Category: History

“The Survivor” Directed by Barry Levinson and Starring Ben Foster – The Trailer is Here!

Mark your calendars for April 27th.  That’s when The Survivor, directed by Barry Levinson and starring Ben Foster,
Vicky Krieps, Peter Sarsgaard, John Leguizamo and Danny DeVito premieres!  Check out the trailer below!

Barry Levinson’s biographical drama stars Ben Foster as boxer Harry Haft, who looks to carry on after fighting to survive in the Holocaust.

When the Nazis invade Poland, Harry Haft is sent to the Auschwitz extermination camp. He is a powerfully built man, so a charming but sadistic Nazi officer offers him an impossible deal: fight fellow prisoners in the boxing ring for the amusement of his captors, or die. The winner of the bout survives to fight again. The loser is shot or sent to the gas chamber. How far will Harry’s will to live take him? What will he do to escape the death all around him?

Ali & Cavett: The Tale of the Tapes (2018) / Z-View

Ali & Cavett: The Tale of the Tapes (2018)

Director:  Robert S. Bader

Writers:  Robert S. Bader, Dick Cavett

Starring:  Muhammad Ali, Dick Cavett, Joe Frazier, Woody Allen, Jimmy Breslin, Jim Brown, Howard Cosell, Angelo Dundee, Louis Farrakhan, Martin Luther King, Jerry Lewis, Joe Louis, Thomas Hauser. Lester Maddox. Norman Mailer, Malcolm X, Michael Marley  and Larry Merchant.

Tagline: None.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Ali & Cavett: The Tale of the Tapes is a wonderful documentary chronicling the life and boxing career of Muhammad Ali using clips from the Dick Cavett Show as the glue holding it together.  Ali not only led an interesting life, but lived in interesting and turbulent times.  It is fascinating to see how social changes and outside influences impacted Ali’s career.  As Ali matured he became more of his own man, the only three-time heavyweight champion and the most famous athlete in the world.  It’s an interesting journey and rates 5 of 5 stars!

“When We Were Kings” (1996) / Z-View

When We Were Kings (1996)

Director:  Leon Gast

Starring:  Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Don King, James Brown, B.B. King, Spike Lee, Norman Mailer, George Plimpton, The Spinners and Howard Cosell..

Tagline:  The untold story of the Rumble in the Jungle.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

When We Were Kings is the Academy Award-winning documentary of the championship fight between the undefeated (40-0) Heavyweight Champion of the World, George Foreman and his challenger, Muhammad Ali, who was a 4-1 underdog.  Promoter, Don King had contracts that paid each fighter $5 million and the backing of Mobutu Sese Seko, President of Zaire, who saw the fight as an opportunity to shine a positive light on his country.  To that end, the fight became a culminating event of a festival that included performances by The Spinners, B.B. King and James Brown.

Leon Gast, using archival footage and interviews does an excellent job in presenting the backstories of Ali and Foreman as well as the fight’s historical significance.  Ali had refused to enter the draft, became a Muslim and had changed his name from Cassius Clay.  While many Americans had developed a dislike for Ali, he was dearly loved by the population of Zaire.  George Foreman, was an Olympic Gold Medalist who proudly represented the USA, was the undefeated Champion of the World and the man who many thought would destroy Ali. The stage was set for what many thought would be the fight to end Muhammad Ali’s career… and yet, Ali once again shocks the world!

When We Were Kings is one of the best documentaries I’ve ever seen.  It pulls you in, sets the historical context of the events, provides backstories on the key players while at the same time being entertaining.  When We Were Kings rates 5 of 5 stars.

“Oscar Micheaux: The Superhero of Black Filmmaking” (2021) / Z-View

Oscar Micheaux: The Superhero of Black Filmmaking (2021)

Director:  Francesco Zippel

Screenplay: Francesco Zippel

Starring:  Oscar Micheaux, Chuck D, Jacqueline Stewart, Morgan Freeman  and Mario Van Pebbles..

Tagline:  None.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Oscar Micheaux was a writer, director and producer of both silent and sound movies.  Micheaux has been called “the most successful African-American filmmaker of the first half of the 20th century.”

Oscar Micheaux has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, was honored by the Director’s Guild of America, the Producers Guild of America has an annual award named after him, he is in the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame, his image has appeared on a US postage stamp, and there are multiple Film Festivals named after him! Sadly all of these accolades came posthumously.  Outside of serious fans of film history, few know about Oscar Micheaux.

