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CHASING THE MOON in Three Parts comes to PBS with American Experience

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Jeri Jacquin

Coming to PBS July 8th-10th from American Experience and Academy Award Nominee writer/director/producer Robert Stone is the six-hour series celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the moon landing with CHASING THE MOON.

Part One – A Place Beyond the Sky begins the series in the 50s and 60s with the thoughts of astronauts regarding going to space. Neil Armstrong made his indelible and small speech before planting his boot on the moon surface and in his words ring true today. Little did he realize it is used in so many other forms to recognize that we are in a very big universe.

There was a time when people could not fathom “being born on this planet and then taking off for another world”. The world was taking on a new identity and the people in it reflecting on how nothing could possibly ever be the same.

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Beginning with Russia and Sputnik, it pushed the US to do one better than the enemy. It also brought fear of war and destruction. When Sputnik II was launched, the American fear becomes even greater as rumors of what they could do next before the US – the moon.

The Vanguard Project was sent up first followed by Jupiter C. Scientist Wernher von Braun from Germany was considered a hero and not a hero all at the same time. World War II brought 120 of the best scientists from that country to be part of looking for a way to space. Becoming a consultant on films about space, von Braun would even help Walt Disney with his theme park.

Project Orion and Freeman Dyson were called in to work on it. Flights and living for years exploring space was their goal. Russia also brought in German scientists to expand their space program. When it didn’t work out, the Germans are sent home which benefitted the US. In 1959, Nixon and Khrushchev talked between each other in harsh terms at the Worlds Fair in Moscow about space.

Then the introduction of the Mercury astronauts with John H. Glenn, Alan B. Shepard, Virgil I. ‘Gus’ Grissom, Malcolm S. Carpenter, Leroy Gordon Cooper, Wally Schirra, and Donald K. Slayton. As the training of these men goes on, Russia sends a cosmonaut up in 1961. President John F. Kennedy isn’t happy and von Braun tells him they can make it to the moon first. The Saturn rocket then comes into being.

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Alan Shepard starts as the first man in space and makes sure it is done live. Still, another cosmonaut makes his way into space and President Kennedy gives NASA the money to get to the moon. Construction in Florida brings people out in droves because of NASA. The excitement builds as John Glenn is the first US astronaut to go into orbital flights.

Television and journalists like Walter Cronkite brought space into homes of the average American. The intensity of interest from the public was kept in the forefront. Bobby Kennedy wanted to bring an African-American astronaut on board as Capt. Edward Dwight was brought into training.

In Houston, the families came to live and formed their own ‘space’ family. The Mercury men were young pilots and had to be watched. It was 1962 when the decision was made to go from the earth to the moon while transporting a vehicle for moon exploration. President Kennedy thought to have joint missions to the moon with the Soviets as both sides wanted it to happen. All of that changed on November 22, 1963. After that the idea was silenced.

In Part II – Earthrise – President Lyndon Johnson took up the mantle for the space program, even picking up the JFK mantle of Soviet cooperation. Now, the Soviets were behind the US in the space race. The Gemini Project brings computers aboard in outer space. A serious problem was that reporters were starting to question why space and at what cost? NASA had to do what they could to keep the public relations good with the public.

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With each Gemini launch, NASA was getting closer to the moon. The Gemini 8 launch was the first craft to have problems as the ship rolled out of control. Neil Armstrong brought it all home with his cool head and abilities. The final Gemini 12 launches with Buzz Aldren and James Lovell and becomes successful in teaching how to train for space.

The first Apollo mission crew is announced with Gus Grissom, Ed White, Roger B. Chaffee. Then tragedy as none ever expected even though the astronauts all knew it was possible. The affect on the other astronauts caused stresses that went down to family members. They were a family and now their family was broken.

NASA dealt with a media nightmare that once again brought into question of ‘why space?’ But 1968 brought civil unrest and wars to the forefront of life yet NASA still wouldn’t let go. The Saturn 5 was conceived to put men on the moon.

And what a show! Now the interest in once again peaked by the media and a shot of the moon to beat the Russians right in front of them. The accelerated Apollo 8 brought an orbit of the moon. One person there from the beginning was also the first woman, Poppy Northcutt, in a very serious job. Now Anderson, Borman and Lovell, who are inside the powerful rocket, finally bring a dream to reality. Of course doing it at 25,000 miles an hour. Once in space, there would be a television camera on board that give the people of Earth a good look at what they had all been waiting for.

