Posts Tagged ‘Da Magnificent Seven’

By John Ruberry

Five years after the fictional story of the Naperville, Illinois crime family, the Byrdes, began streaming on Netflix, Ozark has come to an end. 

Late last month the final seven episodes, comprising of Season 4 Part 2, were released. 

If you haven’t heard of the Byrdes, the family is headed by Marty Byrde (Jason Bateman), a financial planner whose firm makes the fatal mistake of laundering money for a Mexican drug cartel run by Omar Navarro (Felix Solis). Marty is married to Wendy (Laura Linney), a former Democratic Party operative, although the word “Democrat” hasn’t been mentioned for the past two seasons. Their children, Charlotte (Sofia Hublitz), and Jonah (Skylar Gaertner), are reluctant partners in the family business, which is based in the Lake of the Ozarks region of Missouri. A riverboat casino is the centerpiece of their laundering operation.

Leaving an organized crime network is much harder than joining one. But that’s what the Byrdes continue to strive for, looking back at the Chicago area as a safe haven. For real. Clearly, the Byrdes haven’t been keeping an eye on the dramatic rise of violent crime here. 

The Byrdes have formed a shaky alliance with a member of a local small-time crime family, Ruth Langmore (Julia Garner). A two-time Prime Time Emmy winner for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for that role, Garner is simply fabulous. Marty and Wendy can’t protect and grow their operation, let alone leave it, without assistance from other villains, convenient and tired ones, including a former Republican US senator from Illinois, Randall Schafer (Bruce Davison), and the CEO of a Chicago-based pharmaceutical corporation, Clare Shaw (Katrina Lenk). Yawn. Republicans bad, pharmaceutical firms, also bad. The money laundering Brydes? Not so much, at least according to the scriptwriters. Wendy, to protect their rackets, finds herself a reluctant participant in a Midwestern vote-suppression scheme that Schafer is behind. 

In real life, between the release of Part 1 and Part 2 of Season 4 of Ozark, the decades-long Democratic boss of Illinois, Michael Madigan, was indicted. But never forget, in television land, the GOP is evil.

Oh, what was that about Netflix losing subscribers?

A character introduced in Season 4, a disgraced former Chicago Police detective with good intentions, Mel Sattem (Adam Rothenberg), confronts the Byrdes over their hubris gained from their power and money, equating them with the Kennedy family and the conservative Koch family from Wichita. Slow down there. There is no Koch-equivalent to the Kennedys using their influence to allow Ted Kennedy to walk away with only a hand slap after arguably murdering Mary Jo Kopechne at Chappaquiddick

Okay, I’ve hit the things that I didn’t enjoy with Ozark. Back to the good stuff–and there is plenty of it. 

The Navarro family has its own struggles. Omar’s nephew, Javi Elizondro (Alfonso Herrera), has plans that don’t coincide with those of his uncle. One of the many appeals of Ozark is the shifting of alliances–and the betrayals that accompany them. And of course, so are the performances–led of course by Garner–of the major characters and minor ones. One of the minor characters, Rachel Garrison (Jordana Spiro), makes a surprise return.

The cinematography of Ozark is at a feature-movie level. 

While of course set in Missouri, Ozark except for some Chicago scenes in Season 1, is filmed in the Atlanta area. In Part 1 of Season 4 I noticed a light rail train in what was supposed to be downtown Chicago. What were called streetcars way back when haven’t been running in Chicago for decades. In Part 2 of the final season, I spotted what appears to be a cabbage palm tree in front of Ruth Langmore’s Lazy-O Motel. That tree cannot survive a Midwestern winter.

And what about Wendy and Marty Byrde? As I remarked in a previous review, they are the television version of Tom and Daisy Buchanan, who in The Great Gatsby “smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness.”

All four seasons are available for streaming on Netflix. The series is rated TV-MA for graphic violence, drug use, nudity, and obscene language.

Earlier post:

Review: Ozark Season 4 Part 1.

John Ruberry regularly blogs from the Chicago area at Marathon Pundit.

By John Ruberry

While calling public figures “Orwellian” goes back decades, usually it’s an exaggeration. 

Not so with the new Misinformation and Disinformation Governance Board, whose existence was revealed by the soulless hack Alejandro Mayorkas, Joe Biden’s secretary of Homeland Security. The board’s executive director is Nina Jankowicz, a misinformationist. 