I first learned of Oscar Micheaux because he was the writer/director of Body and Soul starring Paul Robeson.  Thanks to Oscar Micheaux: The Superhero of Black Filmmaking, I now know the life story of Micheaux.  What an amazing story it is.

Micheaux didn’t let any obstacle hinder him.  At a time when there weren’t as many opportunities for people of color, Micheaux was able to raise funds to create films that he would write, direct, produce and even personally distribute from town to town!  He would then use the funds from his current film to finance his next movie.  More importantly Micheaux created films of substance that still resonate today.  Micheaux’s films dealt with race relations and featured complex characters in modern day settings.   I wish more people knew about Oscar Micheaux.  Thanks to Francesco Zippel we can.

Oscar Micheaux: The Superhero of Black Filmmaking rates 4 of 5 stars.

THE DEVIL’S OWN PISS AND OTHER STORIES by Whiskey Leavins / Z-View


The Devil’s Own Piss and Other Stories by Whiskey Leavins

Trade Paperback: 266 pages
Publisher: Independently published (April 12, 2021)

First sentence…

The Devil, or should I say, a devil, needed a double-thirteen to win.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Let’s start with The Devil’s Own Piss and Other Stories‘ very cool cover.  If you see that cover art and don’t pick up the book for a closer look, then stop reading this now and go get your eyes checked.  Rafael Andres from CoverKitchen. please take a bow!

Thankfully, the stories in The Devil’s Own Piss and Other Stories are worthy of such a cool cover.  There are over 30 tales populated by Lucifestus and other devils, the dangerous Troupe Brothers, movie stars, influencers, space aliens, regular folks, famous folks from history and many others.  You won’t find everyone in every tale, but often the stories overlap.  What they do have in common is humor.

My favorite stories involved Lucifestus.  He’s an honest-to-goodness, well, maybe not goodness, but he is a devil.  Lucifestus is huge, red and barrel-chested.  He sports a pointy goatee and a blue-black slicked back ducktail.  Oh, and he has these huge horns.  You won’t see his real appearance unless he wants you to.  He could be sitting right next to you in a bar and you’d see a dude that looks like Tom Waits.  Lucifestus is a hard-drinker, who loves to gamble so he’s often found in bars or racetracks.  He doesn’t cheat, and offers tempting wagers for everything from something that would humiliate the loser to the loser’s soul.  I loved every tale with Lucifestus and am ready for more.

The other tales are funny and a nice change of pace.  As the cover indicates, The Devil’s Own Piss and Other Stories is definitely an R-Rated Book.  If you’re easily offended, then this isn’t for you.  I loved it.  Whiskey Leavins is the guy you’d want to buy a few beers (and I don’t drink) and wait for the stories to flow.

Rating:

“The Last Duel” / Z-View

The Last Duel (2021)

Director: Ridley Scott

Screenplay: Nicole Holofcener & Ben Affleck & Matt Damon (based on the book by Eric Jager)

Starring:  Matt Damon, Adam Driver, Jodie Comer and Ben Affleck.

Tagline:  The truth has different versions.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

The Last Duel is the true story of the last trial by combat officially sanctioned by the King of France.  The battle took place on December 29, 1386, between Knight Jean de Carrouges (Damon) and Squire Jacques Le Gris (Driver).  They had been friends who once fought side-by-side. Over the years de Carrouges felt cheated by Le Gris.  He was also jealous of Le Gris’ friendship with Count Pierre d’Alençon (Affleck), a relative of the King.  The duel was a result of de Carrouges’ wife accusing Le Gris of rape.

The Last Duel is told in three parts, each being the truth as seen by Jean de Carrouges, Jacques Le Gris, and Marguerite de Carrouges.  This is an interesting method of story presentation (a la Rashômon), but adds to the length of the tale, which could benefit from being shorter.

The acting is first rate.

This may be Damon’s best performance ever.  His character is a volatile, angry man who feels (and is) slighted by Count Pierre d’Alençon.  I admired de Carrouges’ willingness to sue royalty, confront Le Gris and the Count to support his wife’s accusation… but also know his abrasive personality caused him many problems.

I was surprised by how good Ben Affleck is in his role as the Count.  His performance here was as good as in The Tender Bar!

The Last Duel rates 4 of 5 stars.

Jack the Ripper – 10 People Suspected of Being the Killer!

Vince Guerrieri at Mental Floss came up with a list of 10 People Suspected of Being Jack the Ripper.  It ranges from the highly unlikely (Lewis Carroll) to the probable (Aaron Kosminski).

Patricia Cornwell has DNA evidence that Jack the Ripper was Walter Sickert.

