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Introducing the Film 'Escaping Robert Parker'

Introducing the Film 'Escaping Robert Parker'

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Now on demand, the film explores the impact of the iconic wine critic

A look at the new documentary about Robert M. Parker.

For the past three decades, wine critic Robert Parker has provided recommendations that have served as a foolproof buying guide for numerous consumers and wine retailers. For others, Parker’s numerical rating system is flawed. In short, his influence is either lauded or loathed. Filmmaker Ed Burley explores the positive and negative impact of this wine king in his new documentary, Escaping Robert Parker.

The central character of the film is Julian Faulkner, a young, passionate French winemaker striving to escape the need for Parker’s scores. As a character, he is diametrically opposed to Peter Herbst, a wine consumer who reads The Wine Advocate and relies on Parker exclusively for recommendations of what to buy.

In the film, you’ll also see cameos by Bottlenotes CEO Alyssa Rapp, social media giant Gary Vaynerchuk (formerly, Wine Library TV), John Kapon, the head of "America’s Oldest Wine Shop" Acker, Merrall, & Condit, John Jannarone, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, and more.

The film also includes interviews with Napa Valley winemakers Nils Venge, the first American winemaker to receive a 100-point score from Parker for his 1984 Groth Reserve, and Jean Hoefliger, who speaks movingly about not believing in a perfect wine but still wanting a 100-point score. If you like documentaries but more importantly love wine, this film is for you.

Escaping Robert Parker is now available on demand by clicking here.

Click here for more from The Daily Sip.

Captain America: Civil War

Captain America: Civil War is a 2016 superhero film, based on the Marvel Comics superhero of the same name. The film is a sequel to Captain America: The First Avenger, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Ant-Man. It is the thirteenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the first film of Phase Three. The film was released on April 27, 2016 internationally and on May 6, 2016 in the United States.

The fourth film in the series was announced on April 23, 2021, with Sam Wilson as the main character following him receiving the title of Captain America in The Falcon and The Winter Soldier.

Martha’s Vineyard African-American Film Festival kicks off

“It’s been a crazy ride,” says Martha’s Vineyard African-American Film Festival (MVAAFF) co-director Stephanie Rance, the filmmaker who founded the festival with her husband and fellow filmmaker Floyd Rance III of Run and Shoot Filmworks.

MVAAFF enters its ninth year on the Vineyard when it opens Tuesday, Aug. 9. The Festival runs for five days, ending on Saturday, Aug. 13.

Headliners this year include syndicated radio personality and author Michael Baisden, who will screen his new documentary, “Do Women Know What They Want?” Mr. Baisden has been on the air in New York since 2003, and his talk show was syndicated not long afterward.

“My goal,” says Mr. Baisden, “is to promote dialogue between men and women about topics that impact all of our relationships, regardless if you are married or single, such as sexual compatibility, the influence of girlfriends, interracial dating, and, of course, the most popular issues of them all, infidelity and dishonesty.”

An estimated 60 films will play at MVAAFF, whose headquarters will be at Vineyard Haven’s Mansion House, with some film screenings at the Katharine Cornell Theatre. Ms. Rance said that one of the highlights of this year’s festival is a workshop for filmmakers on the ins and outs of filmmaking.

This workshop is sponsored by the Screen Actors Guild offshoot, SAG-Indie. A number of the actors showcased at MVAAFF in past years have gone on to find work in commercials, according to Ms. Rance.

One MVAAFF sponsor, CNN, will screen “Pictures Don’t Lie,” a documentary about the life of the late civil rights photographer Ernest Withers, one of the most important and controversial photographers of the civil rights movement. At the same time Mr. Withers was photographing Martin Luther King and key moments in the civil rights movement, he was also serving as an informant for the FBI.

Now in their third year of MVAAFF sponsorship, advertising agency Saatchi and Saatchi will offer a workshop entitled This Is How We Do It. They will also once again offer the Nothing Is Impossible Producer’s Award for a film developed by an emerging artist of color.

New this year is Saatchi & Saatchi’s Artist-in-Residence program. A MVAAFF filmmaker chosen by the agency will spend three to six months in its production/creative departments, followed by an equal amount of time in a Los Angeles-based production house. Other MVAAFF sponsors this year include Macy’s Department Stores, Lacoste, MV Bank, and the film equipment rental company Arri-CSC.

Registration for the festival opens Tuesday, Aug. 9 at 2 pm. Opening night films start at 5:30 pm with “Breathe” and several shorts. The main feature at 7:30 pm will be “Escaping Robert Parker: The Director’s Cut,” about the well-known wine critic, along with two shorts.

On Wednesday, Aug. 10, the films begin at 11 am with a series of five shorts. “Payin’ the Price” is the feature playing at 1 pm, along with a short. Four short films are on the schedule at 3 pm, followed by the seven “Nothing Is Impossible” producer’s award shorts at 5 pm, as well as another short. A White Linen and Champagne reception will start at 7:30 pm in the Louisa Gould Gallery on Main Street in Vineyard Haven.

Thursday, Aug. 11 brings “Staging Hope” at 11 am, followed by “From Fatherless to Fatherhood” and two shorts at 1 pm. Five shorts will screen at 3 pm and “Life Love Soul” is at 5:30 pm. Mr. Baisden’s documentary, “Do Women Know What They Want,” follows at 8 pm with a Q&A session afterwards.

“This Is How We Do It” begins at 11 am on Friday, Aug. 12, with another medley of shorts screening at 1 pm. “The Land of Opportunity” plays at 3 pm, and an invitation-only VIP boat ride is also scheduled in that time slot. On Friday evening, “The Three Way” screens at 5:30 pm, followed by a CNN In America Special, “Pictures Don’t Lie.” Lola’s will provide the venue for a party featuring Chris Washington.

The program for the final day, Saturday, Aug. 13, starts at 11 am with five shorts. An invitation-only brunch with Mr. Baisden gets underway at 12 noon, at the same time “Brown Babies: The Mischlingskinder Story” screens.

The Saatchi & Saatchi’s Producer-Award-nominated films will play at 2 pm and continue at 4 pm. A Trivia Contest starts at 6:30 pm. Then a screening of HBO’s Short Film Competition begins at 7 pm with documentary, feature, and short awards announced at 8:30 pm.

The 100 Best Movies on Disney+ (April 2021)

Disney+ covers over 100 years of its flagship studio’s history, from early animated shorts to groundbreaking full-length animated features to family live-action classics to the blockbuster triumvirate of superheroes, space operas, and 3D computer animation of today. It’s a big spread of time filled with classics, some middling stuff, and even a few disasters. Rotten Tomatoes is here to discover and present only the movies with the highest Tomatometer scores on Disney+!

Looking for classic Disney animated movies? Disney+ has them, and we’ve chosen the Freshest, like Cinderella, Fantasia, 101 Dalmatians, The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, and Beauty and the Beast. For more recent Disney animated movies, the best among that crop includes Zootopia, Moana, and Frozen. Of course, you can’t talk Disney animation these days without including Pixar, who are represented in Certified Fresh full with Toy Story, Inside Out, The Incredibles, and more.

But Walt Disney Studios also has a long, honored tradition of family-friendly live-action films, too, and the streaming service does not skimp out. Here, you’ll find those delightful animation/live-action hybrids (Mary Poppins, Pete’s Dragon), sports classics (The Rookie, Miracle, Remember the Titans), and some sweet sci-fi (TRON).

