Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Lies In the Force

Lies in the Force

Nathan reached for the bottle of aspirin, even the tiny rattling of the pills made his already splitting head ache even more. He could still taste the alcohol on his tongue and the smell of cigarettes still lingered on his clothes.
Without warning Nancy burst into Nathan’s office headed right to the drapes and pulled them open.
“Nancy, good god are you trying to kill me?! Close those stupid things!” Nathan winced in pain as the light from the morning sky hit his eyes.
“Oh Nate, sorry, I didn’t see you sitting there.” Nancy glanced over to the office couch noticing a heap of clothes, “Have you been staying at the office?”
Only Nancy could call Nathan “Nate” without issue, they had worked together for years and he saw her more as a mother figure than an actually business partner. 
Nathan met Nancy when he was ten, after his parents were murdered. Nancy found Nathan stealing from a local convenient store, but instead of turning him in, she decided to give him a home and a second chance. Nancy quickly learned about Nathan’s parents and, after a yearlong investigation, the Chicago Police Department stopped looking, stating the trail had gone cold.
Nathan slowly got up from his desk and sunk into the couch amongst the dirty clothes and empty beer cans, “Yeah, Carla kicked me out and I figured it was cheaper to stay here than a hotel. Besides I already pay rent for this place.” A small shy smile came across his face as he silently laughed at his own joke.
“What did you do?” Nancy asked, but she could probably name a number of dumb things he did to cause Carla to tell him to get the hell out.
“Oh you know the usual, don’t worry we’ll work it out, we always do, besides she doesn’t need me at home mulling over this case, leaving pictures of the dead on our living room table.”
Nancy shook her head; she knew exactly what he was talking about.  Ten years ago Nathan opened his own private detective office. For the most part he worked his own independent cases, but about five years ago he started to see a pattern in some of his cases. Most, if not all, were connected and all of them were once investigated by the Chicago Police Department, but then dropped after detectives said the trail went cold.

Three months ago Jonathan Luck walked into Nathan’s office. Mr. Luck, as Nathan would find out, was anything but lucky.  Jonathan looked disheveled, the dark circles under his eyes told Nathan this man hadn’t slept in months and he smelled of booze. Nathan didn’t know if he was to help the guy or let him sleep it off on his couch. But before Nathan could say anything, Mr. Luck slapped an envelope on his desk.
Pictures slid out grabbing Nathan’s attention and causing him to sink into his chair.
“I need your help, no one will listen and no one will help.” The words fell out of Jonathan’s mouth as he stood over Nathan’s desk.
The pictures were grisly, disgusting and something Nathan had seen before. A woman nailed to a cross, tortured and left for dead. “Where did you get these?” Nathan asked.
Jonathan took a deep breath, “They arrived on my door step sometime last night. Found them this morning in an unmarked envelope.”  Nate picked up one of the photos and studied it carefully,
 “Who’s the woman?” Nathan asked with slight hesitation in his voice.
“Her name is Linda; we were together for three years. Then one day she just vanished.”
This was the same story Nate heard a year ago when another grieving man came to his office with pictures in hand and the tale of a missing loved one.
“I need your help, the CPD won’t listen, they say she ran away, wanted to get away from me. When I begged them to keep looking they told me there was nothing more they could do.”
“Why not take these photos back to the police?” But Nathan already knew the answer.
“I don’t trust them, they gave up, said I drove her off. I can’t have them thinking I killed her.”
Nathan leaned back in his chair, he knew this man hadn’t kill his girlfriend and he knew all too well the CPD wasn’t going to help. What he didn’t know was how to find the person or persons responsible, especially since he was convinced Linda’s murder and the murder of four other girls were committed by members of the Chicago Police Department.
“Nate. Nate. NATHAN!” Nancy found herself shouting at Nathan who was lost in thought.
“What?” He asked as if Nancy had casually called his name.
“You have a meeting today with Mr. Luck, remember?  He’s going to be here in thirty minutes. You need to get ready, and maybe think about freshening up a bit, you kind of stink.”
Nathan grinned, he knew Nancy was right, he COULD use a shower and maybe another drink, but Mr. Luck was on his way and he didn’t have time to worry about his appearance. Nate pulled a white shirt out from under the pile of clothes, popped some mints, and took a seat at his desk. He took a long pause, pulled open the drawer, and took out a file. It was thick, filled with notes and narratives from family members; potential witnesses and of course photos of the now five female victims.

It had been three months since Jonathan Luck walked into Nathan’s office, three long months leading to more questions and not many answers. Nathan knew he was chasing ghosts, he also knew if these murders did involve the CPD it went high up the food chain. As the months ticked by Nathan knew there would be another missing woman, another murder, and another loved one at his door looking for answers.
There was a quiet knock and Nathan’s door opened. Nancy along with Mr. Luck walked inside.
“Mr. Luck is here to see you.”
“Thanks Nancy, you can close the door behind you.” Nancy left the room, leaving the two men standing face to face. Jonathan Luck looked better than he did three months ago; at least the dark circles under his eyes had faded a bit, leaving Nathan to believe the man was getting some rest.
“Mr. Luck, how are you? Please have a seat.”
As Jonathan sat down he noticed the file on Nathan’s desk “Is that it? Is that Linda’s case?”
Nathan nodded, “Yes, her’s along with four other women.”
Jonathan stood from his seat, “Four other women?! You never told me there were others.”
“Mr. Luck at the time that wasn’t really any of your concern and I didn’t know if Linda’s case was in fact connected to the others.”  Jonathan didn’t know how to process the news, but a part of him was relieved to see Linda wasn’t the only victim. “This wasn’t how I wanted to start our meeting, but yes including Linda there are a total of five victims, all brunette women, and I don’t think Linda will be the last.”
The truth was Nathan didn’t have much evidence to go on outside the fact all five women were killed the same way and all five women looked alike, but he knew in his gut something was off and he had to work fast.
“Mr. Luck, I’ve spent the last five years and three months working on this case. I wish I had answers, but the reality is I’m up against some major road blocks. It seems every time I take one step forward I’m pushed back ten. I am convinced Linda’s murder and the others were orchestrated by the Chicago Police Department.”
A blank look came across Jonathan’s face, “You’re telling me, you think the police have something to do with this?” Johnathan started to pace around Nathan’s office. “That’s nuts! I mean I know the CPD has its issues and its reputation, but allowing five women to be kidnapped, tortured and killed? I can’t believe they’d actually do something so heinous.”
Nathan sat down in his chair and looked at Jonathan right in the eyes, “Mr. Luck I have combed through records dating back to when the Chicago Police Department was first created. I’ve looked through files, read testimonies and seen pictures dating back to 1895 and I can tell you with certainty, there is a connection.”
Jonathan didn’t know what to say, part of him wanted to standup and run out of the office, never looking back. He thought this guy was nuts. Who would believe the CPD would kill women for more than a hundred years?  Jonathan took a deep breath.
“What can I do to help?”
A look of relief came across Nathan’s face. That was the last thing he expected to come out of Mr. Luck’s mouth, but he was grateful. He knew solving this case was not going to be easy and he could use some help. Not that Nancy wasn’t great at her job, he just felt uneasy dragging her too deep into this mess. For the first time Nathan felt like he had an ally, someone who was willing to dig into the dark history of the Chicago Police Department.
“Mr. Luck, do you know who Commissioner Theodore Wallace is?”   Nathan asked, trying to gage how much knowledge he had about the police department.
“Oh please call me Jon; if we’re going down this rabbit hole we might as well be informal.”
Nathan looked surprised, but for the first time he felt like he had a real allie. “Okay, Jon, how much do you know about Commissioner Wallace?”
“I mean, I’ve seen him on the news, but other than that I really don’t know much about the man.”
“That’s just it.” Nathan whispered, “no one knows much about him, no one except his inner circle. But take a look.”
Nathan laid out several pictures dating back a hundred years; Jonathan couldn’t believe what he was seeing. “That’s not I mean that can’t be Commissioner Wallace?”
Nathan told Jonathan everything he discovered, including his theory that the man in the picture dated 1895 was in fact Theo Wallace, and the man in the current picture was the same man. He explained Wallace spent more than a hundred years working his way up the ranks of the police force.  A closer look at his police jacket showed Wallace climbed the police and political latter faster than anyone in the department.
“I believe that Wallace and members of his inner circle are involved in something that’s allowing him to stay young and stay in command. I think he’s the reason all those women were nailed to crosses, tortured, and killed.”
Nathan thought their conversation was a good start, he didn’t know what the next step was, but he knew working with Jon they stood a chance of ending these horrific killings. Nathan and Jon spoke all day before he knew it , it was late and Nathan needed to clear his head. He thanked Jon for coming and told him he’d be in touch.
Despite having a new partner Nathan was still stuck, years of research had brought him to this new discovery, but now he felt like he’d hit a brick wall.  He needed to find the smoking gun, that one piece of evidence to tie it all together. Nathan knew there was only one person he could really trust and help him get over his brain block, Carla. He’d been sleeping in his office for a week now to give her some space and frankly give her time to cool off, but he needed her now, more than ever.  He took a deep breath and dialed her number.
“Hey, it’s me. Look I know I’m a moron and well I was a jerk. I’m sorry.”
A voice on the other end simply replied, “You are, but I still love you. It’s time to come home.”
And for the first time in a week Nathan found himself smiling. “I was hoping you’d say that! I have a little more work to do, but I’ll be home soon.”
Nathan hung up the phone when he realized it was nine o’clock and he knew the best place to clear his head. He walked out of his office and down Lower Wacker towards Madison. It wasn’t a short walk from his place to the Fourth Wall, but it gave Nathan time to think. It was nine thirty by the time he got to the piano bar; most of the people in the place had just come from one of the many shows playing throughout the theatre district. Nathan moved towards the piano, sat down and began to play. He was in his space, his element, a place where he was completely free.
It was a good night at the Fourth Wall, the tips and drinks came as soon as he started playing. For Nathan playing piano and singing was the best way to get work done. He could think of something else for a few hours and somehow that always lead to some kind of revelation. Before Nate knew it, it was two in the morning and the bar was closing. He gathered his tips, took one last shot and started to head out.
“HEY!” Nathan stopped in his tracks. Who was calling him? He’d already settled up with the manager and didn’t know any of the stragglers in the bar. “HEY, I’m talking to you.” Nathan turned around slowly. Standing behind him was a large man in a nice three piece suit.
“Do I know you?”
The man walked towards Nathan causing him to stumble back slightly. “No, you don’t but we know you Mr. Evers.”
A puzzled look came over Nathan’s face. Evers was his last name, but when he moved in with Nancy he changed it to Williams. No one ever used his birth name; no one really knew his last name wasn’t Williams. “Well you’ve clearly got my attention, what do you want?”
“You’re playing with fire Mr. Evers, you’re digging into business that’s been going on long before you or the City of Chicago itself was born. Consider this conversation your only warning, next time won’t be so causal.”
Before Nathan could even respond the man got into a black town car and drove off. Nathan paused, at that moment he knew he was on the right track and he’d rattled some cages. He wanted to run back and tell Carla what happen, but it was late and he didn’t want to wake her so headed back to his office and decided he would call Jon in the morning.