My guess is that the Ripper was Kosminski or Sickert.  I’d be interested in hearing who others think Jack the Ripper may have been.

Craig’s 2021 Best Movies, Books, and Posts Lists!

End of the Year lists are fun and so I decided to compile a few of my own. I hope you enjoy them. Below is my Best Of list for 2021…

Movies and Limited Series

In 2021, I watched 372 movies. Most were streamed. The only film I saw in a theater was Rocky vs Drago, Sly Stallone’s Director’s Cut of Rocky IV. Although the total movies watched was less than last year, it was still nearly double of what I saw prior to retiring.  My favorite films and limited series released in 2020 included:

  • Army of the Dead
  • Blood Brothers: Malcolm X & Muhammad Ali
  • No Sudden Move
  • Rocky IV: Rocky vs Drago Director’s Cut
  • Midnight Mass
  • Who Killed Malcolm X?

Books

In 2021, I read 39 books (5 more than last year). Prior to retiring I usually read about 20 – 24 per year so the increase is a good sign that I’ll some day make it through my book cases of “to be read” books.  My favorites from this year included:

  • The Revelators by Ace Atkins
  • Winter Counts by David Heska Wanbli Weiden
  • Two in the Head by Eric Beetner
  • She Rides Shotgun by Jordan Harper
  • Paradise Sky by Joe Lansdale
  • Blacktop Wasteland by S.A. Cosby
  • Razorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby
  • The Heathens by Ace Atkins
  • The Driver by Hart Hanson
  • My Darkest Prayer by S.A. Cosby

My Most Popular Posts of the Year

I continue to find some surprises in what became my most popular posts each year. Here are the top ten for 2021 and some thoughts for each…

10. Michael Biehn Talks “Tombstone – broke into the top ten. I’m not surprised due to the continuing popularity of Tombstone.

09. Jack Benny in “Casablanca – dropped from the 7th spot to the 9th. I love that Jack Benny is still popular enough to make the top ten for the year since I consider him very under-rated.

08. Gadot & The Rock Strike a Pose – Two of the most popular movie stars in the world together? Yep and that’s why they came in at #8.

07. Top 10 Most Iconic Horror Movie Villains – dropped from #5 to #7 for the year. Horror movie posts remain popular but maybe a bit less this year than last year.

06. The Girl Who Didn’t “Flinch” Trailer is Here! – This one surprised me more than any other post. A crime film from a director and cast I didn’t know and it not only made the top ten most popular posts of the year but also nearly made the top 5.

05. Rare “Batman” Screen Tests: Lyle Waggoner & Peter Deyell and Adam West & Burt Ward – I love that this one got a lot of love this year.

04. Dracula Through the Ages – was our 4th most popular post last year. Horror movies always get love and Dracula counts (see what I did there) as horror.

03. Louis Meyers: Evidence He was the Zodiac Killer – came in the #2 spot last year. Real life horror trumps fictional this time.

02. Schwarzenegger in “King Lear” & Robin Williams in “Jack and the Beanstalk – was our most popular post last year and clocks in at #2 this year.

01. The TWILIGHT ZONE New Year’s Eve Marathon is Coming and the Full Schedule is Out! – was the most popular post of the year and surprised me almost as much as The Girl Who Didn’t “Flinch” Trailer is Here!

My All-Time Most Popular Posts

There weren’t many changes on the All-Time Most Popular Posts list. One post managed to break through while the others mostly stayed in their same spots. Let’s see how things shook out…

10. Dracula Through the Ages – made it into the top ten!

09. Gadot & The Rock Strike a Pose – was in the 9th spot last year and remained there this year.

08. Real Clown or Horror Movie Clown? – was in the 7th spot last year and dropped to 8.

07. Joel Osteen in Jacksonville – dropped one spot from 6th to 7th.

06. TOP 10 MOST ICONIC HORROR MOVIE VILLAINS! – moved up 2 spots from 8 to 6 this year.

05. Steve Reeves as Superman – was the #5 all-time most popular post last year and continues to be this year.

04. New Billy the Kid Photo Discovered – was the #4 all-time most popular post last year and continues to be this year.

03. Zodiac Killer Code Cracked? – was the #3 all-time most popular post last year and continues to be this year.

02. Louis Meyers: Evidence He Was the Zodiac Killer – was the #2 all-time most popular post last year and continues to be this year.

01. Schwarzenegger in “King Lear” & Robin Williams in “Jack and the Beanstalk” – was #1 last year and continues to be our most popular post of all-time.

