The Others – Revisited

imageWhile browsing movie selections on Amazon, I was recommended The Others on Blu-Ray. I thought The Others was a great movie and for a mere $6 I could get the Blu-Ray edition. Two days later it was at the front door and I sat down to watch it again.

We start off with Grace and her two children alone in their house cut off from their neighbors and the rest of the village. The war has ravaged them and to make matters worse, the regular servants have packed up and left during the night without saying a word.

But all is not lost, three new servants who happened to have worked at the house before come strolling by looking for work. Desperate times call for desperate measures and Grace brings them on board to help with the house. But they must understand that the curtains must be drawn at all times. Her children are allergic to the light and if exposed they will blister, suffocate and possibly die. That alone means the house is lit with meager lamps and we spend most of the time is in an eerie darkness. Not to mention there is a thick fog that hangs about the house and if you stray too far, you lose your bearings and won’t be able to find your way back.

It’s not just the darkness though. There is something odd about the servants. They seem to be hiding something or perhaps are in the midst of hatching some sort of plan. Further, it seems that things are moving around in the house and they hear voices and footsteps. Soon, the daughter Anne says she sees and hears a little boy Victor, who says the house is theirs. Soon Grace realizes that noises she attributed to the servants can’t be from them because they’re not even in the house when she hears them. They now have intruders.

To confuse matters even more, Charles, Grace’s husband mysteriously shows back up to the house after being presumed dead in the war. But something is wrong. He’s distant, lost, aloof. His affections seem to be running away from his high strung and nervous wife.

From there we start to learn about many truths that took place in the house and very little is what it appears to be and not everyone is who they claim to be.

The first time I watched The Others, I thought it was great. It was an atmospheric and creepy movie that used mood and lighting to create tension. There are no scenes with chainsaws, or people being hacked to bits, or blood, or nudity and only a hint of violence. It’s sort of a like an Agatha Christie movie where everyone has a motive yet you’re not sure of their intentions. We get a lot of characters who may be up to no good and sense the house is haunted.

Watching it this second time, I found it to be just as suspenseful, but there was a great sense of satisfaction in pickup up on all the clues that are literally peppered throughout the movie. The clues are subtle and out of context they just seem like half completed thoughts. Or, they could be referring to multiple things – the war, the neighbors, the house.

For those who are used to hack and slash films, this is clearly not for you. For those that want a movie to build and for there to be a point to the story, this should keep you both intrigued and entertained.

With the lights turned down low, this movie still creates a suspenseful atmosphere and offers a story that slowly draws you in and sets several wheels in motion to make you wonder who’s telling the truth. And then in the end you’ll see how everything fits together perfectly and everything you were offered makes complete sense.

This is a top notch movie and for $6 you simply can’t go wrong.

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Forever – Season 1 Complete

image I just finished watching the Season Finale of Forever and I have to say that overall I’m pretty impressed with the show. For those that aren’t familiar with the series, it goes a little something like this:

Henry Morgan is a NY Medical Examiner with a vast knowledge on multiple subjects. On the surface, this is a well written crime drama that uses actual thinking rather than relying on ridiculous computer hacks, like converting a blurry image, shot at night, from a traffic camera a mile away which all of sudden looks crystal clear, to solve crimes. It has many elements from the Sherlock Holmes novels such as identifying poisons from their smell, a painting being moved, footprints in the carpet, the subtle remnants of perfume in the room and other minor clues that are left behind.

But apart from that, Henry Morgan is apparently immortal. During an altercation where he puts another’s life above his own, he is struck down by a bullet, but lives to tell the tale. From that point, he has died hundreds of times, always coming back in one piece. So the reason he’s in the medical field, he knows a little something about death.

We also have Henry living with his son, a boy he rescued during the war who is old enough to be his grandfather. So besides the interesting crime stories, we have observations on what it’s like to live and love and what it means to die.

Henry struggles with the "curse" of outliving all the people he loves. His great loves have passed away while he has stayed young. And at some point, he will have to deal with the death of his son. How can he make the most of his life when those around him will pass away?

But if there is one, there is surely another. And on the other end we have Adam, a man who has lived even longer than Henry, but the ravages of time and man have taken a different toll on him.

It’s an interesting dilemma. What would it mean to live forever or at least for a thousand years? Immortality has been presented in Frankenstein and Dracula, but those always come with a terrible price. But what if the price was simply outliving everyone? You could walk in the daylight and live a normal life, it just wouldn’t end.

Of course, it would have been much easier to mask such a condition hundreds of years ago. Back in the 1800s all had you had to do was walk 50 miles down the road and you were in another world. There were no records to follow you, no picture IDs to confirm your identity. It would be relatively easy to start over. But not so much today. Even if you were in the know and could get the birth certificate, what about all the digital records people have access to now? People get suspicious if you don’t have something on Facebook or Twitter or elsewhere. And what about a hundred years from now? What would it take to hid the inability to age and then sneak off to another place where you could start anew?

