The Price of Secrets

The Secret Scripture  (2017)  Rated: PG-13  Runtime: 108 minutesM Scripture 2017.jpg

Genre: Drama-Mystery-Romance

els – 6.5/10

IMDb – 6.6/10

Amazon – 4.4/5 stars

Rotten Tomatoes Critics – 4.1/10

Rotten Tomatoes Audience – 3.4/5

Metacritic Metascore – 37/100

Metacritic User Score – NR/10

Directed by:  Jim Sheridan

Written by:  Sebastian Berry, Jim Sheridan, Johnny Ferguson

Produced by:  Noel Pearson, Rob Quigley, Jim Sheridan

Music by:  Brian Bryne

Cast:  Rooney Mara, Aidan Turner, Theo James, Eric Bana, Vanessa Redgrave

To understand this movie, a smidgen of background knowledge germane to WWII Irish history is needed, or else the story becomes unhinged from the plot with cryptic scenes sprinkled throughout the movie that will bewilder and flummox the viewer. At the start of WWII in 1939, Ireland declared its intent to remain neutral towards the Allied and Axis powers, and they did officially remain neutral throughout the war, but provided assistance to the Allied powers when and where possible.  The Irish government feared joining the war on either side would reopen the recent wounds inflicted by their civil war fought in the early 1920s; by the fascists and the anti-fascists, the pro-Brits and the IRA, the pro and the anti-treaty proponents, and they all remained active in Ireland up to, and beyond WWII.  The IRA was particularly anxious to curry favor with the Germans, to obtain their aid in the form of money, influence, and weapons; endeavors precipitating various IRA acts of war within and beyond the borders of Ireland.

Roseanne McNulty the elder, played by Vanessa Redgrave, and Roseanne McNulty the younger, played by Rooney Mara, parcel out a story of love and loyalty, unrequited love and betrayal, death, cruelty and denial; which, during war leads to Rose’s incarceration, or to use a less judgmental word, confinement, in an Irish mental institution for nearly 50 years. The institution was less about care and rehabilitation than an exercise in control and dominance; keeping Rose docile and quiet, but in the end, not able to lessen her romantic love or boundless spirit, just her hold on reality. Rose the elder maintains a record of her captivity, mysterious inscriptions in her bible, that becomes the source of her deliverance from past; bringing closure in the kindred form of a believer and a redeemer.

The directing, writing and acting are all exceptional.  Only the improbable conclusion lessens the impact of the story but it still works even though you see it coming a mile away.  Catch up on your Irish WWII history and then watch the movie.

A Short as a Feature – A Drama as a Mystery

Anti Matter (2017)  Rated: NR  Runtime: 105 minutesM AntiMatter 2017

Genre: Drama-Mystery-Science Fiction-Thriller

els – 4.0/10

IMDb – 6.3/10

Amazon – 3.4/5 stars

Rotten Tomatoes Critics – 7.2/10

Rotten Tomatoes Audience – 4.3/5

Metacritic Metascore – NA/100

Metacritic User Score – 7.5/10

Directed by:  Keir Burrows

Written by:  Keir Burrows

Produced by:  Dieudonnée Burrows

Music by:  Edwin Sykes

Cast:  Yaiza Figueroa, Tom Barber-Duffy, Philippa Carson

Keir Burrows is a celebrated short film director and writer making his feature-length movie debut with Anti Matter; a low-budget, moderately, but mistakenly, cerebral science fiction flick set in the present at England’s Oxford University.  Ana (Figueroa), a doctoral candidate, along with two of her fellow student accomplices: Barber-Duffy as Nate and Carson as Liv, design a protocol to transfer matter from one point to another, instantly, via a wormhole.  After successfully transferring inanimate objects and small life-forms Ana, to guarantee future funding for her research and the subsequent commercial development of instantaneous globe-hopping, transfers herself through the wormhole, after which her mind ceases to retain any new information or memories, thus beginning the mystery of why that happened and how to correct it.

