Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Remaining 5 in "Ten Foreign Films You Must See Before You Die"

As promised, the remaining 5 foreign films in my list of "10 Foreign Films You Must See Before You Die." I encourage you to watch the video trailers, especially for "Paradise Now."

Paradise Now (2005-Israeli, Arab)

There's not enough that can be said about the insane motivations of suicide bombers, but  "Paradise Now" is the closest I have seen to making this point. 

The plot of this movie follows approximately two days in the lives of a couple of young Palestinian men who are friends. It begins with one of them losing his job and proceeds to cover the twists and turns of being brainwashed into thinking martyrdom will aid the Palestinian cause. 

"Paradise Now" illustrates how suicide bombers are nothing more than pawns in the hands of cowards who decide their fate. When push comes to shove, they both have second thoughts. The preciousness of life--ALL life--is examined, and the futility of it all is quite well addressed. 

"Paradise Now" is an excellent film on many levels. Filmed on location in the West Bank with great  production values; generous close-ups are frequent, adding a very personal tone to the film. This film does not glorify terrorism. It does put a human face on terrorism, especially the frustrations of the Palestinian people. This movie attempts to truly capture what Palestinians feel and think, and all they see is the occupation and Israeli soldiers ruining their lives and taking away their freedom. As much as I love Israel and believe in Israel's right to exist and divine right to the land of Israel, this film gave me greater insight into the plight of the Palestinian people who want to possess the same land, at the expense of Israel. 

Dear Frankie 2004-France
This is a moving, sweet film that you won't soon forget. Nine-year-old Frankie and his single mom Lizzie have been on the move ever since Frankie can remember, most recently arriving in a seaside Scottish town. Wanting to protect her deaf son from the truth that they've run away from his father, Lizzie has invented a story that he is away at sea on the HMS Accra. Every few weeks, Lizzie writes Frankie a make-believe letter from his father, telling of his adventures in exotic lands. As Frankie tracks the ship's progress around the globe, he discovers that it is due to dock in his hometown. With the real HMS Accra arriving in only a fortnight, Lizzie must choose between telling Frankie the truth or finding the perfect stranger to play Frankie's father for just one day...

                      Europa Europa  2003-German

This "incredible, true story" (Los Angeles Times) is at once "eye-opening, harrowing and humorous" (Leonard Maltin) as it recounts the severe actions a young boy must take in order to survive the Holocaust. Based on the autobiography of Solomon Perel, a young German Jew, the film "bounds from one jaw-dropping episode to the next" (The New Yorker) and puts you in the middle of war-torn Europe where ingenuity, timing and luck are the key to survival. Separated from his family at the age of thirteen, Solly (Marco Hofschneider) takes on various identities to hide his Jewishheritage. First passing himself off as an orphan and later as one of the "Hitler Youth," Solly carries on his charade, hoping desperately to keep his identity hidden and make it through the war alive. 

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon        2000-Chinese
This was my introduction to Asian cinema. My wife dragged me to the theatre to see this film, and I’m glad she did. When we think of Asian films, we think of “Bruce Lee,” but this is film has excellent fight sequences that are reminiscent of the Matrix. “Crouching Tiger” is a masterpiece with good acting and character development.

“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” is the story of two warriors in pursuit of a stolen sword and a notorious fugitive are led to an impetuous, physically-skilled, teenage nobleman's daughter, who is at a crossroads in her life. Director Ang Lee scores on all levels with a graceful, elegant film. 

Nowhere in Africa 2003-German
Nowhere in Africa begins with a Jewish woman named Jettel Redlich fleeing Nazi Germany with her daughter Regina, to join her husband, Walter, on a farm in Kenya. At first, Jettel refuses to adjust to her new circumstances (she brought with her a set of china dishes and an evening gown), while Regina adapts readily to this new world, forming a strong bond with her father's cook, an African named Owuor. But this is only the beginning of a series of uprootings, and as the surface of their lives is torn away, Walter and Jettel find they have little in common, and must--under tumultuous circumstances--build their marriage anew. 

