Black Mirror is a British made/produced series that started in 2011 and premiered here in the U.S. on Netflix. It is currently on it’s 3rd season and is available to stream right now.
You could label it ‘Science Fiction’, but for those of you old enough to remember the Twilight Zone or Outer Limits, it is kinda like that with more of a distinctly Orwellian/Dystopian feel about it.
Dystopian-esque Movies and Series are pretty popular right now both in the U.K and America mostly because I think people are more fearful of what the future holds than captivated by it, and while Black Mirror is heavy on the satirical, poking fun at the ridiculousness of what our society has and/or IS becoming because of technology, it also has a distinctly serious side to it in that it poses some legitimate questions to us as a society.
I won’t spoil the series for you, but just to give you an ideal of what kind of a show this is, the first episode entitled Nosediveis a satirical look at a not too distant future where social media has created basically a CASTE system where a person’s SOCIAL STATUS is everything and just like your FICA credit score, determines your place and position in society. Want that swanky new apartment? Well your better have a social status ranking of 4.5 or above to qualify. Want to be popular at work? You better not “like” the guy whose ranking just fell below a 2.4 because of a job demotion. The result is what I like to call a society of “plastic” shallow, politically correct people whose sole purpose in life is to be LIKED.
Check out Black Mirror Seasons 1 thru 3 on Netflix.
Netflix just came out with a really well made Historical Cold War Drama titled The Siege of Jadotville. Now this time period will not be familiar to most folks, but For those of you familiar with the Cold War History of Africa, you will definitely remember the Congo Crisis and the 1961 CIA sponsored Assassination of Patrice Lumumba (which the movie begins with).
One of the reasons why the superpowers were interested in the Congo, particularly the province of Katanga, is that this region had one of the largest seams of Uranium (which can be weaponized to make nuclear weapons) in the world and in addition provided half or more of the worlds supply of Copper and Cobalt, which interestingly enough, was needed to build the guidance systems for ICBM’s, which both the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R were building at a break neck rate in 1961. The Geo-Political aspect of this conflict is extremely in-depth, which gives the movie a whole different feel than just “another war movie.”
Side note: For you Weapons junkies like me, this movie has some really nice period correct hardware in it as well, to include:
Interesting tidbit:The Swedish Garl Gustav M-45 was used by US Army SOG Forces in Vietnam throughout the sixties and into the early seventies. John L Plaster in his excellent book Secret Commandos: Behind Enemy Lines with the Elite Warriors of SOG discusses their use in detail.
If you like historical crime flicks, definitely check this series out. It is by far one of the BEST series ever done on the complete story of Pablo Escobar. It not only tells the story/legend of Escobar himself, but it also tells the story of the DEA and other Alphabet agencies who chased him down and eventually helped help kill him. Seasons 1 and 2 are available now.
Marco Polo (Seasons 1 and 2)
I have talked about this excellent Historical series before, but since finishing Season 2, I wanted to re-iterate how good it really is. The story of Genghis and Kublai Khan is a fascinating one simply because most historians tend to ignore how important they really were in European and Asian History. Lest we not forget, the Mongols conquered the then Chinese Song Dynasty and Kublai became Emperor of all China! The series is jam packed with action and wonderful plots and sub-plots. I will say the First Season was much more enjoyable and flowed easier than the Second, but still overall it is a great series for the History lover.
The Bielski Otriad (Partisan Group) and the 1,200 strong Jewish Community they helped create represents one of the most amazing and inspiring true stories of World War II and the Holocaust. It is also a great study in the practical applications of Guerilla/Partisan Warfare and Off-the-Grid Survival for a very large group of people. Great acting throughout with Daniel Craig and Liev Schreiber anchoring their roles like a boss.
If you don’t watch anymore Documentaries the rest of the year, make sure you watch this one! Cartel land will open your eyes to the WAR that is raging both on our Southern Border and in Mexico against the Drug cartels. It shows the amazing lengths people will go to to protect their families, communities and their livelihoods against the savagery of the cartels. It reminds us very strongly that self-reliance is a trait of the SURVIVOR and depending on the Government for ANYTHING except to be taxed and screwed over is STUPIDITY.
I remember first seeing this movie at the request of a fellow friend, hunter and knife lover. In one of Tommy Lee Jones lesser known roles, it tell the story of a Tier 1 personality (Benicio Del Toro) who goes “off the Reservation” so to speak. The action and knife “fighting” (more like Knife SURVIVAL) scenes are worth the price of admission to be sure. All in all an entertaining yarn for us “tactically minded” folk.
