Category Archives: history

Joseph & Mary

JosephandMaryDirected Oscar winner for Best Art Direction-Set Direction (Star Wars) Roger Christian, Joseph & Mary is a compassionate, preponderate and riveting story of the all familiar Bible story. The story follows Elijah, played by Stephen McCarthy, a devout Rabbi, during a time of discontent when King Herod the Great slaughter of innocents claims the lives of two boys Elijah had sworn to protect.  Elijah makes it his life mission to avenge their deaths, but he meets Joseph, played by Kevin Sorbo, Mary, played Lara Jean Chorostecki, and Jesus, played as a young boy by Lucius Hoyos and as a young man by Joseph Mesiano.

Elijah strong desire to revenge the two boys killed by King Herod are put into question. When the time comes for him to face his true enemy, Elijah finds himself wondering if to kill or forgive. Hence, this is a Christian Faith movie that has received the “Faith-Based Seal” by The Dove Foundation.

Elijah is one of the several stories in the movie about meeting Jesus but is the main story line. The acting is very well done and artfully depicts the biblical parents of Jesus as their newborn son helps them inspire faith in unlikely places. The scenes and direction are captivating with mesmerizing scenery, the miraculous journey delivers a powerful message of mercy and forgiveness.

Obvious a low-budget production that is meant to educate and enlighten, the movie is not for everyone because it is written to be shown at all Sunday School classes. The message is strong, offering the idea love your fellow man despite all efforts to do otherwise.

Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon

drunkstoneGrowing up, I never became interested in the National Lampoon magazine and then the movement because the humor didn’t impress me. But, I cared more for the actors involved in the productions, like Animal House, which completely changed the stage for teenage comedies.

With that, Drunk, Stoned, Brilliant, Dead is a funny documentary that will shine humor for anyone who remembers the era of National Lampoon.

In the documentary, the story shows how the magazine came to fruition with examples of the covers, cartoons, stories, and funnies. I didn’t find myself laughing out loud, but I am sure a few of you will. Politically Correct hadn’t been invented yet, so National Lampoon used the freedom to upset the status quo and rock the stuff-neck-shirts of American and thus the world.

Clearly, the magazine had more freedom than we do today. There wasn’t college campus censorship or PC-police at standup comedy shows. No one pointed fingers at the magazine’s cultural humor that we don’t see today.

The documentary also notes the launching the careers of legends like John Belushi, Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, Christopher Guest, and Gilda Radner.

The documentary clearly states the magazine changed comedy in America, and Hollywood is still trying to determine how they changed it and if they can bring it back.  The only way such humor can come back is if our culture would allow us to communicate freely and opening about social issues.

 

The Rise of the Krays

rise kraysDirected by Zackary Adler, The Rise of the Krays, is not a well-known subject in America because these twins became notorious in London. As amateur boxers, they used their brute strength to domineer the city in the 1960s.

The movie comes across as a thought-provoking historical piece.  Because knowing they were amateur boxers made sense that they could punch their way to power on the streets.  Their method was to attack first and attack hard.  They succeeded without remorse.

The story is told by a close friend of the twins.  One of the twins, Ronnie, played by Simon Cotton, was known as a volatile and complex young man. He was institutionalized, which proved to make him worse as psychiatric institutions do. Keeping him in check by his brother Reggie, played by Kevin Leslie, proved to be difficult. Still, they gained power and controlled the East end and spread out on the West side when gambling was no longer illegal.

The movie shows their violence, gang wars, and power over politicians. The acting seemed a little staged, but for the most part, the characters were believable.  Cotton and Leslie brought substance to the movie and strength to the true story.

If you can stomach raunchy, bitter, and violent movies that are a blood bath, then this movie is for you and not for the soft heart.

History of War Collection

History WarHistory Channel is pretty darn good at making documentaries. The History of War Collection is an excellent example of how well the History Channel produces documentaries. The 17-Disc set takes you on a tour of America’s military role through all of its major wars.

You will learn and see how warfare evolved from the time of the American Revolution up through the Civil War and into modern times. The discs offer so much information about how America became the land of the free and home of the brave.

I was able to immerse into the 17-disc set, which digs deep into the twists and turns of America’s most significant and deadly conflicts-from the American Revolution, the Mexican-American War, the War of 1812, the Civil War, and the Spanish-American War to WWI, WWII, and the Vietnam and Korean Wars.

Produced as a documentary, the set features over 42 hours of programming amassed from over 20 History Channel documentaries. The credits are impressive with renowned historians and scholars, special guest narrators Edward Herrmann, Oscar de la Hoya, and Sam Rockwell on several programs.

Teachers, historians, and students will find the set informative and eye-opening tour of America’s military role through all of its major wars.

I was most impressed with how warfare evolved from the time of the American Revolution into modern times. Evidence depicted with reenacted stories of the countless brave Americans who put their lives on the line to defend their country and their beliefs.

You might not get through the entire set, but I highly recommend The History of War Collection.