Nowhere in Africa brings you into every change in this family's life with skill and passion. This film has stunning cinematography. It well deserving of the Academy Award in 2002 for Best Foreign Film, and deserves to be seen by you.  

Friday, September 23, 2011

Ten Foreign Films You Must See Before You Die...

Years ago, if you had asked me to watch a foreign film with subtitles, I would've said "You're kidding, right?! Not on your life! Well…somewhere along the way, my taste in films changed and fortunately for me, I began to realize that there were a lot of great films out there that were NEVER made "in English." 

Just as I never thought I could eat broccoli, brussel sprouts, or hummus, I can NOW watch a film with subtitles. I actually enjoy hearing the original language being spoken along with the subtitles below. At first, I would ONLY watch a foreign film if it was "dubbed" in English, but now, I prefer subtitles every time. Watch the movie trailer below for "Winter in Wartime," a Dutch film, and read the subtitles--you'll find that it's not really cumbersome and doesn't take away from your enjoyment of the film.

Here are my favorite foreign films. This is not an exhaustive list and there are still many great films out there that I haven't yet seen. Also, I am doing this post in 2 parts because of the length. So the first 5 today and 4 days from now, the remaining 5. Also, check out the video trailers to learn more about each film. Enjoy!!

These films are available at your local library, or on Netflix, or iTunes.

1. Slumdog Millionaire (2008-United Kingdom)

This is a smart, clever film, set in Mumbai, India with the contrasts of poverty in an emerging world market. The film opens as a young Indian man competes on a television quiz show, the Indian version of "Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?" Our hero is winning every single round and he is being tortured by the police because they think he is cheating since he has no education and is a child of the slums. His story is then told in flashbacks as the audience learns how he came to know the answers to each of the questions.

Of course there is also a romance between Freida Pinto and Dev Patel, a handsome couple that will keep you glued to the screen. Our hero, played by Dev Patel, is looking for the young woman he loves, a childhood companion through the horror, who is still being exploited by the Indian underworld, which now includes his brother.

This is a feel good film that will make you want to stand-up and cheer. Even the closing credits with a Bollywood dance routine to the song "Jai-Ho" will stay with you long after you leave the theatre. "Slumdog Millionaire" won the Oscar for the Best Picture of the Year. If you haven't seen this film, pleeeeezzz do yourself a favor and watch it. Then, I expect you to leave me a comment saying "Dale, thank-you so much because you were right…this is one of the best movies EVER!!

2. The Lives of Others (2006-German)

Nominated for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, this is a first-rate thriller that opts for character development over car chases. Entertainment Weekly called a "nail-biter thriller!"

Before the collapse of the Berlin Wall, East Germany’s population was closely monitored by the State Secret Police (Stasi). Only a few citizens above suspicion, like renowned pro-Socialist playwright Georg Dreyman, were permitted to lead private lives. But when a corrupt government official falls for Georg’s stunning actress-girlfriend, Christa, an ambitious Stasi policeman is ordered to bug the writer’s apartment to gain incriminating evidence against the rival. Now, what the officer discovers is about to dramatically change their lives - as well as his - in this seductive political thriller Peter Travers (Rolling Stone) proclaims is "the best kind of movie: one you can’t get out of your head."

3. The Chorus (2004-French)

The Chorus is a French, postwar-version of Mr. Holland's Opus. I'm a sucker for feel-good European films, and this is one of the best. Think "Dangerous Minds meets "School of Rock."

It is a moving story of how troubled young boys react to harsh treatment and are changed by someone who sincerely cares about them. The tone is serious, but not without some humor, and the music is absolutely beautiful.

Great soundtrack. If you love music, you'll really enjoy this film.

4. Ha Hov (The Debt) (Israel-2007)

You've probably seen the ads for "The Debt" starring Helen Mirren, which is currently playing in theatres nationwide. Well, this is the original, made in Israel in German and Hebrew. From what I can tell, the American remake closely follows the original.