Nancy woke Nathan up when she got into the office; she knew a good strong cup of coffee was needed.
“Hey Nate, here ‘ya go, a good ol’ cup of jo to get you going.”
“Thank you Nancy.” He replied as he rubbed the sleep from his eyes. “Hey, can you call Jon?  Tell him to get here as soon as possible.”
“Sure can, I see a night at the piano bar did you good.” Nancy smiled and headed back to her desk.
Jonathan arrived thirty minutes later, “Sorry, I would have been here sooner, but you know how public transit is around here.”
Nathan didn’t respond he was hunched over his desk, poring over papers.  Jon knew something was up; he didn’t even bother getting Nathan’s attention and he just headed over to the desk.
“Hey Jon, I didn’t see you come in. Please sit down.”  Once Jon was seated Nathan started telling him everything that had happened last night.
 “Wait, you sing at a piano bar?!”Jon quipped trying to lighten the mood.
“That’s your take away from this whole story, the fact I sing at a piano bar, really?” Jon smiled and Nathan realized he was poking fun. Nathan sat down and took a long pause.
“So we know we’re on to something.” Jon’s proclamation broke the silence pulling Nathan back to reality.
“Yes, but we need to figure out what they’re doing and why.”
Nathan knew they needed a person on the inside, something Jon thought was impossible, but Nathan had a plan. He hesitated before telling Jon his idea. He knew the plan would put him and Carla in a tough spot, but it was something both Nathan and Carla had talked about over the last five years. They both knew there was only one way to find the proof the needed and nail the Chicago Police Department to their own cross.
“My girlfriend is Carla Gross; she’s an investigative journalist for the Chicago Tribune, and she’s been helping me dig into the department’s past.”
Jon knew where Nathan was going, but he wasn’t sure this was a good idea. “You want to ask your girlfriend to somehow get on the inside of Wallace’s inner circle? I don’t know Nathan.” Jon picked up the picture of Carla Nathan kept on his desk. “She’s probably really good at her job, but with everything we know so far, aren’t you putting her in a dangerous position?”
Carla was very attractive. She was around 5’8 and in Nathan’s opinion had the perfect curves. Her hair was a beautiful brown with hints of gold and her eyes seemed to sparkle when she smiled. Carla did match the description of the murdered woman. Jon worried involving her could cost more than just her job. “Nathan, before we move forward you need to make sure Carla is on board, this is a big favor you’re asking.”
Nathan smiled; he understood that, but he also knew Carla had been working to expose the truth behind the CPD.  “Jon, Carla and I might fight and have our issues, but I would never put her in a situation she wasn’t hundred percent sure she could handle. We’ve already talked about it and she’s ready and willing to help.”
That evening, Nate packed up his files and headed home. Carla was waiting for him in the living room; she had papers spread all over the table. “What’cha working on?” Nate asked as he walked through the door.
“Oh, you know, same ol’ thing: a little corruption, a little murder.” Nate smiled, he knew Carla loved her job, but he also knew she was growing restless covering the multiple murders that took place daily across the city.
After spending the last year covering murder after murder, Carla started thinking something was off. She started to wonder if all this crime wasn’t somehow being orchestrated by the very people paid to stop it.
“I told Jon about the plan, he seems okay with it, but he has his reservations. He doesn’t know if you should be putting yourself in such danger.”
Carla rolled her eyes. She understood where Jon was coming from, but she was a strong intelligent woman who could take care of herself. “Well tell Jon since he hasn’t spent that much time with me he can’t judge. I’m a big girl and I’ll be fine.”
Nathan knew what Carla said was true and it wasn’t worth the argument. He sat down next to her on the couch, “Did you get the approval?” he knew the plan wasn’t going anywhere if Carla didn’t get her assignment editor to approve her story request.
“Sure did, they loved it. They think a story on the man who vowed to stop the senseless killings is perfect and just what this city needs. I have my first meeting with him tomorrow morning.”