Gangland Undercover Season 1

ganglandHistory Channel produced an excellent series when they decided to capture the life of an undercover informant who was brave enough to sneak into three outlaw biker gangs. The fact that he lived to relate his story to the world is awe-inspiring as well. Charles Falco, the author of Vagos, Mongols, and Outlaws, goes from convict to infiltrator as he secretly documents the Vagos’ illegal activities and ultimately brings them to justice.

History Channel transports Falco’s story to real life in this fact-based series that sees him work as an informant for the Feds on a covert mission inside the dangerous Vagos world of violence, murder, and drug trafficking. Having climbed the gang’s ranks while facilitating 62 arrests, Charles Falco exposes how he crippled the criminal enterprise from the core of the biker underworld in this mind-blowing true story.

The series is by no means the same old thing about biker gangs but rises above the other motorcycle gang TV shows and movies.  Gangland is nothing like Son’s of Anarchy, so I will not bother to compare them.

Gangland will ring true for those who are familiar with bikers in the 70s. History Channel avoids soap opera characters and sensationalism. Instead, the show hits on the truth and scores a strong fan base.

Ari Cohen’s acting is good, and the writing is even good. What is interesting about this true story is that Falco was a meth cook, and he had a choice of jail or being an informant, which makes him and anti-hero in real life, but History Channel doesn’t depict him that way. That is Hollywood. The trailer below doesn’t do the television series justice.

History Bible Collection

history BibleI have always been impressed with the documentaries produced by HISTORY. The Bible Collection is a fine example of a well-done production. The program covers everything you can image about the Bible and even more so. The quality of reenactments and speculations bring more life to such a devoted subject.

The 16-disc set of over 38 hours of programming examines both Judaism and Christianity.  The series explores the mysteries and hidden facts about the history of the Bible. Three discs offer some of the most famous biblical stories from both the Old and New Testament. Also featured are 12 programs about the most famous biblical figures, and the screen format is both widescreen and full screen.

Includes the following DVDs:

  • Bible Stories from The Old Testament – DVD#1
  • Bible Stories from The Old Testament – DVD#2
  • Bible Stories from The Old Testament – DVD#3
  • Christianity: The First Two Thousand Years – DVD#1
  • Christianity: The First Two Thousand Years – DVD#2
  • Banned from The Bible – DVD
  • Banned from The Bible II – DVD
  • History Classics: Mysteries of The Bible: The Bible’s Greatest Heroes – DVD1/2
  • History Classics: Mysteries of The Bible: The Bible’s Greatest Heroes – DVD3/4
  • History Classics: Mysteries of The Bible: The Bible’s Greatest Heroes – DVD5
  • Bible Secrets Revealed – DVD1
  • Bible Secrets Revealed – DVD2
  • Mysteries of The Bible FKA Collector’s Choice: Mysteries of The Bible – DVD1/2
  • Mary of Nazareth – DVD/Jesus His Life
  • The Execution of Jesus – DVD
  • God Vs. Satan – DVD

I doubt anyone could watch all the programs in one sitting.  I am sure most Sunday Schools would love this set, and play the DVDs that are appropriate for children.  Some adults might want to watch each video as it sparks their interest in a certain aspect of the Bible, like Mary of Nazareth or where the Bible has been banned. No matter how the programs are viewed, I am sure each person will appreciate the value of the production and become better educated about such an ancient book.

Manhattan: Season 2

WGN’s Manhattan is clearly a great period drama since Madmen. In season 2, three new cast members are introduced. William Petersen plays Col. Emmett Darrow, who is not a nice guy. Mamie Gummer plays Nora, who is also very dark, and then Neve Campbell, who plays Kitty Oppenheimer.

If you watched season 1, then you might be bothered by the fact that Frank Winter, played by John Benjamin Hickey, doesn’t have as much screen time in season 2 as in season 1 because the story follows the other main characters more this time around.

The opening episode is a little confusing because it opens 45 minutes before the season finale and then flashes back to a year before the night they test the bomb. I had a hard time following the time frame, but it does smooth out, hopefully.

More backstory is given to each character, which makes the season 2 more interesting, and the acting is still strong and impressive.  The history during this time is really interesting with the music and some authenticity to the clothes.  If you are sharp, you might notice some production flaws with modern pops here and there or modern electric wires not fully erased out of the film.

All in all, Manhattan has a hard message as a social commentary. The Cold War existed, and these people were a large part of it.

Stonewall

stonewallI find it interesting reviewing Stonewall because I am not gay and never heard of the historical time for the gay movement.  Another aspect I find interesting is the movie is directed by Roland Emmerich. The genre is completely against his norm with movies like Day After Tomorrow, Independence Day, The Patriot and Godzilla.

