Where the Money Is

The Billionaire’s Vinegar by Benjamin Wallace, published by Three Rivers Press, © 2009. Originally published by Crown Publishers, © 1994.B Billionaire's Vinegar.jpg

On 5 December 1985 Kip Forbes, son of Malcolm Forbes, acting as his father’s agent, sat in Christie’s London auction room waiting to bid on a 1787 bottle of Chateau Lafite, supposedly owned by Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the U.S. Forbes had intended to bid no more than £5000 for the bottle but when the bidding ended and the dust settled, he had set the price record for a single bottle of wine; tendering £105,000 or about $156,000 at the then current exchange rates.

Almost from the beginning the wine’s authenticity was questioned. The place it was discovered and how many bottles were found at the site has never been fully or satisfactorily revealed. Students of Jefferson could not find any conclusive proof that the former president ever possessed this wine; important because Jefferson catalogued and inventoried everything. Dating techniques were unable to assign a definitive date except give it a range of somewhere between 50 to 200 years old. The engraving on the bottle was certified old, and new by different experts.  The wine, when opened, actually a different bottle from the same Jeffersonian lot, was delicious; a very rare occurrence for a 200-year-old bottle of red wine.

The Billionaire’s Vinegar is the story of this suspect bottle of wine, and the exclusive club of people who are connected with it. Benjamin Wallace tells this tale of mystery and intrigue through the use of short vignettes and biographies of those involved, much as if he were writing a series of magazine articles; not surprising since that is what he does for a living: write magazine articles.  He presents the evidence that exists in excruciating detail, but it is not enough to truly settle the debate, although he convincingly posits that the whole affair was a con.

When Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed banks he replied, supposedly, “because that’s where the money is”.  The rare and old wine market is an expensive hobby, open only to those whose pockets are deep and full.  Always an attraction for those dissatisfied with their shallow and empty pockets.

Grief, Despair and Sanction

Wind River (Theaters-2017; Streaming-2017)  Rated: R  Runtime: 106-111 minutesM Wind River 2017

Genre: Crime-Drama-Mystery-Suspense-Thriller

els – 8.0/10

IMDb – 7.8/10

Amazon – 4.5/5 stars

Rotten Tomatoes Critics – 7.6/10

Rotten Tomatoes Audience – 4.2/5

Metacritic Metascore – 73/100

Metacritic User Score – 7.7/10

Directed by: Taylor Sheridan

Written by: Taylor Sheridan

Produced by:  Elizabeth A Bell, Peter Berg, Matthew George

Music by:  Nick Cave and Warren Ellis

Cast:  Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Gil Birmingham

Martin (Gil Birmingham) and Annie (Althea Sam) are confined to the every darkening mists of sorrow, bereft of solace, by the rape and murder of their 18 year daughter, Natalie; a horror that is brutally shocking, but all too familiar in the land they call home: the Wind River Indian Reservation.

Jane Banner (Olsen), an inexperienced FBI agent, attempts to find the less-than-animals that brought Natalie’s life to a gruesome end; partnering with a Game and Fish predator hunter, Cory Lambert (Renner), who  guides her through the mountainous topography of the Wyoming reservation, and interprets the signs left in the snow by dead souls and living monsters. Cory harbors his own ghosts through the loss of his daughter, also raped and murdered 3 years previous, creating undertones of remorse and revenge that reverberate throughout the movie.

Is there somethin’ I can do other than being here for you to ease the pain
If I can keep you from fallin’, fallin’ down’
I’m sorry to sound selfish but I feel so helpless
Is it okay if I stay here with you and cry for awhile

Whoever made the claim that words could ease the pain
Never watched you fall apart, never put you back together
When you were broken down, into a million pieces
Scattered on the ground

Is There Something I can Do by Five Star Iris on the 2006 Album Live Fools    Music and Lyrics by Alan Schaefer and Dexter Green

Sheridan’s direction and screenplay provides a powerful vehicle for describing the suffering and despondency that attaches itself to a life of little hope and few rewards. Renner and Birmingham give everything in their true-to-life portrayals of men coping, and eventually fighting back against the pain of the helpless insight into knowing senseless, tragic death.

A movie to see, and then, to see again.

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.

Family First

Shot Caller  (2017)  Rated R  Runtime: 121 minutesM Shot 2017

Genre: Action-Mystery-Suspense-Thriller-Crime-Prison

els – 7.0/10

IMDb – 7.4/10

Amazon – 4.5/5 stars

Rotten Tomatoes Critics – 6.2/10

Rotten Tomatoes Audience – 3.9/5

Metacritic Metascore – 59/100

Metacritic User Score – 7.1/10

Directed by: Ric Roman Waugh

Written by: Ric Roman Waugh

Produced by: Jonathan King, Michel Litvak , Gary Michael Walters , Ric Roman Waugh

Music by: Antonio Pinto

Cast:  Nikolaj Coster-Walau, Jon Bernthal, Lake Bell

Jacob ‘Money’ Harlon, played by Nikolaj Coster-Walau, destroys his life, his family, and his friend, in a split second of inebriated inattention, tumbling him towards the gates of hell and hell’s masters. Harlon evolves from a successful stockbroker to a calculating gang member inside the go along or die, walls of prison.  Jacob on the outside; handsome, kind, likable, becomes Money on the inside; branded, stoic, brutal, shrewd; ultimately resolving all consequential moral issues bichromatically, there is no grey in staying alive, no grey in protecting his estranged wife and son from the callous wrath of the gangs; who operate with impunity, mockery, and charter, inside and outside the profane houses of correction.

Coster-Walau (whatever happened to the studios giving actors simple, pronounceable names) plays his part with feverish intensity, a resoundingly believable act dramatizing the ruthless lack of humanity that is our prison system.  He realistically reveals the absolute horror of living a life bound to a criminal tribe’s hellish code of control, unchained from any sense of compassion or mercy.

Ric Roman Waugh, as director and writer, brings a flawless, no tricks, script to life with a dual track film that unfolds Jacob’s trek to Money, and Money’s odyssey to redemption. A story of a lost life, a story of finding honor, a story of emancipation, a story of family.

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