Mad Men (TV AMC 2007 – Present)

madmen 5 Kernels
 Nostalgia at Its Best
July 19, 2007 – Present
AMC Television

Stars:  Jon Hamm, Elisabeth Moss, January Jones, and many others

Since I’ve exhausted many of the British television shows on Netflix, Mad Men caught my eye as soon as I read that it was set in the 1960’s.  Ah, the 1960’s. I was 10 in 1960; graduated from high school in 1968.  Watching this television show brings back not only my childhood, but my teenage years as well.  Everything from Selectric typewriters, to switchboards, phones with blinking buttons, eating raw hamburger, and living with parents that smoked and drank as a normal part of life.

Set in New York City in the heyday of advertising agencies in Manhattan, it’s an eclectic weave of husbands, housewives, mistresses, secretaries, office politics, and account executives.  It reminds me of those days when anything went.  Men made sexual innuendos to the female office staff, booze was in the offices, and everyone smoked like a chimney. My first time someone flirted with me at my second job in 1969, the bank manager came up and told me I had “great legs.”  Then in 1972 my boss had me stay late one night and came up behind me and grabbed my breasts.  Wow, I could have sued had that happened today.

On top of the outlandish days of sexual harassment in the office, it’s mixed with the occurrence of segregation where Negros couldn’t ride in the elevators with the working staff unless given permission.  Everyone in the company was white – no mixing of the races like our modern offices today.  Jewish people were treated like aliens that couldn’t be understood.  Everyone drank and smoked.  I can remember my first boss in 1968 having a bottle of booze stashed in his desk drawer.  Most of the day he smelled of alcohol.

Then there were the women who stayed home – the housewives.  Always with their hair in place, their bouncy little dresses, their kids clean, their houses spotless, and dinner waiting on the table when their husbands came home.  They knew their place, and they kept their place whether they were miserable or happy. It was their way of life, along with eating prime rib and butter for dinner.  The men, of course, lived doubled lives of carousing with other women and having mistresses on the side in or out of the office setting. Married women, who met a divorced woman with two children living alone, was an unthinkable state of affairs.

The characters are wonderful, with their own back story of how their childhood and family has molded them into the adults they have become.  Each have their own personal struggles, whether it be with self-worth, a family they wish to forget, a wife with whom they are estranged, an overbearing mother who filled their daughters with expectations, or a father who doesn’t support their son’s career choice.  The stories are rich in their own right and filled with everybody’s pursuit of happiness in the 60’s, in one way or the other. Rather than worrying about their smoking, drinking, or butter on their plates, the Communists are the threats, as well as the thought of having a Catholic president.

I can’t tell you how utterly entertaining this show is, at least for me.  If you didn’t grow up in that era, you’ll probably find it very strange.  If you did, it will be like walking down memory lane, remembering your childhood, and no doubt your parents.  I can still see my mother who wore a dress every day, had dinner on the table, who hadn’t worked out of the home since World War II.  Yes, we have evolved in many ways.  Discrimination and sexism in the office is a thing of the past.  Feminism has taken the women out of the homes and made them executives along side men.  However, a part of me misses the simplicity of those days when life had different complications than we face today.

One of my favorites are the girls in the office and how they share the gossip.  A particular scene that had me rolling on the floor happened to be when one lady pulled from her purse the novel, “Lady Chatterley’s Lover,” and the women started talking about it.  Of course, it’s strictly taboo to read such a book that uses the words no lady would utter and contain such graphic sexual scenes in a book!  One woman asks if she can borrow it to read, and the advice was priceless.  “Don’t read it on the train.  It will attract all the wrong elements.”  What a hoot!  Reminded me of today and women reading Fifty Shades of Grey in public.  Things never really change in some aspects.  We just color it in a different light.

Anyway, highly recommend the show.  After finishing five seasons on Netflix, I’d like to slap Don Draper in his unzipped pants.  Nevertheless, I love the characters.

Flashpoint (Canadian TV 2008-2012)

4 Kernels

Television 2008-2012

 Stars:  Enrico Colantoni, David Paetkau, Hugh Dillon, Sergio Di Zio, Michael Cram, Mark Taylor and Ruth Marshall. Amy Jo Johnson

I’ve been through quite a few series on Netflix, which I watch more than current television.  Probably it’s because I’m not bombarded with commercials and can get through an hour-long show in 40 minutes.   I had seen reruns of Flashpoint a few times, but never got into the series.  Once again, after the fact, I’m tuning in and enjoying the show.