The feedback from those who were at Stonewall says Emmerich’s take on the event is a total lie and doesn’t capture what really happened.  I am sure the overall message from what happened is there, but it was not about a young, white, blonde, blue-eyed young man from the mid-west named Danny Winters, and played wonderfully by Jeremy Irvine. He arrives in NYC because he earned a scholarship to Columbia University.  He is without room and board and hardly has any money. He befriends a group of drag queens and transgender males. Ray or Ramona, played wrenchingly by Jonny Beauchamp, senses a connection and brings him into the fold. Ray convinces Danny to join their way of life and hustle in order to survive.  Sure, Ray is romantically interested in Danny, but he doesn’t feel the same way.  Though a nice story, it doesn’t have anything to do with the true story about Stonewall Riots.

Hardly any white people were at the riots. It was not a white young man who threw the brick and started the riots. A Puerto Rican drag queen named Marsha P. Johnson, he was black, started the riots. The reason for the riots is because black drag queens and black transgender males were relentlessly harassed by the NYC police department.  The true story makes sense to me because NYC is so diverse.   Yet, Emmerich’s version is just the opposite, and I am not sure why he went to the extreme and tried to rewrite history. Most of the non-white characters in the movie are non-threatening and exaggerated. Unreal.

All in all, the movie is a good story with great emotional acting from a talented cast and the music by Rob Simonsen creates the strong undertones need to support the story, but not the true story, only based on the incident.

Swamp People Season 6

SP_S6_DVD_3D (1)Swamp People TV show is not necessarily for just outdoors people. Like Duck Dynasty, the series has a quality that appeals to people who are not hunters and fishermen.  Watching the Cajun’s speaking Cajun French on this series is rather interesting and unique.  That is all the bait I need to watch men get into the swamp and noodle successfully for catfish. To say nothing of the alligator hunting, and it is quite a chilling experience.

Yes, it is a reality TV show, but at least, they are civil and forego dramatizing their flaws like the Kardashians.  Most would say this is one of the best reality shows and is rated the top show on the History channel. They set a nice example of how to treat other people where they are pleasant to each other and help each other.

The show takes a look inside one of the last American frontiers when Troy and the other swampers go on a 30-day alligator hunt, avoiding flood water and outwitting the smartest gators. Swamp hunters fight massive alligators and Mother Nature and journey into previously unknown, hostile areas of the swamp. Shrewd gators try to outwit the hunters’ new methods of capturing their prey. Whether using new indigenous bait, old decoys or employing a primitive alternative to the modern hook, these hunters constantly adjust their tactics to catch and fill their tags.

The series is exciting and nerve wracking while they wrestle with an alligator. The swampers protect people from gigantic gators by going after them in areas where people are in danger. They even assist crayfishers when the gators go after their cages. In light of all that danger, the series embodies a way of living that is far better any other reality TV show.  All in all, the series is worth watching because it will be a learning experience while it keeps you on the edge of your seat.

Dragon Blade

Dragon BladeDirected by Daniel Lee, Dragon Blade is a fine example of the materialization of the growing motion picture market in China. The industry is so dominate in Asia that Western stars arrive on the scene in Chinese productions.  Like Dragon Blade, the movies are cultural dramas on a grand-scaled of historical epics.  Lee’s movie has done well as a moneymaker, gaining over $120 million in the China market.  The storyline is unique and pleasurable with Jackie Chan, John Cusack, and Adrien Brody. Cusack and Brody appear out of place in the empire of men swinging swords and wearing sandals, whereas Chan does a fine job of martial arts and plays a familiar role.

The movie transports the story back to 48 B.C. where Huo An, played by Chan, is a well-intended and compassionate leader of the Silk Road Protection Squad. His squad comes across as a dedicated group. Huo protects and fights altruistically in order to hold harmony for the sanctioned Road.

Thereupon, Huo and his men are framed for gold smuggling and are banished to Wild Goose Gate. They are required to rebuild an entire city in two weeks or be put to death. Clearly an impossible task, something miraculous happens, and they connect up with a lost Roman army. Command by general Lucius, played by Cusack, is a scoundrel. He immediately picks a fight with Huo. After the brawl, they become fast friends with singing, parades, and drinking. Lucius confesses he is trying to avoid being captured by the Romans and has a sick boy, Publius, played by Joey Jozef. The boy is the lawful heir to the Roman throne, and his evil brother, Tiberious, played by Brody, is out to assassinate him. He recently just murdered their father, so we know he is serious. With that in mind, Lucius’ men and other local tribes along with Huo turn the city into a symbol of the peace. Something Huo has desired for most his life.

The visuals are not only majestic but also ambiguous. Seeing Chan in a sword fight with Cusack is conflicting. We are in Asia and here is a Westerner. It is intriguing but unreal for an epic. The $65 million budget availed gigantic spectacles where Lee effectively created a war-torn China during the Han Dynasty.

This is purely fictional with no regard for historical authenticity. True. The Romans and Asians shared commerce and the Silk Road, but nothing more. The many battle scenes are exceptional with the combination of Roman fighting techniques and traditional Chinese martial arts. The movie is invigorating while witnessing the development of a friendship between Huo and Lucius.

Overall, Dragon Blade is a movie worth seeing with Chan outshining his Western co-stars.