The year is 1965. Rachel Brener is one of 3 young Mossad agents who caught "The Surgeon of Treblinca" - a Nazi monster who was never brought to trial in Israel. The official reason was that he has committed suicide as a prisoner while being held by his Israeli captive (kiddenappers) in a safe house somewhere in Europe. Today, 35 years after the well communicated suicide story of the monster, a small article appears in a local unimportant paper in a small town in central Europe. Surprisingly the Surgeon is alive and is willing to admit his crimes against the human race and especially the Jews. The 3 older x Mossad agents became aware of this unfortunate threatening knowledge. The fact was that the "Surgeon" managed to escape from his guards and out 3 agents decide to complete their old assignment to eliminate "the Surgeon of Treblinka" before the big lie becomes public. They decide that Rachel is the one to carry out the mission. Rachel is a well-known writer publishing her new book, but she is not able to live with herself over the past 35 yrs of terrible lies. She sets out on one last mission as a cold-blooded hit woman to fulfill her mission to society, to kill the "Surgeon of Treblinka."

5. Winter in Wartime (Dutch-2008)

This beautifully photographed drama focuses on 14-year-old Michiel (Martijn Lakemeier) as he wrestles with family loyalties, painful choices between safety and courage, and the harsh realities of war during the last, desperate winter of World War II. Michiel is forced onto the path of adulthood as he attempts to aid a wounded British pilot (Jamie Campbell Bower) in German-occupied Netherlands, despite his father's apparent cooperation with enemy soldiers. Michiel feels resentment towards his father, a mayor, seemingly only interested in maintaining the status quo between the town and the German Army. He worships his uncle Ben, an adventurer in contact with the local resistance. During the winter, Michiel's loyalties are tested.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

My wife, the author.

Tomorrow, Renee (my better half) heads for the American Christian Fiction Writers' Convention in St. Louis at the Hyatt Regency which, by the way, has  no pool (now tell me, when do you build a hotel like the Hyatt and not install a pool? Are you trying to save a few bucks? Is this just a mid-west thing because they don't think anyone visiting St. Louis knows how to swim? Or is this the trend in luxury--no pool?? I sure hope not.) Anyway, it's a sure thing that I won't be doing any swimming at the St. Louis Hyatt-Regency this weekend. Anyway, that's OK because this weekend is not about me, it's about Renee and her future as a published author.

The ACFW convention is a pretty big deal with 8-900 in attendance from all over the U.S. Earlier this year, they had a competition and Renee was chosen as one of the three finalists! Imagine that?!! I'll be joining her for the banquet on Saturday night when the winner is announced (it could easily be Renee's name in that hermetically-sealed envelope with the tabulations verified by the accounting firm of Price-Waterhouse). Okay, so maybe there will not be a hermetically-sealed envelope but regardless, Renee's name could be announced as the winner of this competition.

In prep for this convention, I've done the graphics for a handout piece promoting one of her books. I've also been slaving away creating her new website which we uploaded last night. So, today is the world premiere of Renee's website (actually, a re-launch, since her website has been up for about 3 yrs.).

Check out Renee's website at:

Pray for Renee starting tomorrow (Wed.) as she is attending this convention, and pray for open doors for her as a writer. She's a really good writer, and she would probably be published by now if it weren't for the fact that her books are set in 5th century Ireland and Scotland. There is more of a demand for Amish Vampire books than for 5th century historical fiction. Her third book, Deanie's Tale, is set in the mid-1800s and is about a young Irish girl who escapes the Irish potato famine by coming to America, specifically Boston. This book has a better chance of getting published because it's more recent history. Sad to say, we live in a day when for most people, history extends back only a decade or two. Most know very little about the events or dates of WWI or WWII or the Vietnam War, so it's understandable that there might be some reluctance to read a book set in 5th century Ireland.

All that to say that I believe that Renee will get published, hopefully sooner rather than later. One of these days, you'll be able to order Renee's books at or download them as ebooks on your Nook or Kindle. It's gonna happen. Get in on the ground floor and check out her website today!

