.

Bruce Dern as a Confeterate General

Bruce Dern as a Confederate General

Bruce Dern is a Confederate General who is not exactly pleased to be sharing lodgings with a Negro Union Officer. The General also has secrets and an agenda of his own.

Samuel L. Jackson as Major Warren

Samuel L. Jackson as Major Warren

Of course, nobody does over-the-top crazy better than Samuel L. Jackson. He is a combination of Civil War hero, stone cold killer, and revengeful maniac. He is forced to team up with Southerner  Cris Mannix (Walton Goggons) who may or not be the local Sheriff.

So this is where our reviewers have a split decision on the movie. Adam rates it Five Stars for its perfect dialogue, last  minute twists and action scenes. Greg gives it only Two Stars since he feels the violence takes away from the rest of the movie.  If you are thinking of renting the movie, be advised that it has an arm chopped off, a head exploding, people vomiting blood after being poisoned, and of course many many people being shot.

That being said, we leave it to you our readers to make your own decision according to your personal taste.

 

Confessions Of A Bad Runner

Go to any running race in the tri-state area and you will see me there. Look for the 6 foot tall, thin guy running with a beautiful stride at the front of the race.  That’s not me. Look further back. No – much further.  That’s right, the boxy short guy with grey hair huffing and puffing at the back of the pack.

I never win. I never come close to winning and  never will. There was a time when I thought that I would start winning “age category” medals as I got older. I would keep myself in shape and eventually be able to outrun the old duffers who had let themselves go. This was a miscalculation. It turns out that there are one Hell of a lot of old guys who can still zip by me like I am standing still.

Pack runners

Pack runners

So why do I do it? It is because running races are one of the last true community events that actually bring people closer. Men,and women, teenagers, senior citizens and  kids all run together. They run at different speeds and tremendously different abilities, but they all encourage each other. There is no nastiness of body-shaming. The fact that you are trying is good enough.

The runners at the front of the pack are like beautiful Ferrari or Maserati sports cars gliding  along at top speed.  Those of us in the back are more like boxy little Jeeps bouncing and almost tipping over as we take the turns.

Usain Bolt the world's greatest sprinter

Usain Bolt the world’s greatest sprinter

The best part of any community running race is the finish. Not because it is over, but because the great runners at front who finished long ago wait for and congratulate every single finisher, no matter how long it takes.

I have never gotten a medal when I cross the finish line. I have gotten a lot of free Popsicles, and drinks of rubbery tasting hose water. Sometimes, there is even a free T-Shirt with a charity’s name on it.  Somehow, that’s enough.

 

The Gift – a superb thriller with unexpected plot twists

The Gift  is the  2015 thriller in which the insults and hurts from childhood come back to sabotage the happy marriage of a successful couple. As William Faulkner once said, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

Rebecca Hall and Jason Bateman in The Gift

Rebecca Hall and Jason Bateman in The Gift

Simon (Jason Bateman) and his wife Robyn (Rebecca Hall) have moved from Chicago to Simon’s home town in California, where Simon has taken a new high-powered job. By chance they run into Gordo (Joel Edgerton), an old school acquaintance of Simon’s.  Gordo is thrilled to see them and begins showering them with housewarming gifts.

Gordo is obviously a lonely soul, and takes an immediate liking to the kind and gentle Robyn. He helps Robyn with the house, sets up the cable T.V. and continually stops by to lend a hand or just chat. At first it is nice, but after a while he begins to seem just a little too clingy and creepy.

Joel Edgerton as Gordo on The Gift

Joel Edgerton as Gordo on The Gift

Finally, Simon has had enough, and in a very cruel way tells Gordo  he doesn’t want him around anymore. That’s when bad things start to happen to Simon and Robyn. Their dog disappears, the fish in their Coy pond all die, and strange noises are heard at night.`

At this point, it seems like the movie is just going to morph into a  traditional horror movie, but then, exciting  plot twists occur. Robyn had liked Gordo and thought that Simon was unnecessarily brutal in dumping Gordo as a friend. She begins doing some detective work to find out what was the real nature of the past relationship between Simon and Gordo, and why Simon was so eager to force Gordo out of their lives The more she digs the more bizarre and frighting the past becomes.

It is difficult to describe just how good The Gift is without giving too much away and ruining the ending. When you see it, you will be glad we did not spoil anything.

We will simply say that The Gift is a a great mystery movie (NOT a horror movie), that has a completely unexpected double twist ending. The acting is fantastic. Rebecca Hall is perfect as the kind but fragile Robyn who begins to worry about the moral cost of success. Jason Bateman’s acting is superb  as her controlling husband.

Joel Edgerton is the complex Gordo who keeps us guessing as to whether or not he is a misunderstood nice guy or a psychopath. Joel Edgerton was also the writer, director and co-producer of The Gift. His talents are exceptional in all three fields.

The Winter Cat

Cats have the right Winter philosophy. For cats the Winter  season is not about cold and sleet and snow and cars skidding into each other. For cats, Winter is the perfect time to snuggle under a warm blanket and do nothing but relax until  Spring.

Sleeping Cat in Baby Blanket

Sleeping Cat in Baby Blanket

Of course, cats occasionally  have to wake up and eat, secure in the knowledge that a certain type of soulful look will guarantee some human preparing a tasty meal.