Let me preface this article by saying that personally, I am not a stranger to law enforcement.  My first marriage happened to be with a Detroit Police Officer, and my last boyfriend happened to be a County Coroner in California who wore full uniform and carried a gun. I’m acquainted with weapons, uniforms, badges, and the difficulty of loving someone on the force and how that can effect a man who risks his life everyday to keep you safe. I’ve even spent hours ironing those damn police shirts, too!

Flashpoint, for me, resurrects some of those memories, but frankly I think I’m just drawn to men in uniforms, bald or not.  Enrico Colantoni, who plays Sgt. Parker looks very much like my Coroner friend, who broke my heart I might add, as well as my first husband.  Quite strange.  :slaps self back to reality:

Anyway, on with the show.  I’m giving this tune-in a four-star rating, because I find it enjoyable, enjoy the characters, and am enthralled with the suspense. Canadians do a good job, as well, with television drama. I’ll add to those four stars that I have skipped over some episodes because of the content, such as an abduction of a child, the rough and tough drug lords, and the mean and lean boys on the streets. I gravitate more to the stories, which frankly are so true to heart, of men and women who come to that “flashpoint,” if you will, where they lose it due to their own stress and heartaches in life.  The breaking point comes when injustice has occurred, their lives have been tragically altered by another crime, or their love for a family member drives them to desperation.  They all tug at your heart.  Of course, the stories we don’t like to hear, are the psychopaths, who like recently, have gone over the edge and selfishly killed the innocent young.  The reality of those situations is heartache enough, and I don’t need to watch it played out on screen.

The team, is a mixture of personalities.  They all have private sub-plots of their lives integrated into the show, whether it’s their family, love life, or past heartaches.  However, they are a team when it comes to work.  In spite of their existence off the job,  they are a cohesive force to be dealt with when entering into a situation that calls for police intervention.  They are trained to talk-down rationally the individual who has gone over the edge, rather than saying “Scorpio” and killing them because there is no alternative to the situation or another life is in immediate danger.  However, there are times the word is uttered and one of the team takes them down.  It’s not a moment they enjoy, which I think adds to the heartfelt theme of the show.

The show is set in Toronto and all of the actors are Canadian, except for Amy Jo Johnson.  They play their parts well, their skills on the set are pretty awesome, and the guys look great in uniforms. What can I say?  I’m a sucker.

All of the seasons are great, however, the last one was probably the most moving of all.  Frankly, I cried at the last episode.  It was hard saying goodbye to Team One.  I felt “neutralized” after it ended, if you get my drift.

If you’re looking for a police show, this is pretty good one that you might enjoy.  Now that it’s ended, I’ll be back to surfing Netflix for another program to get sucked into.  That’s my life on my green recliner with my Sony television and Comcast cable when I should be working on my next novel!

Olympus Has Fallen (2013 Movie)

3 Kernels

Stars: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Finley Jacobsen, Dylan McDermott, Rick Yune, Morgan Freeman

My usual reviews, as you know, focus on older movies and television shows.  However, I just came back from eating half a bag of theater popcorn, without butter I might add, and thought I’d give you my two patriotic cents about Olympus Has Fallen.

Frankly, I avoid violent movies like the plague.  After seeing darling Gerard Butler in some not so great flicks these past few years, I thought I would see if he finally had a hit.  Though Gerard was one kick-ass American that literally saves the entire United States of America, I’m cautious to call this movie a blockbuster that will go down in history.

The premise begins with Banning, played by Gerard.  He’s the cool secret service man that talks into his wrist ordering those under him to protect the President of the United States.  He comes across as a serious dude, with a personality that blends well with the first family.  During Christmas at Camp David, a horrific car accident occurs and the President loses his wife.  Banning never forgives himself for not being able to save her, though the President holds no grudges.  However, as a result, he’s relegated to paper pushing with the Treasury as he broods over the past.

The story is somewhat one of redemption.  However, it takes a hostile take over by the Koreans to give Banning the opportunity to turn things around for himself personally.  He eventually becomes the hero of the day, through much kick-ass action, spot on shooting, and merciless killing of the enemy.  If that wasn’t bad enough, one of his comrades is a traitor, and he is faced with the awful realization he must kill him or be killed.

The movie is violent.  Terribly violent.  It could have been bloodier, but it tone down the gore factor overall.  However, as far as the number of rounds shot, picture the movie the Matrix.  Remember the scene in the lobby when the three heroes shoot the walls, pillars, and bad guys?  Multiple that about a thousand times, and I think you’ll have the number of shots fired.  There are also disturbing scenes of civilians and military killed, and also of torture and senseless hostage execution.  One beating scene of a woman is disturbing, but so is the psycho who beats her.