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Invisible Hand of God

What is the providence of God? Hang in there with me…don’t let your eyes glaze over because this post is intended to be one of great encouragement and comfort.

During the American Civil War, letters to home from soldiers on both sides often referenced the “providence of God.” On the eve of battle, soldiers wrote to their wives or parents about their fears and of the uncertainty of what would happen to them on the morrow and spoke often of their lives being in the hands of Providence.

Today, most Christians have no understanding what the providence of God is about. I like Adam Smith’s reference to God’s providence as the “invisible hand of God.” In other words, God’s providence is God accomplishing His will and good pleasure behind the scenes. Because God is invisible to us, we often fail to recognize His active presence in human affairs. But God is at work in the details of our daily lives. The providence of God means that God is involved in the affairs of people.

Let me give you two great examples from the Bible. In Genesis 50:20, we see that God has used Joseph to bring about salvation for Jacob and his family, and thereby preserving the Messianic promises to Abraham. In order for this to happen, many evil acts were committed.  Joseph’s brothers sold him to slave traders and then told their father that Joseph had been torn to pieces by a wild animal and submitted Joseph’s coat which they had dipped in blood, as evidence.

These acts are contrary to God's moral will. But God used these heinous acts to bring about His saving purposes. His brothers mistreated him, as did Potiphar's wife and others. But God used all of that mistreatment to further His saving purposes. Joseph sums this up for his brothers when he says in Gen. 50:20, “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.”

The 2nd example of God’s invisible hand is seen in the birth of Moses. Moses's mother decided to put him in a basket covered with tar and put it along the reeds of the Nile (Exodus 2:2, 3). She had no specific revelation from God to do that, she simply made her decision. It just so happened that the daughter of Pharaoh went to bathe in the Nile. It just so happened she saw the basket, had it fetched from the river, and then saw Moses crying in it. It just so happened that she decided to keep Moses alive despite the fact that he was a Hebrew child. It just so happened that she permitted Moses' sister to find a nurse who chose Moses' own mother. It just so happened that Moses became the son of Pharaoh's daughter. There was no revealed will of God given to any of the people involved—they were making decisions as they saw fit. But behind the scenes God was providentially fulfilling His promise to Abraham. He planned to use Moses to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt as a great people.

The details are no problem for God. One implication of this is that our thoughts and decisions are part of God's providence. God uses seeming random decisions to accomplish His will.

Paul reminds us that no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in, God is still in control.

“Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, "For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered." But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” –Romans 8:35-39.

And in Ephesians 1:11, Paul tells us that “God accomplishes all things according to the counsel of His will.”

I could go on and on citing various examples from the Bible, whether it be Ruth and Naomi, Esther, Samson, David, Jeremiah, Jonah, etc.

But here’s the take away from all this: God wants you to know that whatever you are going through, at this very moment, it’s no surprise to Him. The one who has the very hairs on your head numbered is still in control. He hasn’t dropped the ball, and He hasn’t forgotten about you. No matter how dark your circumstance may look or feel, He is working out his will and good pleasure in your life, just as He was doing when He allowed Joseph to be sold on the auction block as a slave, and spend 10-13 yrs in prison before being promoted to 2nd in command in all of Egypt.

Trust in the Lord, that He is at work and His Invisible Hand is directing your steps even through the most difficult and trying circumstances, even when you don’t see it or feel like you’ve been forsaken.

For the believer, there are no accidents, no luck, no chance, no fate—we have the Lord directing everything that happens in our life, by His Invisible Hand, for His will and good pleasure, and for our benefit as well. Trust in the Lord. He’s still on the throne, He is still Lord and He is still in control of your life!!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Some are saying, "Just Get Over It!"

At the risk of wearing you out on "9-11" thoughts, please indulge me for one more post. The post today is a "guest post" from Mary Keenan-Sadlon, and first appeared in the Wall Street Journal.