Beautiful Ragdoll Cat

Beautiful Ragdoll Cat

We here at East Coast Stories wish our readers a wonderful Holiday Season, and hope that  in 2017 you are all as peaceful and secure as cats.

Dana DeLorenzo- The hardest working actress on Television

Dana DeLorenzo looks beautiful and stylish in an evening gown. However, in Ash vs Evil Dead she spends most of her time covered in blood, rolling around in the mud and  fighting demons from Hell.

Dana DeLorenzo hen she is not covered in blood

Dana DeLorenzo when she is not covered in blood

If you have never seen Ash vs. Evil Dead, the only way to describe it is as a horror gore-fest comedy. In it, Bruce Campbell reprises his role as Ash Williams  from the low budget 1983 horror film The Evil Dead.

The original 1983 movie was not a comedy. It was a typical “cabin in the woods movie. A group of college students takes a vacation at an isolated and creepy cabin and things go downhill from there.  Ash is one of the students and finds an old “book of the dead” in the cabin. Of course, he is stupid enough to read from it, thereby releasing demons and deadites (zombies) on the world.

Now, 33 years later,  the plot is played purely for laughs. Ash vs Evil Dead is a spoof of all bad horror movies, with its completely over-the-top monsters, and  excessive amounts of blood and guts.

Ash vs Evil Dead's Dana DeLorenzo

Ash vs Evil Dead’s Dana DeLorenzo

The cast of Ash vs Evil Dead is great and you can tell they enjoy working with each other. The actors often joke that this is the only T.V. show where they literally have to get hosed off after a scene, in order to wash off the fake blood and guts.

Dana DeLorenzo shows off her b;ood soaked outfit

Dana DeLorenzo shows off her” blood” soaked outfit

Dana DeLorenzo plays Kelly Maxwell, a sort of surrogate daughter for Ash. However, unlike the women in the 1983 movie, Kelly does not spend her time screaming and running away.  Instead, she is a real kick-ass zombie (deadite) fighter, who is always willing to grab an Uzi and attack the Evil Dead.

Dana DeLorenzo and Ray Santiago

Dana DeLorenzo and Ray Santiago

The rest of the cast is also fantastic. Ray Santiago is Pablo Simon, who has to fight the walking dead as well as the prejudices of everyone continually assuming he is an illegal immigrant. In the last episode, he gave his life to save the others, and now they are going back in time to try to keep that from happening.

Bruce Campbell & Lucy Lawless

Bruce Campbell & Lucy Lawless

Lucy Lawless is Ruby, an immortal from the underworld, who starts out as bad, but then becomes somewhat good as she becomes mortal.  Of course, Lucy Lawless is known for her action roles, going back to when she was Zena the Warrior Princess.

Bruce Campbell is great as both Ash, and the leader of this ensemble of actors. He is perfect as the arrogant, but not too bright, demon killer with a chain saw instead of a right hand.

Sloshing around waste deep in fake blood is probably not what Dana DeLorenzo pictured herself doing when she was studying Media Communications  at DePaul University. But anyone who has ever watched Ash vs Evil Dead knows that when it comes time to chop the head off a creature from Hell Dana DeLorenzo is the perfect choice for the job.

 

 

The Nostalgic T.V. Show quiz – 4 quick questions

Think you know a lot about the old time T.V. shows? Take the East Coast Stories 4 quick questions quiz and test your knowledge.

Q. Why did the Skipper put up with anything from Gilligan and always forgive him?

The Skipper & Gilligan

The Skipper & Gilligan

A. Gilligan saved the Skipper’s life in World War II when they both served on a U.S. destroyer. A depth charge had broken loose on deck. It was about to roll into the Skipper and crush him, when Gillian raced across the deck and pushed the Skipper out of the way.

Q: Who was the most successful female impersonator ever on television?

Who was T.V's most famout female impersonator?

Who was T.V’s most famous female impersonator?

A: Lassie. That’s right. Although Lassie was a female Collie on the show, the actual dog was a male. Dog trainers claim that male dogs are easier to train. (No angry comments please. This is not our opinion but the opinion of Lassie’s trainers.)

Q: What type of cigarettes did Lucy smoke?

What cigarette did Lucy smoke?

What cigarette did Lucy smoke?

A: This is a trick question. Lucy Riccardo supposedly smoked Phillip Morris cigarettes since that was the show’s sponsor. You can clearly see the label on the pack. However, Lucille Ball preferred Chesterfields. In fact,  she always threw out the Phillip Morris cigarettes in the Phillip Morris pack and refilled the pack with Chesterfields. Therefore, Lucy Riccardo was actually smoking Chesterfields.

Q: How many times did Captain Kirk die on Star Trek?

Star Trek's transporter

Star Trek’s transporter

A: Most people will answer zero, but that Kirk faked his death at least once (when he fought Spock on Vulcan). However, the correct answer is that Kirk died every time he went into the transporter. The original people do not actually go through the transporter, any more than the original piece of paper goes through a fax machine. The originals are destroyed by the “transporter” and a copy of those people appear at the other end of the transporter. It is, in effect, a very long distance fax machine that also happens to destroy the original. This is why Doctor McCoy tried to go by shuttle instead of transporter whenever possible.