As far as the story goes, it’s action.  What can I say?  Could it really happen?  I thought a few things were quite impossible, such as the initial attack on the White House via air.  At least I hope it’s impossible, because if that’s all we got folks, we’re in trouble. Secret codes were given by the captives after the President ordered them to do so.  He didn’t have the stomach to watch his aides tortured or killed. Whatever happened to dying for your country? Why would the President encourage others to commit treason upon his orders?

:inserts spine chilling shudder over the thought: 

However, those scenes are necessary to set up the future catastrophe that lurks around the corner.

I also felt the timing of this movie was probably not the best, since North Korea has threatened us recently to nuke us off the face of the earth.  I sure hope they don’t rent the DVD and watch it, or it could tick them off, start a war, or give them ideas.  (Just kidding, of course.)

All in all, it was okay.  I found it exhausting, troubling, and patriotic.  Thank goodness we kicked ass and Banning saved us from annihilation.  Even though Gerry looks a bit bruised, cut, bloody, sweaty, and needs a shave, he’s still the man – toned and buffed. Where would we be, ladies, without Gerard Butler to save us?

Doomed.

And dearest Gerard, I would really like to see you in a romantic movie shaved, clean, in a suit, and dashingly handsome.  Pretty please? 

Gosford Park (2001 Movie)

4 Kernels

An Appetizer for Downton Abbey
 by Julian Fellowes

Stars:  Maggie Smith, Jeremy Northam, Michael Gambon,
Kristin Scott Thomas, Helen Mirren, Clive Owen, and Plenty of Others

All right, listen up all you Downton Abbey fans.  If you’re going through withdrawals, you need to head over to Netflix or Amazon and stream Gosford Park.  This is another goodie written by the author of Downton, none other than Julian Fellowes, who won an Oscar for Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen for this tale of upstairs, downstairs, with a who-done-it murder.

I haven’t watched this movie probably in 10 years.  Recently, I clicked play and was amazed at the similarities to Downton Abbey.  Julian has really recycled quite of bit of wit and charm from his former work.  If you watched it ten years ago, you may wish to dust it off once more.  Otherwise, if you haven’t seen it, you’ll enjoy the story.

The drama is set in 1932 and centers around a party in a country house in England. In scene one all the aristocratic guests arrive, accompanied by their various valets and ladies maids.  The rich head upstairs; the servants head downstairs.  In the lower level you’ll be surprised at the similarities of running a grand house with the head housekeeper and butler keeping everyone in line hiding their own dirty secrets. The usual bantering, jealousies, complaining, and sneaks are just as interesting as Downton, only shoved into a two-hour movie.

The upstairs are the usual aristocrats, and wonderful Maggie Smith is among them playing almost the same characteristics as she does in Downton Abbey.  I’m not surprise that Julian Fellowes continued her character almost identically.  One of her lines, which sounds just like the Dowager on Downton, is, “Me?  I haven’t a snobbish bone in my body.” Her character of Countess Trentham is quite enjoyable and filled with the same witty banter.

Of course, the house is filled with multiple guests, servants, and a murder of the stuffy and grumpy old Sir William McCordle, who is married to the much younger and annoying Lady Syliva McCordle. Their children and their guests make up an eclectic group of snobby aristocrats, an actor, and a film maker from California. The servants gossip about their employers, and Countess Trentham asks her ladies maid to tell her what the scoop is downstairs.  Sir William has been enjoying sexual encounters with his multiple maids in the dark corners of downstairs, bearing all sorts of illegitimate children. After dinner one evening, someone stabs Sir William, and the movie turns into the usual who-done-it search for the killer with a less than capable investigator.

I have a few favorite scenes, one of which is Jeremy Northam, who plays Ivor Novello, the movie star.  He sits at the piano and sings a variety of songs to swoon by with his dreamy velvet voice, while the guests play a game of bridge, drink, and relax after dinner uninterested. The servants enjoy the entertainment more than the stuffy guests and linger closely by to hear him sing as if they are starved to hear beautiful music.

The film itself won quite a few awards and was nominated for best picture at the Oscars, but did not win, but won plenty of accolades worldwide.  I think it really is a noteworthy two hours to watch now that we’re so caught up in Downton Abbey as written by Julian Fellowes. You’ll no doubt enjoy the world downstairs and upstairs, including the estranged aristocratic family and eclectic mixture of servants.  Many of them had reason to do Sir William in with a knife in his chest, but you’ll probably not realize who did it until the end with the surprising little twist.

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