There are some saying that we should "get over 9-11" and just move on with our lives.
Here is Mary's response to those individuals:

  • I'll get over it when all the building is complete at the WTC w-i-t-h-o-u-t a mosque in the vicinity.
  • I'll get over it when the concrete barricades are removed from in front of the White House.
  • I'll get over it when our young men and women come home from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
  • I'll get over it when I can fly again without being doused in radiation or have a goon put his hands down my pants.
  • I'll get over it when the Director of Homeland Security stops profiling Conservatives and Christians as potential terrorists.
  • I'll get over it when the terrorist trials are over and the guilty are immediately executed.
  • I'll get over it when the so-called moderate Moslems in this country and elsewhere denounce terrorism and pledge allegiance to this country's law over Sharia law.
  • I'll get over it when we have a new President who will stand with America and NOT "the Muslims."
  • I'll get over it when I can sit in the living room of my apartment across the road from the Pentagon and look out of the window and wave at the pilots of the helicopters as they fly past my window to land at the Pentagon helo pad without thinking about the kids killed on Flight 77. How they must have screamed in fear.

Until then, I'll never get over it. I'll stay here in Chicago and let a stranger enjoy the view on Arlington Ridge.Justice for the living. Honor for the dead.

----From Mary Keenan-Sadlon.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Where were you on 9-11?

As I write this, tomorrow is the 10th anniversary of 9-11. Where were you on 9-11? What do you remember saying or doing on 9-11? How did 9-11 change you, if at all?

When I first heard the news that American Airlines flight 11 had flown into the World Trader Center North Tower, I was driving a rental car through the suburbs of Maryland, about 25-min outside Washington DC.

Earlier that morning, I had flown into Baltimore, MD on a roundabout trip to a Foursquare Eastern District church conference in York, PA. I had planned on a day of sightseeing in Washington DC before making the drive up to York, PA for the opening session of my church conference later that evening. 

I remember calling my aunt on my cellphone to tell her that I was driving through her old neighborhood in Beltsville, Maryland. It was then that she informed me a plane had just flown into the World Trade Center. That was how I first learned about 9-11. I had been listening to a music cd, totally oblivious to what was happening in NYC and elsewhere. My immediate response was that it was a terrorist attack.

I would later learn that most observers including the media were slow to jump to the conclusion of a terrorist attack. However, at 9:03 am when United Flight 175 crashed into the face of the South Tower, it became obvious to everyone that these were terrorist acts and America was under siege. 

I was inside Washington DC city limits when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon. Without giving it much thought, I immediately turned around, got to the nearest on-ramp for I-95 heading east toward Baltimore. Traffic was light, but after 15 min. or so, I noticed an substantial increase in traffic headed east as many other drivers had the same idea. 

I drove up to York, PA. Along the way, stopping at rest areas, there was an errie silence from everyone you encountered -most seemed to be in some state of shock. While driving, I  spoke with my family who were concerned about my own well-being since they thought I was in Washington DC. My son, Josh, 17 at the time, was profoundly affected by the terrorist attacks. Two weeks later, Josh would inform us that he wanted to drop out of his senior year at Londonderry High and enlist in the Army. He would later be part of the initial invasion into Iraq which began on March 19, 2003.

When I arrived at the hotel in York, PA around 6pm that evening, I saw my first television coverage of the planes hitting the World Trade Center. It was almost unbelievable, almost like watching something out of a movie. What I had been listening to all day on the car radio, the reports and word pictures of what had transpired, I was now witnessing with my own eyes and it was unfathomable. It was hard to wrap your head around the idea that all of this had taken place in our nation that day.

Needless to say, our Eastern District Foursquare Pastor's conference was cancelled. We spent some of that evening in prayer for our nation, for the families of those who were on the planes, including United 93, the only plane which didn't reach its intended target and crashed in a farmland field in Shanksville, PA. We prayed for all those who lost loved ones in at the Trade Center as well as for those who were on each of the planes. Some of the prayers were uttered in broken words punctuated by tears.