It’s always interesting to see which topics resonate with fans and continue to be popular long after their initial post.

Crime Scene: The Times Square Killer (2021) / Z-View

Crime Scene: The Times Square Killer (2021)

Director: Joe Berlinger

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Crime Scene: The Times Square Killer has at it’s core the story of a serial murderer who tortured, sexually abused and butchered school-age girls and prostitutes.  How the police came to understand that they were dealing with a serial killer (he reportedly killed between 80-100 women) in a time when police departments from different cities didn’t coordinate information, didn’t have access to the internet or DNA makes for an interesting documentary.

Sadly that is not the focus of Crime Scene: The Times Square Killer.

Unfortunately more time is given to the pornography in Times Square aspect.  The pornography tie-in to the case is that several of the serial killer’s victims were prostitutes who worked Times Square.  So we learn how Times Square in the 70s and 80s morphed from movie houses to porn shops and peep shows.  We hear from folks in the porn industry who have no direct ties to the murders.  Short shrift is given to how police captured the killer, the trial or events that led to learning there were many other unsolved murders that he committed.

As I said, Crime Scene: The Times Square Killer has at it’s core an interesting story of the capture of a serial killer, there’s just too much filler you have to go through to get there.

The Crazy (and Sad) Lives of Silent Movie Stars!

Adrian Sharp at Listverse came up with 10 Crazy Stories about Silent Film Stars.  It’s a good read that includes video to back up the chosen tales.  Before you click over…

I’m a silent movie fan.  When I watch a silent film, I look up information about the people who created it.  I’ve often been surprised at the lives they lead and how many ended with tragic or even mysterious deaths.  Sharp brings us the stories of ten silent film stars.  Here are my three favorite from his picks and my thoughts on each…

Stunt Pilot Ormer Locklear.  This is the one star I wasn’t aware of.  When you click over check out the video of Locklear’s stunts – wing walking, hanging by a knee, doing flips, climbing above and below the wings of a plane flying hundreds, if not thousands, of feet in the air… and WITHOUT A PARACHUTE.  Fearless or crazy – you decide.  Sadly, Locklear died performing an airplane stunt for a film.

Jean Harlow in “Kill and Be Killed”.  Jean Harlow was discovered by Howard Hughes who cast her in Hell’s Angels, Harlow would go on to work with Chaplin, Gable, Cagney to name just of a few of her leading men.  Fay Wray said that Harlow was the original choice for King Kong.  She was a close friend of gangster Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel.  She married MGM executive Paul Bern, who two months into their marriage was found dead from a gunshot wound to the head.  His death was ruled a suicide, but some believe Bern was murdered due to some unusual circumstances and the fact that the police were called AFTER Louis B, Mayer had a chance to get to the crime scene.  Harlow died at the young age of 26 under what some consider mysterious circumstances as well.

Thelma Todd’s Impossible Suicide.  Todd ruled the silver screen making over 100 shorts and feature films, appearing with Buster Keaton, The Marx Brothers and Laurel & Hardy.  Todd was found dead inside her car that was in the garage of her lover’s ex-wife.  There were conflicting reports of injuries to her body, she left no suicide note and had appeared to be in good spirits in the time preceding her death.  Although her death was considered a murder by many, it was ruled a suicide by a grand jury.

Although not on Sharp’s list, the story of Louise Brooks is another sad tale of a silent era star.  Brooks quickly rose from being an uncredited extra to getting contract offers from both MGM and Paramount.  At the start of her career she worked with top directors and stars and by the end she left Hollywood and worked as a high priced call girl.  

“Mr. Saturday Night” – The Poster and Trailer are Here!

I don’t think the poster or the trailer for Mr. Saturday Night are all that great, but Saturday Night Fever and that era hits a sweet spot for me.  If you’re old enough to remember how the film and soundtrack exploded you’ll understand.  Saturday Night Fever quickly began to influence everything from the way we dressed to clubs we hung out in.  I’ll tune in to Mr. Saturday Night just to get a taste of that bygone time and if the documentary is good that will be a bonus.

#MrSaturdayNightHBO, an HBO original documentary and #MusicBoxHBO film about Robert Stigwood’s gamble that turned Saturday Night Fever into a cultural touchstone, premieres December 9 on HBO Max.

Oliver Stone’s “JFK: Destiny Denied” – The Poster and Trailer are Here!

I believe that Lee Harvey Oswald killed President Kennedy, but I have an open mind and am interested in learning more about the case.  I’ve read the Warren Commission Report.  I’ve watched documentaries and read many different theories.  The “magic bullet” can be explained and really didn’t make the turns and twists some have speculated.  With all that said, I’m interested in seeing Oliver Stone’s JFK: Destiny Denied.