Among other things, Jankowicz in 2020 called into question the veracity of the Hunter Biden laptop revelations.

George Orwell’s “Ministry of Truth” in 1984 of course propagandized lies. 

The Democrats’ Orwellian attacks on their opponents began during Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, when he created groups such as “The Truth Squad.” 

This morning on Twitter, former Democratic member of Congress and 2020 presidential candidate, Tulsi Gabbard, pointed her finger at the instigator on the Dems’ obsession with “disinformation,” Joe Biden’s former ticket-mate.

“Biden is just a front man,” Gabbard Tweeted. “Obama, April 21: social media censors ‘don’t go far enough,’ so the government needs to step in to do the job. Six days later, Homeland Security rolls out the ‘Ministry of Truth’ (aka Disinformation Governance Board).”

Obama’s “Truth Squad” made its first appearance in during the 2008 Democratic primaries. It was ramped up for the general election. A KMOV-TV St. Louis anchor reported that fall, “Senator Barack Obama’s presidential campaign is asking Missouri law enforcement to target anyone who lies or runs a misleading TV ad during the presidential campaign.”

“Prosecutors and sheriffs from across Missouri are joining ‘The Barack Obama Truth Squad,'” reporter John Mills added, he then named Jennifer Joyce, St. Louis circuit attorney, and Bob McCulloch, the prosecutor for St. Louis County, as members.

Mills continued, “They will be reminding voters that Barack Obama is a Christian who wants to cut taxes for anyone making less than $250,000 a year.” 

What about those prosecutors?

“If they’re not going to tell the truth,” McCulloch told KMOV, “somebody’s got to step up and say, ‘That’s not true. This is the truth.'”

Jim Geraghty of National Review summed up the Missouri threat concisely at the time, “While the report never quite comes out and says that anyone running an ad saying those things would be subject to prosecution, that certainly is the message implied.” 

Truth, like knowledge, is nearly never a settled construct, especially in the political arena. 

Leftists, like Barack Obama, undoubtedly disagree with me. Rather, under the cloak of “truth,” they now label criticism of their policies, as well as reports that harm their side, such as the revelations from the Hunter Biden laptop, as “misinformation” and “disinformation.” The Obama quote referenced earlier comes from a Stanford University conference about “misinformation” held in April. Earlier that month, longtime top Obama campaign aide, David Axelrod, was a co-host of the “Disinformation and the Erosion of Democracy” conference at the University of Chicago.

Obama, ironically, was the recipient of PolitiFact’s “Lie of the Year” award in 2013. That’s the truth.

Informers are an integral part of any un-free society. In 2009, an Obama administration media flack, Macon Phillips, under the guise of–wait for it–fighting “disinformation,” asked Americans to rat out any who disparaged ObamaCare. “If you get an email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy,” he said, “send it to flag@whitehouse.gov.”

In 2012, the Obama-Biden campaign launched “the Truth Team.”

Never forget, the Democrats war on what they call “disinformation” began with Obama.

John Ruberry, and this is certainly the truth, regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

By John Ruberry

Within the last month two new seasons of Viking-themed series began streaming on Netflix, Vikings: Valhalla and Season Five of The Last Kingdom. The former is a sequel to another Netflix series, Vikings, which I have not seen, but as the action of Valhalla occurs about 100 years after the first batch of shows, viewers need not have tuned in to Vikings to follow the new action.

The Last Kingdom and Vikings: Valhalla have much in common, besides Scandinavians battling the English. A main plot driver in both shows is the conflict between Christians and followers of the Norse gods. Presumably Valhalla begins the same year, 1016, when Canute the Great seized the crown of England. Ironically, only two English kings, Alfred, who is played by David Dawson in the first three seasons of The Last Kingdom, and Canute, gained the epithet “the Great.” Oh, when Canute was crowned, this Viking, who later became king of Norway and Denmark, was a Christian.

Both shows attempt to be even-handed between the two cultures, but they leave out one very nasty part of Viking life, slavery. Yes, there was slavery among Christian Europeans, but slaves–thralls are what the Norse called them–were an essential part of the spoils of Viking raids. However, both series portray human sacrifice by the Scandinavians.