This movie has received fairly positive reviews; this will not be one of them.  The title of the movie is an enigma and a charade, anti-matter does not enter into this story one way or another; it is never mentioned, that I can remember, and wormholes are predicated on the curvature of space-time and negative energy, at least according to the current working hypothesis.  Why name the movie Anti Matter? The title “Negative Energy” certainly would have been more honest and just as good, if not better.  Additionally, the subtitle: “Science and Hell have Come Together”, is also a non-starter, an illusion of horror, likely used in the title and story synopsis only to drum up interest and sales. The only hell is the one contrived by the director and writer to create a mystery that only exists with the viewer, and if the viewer is paying attention, the mystery does not last for long. The acting is abysmal; paying for real actors would have paid big dividends. Liv who plays, unconvincingly, the world’s greatest jerk, making Sean Penn and Don Rickles look like well-mannered saints, hopefully, never sees the glare of another movie set light in her life, and she can rightfully blame the director-writer for her atrocious nature and character development, or maybe not. This is a movie that has all the appearances of a short that was stretched, unforgivingly, into a full-length feature film. Cutting 25 minutes of celluloid, 80 minutes is still a feature film, may have saved this movie but the director’s ambition in creating a mystery-thriller out of a sci-fi drama outran his talent.

If you are into B movies, by all means, watch this film, otherwise take a pass and do something else with your time.

Prison Blues in Rage of Orange

Brawl in Cell Block 99  (2017)  Rated: NR  Runtime: 132 minutesM Brawl 2017

Genre: Action-Crime-Drama-Thriller

els – 7.0/10

IMDb – 7.2/10

Amazon – 3.8/5 stars

Rotten Tomatoes Critics – 7.5/10

Rotten Tomatoes Audience – 3.7/5

Metacritic Metascore – 79/100

Metacritic User Score – 6.9/10

Directed by:  S. Craig Zahler

Written by:  S. Craig Zahler

Produced by:  Jack Heller, Dallas Sonnier,  Gregory Zuk

Music by:  Jeff Herriott, S. Craig Zahler

Cast:  Vince Vaughn, Jennifer Carpenter, Don Johnson

Vince Vaughn, son of Vernon, brother to Valerie and Victoria, V for Victory; fresh off a successful role as Sgt. Howell in Hacksaw Ridge, teams up with S. Craig Zahler to produce the greatest prison movie since Cool Hand Luke in 1967. This is a grinder of a movie where hard luck, bad luck, and no luck leads Vaughn straight to jail without passing Go, with Vaughn playing his part with the reticent verve of Charlie Brown crossed with Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Bradley, not Brad, Bradley (Vaughn), starts off the film with a bad, no good, awful day by first getting laid off his lousy paying, tow truck driving job followed, in short order, by broken locks, a trashed out yard, and a cheating wife, culminating in a one round boxing match with his wife’s car.  The car lost. Bradley calms down, keeps his wife, and goes to work for a drug dealer.  All is peaches and cream until a drug delivery goes bad, involving Bradley, not Brad, in a shoot-out, his subsequent capture and arrest by the local police.  The arrest quickly manifests itself into a 7 year prison sentence for Bradley where matters progress from bad to hellish in the blink of a black eye.

This is a well directed, written, and acted, virile, manly movie that provides all the testosterone you will need for the week. The only weakness in the film is the music; R&B tunes that just don’t fit; Jimmy Page and Johnny Cash would have been the right choice; thanks for asking.  Ignore the music, open a beer, kick back and enjoy this flick.

Spies Along the Wall

Atomic Blonde  (2017)  Rated: R  Runtime: 115 minutesM Atomic 2017

Genre: Action-Adventure-Mystery-Suspense-Thriller

els – 6.0/10

IMDb – 6.8/10

Amazon – 3.4/5 stars

Rotten Tomatoes Critics – 6.5/10

Rotten Tomatoes Audience – 3.5/5

Metacritic Metascore – 63/100

Metacritic User Score – 6.5/10

Directed by:  David Leitch

Written by:  Kurt Johnstad (Screenplay), Antony Johnston (Book-Author), Sam Hart (Book-Illustrator)

Produced by:  A.J. Dix, Eric Gitter, David Guillod

Music by:  Tyler Bates

Cast:  Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman

Antony Johnston, an artistic overachiever: author, graphic novelist, game writer, talk show host, and musician; wrote the 2012 graphic novel: The Coldest City, providing the foundation, if not the whole building, for the 2017 Atomic Blonde movie.

