Generation War

It is 1941: A farewell party. Five friends meet. Two of them are soldiers heading off to the war.  A third was a nurse, and she too would soon be departing for the war. She would work at a military field hospital. Two others, had no immediate plans except to spend time together and to pursue their careers. One was a tailor with the hope of becoming  a fashion designer, and the girl was a barmaid with hopes of becoming a singer.

They hoisted drinks, danced to swing music, and felt good about themselves, the war, their country, and each other. 

They took the impromptu photo above with a camera set on timer. At that moment, life could not have been better.

Charly preps the dough to make a cake in advance of the farewell party

Charly preps the dough to make a cake in advance of the farewell party

I did say 1941. I should have said, June 1941. These were not American young people. Rather, they were German. We hear these words of the voice over:

We were five friends. We knew that the future would be ours. The 1000 year Reich will last forever. The war will be over by Christmas. Christmas in Berlin. The world lay before us. We just had to take it. We were immortal. 

But as Wilhelm said later in the voice over narration.

We would soon know better.

So begins the film Generation War which opens at a single theater stateside at first. Generation War will begin its theatrical run at the New York Film Forum on January 15th. On January 24th, the film will open in Chicago. After that, Music Box Films, the USA distributor,  will open the film in a wider distribution.

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True Detective – Episode One: The Long Bright Dark

Detective Rust Cohle: I’m what’s called a pessimist. It means I’m bad at parties.
Detective Martin Hart: You aint great outside of parties either.

HBO unveiled its new Sunday night prime time series True Detective on Sunday night against the competition of The Golden Globe Awards. This is a cop show, or should I say detective procedural, set in Vermilion Parish (county) of Louisiana. This is not New York, not Chicago, and definitely not L.A. For the record, it is not even set in The Big Easy, New Orleans.

The people speak slowly, and the feel is definitely not urban. Woody Harrelson and Matthew McGonaughey star as Detective Martin Hart and Detective Rust Cohle. The case they catch, it is in 1995, is a murder with the appearances of being a psycho-sexual crime, with a patterned ritualistic design that also has a strong sense of religious fervor flavorings. Straightaway, McConaughey’s Cohle calls it the work of a serial killer.

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Since we regular folk have only the 1st episode to discuss (pro critics got the first 4 episodes) I should give a little background. When the police have a case with all signs pointing towards a serial killer, we usually expect someone that’s kind of creepy, or maybe I should amend that to fully creepy.

Well in True Detective, we get that immediately. Only it is one of the detectives – McConaughey’s Cohle. He’s got a lot of baggage that trails him, a busted marriage, a dead daughter, alcohol and tobacco problems, and he’s an insomniac – he claims he doesn’t sleep – rather, he dreams.

His partner, Detective Hart, outwardly looks the kind of detective you can root for. He is married, while Cohle was married. Hart has two daughters, Cohle’s daughter passed. Hart has the respect of his fellow detectives down at the CID. Cohle is laughed at behind his back, as well as in his face.

Hart is a god-fearing church goer, while Cohle practices only meditation. Hart’s home is fully furnished, while Cohle’s pad has a mattress on the floor and a crucifix on the wall. Actually you won’t find two more different guys.

But this crime, has impacted both of them. So after three months of working together in near silence, Hart begins to probe Cohle about what he thinks, and how he feels about – this and that. A big mistake because within minutes Hart has to respectfully ask Cohle to not talk. Because Cohle’s topics of conversation were too weird for Hart.

Yes, this is a different kind of story. This will be the one case we will see this season on this show, At least that is what we think as it begins with our two detectives rolling into the crime scene out by a field of sugar cane.

But, within minutes, we see that there’s much more to this than meets the eye. You see, the show opens with the previously described crime, in 1995, then jumps to 17 years later as we discover that both Hart and Cohle are being interviewed separately by a pair of other detectives.

Hart and Cohle solved their case, worked together for 7 years, and haven’t spoken in 10 years. Why are they being interviewed – because another killing has been discovered and apparently everything indicates that this new crime matches the one from 17 years ago.

The new detectives are probing into what went down 17 years ago = they’re asking about the old case, and the detectives personal lives back then. They say, we are trying to understand how you fellows process cases.

So right away we know – they may have convicted the wrong killer, or they have a copy-cat murderer. Or, one of them, Hart or Cohle may be the real killer, and we have no idea about what went wrong between them.

