Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Boardwalk Empire - So long, Nucky

I have to admit, I have been a reluctant fan of the HBO series, Boardwalk Empire, sort of a love/hate relationship. It got increasingly violent over the years as Enoch Thompson (Nucky) descended more and more into the world of the big time gangster.

Steve Buscemi was excellent in the role.  He won Golden Globe awards and an Emmy or two for his portrayal of the crime boss. His incredible portrayal of the complicated Nucky Thompson kept me coming back for more.

The saga of the criminalization of Atlantic City began post World War I (before 1920) and continued into the early 1930s just before prohibition was repealed.  With a rich cast of characters, it brought to glaring life the world we have only seen in very old movies.

Every season there were plot twists, stunning surprises, and often main characters were killed without warning.  In the final season, many of the main characters met their final judgment.  For some of them it did not lead immediately to their death, but it substantially changed their situation.

Also, the season was told partly in flashback which showed Nucky as a child and an upright young man who ultimately gave in to corruption at the hands of the most powerful man in Atlantic City.  The theme of the season? "Every man has his price" - with a bit of "Karma is a bitch" - thrown in for good measure.

Nucky's downfall was due to something he did as an upright young man.  He gave a lovely thirteen-year-old girl to the richest, most powerful man in town, simply because the Commodore (as he was known) wanted her. The story line began in the first season of the series. Only Nucky's participation in it was kept hidden until the finale.

That one action destroyed all of their lives, Nucky's, Gillian's (the girl), and the Commodore, who ultimately died as an elderly bedridden man by Gillian's hand.

And though the likes of Lucky Luciano and Dutch Schultz were after Nucky, instructing their gang to kill him, in the end it was Gillian's (and the Commodore's) grandson, Tommy, who pulled the trigger.

This series played like a Greek tragedy, staged as a tawdry carnival with all the vices displayed to the tinny music of the era.  And in the end they all paid their dues to Karma.

This was a well done, evocative series, that left me pensive and sad at the wasted lives and opportunities.
I won't miss it since it ended so well, tying up the story lines.

The previous seasons are available on video.  I am sure the final season will be available soon.  It was an incredible cast with more plot twists than Game of Thrones. If you enjoy early cinema noir portrayed by a very talented cast, this one is for you.

Until next time...

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Edge of Tomorrow (Live-Die-Repeat)

After a busy couple of weeks, I finally got around to watching a movie worth reviewing.  A lover of science fiction I noted when EDGE OF TOMORROW was originally released.  It stars Tom Cruise and Emily Blount with an outstanding supporting cast of such notables as Brendan Gleeson and Bill Paxton.

The premise is a smug Major (Cruise) who has finagled his way out of combat is stripped of his rank and thrust into the front lines by General Brigham (Gleeson).  There the new private is put under Master Sergeant Farrell (Paxton, who is all but unrecognizable in the role).  Farrell is the epitome of a combat hardened Master Sergeant.  He brooks neither smart remarks nor cowardice.  His soldiers fight to the death or live to fight another day - no exceptions.  Naturally Cage (Cruise) learns hard lessons fast.

The enemies are a horde of aliens commanded by a creature who can control time itself and knows the future.

On Cage's first foray into battle he dies almost immediately.  He then wakes up back at the post where his first day repeats.  Naturally when he goes into battle, he avoids his original death and lives a few moments longer.   Before his death the second time, he witnesses Rita (Blount), a proclaimed hero of the war, in action. Fascinated by her immediately, when he dies and goes back the next time, he actively seeks her out.

She offers to train him because he has the ability to die and come back - a rarity she shares with him. Together they pool their gathered knowledge and find a way to win the war.

Okay, the premise is a difficult one to maintain.  I remember a famous comedy of twenty years ago that repeated the same day over and over with progressively longer stretches of the same dialogue repeated each time.  While the critics raved about the comedic performances in this film, I fell asleep in the theater nodding off repeatedly, only to have my friends awaken me when it was over.  I was never so bored in my life.

While Edge of Tomorrow is repetitious at times, there is enough action and change to make it exciting.  This movie races to its climax.

There are battles aplenty but the viscera is kept to a minimum - always a refreshing change.  (I've been watching too many zombie films and television programs.)

The special effects are excellent.  The performances are good.  All in all it is an exciting film and well worth a viewing, particularly for fans of science fiction.

Check it out.  You just might like it.

Tonight marks the series finale of BOARDWALK EMPIRE.  This is a series that has held my attention since it first aired.  I have a love/hate relationship with it, but it has kept me interested. Look for my series review coming in the next few days.

Until then, take care and watch a movie, read a book, listen to some music, or watch your favorite TV shows.

