“Parasite”

The film “Parasite” is set in South Korea and centers on the four members of the Kim family. The family is comprised of the father Ki Taek (Song Kong Ho); mother Chung Sook (Chang Hyae Jin); son Ki Woo (Choi Woo Shik); and daughter Ki Jung (Park So Dam). The Kim family reside in a sub-street level apartment that is cramped and dingy. At the beginning of the film, the family’s only source of income is making pizza boxes for a mom and pop pizzeria, but that will all soon change.

Ki Woo’s friend Min (Park Seo Jin) brings a gift to the Kim family, a large rock, that for those who believe, is supposed to bring good fortune. Additionally, Min informs Ki Woo that he has given him a recommendation to the wealthy Park family. Min had been tutoring the Park’s daughter Da Hye (Jung Ziso) in English. Ki Jung forges a document for Ki Woo which states that he is a university student.

After successfully interviewing with Mrs. Park (Cho Yea Jeong), the Kim’s each work their way into the employment of the Park family, all the while pretending not to be related. Ki Taek replaces Mr. Park’s (Lee-Sun Kyun) driver Yoon (Keun-rok Park); Chung Sook becomes the new housekeeper, ousting the long employed Moon Gwang (Lee Jung Eun) and Ki Jung, thanks to Ki Woo’s recommendation becomes the new art therapist for the Park’s young son Da Song (Jung Hyun -jun). Ki Jung doesn’t have any formal schooling in art therapy, all she knows is key buzz words and teaching strategies she’s learned from the internet, but that doesn’t stop her. Mr. and Mrs. Kim also received their employment through clever, albeit devious ways, but so as not to do a disservice to the viewer, I’ll let those of you who have not yet seen the film and want to, find out while watching.

One weekend, when the Parks go away on a camping trip to celebrate Da Song’s birthday, the Kims decide to have some fun. Chung Sook is the live in housekeeper, so she’s already at the house. The other members of the family arrive when the Parks leave. The Kims proceed to eat, drink and partake of all the things the Park’s lavish home affords them. During their fun filled time, the doorbell rings, which scares the Kim family back into reality. As it turns out, the former housekeeper Moon Gwang is at the door. While Chung Sook tells her it wouldn’t be right to let her in, since the Parks aren’t home, Moon Gwang pleads to be let into the house. She states that she left something very important behind when she moved out. The something important perfectly sets up the second half of the film.

 

There are two ways a viewer might feel about the film in regard to what is transpiring on screen. Firstly, the film can be viewed as something that might cause some, during certain scenes, to stir in their seat. Still other viewers, as I did, will most likely marvel at the didn’t see it coming twists in the story. The film also contains a message regarding the disparity of the way things are handled and life is lived depending on a person’s economic status.

“Parasite” premiered on May 21, 2019 at the Cannes Film Festival. The film made history by becoming the first ever Korean film to win the coveted Palme d’Or at Cannes. The award is the highest given at the festival. “Parasite” would go on to win the Oscar for Best Motion Picture of the Year at last year’s Academy Awards. Furthermore, the film’s director, Bong Joon Ho, won the Oscar for Best Achievement in Directing. Additionally, he also won the Oscar, along with his writing partner Jin Won Han, for Best Original Screenplay, that was based on a story which Bong Joon Ho wrote. The 132 minute, subtitled film, is parts comedy, drama and thriller.

The film has an excellent ensemble cast, music that syncs up perfectly with what is taking place, captivating cinematography and detail rich set designs. The film is funny one moment and tension filled the next. “Parasite” is also the kind of film which, at least for me, and I am sure I am not alone in this, made me think long after I was finished watching the movie. In this reviewer’s opinion, it certainly deserved all the accolades and awards it received.

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“The Phantom Prince by Elizabeth Kendall”

I recently finished watching the five part Amazon Prime original documentary series “Ted Bundy: Falling For a Killer.” Although I found the series informative, revealing details about Bundy’s notorious crimes that I was unaware of prior to watching, I’ve opted to forgo reviewing the series. Instead, this post centers on the book the series is based on, “The Phantom Prince: My Life with Ted Bundy” by Elizabeth Kendall. (As an aside: Elizabeth Kendall’s real name is Elizabeth Kloepfer).