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Once home, people celebrated and cheered after a year of sadness in the country.

Part III – Magnificent Desolation – brings the question involving von Braun in World War II that were never asked before because he was helping the US get to the moon. Once they questions started being asked from the media, von Braun had to take each question carefully, especially when the questions dealt with Nazi atrocities.

The US was also changing as protests grew on college campuses while soldiers continued to fight overseas and this applied to astronauts. Russia was still a hot topic and they were also trying to get a man to the moon before the US. Dealing with failures, the N1 Project took it all step by step. Col. Borman was asked about Russia landing on the moon and he agreed that they were just as motivated as the US.

Now, the Apollo 11 crew was being introduced with Buzz Aldren, Michael Collins and Neil Armstrong making the trip. This was going to be the crew to land on the moon as 2 out of the 3 actually stepping on the moon’s surface. Russia had ideas of their own launching an unmanned craft to the moon at the same time.

People converged near the landing pad to witness the next Apollo launch. Some were even protestors who were unhappy about social injustice. On July 16, 1969, the promise of President Kennedy made about reaching the moon is one rocket launch away. Countries around the world were also glued to watch the launch. Waiting for the lunar module to land on the moon was the culmination of a dream turned reality. On July 20th, 1969, the cameras are on and rolling as the world see Neil Armstrong descend the lunar ladder and say, “one small step for man – one giant leap for mankind”.

On the moon

Soon he would be joined by Buzz Aldren as the two men walked on the moon and the world in their line of sight celebrated this monumental achievement. The celebration continued when the astronauts landed safely back on Earth. Their lives have been completely changed and they could never have imagined how much to this day.

So where do we go from here now that we’ve been shown the beauty of our own world from the surface of another? Of course Mars holds the mystery now as the moon once did so perhaps that is our next man made challenge. There are so many worlds, so much beauty and a dash of charm about the space that surrounds our Earth.

I wonder who will be next in planting their foot on the surface of another world!

Filmmaker Stone says of this experience, “As a 10-year-old kid in England in July 1969, my mother woke me up in the middle of the night to watch two Americans set foot upon another world, the Moon quite literally staring at us through the window above our television set. I’d recently seen Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY and the one-two punch of those two intensely visceral experiences ignited a fire in my mind that’s stuck with me ever since.”

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“It’s when I first began to want to be a filmmaker. In many ways Chasing the Moon is a culmination of a lifetime of thoughts that have been churning through my mind about this extraordinary period in which I grew up, about the boundless ambition and promise of a brighter future that space travel inspired, the belief that anything is possible if we join together in a common goal, and the urgency it ignited to preserve and care for our home planet. Having PBS as a partner to take this film out worldwide is a real honor for me”.

AMERICAN EXPERIENCE executive producer Mark Samuels says about Chasing the Moon, “When we think of that breathtaking moment of the 1969 moon landing, we forget what a turbulent time that was. The country was dealing with huge problems in Vietnam, poverty, civil rights – and there was a lot of skepticism about the space program. Chasing the Moon explores the unbelievably complex challenges that NASA was able to overcome. Not a week goes by when someone doesn’t say, ‘Why can’t we do something today as ambitious, as grand as putting a man on the moon?’ It was a century-defining achievement, and our film tells a familiar story in an entirely new way”.

Ballantine Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House, also has a book Chasing the Moon by Stone and writer/researcher Alan Andres that expands on the stories told in the documentary. The details found in the book are absolutely riveting to the point that I couldn’t put the book down. The surprise to me is that I knew I have always been interested in NASA, I just didn’t realize how much until page after page I was wanting to know more.

For 30 years, AMERICAN EXPERIENCE has been television’s most-watched history series. Their documentaries have been honored with every major broadcast award including 30 Emmy Awards, four DuPont-Columbia Awards and 17 George Foster Peabody Awards. The series received an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary Feature in 2015 for Last Days of Vietnam. For more information please visit pbs.org/americanexperience.

