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HBO Brings a Riveting Series with CHERNOBYL

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Jeri Jacquin

Currently on HBO is a five-part series created by Craig Mazin and director Johan Renck to tell the story of the 1986 disaster we all know as CHERNOBYL.

In April of 1986, an explosion rocks the Soviet Union in more ways than one. A nuclear power plant known as Chernobyl has exploded and from the moment it happened, no one realized exactly how devastating it would all become.

With a cast that stars Jared Harris as scientist Valery Legasov, it is his knowledge of what he saw once called in for his expertise by Boris Shcherbina played by Stellan Skarsgard that is riveting. Adding Emily Watson as Ulana Khomyuk, another scientist who fills in even more terrifying news that has so far rounded out those in the know about what to do next.

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Director Renck doesn’t leave a single thing out in the way of devastation both to the building and the human beings left inside trying to discover how bad it is. Once Legasov and Shcherbina comes together, they are the brain and the mouthpiece that need to convince Mikhail Gorbachev (David Dencik) that action, although late, needs to be swift.

From the moment of the explosion, reality may be in front of the eyes of the crew and firefighters with an almost instant effect, but it is those in charge who fail to accept what is truly happening.

That is another riveting aspect of CHERNOBYL, watching the average citizen slowly become aware that something is seriously wrong and knowing at the same time it is unlikely their government would tell them the truth. One woman who isn’t about to wait around for answers is Lyudmilla Ignatenko (Jessie Buckley), wife of firefighter Vasily (Adam Nagaitis).

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There is no doubt that CHERNOBYL does not have happy moments in the first few episodes because there can’t be. In fact what the first few episodes show us is nothing short of a hellish nightmare filled with not only the instant horror but the horror to come for the people living around the plant and other countries in the path of a nuclear cloud.

Harris as Legasov knows immediately what they are up against but also knows that he has a partial gag in being allowed to speak. There is a presence in Harris’ performance that is just short of him wanting to scream out the truth yet has the good sense to tread lightly. That is until its time to not treat lightly. His performance continues to astound me and I can not wait to see the final three episodes.

Skarsgard is one of my favorite actors and in this role he gets a chance to play both sides against the middle. Almost immediately believing Legasov (especially when he sees with his own eyes what has happened at the power plant), Skarsgard takes his character to a dangerous place and that is in making decisions without the direct approval of Gorbachev.

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Watson as Ulana comes in before an even larger disaster takes place. She becomes the second scientific voice of reason and both Legasov and Shcherbina trust her immediately. Watson continues to choose roles that are challenging and I enjoy everything she does and CHERNOBYL is brilliant.

The cast is filled with outstanding performances that also include Paul Ritter as Anatoly Dyatlov, Sam Troughton as Aleksandr Akimov, Robert Emms as Leonid Toptunov, Adam Lundgren as Vyacheslav Brazhnik, Karl Davies as Viktor Proskuryakov, Jay Simpson as Valery Perevozchenko, Billy Postlethwaite as Boris Stolyarchuk, and Adrian Rawlins as Nikolai Formin.

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Also starring Con O’Neill as Viktor Bryukhanov, Donald Sumpter as Zharkov, Barry Keoghan as Pavel, Ralph Ineson as Nikolai Tarakanov, Mark Jones as Vladimir Pikalov, Alex Ferns as Blukhov, Michael Colgan as Mikhail Shchadov, Alan Williams as Chairman Charkov and David Dencik as Mikhail Gorbachev.

The show is jaw dropping and even heart breaking in the story it tells. When looking for a show that is absolutely worthy of your time, might I suggest you tune in and see for yourself as CHERNOBYL can be seen on HBO.

 

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GENIUS: The Last Chapter from National Geographic

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Jeri Jacquin

In a special two-hour presentation from National Geographic on June 20th at 9/8c is the finale of an amazing story developed by Noah Pink and Kenneth Biller with GENIUS: The Last Chapter.

Albert Einstein (Geoffrey Rush) and wife Elsa (Emily Watson) are settling in America but they constantly are thinking of those they left behind in Europe. Unsettling for Einstein is that scientists in Nazi Germany continue to study the splitting of the atom. He himself continues to work through quantum physics.

That all must be put aside when Elsa becomes ill and Einstein’s life becomes even more complicated. Being rushed by all sides to help with the formula needed for the atomic bomb, Einstein continues to avoid them all. He also becomes emotionally close to Marija Ruzic-Maric (Catherine McCormack) and doesn’t realize that there are two sides to her.

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Edgar Hoover (T.R. Knight) is one man who wants to see Einstein sent back to Germany. Feeling the scientist humiliated him, it becomes Hoover’s goal to ruin the man. In 1947, scientists come together to try and contain the use of atomic bombs. Einstein doesn’t believe their use can be contained but sees it all as a threat to humanity.

With his lifetime of work, Einstein is brought face to face with an outburst from his son Hans that every member of the family knows he sees them as a burden. To make matters worse, Einstein is outraged when one of their scientists is forced before a committee for communism.

Eleanor Roosevelt brings Einstein before a television audience so that he may give his view on what bombs can do and Hoover becomes outraged. Personal secretary Helene (Emily Laing) is worried about Einstein as his heath begins to wane but his voice to reach out against man’s destruction is what he has left.

When a letter to a judge falls into the hands of Congress, the papers begin to denounce Einstein much to Hoover’s delight. All of the bad press sends the scientist into a sort of quiet seclusions. That is until a young girl named Alice knocks on his door to remind him of how exciting mathematics is and it’s like an awakening for him taking on the unified theory.

