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PAPILLON

 

pappion cover

Jeri Jacquin

In theatres this week from director Michael Noer and Bleeker Street is an epic escape from the man they call PAPILLON.

Henri ‘Papillon’ Charriere (Charlie Hunnam) is living the criminal life in France and seemingly enjoying it all with Nenette (Eve Hewson). His high life comes crashing down when he is accused of murder and sent to a penal colony in French Guiana.

On the way he meets counterfeiter Louis Dega (Rami Malek) and offers to be his security from the attack of others. Once at the prison, they are introduced to Warden Barrot (Yorick van Wageningen) who makes it plain that he will tolerate no breaking of the rules. Papillon tries to set up the best jobs with the money Dega has. It all seems to be going well until they duo hear from Deputy Gordon. The officer has a history with Dega and paybacks put the two into hard labor.

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Around heavy rock, explosive and other angry prisoners, Papillon is determined to find a way out. As he sees the extreme brutality of their incarceration and it only pushes him harder. Dega also makes it clear that he wants to leave any way possible but when a moment presents itself, Papillon leaves him behind.

Back at the prison, the Warden makes it clear that what Papillion will experience next is not rehabilitation but the insanity of silence. Two years later and Papillon and Dega meet once again and the plan picks up where they left off. This time they enlist the help of Celier (Roland Moller), Maturette (Joel Basman) and a boat.

Free on an island Papillon meets a nun who help the survivors of the boat escape to recuperate but it is short lived. Five years later Papillon and Dega reunite on Devil’s Island with no bars and no real guards. Just learning to survive in the harshest conditions and still burning with the idea of escape.

One more time – one more chance!

Hunnam as Papillon reaches out to every spectrum of human emotion in the over two hour span of story telling. To the crazy years never-a-care years in France, to what he must do to survive the prison, two years of solitary confinement, torture, near starvation and darkness. Every bit of it shows in Hunnam’s portrayal and at times it’s disturbing to witness. He carries the full weight of this film and it shows in every frame.

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Malek as Dega is clearly a man who has never been in a situation to need protection but quickly realizes its Papillon that can provide it. The problem is Dega consistently forces others to take up his slack forcing his protector to protect overtime. As each day passes, Dega becomes wiser and a little more taking of a punch. Malek gives his stoic character life when it needs it and acceptance when all else fails.

Wageningen as Barrot is a man determined to run a prison with an iron fist. He is not about to let Papillon change any of that. Finding more and more way to try and break him, it is not an easy feat with the strong willed man.

Moller as Celier is just as crafty as they come knowing Papillon is the guy to make it happen. Riding his coattails out the prison door is exactly what he intends to do. Basman as Maturette is the boyish young man who is just as deadly as the company he is keeping.

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Other cast include Nina Senicar as the Leper, Michael Socha as Julot, Christopher Fairbank as Jean Castili, Ian Beattie as Toussaint, Nick Kent as Brioulet, and Brian Vernel as Guittou.

In 1973, Steve McQueen took on the role of Papillon and along with Dustin Hoffman proved he was the perfect leading man to handle the telling of director Franklin J. Schaffner’s vision. For it’s time it was ground breaking as the film garnered an Oscar Nomination for Best Music Original Dramatic Score and a Golden Globe nomination for Steve McQueen.

Forty-five years later we have a darker telling with Hunnam and Malek digging even deeper into the lives of these two men and a place that is equal to hell on earth. The film is grim in the cinematography to match the story and where it takes us. It is harsh, intense, and a momentary reunion between two SOA (FX’s series Sons of Anarchy) brothers that tugged at my heart.

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PAPILLON is a book written by Henri Charriere published in France in 1969 about his 14 years in prison. It became a best seller and is still considered today one of the best books published. Charriere would spend the rest of his life in Venezuela as a free man with his story written and seen on the screen.

In the end – this is the greatest escape adventure ever told!

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Continue the Adventure with Beloved Characters as SONG OF THE DARK CRYSTAL Arrives

song of the

 

Jeri Jacquin

In bookstores this week from Penguin Random House are beloved characters that have been lovingly cared for by writer J.M. Lee with the release of Song of the Dark Crystal.