Vikings: Valhalla, which consists of eight episodes, is the inferior of the two shows, so let’s get that one out of our way. Its central character is Leif Erikson (Sam Corlett). Yeah, he’s the same man who journeyed to North America around 1000. While there is no historical record that says Erikson participated in wars with the English, there’s no proof that he didn’t. It’s believed around the time of his journey to North America he converted to Christianity, but he’s a follower of the Norse gods here, although he dabbles with the Christian religion. His sister, Freydís Eiríksdóttir (Frida Gustavsson), is a devout follower of the Norse faith. Freydís is romantically involved with Harald Sigurdsson (Leo Suter), who history tells us was a newborn at the time of they were “getting it on” in the show.

The main action of Vikings: Valhalla originates in the Norwegian town of Kattegat, which is ruled by Jarl Haakon (Caroline Henderson), who history tells us was a white man, but here Haakon is a black woman.

I could go on for quite much longer on the many historical anomalies, but I will conclude here that had Vikings: Valhalla had an intriguing story line, if the performances were compelling–Henderson’s overacting is particularly annoying–and hey, if the CG was believable, then I’d say, “tune in.”

But don’t.

The Last Kingdom’s fifth last season takes place around 920. Its lead character, the fictional Uhtred, whose birthright as lord of Bebbanburg in Northumbia, England was usurped by the Danes in the first episode of Season One. He was raised by Danes, during that time he abandoned Christianity for the Norse gods, although he’s not very devout. When Uhtred reaches adulthood, he’s a skilled fighter and a ladies’ man, a James Bond of the Middle Ages.

The Last Kingdom is based on Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Stories series of books.

Alfred the Great’s goal was not only to defeat the Danes–the word “Viking” is never uttered during The Last Kingdom–but also to create from his small kingdom of Wessex a unified England. It’s up to his son, King Edward, to complete the task, with Uhtred’s assistance of course.

All the while Uhtred is forced to confront a onetime romantic interest, fellow-Saxon and abductee, Brida (Emily Cox), whose faith in the Norse religion is strong.

Edward meanwhile has to confront betrayal within his court as a unified England seems within grasp.

While a bit wooden at times, the acting in The Last Kingdom is generally quite good. The battle scenes are intense, and the plotlines are strong enough to keep watching. But to figure out what is happening here, you absolutely have to watch the first four seasons beforehand. One flaw of The Last Kingdom, as with Ozark, which also took a year off from filming, presumably because of the COVID outbreak, is that it is need of very strong recaps at the beginning of each episode, of which there a ten this season. Hey, people forget things two years later. Another challenge in keeping the storyline straight is that many of the characters’ names, all based on historical figures, are similar; they incorporate the Old English prefix “Æthel,” which translates into modern English as “noble,” or Ælf. Had they asked me, I would have for starters changed the name of a duplicitous rat, Æthelhelm (Adrian Schiller), a character whose historical standing is foggy. In The Last Kingdom he’s the father of Edward’s second wife, Ælflæd (Amelia Clarkson). One son of Edward is Æthelstan (Harry Kilby) another is his half-brother Ælfweard (Ewan Horrocks), he’s the son of Ælflæd.

A spin-off of The Last Kingdom is in the works, a movie titled Seven Kings Must Die.

There are two more seasons of Vikings coming. I probably won’t be watching.

Both programs are rated TV-MA for violence, nudity, and sex.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Salem, Wisconsin, October 11, 2020

By John Ruberry

Last week, in the 24th paragraph of a New York Times article about Joe Biden’s son Hunter’s tax problems and his emails, the Old Gray Lady sneaked in this line, “Those emails were obtained by The New York Times from a cache of files that appears to have come from a laptop abandoned by Biden in a Delaware repair shop,” the three authors of the story (why does the current media need to utilize multiple writers?) wrote. And they added, “The email and others in the cache were authenticated by people familiar with them and with the investigation.”

Flashback to October 2020. It was “October Surprise Time” again as a presidential election winded down. Yeah, I know what I wrote. With the over-reliance on early voting, drop-off ballot boxes, and ballot harvesting, Election Day is almost an afterthought, we now have Election Season. And the ’20 surprise was a shocker, as the New York Post revealed that it had obtained a copy of the hard drive of a MacBook Pro laptop computer that Hunter dropped off at the aforementioned repair shop and then apparently forgot about it, like an old suit left behind with a dry cleaner.

Besides embarrassing photos, emails discovered on the hard drive by the Post revealed what intelligent people with an open mind long suspected, that Hunter Biden was the head of an influence peddling ring that profited from the political career of his lifetime politician father. Or perhaps Joe Biden, “the Big Guy.” who might have been the recipient of 10 percent of a never-realized financial deal with a Chinese energy firm, was in charge, was the CEO of a Chicago-style political racketeering operation, a bit like this one.