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Learning of his illness, Helen encourages Einstein to reach out to his son and say the things that needs to be said between the two. It isn’t easy for him but it is a moment shared by father and son never to be forgotten. Albert Einstein would pass away in 1955.

To Einstein, every question must have an answer – and he wanted to find them!

Rush as Einstein is absolutely amazing. He might be one of the smartest men on the planet but he is equally flawed and Rush doesn’t hide that in his performance. From his frustration with his work, to the love of his wife, the constant pressure from the government and believing there was no hope for reuniting with his son – this is a performance that can only be called stunning.

Watson as Elsa is a woman who understands the complexities of her husband. That doesn’t mean she agrees with his behaviors but she forgives him in her own way for it all. McCormack as Marija offers Einstein a chance to love again but his heart gets in the way of the realities.

Laing as Helene is the one constant and steady thing in Einstein’s life and Elsa knew that before she died. She is the backbone of his life and I personally can’t imagine Einstein being able to keep his life going without her. Well done Laing in playing a role that isn’t front and center but is one of the most important in the series.

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National Geographic has brought a series that is a must-see for everyone. It is a story about the history of one man yes, but it is also the story of those around him. Knowing that it isn’t easy to being partly responsible for creating the road to destruction but Einstein tries to undue what he can.

GENIUS. The Last Chapter is from Academy Award-Winners Brian Grazer and Ron Howard which is thrilling in itself but adding Academy Award winner Geoffrey Rush is nothing short of brilliant. Based on the book Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson, there is so much that I never knew about this man. This finale doesn’t leave any stone unturned in telling the life of this complex man.

In the end – he wanted to answer the secrets of the universe!

A ROYAL NIGHT OUT is a Delight on DVD!

 

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Jeri Jacquin

On DVD this week from director Julian Jarrold and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment comes the sharing of Mother’s Day with V.E. Day and the release of A ROYAL NIGHT OUT.

It is V.E. Day in 1945 and Europe is being celebrated by all! That is except for Princess Elizabeth (Sarah Gadon) and Princess Margaret (Bel Powley) living in Buckingham Palace. On the night their father the King (Rupert Everett) is to deliver a speech, the girls want to go out into the world.

Their mother the Queen (Emily Watson) can’t believe what she is hearing. The King wants the girls to be with him when the speech is made, but thinks it’s the one time he understands their need to get out. Since the Queen is being out flanked, she calls in Lt. Pryce (Jack Laskey) and Lt. Burridge (Jack Gordon) to be the girls escort.

This doesn’t sit well with the girls since they had plans to crash a party at the Chelsea Barracks but will take any outing they can get. Elizabeth is the responsible sister and it takes all of two seconds before Margaret not only goes her own way but sends her sister on a wild chase to find her.

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The most unlikely of heroes finds Elizabeth, Jack Hodges (Jack Reynor) is on the streets celebrating V.E. day but has a chip on his shoulder about it all. Of course he doesn’t realize that he’s begrudgingly helping a Princess!

The night is young and so are they but when your father is a King things can get tricky!

Gadon as Princess Elizabeth is so beautiful, smart and charming with a touch of elegance I would expect of someone playing the role of the future Queen of England. The costuming and hair just gives Gadon the weaponry she needed to bring this role to life. So very well done in every aspect.

Powley as Princess Margaret is a handful from the word go! She is a little goofy, very trusting and doesn’t know trouble when it’s staring her in the face. Not only did Powley make me laugh a lot but worry for her just as much as Elizabeth!

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Rupert as the King is quietly endearing and touches once again on the speech troubles of King George VI but not in a large way. Instead, Rupert gives us a look at his role as a father of two young girls. I really enjoyed his performance, especially when he meets Jack.

Watson as the Queen is every bit as uptight as I would think a Queen would be. She is stern and smart until she is outsmarted a bit by her daughters. Laskey as Lt. Pryce and Gordon as Lt. Burridge are both hilarious. When chaperoning the Princesses goes bottoms up, what are two soldiers to do?

Two stand out characters are Roger Allam as Stan the friendly off-the-beaten-path club owner who takes P-2 (as he calls her) under his wing. Finally, Ruth Sheene as Jack’s Mom, I have to give a shout out to sweet Moms and Sheene is so cute.

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Other cast includes: Mark Hadfield as Mickey, Geoffrey Streatfeild as Jeffers, Annabel Leventon as Lady MacCloud, Debra Penny as Clippie and Ruth Sheene as Jack’s Mom.

Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment brings award-winning global product and new entertainment to DVD, Bluray, and Digital HD. There amazing collection offers fans an opportunity to expand their own home libraries with the best films. To discover what other titles they have please visit www.fox.com.

TUBS OF POPCORN: I give A ROYAL NIGHT OUT four tubs of popcorn out of five. I am so pleasantly surprised by this film because of how absolutely charming it is. Not only is the storyline fun but being a period piece adds so much to the telling. This is exactly the type of film that I would enjoy watching with my family.

The costuming is quite breathtaking from the gowns of the Princess’ to the uniforms. I notice those things in particular because if you want to whisk me away to a certain time in a story, get those two things right and I’m all in. That is the case with A ROYAL NIGHT OUT.

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I also love this cast! There isn’t a character out of place as I continually smiles, laughed and awww’d my way through the film. The film is inspired by a true story but takes a little fictional leeway that doesn’t bother me in the slightest. If anything it is fun thinking of what might be true about that night in 1945.

Break out the popcorn and tiaras for a night of country, family, sisters and new friends with A ROYAL NIGHT OUT on DVD.

In the end – it isn’t easy being the future Queen of England!

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