The next morning, I drove back to Baltimore Airport. With all flights cancelled, I had to resort to Plan B, spending the entire morning at my car rental agency pleading with them to let me drive my rental car up to New Hampshire and do a drop-off in Manchester, NH. The car rental company (I don't remember which one) was in chaos, because every other airline passenger had the same idea. Fortunately, since I already had a car which I was dropping off a couple days early, I was ahead of the curve and they finally relented, charging me a nominal drop-off fee, and sending me on my way back to Londonderry, New Hampshire. At this point, all I wanted to do was get home.

Arriving back in Londonderry, NH, there were signs for asking people to pray for our country, flags on display (all this was atypical for Londonderry, NH because New Englanders are not all that demonstrative or religious). Everywhere you went, the World Trade Center attack was the only topic of conversation. Bonhoeffer said, "We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God."  Americans allowed God to interrupt their lives for the next 2-4 wks. That's about it. Church attendance in NH and elsewhere in New England saw an increase in numbers for the next two weeks. After that, it dropped back to "normal." I remember that in other parts of the country, church attendance increased for the next 4-8 wks after 9-11.

For me personally, 9-11 opened my eyes to the fact that we are in a real clash of cultures between Islam and Christianity. I went on to do some local TV interviews with a Muslim cleric in Manchester, NH. I began to pray for Muslims as never before. I also became less trusting of my government. I think that for myself and many others, it was a sobering realization that our government can't protect us all the time. We are more vulnerable than we might think. Certainly those Americans who boarded those 4 flights on 9-11 were not protected by our government agencies. Our government can only do so much. Whether we want to admit it or not, we really are in the hands of Almighty God.

"We have been silent witnesses of evil deeds; we have been drenched by many storms; we have learnt the arts of equivocation and pretense; experience has made us suspicious of others and kept us from being truthful and open; intolerable conflicts have worn us down and made us cynical. Are we still of any use? What we shall need is not geniuses, or cynics, or misanthropes, or clever tacticians, but plain, honest, and straightforward men..." (Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his Letters and Papers from Prison).

Where were you on 9-11? Did 9-11 change you in any way? 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Continued...the bottom 5 of 10 Mini-Series You Must See Before You Die

Ready for the bottom 5 on my list of "10 Mini-Series That You Must See Before You Die." I've taken a breather from Blogspot and hope that it will allow me to finish up my listing today. 

Here are my remaining picks for top-ten mini-series of all-time. Did one of your favorites make my list? Check out the videos to learn more about some of these great mini-series.

6. The Jewel and the Crown - 1984
I never had any desire to go to India although my wife spent three months there just before we were married. However, after seeing this great BBC mini-series, I put India as one of the places I would truly want to visit, and this was long before Slumdog Millionaire captured the attention of moviegoers with a renewed interest in India.

The passionate, turbulent and controversial love affair between a British-raised Indian man and an Englishwoman during the waning years of the British Raj is portrayed in this Masterpiece Theatre miniseries based on Paul Scott's novel

The Raj Quartet. Spanning 14 episodes shot in exotic locales in India and England, this exquisite human epic received an Emmy Award for Outstanding Limited Series and a Golden Globe for Best Miniseries.

7. John Adams - 2008
If you want to get a history lesson on what real leadership looks like and what made our country great, watch this mini-series, based on the book by historian, David McCullough.

John Adams is a sprawling HBO miniseries event that depicts the extraordinary life and times of one of Americas least understood, and most underestimated, founding fathers: the second President of the United States, John Adams. Starring Paul Giamatti (Sideways, Cinderella Man, HBOs American Spendor) in the title role and Laura Linney (You Can Count on Me, Kinsey) as Adams devoted wife Abigail, John Adams chronicles the extraordinary life journey of one of the primary shapers of our independence and government, whose legacy has often been eclipsed by more flamboyant contemporaries like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton and Benjamin Franklin. Set against the backdrop of a nations stormy birth, this sweeping miniseries is a moving love story, a gripping narrative, and a fascinating study of human nature. Above all, at a time when the nation is increasingly polarized politically, this story celebrates the shared values of liberty and freedom upon which this country was built.

