Friday, August 18, 2017

A history lesson on Dunkirk

Imagine yourself standing on the shores of what under normal circumstances would be a beautiful beach hoping it’s not your time to die as enemy planes fly overhead. That is how the World War II drama film Dunkirk begins. Over  400,000 men in uniform taking cover in a place where none is to be found. Men who just want to make it across an ocean and see home again. Is Dunkirk a film about a little known event in British military history, yes. Is it a film worth watching? Yes and let me tell you why.

Directed and written by Christopher Nolan, from opening shot to ending cridits Dunkirk is a thrilling and beautiful film. A true story taken from World War II about the British and allied evacuation from Dunkirk, France. A story about what it means to be a soldier and a human. A story about what it takes to survive a battle. With the beach being the prime location Nolan also takes us to the skies and on the water. It is difficult to write about a film when most of the cast is unknown to me and they wear the same uniform and have accents making it especially challenging to learn the names of the characters but that’s not going to stop me.

Dunkirk opens on Alex, played by Harry Styles (yes from the boy band One Direction but stay with me because while it is always nerve wrecking when a teen singing idol takes a stab at dramatic acting sometimes things work out, look at Justin Timberlake) he is running through the streets of the city and from there the viewer is with him as his story unfolds. A single soldier without a regiment or commander he finds others along the way who just want to make it through the battle. In one anxious scene he and his fellow soldiers are in the hull of a capsized ship trying to keep still with the enemy nearby.

Then we are in the skies as British pilots try to stay in the air as they protect those on the ground.

The other piece of the story isn’t about soldiers at all but the civialns who were called upon by the miltary to help for their own ships cannot make it. This is where having a large population of citizens who own a boat and being an island nation comes in handy . One of these regular folks is a man named Mr. Dawson played by Mark Rylance, he along with his son Peter, played by Tom Glynn-Carney and Peter’s friend George played by Barry Keoghan. The three of them brave the fight to save as many men as they can.

Although there is very little dialouge Christopher Nolan has made a film that leaves a lasting impact for days afterwards. Every scene, every fight was from the point of view of those involved. Although at times loud (after all it is war) Dunkirk is a tense film putting you on the edge of your seat. I felt claustrophobic during scenes that took place in tight spaces, and I cried a few time-from joy and sadness. And I felt as Commander Bolton, played by Kenneth Branagh felt throughout the film.    

A great job by all those who had a part in making this film.

I have watched a few World War II movies, some like Pearl Harbor over and over until I had it memorized and some that were critically acclaimed like Saving Private Ryan. With Dunkirk I have learned something new about this time in history and will watch it again.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Turn: Washington’s Spies (2014-2017)

In order to say a fond farewell to Turn: Washington’s Spies a have to go character by character.

Let me start with Abraham Woodhull portrayed by Jamie Bell. Abe was younger brother to Thomas who was killed in an uprising before the war. He married his brother’s girl Mary, portrayed by Meegan Warner and they had a son named after his brother. Before the Revaluation Abe was a cabbage farmer in Setauket New York. When the opportunity to fight, as a spy not a soldier, came to his doorstep he knew he had no choice. So without his father a judge and loyalist portrayed by Kevin McNally  knowledge and in honor of his brother he became a key member of the spy ring. Under the name Culper, Abe would go on to fight the British from the inside. Abraham Woodhull was a good man who loved his family, even when they were against him and along with others knew that a new nation was worth fighting for.    

Then there was Maj. Ben Talmadge portrayed by Seth Numrich who if I am being honest was my favorite character. Ben was the one who brought Abe and others into the spy ring. Throughout most of the war he was the one within Washington’s camp working with him as they planned each new mission for the spies. Friends with Abe and Lt. Caleb Brewster, portrayed by Daniel Henshall, since they were kids he always had their back and wanted them to stay safe and come home.

Yes there were women who believe in the cause and there was none more ready to be part of the war than Anna Strong, portrayed by Heather Lind, married to another man but in love with Abe, Anna quickly joined the fight and worked alongside Abe and Ben since the beginning. She was as strong as her name suggested and never let down the men or herself.

On the side of the spies and working with them were a couple of recurring characters-

Abigail, played by Idara Victor a black woman who served in the household of Andre and Arnold, she was able to work both sides and passed on important information about the British tactics to Anna. Her son Cicero, played by Darren Alford would join her in the effort. A man named Akinbode played by Aldis Hodge would come to help the cause and love her.

And finally fighting for America’s freedom we had Robert Townsend, portrayed by Nick Westrate. Townsend a Quaker by religion and a Tavern keeper in life was in a prime situation to become known as Culper jr. because of his religion he tried to stay neutral but working behind a bar everyone, even a redcoat, will talk to you and after a few drinks will tell you anything. With the local newspapers printing press in his tavern’s basement he was able to pass on information in plain sight.  