If you’re looking to get lost in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Disney+ is launching a few films short of a full Avengers line-up: Expect to see Guardians of the Galaxy and Iron Man and a several more, and expect us to update the list as more are added in the future. And, of course, Star Wars is here in full force: From A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back, to the modern era featuring The Force Awakens and spin-offs like Rogue One. Our only stipulation for inclusion in our guide is that each film featured here is Certified Fresh, which means it maintained a high Tomatometer score after meeting a minimum number of critics reviews.

As streaming continues to shake up the entertainment landscape, threatening to bury audiences under a deluge of viewing choices, we present a fast track into what you want to see with the 100 Best Movies on Disney+ to Watch Right Now!

The Best Thriller Writers—Ever

Let me state my case right up front: I think action thrillers are today’s most influential and effective vehicles for imparting the values of individualism throughout our cultureLet me state my case right up front: I think action thrillers are today’s most influential and effective vehicles for imparting the values of individualism throughout our culture. To understand why I believe that—and to explain my love affair with thrillers—bear with me for a few moments.

Growing up in a dying mill town in western Pennsylvania was an oppressive experience. And in our blue-collar home, there were few windows that opened to a world of wider possibilities.

That wasn’t my parents’ fault. Their lives had been brutally tough, their own horizons painfully limited. My dad was born on a nearby farm and never made it to high school. For many years, he worked with his hands—stone mason, soldier in WWII, carpenter, railroad brakeman. Mom never finished school, either. She displayed early signs of musical talent, but there was no money for piano lessons. She spent her young adulthood on the assembly line at the “the pottery”—the local china factory After the war, they met, married, and settled in a tiny ranch house. Later, they bought and ran a local tavern, to help put my brother and me through college. They worked like mules there was little time for anything else. So, culture was an unknown. There were no books in our house. We didn’t go to plays or concerts. The local radio stations featured farm reports and Patsy Cline.

Like most parents of that generation, they desperately wanted their kids to have more than they did, so they valued education. But the local offerings were limited. Each morning, I rode an old yellow bus with bad shocks to a school where the biggest club was the Future Farmers of America. I was eternally lucky that the school had a quirky librarian with political passions, an art teacher who played classical recordings during class, and an unforgettable history teacher who opened my mind to the world of ideas.

But the cultural inspiration of my youth came from the TV action heroes of the 1950s.

As a toddler, I became addicted to TV. Mom would park me in my little walker in front of our massive Philco. She told me that somehow I figured out when my favorite shows would come on, and I would scoot the whole walker forward to change the channels. That small screen introduced me to the concept of heroes—appropriately, in black and white.

My earliest imprinted images of manhood included Roy Rogers, Robin Hood, the Range Rider, Hopalong Cassidy, Wyatt Earp, “Lash” LaRue, “Cheyenne,” and Tarzan. There was a Saturday serial cliffhanger featuring the adventures of an amazing guy with a “jet pack” on his back, “Commando Cody.” Meanwhile, Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse Club served up a regular diet of Zorro, Davy Crockett, and “Texas” John Slaughter.

And then there was Superman. Boy, did I love Superman.

Later, I discovered comic book heroes. Not just Superman, but Batman (still my favorite), the Flash, the Green Hornet, Aquaman, the Phantom, and Spider-Man. Novels—especially science fiction and action thrillers—came along later, during adolescence.

I can’t tell you how important such experiences were to a lonely little kid with a big imagination, growing up in that four-room ranch house. Those heroes told me that life didn’t have to be a series of boring, empty routines. That there was more to the world than the claustrophobic rural township where I grew up. That the universe was a huge place filled with adventure and romance, open to infinite, exciting possibilities.

And, most importantly, that you always had to stand up for what was right.

Like millions of other kids of that era, I took all this very seriously.

I offer this personal preamble to my survey of great thriller novels because such fare is universally dismissed as the literary equivalent of junk food. Certainly, almost no one takes thrillers seriously or believes that they have anything important to impart to readers. They are pure “escapism,” it is said.

Well, all works of fiction transport the reader to another time and place. And, yes, a mental journey into an imaginary world can offer a few hours reprieve from boring routines and unhappiness. Call that an “escape,” if you will.

However, for the ambitious soul, fiction offers more: the fuel and the road map to set out on his own real-life journey to a different place. For the morally ambitious soul, it can provide a lot more: the inspiration and insight to become a better person.

Of all genres of popular fiction, action thrillers are my favorite precisely because they present an extravagant, open-ended, no-limits vision of human potential. And just as TV, film, and comic-book heroes can spark passion and idealism in children, thrillers can keep the fires of that passion and idealism burning in adults—at least, in those adults who have not surrendered to cynicism.

For example, many of our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan love the novels of thriller writer Vince Flynn, which feature the heroic adventures of CIA agent Mitch Rapp (see below). They identify with and are inspired by Rapp’s stoic, determined, take-no-prisoners approach to fighting the War on Terror. Similarly, as proof of fiction’s inspirational power, Pentagon brass recently visited the set of Fox TV’s hit series “24” to complain about the tough-guy exploits of fictional counterterrorism agent Jack Bauer. It seems that soldiers who are fans of Bauer are resisting official military training about treating and interrogating captured terrorists respectfully, preferring Jack’s more, shall we say, “direct” approach.

Moreover, almost without exception, thriller heroes are exemplars of individualist values and virtues. They think for themselves and stand by the judgments of their own minds. They take great risks for their highest values. They stand alone against obstacles and opposition that would overwhelm ordinary people. They are resourceful and relentless, creative and courageous. Though they are hard-headed realists, they’re invariably principled, committed to some private, inviolate code of honor.

Today’s morally rootless world needs such images and examples.


Here are some contemporary thriller writers who, to me, stand out as the best of the current lot. I’ve recommended these authors many times to friends, and I’ve always received their undying gratitude in return. For your convenience, I’ve provided links to author websites, when available.

Stephen Hunter

In my opinion, this writer is simply in a class by himself. A Pulitzer Prize–winning film critic for the Washington Post, Hunter is the grand master of the thriller genre today.

Quite a long time ago, I ran across his Cold War–era nuclear nightmare novel The Day Before Midnight and found myself hijacked onto the best thrill ride in memory. For some unaccountable reason, I didn’t try another Hunter story for years. Eventually, though, I read Point of Impact, which introduced me to one of the most original and compelling action heroes ever to stride across the fiction landscape: a lean, stoic, former Marine sniper with the unlikely name of Bob Lee Swagger. Once again, Hunter told me a story of matchless excitement. (A screen adaptation of Point of Impact has just been released under the title Sniper, starring Mark Wahlberg.)

After that stunning introduction, I plunged into Bob Lee’s further adventures. Then, I took up the ingeniously interwoven adventures of his equally heroic state trooper father, Earl Swagger.

Now, “ingenious” is a vastly overused word. But Hunter’s creative imagination and writing skills are simply breathtaking. The wealth of detail he provides for period and place his refined ear for dialogue and dialects the psychological depth and originality of his characterizations the serpentine twists of his dazzling plots and their unbearable suspense the furious, frenzied action sequences that he renders so palpably and, above all, his majestic heroes—hard, driven men of almost mythic stature. What more could any reader possibly want?

This guy writes scenes so scary-real that you want to run away and hide. From Point of Impact, just after Bob Lee has been double-crossed and shot:

It was winding down on him. His breathing came with the slow, rough transit of a train that had run off its tracks and now rumbled over the cobblestones. His systems were shutting down, the wave of hydrostatic shock that had blown through him with the bullet’s passage upsetting all the little gyros in his organs. He felt the blood in his lungs there was no pain quite yet but only the queer sensation of loss, of blur, of things slipping away.

Then something cracked in him.

No you aren’t going to let it happen

He took a deep breath, and in the rage and pride he found what would pass for energy and without exactly willing it, he stood up, again surprised that there was no pain at all, and with a strange, determined gait began to move toward the door.