B Coldest City 2012The novel and movie begin near the final gasps of communism in the late 20th century along with subsequent fall of the wall separating Berlin from East Berlin. A British spy, possessing a list of every spy playing spook in Berlin is killed and the list disappears. Lorraine Broughton (Theron), a British MI6 operative is brought in to recover the list, kick a few butts, possibly chase down a double agent, and segue with feminine ease through the twists and turns of this wonderfully sculpted action thriller.

Atomic Blonde is a British Bond flick without Bond.  A great romp of visual action worthy of Skyfall and a storyline that keeps you guessing for a good portion of the movie, although you should be able to put most of it together before the ending credits roll. Theron is simply superb in her role and was the spot-on, perfect actress to play the lead.  Goodman turns in a very solid performance as Theron’s foil, with his character providing enough twists in the narrative to totally mess up your plot assumptions.

A refreshing, fun movie of action and thrills with a screenplay that holds together to the very end.  Well worth seeing.  Expect a sequel in 2019 or more likely, a prequel, given that Antony Johnston has already published a graphic novel, The Coldest Winter, which takes the spies and their craft back to a slightly earlier time; to a Berlin of snowy cold, and the cold war of the early 1980s.

Chateau Ste. Michelle Merlot 2013

W St Michelle 2013Merlot from Columbia Valley, Washington

89% merlot

11% syrah

13.5% alcohol

Opened 14 Nov 2017

els 8.7/10

Wine Enthusiast 89

Chateau Ste. Michelle, the oldest winery in Washington, traces its beginnings back to the end of the prohibition era in the mid-1930s, with the formation of the Pomerelle Co. and the National Wine Company. These two companies merged in 1954 as the American Wine Co., and in 1967 initiated a premium line of wines known as Ste. Michelle. In 1972 a group of investors bought out the American Wine Company and renamed it Ste. Michelle Vintners. In 1974 the company was bought out by Altria. In 1976 Ste. Michelle Vintners built a French style winery, about 15-20 miles northeast of Seattle, in the Woodinville Tourist District, and changed its name to Chateau Ste. Michelle.

W Columbia Gorge

Columbia River Gorge by etliebe.

Today, Chateau Ste. Michelle consists of 2 wineries, the Chateau in Woodinville which makes the company’s white wines, and its reds are made at the Canoe Ridge Estate winery in Eastern Washington.  The vineyards on the Canoe Ridge Estate were planted in 1991 with Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, and Syrah grapes on the steep sloping, arid hills of the Columbia River Gorge. The winery followed in 1993. One interesting aspect of this vineyard is that the grape varieties are grown from their own vinifera rootstock, apparently indifferent to the phylloxera aphid.

The alluvial soils of Canoe Ridge Estate are well-drained, thick Pleistocene cobblestone, sandy silts at approximately 900 feet above sea level, deposited on top of the eroded Miocene Columbia River Basalts.  The April through September growing season sees highs of about 90 and lows of 40 degrees Fahrenheit.  Rain is sparse, averaging from 0.2 to 0.75 inches per month during the growing season.  Hard freezes during the winter months are rare.

This wine has a clear garnet to ruby color, subtle aromas of strawberry and dark berries, with a touch of vanilla. A medium body with a medium finish. The tannins are smooth and easy. A nice wine but rather unadventurous, timid even.  Best served as a sipping wine along with small berries and nuts.

A good wine. Decant and aerate for at least one hour.

$16.99 wine.com

Do Evil — Do Good

Proteus B Proteus

Written by:  Morris West

Originally Published by:  William Morrow & Co.

Copyright:  © 1979

Morris West spins a tale of combating evil within the confines of the Old Testament God: an eye for an eye, a wrong to beget a wrong. Victims of evil can forgive, but a witness to evil must act.  When the legal structures of the western world, the democracies of the free, fail the meek and the weak who shall rally for their cause, raise and carry their banner, storm their Bastille?

John Spada, the righteous, millionaire industrialist, protagonist, and leader of the secret international organization: Proteus; saves the meek, rescues the innocent, teaches morality, one evil deed at a time. Spada and Proteus pick up where governments fail; achieving the freedom of the weak through the commission of criminal and immoral deeds.  Spada wants to free all the prisoners of conscience, the political prisoners held by the depraved and savage governments of the world.  To bring about their freedom murder and the threat of genocide are tools that he and Proteus are willing to use and do.  Inhumanity opposing inhumanity achieves what?  In this book it brings Spada only his death and infamy.