The morning seemed to creep up fast. Carla got out of bed, showered and packed her belongings. She needed her laptop and recorder and she placed a small can of pepper spray in her bag; just in case. Nathan rolled over; this was the first goodnight sleep he’d gotten in months. He wasn’t sure if that was because he was back in his own bed, or because he saw some light at the end of the tunnel.
 “Are you ready for this?”
Carla looked into the mirror, “Born ready!” She chuckled, she knew it was cliché, but that’s how she felt. This was the story she’d been waiting to write her entire life.
“Well you look very nice. Remember, we meet back at my office for lunch.”
“I know.” Carla turned towards Nate; she kissed him lightly on the lips. “Don’t worry, it’s just the first meet and greet, I’ll be fine.”
Nate knew she was right, but he couldn’t shake the feeling she was walking into the lion’s den. The bottom line, he didn’t trust the Chicago Police Department and he sure as hell didn’t trust Commissioner Wallace.
Nathan and Jon were meeting for coffee after Carla left for her meeting. Nathan figured some coffee with Jon might get his mind off of Carla. He wanted to head to the piano bar, but it was 7 in the morning. He walked down South La Salle past the Chicago City Hall; just as he got to Madison he spotted Jon. Nathen started walking towards him, but stopped. Jon was talking to someone, but he couldn’t see who. Something struck Nathan as odd. Jon was talking to a man riding in the same car as the man who approached him at the Piano Bar.
Nathan wondered if he should say something, but before he got to Jon the car drove off and Jon entered the coffee shop. He walked down the sidewalk and into the coffee shop. Jon was sitting in the corner when he noticed Nate at the door.
“Nathan over here.” Nathan hesitated,
 “Hey Jon.” Nathan smiled as he walked to Jon’s table and sat down. “Well, Carla’s off to her meeting today with Wallace. She says not to worry but that’s easier said than done.” Nathan waved down a waiter; he thought a good cup of coffee might calm his nerves. “Wish I had some whisky to put in here.” He joked as the waiter handed him his drink. Nathan told Jon they planned to meet up at his office around lunch.
“You think it’s a good idea to have her meet with you?  I mean, won’t it look suspicious her meeting with the guy who’s spent five years looking into the dark history of the Chicago Police Department?”
Nathan hadn’t thought about it.  Then again, no one knew Carla had a boyfriend. Plus, she didn’t use her real name at the paper. He was thrown off by the question; he thought Jon would have wanted to meet with them.
“No it’s fine; she says she’ll just tell him she has a meeting with her editor. I mean that tracks with what she’s doing. I thought you’d like to join us.”
“Of course, I want to be kept in the loop; I mean we started this together.”
 “Great, I’ll text you when she’s on her way. We can all catch up.”
Nathan took one more sip of his coffee and headed for the door.
“Hey aren’t you going to finish that?” Jon shouted,
 “Nope, damn thing’s gone cold.”
The truth was Nathan needed to get out of there.  He still didn’t feel right, something was bothering him about Jon’s behavior and the conversation he’d seen before they met. Nate headed back to his office. He was about to call Nancy when he stopped. An uneasy feeling came over him. What if my phone is bugged, what if someone is listening. Nathan stepped inside a local convenient store and grabbed a pay as you go phone.
“Hey Nancy, yes it’s Nate.” He said as he rolled his eyes. “No, I’m calling from a different phone; I’ll explain everything when I get in the office. I need you to pull everything we have on Mr. Luck.”
Nathan walked through the door of his office.  Nancy was standing by his desk ready with the information. “Here are the files you asked for. What’s going on, why are you looking into Jon?”
Nathan snatched the files. Nancy was taken aback by his reaction; she’d never seen him so mad. “Nathan Williams! What is going on? Answer me.”
Nathan stopped what he was doing and turned towards Nancy. He told her about Jon and the strange conversation he saw and the uneasy feeling he got while they had coffee.
“You think Jon has something to do with the murders?”
Nathan walked to his desk, sat down, and sighed. “Honestly, I just don’t know. I mean who can we really trust? Everything we have on this guy is basic. It’s like he’s living the most normal life ever, nothing has ever happen to him that stands out he’s just so ordinary.”
“Nate none of this makes sense. We’ve spent months with Jon. He’s always been on board.”
Nathan understood what Nancy was talking about, but he also knew what he felt in his gut.  “Nancy, I’m just saying we need to dig a little deeper.”
Nathan looked at his phone it was nine thirty, he still had plenty of time to go over his notes before Carla was to arrive.
Carla walked into Nathan’s office a little after one.  She looked satisfied in how her day went, but quickly noticed Nate wasn’t himself. He was frantically flipping through pages and photos. Carla placed her hand on Nathan’s arm.
“Hey, what’s going on?”
Nathan looked at Carla, he was glad to see she was okay, but he wasn’t happy with what he’d discovered.
“Carla, was everything okay? Were you able to meet with Wallace?”
“Yes, but he was late, didn’t get there until almost nine. He said he was in a meeting. But overall everything went well. We talked and we both agreed to meet in the morning to conduct the interviews.
What are you doing?”
“I’m reexamining my files. I met with Jon for coffee this morning and saw him talking to someone in a black town car, like the one from a few months ago.” Nathan told Carla he felt something was off, that Jon wasn’t who he thought he was.
“Carla I’ve looked over these pictures a thousand times, I don’t know how I missed it?” Nathan took out several pictures.
Carla didn’t understand why he was showing her the photos.  She’d seem them as many times as Nathan. “I don’t understand, what am I looking at?”
“This!” Nathan pointed to two pictures. “You see this person here, standing next to Constable Wallace back in 1835?” Carla nodded, she saw the man, but she really didn’t see what Nathan was worried about. “Now look at this picture of Commissioner Wallace when he first took office in 2000, you see the man standing right next to him?”
Carla took a long look at the picture. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing, both men were the same.
“Is that Jon? No, that can’t be Jon? It has to be a mistake or maybe a relative.” Carla didn’t want to believe what she was seeing. Jon Luck worked in the Merchandise Mart. He handled mergers and acquisitions for a brokerage firm. He had nothing to do with law enforcement.
Nathan understood exactly how Carla felt. He had a hard time believing it himself. Nathan spent the entire morning looking into Jonathan Luck’s life and the reality was the life of Mr. Luck didn’t start until 1981. That’s when the name Jonathan Luck appeared in the tax records of Hester and Rosenthal Brokerage Firm. Before that no such person existed.
“Look at the name under the man in the first picture.”
Carla took a closer look. “Benjamin Wallace.”
“Yes. And here’s the best part. Benjamin Wallace disappeared in 1980. A year later, a man named Jonathan Luck showed up at Hester and Rosenthal’s as their newest employee. New name, new job, but the same face and he couldn’t stay away from his brother. About a year into his new job Hester and Rosenthal found themselves a large client: the Chicago Police Department.”
“But you said Jon didn’t know Wallace or anything about him.” But before Nathan could answer, Nancy walked in with Jon at her side.
“Jon’s here.”
Nathan stopped midsentence to redirect the conversation. “Hey Jon, glad you could make it. Carla was just about to tell me how today went.”
“Great, I was wondering that myself.”
Carla told Jon and Nathan what happened. She told them that Wallace was surprisingly nice and a real gentleman, something they all figured came from the fact his was born more than a hundred years ago. Overall, it seemed Carla was able to gain his trust.
“So now that you’ve managed to get on his good side, what’s next?”  Jon asked with a small smirk on his face. Nathan took notice, but disregarded the incident, not wanting to let Jon know that they were onto him.
“Well, believe it or not, I was able to get myself invited to one of the biggest events of the year. Wallace asked if I wanted to accompany him to the Policeman’s Gala tomorrow night.”
The Policeman’s Gala was one of the oldest events in Chicago. Hundreds of people attended from all over the city and surrounding counties to support the CPD. It was a night of honors, department donations, and this year Commissioner Theodor Wallace was going to be honored for his work on fighting gang violence in the city.
A big grin came across Jon’s face, “Really, that’s great, I’ll know somebody there.”
Nathan was confused, why was Jon going to the event. You can’t just show up and expect to get inside, you have to be invited. “Jon how did you score an invite.”
“Well, the Police Department is one of my firm’s clients. We do a drawing ever year for one non-executive to attend the gala and this year my name was picked.”
Nathan thought that was rather convenient seeing that Carla was also invited.
“Great then you can keep an eye on Carla.” Nathan knew as soon as the words came out of his month Carla would never let him forget it.
“I don’t need a babysitter!” Carla quipped. “I’ll be fine and I think it’s great Jon will be there. It will be nice to have another person working to get information.”
“Well that’s settled; guess I’ll have to dust off the old tux.” Jon got up from the chair and headed for the door. “Carla, I will see you tomorrow night.”
Nathan couldn’t sleep. He kept tossing and turning, his mind just wouldn’t shut off. It wasn’t so much that Wallace invited Carla to the gala that made sense. She was doing a story about him. She’d need to be at an event where he was being honored. That wasn’t the problem. It was the fact Jon was going and after everything Nathan discovered about the man he didn’t know if he was putting Carla in a very dangerous situation. Nathan looked at the clock; it was three am so he decided to give the couch a try.
Nathan grabbed his pillow and headed to the living room. He sunk into the couch and has Nathan focused on the sounds of Chicago at night he finally fell to sleep, but his mind would not rest.