As the various Swagger novels unfold, Hunter brilliantly interweaves their characters in startling, often poignant ways. The stories enrich and inform each other, elaborating on the backgrounds of the heroes and villains and their complex, unexpected interrelationships. Soon, all these wonderful tales reveal themselves as individual threads in a grand, overarching, multigenerational adventure tapestry.

You can certainly read any of the Swagger novels and enjoy it on its own. But to fully appreciate the author’s genius, try them this way. First read the Bob Lee Swagger trilogy: Point of Impact, Black Light, and Time to Hunt. Then read Dirty White Boys, a novel that bridges the stories of the Swaggers, father and son. Follow up with the Earl Swagger tales: Hot Springs, Pale Horse Coming, and Havana.

After that, perhaps you’ll want to sample his earlier, stand-alone tales. Only The Day Before Midnight rivals the best of the Swagger stories, but even a lesser Hunter novel is, by any measure, a very fine thriller.

Lee Child

In the bookstore one day, I picked up a paperback titled Persuader. It was the seventh outing for Lee Child’s big, tough, clever action hero, Jack Reacher. And it knocked me out. I imediately bought and devoured the first in the Reacher series, Killing Floor, his stunning debut novel. I was hooked.

Child himself is a remarkable fellow. Born in England, he served many years as a presentation director for Grenada Television when, as a result of corporate restructuring, he was fired abruptly in 1995, at age forty. Viewing this mid-life crisis as an opportunity, Child bought six bucks worth of paper and pencils and sat down at his dining room table to write a novel in longhand. The result was Killing Floor—an instant bestseller.

His literary inspirations were John D. McDonald’s Travis McGee, Robert B. Parker’s Spenser, and the seminal thrillers of Alistair MacLean. As he explained to an interviewer for January Magazine, he also knew what else he wanted to put into the larger-than-life Jack Reacher: a bit of himself.

I was a tough guy in a tough neighborhood, and I grew big very early, so I ruled the yard—never scared, never intimidated. At elementary school I was a paid bodyguard. Kids gave me cookies and lunch money to watch their backs. Some bully stepped out of line, I was waiting for him on his way home. I never started a fight, but I was in plenty. I broke arms, did damage. But I felt I was on the side of the angels. I wanted to recapture that feeling and update it into adulthood.

He also knew what he didn’t want: a postmodern anti-hero. “I didn’t want another drunk, alcoholic, miserable, traumatized hero…I just wanted a decent, normal, uncomplicated guy…I wanted him to have flaws and faults and edges, but to be personally unaware of them. Thus he’s interesting, but he’s not always gazing at his own navel.”

A former U.S. Army M.P., Reacher is ferociously tough, honorable, and as memorable as the late Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer. The classic drifter-hero, he’s a knight-errant without apparent roots or ties who stumbles into trouble wherever he goes and won’t leave until he’s set things right.

Like Stephen Hunter, Lee Child simply does everything right: great dialogue, devious plotting, terrific suspense, vividly colorful settings, and white-knuckle action scenes. Here, near the end of Persuader, Reacher is trapped under icy, pounding surf, with killers above shooting at him to keep him beneath the waves:

Thirty seconds. I was drowning. I knew it. I was weakening. My lungs were empty. My chest was crushed. I had a billion tons of water on top of me. I could feel my face twisting in pain. My ears were roaring. My stomach was knotted. My left shoulder was burning where Paulie had hit it. I heard Harley’s voice in my head: We never had one come back. I kicked on.

Forty seconds. I was making no progress. I was being hurled down into the depths. I was going to hit the seabed. I kicked on. Clawed at the tide. Fifty seconds. My ears were hissing. My head was bursting. My lips were clamped against my teeth. I was very angry. Quinn had made it out of the ocean. Why couldn’t I?

I kicked on desperately. A whole minute.

This scene of Reacher fighting the surf goes on for an unendurable six pages. Unendurable, because the reader finds himself unintentionally holding his own breath as he reads. Nobody, not even Stephen Hunter, writes better action scenes than Lee Child.

While the Reacher novels can be read out of sequence, I still recommend that you start with Killing Floor. I guarantee that you’ll soon adopt the label that his many fans bear proudly: Reacher Creatures.

Robert B. Parker

Decades ago, I read Parker’s outstanding early thriller, Wilderness. But I never dabbled in his famous “Spenser” detective series, put off by the TV adaptation starring the late Robert Urich. Big mistake. Boston-based private eye Spenser—no first name ever provided—is a first-rate action hero, and his bullet-fast stories have set the standard for contemporary detective fiction.

Parker is peerless when it comes to dialogue. The banter between Spenser, long-time girlfriend/psychiatrist Susan Silverman, and intimidating thug-pal Hawk is always clever, often hilarious. Spenser and Hawk shatter tough-guy stereotypes: though they are hulking brutes, they are also highly (if self-) educated, often playfully trading arcane literary references, mocking each other over the use of some fancy word, or quoting poetry while bashing bewildered, chromosome-deficient bad guys.

Which brings me to Parker’s other great strength: characterization. Nobody does a better job of working complex human and romantic relationships into action stories. Parker admits that he draws on the ups and downs of his own long-time marriage in crafting Spenser’s ageless romance with Susan Silverman. And it is a grand romance: they have remained head-over-heels in love for decades—which no doubt explains why the Spenser stories appeal as much to women as to men. My wife, no fan of thrillers, nonetheless got hooked on the Spenser novels and raced through them all in a month-long gallop.

The long, complex evolution of Spenser’s relationships with Susan, Hawk, and an ongoing cast of quirky cronies mandates that you read the series’ thirty-odd installments sequentially from the beginning, starting with The Godwulf Manuscript. That was a fairly mundane detective tale, but the introduction of Susan and Hawk in subsequent novels quickly raised the Spenser stories far above the competition.

Though the series has lost some oomph in recent years, Spenser will never bore you: these are very fast reads and always rewarding. As an added bonus, at least once per novel you’ll be treated to an enticing new recipe as gourmet cook Spenser prepares himself dinner while sorting out clues. Finally, if, like me, you’ve ever lived in or near Boston, Parker’s guided tours through its familiar haunts will feel like a homecoming.

In recent years, Parker has launched a couple of other detective series—one about a small-town New England police chief named Jesse Stone, the other about a female detective, Sunny Randall. I haven’t sampled Sunny’s adventures yet but for my taste, the Stone stories, while engaging, don’t have the same flair as Spenser’s. My main problem with Stone is that he is far more flawed a man than Spenser, and for this kind of reading, I prefer my heroes. well, heroic.

Robert Crais

For a writer of detective fiction, about the most complimentary comparison would be to liken him to Robert B. Parker. Robert Crais has more than earned that comparison—and I think he has even surpassed his predecessor.

Crais conjured a tough, smart-mouthed L.A. detective hero enamored of rock music, Disney collectibles, and the martial arts, and saddled with the unlikely moniker of Elvis Cole. Like Reacher, Swagger, and Spenser, Elvis is a man with an inviolate code of honor: a paladin traversing a dark, dangerous world, setting things to right for those deserving vindication, bringing righteous wrath down upon those deserving vengeance.

To accompany him on this quest, Crais gave him a deadly, steel-cold partner named Joe Pike. An ex-cop and former Recon Marine, Pike speaks in monosyllables and hides his ice-blue eyes behind mirrored sunglasses, 24/7. His rare attempts to smile come across as mere facial tics. In addition, Crais puts on parade the entire menagerie of La-La Land creeps and weirdos, Hollywood stars and shysters, crooked cops and loose ladies—everything you could want in a detective novel, and more.