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Along with AMERICAN EXPERIENCE Chasing the Moon, PBS brings viewers the universe with SUMMER OF SPACE, a multiplatform experience that includes six new science and history programs, all commemorating America’s journey into Space. The celebration kicks off July 8 with a new space-themed ANTIQUES ROADSHOW Out of This World, NOVA specials Back to the Moon on July 10, 8 Days: To the Moon and Back on July 17,  three-part Ancient Skies on July 24 and The Planets on July 24. For more information please visit www.pbs.org.

Chasing the Moon is a three-part experience that allows those involved to tell their stories and personal experiences. Listening to them share also opens up behind the curtain of NASA during a time when every move they made was dangerous. Everyone wanted to get to space and the moon but I’m sure no one then realizes the cost of making that dream come true.

As outsiders, we only witnessed the results of years of dedication and ingenuity but Chasing the Moon allows us to know so much more. This is a stunning way to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the 1969 walk on the moon. A way to remember where we have been and what is absolutely possible for space in the future.

Gather the family around the same television that families 50 years ago gathered around except this time to listen and learn about one of the greatest human achievements ever.

In the end – it took millions of steps to make one giant leap!

In the end – it took millions of steps to make one giant leap!

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MILE 22 Brings Wahlberg and Director Berg Back Together for Action

Mile 22 cover

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres this Friday from director/producer Peter Berg and STX Entertainment comes a fast paced chase to MILE 22.

James Silva (Mark Wahlberg), Alice Kerr (Lauren Cohan), and Sam Snow (Ronda Rousey) are part of a CIA prized group of operatives who are sent to handle special missions. In their latest take down, the team loses a man, takes down Russians up to no good and intel.

In Asia, Kerr has an informant that needs their protection and Silva isn’t thrilled about it. Li Noor (Iko Uwais) has turned himself in to the embassy claiming to have information about the whereabouts of missing chemicals. What makes this even more interesting is that the local authorities want him back and they have Axel (Sam Medina) to make that happen.

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The secret tactical command team led by Bishop (John Malkovich) works with Silva’s team being the eyes and ears getting Noor to an airstrip twenty-two miles from the embassy for extraction. Along with Bishop is King (Keith Bolden), Knight (Jenique Hendrix), Rook (Billy Smith) and Pawn (Myke Holmes) who have the technology to make it happen.

What they don’t know is that the team has eyes on them as well. In the skies above is Vera (Natasha Goubskaya) and Russian military Aleksander (Nikolai Nikolaeff) and they want something too.

The information everyone wants has a key that only Noor knows and it will not be around long. The clock is ticking as every move is being watched and sometimes you have to trust someone you don’t know to survive.

Every mile matters!

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Wahlberg as Silva is a very hyperactive, intense and fast talking individual who gives zero frakks about propriety or rank. Some might call it monologuing but he does it with such speed that it will make your mind spin while you giggle at the same time. He lays everything out on the table and yet his team means everything – even if he doesn’t act like it all the time. Wahlberg turns in his usual strong performance in a story that is fast telling and even faster in action.

Cohan as Kerr is a mother who is dealing with an ex-husband who likes to have control. Personally I would be so quick to control a woman who has no problem with speaking her mind or pointing a weapon in someone’s face! She believes in her contact Noor wants to see him safe. Anyone who has watched AMC’s The Walking Dead can see that Cohan brings it to this role as well.

Rousey as Snow is tough and pretty much took this role and ran with it. Malkovich as Bishop is suave and in control of his team. Goubskaya as Vera watches everything from the air and doesn’t bat an eye when the team comes under fire. Skeggs as MIT gets a shout out because the scene between she and Silva is epic and fast.

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Uwais as Noor is fan-frikken-tastic but then again if you have seen THE RAID in 2011 and THE RAID 2 in 2014 then you know this role is very cool for him. There is no doubt that his martial arts is on point and brutal but Uwais takes this character to another level that made my jaw drop – oh yea, he’s got this.

Other cast include Carlo Alban as William Douglas, Chae-rin Lee as Queen, Emily Skeggs as MIT, Terry Kinney as Johnny Porter, Brandon Scales as Jacob Stone, Poorna Jagannathan as Dorothy Brady, Elle Graham as India and Peter Berg as Lucas.

Berg and Wahlberg have proven that their true story telling is a calling card of the duo and they do it well. This is a bit of a turn from the last few years but there’s nothing wrong with that either. I don’t mind being taken out of the realm of reality for an hour and a half to just sit back and watch the film do its job – entertain me.