8. North and South -1985
Based on the first book in John Jakes’ American Civil War trilogy, this "ABC Novel for Television" boasted an all-star cast tells the story of the turbulent events and emotions that ignited the Civil War. In the tradition of Gone With The Wind, this glorious epic focuses on the lives of two families who are geographically and ideologically placed on opposite sides of the war - The North and The South. The saga follows the families through their changing fortunes at home and the harsh realities of the battlefields until the South surrenders and the families are reunited in friendship. In the final installment, the story of the two families continues through Post-Civil War Reconstruction into pioneer Indian territories.

9. The Pacific - 2009
This is the sequel to "Band of Brothers" which covered WWII in Europe. This epic 10-part mini-series delivers a realistic portrait of WWII's Pacific Theatre as seen thru the eyes of three U.S. Marines - Robert Leckie, John Basilone and Eugene Sledge. This is a must-see series because once again, it gives you a better understanding and appreciation for the sacrifice that was made for all of us by our military during WWII. Once again, no matter how bad you day or year has been, it's nothing in comparison to what these men went through for the cause of freedom and liberty here in America.

The extraordinary experiences of these men and their fellow Marines take them from the first clash with the Japanese in the haunted jungles of Guadalcanal, through the impenetrable rain firests of Cape Gloucester, across the blasted coral strongholds of Peleliu, up the black sand terraces of Iwo Jima, through the killing fields of Okinawa, to the triumphant, yet uneasy, return home after V-J Day. 

You'll be immersed in combat through the intimate perspective of this diverse, relatable group of men pushed to the limit in battle both physically and psychologically against a relentless enemy unlike any encountered before.

Generation Kill - 2008
I was interested in seeing this nitty, gritty mini-series about the 2003 invasion into Iraq because one of my sons was also in that initial assault on Iraq. For Renee and I, this was a nail-biting, painful time as we went almost 3 mos. without any word from our son, Josh. As Renee says, it was a time where we found ourselves in the fetal position of trust (in the Lord). We didn't feel like going out in public and answering questions for which we had no answers. So, that is what prompted me and Renee to watch this excellent HBO series. 
If you have virgin ears which can't handle realistic military language with prolific use of the four-letter word, then forget this series. But if you pass it up, what a pity. It's very realistic and for me personally, the language is part of the realism as well.

Generation Kill focuses on a platoon of young but highly trained Marines leading the charge of American forces during the 2003 invasion of Iraq in this gritty, Emmy-nominated HBO miniseries that highlights the challenges soldiers face on the front lines. Alexander SkarsgĂ„rd, James Ransone, Stark Sands and Jon HuertasRolling Stone scribe Evan Wright.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Ten Great Mini-Series to See Before You Die

I will never apologize for my love of television. In fact, I'm sorry for those who have missed out on great moments in television like these mini-series. When they aired, it was a collective event for Americans. You talked about what you had seen the night before around the water cooler. Unlike today's segmented audiences, everyone was watching the same show, the same mini-series. 

The mini-series I've listed here, captivated us as a nation and kept us glued to a 23-inch screen in our living rooms. I realize many of you have NEVER seen, much less heard of some of these mini-series because they may have been made before you were ever born. So, don't ignore them because you think they're "dated." They are still some of the finest cinematic moments in either television or film that you will ever see.

These are my ten favorite mini-series of all time. (However, because of technical difficulties with Blogspot today [it erased half of my blog twice] I am too tired to try it a third time, so for now, I leave you with my top 5 and later on this week, I'll complete the list with the remaining five.)

Most of these videos can be rented at Netflix, downloaded at iTunes, or in many cases, borrowed from at your local library. Also, Band of Brothers is shown frequently on the History Channel and Spike. Lonesome Dove airs on AMC and CMT. 

1) Band of Brothers - 2001

It was easy choice giving this incredible awesome HBO miniseries first place. Even though it's a newer series, I think in the end it will have a lasting impact. But beyond that, the cinematic production is amazing. It's like watching "Saving Private Ryan" ten times overThis joint Steven Spielberg-Tom Hanks production tells the real-life story of Easy Company (E Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division) from D-Day to the end of the war in Europe. Everything possible was done to make the Band of Brothers miniseries as authentic as possible.Nearly all of the main cast members were chosen because they looked like the Easy Company soldiers they would portray.  