The year was 2013 when The Jim Henson Company along with Grosset & Dunlap of the Penguin Young Readers Group put out the call for author submissions. The Dark Crystal Author Quest sought a prequel to Jim Henson’s 1982 iconic The Dark Crystal. Seeking a new novel over 500 writers took up the challenge.

It would be J.M. Lee’s story The Ring of Dreams that would take the prestigious Author Quest and lead to Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal: Shadows of the Dark Crystal. Released in 2016, the story is years before The Dark Crystal in Thra as Naia, a young Gelfling, takes on the quest of proving the accusation of her twin brother’s treason to be false.

Her journey leads her to clues to prove his innocence but also something dark is in Thra and Naia is headed straight into the heart of it. You’re thinking ‘that’s it?…going to leave me hanging like that?’ The answer to that is – would I do that to you?

This week J.M. Lee brings readers of all ages back to the lands of Gelfling with Jim Henson’s Song of the Dark Crystal. The journey from Thra to the Gelfling Capital is even more intense as Naia seeks to warn others about the Skeksis. It won’t be easy as something is following them making trusting anyone difficult.

Born and raised in Minnesota (one of my favorite states), Lee is also a graduate from the University of Minnesota with a degree in linguistics. He has not only taken up the mantle of The Dark Crystal but also is the writer and creative consultant on the Netflix prequel series The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance.

I had the wonderful opportunity to speak with author J.M. Lee about his own journey into The Dark Crystal as its new story teller and keeper of reader’s dreams.

Jeri Jacquin: Good morning Joe, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me this morning.

Joe Lee: Thank you too.

JJ: I’m very excited to talk to you because my kids have been fans of The Dark Crystal since forever. They are in their mid-30s now so that tells you how long that fandom has been going on.

JL: That’s so great.

JJ: Tell me how you got involved with writing the next chapters of The Dark Crystal storyline?

JL: Sure, in 2013 Grosset & Dunlap sent out a call for submissions specifically for this project. My agent emailed me letting me know it was going on and wanted to know if I’d be interested. She didn’t know this but The Dark Crystal was one of my favorite movies growing up as well. So I said ‘yes I do’ and read what they were looking for. I wrote my submission and a couple of years later the first book Shadows of the Dark Crystal came out. That’s how that happened and here we are with the second book Song of the Dark Crystal coming out.

JJ: When you were writing your submission, that had to not only be intense but you are delving into something so iconic.

JL: Absolutely, when I first was reading through the material that was presented for the submission I had seen the movie but didn’t know there were so many other publications produced. There were the graphic novels and so it was all pretty new to me. I was very excited to know there was so much existing mythology for The Dark Crystal so I nerded out on it. There is so much extended world information. At the time when I was first writing my submission there wasn’t that pressure yet, it was more just entering a contest. I think it was when Penguin called me and said I was a finalist and wanted to know where I would take the story as a full length novel that I began to feel the pressure. It was very intense in the beginning but I think now I’ve become acclimated to it. I think there is so much that I wanted to make sure it was on brand and cannon.

JJ: Did you know that you were going to get so involved even further into it as you are now?

JL: No, I had no idea! The original contest was for one novel and when we were wrapping up Shadow’s of the Dark Crystal my editor came to me and said, ‘it just occurred to me to ask if you wanted to do more, I just assumed you did’. I said absolutely and the books were happening and then the involvement on the television series was a total treat and a surprise for me. The whole thing has been a fun and crazy ride.

JJ: Speaking of the series that had to be the ultimate geek-out! In my family you have three generations of The Dark Crystal fans so watching your words spring into being had to be amazing.

JL: The book writing process is so long, it takes time to write and edit and it can be years between writing a book and finding it on the shelf. You think you are ready for it but there is something so special seeing a book on a shelf in a store and especially seeing The Dark Crystal logo on it. There is something that doesn’t feel totally official until you see it in a story, it’s like magic.

JJ: The interest part of this for me is that kids still want to actually read a book, with all the technology out there it’s easy to get away from an actual hold-in-your-hand book. It is amazing to see the ‘new’ generation of kids reading The Dark Crystal and you are responsible.