Nathan began to toss and turn, “Nathan! NATHAN!! Help me, PLEASE!” Carla called out. He tried to grab her hand, he tried running to her, but he was too late. He couldn’t reach her in time.
“You’re too late Nathan, say good-bye.” Jon shouted as he put a gag in Carla’s mouth.
And without warning Nathan hit the hard ground screaming, “NO!!”
“Carla” he shouted. She came running out of their room.
“Nathan, what’s wrong?” She touched his back and found it was soaked through with sweat. “Nathan are you okay? You’re soaking wet. What’s going on?”
Nathan’s heart was pounding, “What time is it?”
“It’s one o’clock. You’ve slept most of the day. What’s going on are you okay?”
Nathan took a deep breath and forced himself off the couch, his back hurt from sleeping all day. “I just had a bad dream. It’s fine. You’re here and you’re okay so let’s just drop it.”
Carla knew Nathan was worried and scared, but he’d never admit it. Honestly she was kind of worried herself. Nathan decided a long shower would clear his head as Carla prepared for her evening at the Policeman’s Gala. Carla picked out a long black dress; she wanted to look nice and professional. Carla carefully laid out what she needed, a small recorder, a note pad, and a small can of pepper spray. She tucked the pepper spray into a leather strap around her thigh.
“I don’t think that pepper spray will be very helpful, why not take the Glock?”
“Nathan have you lost your mind, you want me to take a gun into an event filled with members of the Chicago Police Department?!”
Nathan knew she was right, but it would make him feel better. “I understand, but I don’t think pepper spray will be enough.” Before Nathan and Carla could finish there was a knock at the door.
“Are you expecting someone?” Carla asked.
 “No, you stay here I’ll see who it is.”
Carla slipped into the bedroom as Nathan slowly moved towards the door. He looked through the peep hole to find Jon waiting in a tux. Nathan cautiously opened the door “Jon, what are you doing here?”
“Well I thought you’d want me to accompany Carla to the gala. Where is she?”
Carla came out of the bedroom; both Jon and Nathan stopped and stared. She looked stunning. Nathan swallowed “WOW, Carla you look amazing!”
Jon walked towards Carla, “Words fail me.” Jon took Carla’s arm. The two smiled and said good-bye and headed to the Gala.
Carla walked into the Thompson Center with Jon on her arm. She spotted the Commissioner, “I’m going over to the Commissioner’s table. You stay out of trouble and remember keep an eye out for anything strange.”
Before Carla could make her way to Commissioner Wallace, she noticed he was walking towards her.
“Ms. Gross, you look splendid. I’m so glad you were able to join me.” Wallace took Carla by the arm as they walked to the bar. “Open bar, it doesn’t get any better than this.” Wallace joked. Carla smiled. One drink wouldn’t hurt her.  Wallace handed her a glass of pink champagne, Carla took a sip, and the little bubbles went right to her head.
Wallace walked Carla over to their table. She caught a glimpse of Jon out of the corner of her eye. He was talking to members of Wallace’s inner circle. Carla thought that was odd. How did Jon work his way into a conversation with the City’s top political leaders? Jon, who noticed Carla, gave her a little wink and went about his conversation.
The Commissioner pulled out Carl’s seat and the two sat down just as their salads were being plated. Carla looked up at the waiter and noticed it was Nathan.  The look of shock came across her face. Nathan walked away leaving Carla’s mind racing. Carla excused herself and headed to the bathroom.
Carla grabbed Nathan by his arm and dragged him with her, “What are you doing here?”
“Relax, they’re all too busy eating and hobnobbing to even notice me. I have it all under control.”
Carla’s face turned bright red, she was so mad at Nathan she didn’t know if she wanted to punch him or just walk away. “How could you not tell me, does Jon know you’re here?”
“Of course not, I don’t trust him and I couldn’t leave you alone with him and his brother!”
“I’m going back to the table, don’t let Jon see you.” Carla stormed out of the bathroom. She stopped by the bar and grabbed another drink. She stood there for a moment with her eyes closed, took a breath, smiled and headed back to Wallace’s table.
The evening seemed uneventful. People ate and drank and everyone seemed to be enamored with Wallace. There was something about the way Wallace spoke and how he seemed to glide around the room shaking hands and making conversation. The man was for a lack of a better term suave. He demanded your attention and by doing so some of the hardest, meanest, politicians gave him their respect. It was almost impossible not be impressed by the guy. Even Carla found herself seeing Wallace in a different light. She had to give it to him, his keynote address was rather convincing.
Once dinner was over, dessert was served, and the speeches concluded.  Then real party began. Nathan knew as the lights started to dim and the DJ started to play he needed to keep an eye on both Jon and Carla. Nathan had his eyes closely fixed on Carla who was dancing with Wallace. Just as the song came to an end Wallace whispered something in Carla’s ear. He gave her a kiss on the cheek and left the room. Before he could get to Carla, Jon reached her. Nathan slipped back into the corner. He closely watched Jon and Carla; he tried to read their lips but couldn’t make out what they were saying. Before too long both Carla and Jon disappeared into the darkness.
Where did they go? Nathan began to panic; he could no longer see Jon or Carla. Nathan ran through the dance floor and out the door, towards Randolph Street.
 “Hey, did you see a guy and a woman in a black ball gown come this way?” Nathan asked the group of people smoking outside. Before Nathan got his answer, he heard a familiar voice.
“You’re too late, Mr. Evers.” Nathan turned to see the same large man he’d met at the piano bar. “They’re gone. We warned you the next time we met wouldn’t be so cordial.”
“You monsters!” Nathan shouted, “Tell me where they went, I won’t let her be your next victim.” Without saying a word the man turned and walked away. Nathan wanted to go after him, his heart was pounding. ‘What have I done’, he asked himself.’ I can’t let this happen.’ Nathan started to pace back and forth when his phone started to ring. He looked at the screen. It was Carla. “Carla, Carla where are you? Are you okay?”
“Hello Nathan.” Jon said with a cool tone in his voice, one that sent a shiver down Nathan’s spine.
“Jon, where are you? Where’s Carla?”
“Now, now, Nathan I can’t just give you the answers you want, that wouldn’t be any fun.”
Nathan could feel his blood rise. This man who came into his office begging for his help. This man who sold him a sob story about a dead girlfriend. This man who he trusted was nothing more than a lying murder.
“Jon.” Nathan stopped himself, “or should I call you Benjamin?”
“Very good, I told my brother you were smart.  Now, use that big brain of yours and find your girlfriend.” Jon hung up leaving Nathan with little to no information on where they went.   
Nathan didn’t know what to do. He didn’t want to head back to his office, and he clearly couldn’t call the police. At that moment he realized he could use the GPS app to track Carla’s phone. He just hoped Jon was too stupid to turn it off. Nathan activated the tracking.  “Thank god for technology.” Nathan pulled up Carla’s location. She was at Holy Name Cathedral. Nathan ran down the stairs towards the “EL” and jumped on the Red Line.  
Nathan was impatient; he kept looking at his phone which wasn’t helping since there wasn’t service underground. He just wanted to get to Carla. He needed to know she was okay.  The “EL” came to his stop, Nathan ran up the stairs right towards Holy Name Cathedral. Nathan reached the giant wood doors, he pushed them open, and the sound echoed throughout the sanctuary. Nathan didn’t know where to go, he wasn’t even sure Carla was there. Then, out of nowhere, he heard a familiar voice.
“Well done Mr. Evers, well done.”
Nathan looked up to find Jon standing next to the Alter as a shadow of the crucifix came down around them. The empty cathedral was cold and the sounds of Nathan’s heavy breathing were bouncing off the stain glass windows. Without hesitation Nathan ran towards Jon, tackling him to the ground and started throwing punches. “You asshole, we trusted you! What have you done with Carla?”
Despite being repeatedly punched in the face, Jon kept laughing.
“What is funny?” Nathan asked exhausted. Jon pushed Nathan off of him and stood up. He wiped the blood from his nose and straightened his tux.
Nathan sat down, he was more confused than ever and he was pretty sure Jon was completely unhinged. Jon slowly walked over to the pews and sat down.
 “Nathan, it was decided long ago our lives would intersect. It’s your destiny. “
Nathan was uneasy. He didn’t know what Jon was talking about. How can one’s life be decided before they’re even born? “What the hell are you talking about? I don’t understand!”
Jon stood and walked back over to Nathan. He extended his hand to help Nathan up off the ground, but Nathan slapped his hand away. “Everything you’ve done, every path you’ve walked has been a calculated decision. One made hundreds of years ago. We just needed to make sure you stayed on that path. Your parent’s murder wasn’t an accident, it was punishment?”
Nathan heard enough. Of course Jon new about his parents, he’d told him the story of their death and how he came to live with Nancy. But before Nathan could say anything he heard screaming.  He looked up and saw three men hoisting Carla up onto a cross. A fourth man in red robes stood in front of her. His hands were stretched out to the side and he was chanting in Latin. Nathan couldn’t make out what was being said. But he also didn’t know much Latin so for all he knew the man was asking for a cup of coffee in exchange for Carla.
“Do you hear what he’s saying Nathan?” Jon asked with excitement in his voice, “My brother is asking that her life’s essence is transferred to him in exchange for her sacrifice.”  Carla’s body jerked and Nathan could see a white light start to come from her body.