I’ve been interested in reading Kendall’s book for the past decade, ever since I leaned about it, but was unable to until recently. Originally published on September 1, 1981 by Madrona, a Seattle based publishing house, the book has been out-of-print since 1988. A week ago, while walking around my public library, I came across a copy of the book. Apparently due to the popularity of the Amazon series, as well as renewed interest in Bundy, thanks to the recent film “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile,” as well as the Netflix documentary “Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes,” the book has been reprinted. Additionally, Elizabeth Kendall has updated the previous edition. Furthermore, Kendall’s daughter Molly, who grew up with Bundy and considered him a father figure in her life, contributes an additional chapter to the expanded edition of the book.

Throughout the 210 pages of the book, Kendall documents her six year relationship with the serial killer. She was a single mother in her twenties, when she met Bundy. Kendall was instantly smitten with him. While she details some of the faults he had, prior to her knowledge of his murderous ways, she couldn’t help overlooking them because she couldn’t envision life without him. In the book, Kendall offers a gripping account of her life with Bundy. She imparts every intimate detail of her life to the reader, such as her becoming an alcoholic, because of the excessive drinking she did to put distance between herself and the knowledge of Bundy’s crimes after his multiple convictions in different trials.

Even though Kendall did not in any way help Bundy commit any of his heinous crimes, for a long time she struggled, as she writes in detail, with a tremendous amount of guilt. The guilt she felt for loving an unrepentant murderer, for putting her daughter in harm’s way, for the women who Bundy killed, that were not as lucky as she was to have survived.  Bundy admitted to Kendall, after he was already incarcerated with no hope of being released, that he tried to kill her on at least one occasion. Kendall details the particulars of Bundy’s confession.

For those interested in true crime, the book provides fascinating insight into what it was like to be in the presence of a charismatic, intelligent individual, who presented a seemingly normal facade to the world, while actually being a serial killer. While perhaps hard to believe now, Bundy was liked and loved by many people, who like Kendall, were manipulated by him. People who didn’t know that he would turn out to be one of the most depraved human beings who ever lived.

 

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“Girlfight” (2000)

“Girlfight” centers on Diana Guzman, a troubled high school senior. She has been warned by her Principal Ms. Martinez (Iris Little Thomas), that if she gets into one more physical altercation, she will be expelled from school. Michelle Rodriguez (The Fast and the Furious) makes her film debut with her outstanding portrayal of Diana. She doesn’t have a significant other, nor does she have many friends. Those few friends Diana does have, such as Marisol (Elisa Bocanegra) are increasingly taken aback by the volatile manner in which she acts. When Diana arrives home, her life there, where she lives with her apathetic father Sandro (Paul Calderon) and her nice, but geeky brother Tiny (Ray Santiago) is not much better. Diana’s mother, it is mentioned during the film, has passed away.

Sandro asks Diana to drop something off for him at the Brooklyn Athletic Club. The club is where her brother Tiny, much to his regret, takes boxing lessons. While at the athletic club, Diana gets caught up in what’s going on, and realizes that she also wants to take boxing lessons. She approaches Tiny’s trainer Hector (Jamie Tirelli) to train her. He will, provided she gives him ten dollars for every session. Diana doesn’t have any money, but she has an overwhelming desire to train and channel her aggressive behavior. Taking the money from her father’s sock draw, Diana shows up at the athletic club a short time later, ready to work. She finds the training, at first, to be difficult, but over time the training helps her to become a more disciplined individual, which in turn, keeps her out of trouble at school. (As an aside: “Girlfight” was the first ever film Michele Rodriguez auditioned for, beating out approximately three hundred other actresses for the part. Once she was offered the role, she had intensive training  for two months before filming began).  

“Girlfight” is a well executed film that tells a compelling story. While it mirrors the film “Rocky” in certain respects, overall it stands on its own merits. Where “Rocky” centered on the character of Rocky Balboa portrayed by Golden Globe winner Sylvester Stallone (Creed) wanting more than anything in life to be able to go the distance with the world heavy weight champion, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), “Girlfight” does not have that sort of quest at stake. Diana is most definitely an underdog, but she is merely seeking a way to channel her anger and make her life more bearable by becoming good at, and, most importantly having something worthwhile to invest her time in. There is no big title fight that Diana will be competing for on a national scene, that the film leads up to. “Girlfight” is instead about Dian’s self discovery as to the kind of person she wants to, and, proves to herself that she can be in this world.

One aspect of the film that I thought was well handled was when Diana begins a relationship with an aspiring boxer named Adrian (Douglas Santiago). Instead of delving into a deep romance where Diana puts her own dreams on hold to support her lover, she keeps moving forward. I am glad that the filmmakers decided not to take the well traveled cinematic road of the aforementioned.