JL: I was at a teen literature conference here in the Twin Cities and it was on a Saturday held at a high school. I wondered how they were going to get teens to come back to their high school on a Saturday. It was packed! The kids were so excited to meet authors and to buy books and to share with each other. They were having the best time and I am so happy to be part of that. I think that there is something so special about fiction for young people. There is something about the way teens love fiction and especially love books. There is some sort of notion with adults that there is a pressure to choose which book is the best and which ones aren’t and with kids all books are the best. They have arms full of books from all different genres but they are going to love them equally. To be able to give them more stuff that they love is why I write.

JJ: That’s thrilling to me watching kids get focused on a series of books, and I know a few kids like that who love a certain writer or story and turn their rooms into libraries. Don’t need to paint the walls just put up book cases and books become the paint and you are now part of that so congratulations sir.

JL: Thank you and let me say I’m so happy to be here.

JJ: To go back into the world of The Dark Crystal you said you had to do research of your own, was that process difficult because you don’t want to repeat what is already there. You want to bring your own vision into the mix as well so was that on your mind as part of the process, finding that balance between the source material and are your own thoughts?

JL: It was definitely part of the process. I’m a very collaborative person and I’ve done it with other writers and other situations like this. I really enjoy the collaborative aspect and in my opinion the more the merrier to a point. The one thing I really appreciated about that is that The Dark Crystal books had a story that was unique to them but also fit into the mythology of The Dark Crystal world. So there is definitely a balance that had to be found that was a balance between were can we go that we haven’t gone before and a great opportunity before me. This is the first time that a novel that would be in this mythology. You can do a lot in a novel that you can’t do in a graphic novel and vice versa so there was a lot of opportunity there. There is also maintaining The Dark Crystal world and I wanted to make sure that it is true to The Dark Crystal, it’s true to the film and it’s true to the character of the property. I would never say that it was a challenge really in the sense that it prevented me from writing something. In every case where I ever felt I needed to search for new material, there was something there that existed in The Dark Crystal. So it was more of collaboration rather than a challenge.

JJ: I told people I was speaking to you this morning and I just mention the words The Dark Crystal and there are gasps. They are very curious to know what’s in the story and of course they worry about losing their childhood memory of the original. They want things to be as they were and yet at the same time they want the story to grow.

JL: Yes, I think there is some anxiety from the fan base because every time something new comes out from an existing storyline they get nervous wondering if they are going to like it. I would say speaking for myself that whenever I would worry about letting fans down or not doing it right I think to myself that The Dark Crystal means as much to me as it does to a person who is a creator in that world. That is the same with anyone that I have worked with who is part of The Dark Crystal, we are all fans first which is why we want to do this. I think that whenever I would get stressed out by that pressure I go to the feeling that I love The Dark Crystal and that’s why I’m doing this – I am a fan. That always pointed me in the right direction thinking as a fan what would I want to read about or see. That has served me pretty well.

JJ: I think that is very important to tell the readers who are waiting for this. You are a fan and you embrace it as much as they do and knowing that should alleviate their anxiety. Now that you are engrained and you can’t get away, from The Dark Crystal world where do you see this going for you?

JL: I don’t really know because there are so many places to take The Dark Crystal. There is endless opportunities and from a nerd perspective <which made me laugh>, seriously if you look at the mythology of The Dark Crystal it’s a huge universe, a huge world and a huge timeline. There are nooks and crannies that we can explore so it’s up to Jim Henson and everyone involved who want to know where we can go next and I’m here for that and totally up for it.

JJ: I’m giggling to because this is Comic Con week so this is the best place for The Dark Crystal to be and there is always a group dressed as the characters. I love what they do because you can see the love they have for the characters and story being part of their lives. The best part right now is I’m talking to the person keeping that story alive and now that you’ve done it everyone is going to expect you to stay!

JL: That’s alright, I’m here and ready!

JJ: When people of all ages come across Song of the Dark Crystal what would you like them to take away from the story?