SIMCOE, portrayed by Samuel Roukin, what can I say about Lt.Col. John Graves Simcoe?  1) He is not the 1st British officer I love to hate on TV or in film. 2) Simcoe was pure evil from day one. He and Abe were enemies almost from their first meeting when Simcoe was walking around Setauket like he owned the place. He was one of those guys who thought they knew everything and believed he was better than anyone. All he cared about was power which was evident when it came to his relationship to Major Edmund Hewlett, played by Torchwood’s own Burn Gorman (Hewlett was in command at Setauket and for most of the series Abe used him and played him like a fiddle to get him to do what was best in order to mover along each mission and gain information for Ben and Washington). When Simcoe got some real power in the command of the Queen’s Rangers he used them to try and kill his enemies. Abe and Simcoe were the definition of good vs evil. Every time they met the friction that came across the screen was electric. Bell and Roukin made these two men come (back) to life and every second was a joy to watch, a week after it and I still got goosebumps after watching their final fight. SIMCOE

And then there is the one “character” in this series that I knew a thing or two about before but now feel I have better insight of- General Benedict Arnold portrayed by Owain Yeoman (I don’t know what is worst portraying a traitor or being an undercover Brit, where was that accent during The Mentalist?) History nerd alert-If you visit the Historical National Park and Battlefield in Saratoga NY you can see a statue of Gen. Arnold’s boot and this series picked up shortly after he was shot in the leg during that battle. Where Simcoe was evil, Arnold was an opportunist. When he didn’t receive a promotion and raise from the continental congress he and his knowledge of Washington’s tactics joined the British. Arnold would go on to marry Peggy Shippen, played by Ksenia Solo who never really loved him but grew up with money and believed Arnold was key to keeping her social status. It seemed Benedict never loved Peggy even as she became a spy in her own right as it was Major John Andre portrayed by JJ Field who was in love with her. When it became clear Andre couldn’t be with her he had an actress dress as Peggy. As creepy and out of line as that sounds John Andre may have been on the wrong side of the war but he still had a heart and Spoiler Alert while assisting in a plot devised by Arnold he was quickly hanged and I did shed a tear or two while the scene played out.

Last but certainly not least there was the man himself- General George Washington and really there isn’t anything I can say that the history books haven’t said although like with those mentioned above and the rest of the cast Ian Kahn who played the prodigious General and 1st president was superb and made this series a treasure to watch.   

When Turn: Washington’s Spies (based on a book of the same name written by Alexander Rose) premiered it moved slowly and I was unable to follow the plot and characters but by the beginning of the second season I was hooked and involved in this real yet little known story from US history. These men and women to whom I never heard of before came alive in a TV show that stayed under the radar. I enjoyed learning about this time in our history and those on both sides. Although it was one of those shows that never got recognized by The Emmys, the storytelling was on par the best I’ve seen (and as a TV fan and amateur historian that is saying a lot) and the acting by even those in small supporting roles (they added Alexander Hamilton only after Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Musical was a hit) was excellent. Every actor knew their role and every role was important.

When a season ended I didn’t know if the show would return but Turn: Washington’s Spies had 4 good years and I for one will never forget it, in fact I may watch it in its entirely again once the finale airs. I raise a pint to the cast and crew of this one of a kind show. Thank you for teaching and entertaining me every step of the way. RIP    

Monday, July 10, 2017


Why do you support this bill? Before The ACA or what you call Obamacare I couldn't see a doctor. Although I worked two jobs I was unable to afford even a yearly check up. I waited patiently for the passage of Obamacare and as soon as it was available I looked at the online exchanges and actually found one that worked for me.

Now I have a part time job to pay ends meat but with the  help of the ACA I also have healthcare for the 1st time in my adult life and a doctor I actually like and the pre-existing condition that I was born with wasn't even a factor.

I truly believe if you take away medicaid, defund planned parenthood and allow states to cut me off because of caps on insurance I and many others will have to go back to prying that we won't get seriously injured or sick til our dying day.
One final thought I paid into Medicaid back when I had a full time job so it would be there if I or anyone needed it. IT IS NOT AN ENTITLEMENT. It is a right as a true American and part of what it means to be human.

Sarah D.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Dear Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2

I became a fan of the Guardians of the Galaxy as soon as the first  movie ended and Vol 2 just intensifies my love for the cast and the characters they protray.

Let me start with the man himself Peter Quill aka StarLord. Played by the handsomely talented Chris Pratt. Vol 2 picks up right where the first film left off with the Guardians working a protection job and fighting a fish-like creature. Fast forward to Peter meeting the father he has longed for. The issue of having a father for the first time in his life is what drives him and this 2ed movie to answer the question, what actually makes a family? Pratt is so good in the role bringing the right amount of humor and humanity.

Then there is Quill's team.