The dialogue and sense of place in Cole stories ring as true as they do in the Spenser novels. Elvis’s witty mouth runs like an open faucet, exasperating those around him but endlessly amusing himself (and the reader). His L.A. landscape becomes its own character, just as important to the series as Boston is to the Spenser novels, but the plots are more clever and complicated.

Once again, the lives and relationships of Cole, Pike, and the other inhabitants of their world evolve over time, so you’ll want to start with the first stellar novel in the series, The Monkey’s Raincoat. If you like Spenser, you’ll love Elvis. (And also Pike: Crais has just published the first novel featuring Joe. I’ll have much more to say about Crais in the near future.)

Vince Flynn

Thrillers tend to follow the preoccupations of the times, and the world after 9/11 has provided new fears for action-oriented authors to confront. Perhaps the most successful of these authors is Vince Flynn.

Flynn launched his literary career pre-9/11 with the outstanding debut novel Term Limits, a violent tale of high-level political and military skullduggery. He followed up in 1999 with the sensational Transfer of Power—a frighteningly plausible page-turner that has a group of Middle Eastern terrorists take over the White House. In that novel, Flynn introduced an iconic hero for the Age of Terrorism, CIA agent-extraordinaire Mitch Rapp.

Rapp is a one-man army, America’s secret weapon in the fight against terrorists. After his debut, his adventures continued in a rapid-fire burst of stories filled with furious action, political intrigue, and astonishingly realistic “insider” knowledge of government agencies, operations, and machinations—a level of detail that easily rivals that of Tom Clancy. Flynn seems to have the blueprints for every top-secret building in Washington, from the White House to the Pentagon to the CIA—plus private access to their security cameras and microphones. His depictions of Secret Service procedures, Special Forces operations, CIA interrogations, and the arcane tradecraft of counterterrorism give you the sense you’re peeking into keyholes in the corridors of power. Clearly, this man has cultivated sources.

To his impressive research, Flynn adds excellent characterizations, good dialogue, and fascinating intrigue. But the glue holding the series together is the character of Mitch Rapp. Flynn’s values and politics are emphatically right-of-center, so it’s no surprise that Rapp is a hot-tempered, unapologetic American patriot. To save his country from its enemies, he plows ahead with the unrelenting force of a bulldozer, demolishing every obstacle and opponent in his path. You find yourself wanting to jump up and cheer.

In every novel, his enemies include cowards and traitors at the highest levels of American politics and media—people whose leftist ideology or venal ambitions prompt them to sell out their nation’s security. But there’s also a regular cast of supportive good guys: former SEAL team pals dedicated agents of the White House Secret Service detail and the female head of the CIA—Rapp’s boss, mentor, and protector, who accepts his outrageous violations of rules and laws with stoic patience and boundless loyalty.

If Rapp sounds a bit like the Jack Bauer character from TV’s “24,” it’s no accident: Flynn actually has been called in as a consultant to the show in recent years. And like Bauer, Rapp is a kind of Lancelot figure, enduring the terrible scars of a lonely battle, but soldiering on with courage and dedication. There are also interesting differences between Bauer and Rapp, but revealing them here would spoil your fun.

My only gripe about the series is that its author and publisher desperately need to hire a good proofreader to catch the egregious grammar and spelling mistakes that recur in each book. But that’s a minor distraction. Unlike many novelists who run out of steam over time, Flynn has only gotten better. Once again, Mitch Rapp’s saga grows from book to book, so the novels are best read in order of their publication.

Nelson DeMille

Here’s another thriller veteran who for years has served up big, well-researched, solidly character-driven novels with clever plots and plenty of action. DeMille’s stories have ranged from The General’s Daughter, a cunning murder mystery in a military setting, to The Charm School, a Cold War spy thriller, to Plum Island, a story of deadly intrigue set on Long Island.

Plum Island is written in first person from the point of view of NYPD homicide cop John Corey, another wise-cracking maverick who’s so appealing that he’s broken out to become an ongoing series character. Corey is crusty, independent, very smart, and very funny. His best adventure to date was The Lion’s Game, a chilling novel about terrorism published in 2000—made especially scary because DeMille was stunningly prescient about the kind of terrorist attacks that were to come in New York only a year later.

Strictly in terms of literary quality, DeMille shines. The Lion’s Game, for instance, alternates in viewpoint from that of Corey, presented in the first person, to that of the terrorist, narrated in the third person. It’s extremely difficult to write that way without distracting the reader. For example, Robert Crais has employed the same device in several recent novels and I don’t think he’s been entirely successful. But DeMille somehow makes it work without calling too much attention to itself.

The man is a master, well worth your time.

Jack Higgins

That’s the pen name for Harry Patterson, an Irish-born writer who also published under the pen names James Graham, Hugh Marlowe, and Martin Fallon. A prolific writer for more than four decades, Higgins crafts engrossing, suspenseful plots with great heroes and villains characterized by a devil-may-care gallantry in action. Years back, he and I corresponded a few times, and he explained the core of his appeal: “The Higgins hero will always go back for the girl.”

You always feel a sense of nobility and grandeur in Jack Higgins’s protagonists. Even many of his bad guys aren’t all bad: even some of his professional assassins, IRA terrorists, and Nazi officers frequently reveal a redemptive sense of honor.

Unlike most of the other novelists I’ve mentioned, Higgins has a style that is much more impressionistic—spare and stripped down to strong nouns and verbs, providing characterization and local color in a few bold, broad strokes of the pen. (Literally: he still writes long-hand.) But his plots are strong, fast-moving, and dramatic.

Among the best of his scores of books: The Eagle Has Landed (his breakthrough novel), A Game for Heroes (my personal favorite), Solo, The Run to Morning, East of Desolation, The Khufra Run, The Savage Day, Night of the Fox, and the haunting A Prayer for the Dying. These are mostly older titles the books he’s written during the past decade or two are often disappointingly derivative, with recycled ideas and even character names. But at his best, Jack Higgins is a wonderful thriller writer.

John Clarkson

Here’s a thriller author that almost nobody knows about, and I’m delighted to bring him to your attention, for he’s become one of my favorites. Clarkson’s first novel, And Justice for O­ne, introduced Jack Devlin, an action hero best described as a cross between Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer and Lee Child’s Jack Reacher. It’s a brutal, violent tale of revenge that stays with you a long time. And you’ll love Devlin.

Clarkson followed this with One Man’s Law, a Devlin novel almost as good as the first, then One Way Out, which for me was a disappointment. But try the first o­ne, and I’ll bet you want more. Clarkson also has written a couple of other thrillers in recent years without Devlin as the hero. A fascinating, gripping, and totally unconventional one is Reed’s Promise, a mystery thriller whose tough-guy hero is an amputee. Improbable? Clarkson pulls it off brilliantly, offering a remarkably fresh and rich character study along with plenty of thrills.

Matt Reilly

This young Australian is a recent discovery for me, and I’ve only sampled a few of his books—but I’m sold on reading the rest.

Reilly is a brilliant storyteller whose strengths are larger-than-life heroes furious, headlong action scenes ingenious plot premises and exotic settings, authentically rendered by means of exhaustive research. His weaknesses are a certain crudeness in writing style and superficiality in characterization but he propels his stories along at such a breathless rush that you won’t even care.

So far, I like best his novels featuring an indomitable, Joe Pike–like Recon Marine (sunglasses and all) named Scott “Scarecrow” Schofield. Reilly introduced him in the white-knuckle Ice Station and continues his exploits in Area 7 and Scarecrow.