JL: For me as a child, The Dark Crystal had a couple of major take-aways that have lasted a lifetime for me. I think that one of the major themes from The Dark Crystal film is one that I have been trying to really reinforce in the books which is harmony. The harmony between people and their different ideas or the harmony between the land, the earth and the people who are here to take care of it. There is always the idea of challenges or problems but that harmony is the key to solving or surmounting those challenges. That is the big concept takeaway. The smaller level take away is that everybody has something special about them that they can use to make the world a better place.

JJ: I like that, that’s really important because most of the young readers are looking for is someone to say ‘it’s okay!’ and it’s okay to have a love of the written word and it’s okay that you are not on a computer or playing a video game. Most of all that it’s okay to pick up a book and go into another world.

JL: I think the main character of Shadow in the first book is a tough, athletic girl and she is trying to find her place in the world. The main character in the Song of the Dark Crystal that is coming out tomorrow actually is kind of a bookworm and sort of a nerd. The book is about how he doesn’t have to be like his friends in order to be important or to have something to say in about helping the world. It’s about embracing who you are even if that’s a bookworm and that story is close to my heart.

JJ: Congratulations on the book and I can’t wait to jump back into that world and see where you will take us next.

JL: Thank you!

After speaking with Joe I am anxiously waiting for the book to be in my own hands. The Dark Crystal is part of our family as well and I am always ready to pass down to my grandkids the love of adventure through holding a book in their hands. In this world of The Dark Crystal are themes of loyalty, trust, relationships, good vs. evil and most of all learning to be true to one’s self.

Lessons we all truly need to embrace and, on occasion, remind ourselves that it is still truly possible. This week from J.M. Lee and Penguin Random House is a reason to curl up in our favorite chairs and go on an adventure with The Dark Crystal.

 

MOTOWN 25: Yesterday Today Forever Is the Ultimate Box Set on DVD

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Jeri Jacquin

Coming to DVD from Time Life is one of the most talked about television specials that brings groundbreaking performances with MOTOWN 25: Yesterday Today Forever.

In May of 1983, NBC had no idea that what people were about to see on television would become legendary! MOTOWN 25: Yesterday Today Forever took to the airwaves bringing those who love the Motown sound on a journey like no other.

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It would be the show that introduced us all to the jaw dropping performance of Michael Jackson and the Moonwalk move. Also called ‘the six seconds that changed the world’, Jackson’s move was talked about for years after and imitated by many but never to the perfection of Jackson.

As someone who absolutely loves Marvin Gaye, his performance of What’s Going On is soulful and stunning. Smokey Robinson is right behind him as Tears of a Clown when no one else is around. Also, this DVD also allows us once again to dance the Miracles and the Supremes and laugh with Richard Pryor.

The collection is a six-disc set with extended version of the legendary concert with new 5.1 Surround Sound, over 14 hours of Bonus Features and an Exclusive 48-Page Collector’s Book.

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The Bonus Features include Signed, Sealed, Delivered – The Making of Motown 25 which tells the behind-the-scenes story of the making of the concert, and offers new insight into the rise of Motown and its roster of influential stars, Rare footage of Marvin Gaye ad-libbing at the piano prior to a soulful version of What’s Going On, Stevie Wonder rehearsal footage, Nine Featurettes, Including “What’s Going On: Marvin Gaye, Come and Get These Memories: Inside Hitsville and Dancing in the Streets: The History of Motown.

There is also A 2-Part Motown 25 Performers Roundtable featuring Smokey Robinson and Duke Fakir (Four Tops), Otis Williams (The Temptations) and Executive Producer Suzanne de Passe, taped at the location of the original concert, the Pasadena Civic Auditorium. A “Yesterday Today Forever” Production Roundtable with de Passe, Director/Producer Mischer and others, finally Over 25 exclusive interviews with performers and crew including Claudette Robinson (The Miracles), Martha Reeves (Martha & the Vandellas), Smokey Robinson, Nelson George, Gloria Jones, Adam Ant, Buz Kohan (Head Writer), David Goldberg (Executive in Charge of Production), Mickey Stevenson (Former Head of A&R Songwriter), Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis (Songwriters/Producers) and many more.

 Time Life has brought this never before released anywhere classic collection of the series to fans. For more of what Time Life has to offer fans of classic television visit www.timelife.com.