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MILE 22 is a total action film that doesn’t give the audience a moment to sit still. The speak is just as fast as any bullet flying provided by Wahlberg and Cohan making sure we understand they mean business. Each character in the film has a role to play and man does it get played intensely.

Berg doesn’t disguise the good or bad of either side but instead goes in full bore on the game of modern warfare. It’s no longer easy to recognize friend or foe when it’s all treated like a game. The cinematography is pretty cool keeping up with the pace of the story but then again if you are going to have an action film – go big or go home!

In the end – Option 1: Diplomacy, Option 2: Military…meet Option 3!

HIDDEN FIGURES Offers a Look into NASA’s History

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Jeri Jacquin

In theatres this Friday from director Theodore Melfi and 20th Century Fox is a moment in history that finally has come to the surface releasing the HIDDEN FIGURES.

The space race is on as the United States and Russia compete to put a man in space. Becoming frustrated as Russia pulls forward, Al Harrison (Kevin Costner) wants only the very best on his team. That would be Katherine Gobel (Taraji P. Henson), an African-American mathematician who is sent to work in a room full of men who clearly have their own issues with race.

Upset that she is part of the team; roadblocks are put in her way by colleague Paul Stafford (Jim Parsons) who isn’t happy she is there. To make matters worse, there is no restroom close by and the coffee pot seems to be off limits. Determined not to let that stop her, Katherine is joined by friends Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae) who wants to be an engineer and Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) who decides that she will move up the NASA ladder her way.

Slowly Katherine proves that her methods are spot on and so much so that John Glenn (Glen Powell) supports not only the work but Katherine personally. Harrison sees the tension between Katherine and Paul which calls for serious changes. Her frustration lies in the fact that the computations change daily and all her hard work is for nothing. By standing her ground the group begins to come together.hidden-2

Dorothy learns through Vivian Mitchell (Kristen Dunst) that something called an IBM computer is the mathematical problem solver of the future. Knowing that means the jobs of she and the other women are in jeopardy, Dorothy takes matters into her own capable and smart hands.

Mary has the dream of becoming an engineer with NASA but knows that further education is something out of her reach. Told by capsule maker Karl Zielinski (Olek Drupa) that she needs to make it happen, Mary takes her dream to court!

When John Glenn prepares to go into space, he calls upon Katherine to give him the go from Mission Control – a place she has earned to be!

Henson as Katherine is smart and sassy working her way through many roadblocks. Believing in herself and her mathematical gift is inspirational as it should be with three young daughters looking to her for guidance. Taking on the larger position of putting a man into space, she puts her head down and pushes forward – until its time to do more than push forward. Henson gives Katherine grit and heart never letting one moment of doubt take her down.

Spencer as Dorothy is a woman who knows she is doing the work without the pay of a supervisor. As a problem solver, Dorothy takes it upon herself to learn about the new technology coming to NASA. Spencer has proven continually to be an actress who takes her roles to heart and Dorothy is no exception.

Monae as Mary is the saucy one of the bunch who has no problem telling it like it is. Telling people their issues is an easy way of hiding her own – which is to find a way to fulfill her dream. Feeling as if NASA is pushing the engineering dream further out of reach, Mary discovers a way to not only get the education she needs but make her mark doing so.

Costner as Harrison doesn’t have time for games or those who play them. Bringing Katherine into the group he makes it clear that he doesn’t have time for anything but the best. Once he is made aware of the conditions Katherine is dealing with, he doesn’t waste any time removing barriers in his department of NASA. Costner leads but in such a way that his character is important but also steps aside for his talented lady costars to tell their part of the story.

Other cast include Mahershala Ali as Col. Jim Johnson, Aldis Hodge as Levi Jackson, Kimberly Quinn as Ruth, Kurt Krause as Sam Turner, Ken Strunk as Jim Webb, and Donna Biscoe as Joylette Coleman.

HIDDEN FIGURES is a film that digs deep into the history of NASA on a project that is hugely historical. What also gives these performances such richness is the set design and costuming. Any time I watch a period piece it is important to transport not only me but all viewers into the, pardon the pun, space and time of the story. HIDDEN FIGURES and director Melfi do just that.