“Girlfight”  premiered on January 22, 2000 at the Sundance Film Festival. The film is the directorial debut of Karyn Kusama (Billions), who in addition to directing, wrote the screenplay for the movie. Comprised of the genres of drama and sport, the film has a runtime of 110 minutes. In 2000, The National Board of Review, USA named Rodriguez the winner of the Breakthrough Performance of the year – Female for her role in the film.

Karyn Kusama delivers in her directorial debut by making choices that were counter to the clichéd approach she could have taken with the material. The film deals with the themes of a female searching for her way in a traditional male sport, as well as discovering more about herself in the process. The movie held my interest from the outset, and for those seeking an absorbing character study, you should find “Girlfight”  worth watching.

 

 

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“The Train” (1964)

The film “The Train” takes place in Paris, France, in August 1944. The curator of the Jeu de Paume museum is Mademoiselle Villard (Suzanne Flon). She has been allowed, during the four years of Nazi occupation, to stay on in her position and the art in her care has been protected. Colonel Franz Von Waldheim, played by three time BAFTA winner Paul Scofield (A Man For All Seasons), has seen to the protection personally. The relative safety that Mademoiselle Villard enjoys ends a few minutes into the film, as a number of soldiers under Von Waldheim’s command enter the museum. They start putting works by artists such as Paul Cézanne and Vincent Van Gogh into crates. The art is to be shipped by train to Germany, before the allies fight their way into Paris and end the Nazi occupation. (As an aside: The liberation of Paris took place on August 25, 1944).  

Mademoiselle Villard alerts members of the French resistance. She implores them that the train cannot be allowed to reach its destination. If the train is allowed to leave and reach Germany, it is her personal feeling, that it would be an irrecoverable detriment to France. The railroad workers, who would be vital to successfully stopping the train from leaving, are not keen on the idea. The railroad workers resistance leader, Paul Labiche portrayed by Oscar winner Burt Lancaster (Elmer Gantry) doesn’t feel that the value of the art is worth the cost of the potential loss of life; especially since he already has undertaken a mission to delay another train, so the allies can destroy it in an air raid. Labiche is further hesitant to implement a plan to stop the train, because Mademoiselle Villard doesn’t merely want the train to be kept from reaching Germany, but she wants the art work to be protected from destruction. Labiche and his men are used to blowing up and derailing trains, not protecting non-human cargo.

What changes Labiche’s mindset, is the murder of an older train conductor, Papa Boule (Michael Simon). After Boule is caught sabotaging the train, Labiche begs to have the man’s life spared, but his pleas go unheard. The reason Boule risks his life, is that he feels the same way that Mademoiselle Villard does, that the art should not be allowed to be taken to Germany.

From the moment of Papa Boule’s murder, Labiche is determined to do all within his power to make sure the train with the art aboard does not leave France. Opposing Labiche is the equally determined and seemingly obsessed Von Waldheim. He is insistent that nothing and no one must interfere with the train leaving for its destination. While Von Waldheim states that his interest is purely for the financial benefit of the Third Reich, his unyielding determination, however, speaks to his own personal motive of greed. This becomes clear to the viewer, when there is an engine derailment and Von Waldheim uses men that should be fighting the advancing allies, as well as needed equipment to get the train running again. Von Waldheim’s orders are much to the consternation of Major Herren (Wolfgang Preiss) who feels that the task is a waste of time and man-power that could be better utilized.

The action scenes in the film, measured against the time period it was produced, hold up very well. The filmmakers refrained from using model trains for the collisions, opting instead, to use real train crashes. The air raid on the rail yard is full of realistic mayhem. The film hints at romance between Labiche and Christine; she is a resistance sympathizer, who runs a hotel and is played by BAFTA winner Jeanne Moreau (Jules and Jim). Firstly, however, Labiche needs to stop France’s enemy, before he can think of what life could be like after the war.  (As an aside: During filming, Burt Lancaster performed all of his own stunts. He wound up getting injured, on a day off from filming, while he was playing golf, which caused him to limp. The filmmakers had Lancaster’s character get shot in the leg during the movie, so his limping on camera would make sense).