West produces a sophomoric and almost comic plot of moral paradoxes, matching evil deeds with evil deeds, opprobrious acts with no yin to balance the yang.  Ouroboros’ cycles of life and death sans a meaningful life. A novel, opening with a decent plot but poorly executed and a truly abominable ending, but maybe West didn’t have any answers in the struggle against the ever encroaching darkness; just pinpricks of light in the far distance.

Chateau Francs Magnus Bordeaux Superieur 2014

W Francs2014Bordeaux Red Blends from Bordeaux, France

Proprietary red blend

13.5% alcohol

Opened 11 Nov 2017

els 9.0/10

James Suckling 91

From the winery and vineyards of Arnaud Roux-oulie, complete with limestone quarries and Gallo-Roman silos.

This wine has a clear garnet to ruby color, redolent of plums and dark berries, with a touch of licorice. A medium body and finish, with smooth and easy tannins. A nice, unpretentious everyday wine, enjoyable with simple fare such as pizza or cheeseburgers. Decant and aerate for at least one hour.

$11.99 wine.com

Explorations 8: Sporting Tigers

While delving into logos for a possible new business venture I landed up researching the big cats. In the process I stumbled on just how common they are used in the wide world of sports.   Parenthetically, The Wizard of Oz has a cat, but he was a coward so I guess that rules him out for a spot on a team.

Dorothy, the Scarecrow, and the Tin Man meet the Lion along the Yellow Brick Road: Lions, tigers, and bears! oh, – my.E Oz Lion

Dorothy:
Do – do you suppose we’ll meet any wild animals?
Tin Man:
Mmmm – we might.
Dorothy:
Oh –
Scarecrow:
Animals that – that eat straw?
Tin Man:
A – some – but mostly lions and tigers and bears.
Dorothy:
Lions!
Scarecrow:
And tigers!
Tin Man:
And bears!
Dorothy:
Oh! Lions, and tigers and bears! Oh, – my –
Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man:
Lions and tigers and bears!

All sporting teams have a mascot.  In these days of PC, animals are a safe branding trademark or label. Birds and bees, cats and dogs, horses, goats and bears; all figure prominently in North American sports.

Big cuddly kitties occupy 5 of the top 10 mascot names in US sports (MascotDB.com). The list below show how the cats rank among the top 10 US team names along with a listing of  some of the better known pro-teams and colleges that use that particular family of Felidae.  Bears are a topic for another time.

  1. Eagles
  2. Tigers — 1391 TeamsE Tiger 1
    1. Cincinnati ‘Bengals’ (NFL)
    2. Detroit (MLB)
    3. Auburn University
    4. Clemson University
    5. Colorado College
    6. Grambling
    7. Louisiana State University
    8. Iowa
    9. Illinois
    10. Princeton
    11. Tennessee State University E Panther
    12. Texas Southern
    13. University of Memphis
    14. University of Missouri
  3. Bulldogs
  4. Panthers  —  1145 Teams
    1. Carolina (NFL)
    2. Florida (NHL)
    3. Georgia State University
    4. University of Pittsburg
  5. Wildcats —  1019 Teams
    1. University of Arizona
    2. University of Kentucky
    3. University of New Hampshire
    4. Villanova
  6. Warriors
  7. IndiansE Lion
  8. Lion  —  759 Teams
    1. Detroit (NFL)
    2. Loyola
    3. Pennsylvania State University
  9. Cougars  —  664 Teams
    1. Brigham Young University
    2. University of Houston
    3. Washington State
  10. Knights