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I had the pleasure of speaking with director Ted Melfi about HIDDEN FIGURES and what it took to bring that piece of history to the silver screen.

JJ: Good morning Ted, thank you so much for speaking with me today about your film.

TM: You are so welcome Jeri.

JJ: I had never heard this story before, what inspired you to become involved?

TM: When I first read the proposal by producer Donna Gigliotti and had the same reaction as everyone else of ‘How is this possible? There is no way this is a true story.’ I started to dig into it and understand that it was a true story of how NASA had a team of women putting our guys up into space I was floored. I mean I have two daughters and they are still being told in this day and age ‘don’t worry about learning the math’. I find that shocking especially since we are trying to lift them up and show them that they can do anything a man can. This story inspired me and there way no way I could say no too making this film.

JJ: Especially since it is part of history, a lot of girls were told even when I was younger that math wasn’t important to learn.

TM: It is a shame that we minimized women in Science, Math and Engineering and the truth is they are as good if not more so having the mind for it.

JJ: I think maybe a little more patience too.

TM: Yes!

JJ: When choosing the cast, what drew you to these three women in particular?

TM: I have been in love with Taraji P. Henson’s work ever since the film BENJAMIN BUTTON and in that film she blew me away. My wife and I saw it together and said ‘who is that actress?’ that was playing Brad Pitt’s mother in the film. I was blown away by her passion, strength and raw power and honestly. Then you watch her in the role of Cookie in the television series Empire and that woman from BEJAMIN BUTTON was now Cookie in Empire. I knew that she had this incredible range in her and I knew she would be the perfect off-beat choice of Katherine Johnson. I wanted to go for it and she was so inspired by the challenge and took it on. She is absolutely amazing and inspiring in this role.

JJ: And Octavia Spencer?

TM: Octavia, I mean there is nothing that I can say enough about her as Dorothy Vaughn.

JJ: I was actually thinking the same thing. I mean what more can you say about her?

TM: I know, Octavia could play absolutely anything you could throw at her and it would be fantastic. She is one of the greatest actresses of our time in my mind. That one was a no brainer. Janelle Monae playing Mary Jackson and we wanted someone different, unique and exciting for this character. Janelle is exciting and passionate and wild and inspired and takes dramatic turns. She always makes wild choices with her work and it shows in this performance as well.

JJ: It’s the beautiful trio to be sure.

TM: Yes, Taraji brings the quiet introverted brain of the group. Octavia is the foreman and the maternal leader of the group and Mary is the wild child who always has to be reminded that it’s 1961.

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JJ: You have Kevin Costner in the mix who seems to be the buffer.

TM: Kevin Costner is one of the most unique men I’ve ever met in my life. He brings that integrity and worth ethic into every thing he does. His character, Al Harrison, represents the glue that kind of holds the teetering space program together. He balances the science and the math along with the business and imaginative people. Back in 1961 in the Jim Crow south is dealing with racial tensions in the workplace. It’s not that he is unaware of what is happening as much as he doesn’t care. He is about the mission. In his mind the mission and the math of what they are trying to do trumps race and sex of a person.

JJ: I hope that people get that there are so many issues in this film, not just one specific issue. How was that for you as a director covering it all?

TM: It was exciting to be honest with you. To me the 1960s was an explosive time in history. The space race was happening, the Cold War was happening, Civil Rights issue were happening, the Kennedy assassination was happening, Martin Luther King assassination was happening…

JJ: See, that’s what I mean, so many, many issues!

TM: They are all running parallel to each other as well. The Freedom Riders bus protested to Washington D.C. the day before Alan Shepard launched his first mission into space. That should tell you the parallels between these two races and how they basically started to achieve success together in tandem is mind boggling. To pack all of this in one movie was an enjoyable task and to be able to get to say something about who we were and who we are and what we can become as a country when we work together.

JJ: Did you find that you had to do a lot of your own research to allow yourself to get deeper into the film?

TM: Oh yes, I did endless research. I researched every detail of the movie. I dug into a mass amount of books and documentaries about all of this. The Discovery Channel had a series When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions (2008) and I dug as deeply into Civil Rights as I did NASA. I re-watched the PBS series Eyes on the Prize [A documentary that documents the Civil Rights Movement from 1952 to 1965] about how it all occurred. I did tons of photo research as well. In regards to the math I learned everything from the ground up from like trajectory calculations etc. I kind of became a dangerous expert of it all.