The idea of living for a hundred of thousand years sounds fascinating. All the things you would see and experience. All the places you could go and all the knowledge you could take in. But what of the downside we see in Forever. Does endless life lead to madness? Would outliving everyone you know push you away from love and companionship? Would you be able to trust someone with that secret? As we see in the show, when Henry reveals his secret he is put into a mental institution. And would you be able to survive in a digital world where everything you do is tracked?

I think we all say we wish we had more time, but what if that’s all you had? Where would you end up? What would you do? And then once you’ve travelled and read, what next? And what jobs would you have? I suppose you would have to keep switching so people didn’t discover you. I suppose there is always the life of Robinson Crusoe, but that’s not really living is it?

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Expedition Unknown – The Great Bell of Dhammazedi – S01E12

imageFor this rather unusual investigation, Josh is off to Myanmar to search for a massive gold bell that was stolen and then lost. The bell was cast in 1484 out of gold and silver and is believed to weigh 300 tons and be 18ft tall. No small feat that a Portuguese warlord named Filipe de Brito e Nicote stole the bell, rolled it down the hill and loaded it onto a small ship.

However, the joke was on him as both his ship and his cargo all sank. The bell has been lost ever since. Oddly, the bell has been lost in a river, so why is it so hard to find? The river is insanely muddy where the visibility is zero. Also, the river is quite a bit deeper than many charts say. Add to this the current and the fact the bell could be completely covered in mud or debris and basically the divers have no idea what they may have their hands on. They could literally be touching the bell and not even know it.

It almost seems like a lost cause, but there are plenty of groups out there searching for it and the government is working to support the effort. And enter Josh to offer his hand and shed some light on the story.

As usual, Josh starts off his investigation and his visit with a trip to the market. And it is once again filled all sorts of strange, unusual and exotic goods. Josh even tries his hand, or rather head, at carrying a basket of goods around. His balance needs a bit of work, but many locals try to help him get the hang of it.

Josh starts off in Bagan where he heads to Mount Popa, one of the two thousand temples that pepper the landscape. This is a temple dedicated to the Nat spirits. These spirits are believed to watch over and protect the bell. It is believe the Nat spirits are angry over the stolen bell and prevent people from finding it. The goal is to ask the spirits for permission to search for the bell. It’s not quite what you would expect and there is plenty of drinking and smoking to appease the spirits. The dancers believe they channel the energy of the Nats wherein the can pass along good will and blessings. It’s an odd ritual to be sure, but it’s part of the culture and respected by the local people.

After the blessing it’s off to Yangon, which was formerly known as Rangoon. Bells pepper the city and are used throughout for prayers. Josh heads to the Shwedagon Pagoda, which is quite literally covered in gold. This is where the bell was stolen from and ironically, there is a scale replica of the bell that was stolen and lost in the river. However, it was recovered and has been returned. So if it can happen once, it can happen again.

Before going to join the hunt for the bell, an offering and blessing needs to be made. This is taken quite seriously as a Buddhist monk comes down to the docks to bless the boat, the crew and the mission. I have to admit, the research vessel leaves a little something to be desired. It looks like a rotting boat that will most likely come apart before they make it 100 yards away from shore. But it stays afloat and they head to the center of the intersection where the three rivers meet where they believe the bell went overboard.

But if you think the boat is a bit makeshift, wait until you see the diving gear. It’s literally an old gas mask with some handmade straps fed by a tube that’s hooked to an air compressor. To say it’s dangerous is a staggering understatement. And the thing is, the water is like mud and they can’t see a thing down there. All they can do is feel around and see what sort of debris they can discover.

The locals have been putting in the effort to find the bell, but several lives have already been lost. This is no easy task under the best of conditions and it’s pretty obvious, these are not the best of conditions.

There is another group doing their own investigation further upstream, so Josh takes the local train and heads up to join him. Damien Lay is the leader and his team has a bit more technology on their side. However, their boat isn’t a whole lot better and the technology consists of some better scuba gear and sonar. That’s about it. In no way do they have millions of dollars worth of equipment like submersibles and robotic arms.

Damien heads into the incredibly murky water and feels something large and dome shaped. But since he can’t see anything, he really has no idea what he’s found. Josh is encouraged to give it a go and since he will be one of only a handful of Westerners to ever look for the bell, it’s a pretty big honor.

It’s a few tense moments as Josh heads into the water and the current pulls him away from the boat. They also lose radio contact and have to drag him back. He does indeed look a little out of sorts, but manages to pull up a small piece of metal. It’s newer than the wreckage they are looking for, but it just goes to show the type of junk they have to contend with. Even the sonar has a hard time picking up objects so are they in the right place and if it is, how exactly will they know? And if they do find it, how exactly will they get it out?