Rocket the raccoon who is still as unapologetic as he was in the first is just wonderful to watch. I am sure I said before but it's worth repeating that Rocket is so good one forgets he isn't really there. Voiced by Bradley Cooper the banter and relationship between Rocket and Peter is a joy to watch.

Next is Gamora, the smart, fierce, brave beauty in green. Played  by Zoe Saldana she is a being who will always stand by your side, even if you are her own sister trying to kill her (Nebula in blue played by, always Amy Pond,Karen Gillian).

Drax (Dave Bautista) is a strong man with a soft side when it comes to his friends.

With special powers new character Mantis played by Pom Klementieff is just as adorable and willing to help along with each Guardian making her a perfect addition to the gang.

And last but not least is my favorite character of them all, Groot voiced by Vin Diesel. When last we saw this living tree he sacrificed himself to save the Guardians in Vol 2 he may be smaller but just as tough. I admit my love for baby Groot has no boundaries. The way he moves around the (big) screen is true brilliance on the part of the director. As I left the dark theater and into the blinding sun all I wanted was my own little Groot sitting on my shoulder. As they could mean anything "I am Groot"  are my 3 favorite words.

Kurt Russell and Michael Rooker also star.

Once again writer and director James Gunn has made a movie that is both sweet and fun. I laughed throughout the opening credits and each scene was a blast to watch. The make-up and hair teams helped the human actors come alive while the special effects and production design teams created a wonderful on screen world. When we first see the planet Peter's father is from all there is is beauty. 

If you like the first film than
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 is not to be missed. If you didn't like the first film but want to see a well made flick about what it means to be part of a family, GoG Vol 2 may not be the greatest movie ever made on the subject but it certainly is in the top ten.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

My Birthday Wish

My first wish is the same as every year but I had to add a 2ed wish this year

M.M. has an heart attack on the floor of the Senate and dies on the way to the hospital
at the same time
P.R. gets killed by a white male Christian with a gun in his congressional office
at the same time
Justice N.G. dies in a car accident on the way to repeal Roe v Wade
at the same time
VP M.P. dies of unknown illness in sleep
at the same time
V. Putin is found dead in home
at the same time
Ivanka, Jared, Jr, Eric, Baron and Melania are found poisoned to death around White House dinner table
at the same time
The 45th President of The Untied States is found dead from a self inflicted gun shot wound in the oval office.

or something like that.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Beauty and the Beast (2017)

When it was first announced that there was going to be a live action film version of Beauty and the Beast I thought “what a cheap trick by Disney to make more money” after all we already had the 1991 animated movie and a Broadway show. Then I learned who was in the cast and my interest peaked. A couple of months after it opened in theaters I decided to see what the buzz was about.

“A tale as old as time” and a film as new as can be Beauty and the Beast is the same story as it has always been, a young girl named Belle, played by Emma Watson, feels out of place in her small France town, she avoids advances from the not so charming Gaston, played by Luke Evans and loves her father, played by Kevin Kline. It is when her father goes missing that Belle discovers him locked in a enchanted castle where almost every object is alive-A candelabra (Ewan McGregor as Lumiere), a clock (Ian McKellen as Cogsworth), a wardrobe (Andra McDonald as Madame Garderobe), her husband (Stanley Tucci as Maestro Cadenza), a teapot (Emma Thompson as Mrs. Potts) and a teacup (Nathan Mack as Chip)-and a Beast, played by Dan Stevens, who was once a Prince lives.

Although it is a story I have watched many times it never gets old and this new live action version allows old and new fans to watch the movie with new eyes. All of the original songs are there and some new ones which just add to the story. The visual effects alone make the movie worth watching. This is shown while comparing the animated original with this new film, seeing a talking candlestick in a cartoon is cute but seeing Lumiere as a more tangible object is something better altogether. A cartoon Belle taking a sip from Chip is nice but seeing an actual actress (one who has grown up on film) take a sip from the same teacup make the viewer young and old believe in magic. Then there is the Be Our Guest scene, I won’t go into details but it has always been my favorite part of the story and director Bill Condon turns the dinner into a spentacular showstopping number.

Mr. Condon and crew make Beauty and the Beast a wonderful time at the cinama. From the small town to the scary woods to the castle itself the production design is a thrill ride for the eyes. From Gaston’s uniform to Belle’s yellow ball gown the costumes hold true to the original animation. From the main characters to the ensamble the entire cast look as if they are having fun. Although I knew the ending I stilled cried but enjoyed every second, every frame and every scene of Beauty and the Beast.  

Josh Gad also stars as the loveable LeFou

Sunday, April 23, 2017

To Trump and the GOP

On the 100th day of what may end as the worst presidency in US history I would like to say--I know you hate the fact that there was once a president who happened to be black. I know you hate that he disproved your normal racist tendencies that POC can and are better and smarter than you in every way but Obama’s name is already in the history books, so as hard as you try you will not be able to whiteout everything he did for this already great country and he will be remembered long after Trump family, Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan are dead.