Monday, October 13, 2014

"Zombies - Tornado - ZNado - 'Nuff Said"

Just a quickie today.  As most of you know, I am a fan of the SyFy network.  I regularly watch two or three of their programs. I also watch their movies, including those of the Sharknado franchise.

Currently, I am recording one of their programs on Friday nights because it is on the same time as something else I watch.  It's a little farce entitled - ZNation.

As you might guess, it's another Zombie Apocalypse program.  This one has a slightly different premise.  A band of militant survivors are trying to travel across the country to California. They are charged with taking a particularly unpleasant man across the US and must protect him from harm.  He was injected with an experimental anti-zombie serum at a medical facility on the east coast, just before they were overrun with marauding zombies.  Though he sustained several nasty bites, he survived and did not become one of the Zs.  So he is the hope of all mankind.

There's also a poor man left alone at a military station in the region of the far north.  He is the only survivor of the Z attack on the facility - well he and a half-grown husky puppy.  Luckily it's a huge base with enormous stores of supplies. So they eat prime beef most nights cooked on a charcoal grill.  The man maintains the high powered radio that reaches across the country.  He broadcasts to the survivors out there as "Citizen Z." Some of the quasi-military groups are in contact with him as well.  He can direct them via satellite views of areas to determine where it's passable and where it's not on the roadways.  He can also access the weather satellite as we learned in last week's episode.

SyFy had to do this...I guess it was inevitable...the advertising tag line for this episode was the title of my blog post - "Zombies - Tornado - ZNado - 'Nuff Said."

Yep, you got it.  Instead of picking up sharks at sea, these monster tornadoes picked up roving bands of Zombies and dropped them on the remaining human populace.  When the main characters saw the Zombies come flying out of the funnel clouds one of them said - "Is that what I think it is?" To whit the female lead replied - "At least it ain't sharks..."

I don't know why I find this so funny - I guess it's the ridiculous improbability of it all coupled with the tongue-in-cheek acting style.  Whatever it is, I guffawed when I saw the episode.

I fear we may be in for a spate of 'Nado pictures...what about "Tea Party'Nado" (that's downright scary!!!) "ISIS'Nado" (frightening in its own way) Congress'Nado (perhaps the scariest of them all) or "Republican'Nado", and for equal time depending on your personal preferences - "Democrat'Nado." 

The mind boggles.

And to think this was all started by some flying sharks devouring a bunch of once prominent celebrities...

Oh well, we can all use a good laugh.

On the serious side, I have finished the first half of my current novel in progress!!!

And bigger news, my blog has achieved 10,000+ views now - not taking the world by storm, but it exceeds my expectations. Thank you.


Hasta la Vista (remember my DNA is 4% Iberian peninsula...)

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

My Ancestry - What a surprise!

The results of my DNA testing are in...and to say I was surprised is seriously underplaying my reaction.  Ancestry I have owned my whole life turns out was wrong.  My father is angry, claiming it must be a con game.  However, the testing was done by reputable people and I must honor the findings.

My results are as follows:

37% Irish
30% Western Europe (includes France, Germany, and Northern Italy)
18% British Isles
7% Scandinavian (really?!!)
4% Finland/Northwestern Russia (what?)
4% Iberian Peninsula (Spain/Portugal - huh?)

First of all, we were always told my father's grandmother's family was originally from Sicily.  I have 0% of Italian/Greek as was classified on the test.  I did test positive for the area of western Europe that includes northern Italy, however.  Maybe the Sicilian part was wrong...

It was long thought in my mother's family that her father was Dutch and Native American.  I did not register either one in the DNA analysis.  Of course, his mother died giving birth to him.  His father was a lifelong alcoholic, so no telling what he told my grandfather about his heritage.

As to the Scandinavian bit, I was told by the company that tested my DNA, many people of Irish ancestry, or ancestors in northern England, Scotland, or Wales have varying percentages of Scandinavian ancestors.  After all, the Norse men raided for 500+ years, raping, pillaging, enslaving, and sometimes marrying their captives.  Don't worry, I've already got my Viking helmet on order, complete with flaxen braids...no, I still root for the Dallas Cowboys, but I gotta represent the family. (I refuse, however to eat ludafisk or sleep on furs.)

"Lord, protect us from the fury of the north men."

For the Finland/Northwestern Russia DNA findings I am completely at a loss.  Nobody in the family has ever admitted to such ancestors. 

The same for the Iberian peninsula.  Not that I mind that.  I've always loved the music and dance from Spain.  Plus, I'm a big fan of Brazilian music (sung in Portuguese.)

