Memorial Day 2018: Movies About Military Sacrifice and Valor

Posted on May 24, 2018 at 1:52 pm

For Memorial Day, take a look at these documentaries about our military:

War of 1812

The History Channel Presents The War of 1812 The young country proved its commitment to independence with this war against Britain that gave us a President (Andrew Jackson), and our national anthem.

Civil War

The Civil War Ken Burns’ series for PBS is meticulously researched and compellingly presented.

WWI

The Last Voices of WWI – A Generation Lost The veterans of “the war to end all wars” tell their stories.

WWII

The World at War This classic is considered the definitive history and a landmark of television reporting.  It was created long enough after the war ended to have perspective but close enough in time to have access to the participants, with eyewitness accounts by civilians, enlisted men, officers, and politicians as well as historians.  The 30th anniversary DVD set issued in 2004 has three hours of new material and additional documentaries.

GI Jews  Fifty thousand Jewish American fought in WWII, often struggling with anti-Semitism in the military.  They look back on their experiences and how it affected their lives.

In Their Own Words: The Tuskegee Airmen The first African-American pilots of the US military faced bigotry at home and in the military, but fought with extraordinary skill and dedication.

Korean War

Korea, The Forgotten War It was the Cold War era, but a real war was being fought in Korea that embodied the geopolitical conflicts.  This documentary covers that story, from Inchon to Pork Chop Hill.

Vietnam War

Vietnam War: America’s Conflict Many documentaries cover the politics and the protests, and that is covered here, too, but this series focuses on the stories of the battles and the men who fought them.

Desert Storm

Hidden Wars of Desert Storm Interviews with General Norman Schwarzkopf, former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark, former UN Iraq Program Director Denis Halliday, former UNSCOM team-leader Scott Ritter and many others help tell the story of the American response to the invasion of Kuwait.

Afganistan/Iraq

Restrepo This is the award-winning story of one of the most dangerous postings in the U.S. military, covering the deployment of a platoon of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley. The remote 15-man outpost was named after a platoon medic who was killed in action.

The War Tapes Three National Guardsmen (“citizen soldiers”) document their time in Iraq.

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Documentary Holidays War

Why Fact-Checked Journalism Matters — Interview with Newsman Tim Ortman

Posted on May 24, 2018 at 8:00 am

Copyright Ingornito Publishing 2018

Tim Ortman, a former cameraman and producer for every major U.S. television news network and the Foreign Press Corps, believes that too many people, especially younger people, are making the mistake of relying on social media as trustworthy news outlets. His new book, Newsreal: A View Through the Lens When…, is filled with stories about his experiences as a newsman in the years when there were just four television networks, with enormous budgets and loyal viewers. And he addresses the impact of cable news and social media on the news, on us, and on our country. In an interview, he discussed fake news, social media, and confirmation bias, and the vital importance of objective, demanding news outlets in a democracy.

Is there more fake news now or are we just more aware of it? Or more able to make it go viral so that it reaches more people?

During the time period Newsreal, A View Through the Lens, When… takes place, there were only four major American news networks and the reporting was factual and straight-forward. Today, what is referred to as fake news is flourishing online. Social media sites often regurgitate news reports from legitimate news sources (IE: NBC News, NY Times, etc.). These reports are then redistributed, often times anonymously, by a mysterious network of trolls, bots and algorithms. With no journalistic oversight, the initial reports become so layered with opinion and conjecture that it no longer resembles the original real news story. This sort of delivery method allows for the viral growth, and subsequent distortion of stories that may have started as genuine news by a real news source but morph into little more than misrepresentation and opinion.

What are some of the indicators of a reliable news source?

Ownership. If a news organization assigns its own reporter or correspondent to write or broadcast a news report, both the company’s and reporter’s name are ‘on the line’, responsible for the validity and accuracy of that report. This ensures that a thorough vetting process is run where facts are checked and sources confirmed.

The President and many other public figures accuse the mainstream media of bias. Is that fair? What is the best way to evaluate those claims?

Donald Trump is the President of the United States (POTUS). It is the job of the news media to report on the President. Almost every President in our nation’s history has taken issue with some story, report or coverage they received. It is inherent with the job. And yet, almost every President in our nations history has recognized a strong and uncensored press is a cornerstone of our Democracy. Two term President George W. Bush (43) was the recipient of much unflattering yet honest coverage while in office. After leaving office, he said, “Power can be very addictive and it can be corrosive. And, it’s important for the media to call to account people who abuse their power.”

I agree.

Is there a risk that relying on media sources, even reliable ones, can perpetuate echo chambers and confirmation bias?

We are fortunate to live in a free society that offers us a plethora of reliable media sources. I’ve traveled to numerous countries devoid of that privilege. With so many sources operating in a 24-hour news cycle, echo chambers are inevitable. As news consumers, it’s best to aim for a balanced diet of news and information as opposed to gorging on one site, paper or channel. This can help reduce the craving for conformation bias.

What is fake news, and is that term mis-applied?