Wilbur Smith

For decades, Smith has been a master craftsman of macho adventure. Best known for several long series of sprawling, multigenerational historical adventures set in his native South Africa, he’s also penned some fine contemporary action masterpieces.

A memorable story set in the early days of international terrorism was The Delta Decision (also titled Wild Justice), a tale so suspenseful that I defy anyone to put it down during the first hundred pages. My personal favorite, however, is Hungry As the Sea, which, though not a shoot-’em-up sort of thriller, has o­ne of the best heroes and some of the most exciting action sequences you’ll ever read, packed into a rich, romantic story. You’ll love its sense of life.

David Morrell

A fine contemporary thriller writer, whose First Blood gave our culture the immortal Rambo, Morrell handles characterization very well and creates dazzling action scenes. I’m especially a fan of his earlier works: The Brotherhood of the Rose, The Fraternity of the Stone, and The League of Night and Fog. However, some of his stories are tinged with downbeat, even cynical tones. Let the buyer beware.


Today’s first-rank action authors stood on the shoulders of giants. If you’re not familiar with the great thriller masters of the past, I urge you to go online and haunt second-hand paperback shops to rediscover the brilliant work of the following writers from decades past.

Alistair Maclean

In 1955, this late Scottish writer made his memorable debut with a classic wartime naval adventure, H.M.S. Ulysses. Before long, Alistair Maclean set the standard for modern thriller writing. He was the pioneer of heroic, man’s-man action stores, and he’s been a seminal influence on countless other authors. Maclean’s justly famous titles—especially his earlier ones—remain as compelling and entertaining as when first published. You just can’t go wrong with The Guns of Navarone, Where Eagles Dare, Ice Station Zebra, The Golden Rendezvous, When Eight Bells Toll, and Night Without End. And if you’ve seen some of the exciting film versions of these, let me assure you: the books are even better.

Desmond Bagley

Another terrific Brit thriller author, Bagley was a lot like Maclean in style, but with plenty of intrigue. Running Blind, The Golden Keel, and The Spoilers are among his best.

Mickey Spillane

Yeah. The Mick. Founding Father of hardboiled, private-eye thrillers. Punchy dialogue. Scenes that whiz by like tracer bullets. Vintage, mid-twentieth-century male chauvinism that will make you laugh . alas, nostalgically.

Mickey’s break-the-mold, tough-guy hero, Mike Hammer, became a cultural icon in the late ’40s and early ’50s. And you’ll see why if you pick up the first in the series, I, The Jury. Mystery. Beautiful, voluptuous dames. A shocker ending that will blow you away. And a two-fisted hero who’s often imitated but rarely equaled in modern fiction.

The first half dozen or so of the Hammer stories were all very good, with One Lonely Night being perhaps the very best. A word to the wise, though: Mike Hammer has never been properly rendered on-screen, see? So hey, pal, don’t let those cheesy TV and film versions stop you from giving Mike a fair shot.

Donald Hamilton

I urge you to sample this author’s “Matt Helm” series. Like Mike Hammer, Matt Helm, a ’60s-era spy hero, has been vandalized and satirized on the big and small screen. In the novels, he’s a mature, tough-as-nails agent as far removed from the persona of bon vivante Dean Martin as is Uma Thurman from Rosie O’Donnell. The first novel in the series, Death of a Citizen, remains one of the finest, most gripping spy thrillers you’ll ever read, and I’m confident it will hook you o­n Helm. Incidentally, author Hamilton is a gun expert and even penned a volume On Guns and Hunting, so the gunplay described in the novels bears the stamp of authenticity.

Ian Fleming

What can I say about the creator of James Bond that hasn’t already been said? No list of thriller authors would be complete without him. Plotting was not Fleming’s strongest suit, but his delightfully original characters, led by 007, have rightly become immortal in our culture. I was delighted when the impressive new adaptation of Casino Royale, the first Bond story, made it to the screen last year, giving the film franchise a new lease on life, and perhaps bringing new readers to this classic series.


Let me conclude with a few recommendations of stand-alone thrillers that merit your attention.

One of the finest tales of international intrigue I’ve ever read was The Red Fox, the debut novel of Canadian novelist Anthony Hyde. I liked Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse, but I confess I haven’t yet gotten into Clancy that much. Though I find Clive Cussler a crude writer, I enjoyed his Raise the Titanic! more than hero Dirk Pitt’s subsequent adventures. Mystery writer Dick Francis writes a lot like Jack Higgins, tight and lean a standout in my memory was his early thriller Nerve. I also enjoyed early Ken Follett novels, especially The Eye of the Needle and The Key to Rebecca.

Okay, I’ve given you enough reading assignments for many years of armchair thrills. I don’t pretend that this list of great thrillers is exhaustive. How could it be? Who could keep up with all the new entries? The good news is that as long as the human spirit craves adventure, self-assertion, and romance, fresh new talents skilled in the art of storytelling will always come along to try to satisfy those appetites.

I say “try,” because I know that they’ll never quench my own thirst for thrilling stories of man at his best.

‘Venom 2’ isn’t in the MCU, but it does have Spider-Man teasers

Sony released the first trailer for Venom: Let There Be Carnage, showing that we can indeed expect plenty of carnage from this sequel. And there’s going to be plenty of Venom humor from the looks of it, with Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) fully embracing his darker side. It’s not like he has a choice, after all. The trailer also included a few great Easter eggs that might prompt MCU fans to wonder whether Venom happens in the same universe as the Avengers and Spider-Man movies. The good news is that we already have an answer to that question: Venom 2 isn’t part of the MCU. That said, the film has plenty of Spider-Man teasers that make the MCU question quite understandable. That’s because Sony is building its own cinematic universe centered around Spider-Man stories.

In the summer of 2019, after the Infinity Saga was concluded, we learned that Disney and Sony were not on good terms when it came to Spidey’s future. Sony wanted to create its own Marvel universe built around Spider-Man, and yank Tom Holland’s Peter Parker out of the MCU. The two parties eventually reconciled and the relationship has improved significantly. We’ve now reached a point where Spider-Man 3 is one of the most anticipated films of the year, something that could hardly be said about the previous episodes.

But Sony hasn’t given up on its dreams of building its own universe of characters, the horribly-named “SPUMC.” This universe will contain stories centered around Spider-Man characters, whether they’re Spider-Man films unconnected to the MCU or other stories like Venom and Morbius. None of them will have official ties to the MCU, but Sony will try to milk that Avengers connection nonetheless.

Spider-Man 3 will provide a simple explanation of how the MCU and SPUMC can coexist. According to all the evidence we have on hand so far, No Way Home is a multiverse film that will connect Sony’s Spider-Men before Holland with Holland’s Peter Parker. The MCU follows the main timeline of that universe, which is Holland’s timeline. The SPUMC might follow a different reality, and bringing Holland into it might be easier said than done.

What we do know so far is that Venom isn’t part of the MCU. Let There Be Carnage director Andy Serkis made that clear in an interview with IGN. He went as far as to say that Brock and Venom are unaware of other characters like Spider-Man.

Obviously, there are links between Venom and Spider-Man and the Marvel Universe and the Spider-Man story. We’re treating this very much as it’s his own world. The Venom story is his own world. There are nods and little moments, of course, but on the whole he’s unaware. They are unaware, at this point, of other characters like Spider-Man. So, that’s the way we’ve chosen to play this particular episode of the movie, but, well, we’ll wait and see. We’ll see what little things you can pick out of it.

The first trailer already features those nods and little moments. Like a detective (Stephen Graham) reading a printed edition of The Daily Bugle, or Brock reading the online version of the same famous paper. That’s J. Jonah Jameson’s news operation, where Peter Parker works in the comics, and Venom uses the tie-in to imply this is all happening in a Spider-Man universe.