It’s a pretty wild endeavor to be sure. You would think such a massive bell would be easy to locate in such a shallow river. But everything seems to be against them. The river is deeper than people believe. The current could easily be shifting the bottom of the river not only changing the contour, but completely covering the bell with mud. And the water is so muddy and dark that even if they were in the right spot how would they know?

Hopefully in time technology will help locate the bell and the search teams can put it back in the pagoda where it belongs.

Great Bell of Dhammazedi

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Expedition Unknown – Samurai Sword of Power – S01E11

imageThis is an intriguing episode as Josh heads off to Japan in search of a mystical Japanese sword called the Hanjo Masamune. The sword was forged in the 13th century and is said to not only be the finest blade ever made, but had the power to never kill an innocent man. It is said that whoever wielded the Hanjo Masamune would be the ruler of Japan. And that’s exactly what happened. Through the years the sword was handed down through generations. While the story associated with the sword seems the stuff on anime cartoons, the sword itself is in fact real. It existed and was tracked all the way until the end of World War II. At that time, as Japan surrendered, all small armaments, including swords, were to be handed over to the government. The sword was handed over to the police and then promptly disappeared. The location of the sword remains a mystery. Some believe it may have come to the US. Others believe is may be in a temple. Or it could have ended up on the black market and is in the hands of a private collector.

To start his investigation and gather information Josh talks with Tsunenari Tokugawa who is the 18th generation of the family that once ruled over Japan, with the help of the Hanjo Masamune sword. Mr. Tokugawa shows Josh his family mausoleum  that contains the remains of many Shogun generals. These would have been men that most likely wielded the actual sword. Mr. Tokugawa believes the sword is most likely in the hands of an individual collector.

To learn more about selling swords to private collectors, Josh meets with a man who sells swords in this rather murky market. The dealer has some information about the sword including what it may really look like and the blade pattern. If the real Hanjo were to come on the market, it’s blade markings would have to match. Interestingly, swords sold through regular channels come with certificates that prove who the sword was made by and when.

And then to learn about the sword making process, Josh visits Tsunahiro Yamamura who’s a 24th generation of Masamune. That is quite amazing and actually puts his family as slightly older than that of the Tokugawa family.

Mr. Yamamura is a master sword maker and shows Josh that the swords are hand made over several weeks. The steel is heated dozens of times to create strength and purity. Josh is given the honor to actually pound the metal for a new sword being made. Since I’ve always been fascinated with swords and knives, this was quite exciting to watch.

But to really know about the sword, Josh needs to wield one. And with the help of an expert, Josh goes out back and is shown how to make strikes with the blade. He does surprisingly well and it shows just how sharp the blade is. Josh makes incredibly clean cuts through the bamboo mat. Does he a touch of the Samurai DNA?

The next stop is a series of tunnels where the sword may have been kept after being turned in. When the sword was turned over, it may have been kept or perhaps smuggled into these tunnels. Josh meets with Michael Gakuran who has been given permission to explore this area in search of the sword. He and Josh spend some time down there, but don’t actually discover the sword. But as Michael explains, there are miles of tunnels and they’ve barely started searching.

As Josh continues to search for answers, he meets with Tetsuro Shimaguchi who shows him what it’s like to train like a Samurai warrior. He gives Josh just a brief glimpse of the moves, posture, stance and balance it takes. Then, he tries what he’s learned with one of the students. Needless to say, Josh doesn’t stand a chance. But it does show the intense discipline and training it requires to handle this sort of weapon.

It is believed that the sword may have found it’s way into a shrine and since there is one close by, Josh heads to the top of the mountain to have a look around. We really don’t expect Josh to find the sword and this is more of an excuse for him to ride a motorcycle and see the spectacular landscape. Can’t really fault him for that, the scenery is gorgeous.

But there is a monk at the top of the mountain and while the shrine does contain treasures, it’s not the sword and the monk informs Josh he is surrounded by treasures in the form of the trees and mountains. He’s quite right.

Finally, Josh meets with a sword collector who’s family has been in the business since 1874. While we’re certainly not expecting this man to hand over the ancient lost sword, he certainly has something worth looking at. While not the original Honjo Masamune, it is a sword from the same maker. Josh is holding a Masamune sword that is around 600 years old – and it is stunning. This is all hand made from a single piece of steel. The sharpness and quality are amazing. Josh is holding a wonderful piece of Japanese history. And the Honjo is supposed to be even better. Hard to imagine.

We never really expected Josh to find the sword, but what a fantastic journey. Japan has such history and always seems to be cloaked in mystery. Even with this small glimpse into the origins of this sword, it’s a fun journey. The samurai way of life and the code they lived by is something to behold and if there is a true tangible item that encompasses that way of life and represents such power and honor, I truly hope one day it does reveal itself.

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