I mentioned online fake news previously. However, my intentional misspelling of Newsreal was intended to address the all-too-popular use of the term “fake news” as it’s been applied to print and broadcast journalism. I don’t buy it. It is intended as a smokescreen; a diversionary tactic to distract the viewer/readers attention away from a story that’s not flattering or complementary, but at its core, factual and correct. By applying the label “fake news,” the aim is to lessen or totally dismiss a truthful report. Truth can be a bitter pill to swallow for some, but that doesn’t make it false or fake. As news consumers, we have become too quick to believe in this artificial labeling.

How has “liking” and “retweeting” affected the dissemination of news stories, both legitimate and fake?

I can only speak to legitimate news and the business of fact-based news should never be a popularity contest. Likes and dislikes have absolutely no place in the delivery of unbiased journalism, and for good reason. Reporters should be free to report the truth regardless of how it will be received. The search for truth can sometimes be a circuitous path. What may seem like an unpopular story initially can develop a ground-swell of support once all the facts are on display. Real news should not be packaged to appear more appealing or ‘liked’.

What is the biggest threat to independent news media?

The external criticism of the news media has little affect of true journalists. They louder the outcry, the more emboldened and dedicated the journalistic community becomes. The real threat comes from within when corporate policy dictates what is and what isn’t news. We saw this with the Sinclair Broadcasting Group scandal where the media giant, who owns 173 television stations, forced anchormen and women systemwide to read an on-air script prepared by Sinclair management. This blurred the line between the company’s beliefs and independent reporting.

Why do you call your time in the business the golden era? What did we have then that we no longer have?

The big-three networks (NBC, CBS and ABC) made their profits from their prime-time line-up with shows like Cheers and Seinfeld. Profitability wasn’t the guiding principle within the news divisions where news coverage was viewed as a civic obligation or “higher calling.” Anchormen were more trusted than Presidents and audience ratings were twice what they are today.

Additionally, each network had news bureaus in every major city and capital around the world. This made for very powerful yet very agile global news operations that could mobilize to cover news wherever and whenever it happened.

Where will our children get their news when they become adults?

Tough question as I have no idea what the news landscape will look like in the future. I only hope that as the next generation turns off the TV and turns on other devices, the content being viewed includes a healthy dose of news and information from around the world. We are the most powerful nation on earth. We owe it to ourselves, and to those Americans who came before us to be the most well-informed nation was well as the most powerful.

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Books Interview

Trailer: Set it Up

Posted on May 23, 2018 at 3:59 pm

Coming to Netflix June 14, 2018 — “Set it Up,” the story of two assistants to highly demanding bosses who decide to “Parent Trap” them into falling in love so they won’t be so demanding. Cute idea and two stars from one of my favorite films from 2016, “Everybody Wants Some!!” — Zoey Deutsch and Glen Powell.

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Romance Trailers, Previews, and Clips VOD and Streaming

Interview: John Cameron Mitchell of “How to Talk to Girls at Parties”

Posted on May 23, 2018 at 8:00 am

I had a wonderful time interviewing one of my favorite people to talk to, writer/director John Cameron Mitchell of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” and the new release “How to Talk to Girls at Parties,” based on the Neil Gaiman short story. The full interview is at rogerebert.com, and here is an excerpt.

Lately I feel like for a lot of young people, at least let’s say millennials, there’s such a weird storm of 9/11 followed by economic collapse, followed by the Internet and social media saturation that serves to kind of douse youthful rebellion. It all kind of paralyzed them into thinking that nothing can really change. First of all, it was terrorism, then it was an economic rug being pulled out from under them, coming out of college, not having a job, suddenly feeling old because you have a $100,000 loan or at least $20,000 and then the Internet which gives you a false feeling of accomplishment because you’re zipping around on it but not doing a whole lot on it. Of course some people certainly use it as a very good tool but for a lot of people it is just an equivalent to worry beads, just to check, check, check and post, post, post and selfie, selfie, selfie. That’s the worst example, of course, and there are plenty of people who use it as a tool in a good way but it can serve to make young people not necessarily the vanguard of any change in the last 15 years. There might be rebellion but it isn’t directed rebellion in any way.

There’s no mass movement possible anymore because of digital culture. The last real musical movement was grunge. After that, everything was atomized; sliced and diced. Porn got sliced and diced into what fetish you were into and boys are saturated with porn before they have sex. So, when they have sex they are imitating it rather than just being it or trying it and girls are kind of just going along with it, and then sexualizing themselves whether they want to or not because that is currency. It is an imitation of porn and it didn’t feel sui generis, it felt quickly commercialized. Even sexual top or bottom became a capitalist kind of thing that you have to be if you’re on Grindr and it was important to decide so you can present yourself with all the things people used to find out about each other when they got to know each other established up front. So, everything started becoming quantifiable and sellable.

Capitalism does that but now it is done in a very efficient way because of digital media, so that serves to dampen the young person being at the vanguard of actual change as opposed to surface rebellion. The old people got scared about things changing became punk and they voted Trump in and they are welcoming him smashing all tradition. They don’t care anymore that he is inept. They are watching it burn. They didn’t believe that he wasn’t going to be corrupt and or that he’s going to drain the swamp. They just saw someone going in there like a child has got the controls. It’s like, “What’s been happening so far sucked, so might as well do this throw a monkey in the driver’s seat,” and some of them are still enjoying it; it’s kind of mindless punks as opposed to any focused punks.