Sony doesn’t need Venom to be in the MCU as long as it can find a way to bring Tom Holland into its SPUMC and turn films like Venom and Morbius into blockbuster hits. Sony doesn’t even need Tom Holland in Venom it only needs to hint at a connection to the superhero. The same detective reading the paper gives us another interesting Easter egg that you can see in the image below. An incomplete headline on the paper’s page seems to include the words “Avengers” and “Nightmare” in it, which is a clear nod to the MCU.

This “coolness-by-association” might help Sony sell more tickets, especially in a world that’s only beginning to return to normal.

We’ve already witnessed something similar in the Morbius trailer, where Sony included little nods to No Way Home and the MCU as a whole. Morbius (Jared Leto) is seen in the trailer walking next to Spider-Man artwork on a wall with the word “murderer” written over it. On top of that, Michael Keaton’s Vulture from Homecoming cameos in the same trailer.

Again, all of this proves that Sony needs these early SPUMC films to be successful so that it can build even bigger Spider-Man stories. The only way to do that is to imply a connection with the MCU when marketing the films, no matter how small that connection might be. Teasing the Avengers is a great trick, as the Venom universe would surely have its own superheroes, even though Sony wouldn’t be able to actually use any Avengers since it doesn’t hold the rights for those characters.

Having Tom Holland in any of these movies would be even better, but we have no way of knowing if that’s happening. The multiverse explanation above would allow Sony and Marvel to share Tom Holland’s Spidey for some time to come. Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield might be coming back to their Spider-Man roles, but there’s no question that the Peter Parker fans want to see most is Holland. And that’s the Peter Parker who Sony probably wants for the SPUMC as well.

That said, there are plenty of Spider-Man stories left to tell in the future and plenty of Spider-Man versions to choose from. Let There Be Carnage launches on September 24th, while No Way Home hits theaters on December 17th. Here’s the trailer for Venom 2 again, where you can spot all those Daily Bugle surprises.

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52-year-old Dave Bautista says he's quitting 'Guardians of the Galaxy' over shirtless scenes

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It looks like we finally know Marvel’s next major villain who will replace Thanos

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but Marvel’s next Disney+ MCU TV show is rumored to feature at least one massive cameo. That should be par for the course for any Marvel movie or TV series. The only way to tie these projects together is to have some cameos and Easter eggs in each …

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‘The Northman’: 15 Things to Know About Robert Eggers’ 10th Century Viking Epic

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Henry Cavill To Star in Lionsgate’s ‘Highlander’ Reboot From Chad Stahelski

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The Real Reason 'Last Man Standing' Got Canceled

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Why Isn’t Sean Spicer Mauled by Zombies in Zack Snyder’s ‘Army of the Dead?’

Clay Enos/NetflixWhat do audiences want out of a zombie movie?Is it stirring, character-driven plots about blood, family, and sacrifice? A sharp-toothed satire aimed at the mindlessness of modern society? A subversion of genre tropes, maybe, into a winking variety show juggling horror, humor, and romance? Maybe a musical?? Would the people, perhaps, be into a cameo from Sean Spicer?The latter, I’m pretty confident, is the rottenest little dash of flavor in the cannibal recipe of late. (Though maybe it isn’t the most puzzling: People have noted since his days behind a podium lying to the press on the president’s behalf that ex-White House press secretary Spicer looks like the guy in a zombie movie who won’t tell you he got bit until it’s too late.) Army of the Dead, director Zack Snyder’s second entry in the zombie canon, tries just about every other spice, too, in its attempt to serve up something fresh. Some of it is irresistible. A lot of it falls flat. But before you ask, no, Spicer doesn’t get mauled alive by undead hordes.There are so many missed opportunities in this movie.Chief among them might be jettisoning the living flesh bags entirely, as no human character here approaches the fascinating presence of their enemies: a king and queen of the dead who ride atop desiccated horses, command hulking armies from inside a Las Vegas casino, and skulk around their desert kingdom with a lethal, loping grace. They even each have a discernible sense of style, she in her glittering goth-showgirl regalia and he in a protective steel headpiece and tattered cape. In place of the other characters’ stilted dialogue and comedic flat-liners, these two just hiss and roar and purr at each other monstrously. They’re perfect.Stephen King on Scary Stalkers, Being ‘Canceled’ by J.K. Rowling, and Navigating TraumaThe king and queen are the highest-ranking of the “alpha” class of zombies—a smarter, more organized, more nightmarish strain than your average ghoul—and one of the movie’s most striking innovations. I wish Army of the Dead were just about these two who knows, it might have succeeded as a black-hearted romance more than as the stuttering rehash of Aliens it slowly, inexplicably wills itself into becoming. (Keep Tig Notaro in the aviators with the cigar, though. Just two lovestruck zombies and Tig.)What we get instead, after a winning opening sequence, is a cumbersome melodrama and empty, splattery fun. Which is fine enough for a mindless Netflix night in. But Army of the Dead so often seems on the verge of having something more to say about the world we live in today and the ways we’ve responded to crisis. Then right when you’re leaning in to listen, it explodes a brain. Or worse, hands the mic to Sean Spicer.A zombie outbreak in the Nevada desert turns Sin City into hell in the movie’s opening, launching a darkly funny bacchanal of destruction on the Strip. To the tune of a Liberace impersonator’s jaunty cover of “Viva Las Vegas,” Snyder revels in the city’s signature hedonism gone awry. Topless showgirls devour satin-robed men alive. Bachelorettes descend like banshees on the slots. A dazed Elvis shuffles into the early morning light after a seemingly wild night—evidenced by the blood dripping from his mouth. Snare drums burst in time with machine-gun fire, and lyrics like “if I wind up broke” and “one-arm bandits crashin’” find wryly grim new meanings.The musical montage swallows up the conventional start to a story like this, where the human resistance makes its last stand. Instead, we see just flashes of the carnage and human toll as the song ascends into an elegy sung by Snyder favorite Allison Crowe. When the sequence ends, a wall has been erected around the perimeter of Las Vegas to keep the dead contained, Escape From New York-style. Several years blur by. And as the camera pans up to a breathtaking panorama of a broken Las Vegas skyline and a Strip overrun by death, the visual joke tells itself: What dies in Vegas, stays in Vegas.The sequence is a lot of fun and an effective reminder of Snyder’s unimpeachable strengths as a director (though he kindly refrains from laying on too much of the slow-mo this time). The story that unfolds is in the signature Snyder style, too. It reveres mythology and Joseph Campbell. It’s full of audacious, on-the-nose needle drops (its use of the Cranberries’ “Zombie” here is so brazen, you have to respect it). And it roots for a central group of rag-tags who band together against innumerable enemies. Plus, a number of self-references to his 2004 Dawn of the Dead remake. You liked that zombie baby last time around? Get ready for a zombie fetus!It also gestures at politically-charged imagery in a plot that somehow lands nowhere in particular. A “quarantine camp” outside the Vegas perimeter seems to hold people indefinitely, supposedly out of concern they may be infected. Hmm, you think. Seems bad. Suddenly we’re ambushed with Sean Spicer’s face as he debates Donna Brazile on some cable network. He argues that detainees should be “grateful” for the camps’ “free health care solution.” Brazile counters that the camps are unnecessary since no one has emerged from them infected, and claims they are being used to turn liberals into political prisoners. Spicer purses his lips into a weird little smile. You, at home, scream. This plays out on a TV in the background as our main character, Scott Ward (Dave Bautista), decides whether or not to take a billionaire up on his once-in-a-lifetime offer. If he agrees to stage a heist and help crack open a safe in the heart of infected Las Vegas, he takes home a cool $50 million. That’s worth more than the Medal of Honor he took home for his heroism in the zombie wars, and it’s enough to keep him from flipping burgers for the rest of his life. He’s in.Next up is assembling a crew of mostly working-class folks: a car mechanic (Ana de la Reguera), a helicopter pilot/mechanic (Tig Notaro, green-screened in to replace Chris D’Elia, who was accused of violating child pornography laws last year), a locksmith (Matthias Schweighöfer), an old war buddy who’s great with a buzzsaw (Omari Hardwick) and uh, a YouTuber (Raúl Castillo)? “There are Reddit forums devoted to this guy,” we are told. His buddy Chambers (Samantha Win) tags along, done up in a red bandanna and military-issue tank top in an explicit reference to Vasquez, Jenette Goldstein’s iconic role from Aliens, in one of the movie’s many, many, many nods to James Cameron’s 1986 sequel. Then there’s Scott’s daughter, Kate (Ella Purnell), a volunteer at the camps who elbows her way into the mission. She’s on one of ye olde white savior quests to find the mother of two kids, an Indian woman named Geeta (Huma Qureshi) who snuck into the city via a “coyote” (same name as the smugglers who get people across the Mexican border charming), hoping to find enough money to keep her kids out of the camps forever. Women of color get very little to say in this movie and, naturally, end up helpless or straight-up zombie chow long before most. Chinese-Canadian martial artist Win, at least, finds a way to create a story and emotion in her character’s mostly-wordless final scene. The film owed its Vasquez tribute more. Clay Enos/Netflix There’s a Burke proxy, too, in Garret Dillahunt’s soulless company drone, who lies to and sells out the others at every opportunity. Together, Ocean’s 11 this group is not, and the film starts feeling as bumpy as Soderbergh’s heist flick is smooth. No one’s roles or specialties seem to matter apart from the locksmith. (Why did we need two mechanics?) Time begins to flow in wonky ways. That’s a problem when our understanding of the plot hinges on a tight timetable: the president (never named and never shown) has decided to nuke the city in only a few hours, just in time for the Fourth of July holiday—one of the film’s funniest jokes.The stakes become strangely blurry, too. One of the women abruptly becomes a love interest, as if in a hasty attempt to make us feel something for her underdeveloped character seconds before her doom. Scott wants to reconnect with his daughter, in a plot the film kind of forgets about until its final minutes, like a half-hearted imitation of Train to Busan's masterful final act. Kate wants to save Geeta, meanwhile, for the sake of Geeta’s children. But those kids and their mother’s faces are never present for more than a few seconds of screen time their purpose is not to be people so much as it is to make Kate feel good.The real joy of the film, of course, is in its set pieces, which relish the extravaganzas of gore with which Snyder first made a name for himself. Exploding heads, zombie-tiger maulings, the most spectacular body-crushed-into-goo special effect at a booby-trapped bank vault. Buzzsaw hackings (though none as majestic as Snyder's first), ritual executions, a fashion-forward zombie royal couple—it’s all here, all executed with an undeniable eye for style and suspense. The only thing missing is meaning to it all.Dawn of the Dead had unbeatable zombie effects and clever, often terrifying ways of raising the stakes with every set piece. It had deaths so dazzling and morbid, you couldn’t look away. It also adapted the Romero tradition of zombie satire for a post-millennium America.But it resonated emotionally, I would argue, because the people in it felt like people. They made choices most of us entertain only in our darkest thoughts, blown up on a screen for everyone to see. Their stories asked us to consider the difference between survival and really living: connecting with other people, trusting them, the stuff that makes us human and not shambling meat bags.Army of the Dead doesn’t seem to care much about all that—or for people. It’s only lifeless when the living are onscreen.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