He rushed towards Carla, but Jon grabbed Nathan by the arm and threw him on the ground. “Nathan, my boy, you’ll never learn anything if you don’t listen.”  Nathan tried to get back up, but Jon kicked him back down, this time leaving his foot on Nathan’s chest. “Stay down and listen, you may find what I have to say useful.”
“Doubtful” Nathan muttered.
“Now Nathan, don’t insult my intelligence.” Nathan looked at Carla. She was nailed to the cross upside down and passed out. Whatever white light that was coming from her body was gone and the color from her face had drained.  Jon walked towards Carla as his brother continued the ritual.
 “Don’t you touch her!” Nathan shouted.
Jon ran his hand down Carla’s leg “Nathan, she’s not worth it. The only thing she’s worth is her sacrifice. She’s just gotten in the way of your true destiny.”
“You keep talking about my destiny, I don’t understand.”
Before Jon could answer the church doors’ opened, Nathan was too exhausted to try and see who was coming towards them, but he could clearly hear the click of heels on the marble floor. At this moment the only thing he was sure of was the person headed towards them was a woman. 
The clicks of the heels got closer and it wasn’t long before Nathan realized who it was and at that very moment his heart sank into his stomach.
“Hello Nathan” Nancy said in a cool, calm voice. “Pick him up” she ordered.
Jonathan heaved Nathan off the floor and sat him in the pew. Nancy sat down next to Nathan.  She placed her hand on Nathan’s knee. Which caused him to jump from his seat.
“Don’t touch me; I can’t even believe what I’m seeing. You, god Nancy how is this even possible? You took me in, treated me as your son, made me the man I am today, please tell me I’m wrong.”
“I told you kid, nothing that’s happened in your life was by accident.” Nathan had heard enough from Jon and without warning lunged after him, knocking him to the ground.
 “You bastard, I should kill you!”
“You can try Nathan, it won’t do you any good, I’m a demon.”
Nathan stopped. He was exhausted, beaten and confused. “What do you mean, you’re a demon?”
Nancy stood up, straightened her pencil skirt “I know it’s confusing, but my son it’s true. And so are you.” Nancy slowly walked over to where Carla was hanging; Wallace stopped and turned to Nancy.
“It’s complete. Her sacrifice was accepted.” Wallace said with satisfaction in his voice.
Nancy touched Carl’s neck for a pulse. “Very well done Wallace. I can always count on you with these matters.”
“Don’t you touch her!” Nathan screamed.  Nancy took out a knife, “Would it speed things up if I cut down your precious Carla, her part in this over anyway.” Nancy took the knife and cut Carla down and placed her on the floor.
Nathan got up and started to walk towards Carla, but as he started to move, Nancy waved her hand and Nathan was lifted off the ground. Nancy moved towards him, “Now my boy if you aren’t going to listen I’ll just have to make you. If I put you down will you calm yourself so we can talk?”
“Yes.” Nathan replied and with that he fell to the ground.
Nathan picked himself up. He could see Jon standing near Carla’s limp body. 
“Now Nathan I imagine you have a lot of questions so let me explain.”  Nancy walked towards Nathan. “You see you are a part of something wonderful and amazing, something that started way before the dawn of man. Killing your parents, well, that was unfortunate but they were a problem. “
At that moment Nathan realized it was Nancy who had his parents killed, “You killed them, but why, why would you do that?”
“Your parents were weak” Jon shouted, Nancy shot Jon an icy look and with that he went back to helping his brother tend to Carla’s body.
“He’s right, your parents were weak, but they weren’t always that way. In fact you parents were some of the more influential members of the Order of the Fallen Angel. So much so that I knew one day their child would take up my thrown and help regain our rightful place on this miserable place called earth.” Nathan’s whole body began to shake with anger.
“Stop talking. You have no right to talk about my parents like that!” Nathan shouted so loud the stain glass windows rattled.
Nathan could feel his blood start to boil; he couldn’t listen to this anymore. Not only was this woman insulting his parents, she’s saying they deserved to be murdered. Nathan focused on Nancy’s eyes as she continued to talk and before he even knew what was happening he found himself filled with uncontrolled power. “I SAID STOP!” Nathan shouted. At that moment it was as if the air was sucked out of the room. The stain glass windows shattered and with one move of his hand without touching her, he tossed Nancy across the marble floor into the Alter.
Nathan’s eyes were red with rage and without moving he elevated Nancy off the ground pinning her to the wall. “You bitch. I trusted you. I saw you as my mother. I made you my business partner. And this, this is how you treat me?!” Without warning Jon and Wallace rushed Nathan, but he was much stronger than they expected. Nathan suddenly turned his attention to Jon. “You are even worse than her. You played on my emotions and used my girlfriend to further your agenda. Consider this a mercy killing.” And with that both the necks of Jon and Wallace snapped as they fell to the floor. Moments later, black smoke slithered out of their bodies and creeped off into the night.
“Interesting?!” Nathan didn’t know what to make of it but quickly returned his focus on Nancy.
“Their bodies were just vessels.” Nancy tried to explain. “The Wallace brothers died many years ago sometime after they were first possessed. The demons inside have retreated to safety.”
“If I kill, will the same thing happen? Should we give it a try?”
Nathan focused all his rage towards Nancy. Her body began to shake and crack as light started to come through. But before Nathan could finish he heard a faint voice.
“Nathan. Nathan. Don’t do it. You’re not like them. You’re not a killer. Don’t give in.”
Nathan began to look around. He didn’t know who was talking to him. And at that moment he was pretty sure he was losing his mind.
“No Nathan you are not going crazy. You’re just meant to do more in this world and this path you’re on won’t help.”
And then out of the corner of his eye Nathan finally saw who was talking to him. Standing there in full form was Carla. But he didn’t understand how this was possible. Her body was still lying motionless on the floor. Carla started walking towards Nathan.  As Carla continued to walk towards Nathan he noticed she had a white glow around her. “Carla, what are you?”
“Let’s just say I’m your guardian angel. My life on earth ended but my afterlife journey is just beginning. My first task. You Nathan. I need you to walk away from this anger and rage. Let go Nathan, let go.”
And with that Nancy fell to the floor. “Carla, I can’t do this without you.”
“Nathan you can and you will. We will meet again, but for now I must go. I love you.”
Nathan could feel the rage and anger leave his body. He knew Carla was right. This wasn’t him. He wasn’t a killer. He turned to face Carla but she was gone. Nancy stood up. “You’re just as weak as your parents Nate. I tried to keep you on the path to your destiny but you have shown me you can’t handle the power.”
Before Nathan could open his mouth to reply the doors to the church opened. A very large man dressed in a black suit walked down the long marble floor towards both Nancy and Nathan.  For some reason Nathan thought he knew this guy and as the man got closer he realized it was the same man who was the Wallace brother’s muscle.
“You’re correct Nancy. Nathan doesn’t know just how powerful he is, but he isn’t weak.” The man proceeded to move towards Nancy.
“Who are you?” Nathan asked.
The man picked Nancy up off the ground. “I’m Charles, but you can call me Charlie.”
“Okay, Charlie who the hell are you? The last time I saw you, you were threatening me!”
Charlie sat Nancy in the Pew. “Charlie I can’t believe this. The whole time we trusted you, you were working for the other side.” Nancy shouted.
“Nancy if I were you I’d keep my mouth shut. The district is very interested in speaking with you.”
“The District? What is that?” At this point Nathan didn’t know what was happening.
“You see Nate from the moment you were born we’ve been watching you. We knew the Order of the Fallen Angel plan and that’s when the District sent me down to infiltrate. Long story short kid, I was here to make sure you didn’t go evil. That’s why I let Carla’s spirit speak to you; I knew she would be able to get through.”
“Have I had any control over my own life?!” Nathan sat down is total disbelief.
“Sorry, kid. Not so much. The people upstairs have been watching closely to make sure we got here in time before you became what the Order wanted you to become. The devil.” Charlie lifted Nancy up. “And this one here, we’ve been looking for a way to get our hands on her forever and now thanks to you we have.”
“Great, glad I could help. You only allowed my girlfriend to get killed and have basically told me I have no control over what I am doing in my life. But hey humanity’s safe. We can all sleep at night!” Nathan was so frustrated. He wanted to just forget about everything, bury Carla and move on.
As Charlie started to drag Nancy with him he noticed a look of defeat on Nathan’s face. “Hey kid, look I know you have no idea what’s going on and you think your life is being completely manipulated, but we just had to get you to this point, the rest is up to you.”
Nathan didn’t know what to do. “I don’t understand. What am I supposed to do now? I can’t just go home and call Carla’s parents and tell them demons killer her. They’ll have me arrested or thrown in the nut house.”
Charlie stopped. “Give me a second.” He pulled out his phone and dialed. “Hey. Yea, it’s Charlie is the boss around? Great. Tell him I have the kid and Nancy. I’m bringing him to the district with us. It’s time we gave this kid some direction and help.”
Charlie hung up the phone. “Well kid you’re in luck. Looks like the boss wants to see you. So what you say want to see what your destiny really holds.”
Nathan didn’t know what to say. He thought about it. He didn’t have anything else to lose. “Sure, why not. Might as well finish whatever this is I started.”
And with that Charlie and Nathan walked Nancy out of the church. The three got into a big black SUV and took off. Nathan didn’t know what lied ahead for him, but he knew one thing for sure, his life was about to get much more exciting.  