JJ: When you are talking about the mathematical side of it, how did Taraji handle it? I mean she’s writing equations on the board so fast!

TM: Taraji being the mathematician consulted with the same person I did from Rudy Home who received his PhD. out of Morehouse College. He trained Taraji and she memorized the math having so much time with him. Taraji might actually be a genius on her own. What she can do I have not seen that often, memorize something and understand it in a very short period of time. She did it effectively and efficiently in one take.

JJ: I realize there is so much in this film to experience but as the director what would you want viewers to take with them after watching the film?

TM: See the film to be reminded of how great American has always been and how when we work together, regardless of race, sex or creed, there is nothing that this country can not achieve together.

JJ: It’s so very well said and very true, thank you Ted!

This director has a straight vision for this film and with an absolutely stellar cast bringing a story that should be shown in every classroom!

In the end – meet the women you don’t know behind the mission you do!

WAR & PEACE: The Complete Miniseries is Elegant on Bluray

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Jeri Jacquin

Coming to Bluray and DVD on May 10th from Anchor Bay Entertainment, TWC and the BBC is the beautifully told story of WAR & PEACE: The Complete Miniseries.

It is 1805 Russia when only the rumors of Napoleon coming to Moscow were on the wind. Pierre (Paul Dano) is the illegitimate son of Count Bezukhov, the richest man in Russia. Prince Kuragin (Stephen Rea) is doing everything possible to make sure that Pierre doesn’t inherit a thing, but the young man has many on his side.

Becoming the new Count Bezukhov takes Pierre from a simple life to extravagance like he has never known. That is when Anna Povlovna Scherer (Gillian Anderson) sets her sites on matchmaking with Helene (Tuppence Middleton). Before Pierre has a time to catch his wealthy breathe, he is married.

Happy for all his success is the Rostova family and his good friend Natasha (Lily James), Nikolai (Jack Lowden), parents Count Rostov (Adrian Edmondson) and Countess Rostova (Greta Scacchi) along with Cousin Sonya (Aisling Loftus).

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Also friends of Pierre are the Bolkonsky family including Prince Andrei (James Norton), his sister Princess Marya (Jessie Buckley) and their very loud father Prince Bolkonsky (Jim Broadbent).

Prince Andrei and Nikolai are soldiers who are preparing for what might happen if Napoleon Bonaparte (Mathieu Kassovitz) enters their country. After losing his wife, Prince Andrei begins to have feelings for Natasha but father Prince Bolkonsky wants them to wait a year and Natasha agrees.

Meanwhile Sonya and Nikolai have had an unspoken relationship but he is having trouble making the commitment. His mother the Countess decides its time for her son to help the family financially and wants Nikolai to marry a wealthy woman.

In the meantime Pierre discovers that his wife Helena has been less than faithful yet he looks the other way until he can’t any longer. Having a hard time knowing what to do, he becomes involved in the lives of his friends.

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War is on the horizon as Napoleon invades Russia, in the midst of it all relationships are being torn apart, friendships put to the test, loyalties under scrutiny, secrets kept, families in ruin and all in the name of love.

This is the story of life.

Dano as Pierre is absolutely perfect for this role. Subdued and a humble young man, Pierre is thrust into this world that he isn’t prepared for. Dano has the amazing ability to look fragile and wallflower-ish when he wants to and for this role works his magic. The wounded wealthy bird is only one of the many hearts broken in this series and Dano leads the way. I always want to just wrap him up and take him home (Hope you don’t mind Zoe!)

This actor’s career has proven over and over again that his performances are worth seeing. From LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE to THERE WILL BE BLOOD to RUBY SPARKS and PRISONERS, Dano has riveted audiences. In 12 YEARS A SLAVE he all but scared the beejeezus out of me and in YOUTH Dano surprised me again! Ask how excited I am about the upcoming Joon Ho Bong film OKJA to see what he will do next.

James as Natasha is also perfect for this role. She is a spit-fire and has no problem standing up for the cause of love. Natasha is dedicated to family, loyal to friends and when she loves it can be confusing. Ah, such is youth! James caught my eye because I am a huge Downton Abbey fan so imagine my surprise when she appeared as Lady Rose MacClare, another spit-fire young lady who knows her own mind and stands up for her family. In PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES she got to kick a little zombie tale and still stand with family. Family is a big thing for James and we don’t mind one little bit!