Twitter, Facebook, and the mainstream media–Fox News was a major exception–immediately went on attack mode to block and suppress the Hunter Biden laptop story.

During his radio show on Friday, Dan Bongino said, “Hunter was working in Ukraine, his dad knew about it, his dad was the point man in Ukraine for the Obama administration. The corruption is back-breaking. There is no way Joe Biden would have won the last election if the media didn’t conspire to make that story–the Ukraine-Biden story and the laptop–go away.” He added, “They rigged the election through their censorship of the story.”

“Look at the polling data,” Bongino exclaimed. Let’s do just that. According to a Media Research Center post-election survey, of the voters Biden voters who weren’t aware of the Hunter Biden scandals, 16 percent of them would have changed their vote. Incumbent Donald J. Trump lost by less than one percent in these four battleground states: Georgia, Arizona, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. If those states went to Trump, then he still would be president.

Although he had no experience in the energy industry and he does not speak Ukrainian, Hunter Biden served on the board of directors of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy firm, while his father was vice president.

Twitter was the worst offender in censoring the laptop story, blocking the posting of reports under the false belief that the laptop revelations were hacked, despite possessing no evidence that those suspicions were true. For nearly two weeks, as Americans daily voted for president, Twitter suspended the New York Post’s popular main Twitter feed.

Facebook, which funds fact-checkers at USA Today, PolitiFact, and LeadStories, suppressed the Hunter laptop story. “While I will intentionally not link to the New York Post,” FB spokesperson Andy Stone Tweeted at the time, “I want [sic] be clear that this story is eligible to be fact checked by Facebook’s third-party fact checking partners. In the meantime, we are reducing its distribution on our platform.” No such fact-checks every were done by FB’s favored fact-checkers.

During the final presidential debate, moderated by NBC’s Kirsten Welker, and also while being interviewed by 60 Minutes’ Lesley Stahl, Trump tried to initiate a discussion about the Hunter Biden laptop. Welker deflected, and Stahl replied to Trump about the scandal, “Can’t be verified.” Well, now it has been, Stahl, by the paper that publishes “all the news that’s fit to print,” the New York Times.

Where is your apology, Lesley?

Government-funded NPR also dismissed the Hunter Biden story. On Twitter in 2020, in response to a question on why NPR hadn’t covered the laptop scandal, NPR’s managing editor Terence Samuels, who apparently is the kind of arrogant SOB that Groucho Marx used to justifiably torment, replied, “We don’t want to waste our time on stories that are not really stories, and we don’t want to waste the listeners’ and readers’ time on stories that are just pure distractions. And quite frankly, that’s where we ended up, this was … a politically driven event and we decided to treat it that way.”

In preparation for the writing of this story I endured one hour of CNN’s ludicrously misnamed Reliable Sources, hosted by a circus clown masquerading as a journalist, Brian Stelter. Much of today’s broadcast was dedicated to policing “misinformation” and “disinformation” by Russian media sources as the war in Ukraine continues. But Stelter and his sycophantic guests didn’t utter a peep about the New York Times update on the laptop. “So slowly and surely,” Stelter said at the end of today’s episode, “media criticism can improve media diets.” How ’bout starting with criticizing yourself, Stelter? His latest email newsletter, which I hear is very popular among liberal journalists, omitted mention of the Times’ revision on the Hunter MacBook.

Here’s a flashback for you.

“This is a classic example of the right-wing media machine,” Stelter said about the laptop on October 18, 2020. “Fox and Trump have this in common: They want you to stay mad and stay tuned.”

A former host of CNN’s Reliable Sources, Howard Kurtz, on Fox News Sunday this morning declared, “It is an absolute embarrassment that the way that the way media downplayed or ignored or mocked or minimized this story, the New York Times now says [Hunter] is under active federal investigation for possible tax violations or lobbying violations by [him]–and they’re still not covering it.”

After some complaining about those commments from fellow Fox News Sunday panelist Juan Williams, Kurtz shot back, “It was censorship.”

A free and fair election process allows open distribution of information. The mainstream media, Twitter, and Facebook, by suppressing and censoring coverage of the Hunter Biden laptop revelations, prevented a free and fair election.

John Ruberry, just John and not two others, regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.