“The Train” was directed by four time Emmy winner John Frankenheimer (George Wallace). The film was based, in part, on the book “Le Front De L’Art: Defense des Collections” by Rose Valland. In addition to her writing, Valland was a French art historian, a member of the French resistance against the Nazis during World War II and had been a Captain in the French Military. The screenplay for the film was written by two time Oscar nominee Frank Davis, based on Villand’s book and his, and Oscar nominee Franklin Coen’s (The Train) story. Uncredited additional writing work was done by Oscar nominee Walter Bernstein (The Front); Howard Dimsdale (The Six Million Dollar Man); Albert Husson (We’re No Angels) and Oscar winner Nedrick Young (The Defiant Ones). The film premiered on September 24, 1964. Comprised of the genres of thriller and war, the runtime of the film is 133 minutes. (As an aside: Originally three time Oscar nominee Arthur Penn (Alice’s Restaurant) was going to direct, but Burt Lancaster, wasn’t pleased with the direction Penn wanted to take the film. Lancaster felt that Penn’s film didn’t contain enough action, so Lancaster had Penn replaced with Frankenheimer).

From the well executed action sequences; the excellent performances from the entire cast; and the realism of what was being showcased on screen, “The Train” held my interest, and hopefully, if you decide to give this cinematic gem a watch, it will hold yours as well.

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“Hennessy” (1975)

A gathering of mostly Irish teenagers and young adults, stand on a street in Belfast, Northern Ireland, armed with rocks, bottles and sticks. They are frustrated and disheartened, at what they believe, is the illegitimate occupying presence of the British Army. Mayhem ensues, between a small group of British soldiers, who have the overwhelming advantage with their machine guns and a tank versus the assembled protesters. After some back and forth, one of the soldiers trips, and the machine gun he’s armed with, rips a hail of bullets into the crowd. The soldier should have never had live ammunition in his gun in the first place, because all of the soldiers were instructed by their commander during the chaos, to use rubber bullets. While most of the protesters run to safety, several people do lay dead in the street.

Two of the deceased are innocent bystanders, Maureen (Diana Fairfax) and Angie (Patsy Kensit) Hennessy. The two females, are the wife and daughter of Niall Hennessy, who is portrayed in the film by Oscar winner Rod Steiger (In the Heat of the Night). Steiger completely embodies the role of the grieving husband and father, but in a subdued manner as opposed to over the top histrionics. Prior to the incident, Hennessy, who is a demolitions expert, and has ties to the IRA (Irish Republican Army), was approached by the organization to transport explosives to a location for use against the British Army. Hennessy refused the job, because he wants to live a life of peace. As he mourns the loss of his wife and daughter, he abandons his earlier mindset and begins to formulate a plan of revenge.

Opting not to involve the IRA, Hennessy leaves Belfast and flies to London. His plan is to bring the British government to a violent end by blowing up parliament while Queen Elizabeth II is giving a speech. As the film progresses, his plan is learned by members of the IRA. They want to stop him, just as much, if not more so, than British law enforcement. The leader of the IRA, Sean Tobin, played by BAFTA winner Eric Porter (The Forsyte Saga), fears that the struggle for Irish independence will be stopped for decades if Hennessy succeeds. In addition to members of the IRA, the British Special Branch have been alerted to Hennessy’s plan. The head of Special Branch, Commander Rice, portrayed by Emmy winner Trevor Howard (Invincible Mr. Disraeli), assigns Inspector Hollis (Richard Johnson) to stop Hennessy.

While in London, Steiger gathers information regarding the members of parliament and the layout of the buildings in which parliament meets, as well as, securing the pieces for the bomb he is making. Hennessy needs a place to stay and calls upon Kate Brooke. The role of Brooke is acted by BAFTA winner Lee Remick (Jennie: Lady Randolph Churchill). She is the widow of an IRA soldier. Her husband and Hennessy were good friends. Although, she is no longer in contact with members of the IRA and wants to live a life of peace, she agrees to let him stay with her. As the film progresses, it turns into a cat and mouse game, where Hennessy deftly stays ahead of both the IRA and British Special Branch, while waiting for the moment when he can exact his revenge.

“Hennessy” premiered on July 31, 1975, in New York City, New York. The film was directed by Don Sharp (Act of Will) and written for the screen by Oscar nominee John Gay (Separate Tables), based on an original story by the aforementioned Richard Johnson (The Haunting). Parts action, drama and thriller, it has a runtime of a 103 minutes.