Netflix's Army of the Dead Is a Heaping Dish of Turn-Off-Your-Brain Entertainment

Zac Snyder's return to the genre is scattershot, derivative and too long, but it’s perfectly acceptable turn-your-brain-off entertainment

The Linda Lindas’ Library Performance of ‘Racist, Sexist Boy’ Hailed by Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello

The Los Angeles Public Library kicked off its celebration of AAPI Heritage Month on May 4, in line with its “TEENtastic Tuesdays,” with a performance from youthful Los Angeles band The Linda Lindas. But it wasn’t until today that their set exploded over social media when the LAPL posted their performance of “Racist Sexist Boy” […]

6. ‘Goodfellas’ (1990)

Who's in it: Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci, Lorraine Bracco, Paul Sorvino

What&rsquos it about: This riveting crime film, which is considered one of the greatest movies of all time, chronicles the true story of Henry Hill, a former mobster turned FBI informant. The movie earned Pesci (who played the Irish gangster Tommy DeVito) an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

Remembering Dizzy in the centennial year of his birth

In this year of major jazz centennials, none holds more importance than that of Dizzy Gillespie, who transformed the music in ways that resonate profoundly to this day.

Alongside Charlie Parker and others, John Birks Gillespie crafted the idiom we call bebop, revolutionized what the trumpet could achieve, nurtured the Cuban-American music sometimes called Cubop and penned jazz classics such as "A Night in Tunisia," "Manteca" (with Chano Pozo), "Groovin' High," "Con Alma," "Woody'n You," "Oop Bop Sh'Bam" and many more.

So musical tributes to Gillespie will be plentiful this year, the Chicago Jazz Orchestra offering one of the first events May 20, when it spotlights trumpeters Roy Hargrove, Marquis Hill and Walter White in a "Definitively Dizzy" concert at the Studebaker Theater.

That Gillespie should have achieved so much in his 75 years seems all the more striking in light of where he started in life: the last of nine children born into poverty in Cheraw, S.C. Every Sunday, his father — a bricklayer and amateur pianist — whipped the seven children who'd survived infancy. The beatings didn't stop until his father died, when Gillespie was 10, leaving the family poorer still.

But in 1929, a cache of instruments turned up at Cheraw's Robert Smalls School, changing Gillespie's life and, in effect, the course of American music.

"The bigger guys got the horns that they wanted, all that was left was the trombone, so I took that," Gillespie told me in 1990. "I wasn't too interested in trombone, but I didn't know exactly what I wanted, either.

"But the boy next door to me got the trumpet, and when I heard that sound out the window, I said to myself: 'Hey, man, that's what I want, let me practice on that thing.'

"At that point, I couldn't read music, but I sure could play it."

Indeed, Gillespie was a natural, quickly outpacing the teacher he always credited for introducing him to music, Alice V. Wilson.

"See, I never did play by (written) notes," she told me shortly after Gillespie's death on Jan. 6, 1993, after battling pancreatic cancer. Wilson was 92 at the time.

"I always did play by ear, and when I wanted John Birks to play something, I would give him the tune (on the piano) with one finger and let him catch it like that.

"And he would turn right around and play it back to me just like I played it.

"And then I would tell him to put a little jazz in it. That's what I would tell him, and that's what he would do. So after a little while, I wouldn't have to tell him to add the jazz — he'd just take over. Well, after about a semester and a half he was way ahead of me, because I couldn't play in the same keys that he was playing in already. I could only play in B-flat."

The trumpet prodigy won a scholarship to the Laurinburg Institute, a private high school in North Carolina, but left before graduating to take his music on the road. Already he was finding new sounds in jazz.

"I heard Dizzy in the mid-'30s, and though he sounded a little like (trumpeter) Roy Eldridge, he was coming up with his own thing," trumpeter Doc Cheatham told me in 1993, when Cheatham was 87.