Easy Company took part in some of the most difficult battles, including the D-Day invasion of Normandy, the failed invasion of Holland, and the Battle of the Bulge, as well as the liberation of a concentration camp and the capture of Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest. But what makes these episodes work is not their historical sweep but their emphasis on riveting details (such as the rattle of a plane as the paratroopers wait to leap, or a flower in the buttonhole of a German soldier) and procedures (from military tactics to the workings of bureaucratic hierarchies).

Band of Brothers is better than Saving Private Ryan, and better than most any other war movie. There's a reason why Band of Brothers earned so many awards and so much acclaim. It takes the amazing true story of heroes and honors them by showing the bonds that were formed in the darkest of times. Having never served in the military, the mini-series is a sober reminder of the price that has been paid by so many so that we can enjoy freedom and even take it for granted. When I hear the President speak about shared sacrifice, I realize how clueless he is. Most of us, myself included, are clueless as to what shared sacrifice means. Band of Brothers is about real shared sacrifice--the kind that made our country great. Don't pass up this mini-series. It may be the reason why television was invented for something as great as this!

2) I Claudius - 1976
I was never big on Shakespeare or plays. This series is like watching a play. There's not much in the way of action, it's mostly dialogue, but so intriguing. It lures you into the world of the Caesars and a period in history with many similarities to Hitler and our present day.

This 1976 BBC production was quite successful, and memorable, for its vast cast. It told the tale of the first Caesars, from Augustus down to Nero, as seen through the eyes of the fourth one, Claudius, who was considered (to put it kindly) retarded. Derek Jacobi stars in the title role. This is a real classic and it is currently being re-made by the BBC and HBO. 

3. Lonesome Dove - 1989 

I just finished reading the book, and this is one of the few times when I can say that the mini-series (film) is as good as the book, although the book gives much greater depth and insight into the thoughts and feelings of the main characters. Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones star as Gus McCrae and Woodrow Call, aging cowboys and former Texas rangers and who organize a 2,500 mile cattle drive for one last great adventure in this excellent 1989 miniseries adaptation of Larry McMurtry's novel. The best friends, who steal the herd from a gang of Mexican cattle rustlers, drive their herd from Texas to Montana, battling horse thieves, angry Indian tribes, and a renegade half-breed killer named Blue Duck (Frederic Forrest) on a mission of revenge.

The heart of the drama belongs to McCrae and Call, memorably etched by Duvall and Jones as the last of the range romantics. In the age of revisionist Westerns, this excellent cattle-drive drama nicely maintains an old-fashioned feeling while still showing the dark side of the American West. Winner of seven Emmy Awards. 

4. Jesus of Nazareth -1978
This is my favorite film on the life of Christ, even surpassing Mel Gibson's "The Passion."

This joint English-Italian production is hailed as a masterpiece and in 1978 was labeled the greatest miniseries of all time by TV Guide. Franco Zeffirelli’s life of Jesus Christ was gorgeously filmed, powerfully acted and featured a haunting performance by Robert Powell as Jesus. Michael York’s performance as John the Baptist is exemplary, and exactly how you’d imagine that the locust-eating John was. If you watch only one movie or miniseries about Jesus Christ, make it this one.

5. Roots - 1977

Based on Alex Haley's best-selling novel about his African ancestors, Roots followed several generations in the lives of a slave family. The saga began with Kunta Kinte (LeVar Burton), a West African youth captured by slave raiders and shipped to America in the 1700s. The family's saga is depicted up until the Civil War where Kunte Kinte's grandson gained emancipation. Roots made its greatest impression on the ratings and widespread popularity it garnered. On average, 130 million - almost half the country at the time - saw all or part of the series.

Next post: My top-ten mini-series of all time (from #6-10). Who makes the cut?