Trivia buffs take note: Fans of three time Emmy nominee Patrick Stewart, known globally for portraying Captain Jean-Luc Picard on “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and Professor Charles Xavier in a number of the “X-Men” movies, has a small part in the film as an IRA soldier named Tilney. When the movie was originally released it garnered some controversy with the Royal Family. The reason for this, is that the film, seamlessly intercuts real news footage with footage shot for the film. The producer of the film Samuel Z. Arkoff, had to place a disclaimer at the beginning of the movie which stated that the Royal Family had not participated in the making of the film.

For those of you who are fans of Rod Steiger and have not seen the movie, as well as those of you who don’t mind a dated 1970s, however, no lees absorbing thriller, the film should hold your interest.

 

 

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“Best of the Best” (1989)

When it comes to Tae Kwon Do, in the 1989 film “Best of the Best,” the South Korean team, has no equals. The five members of the United States National Team have to train harder and smarter than ever, if they’re going to have a chance at victory. No one knows that better than the team’s head coach Frank Couzo, portrayed by Golden Globe and two time Emmy winner James Earl Jones (The Star Wars film franchise). For Couzo, team is everything, and unless and until his team realizes that, and believes it, they’ll be hard pressed to win anything.

Alex Grady, played by Oscar nominee Eric Roberts (Runaway Train), is the oldest member of the team. He had once been one of the best in the world, but a shoulder injury has kept him out of competition for quite some time. He’s a single father, his wife having passed away prior to the film’s storyline. He spends his days as an assembly line worker at an auto-plant, while also raising his son Walter (Edan Gross). Tommy Lee (Phillip Rhee) is a martial arts instructor who wants to compete. He is afraid, however, because a competition claimed the life of his older brother (David Park) when Tommy was a child. The person he is scheduled to compete against, Dae Han (Simon Rhee), is the best in the world. What troubles Tommy is not that he has to compete against the world’s best; instead, it’s the fact that Dae Han is the person responsible for his brother’s death. Tommy is conflicted over whether or not he wants to extract revenge. (As an aside: Rhee’s skills when it comes to martial arts is not merely a product of Hollywood fiction. He is a 7th degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, and a 3rd degree black belt in Hap Ki Do, as well as Kendo).

There are other members of the team who are involved in the competition. First there is Travis Brickley, acted by Golden Globe winner Chris Penn (Reservoir Dogs). Travis is both a smart mouth and a temperamental person. Next is Virgil Keller (John Dye) who is a practicing Buddhist and seemingly the most unlikely member of the team. Lastly is Sonny Grasso (David Agresta), a tough guy from Detroit who likes his music loud. There are additional characters who are essential to the team, but are not directly involved in the competitive matches. Golden Globe winner Sally Kirkland (Anna), as Catherine Wade is one of these people. She is a trainer, but her work doesn’t focus on the physical. Instead she is there to get the team mentally prepared. Furthermore, Don Peterson (Tom Everett) is the team’s analytics person. He has information about every competition and competitor, who has ever fought for South Korea. (As an aside: Tommy Lee (Phillip Rhee) and Dae Han (Simon Rhee) are brothers in real life).

“Best of the Best” was released in America on November 10, 1989. The film was directed by Robert Radler (Turn It Up), and written for the screen by Paul Levine (Aurora: Operation Intercept), based on a story he co-wrote with Phillip Rhee. Additional dialogue for the film was provided by Max Strom (Shelter). The film, which is parts action, drama, sports and thriller, has a runtime of 97 minutes. As of the writing of this post “Best of the Best,” has been followed by three sequels.

I am recommending watching this film for the fight sequences, because with the exception of Jones and Roberts, the acting is not what I would consider stellar. I had heard about “Best of the Best” for many years, but had never seen it. A number of people, who I spoke to about the movie, stated that it was their favorite or one of their favorite martial arts films. When I sat down to watch the film, I was not looking for something comparable to “The Godfather” or any film of that ilk. I was simply looking for something to keep me entertained – – and that it did.

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“The Odessa File” (1974)

“The Odessa File” stars Oscar winner Jon Voight (Ray Donovan) as freelance journalist, Peter Miller. The film takes place in Germany, in the year 1963. Miller, by sheer happenstance, finds himself engulfed in searching for a Nazi war criminal. The man he’s looking for is Eduard Roschmann, a former SS officer and concentration camp commandant, known as the Butcher of Riga. In the film, Roschmann is portrayed by Oscar winner Maximillian Schell (Judgment at Nuremberg). (As an aside: Odessa stands for Organization of Former Members of the SS).