JFK: DESTINY BETRAYED is #OliverStone’s four-part “deep dive” into the infamous Kennedy assassination. Over a period of months, Stone spoke to a diverse array of authors, historians, witnesses, and experts in forensics, ballistics, and medicine. Subjects covered in the mini-series include the early formation of President Kennedy’s foreign policy worldview, his travels to Vietnam as a senator (where he saw first-hand the French losing their colonial war), his support of fledgling democracies in Africa, and his anti-colonial convictions which put him in opposition to the Eisenhower administration, the CIA, and the Pentagon. Viewers are also given a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the post-assassination actions and initial suspicions of Kennedy’s brother, Robert, as well as his views on the official Warren Commission investigation. Additionally, assassination forensic and ballistic evidence is explored here in great detail. #JFK #JohnFKennedy #CIA

With narration by Whoopi Goldberg and Donald Sutherland.

“Love It Was Not” – The Trailer is Here!

Love It Was Not is proof that real life is stranger than fiction.  I look forward to see this one.

Starring: Helena Citron, Roza Citron, Franz Wunsch
Directed By: Maya Sarfaty
Synopsis: A young Jewish woman named Helena Citron is taken to Auschwitz, where she develops an unlikely romantic relationship with Franz Wunsch, a high-ranking SS officer. Thirty years later, a letter arrives from Wunsch’s wife asking Helena to testify on Wunsch’s behalf. Faced with an impossible decision, Helena must choose. Will she help the man who brutalized so many lives, but saved hers?

“Learning To Live Together: The Return of Mad Dogs & Englishmen” – The Poster and Trailer are Here!


I’m interested in seeing Learning To Live Together: The Return of Mad Dogs & Englishmen.  I was never a huge fan of Joe Cocker or Leon Russell so there’s a lot I don’t know about them other than I’ve enjoyed their music over the years.  Yep, deal me in.

Watch the official trailer for “Learning To Live Together: The Return of Mad Dogs & Englishmen,” an electrifying documentary and concert film spotlighting the reunion of the celebrated “Mad Dogs & Englishmen,” Joe Cocker’s short-lived tour featuring a mammoth thirty-two piece band. The original members (including the late Rock’n’Roll Hall of Famer Leon Russell) and the reunion organizers (Grammy Award-winning Tedeschi Trucks Band’s Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi) tell the story of the original tour and the reunion, both highlighted by inspired performances.

Official selection of the Woodstock Film Festival (2021) and the Raindance Film Festival (2021)

Truman Capote’s IN COLD BLOOD Trivia!

In Cold Blood was the book that made Truman Capote famous.  Upon publication it quickly rose to best-seller status and is still one of the all-time best-selling true crime books.  A year after the book was released an award-winning movie adaptation premiered which only added to Capote’s stardom.  

I’ve seen the film In Cold Blood.  It’s an excellent movie which gets better with each new viewing.  I’ve had the In Cold Blood novel sitting on one of my many to-be-read book shelves for years.  After reading April Snellings’  7 Chilling Facts About Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood posted at Mental Floss, I’ve decided to finally read Capote’s book.  Before you click over to Snellings’ piece, here are my three favorite facts from her piece and my thoughts on each.

HARPER LEE WAS INSTRUMENTAL IN RESEARCHING IN COLD BLOOD.  (That’s right, the author of To Kill a Mockingbird traveled with Truman Capote to Holcomb, Kansas and assisted Capote in getting access to people with for background info for the book! Harper Lee was Capote’s assistant! – Craig)

A FIGHT OVER THE FILM RIGHTS TO IN COLD BLOOD GOT TRUMAN CAPOTE’S AGENT ARRESTED FOR ASSAULT. (Capote’s agent was Irving “Swifty” Lazar!  Lazar also represented Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Cary Grant, Ernest Hemmingway, Cher and Richard Nixon to name just a few.  When Otto Preminger learned that Lazar had sold the rights to someone else, they got into a heated argument.  Preminger ended up with a busted head and a trip to the hospital.  Lazar ended up with charges for felony assault!  Read Snellings’ account for full details! – Craig)

THE MEN RESPONSIBLE FOR THE MURDERS DETAILED IN IN COLD BLOOD ARE SUSPECTED OF KILLING A FLORIDA FAMILY AFTER THEY FLED KANSAS.  (I had never heard this fact before.  Sounds like there could be another book in the making! – Craig)