Saturday, April 18, 2015

DareDevil: Netflix Original and a Masterpiece in Red!

In a time when it seems every network is taking iconic comic book characters into television series it's a scary thought when yet another show hits the airwaves.

We have Gotham on Fox--which in my opinion got much better in the second half and could make for an exciting series if Fox doesn't fuck it up and cancel it out of the blue like I don't know Firefly! The CW has the Arrow and Flash which are my favorites and really do standout above  the rest--I mean who would have thought two shows on the CW would have produced such cult following and given us an amazing actor and person that is Stephen Amell(if you don't know what I'm talking about well then I'm sorry you're lose and do yourself a favor and check out Arrow and Flash!) and there's a rumor the CW is looking at yet another spinoff show with ATOM, Captain Cold and with Caity Lotz who played the Canary...

Now sure who she'll play or who she'll fit in considering she was killed off of Arrow what that's neither here or there at this point. The point is there are a number of shows to get sucked into if you're in love with superheros and comic books and now we have Daredevil on Netflix. 

Now I've mentioned this before I am not a huge Marvel fan--I've always been a much bigger fan of DC mostly because the characters and story lines are much darker. But here we have Marvel's Daredevil and in this current Netflix telling dark and slightly disturbing doesn't even begin to cover it.

The casting is spot on with Charlie Cox playing Matt Murdock/Daredevil. You probably recognize him from StarDust and Boardwalk Empire which he was amazing in. But it's his performance

as Murdock/Daredevil that has really thrusted him into a category of a select few. I think he really found his role. Cox is very convincing as Murdock the blind rather quiet defense lawyer who's just started his private practice with his best friend Foggy Nelson(Elden Hanson--who I'll always remember as Fulton Reed in the Mighty Ducks Movies!!!) 

He's grown up a bit since then but he's as charming as ever! Both Cox and Hanson have a great chemistry and really complement each other in a way that makes them believable. Other members of the supporting  cast include Deborah Ann Woll(Jessica from True Blood and I'm not gonna lie watching her cry regular tears and not blood ones--kinda weird!) But I like her in the role as Karen Page. I'm curious to see how her character develops over the series. And lets not forget the amazingly talented Rosario Dawson. 

Dawson plays Claire Temple a nurse who gets sucked into Daredevils world and helps stitch him up and becomes a love interest despite what Daredevil/Murdock believes!  

On the other side of good is the really bad and slightly sociopathic Wilson Fisk(Vincent D'Onofiro)

But what makes D'Onofiro so impressive isn't so much the rage he has and anger he possesses, but his other side--the side where he's calm and collective and meticulous. It's the calmness and almost shyness that makes him so dangerous. His casting was brilliant--D'Onofiro has always been a chameleon with his ability to transform into any character that he's taken on! 

What makes D'Onofiro's performance even more impressive is his character development---You know Fisk is evil and corrupt but the way D'Onofiro settles into the character--slowly allowing his true personality to come alive until it's explosive reveal in the last episode. It's this type of acting I admire and what makes me want to come back for more!! 

I think the root of the show is heart--it's clear Murdock wants to make his city better--but it also very clear it struggles with the line of right from wrong and justice verses vigilante justice. And Cox does a great job of toting that line but allowing the viewer to see there's a real internal struggle. But it's the supporting cast that holds this show together and perhaps it's safer to say this is an ensemble cast over just a show about one man with two identities.  

The show does a great job of giving the audience a full understanding of who Matt Murdock is and how he became Daredevil and it doesn't expect each viewer to know the origin or how the Daredevil story plays out--but it doesn't insult the view either. But this is not a show for the weak of heart or stomach--there are scenes like the one above that are rather gory and at times I found myself going omg I can't believe what I just watched. 

One of the best things the writers did---they held off on showing Murdock in the Daredevil costume until the last minute----the entire time I couldn't wait to see what he looked like and when the moment comes in the last episode it's amazing. It's not over the top--it's not too red or plastic---it's functional!! Although the little devil horns are a little silly but it's a great way to show Murdock has embraced his nickname the devil of hell's kitchen or should we say DAREDEVIL! 