Very ambitious if you ask me. The trick will be to keep us involved, and to not waste our time with suspects who appear, look good for the crime, and then aren’t right for it.

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Golden Globe Awards Show – January 12th, 2014

So it was going to be a busy night on television. At 8:00 PM, following football, there was the 60 Minutes broadcast where we could listen and watch as Tony Bosch told all the stuff he knew, and we didn’t, about A-Rod, about PEDs, and about the stuff he and A-Rod did together.

Then at 9:00 PM, there was the premiere of the new prime time show on HBO called True Detective. Woody Harrelson and Matthew McGonaughey were starring as two CID detectives employed by the state of Louisiana. Which was followed by the season premiere of Lena Dunham’s Girls.

Of course there was also the power house CBS lineup of The Good Wife at 9:00 PM and The Mentalist at 10:00 PM.

Everything I just mentioned was going to be skipped or watched at another time because I decided to watch the 71st Annual Golden Globes Awards which started at 8:00 PM sharp. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler were hosting.

It’s not so much that I must see the awards. Or that I had money riding on the outcomes. Or that I had to cover the event because someone was paying me to do a write-up of the broadcast on my blog. None of the above apply.

Actually it was an opportunity to see a bunch of mostly well dressed folks graciously accept awards given out by the Hollywood Foreign Press, an august body of journalists from around the world who watch films and tv. Ricky Gervais had hosted the show for a bunch of years and last year the show was hosted by the aforementioned Fey and Poehler. Actually, for me, those two funny ladies were the main drawing cards.

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Chicago PD – New Series on NBC

What do you get when you cross famed TV Producer Dick Wolf, best known for his Law & Order franchise, with Hill Street Blues?

Chicago PD is the answer. The brand new NBC-TV series, a spin-off of the Chicago Fire Series, and the chosen replacement for the short-lived Ironside which got yanked off the air after just three episodes, is a gritty police drama. Jason Beghe  stars as Sgt. Hank Voight, the head of an intelligence unit of the CPD.

Like Hill Street Blues, the series will focus both on uniformed police patrol and plain clothes detectives. Hopefully the show will be about the intersection of both the personal and professional lives of the characters, with the main thrust being the pursuit of those involved in major street crimes.

At the head of the cast list is Jason Beghe as Voight, Jon Seda (above) as Detective Antonio Dawson, and Elias Koteas (below) as Alvin Olinsky, an undercover detective.

There are two females listed in the main cast – Sophia Bush (above) as Detective Erin Lindsay, and Marina Squerciati  as Officer Kim Burgess.

The premiere episode was broadcast on the NBC network tonight  (Jan 8th, 2014). Chicago PD will seem familiar to you, which is to be expected. You could say they went by the numbers. Straight out of the cop show playbook. Well maybe they did. But to this viewer, when you have fresh faces , and the numbers , even if they’re old formulaic numbers, add up, you are going to watch a very worthwhile and effective show.

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Killer Women – A New ABC-TV Series

Alert: there are some spoilers ahead. Molly Parker is a member of law enforcement’s most elite – the Texas Rangers. That’s what we hear on the trailer after one of those ‘killer women’ is seen entering a church,

then walking down the aisle. Only she’s not the bride.

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Just after the minister announces: By the authority vested in me, by the great state of Texas, it is my pleasure to proclaim Jason and Heather – husband and wife… then this woman in red, with no regard that there are a hundred or so eye witnesses, pumps a few rounds into the bride from a distance of six feet.

So opens Killer Women, a new tv series on ABC. Created by Hannah Shakespeare, under the aegis of Executive Producer Sofia Vergara, the show proudly states 8 weeks, 8 killers. Yep, it’s a police procedural with Molly Parker, played by Tricia Helfer (above) as the lead. And yes, there’s a Mexican drug cartel involved this week. And yes, the series is often set  near a section of the Texas/Mexico border.

Sound familiar? Well if you saw the FX series, The Bridge, which ran last summer, then you’ll know the reference. But in all honesty, I saw every episode of The Bridge. And this one is not even in the same county as The Bridge.