I knew already about the ties to Great Britain.  That side of my family has traced the family tree way back. I've been told I am a direct descendant from Captain Kidd and a relation to James Hargreaves, who invented the spinning jenny and mechanized the woolen mills in England, bringing the industrial age to the country. He was my grandmother's great-uncle.

I always figured I was part Irish, but had no idea it was so much of my ancestry.  That's okay with me.  That is the part of the analysis that I like the best. Now I can legitimately wear green on St. Patrick's Day...(I draw the line at green beer.)

The rest of it, lacking the southern Italy and Native American connection, is a bit of a shock.  But I'm learning to live with it. I can still cook a mean pot of meat sauce for spaghetti and bake a good lasagna.  I still love Native American art and will continue to collect it.

All in all, it has been a most interesting experience despite the results.  A friend asked me what it was like to think you are one thing most of your life and find out you're something else. 

It's a disappointment in some ways, but a revelation in others.  I am still working through it.  And it has made me want to start researching the family tree to see if I can find some of these outliers in my background.

Since I found out about the Scandinavian heritage and the way it came to be, I have been sad, thinking of those women who endured the raids.

In closing I would like to say, no matter where I came from, I am still the person I've always been.  It was a revelation to learn of my hidden ancestors.

This was a good experience, one that I would recommend to anyone.

Take care.

Have a great evening.

The Irish/frenchgermannorthernitalian/british/finn/scandinavian/russianportuguese/spaniard.

Do I look like a viking to you?

Hasta Luego!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Homeland - Season 4

Showtime premiered the fourth season of its much lauded series, Homeland, last Sunday.  A follower of the series from its first season, I was fascinated to see where it would go this year.

Season 3 ended with the death of its tortured hero, Sgt. Brody, held by Muslim extremists for years, turned and sent back to his homeland to commit acts of violence.  It has always been a fascinating, convoluted storyline, which you have to follow closely.

Actually, I slept through part of it Sunday night, so I watched it again on demand this morning.  My sleeping through it had little to do with the episode and more to do with my current stressers which tend to make me tired.

In season 4, we find Carrie Mathieson (played by Claire Danes) in Kabul as the CIA station chief.  She orders a strike on what she thinks is good intel, which results in disaster for the US.  Yes, they took out the terrorist leader, but he was at a wedding with many guests in attendance, most of whom were killed.  Thus, pictures of dead women and children were laid out in the media and on YouTube.

Somehow the American source of the intel is outed on television, attacked by an angry mob in Pakistan and murdered - also posted on YouTube.  Thus, Carrie has another cause, another obsession which she will not let go.  That has been her character's mode of operation for the duration of the series.  She has a mental disorder which makes her dangerous if not medicated, but also makes her able to focus so much that she can ferret out the situation with relative ease.

Trouble is, she is socially inept as well as the world's worst mother.  She was pregnant by Sgt. Brody when he was executed by the Muslim radicals who once held him prisoner.  In season 4, she is the mother of a cute red-headed, blue-eyed baby girl.  She cannot cope with motherhood - doesn't even want to hold her baby and farms her out to her sister - a busy physician with two children of her own. The infant in the part looks a bit like Damian Lewis, the British actor who played Brody.  Carrie cannot seem to make a connection to her own child, even though she admits she loved her father. There was a tense scene in which she is bathing her child and almost drowns her, looking on dispassionately until she comes to her senses. 

This show has NEVER been for the faint of heart.

It is a dark, intelligent, compelling story, most relevant with today's issues in the middle East.

If you like a fascinating story, this one is for you.

It airs on Showtime at 9:00 Eastern time on Sunday nights.  Check it out.

Until next time...

Thursday, October 2, 2014


Tonight on the Fox network, at 9:00 pm EDT, a new series, Gracepoint, premiers.  It's a ten part mystery series, based on the critically acclaimed BBC series, Broadchurch.  The American version stars David Tennant, the British star of Broadchurch (and my favorite Doctor from the Doctor Who series.)

Gracepoint takes place in a mythical northern California coastal town.  In the opening episode, the body of a 12 year old boy is found on the beach.  The story unfolds from there.

Although based on Broadchurch, the network is advertising promos announcing that Gracepoint is a different story.  And sure enough, Broadchurch had eight episodes.  Gracepoint has ten. The network is implying that the story is a bit different as is the identity of the murderer.  We'll see.

If you like a good mystery, do not miss the series.  The original was mesmerizing and held my interest so much that when it ended I ordered the video.

Look for a taut, confounding story filled with false clues.  You'll be drawn to it if it is like the BBC version.

I'm looking forward to watching it tonight!

Blessings and have a happy autumn.