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Into the Woods...The Time is Now!

I have to admit Into the Woods is one of my favorite musicals. It's probably right up there with Sweeney Todd. Both are Stephen Sondheim musicals and both are what I'd call on the more dark and disturbing side.

Now when I heard that they were making Into the Woods into a movie with Rob Marshall at the helm I was very skeptical in my option the man killed Chicago and to this day I refuse to watch it. I also had some concerns over the casting. Not so much Meryl Streep(although her last musical movie performance left little to desire) but Johnny Depp as the wolf, bothered me only because I felt he was put into the movie bc Marshall had previously worked with him on POTC On Stranger Tides and bc he was the lead in Sweeney Todd..something about the casting felt off. Although the decision to recast Little Red as a girl who's a little older did in my option work very well. Normally she's played by a young 20 something.

But I love this show and I love the music. It's just beautiful and in some cases so tongue and cheek (Agony) it's hard not to love it. So I settled in for my first movie in a new state.

First off the set design and costumes were amazing. I know they were on a sound stage but I felt like they were in the woods. And I have to say the casting turned out to be spot on. I really do see an Oscar nomination coming to Streep for her performance of the witch. And what I think worked so well was the music for the part originally played by Bernadette Peters fit Streep's vocal range so well she truly sounded wonderful. And she owned that role. It's hard not to want and see the witch as Peters, but this is not the stage version and Peters and Streep are in two different acting categories it wouldn't be fair to want a Peters performance. I loved every moment Streep was on the screen. And when she's singing to Rupenzel (Stay with Me) the emotion and feeling Streep gave was incredible. You find yourself sympathizing for this woman who in all honesty is as selfish as the rest of the characters. You see weakness if only for a split second you see vulnerability and it's beautiful.

I have seen several productions of Into the Woods and in all them Jack has been my least favorite. I have never really liked his song Giants in the Sky and have always found the kid who's cast as Jack to be annoying and in need of a good smack in the back of the head. But the kid they cast Daniel Huttlestone was great. I loved his voice and for the first time I really enjoyed Giants in the Sky. He didn't come off as this annoying little kid, he was more of a little shit who loved adventure..wanted to please his mother(Tracy Ullman who in the end could never really find the happiness she wanted despite her new riches) and got too greedy causing the entire kingdom to suffer for it. And I loved every minute of it.

Another shock was Chris Pine as Cinderella's Prince. WHO KNEW HE COULD SING!!! And because it's Chris Pine he's version of Agony is out of the world hysterical and ridiculous and everything I want in my Prince Charming. (Agony is sung great and acted even better by both princes)

Now because it's Disney some of the more adult themes were played down, some of the deaths were implied, but they did for the most part stick to the stage version. I was glad to see they didn't cut out or change any of Little Reds stuff with the wolf..although unpleasant to think about predators and our children, it's an important plot point for the Baker in his ability to grow and change while on his journey.

If you are not a musical person )and I understand sitting though a musical can be rough at times) trust me when I say like Sweeney Todd this is not your typical musical. Yes there is singing but there are no look everyone made it to the town meeting so we can learn to dance numbers. It's fun and different and a little dark. I was disappointed the Agony reprise was not in the film as it's as funny as the first with both Princes board with marriage and looking for the two sleeping princesses in the woods(Snow White/Sleeping Beauty) but the movie is not ruined without it. I'd say what was taken out the act one finale and some others did not hurt the film. The only people who will miss them are those who know the show.

Don't be surprised to see a few of these actors Emily Blunt, Streep and others on the red carpet for the Oscars. I can see Oscar nominations in their future. So if you have some free time go see Into the Woods and you'll be Happily Ever After!    

Friday, September 5, 2014

700 Sundays

I can't say I have the best relationship with my father, or that my family and I and I are so close I can recall so many memories of great family gatherings. Sadly that's not that case in my life. However, I can't even imagine knowing that I only got spend 700 Sundays with my father. 700 Sundays, in all honestly that's not that much and for actor/comedian Billy Crystal that's exactly what he got, 700 Sundays with is dad before tragedy hit and everything changed.

I had heard about Billy Crystal's 700 Sundays, his one man show in passing, hearing it was about his family and the time he spent with his father, but I never really thought about it. I mean 700 seemed like a lot and it never occurred to me there was something there beyond the laughter that made the man who he was. It wasn't until I saw his show was nominated for an Emmy this year. It didn't win (should have in my opinion) and one night as I had gotten home from work, late once again I need something to do something to watch and since all the shows were reruns and I need a laugh I looked to see if I could find different.

I hadn't started looking for it. I was looking for Artifact the documentary on Thirty Seconds of Mars, but HBO didn't have that, but there it was sticking out at me and a light bulb just went off and before I new it I was sitting back and watching 700 Sundays. I didn't know what to expect. I didn't even know what it was about and I didn't expect the show to start in a house with Crystal narrating. But I figured it could only get better.

It didn't take long before it got better. Crystal came out on stage and I quickly understood why he was inside a home, it was the background of his show, the setting of his childhood, where he started his career and got his first laughs. The show really talks about how Crystal's family all those wacky relatives, his mom his dad and some great famous jazz artist shaped him. People like Billie Holiday who took little billy to his first movie. And Louis Armstrong who had Seder dinner with them and was asked by  his grandmother if he'd ever tried just hacking it up. All these people made him who he was.

But in the middle of all that greatness and there are some great moments in this show, moments that make you laugh so hard you cry and choke especially being Jewish I can relate to many of the situations and issues he dealt with because hey every Jewish family has a few nuts. But really at the heart of this who show is his father and there it was right there in front of me the real meaning of 700 Sundays. Billy Crystal lost his dad when he was 15 years old. He died of a heart attack while out with his mother bowling one night, after having an argument with Billy over of all things a girl. Something so trivial and yet so normal for a 15 year old to fight about with his parents. Yet because that fight and the words that came out of Crystals mouth to his dad would be the last he ever spoke to him they'd weigh heavy on him for a very long time. And it all made sense at that moment 700 Sundays, Billy Crystal only got 700 Sundays with his dad no more no less.

We don't count the times we spend with our parents. We don't even think about it. When we're younger we want nothing more to be with our parents. They are our hero's they can do no wrong and we worship the ground the walk on. The make us laugh, they fix out cuts and bruises and they are the only ones who understand out pain. They fight the monsters under the bed and in the closest and keep us safe. We never see them struggle or worry. We just see them as perfect. Then one day out of nowhere it's like a totally new person takes over. Our parents are no longer cool, they no longer understand what we are all about and they are keeping us from discovering the world. We don't see them as protecting us just smothering us and we resent them.

For many we never go through what Crystal did and we should be grateful. We might have divorced parents, or friends who have lost parents but we've never personally lost a parent and out rebellious teenage acts are laughed at and made up for as young adults when we once again find our parents not so bad. But at that moment in the show when Crystal is talking about losing his dad I realized he'd only gotten 700 Sundays with him. I've gotten more than that with my dad, they might not have been wonderful or even memorable but I got them and still have them and perhaps that's the point. Crystal was close with his family and his father was someone special a father who encouraged and helped his sons become who they wanted to be. I wish my father was like that. Someone who encouraged and supported me like that. But for Crystal in those 700 Sundays no matter how short they were they were filled with happy memories and lessons learned.

I guess that's what I took away from his show. Don't regret what you don't have. Embrace what you do and make the most out of life. You never know when something will happen to completely throw you off course. Crystal got 700 Sundays with his dad. Many of use will get many more. Even if it's just a simple phone call or lunch make an effort to be there be present and when you have kids be the rock they need and the support system to encourage them to go after their dreams.

I highly recommend 700 Sundays. It's a must see.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Rio 2: A True Family Adventure

I'm lucky to be apart of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program here in Galesburg and that means I finally have someone to go with to all those kids movies. So the other weekend I took my little to see Rio 2. We both liked the first one and decided it would be a nice rainy day activity. 