The catalyst for the film is when Miller follows an ambulance. What makes following this particular ambulance ride worth his while, is the person it’s carrying, or more importantly, what he leaves behind. Salomon Tauber (Towje Kleiner) an elderly Jewish man and survivor of the Holocaust has committed suicide. Tauber has no family, therefore, no one to claim his belongings, one of which is a diary. Miller gets a hold of the diary, thanks to one of his contacts in the Hamburg police department. The diary contains information about Tauber‘s life, during World War II, in the Riga ghetto. Contained within its pages is information about the aforementioned Roschmann. (As an aside: Riga is the capital of the country of Latvia, which is set on The Baltic Sea).

Miller has a reason, which will be imparted to the viewer later on in the film, for wanting to locate Roschmann. He begins his search by contacting Simon Wiesenthal. The real life Nazi hunter is played in the film by Shumuel Rodensky. Wiesenthal informs Miller about Odessa. The organization helps former SS members in a number of ways. For example, falsifying passports and providing safe travel. After consulting with Wiesenthal, Miller is approached by the Mossad (The National Intelligence Agency of Israel). The Israeli’s are interested in having Miller take on a dangerous assignment by infiltrating Odessa. The task will not be easy and Miller’s life is seemingly in danger from the start.

Helping Miller infiltrate Odessa is Klaus Wenzer, played by BAFTA and  two time Emmy winner Derek Jacobi (I, Claudius). He is a forger, who helps Miller construct a new identity. Additional cast members include, but are not limited to, Frau Miller (Maria Schell), Miller’s mother and Sigi (Mary Tamm), his girlfriend. Hannes Messemer has a small role as Nazi General Glücks; and Noel Willman portrays Franz Bayer, an interrogator, who is one of many obstacles in Miller’s path to getting to Roschmann. (As an aside: Maria Schell is Maximilian Schell’s sister. In 2002, Schell made a movie about her called My Sister Maria).

“The Odessa File” premiered in the UK on October 17, 1974. The film was directed by 3 time Oscar nominee Ronald Neame (Great Expectations). Based on the novel of the same name, written by bestselling author Frederick Forsyth (The Fourth Protocol), the film was adapted for the screen by Golden Globe nominee Kenneth Ross (The Day of the Jackal) and George Markstein (Robbery). Part drama and thriller the movie has a runtime of 130 minutes. The cinematography by Oscar winner Oswald Morris (Fiddler on the Roof) helps to elevate the tension in the story. Furthermore, the musical score by Oscar winner Andrew Lloyd Webber (Evita) helps in creating the right mood for what is transpiring on screen. For those of you seeking a well paced thriller, along the lines of “Three Days of the Condor” and Alfred Hitchcock’s “Notorious,” this will more than likely hold your interest.

 

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“Rudy”

Recently, while randomly looking through the offerings on Amazon Prime, the sports documentary “Rudy Ruettiger: The Walk On” caught my eye and I  decided to watch it. The 2017 film was directed by Emmy winner Nick Nanton (A New Leash on Life: The K9s for Warriors Story), and written by Emmy winner Emily Hache (Return to Esperanza). During its 78 minute runtime, it told the true story of Daniel ‘Rudy’ Ruettiger, the inspiration for the 1993 film “Rudy.” I found it to be, not only entertaining, but inspirational and enlightening. I learned a number of things I was unaware of, because they were not in the 1993 movie. After watching the documentary, I was motivated to re-watch “Rudy,” because it had been a number of years since I’d last seen the film.

Rudy Ruettiger portrayed by Oscar nominee Sean Astin (Kangaroo Court) has an unyielding desire to play football for the University of Notre Dame. There are several factors which are hindering his chances of achieving his dream. Firstly, he doesn’t come from a family of financial means. Secondly, he has no chance of earning an academic scholarship, as his grades and his SAT scores are not up to par for a school of Notre Dame’s caliber.

Toward the beginning of the film, Rudy is engaged to his high school sweetheart, Sherry, played by Golden Globe winner Lili Taylor (Short Cuts). She has been looking at houses for the two of them, but Rudy seems reluctant. He still wants more out of life than merely getting married and working at the local steel mill. He works at the mill with his father Daniel, played by Oscar nominee Ned Beatty (Network), and his brother Frank (Scott Benjaminson), as well as his best friend Pete (Christopher Reed).