"Even back then, he was taking jazz out of the cornfield — out of that corny music we all were playing. Here was a guy who played so fast, so accurately, so creatively, that he left all the other trumpeters scuffling like hell. By the time he came into Cab Calloway's band (1939), he was really into the new sound, but a lot of people thought Dizzy didn't know what he was doing."


Before the independence of the United States in 1783, and extending until Florida became a territory of the United States in 1821, the destination of many fugitive slaves was Spanish Florida. In a policy formalized in 1693, Spain offered escaped slaves from the neighboring colony of South Carolina safe refuge and freedom, provided they converted to Catholicism and men served for a period in the local militia. The first free settlement of former slaves in the Americas was Santa Teresa de Mose, near St. Augustine, Florida. This community was disbanded when Florida ceased being a Spanish possession in 1763, with most of the slaves being evacuated to Cuba. By this point, their presence was militarily unnecessary, with a sufficient quantity of Spanish troops being stationed at the San Marcos fort in St. Augustine.

For twenty years British Florida welcomed and gave freedom to any slaves from the United States. Florida became a Spanish possession once again in 1783 at the Treaty of Paris, and it continued to provide a safe refuge for fugitive slaves. Heavy American pressure caused Spain to rescind its formal welcoming of slaves, but it had little effect. Runaway slaves from as far as Virginia and Tennessee continued to emigrate to Florida, and the Spaniards, whose control over the territory was weak, had neither the means nor the inclination to capture and return them — in fact, they invited the American slave owners to catch them themselves. A large colony of maroons grew up at Prospect Bluff, on the Apalachicola River in remote northwest Florida, in the final years of the eighteenth century. Trading posts were set up, first at San Marcos de Apalache and then at Prospect Bluff. These were run by British firms since the U.S. independence in 1783 Britain had begun to welcome fugitive slaves from the United States, to the point of creating a military unit of them, the Corps of Colonial Marines.

The horrible explosion at Negro Fort did not eliminate the whole "colony" at Prospect Bluff. It continued until General Andrew Jackson built Fort Gadsden there in 1818, using it as a base for the First Seminole War. In fact, eliminating the refuge in Florida for fugitive slaves was the primary motive for the War and for the United States' acquisition of Florida. After that date, fugitive slaves headed north—they followed The North Star (name of Frederick Douglass's newspaper).

The United States Constitution, ratified in 1788, never uses the words "slave" or "slavery", but recognized its existence in the so-called fugitive slave clause (Article IV, Section 2, Clause 3), the three-fifths clause, and the prohibition on prohibiting importation, for 20 years, of "such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit" (Article I, Section 9). The Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 required citizens to aid in the return of escaped slaves to their owners. In practice, both citizens and governments of free states often supported the escape of fugitive slaves. Fugitive slaves early in the U.S. were sought out just as they were through the Fugitive slave law years, but early efforts included only Wanted posters, flyers, etc.

The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 strengthened provisions for the recapture of slaves and offered them no protection in the justice system. Bounty hunters and civilians could lawfully capture escaped slaves in the North, or any other place, using little more than an affidavit, and return them to the slave master (see slave catcher).

Many escaped slaves upon return were to face harsh punishments such as amputation of limbs, whippings, branding, hobbling, and many other horrible acts. [4]

Individuals who aided fugitive slaves were charged and punished under this law. In the case of Ableman v. Booth, the latter was charged with aiding Glover's escape in Wisconsin by preventing his capture by federal marshals. The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was unconstitutional, as it required states to violate their own laws in protecting slavery. Ableman v. Booth was appealed by the federal government to the US Supreme Court, which upheld the constitutionality of the Act. [5]

Many states tried to nullify the new slave act or prevent capture of escaped slaves by setting up new laws to protect their rights. One of the most notable is the Massachusetts Liberty Act. This Act was passed in order to keep escaped slaves from being returned to their masters through abduction by federal marshals or bounty hunters. [6]

The Underground Railroad had developed as a way in which free blacks and whites (and sometimes other slaves) aided fugitive slaves to reach freedom in northern states or Canada. "Stations" were set up in private homes, churches, caves, barns, and other hiding places — John Brown had a secret room in his tannery — to give escaped slaves places to stay on their way. People who maintained the stations provided food, clothing, shelter, and instructions about reaching the next "station". This is the most colorful and best known of the ways that abolitionists aided slaves out of the South and into Northern states.

When the slaves were found missing, masters were outraged, many of them believing that slavery was good to the slave, and if they ran away it was the work of Northern abolitionists "They are indeed happy, and if let alone would still remain so." [7] (A new name was invented for the supposed mental illness of a slave that made him or her want to run away: drapetomania.) Flyers would be put up, advertisements placed in newspapers, rewards offered, and posses to find him/her sent out. Under the new Fugitive Slave Act they could now send federal marshals into the North to extract them. This new law also brought bounty hunters into the business of returning slaves to their masters a former slave could be brought back into the South to be sold back into slavery, if he/she was without freedom papers. In 1851 there was a case of a black coffeehouse waiter who was snatched by federal marshals on behalf of John Debree, who claimed the man to be his property. [8] Even though the man had escaped earlier, his case was brought before the Massachusetts Supreme Court to be tried.

The consequences of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 — Northern outrage at the actions, or, from the point of view of the Northerners, crimes, that the Act authorized — are generally considered one of the causes of the American Civil War.

The Underground Railroad was a network of black and white abolitionists between 1645 and the end of the Civil War who helped fugitive slaves escape to freedom. Members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), Baptists, Methodists and other religious sects helped in operating the Underground Railroad. The Underground Railroad was initially an escape route that would assist fugitive enslaved African Americans in arriving in the Northern states however, the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, as well as other laws aiding the Southern states in the capturing of runaway slaves, resulted in the Underground Railroad being used as a mechanism to reach Canada. Canada was a safe haven for African-American slaves because Canada had already abolished slavery by 1783. Blacks in Canada were also provided equal protection under the law. [ citation needed ] The well-known Underground Railroad "conductor" Harriet Tubman is said to have led approximately 300 slaves to Canada. [9]

Notable people who gained or assisted others in gaining freedom via the Underground Railroad include:

The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, part of the Compromise of 1850, was a law enacted by the Congress that declared that all fugitive slaves should be returned to their masters. Because the South agreed to have California enter as a free state, the North allowed the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 to be created. The act was passed on September 18, 1850, and it was repealed on June 28, 1864. The act strengthened the authority of the federal government in the capturing of fugitive slaves. The act authorized federal marshals to require Northern citizen bystanders to aid in the capturing of runaways. Many Northerners perceived the legislation as a way in which the federal government overstepped its authority, due to the fact that the legislation could be used to force Northerners to act against their abolitionist beliefs. Many Northern states eventually passed "personal liberty laws", which prevented the kidnapping of alleged runaway slaves however, in the court case known as Prigg v. Pennsylvania, the personal liberty laws were ruled unconstitutional on the grounds that the capturing of fugitive slaves was a federal matter in which states did not have the power to interfere. [10]

One of the most notable runaway slaves of American history and conductors of the Underground Railroad is Harriet Tubman. Born into slavery in Dorchester County, Maryland, around 1822, Tubman as a young adult escaped from her master's plantation in 1849. Between 1850 and 1860, she returned to the South numerous times to help parties of other slaves to freedom, guiding them through the lands she knew well. She is aided an estimated 300 persons to escape from slavery, including her parents. During this time, there were numerous bounties on her head throughout the South, payable to anyone who could capture her and bring her back to slavery. Many people called her the "Moses of her people." During the American Civil War, Harriet Tubman also worked as a spy and as a nurse at Port Royal, South Carolina.

Watch the video: Trailer Escaping Robert Parker: Directors Cut


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  4. Ruben

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