When you use a taglines like Kicking Ass Never Looked So Good you are sort of making a statement. I guess ABC couldn’t say no when Vergara made a strong statement about wanting in on this show. She decided to increase her wealth by agreeing to be an Exec Producer of the show. This tagline, and others, are clear indicators that despite the cowboy flavors, and stylings, the show will feature more T & A and hookups rather than roundups of either cattle or suspects.

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House of Cards: Season Two

There is but one rule: hunt or be hunted.

That’s a phrase from House of Cards: Season 2 which will be released in its entirety on Netflix on February 14, 2014. I am pretty sure that House of Cards does not fall uder the Category Heading of Valentine’s Day fare. If you feel that way you can start the series the next day.

In the just released trailer, we watch as Francis “Frank” J. Underwood is being sworn in as Vice President of the United States.

Underwood: …and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter.

Supreme Court Chief Justice: So help me God.

Underwood: So help me God

Then Underwood breaks the 4th wall, as he often does, and speaks a few words directly to us –

One heartbeat away from the Presidency, and not a single vote cast in my name. Democracy is so overrated.

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Miss Pilot

Fly me to the moon
Let me play among the stars
Let me see what spring is like
On a, Jupiter and Mars…

In other words…

While Frank Sinatra made these song lyrics famous, he wasn’t the first to go public with it. That would be cabaret singer Felicia Saunders who introduced the song, known as In Other Words, written by Bart Howard in 1954. Singer Kay Ballard made the first recording of the song. But most of us know it as a standard for Old Blue Eyes. Strictly speaking, this song really isn’t about flying, rather it is about the transporting of one’s heart.

The reality is that most of us want the same kind of transport. But to get from point A to Point B, over a longish distance, most of us choose commercial airlines.

Have you seen that film clip about Air Tahiti Nui? Its on abc, yahoo. even on news.com.au. This clip has been described by some as ‘jaw-dropping’. It has also been called ‘possibly the best airline video ever.’

Have a look:

http://www.news.com.au/travel/travel-ideas/air-tahiti-nui-releases-what-could-be-the-best-airline-video-ever/story-fnjpj945-1226786328928

Now I’m not going to write about Air Tahiti Nui. In fact, I’ve never been to Tahiti. But this clip does give you a nice feel for what goes into flying besides just buying a ticket and parking your tail in a seat.

The thing of it is, that this little piece of Air Tahiti Nui magic came out while I was in the midst of watching a Japanese TV Series called Miss Pilot. The series began on October 15th, and the 11th and final episode was broadcast in Japan in prime time at 9:00 PM on Christmas Eve.

This is the story of a smart young lady who worked in an izakaya (a bar-restaurant) owned by her parents. Her name – Haru Tezuka. She’s played by the popular Japanese actress Maki Horikita.

A quick synopsis goes something like this: Tezuka Haru has been desperately hunting for a job, but can’t get her foot into any doorway. She gets rejection letters so often, that she went out and bought a personal paper shredder. On a whim, more like – the worst that can happen is that nothing happens – her employment agency sends her out to apply for a job as a pilot for ANA, All Nippon Airways, which is Japan’s second biggest airline. Haru attends a seminar, then she takes the necessary exam to enter the world of aviation. She is more surprised than anyone when she barely passes.

This is the beginning for Haru as she is now on the path towards becoming a female pilot. But it won’t be easy, and will take some time. The training is more far more severe than she expected before taking the exam.

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The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

I caught the Ben Stiller opus, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, yesterday. The best thing I can say about the film is that it had about 8 minutes of a seemingly disinterested Sean Penn, and maybe 20 minutes of the luminous Kristen Wiig, along with some spectacular outdoor footage, and some fine music on the sound track.

Stiller stars as the mild-mannered Mitty and he also directed the film. The film works on some levels, and is just okay or weak on others. What I liked was an opportunity to see Iceland, even when it posed as Greenland or Afghanistan. The special effects like the erupting volcano ash cloud was pretty cool too. As was the trekking in the Himalayas montage.

The story is an update of the original short story (just 2100 words – about 2 and half times the length of this review) by James Thurber that was written and published in 1939. That story, about a day dreamer, was made into a movie starring Danny Kaye in 1947.

In this new version, which opened on Christmas Day, the screenplay moves the story to the present day. Mitty is the ‘negative assets manager’ (photo archivist) for Life Magazine which is about to publish its last print issue before becoming an online only publication. With this transition, jobs will be lost and many employees will be terminated.