Pete is the one person, who seemingly believes Rudy has what it takes to play football for Notre Dame. Unfortunately, an accident takes Pete’s life. Rudy, motivated to turn tragedy into triumph, leaves for Notre Dame. When he arrives on campus, he’s not turned away or belittled. He soon learns, however, that determination aside, he’s going to have to do a great deal more than just show up and express his desires. He’s already well aware that not everyone gets to run out on the field, wearing a golden helmet as a member of the Fighting Irish football team of Notre Dame. He will have to work twice as hard to prove that he belongs.

Rudy befriends a priest, Father Cavanaugh, portrayed by Robert Prosky (Mrs. Doubtfire). He makes a deal with Rudy: If Rudy can achieve good grades at Holy Cross Junior College, Cavanaugh will do what he can to get  Rudy in to Notre Dame. Earning good grades at Holy Cross is only the fist of numerous obstacles Rudy will have to face, in order to turn his dream, into a reality.

The film  premiered on October 22, 1993. The parts biography – drama and sports film has a runtime of 114 minutes. “Rudy” was directed by Emmy winner David Anspaugh (Hill Street Blues) and written for the screen by Angelo Pizzo (Hoosiers). The score composed by Oscar winner Jerry Goldsmith (Patton) helps to serve the story by matching the right music to what is being shown on screen. There are two other cast members of note, not previously mentioned. First is Emmy nominee Jon Favreau (Dinner for Five) as D-Bob. Rudy meets him at Holy Cross and he becomes Rudy’s friend and tutor. The other actor is Emmy winner Charles S. Dutton, who plays the role of Fortune, someone, whom Rudy works with. Fortune  acts as the voice of reason, pointing out to Rudy all of the wonderful things he’s achieved, even if he never gets to play football for the team.

In closing, I was glad I had decided to go back and re-watch “Rudy.” I found it to be a welcome respite from the craziness taking place in the world at this moment in time. I needed a feel good story to entertain me, even it if was just going to last a bit under two hours, and I am happy to write that Rudy didn’t disappoint. If you are seeking the same, and have never seen the film, or even if you have seen it, but, it has been a while, this is definitely the sort of film that can lift a person’s  spirits.

 

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“Dublin Murders”

The first season of Starz compelling “Dublin Murders” is based on a series of books of the same name, written by Tana French. The eight part mystery, that comprises season one, combines the first two books of French’s series, “Into the Woods” and “The Likeness.” Leading a very competent cast is Killian Scott, who portrays Detective Rob Reilly and Sarah Greene, who plays Detective Cassie Maddox. The two are part of the murder investigation division of the Garda (Irish Police).

Set in 2006, in Dublin, Ireland, at the start of the series, the detectives are investigating the killing of a convenience store employee. The duo work well together and the case is quickly solved, but the pair won’t be so fortunate with their next case. Superintendent O’Kelly, portrayed by Conleth Hill, who many viewers may know as Lord Varys from “Game of Thrones,” assigns the duo their next case, which is what the season centers on.

Katy Devlin, (Amy Macken) a thirteen year old, who had tremendous promise as a ballerina, has been found murdered. Her body has been discovered at the sight of an archaeological dig. There is significance as to where she was found. Twenty-one years earlier, in 1985, in the same location, three children had gone missing; of the three, only one boy, Adam (Michael D’Arcy) was found. The two other children, Peter (Niall Jordan) and Jamie (Ellie O’Halloran) were not only never found, but no evidence of foul play or clues as to their possible whereabouts has ever been discovered. For reasons I won’t disclose, for those of you who’d like to watch the series, the detectives know that they shouldn’t take the case. Rob and Cassie initially agree to take it as far as the Devlin family identifying Katy’s body, but that is soon forgotten, as the duo gets more invested in the case.

The Devlin family consists of the father, Jonathan (Peter McDonald); the mother, Margaret (Kathy Monahan); and two daughters, Katy’s twin sister Jessica (Amy Macken) and her older sister, Rosalind (Leah McNamara). There is something seemingly off about the family. The father has enemies, because he is attempting to impede the building of a motorway, that will bring jobs and money to the area. Margaret is mostly withdrawn, however on occasion, she’ll have an outburst. Jessica is autistic and because of that, occasionally says inappropriate things and Rosalind seems to be the family member who is holding everything together. What if anything, is the Devlin family hiding?