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Norton as Prince Andrei has the total look of royalty but hides his true feelings. It’s just sad to watch what he goes through which means Norton is portraying the Prince beautifully. Buckley as sister Marya is dark, pensive, dutiful and a little dowdy for a Princess who really just wants to find love for who she is.

Lowden as Nikolai is the dashing son who goes off to war not really and truly understanding what that means. When he does, it sets of a chain of events that affect his family more than him. I enjoyed Lowden’s performance very much. Loftus as Sonya felt like the twin-sister-from-another-mother in Marya. She has all the same qualities without the crown. Dealing with an Aunt who doesn’t see her as fit and a man who doesn’t see her at all, I’m surprised she even stuck around so kudos to Loftus.

Anderson as Scherer is the socialite who likes to be in the middle of everything and has no problem forwarding the gossip she hears. Rea as Prince Kuragin had other plans for Pierre which included continued poverty but Rea can pull off a smooth bad guy like no other.

Middleton as Helene played a character that pretty much deserved everything she got. Scacchi as Countess Rostova is a tad ruthless but if one can look past that it is a bit based on fear of losing everything. Edmondson as Count Rostov is the caring father who wants only the best for his family and is forgiving no matter what they do.

Broadbent as Prince Bolkonsky is loud, dismissive towards his children, lacks feelings about others, and holds his children emotionally hostage. That’s quite a busy character to play and Broadbent gives it his all.

Supporting cast includes: Tom Burke as Fedor Dolokhov, Callum Turner as Anatole Kuragin, Aneurin Barnard as Boris Drubetskoy, Kenneth Cranham as Uncle Mikhail, Ken Stott as Osip Bazdeev, Kate Phillips as Lise Bolkonskaya, Ben Lloyd-Hughes as Czar Alexander and Brian Cox as General Mikhail Kutuzov.

The Weinstein Company encompasses an array of film from TWC as well as Miramax. To date they have received 351 Oscar nominations and won 81 Academy Awards. For more about TWC please visit http://weinsteinco.com.

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Anchor Bay Entertainment has an amazing theatrical and home entertainment library that include STARZ original series, children’s entertainment, fitness and sports on DVD and Bluray formats. For more of what they have to offer please visit www.anchorbayentertainment.com.

TUBS OF POPCORN: I give WAR & PEACE: The Complete Miniseries four tubs of popcorn out of five. It is the cast that make this miniseries to brilliant to watch. I am a huge fan of period pieces and this is one you don’t want to get wrong and TWC and BBC get it absolutely right. The costuming is beautiful, the setting and scenery lend itself to the telling and the music is emotional.

It is truly the cast that brings this story life and believable characters that we want to find life, love and happiness. WAR & PEACE gave me the nostalgia of such films as DR. ZHIVAGO and BURNT BY THE SUN. The miniseries truly gives Tolstoy’s story time to unravel slowly letting everything play out beautifully.

That’s where director Tom Harper and story adaptor Andrew Davis come in. They brought together the beautiful tale of a time in Russia so deep and rich that holds every human emotion imaginable. Add WAR & PEACE to your own home media library because this is a jewel to be had.

Tolstoy was himself born into a well-to-do family that he would eventually walk away from.  After spending time in the Army in 1857, Tolstoy declared that he would ‘never serve any government ever again’. Meeting Victor Hugo, author of Les Miserables, in 1860 while still in Europe influenced Tolstoy politically and in his writings as War and Peace came to the page in 1869.

The Bluray includes special features of From Page to Screen, The Read Through, Making the Music, Count Rostov’s Dance, Rundale Palace, What is War & Peace?.

In the end – it is an era that is about to change them all!

The Complete Third Season of THE AMERICANS is Here

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Jeri Jacquin

It is time to binge watch one of the best series on television from FX now coming to 4-disc DVD this Tuesday from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment with the intensity of Russian spies posing as THE AMERICANS.

The season begins with Elizabeth (Keri Russell) losing a list of contacts leading to Gabriel (Frank Langella) telling both she and Phillip (Matthew Rhys) that it might be time to recruit young daughter Paige (Holly Taylor) into the family business. The thought of it brings an argument between the couple.