The movie finds Blu(Jesse Eisenberg) and Jewel(Anne Hathaway) are parents, living happily in the confines of Rio with their friends. It starts on New Years eve and in typical fashion Blu is hyper-concerned over the care of his little ones. It seems all those who volunteered to watch their kids have made their way to the fiesta and the kids have been left with the last bird around, who has been tied to a fire work and about to be shot into the air. 

This is just the beginning of what seems to be Jewel's biggest issue with living in the City. It seems Blu has in a work domesticated his children or in a sense turned them into pets. They eat human food, listen to ipods and even watch tv. But when Jewel hears about the discovery of a Blue Macaw family living on the Amazon. This leads to Jewel and the family to fly from Rio to the Amazon to find if the rumor's true. 

Like with most kids movies there's a lot to love and laugh about. There's danger and bad guys as Nigel(Jemaine Clement) and his new sidekick Gabi (Kristin Chenoweth) the frog who's in love with him. Both are looking for Blu and to end his world and you'll just have to see the movie to see what happen.

Over all the movie was very cute and the music was great with Jamie Fox and Will-I Am taking most of the vocal leads. It's also a great story about earth conservation and saving out rain forests and the importance of keeping our natural resources in check. So outside of the kid friendliness of the movie it's also a great learning tool about the environment.   

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

American Horror Story (One Witchy Mess)

I like many people were very excited for another season of American Horror Story.  What could be better than this years season taking place in New Orleans and involved witches and voodoo!  The show actually shot on location in New Orleans, a place that is rooted with a ton of history both living and dead yet 90 percent of the show was inside the school. A lost opportunity in my opinion.

Before the show even started its third season there was tons of chatter about how amazing it was going to be, how this was the best season yet. A story line filled with magic and mystery and sassy all in the style of AHS! Perhaps the hype was just too much, creating a false idea of what I thought was going to clearly and easily be the best show on television and the best season yet!

I will say the season started off very strong. The first episode was creepy and interesting and I was really excited to see where this was going. You have witches, voodoo priestess and a feud. You mix that in with a witch hunter and some new witch students with some very interesting unrefined witchy powers. But at least my interest did not stay peeked and in fact more questions were raised.

For one the whole story line with Kyle and Zoey. That seemed so forced. She met him once and well hello her little issue with sex would make any relationship impossible, yet she seemed to think he would be her knight in shinning armor making all her issues go away, however he had to die in order for her to have any really physical relationship. Kyle's whole back story was very limited yet they opened the door to a past that was dark and creepy and they never went down that road or provided any clarity.

I do have to say the story line with Kathy Bates as Madame Delhine LaLaurie was very entertaining and very interesting, but it sort of felt thrown in and added little to no plot propulsion.

The plot just seemed to not go anywhere and although I kept turing in in the hope things would really take off it just fell flat and short. I am interested to see who's asked back for the forth season and what the story maybe, but I think we have to call this years AHS Coven a mulligan and move on in the hopes next season will be beyond amazing.

Saturday, January 18, 2014


First off I'd like to say I'm not a fan of amusement parks such as Sea World and zoos. Although I have been to zoos in my life I have always struggled with the idea of animals behind cages and not being able to fully live in their own natural habitat. So when I heard there was a documentary that exposed Sea World and their nasty little secrete about the Orcas and the number of incidents surrounding their aggressive behavior.

Blackfish tells the story of Tillikum the biggest Orca Whale in captivity weighing in at 12-thousand pounds. This guy is massive and his strength and girth is very visible from the moment you see him.

To truly understand Tillikum issues you have to go all the way back to the moment he was captured back in the 70's for a park called Sea Land in British Columbia. Tillikum was 2 years old when he was ripped from his mother and is family unit and taken into captivity at Sea Land. Sea Land had no business what so ever being in business. Sea Land trainers even referred to the habitat as a swimming pool with whales. Tillikum's issues started the moment he was dropped into this small pool with two female Orca's. Tillikum's first trainer decided the best way to train the new Orca was to pair him with one of the older females. The problem was when Tillikum didn't perform as instructed the trainer would withhold food from him and the female. This lead the female to get extremely aggressive with Tillikum raking her teeth across his body causing cuts and scratches all over. Tillikum was abused from day one and all three whales where forced into a small inclose with no light for hours and hours unless they were out performing.  It was at Sea Land the first attack by Tillikum happen. When a trainer's foot slipped into the pool and Tillikum grabbed on. The two other female whales followed suit and as the trainer screamed for help witnesses said she was heard screaming "I don't want to die." It was reported that no one knew for sure which whale actually took ahold of the trainer's foot and the blame fell on the two females. Shortly after the incident Sea Land closed and Sea World was more than happy to snatch Tillikum up.

Tillikum made his way to Sea World and trainers who worked with him and a number of other Orca's say they were never told the truth behind the first attack at Sea Land and were in fact told it was the females who instigated the attack.  This was the beginning of a new chapter for Tillikum and it wouldn't be the last time his aggression would come back and cause issue. But in truth Tillikum isn't the only Sea World Orca to attack someone. Other trainers have had their legs snatched and dragged down to the bottom of the pool. There is video of trainers being body slammed by the giant creatures. In fact one incident caught on tape show a trainer riding a whale as another whale comes out of nowhere and throws his body on top if the trainer. A former Sea World trainer said the only thing keeping that trainers body together was his wetsuit and today his body is put together by a ton of hardware. But that incident that video was never shown to new trainers. They were never warned something like this could happen.

This documentary is heart breaking. Tillikum was basically bought for breading purposes. There are two births highlighted in the film. When Orcas have calf's, mom and baby are inseparable. This behavior didn't work for Sea World and was in fact found to be a distraction. So the babies were taken from the mothers and given to other parks. Watching the mothers cry out for their young was unbearable to watch. Orca behavior is extremely similar to human behavior, in fact Orca whales live the same life span as human beings. The film points out Sea World trained their staff to tell visitors that these creatures lives for 25-30 years in the wild, but in captivity they live longer because they have access to veterinarians. This is not true and Orca researchers will tell you this is a bold face lie.

Like most kids I though swimming with the Dolphins and Whales would be the coolest job ever. But I was always under the impression he trainers had to have degrees in marine biology and understand the behavior or such animals. Turns out that's not so much the case at Sea World. I can not speak to other places since this file focused on Sea World. But apparently to be a trainer at Sea World all the skills you need is a great ability to swim, be physically fit and have a personality that can entertain the masses. So basically anyone can train these giant animals regardless of your background.

As I watched this film it struck me. This a great case for nature verses nurture. These animals are caged in spaces that are too small. They have no where to go. In the case of Tillikum, form the time he was introduced to humans he was beaten up and treated like he was just a tool to make money. It's no wonder there were several cases where he lashed out.

After the incident in 2010 where Tillikum attacked and killed his trainer, Tillikum is kept in isolation. You can see video of him alone and depressed. It's almost as if he don't have the will to live. According to Sea World, Tillikum is still performing and gets to interact with the other Orcas. Who know much of that is true.  It seems that when ever there's an incident in which a Sea World Orca is involved the problem is never the animal, but the fault of the trainer. The truth is both are to blame. You have people who love these animals and have deep connections with them, but they have no business getting into the water with them. They know nothing of the species and how the function and how the respond to issues. And you have the corporation who only sees dollar signs and doesn't seem to really care who gets hurt in the pursuit of money.

Places like Sea World have no business being in business. It makes me wonder how safe are the whales and dolphins at the Shedd in Chicago or the other nationally recognized aquariums around the world.  I can only hope this move opens the eyes of world and we stop using these animals as entertainment. I'm all for rescue and sanctuaries but this is a clear example of exploitation.

So do yourself a favor and check it out. It's really and eye opening experience.