Rob and Cassie set out to capture Katy’s killer, but to also learn if there is any connection between what happened to Katy and what took place in 1985. O’Kelly has instructed the duo to look through the evidence from the incident in 1985, to see if there are any similarities. As the detectives delve into the murder investigation, their inquiries bring to the surface unpleasant memories and repressed trauma, for a number of individuals. Further complicating matters, is that a doppelgänger, who Cassie created as an imaginary friend during childhood, to deal with a tragic loss, has surfaced for real. The woman’s appearance prompts Cassie’s former boss, Frank Mackey (Tom Vaughn – Lawlor) to place Cassie undercover at the home of four students, whose leader, Daniel (Sam Keeley), is hiding something. Cassie’s assignment puts her life in real danger.

“Dublin Murders” was directed by John Hayes (The Girl); BAFTA nominee Saul Dibb (NW),  and Rebecca Gatward (Traces). Tana French’s writing was adapted for the series by Sarah Phelps (Great Expectations) and Chandni Lakhani (The Job Lot). Oscar nominee Volker Bertelmann (Lion), composed the soundtrack, which sets the right tone for what is being shown to the viewer. The atmospheric cinematography by James Mather (Prey Alone), Benjamin Kracun (Beast), and Tim Palmer (Breathless), helps to capture the dark mood that permeates the series.

I am not going to get into any more specific plot points, so as not to give too much away. I was engrossed from the start of the series until the closing moments of episode eight, and finished the series in a few watches. For those of you who like well done crime drama, that should keep many viewers guessing as to what happens until the end, this is one that you will more than likely find worth your time.

 

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“Under the Black Hat”

Over the years, there have been numerous wrestling announcers that I’ve enjoyed listening to. The reasons for my liking certain individuals varied: some announcers used humor, others were able to raise my excitement level, because their voice was infused with a tremendous amount of passion, and still others impressed me with their knowledge of the wrestling business. Jim Ross is that rare talent that can do all three. He is, and I know I’m not alone in thinking this, one of, if not the greatest to ever call the action inside, what is known in wrestling parlance as, the squared circle. The first time I sat down to read his book “Under the Black Hat: My Life in the WWE and Beyond,” I intended to read a few pages to get a feel for the book; sixty pages later, when I had to stop reading, to attend to other things, I knew I was hooked.

What some wrestling fans might find surprising, while reading Ross’ book, is that his career with the WWE didn’t commence and culminate with announcing. In fact, Ross was one of WWE Chairman Vince McMahon’s most utilized staff members. Ross, among other positions he held over the years with the company, was the head of talent relations from the late 1990s through the early 2000s. Furthermore, he was in charge of payroll.

“Under the Black Hat” starts directly after where Ross’s first book “Slobberknocker” leaves off, at Wrestlemania XV, which took place on March 28, 1999, at the First Union Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. While WrestleMania XV is the catalyst for the book, what follows delves into nearly two decades of the professional and personal life of Jim Ross.

For those wrestling fans, who perhaps thought life in the WWE was hassle free for Ross, as his book indicates, that was not the case. Ross is extraordinarily grateful to the wrestling business and WWE in general for the opportunities and financial security it has afforded him, but there was a downside. For example, the constant travel and long work days, that took him away from his family, especially his late wife Jan. From reading the book, I could tell that Ross loved her more than anyone else in the world. She was his biggest cheerleader. She knew how much the wrestling business meant to Ross and she stood by him, never once complaining about his time away from her. The only times, according to what was written in the book, that Jan did take issue with Ross’s profession, is when she felt he was being unfairly targeted and when he was disrespected on television. I’ll let those of you who are interested in reading the book learn about those incidents on your own.

For wrestling fans who enjoy learning the gossip of the business, Ross provides plenty of that as well. For example, the failed storyline of “Invasion” which took place after Vince McMahon beat and bought his major competitor, WCW (World Championship Wrestling). The idea was to have the WCW wrestlers start to invade WWE programming, and interrupt matches, create new feuds, and eventually become its own wrestling show, albeit controlled by WWE. The problem was that with the exception of one or two wrestlers, for example, Booker T, none of WCW’s major talent was available. The contracts of wrestlers such as Goldberg, Hogan, and Sting were cost prohibitive. WWE did eventually get all three of the aforementioned wrestlers to work for the company, but they had to wait until the contractual obligations owed to them by WCW were finished.

“Under the Black Hat” was published by Tiller Press on March 31, 2020. Co-written by Jim Ross and Paul O’Brian, it is 320 pages in length. The book is written in episodic style. For wrestling fans interested in gaining behind the scenes access, guided by an individual, who has spent four decades in the business, in my opinion, this is a must read.

 

 

 

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