The new possible kind of punk that I can see coming is like the Parkland teenagers. These are the post-millennials. They are coming up in high school with Trump in office and they can’t believe it and they’re getting shot up and there is one thing that they can do, maybe stop the NRA. That is one issue I think is going to hopefully be the beginning.

I think punk changes for every era but we know it when we see it and usually it’s about smashing up stuff so that new stuff can grow.

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Directors Interview Writers

Solo: A Star Wars Story

Posted on May 22, 2018 at 2:32 pm

B +
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action/violence
Profanity: Mild language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Some alcohol
Violence/ Scariness: Extended sci-fi style peril, action, and violence, chases, shootouts, explosions, characters injured and killed
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: May 24, 2018
Date Released to DVD: September 24, 2018
Copyright 2018 Disney

The moment I became a “Star Wars” fan forever was in the cantina scene in what I will always refer to as the first “Star Wars” movie, now of course known as Episode IV, “A New Hope.” It was when Ben Kenobi tells Han (Harrison Ford, of course) he hopes to avoid any Imperial entanglements, and Han leans back and says, “Well, that’s the real trick, isn’t it?” with so much rakish charm that we have to instantly forgive him for bragging about making the Kessel run in under 12 parsecs. (We will always be too polite to mention that parsecs measure distance not time. Who knows, maybe a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, they told time in parsecs.)

So, would I like to see that Kessel run? And how Han met Chewy the wookiee? And how me met the dashing buccaneer, Lando Calrissian, played by Billy Dee Williams in Episodes V and VI and here by master-of-all-arts Donald Glover? And the bet that won Han the brand-spanking-new Millennium Falcon? Written by “Empire Strikes Back” and “Force Awakens” screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan, with his son Jonathan (“Dawson’s Creek”)? With the divine Phoebe Waller-Bridge (“Fleabag”) voicing a slightly loopy and more than slightly lippy droid? You bet I do!

Does it deliver? You bet your Han Solo hanging dice it does! Does Han shoot first? This time he does!

This prequel has the wonderfully charismatic Alden Ehrenreich (the “Would that t’were so simple” guy from “Hail, Ceasar!”) as Han, who lives with other orphans in a work camp led by Lady Proxima (voiced by Linda Hunt). Think Fagin, without the warmth. He has a plan to escape with the girl he loves, Qi’ra (“Game of Thrones” dragon-rider Emilia Clarke). Han is a bit of a rascal, but also an optimist back in these teenage years. “Wherever we go it can’t be worse than where we’ve been,” he says. But we know it can.

And as we know from films like “Casablanca” and “The Fifth Element,” whether it’s the letters of transit or the multipass, you have to have the right paperwork to get away. Han escapes (and in the film’s cheesiest moment, is assigned a last name based on his solitary status) but Qi’ra is captured. Han decided to enlist with the Imperial forces to get trained as a pilot so he can return to save her.

Three years later, Han has been thrown out of the academy and is now a grunt in the Imperial military. He meets a bandit named Beckett (Woody Harrelson), and his ragtag crew (is there any other kind?) of daredevils, and agrees to join forces with them on a heist so he can get a ship go back and rescue Qi’ra. This leads to a marvelously staged sci-fi version of a western train robbery.

It turns out that Beckett is not stealing on his own behalf, but working for someone else, someone who is not forgiving when things do not go well, harking back to the original cantina scene again, where we learn that Han had to jettison the cargo he was delivering to Jabba the Hutt. The big crime boss is Dryden Vos, played by Paul Bettany, with scars across his face as though a space tiger clawed his cheeks, scars that redden when he gets angry. Beckett and Han have to try again.

Along the way Han meets Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) and Lando. I am not going to spoil how; I’ll just say that both encounters are fitting and highly entertaining. Han does meet up with Qi’ra again, but is not ready to see how she has been affected by what she has had to do to survive. She joins the team and they take on another big heist. There’s a high-stakes card game, a trial by combat, and good advice that gets ignored. And the better you know the series, the more references and callbacks you will be delighted to discover. There are new insights about well-known characters and intriguing new ones, especially Waller-Bridge as a droid with a few crossed wires. In addition to the touches that center this in the “Star Wars” universe, there are references to classic movie genres, heist films and westerns and maybe “The Wages of Fear.” It may not be necessary, but it is most welcome, a thrilling and warm-hearted adventure in its own right that fits as satisfyingly into the “Star Wars” universe as that last piece in a jigsaw puzzle.

Parents should know that like all “Star Wars” movies, this one has non-stop peril and action with some disturbing images and many characters injured and killed. There is some mild language and some alcohol.

Family discussion: What do you think happened when Han was at the Academy? What is Han’s greatest skill?

If you like this, try: the other “Star Wars” films

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Action/Adventure DVD/Blu-Ray movie review Movies Science-Fiction Series/Sequel
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