When famed photographer Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn) submits a set of negatives for the last issue, Negative #25 can’t be found. Did Walter Mitty lose it? Was it misplaced in receiving, did O’Connell even send it?

Walter zones out as Hendricks and staff watch him

These are the questions before us. The pressure mounts as the Transition Manager at Life, a Ted Hendricks played by Adam Scott, puts up with a few rounds of Mitty’s delaying tactics, before finally laying down the law – the next time I see you, you will show me the negative, and if you don’t have it, you’re fired.

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The Great Beauty aka La Grande Bellezza

They say all roads lead to Rome, and sure enough, a quarter of century ago, I found my self on a road heading into Rome. I was in a taxi heading into town from Fiumicino Airport. I lasted about 4 days in Rome, and between parks, fountains, museums, vino, molto bella ragazza, and the Vatican, I was worn out. Just as those roads lead into Rome, they also lead out of Rome. I never returned.

One guy that stayed in Rome, was Jep Gambardella, the writer and novelist who wrote his legendary and only novel as young man, and has spent the next 40 years as a permanent fixture in Rome’s literary and social circles. In short – a celebrity.

Jep is the lead character and narrator of the film, The Great Beauty (La Grande Bellezza). The film is directed by Paolo Sorrentino with the screenplay written by Umberto Contarello.

After viewing the trailer, I expected that Jep (played by Italy’s best actor – Toni Servillo), would be something like a Roman version of Tom Wolfe, the American novelist and non-fiction author who was at the vanguard of the New Journalism back in the 70’s. As Wolfe did for New York, and America, I expected that Jep would be an observer and a chronicler of life in Rome, the Eternal City. But Jep didn’t do much writing after his novel. A newspaper article here, a magazine piece there. Most of Rome’s denizens of the night didn’t get Jep’s words and commentaries off a printed page. Instead they got the live spoken version – face to face.

Jep as a young man said he wanted to live the lavish life of parties until dawn. He wanted to close down discos all over town. He wanted to walk home as the sun rose over deserted streets. He wanted the power to make those parties failures. He knew every one of prominence and everyone knew him as the king of Rome’s La Dolce Vita.

Jep: We've known each other for decades. Did we ever sleep together? She: No. Never. Jep: A great mistake that we need to rectify

Jep: We’ve known each other for decades. Did we ever sleep together?
She: No. Never.
Jep: A great mistake that we need to rectify

Yes, he did become the King of Swing in Rome. But by the time he was sessantacinque (65) his views had changed. Soured if you will. He still partied his ass off, and was still a magnet for women, but he saw the negatives in his fellow Romans in far greater frequencies than anything positive. He said that the best people in Roma were the tourists.

He was a man filled with a quite bitter outlook. He could be sardonic, and he could cut some one into little pieces with his rapier-like wit. Literally in seconds. But when we did see him respond to a woman at a party, it went on for long, long minutes.  She was reduced to nothing as Servillo performed this soliloquy, so well, that you won’t see anything better in a long time.

So more often than not, he would let out his dissatisfaction. We’re all on the brink of despair, all we can do is look each other in the face, keep each other company, joke a little… Don’t you agree?

Or his views have changed to such a degree that the effect was amazing:

To this question, as kids, my friends always gave the same answer: “Pussy”. Whereas I answered “The smell of old people’s houses”. The question was “What do you really like the most in life?” I was destined for sensibility. I was destined to become a writer. I was destined to become Jep Gambardella.

Sorrentino’s film is filled with beautiful images, and often filled with the beautiful people. Many of whom no longer were in the bloom of youth, but they still danced all night – as couples, or in line dances, or in train dances. And the music was vibrant with its techno drums and bases throbbing, the dancers went side to side in unison as if they were a single entity rather than numbering in the hundreds.

Jep’s apartment overlooked The Colosseum which seemed as if it was just across the street.

The place had a terrazzo that would hold dozens and dozens of people. The people we met lived in exquisite homes. Early on, one man comes to Jep and tells him sorrowfully that his wife had died, and her diary was filled with discussions and entries, for page after page, about Jep.

Yes, she and Jep met as kids, and separated forever while still kids. This husband, her husband for 35 years, got only two lines in her diary. She said only that he was a good companion. He was more distraught about this than her passing.

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