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TUBS OF POPCORN: I give MOTOWN 25: Yesterday Today Forever five tubs of popcorn out of five. Seriously? Did you think I’d give it any less? This is one of the most musically stunning box sets I’ve ever had the pleasure to watch and listen too.

 A live audience witnesses it first but this collection allows fans to witness it with so much more. There is over 20 additional minutes of footage not seen in the original broadcast that is extremely cool to watch.

What makes this collection even more special is the 48-page collection booklet that delves in deeper to the show, the artists and never-before-seen photos. The essays on the Motown performers is what intrigues me because it allows me greater insight to the music that I might not have considered before.

So push away the living room furniture, make room and prepare to put on your dancing shoes for MOTOWN 25: Yesterday Today and Forever!

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WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT

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Jeri Jacquin

In theatres this Friday from directors Glenn Ficarra, John Requa and Paramount Pictures comes a story based on the book by Kim Baker with WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT.

Kim Baker (Tina Fey) works for a news service sitting behind a desk. When the opportunity comes to shake up her life, she is assigned to Kabul, Afghanistan to cover stories about stories of interest. Immediately after landing, Kim begins to doubt that she can fit in until she is introduced to Tanya Vanderpoel (Margot Robbie) who takes Kim under her wing and introduces her to her new environment.

She is assigned driver Fahim (Christopher Abbott) who has connections and introduces Kim to Ali Massoud Sadiq (Alfred Molina) who immediately shows signs of having a crush on her. With the help of the military including General Hollanek (Billy Bob Thornton), Kim embeds and takes the initiative to find the stories in the middle of the war.

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When Kim discovers her boyfriend is cheating, she decides it is time to let loose and that’s when an unlikely relationship with photographer Iain MacKelpie (Martin Freeman) begins. When Kim’s network begins rejecting her stories, she takes matters into her own hands and discovers that the one person she has come to rely on has another agenda.

With each risk she takes to get the story, the more other are worried about how she is handling herself. But when Iain is kidnapped, Kim becomes stronger that everyone imagined.

Fey as Kim jumps into this role and gives a solid and serious performance. Even with moments of humor, Fey is delightful to watch. I enjoyed watching her create a little mischief and portray Kim as a strong woman who is proving her worth to herself. The relationships she creates are with people who truly care and, to be honest, who wouldn’t care about Fey!

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Freeman as Iain just threw me for a loop. First of all I have a weakness for Irishmen so his accent really got to me. More importantly, I didn’t see his other characters mixing in here. It was an awesome shock and I thoroughly loved him in this role. He gave a sharpness and humor along with snappy wit that just made me love this character and Freeman even more.

Robbie as Vanderpoel seems to fit right into the action in Afghanistan. She also knows the people and how to have a good time in the middle of a war AND being a woman. Molina as Sadiq is so creepy I can’t even stand it.

Abbott as Fahim is a man who is true to his people and deeply cares about Kim. Wanting to help her get the stories, he also sees the trouble that she is creating for herself by not listening to those who know better. Just a lovely character.

Thornton as Hollanek cracked me up totally. Yes, he is a strong military man who is doing his job, but there are moments with Fey where I can’t wait to hear what he is going to say next. Strong and silent type in this character and Thornton does it well.

Other cast include: Nicholas Braun as Tall Brian, Stephen Peacocke as Nic, Sheila Vand as Shakira Khar, Evan Jonigkeit as Specialist Coughlin, Fahim Anwar as Jaweed, Josh Charles as Chris, Scott Takeda as Ed Faber, Eli Goodman as Tucker Wang and Cherry Jones as Geri Taub.

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TUBS OF POPCORN: I give WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT four tubs of popcorn out of five. First of all I’m sure the first thing that will be asked is what is WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT – well, that’s WTF right? It’s actually a perfect title for the film. There are a few times I think I said that to myself during the film! Fey gives a fantastic performance playing this character with depth, fun, a little craziness and thoughtfulness.

In 2011 Kim Baker wrote “The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan” which is the memoir of her time in Afghanistan.

In the end – the world and war is bigger than she ever imagined.

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