Outlander – Ep. 301 (The Battle Joined)

301**SPOILERS UNTIL IT AIRS** There are great advantages to having a subscription to Starz on Amazon. The main one is that episodes are posted online before viewing is available elsewhere.  I couldn’t sleep this morning and woke up wide awake at 3:15 a.m. Sat down at the computer with a cup of coffee and had a notice that Season 301 of Outlander was up and ready. Of course, I didn’t think about going back to bed. Instead, I hit “watch now.”

To be totally honest my interest in Outlander has come and gone. Not a huge fan of graphic violence and sadistic behavior, there have been times I’ve walked away from the series with no regrets.  There have been others where I’ve returned to see what’s next. After the end of the last season with the flash forward twenty years, my interest has piqued again.

Episode 301 returns the audience to the blood, violent, and gory outcome of the battle of Culloden in 1745. Claire has returned to the future, and Jamie has returned to fight. Be prepared to watch many of the characters you’ve seen in the show die a terrible death, except Jamie who is severely wounded and miraculously spared.  As an author, you have the power of life and death while writing. You can twist history and keep alive any character in order to continue the series book after book.

The show, as usual, flips back and forth from the past to present with rapidly changing scenes. In the present, Frank and pregnant Claire have moved to Boston and taken up residence. Claire is still in the past, refusing to allow Frank to touch her and retreats into a depressive shell.  When she has her daughter, things appear to mend for a brief moment as they recommit to one another to raising the child.  Let’s face it, Jamie lovers. Poor Frank has gotten the short end of the stick in Claire’s adventure. Regardless if he’s the spitting image of Black Jack, he’s a heartbroken man who has lost his wife to a ghost from the past. I cannot help but feel sorry for him.

The show begins to insert the reality of the times, too, where women were expected to be housewives at home and possess no opinions regarding the workplace or politics. As you know, Claire is far too outspoken to keep quiet and allow society’s norms to mold who she will become or how she should behave. It’s that part of her prickly and outspoken personality that occasionally rubs me the wrong way.

Nevertheless, lass, Outlander has returned. I’m hoping for less blood as the season continues, but once Claire starts cutting people up on the operating table, that will no doubt end.  And yes, your Jamie, wounded from battle lives on. I will give Sam a high-five for his performance on the battlefield and his moaning among a heap of bodies next to Black Jack.

If you can’t wait to watch each week, ditch your cable and sign up for Starz on Amazon. A link is off to the right.

Salvation (CBS 2017)

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Streaming on Amazon Prime is Salvation, another story about the earth doomed by a speeding asteroid on a trajectory to destroy the planet.  The first nine episodes are up for viewing, with three more on the way.

We have lived through Armageddon in 1998, Deep Impact in 1998, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, 2012, and a host of other movies and programs about the possibility of destruction. Now comes Salvation, a television program. After spending my entire Saturday and Sunday watching the nine episodes, I can’t say that it’s anything new except for a few screwy sub-plots of government overthrow and meteor weapons.

Though there is some nice eye candy for the ladies in the way of male characters, it is somewhat overshadowed by unbelievable aspects that ruin the moment. Santiago Cabrera plays Darius Tanz, the successful and rich entrepreneur who wants to start the first settlement on Mars and now is intent on saving the planet.  Ian Anthony Dale plays Harris Edwards, the Deputy Secretary of Defence, with Jennifer Finnigan as Grace Barrows, his girlfriend, and coworker. Charlie Rowe is Liam Cole the young geek who discovers the incoming asteroid, who appears to be the only one on the entire planet earth to have noticed its existence.  I guess Russia and the UK don’t have any telescopes or scientists that look to the stars very often.

The show morphs from somewhat entertaining and leaves a few cliffhangers and then changes to unbelievable and ridiculous plotlines and scenes that make no sense. If I don’t believe it’s possible, my interest goes out the door.  I’ve seen more convincing science fiction movies than Salvation, which frankly isn’t worth saving if it keeps the trajectory it’s on.  If the characters portrayed are really operating the government, and the USA has all this power to determine who lives and dies on planet earth when the asteroid collides, we are all in big trouble.  There is no collaboration here by the world governments to save the planet–only self-serving individuals using the impending doom to their own advantage.

Will it be renewed? Iffy. I don’t think I will be tuning in to find out.

The Passengers (Movie 2016)

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In anticipation of the new season of Outlander, I renewed my Starz subscription on Amazon last night. I do love being able to do that whenever I want to, rather than paying an exorbitant amount through my cable TV service for a bunch of channels I do not need. When the series that I want to watch is over, I just cancel it again and save $8.99 a month.

Anyway, I said all that to say that last night I watched the movie The Passengers on Starz, which I had not seen at the theatre.  I’m not much of a SFI freak, but this movie was somewhat interesting. It’s about a passenger ship streaming through outer space heading to a new planet. On board are 5,000, plus 200 plus crew members, in a hibernation inside individual pods to make the trip that will take longer than their earthly lives.