Survive This

Jungle  (2017)  Rated: R  Runtime: 115 minuteM Jungle 2017

Genre: Action-Adventure-Drama-Suspense

els – 5.5/10

IMDb – 6.7/10

Amazon – 4.5/5 stars

Rotten Tomatoes Critics – 5.5/10

Rotten Tomatoes Audience – 3.7/5

Metacritic Metascore – 48/100

Metacritic User Score – 7.4/10

Directed by:  Greg McLean

Written by:  Yossi Ghinsberg and Justin Monjo

Produced by:  Todd Fellman, Mike Gabrawy, Gary Hamilton

Music by:  Johnny Klimek

Cast:  Daniel Radcliffe, Thomas Kretschmann, Alex Russell, Adrian Rawlins

B Jungle 2005Jungle, the movie, based on the 2005 autobiographical memoir:  Jungle: A Harrowing True Story of Survival by Yossi Ghinsberg; illustrates the fateful adventure, through the Bolivian jungle, of 3 young, adrenaline seeking friends and their enigmatic guide.  The guide (Adrian Rawlins, of James Potter fame in the Harry Potter movies) convinces a gullible and naive Yossi, played by Radcliffe, to join him on an ill-defined quest for lost villages and gold; through uncharted mountainous terrain of sheer cliffs and rugged slopes, networks of clogged vegetative mazes, deep-valley rivers of contesting demeanor; lethargic, sleepy flows metastasizing to rabid, boiling waters jetting past plane sized boulders in a few accelerated heartbeats; matching ones physical and psychological endurance against a wild, relentless, and unsympathetic jungle.

One of the many weak and feeble points in the screenplay and direction is how Yossi manages to convince his mates to join him on this expedition of folly with an unknown guide of dubious qualifications. It was definitely an unconvincing sales pitch while watching the film. Being a true story I’ll acknowledge that it happened, however the suspension of disbelief could have been strengthened tremendously with the use of artistic license, maybe having all involved brain addled by booze and drugs, rather than relying on Yossi’s Harry Potter smile to reach a unanimous agreement to commit trekking suicide.  The guide is easily the most interesting personality in the movie, but his character development and origins are glossed over; using him merely as a tool to get the show going.  Too bad. A final mention of a perceived flaw was the filming of the death inducing rafting through the river’s rapids. I can create more convincing white-water in my bathtub than what I observed on the screen.

Radcliffe’s acting ability has improved leaps and bounds since the days of Harry Potter, but he still can’t present raw, unbridled emotion worth a damn. The scenes of fist pounding angst should have been left on the cutting room floor, to the vast improvement of the film.  Radcliffe will never be a great lead actor; a supporting role will provide him well through his career though, if he wisely choses to go that route.

Jungle is a tolerable flick, not a must see, but worth a few hours of your time on a lazy rainy day.

 

Illuminati for Dummies

The Damnation of Theron Ware

Written by: Harold Frederic

Originally pPublished by:  Stone and Kimball

Original Copyright:  © 1896B Theron Ware

Harold Frederic, 1856-1898, photographer, journalist, and author, son of Presbyterians, practicing their religion in the churches of Methodists, growing up among immigrant Catholics in upstate New York, adopted a skeptical view of all religions in adulthood. He lived an idiosyncratic life as an unbuttoned, avant-garde individualist, stating near his untimely end in 1897, “I live wholly to myself because I like to live an unshackled life…”. In 1884 he moved to London, bringing along his wife, Grace, and their 5 children, working as a correspondent of the New York Times. He later set up a second household in London with his mistress, Kate Lyon and had 3 additional children by her. His premature death in 1898 left both families in financial difficulty.

Frederic wrote 10 novels, 23 short stories, 2 volumes of non-fiction, and countless newspaper articles over his short life time, but he did not achieve critical acclaim until the publication of his seventh novel: The Damnation of Theron Ware in 1896.  Two other novels followed, Gloria Mundi and The Market Place, cementing his legacy as an accomplished author, on par with, but better known, contemporaries Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mark Twain, Henry James, and Stephen Crane. The posthumously published, The Market Place, was a financial success, alleviating his family’s financial duress.

The Damnation of Theron Ware, likely not autobiographical, but certainly expanding on the author’s experiences growing up in Utica, New York, is a story of a young, naive, married Methodist preacher: Theron Ware, who is posted by his bishop, to a small, conservative, poor congregation in a fictional town in the very real and ancient hills and forests of upstate New York.

Through his witnessing of an Irish worker’s fatal injury, he is innocently introduced to a beautiful, intelligent, but wild, Irish-Catholic young woman named Celia. This encounter sets off a series of faith questioning episodes with this woman and her friends: a priest and a cynical and urbane Catholic scientist; accelerating the protestant minister onto the fast, yet short, road to perdition.  His ensuing infatuation with Celia separates him from his wife. His education at the hands of the Catholic trio separates him from his faith and church. His conversion to religion without god and comprehension separates him from the Catholic trio or more precisely, the Catholics separate from him.

His innocence is gone but his education is incomplete. He is damned.  He concludes that his salvation lies in politics.

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