But that isn’t the only bad about to happen as Annalise (Gillian Alexy) confesses to Yousaf (Rahul Khanna) of her reasons for being with him. Needless to say his response is dire and Phillip can do nothing to stop it. Phillip turns to Elizabeth to help with the problem and it brings closer to home the idea of recruiting.

It becomes imperative that Elizabeth get the contact list back but to do so puts the Jennings’ in danger of being discovered by the FBI/CIA. Tracking the signal in a mobile phone, it takes only a moment before rescue comes from an unexpected place.

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The recruitment for Phillip isn’t over as Kimmie becomes the next target which still doesn’t solve the problems coming with daughter Paige. Religion is making its way into the Jennings’ home as Paige wants to be baptized and has the support of a Pastor and his wife. Phillip and Elizabeth feel trapped by their daughter yet let it all go forward.

Phillip continues to work on the babysitter Kimmie and while at her home learns her brother is a soldier in Afghanistan which opens the door to more taps. Phillip shares with Elizabeth everything he has learned and plans are in place that will bring Pakistan into the picture as well.

It finally becomes clear to Paige that the secrets in their house need clarifying and finally, Elizabeth and Phillip must talk about what they’ve been hiding. Elizabeth learns that her mother is ill and when problems with Paige become more complicated, they think it is best if Paige travels to Germany as well.

In the meantime Stan (Noah Emmerich) has been trying EST and when he tries to put a plan together with Nina and Zinaida and when it fails he must face Agent Gaad (Richard Thomas) as his job with the FBI hangs in the balance. To put finality to the season, Paige drops the bomb to her pastor that Phillip and Elizabeth are actually Russian!

Other cast include: Lev Gorn as Arkady Ivanovich, Annet Mahendru as Nina Sergeevna, Susan Misner as Sandra Beeman, Costa Ronin as Oleg Burov, Keidrich Sellati as Henry Jennings, Kelly AuCoin as Pastor Tim, and Frank Langella as Gabriel.

Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment has been an industry leader for over 75 years with its award-winning filmmaking and television programming. Bringing all of this to DVD, Bluray, Digital Copy, Digital HD and Video-On-Demand has made film lovers happy and will continue to for years to come.

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TUBS OF POPCORN: I give The Complete Third Season of THE AMERICANS four tubs of popcorn out of five. I leave that last tube of popcorn to see what is coming next. This is such an amazing series filled with intensity, twists, turns, story changes that I don’t see coming and cliff hangers that are TRUE cliff hangers!

This is a cast that seriously comes in and takes every moment seriously. Russell as Elizabeth is amazing and I can’t get enough of her in this character. Watching her jump between “American” and spy is enough to give a gal whiplash but Russell can pass through this duality seamlessly.

Rhys as Phillip equally gives such an amazing performance as everything he knows comes into question, especially when it comes to recruiting his own daughter. My jaw dropped a few times with the way he reacted to certain situations but that is what makes the series so dang amazing. The one hour flies by making it cruel to wait for the next episode yet it also has brought up some amazing conversations with others that I watch the show with.

Emmerich as Stan has once again created a character that is memorable. I am a fan of Emmerich for so many reasons but mainly because he plays such a diverse selection of characters and each one of them stands out in its own right. In THE AMERICANS he gives Stan so much and even if there are times he isn’t on screen it is clear his presence is not far away.

Do I cover ever inch of the storyline – heck no! This is a series to be experienced and I love when new comers have the opportunity to be introduced to each character and see where their arc takes them. Trust me when I say that there is so much more to learn about THE AMERICANS and I can’t wait to hear your reaction!

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THE AMERICANS has been recognized by the Peabody Awards, 5th Critics Choice Awards, TCA Awards, Writers Guild of America Awards and an Emmy for Margo Martindale for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama series.

The DVD includes Special Features of Deleted Scenes and The Cold War for Paige. All of this is in preparation for the return for Season Four of THE AMERICANS with its premier in March. I can probably assure fans there will be more questions than answers, more twists than turns and everything marvelous that we have all come to expect from THE AMERICANS.

In the end – it’s all about what is under the guise of being THE AMERICANS.

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