As the ship silently travels through space, it hits an asteroid belt.  The shields deflect what it can but some damage to the ship occurs.  As a result, one poor man, Jim Preston, played by Chris Pratt, wakes up ninety years too early and is stuck on a ship with no other life except one android bartender, robot floor sweepers, and hologram computers, talking to him as if he’s arrived at his destination.

After spending over a year alone, he does the unthinkable and awakens a beautiful girl out of a pod, Aurora Lane, played by Jennifer Lawrence. At first, he lies to her that she, too, is a victim of the ship’s malfunction.  When she finds out the truth, let’s just say she’s over-the-top angry.

As they travel along, falling in love, the ship continues to malfunction and finally, a crew member is also awakened, who has a short life. Eventually, they discover that the ship was damaged while going through the asteroid belt.  Jim and Aurora are the spaceship’s only hope of salvation from complete destruction.  See, all that angry emotion, and she would have died anyway.

I’ve never been a huge fan of Jennifer Lawrence and have no concrete reasons to say why.  Maybe it’s her voice.  Maybe it’s her looks.  Chris and Jennifer are an odd pairing on this lonely trip through space. Emotions are high once she learns he woke her up and ruined or life by relegating her to ninety years on a ship with no one but him and a robot bartender for company.

At the end of the movie, I really felt hanging in many ways as you never know how their lives played out after they save the ship. The last scene shows the remainder of the passengers waking up as they near their destination. I would have thought that Jim and Aurora might have had children who would have welcomed them, but alas you never find out what transpired those ninety years.  Did they grow old together? Who died first? How many kids did they have? Perhaps she took birth control.  Did they commit suicide? Did they wake up anyone else?  I guess we will never know.  Oh, well.  Whatever, it was probably a lonely ride through space.

Dunkirk (2017) Movie Review

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My experience watching Dunkirk can be described as follows:

  • I’ve arrived at the beach tired, hungry, and thirsty. My eyes scan the shoreline filled with thousands of British, Belgium, and French soldiers lined up for evacuation.  The beach is strewn with abandoned supplies of ammunition, field and anti-aircraft guns, and vehicles.
  • German aircraft fly over my head and drop bombs one after one in the sand. I duck for cover, bury my head. When it’s over, I’m alive but covered with debris and surrounded by dead bodies.
  • I’ve flown in the cockpit of a Spitfire, getting dizzy while it zoomed around in the sky.
  • I’ve engaged in aircraft dogfights with the Germans, flying over the Straits of Dover.
  • I’ve crashed my plane into the ocean and felt the desperation of attempting to survive.
  • I’ve climbed into naval ships that I thought would take me home only to find out they were my doom as I sank into the cold, dark waters.
  • I’ve been torpedoed.
  • I’ve nearly drowned multiple times.
  • I’ve been shot at by German bullets.
  • I’ve been sea sick from crossing the choppy waters in a small vessel.
  • I’ve swum in the burning oceans of oil.
  • I’ve been filled with fear, horror, desperation, deceitfulness, and witnessed heroism while attempting to escape.
  • And by the grace of God, I’ve survived with 300,000 others because I was rescued by a civilian in a private vessel.

Though historically Churchill called the retreat a “colossal military disaster,” Dunkirk the movie is an absolute success. It uniquely places the audience in the midst of the action, experiencing everything I’ve listed above. Though I did not see it on iMax (but I’m definitely going to do it anyway), I did watch it on the oversized curved screen at Regal known as RPX, on a lounge chair, with the floor vibrating underneath my seat and the explosions on the left and right vibrating my eardrums.  By the end of the movie, I was tearfully thankful for surviving but experienced Post Traumatic Stress Disorder via the big screen.

The movie flips back from scene to scene focusing on three subplots that play out during different timelines.  Initially, the focus is on a British soldier named Tommy who ends up at the beach as a sole survivor of a small band of British soldiers. He meets another soldier, and the two of them stick together throughout the movie, attempting to make their way home through evacuation.

The second theme focuses on Mr. Dawson, a civilian sailor, who joins the other fishing boats, pleasure crafts, and ferries who cross the channel and help rescue the stranded British army. Their story is about the journey, that includes his son and a young lad who joins them to help.

The third plot is flying above while you are crammed into the cockpit next to Tom Hardy (frankly no complaint there), while three planes attempt to shoot down the Germans dropping bombs on the ships and shoreline below and dogfighting with the pesky other Germans attempting to thwart the British defense.

While all of this plays out, you are surrounded by fantastic music by Hams Zimmer that makes you bite your nails in some scenes, wound your soul in others, and elicit tears at the end.   The characters in the movie are fictional, but the underlying story of Dunkirk is historically correct.  If you want to read more about it, visit that wonderful place called Wikipedia.

Don’t expect a lot of dialogue or extended character development.  Nolan has no intention of giving his audience those perks but rather an intense emotional up-front experience of war during an iconic moment in history.

In the end, Churchill’s speech is read from the newspaper by a survivor.

“We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”

Dunkirk is well directed, well produced, and well acted.  It is Oscar worthy and a must-see of Christopher Nolan’s extraordinary storytelling talent.

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