Ever since Netflix raised their monthly rate from $8.65 to $10.00 I have been waiting to see if an increase in price was going to equal an increase in better movies, and this month I can say that is true.
A War is is a Danish War Drama (with superb English Subtitles) that depicts a Danish Army Company deployed in Helmand, Province Afghanistan. The movie is split between showing both the hardships on the battlefield and the homefront, as the story moves from the struggles of Company Commander Claus Pedersen fighting the Taliban to Commander Pedersen’s wife back in Copenhagen trying to manage 3 children and a household as a single parent.
At first, I was not sure this was going to be my type of War Movie simply because of the back and forth it shows between Commander Pedersen and his wife, but I was pleasantly surprised as this “drama” actually adds to the telling of the story as a whole, which is basically the STRESS Soldiers endure when having to both do their job on the Battlefield and be concerned about their families back home.
The crux of the storyline revolves around the hardships and challenges of fighting a Counter-Insurgency military campaign against a brutal and smart guerilla enemy. The Commander is faced with extremely hard decisions during the course of the movie, decisions he knows the Taliban is placing on him as a Guerilla Force to see if he will crack. One of these decisions is how he properly protects the friendly civilian population against the Taliban, while weeding out the small percentage that aids and abets the Taliban.
The overall quality of the movie really catches your eye right away. The cinematography is fantastic, and although I know this was not filmed in Afghanistan, they sure make it look like it! This was definitely not a low-budget movie, as the scenery, military uniforms, weapons and overall tactical movement of the troops is spot on.
For the Civilian Operator interested in learning about the history of Counter-Insurgency Warfare and Guerilla Warfare tactics, particularly those used by the Taliban, this is a good movie to do that. All the subtleties of COIN are here; the balancing of hard-hitting military operations while maintaining a good working relationship with the local populace; The struggle to protect civilians when your hands are tied militarily in what you can do based purely on being a humanitarian. The dichotomy is fascinating to see, because you quickly understand how the Guerilla Warfare tactics of the Taliban, which were used to drive the Soviet Army out (and before that the British), are still today just as effective in harassing a modern, technologically superior military force like that of NATO.
This flick teeters on being more of a War DRAMA than just a simple, run-of-the-mill war movie simply because the Overall REALISM is what really draws you into the story. What firefights and action there are totally supports the flow of the story and does not seem too gratuitous or gory for the sake of being gory.
If you are looking for a shoot em’ up, type War Movie, this one is not for you! But, if you are looking for Well-Made, Well Acted, Thoughtfully Made Military War Drama that explores ALL sides of the True COST of Fighting a War, then this one is for you!
In closing, I would also like to say this: So many times people are so quick to “Thank A Veteran” for their service, but the same time people are also just as quick to judge a Veteran for a decision that he had to make under fire, in WARTIME that may have resulted in “civilian” deaths. We ask a lot of these men, and one of the things we ask is for them to make difficult, life changing decisions with imperfect information in mere seconds. The average civilian has no ideal what this is like, they only know some “innocent civilians” in a third world country that we are trying to liberate are dead so this soldier must be punished. That is Hypocritical bullshit and it is WRONG on every level. Should soldiers be held to the legal standard as set by the Geneva convention in War? Absolutely, but when these standards are impractical and unrealistic and are only there to serve a political end I think they should be done away with.
I think this excerpt of Jack Nicholson’s speech from the movieA Few Good Men sums up my feelings:
“I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide and then questions the manner in which I provide it.
I would rather that you just said “thank you” and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand the post. Either way, I don’t give a DAMN what you think you’re entitled to!”
Run Time: 1 Hour 55 Minutes, Danish and Pashto Language with English Subtitles.
Season 3 of the Peaky Blinders just got released on Netflix.
For those of you unfamiliar with this series, allow me to quote my previous ramblings from 2 years ago about Seasons 1 and 2:
Peaky Blinders (5 out of 5)
I mentioned this series before last go around, but now since Season 2 has been released, I feel I need to re-iterate its greatness. This is an awesome Gangster series; superb writing, and even better acting. Talent wise, it is right up there with HBO’s Broadway Empire. Cillian Murphy, who plays Tommy Shelby, the main character, is superb. If you did not catch his performance in The Wind that Shakes the Barley,(also on Netflix) you need to make a point to do so…the guy is talented. In a nutshell, This is a true “1920’s Period Piece” that captures the British version of the “roaring twenties” like no other movie or series has; with historical elements like early IRA violence, political and police corruption and plenty of bloodshed, explosions, knife fights and gunfights in between. Definitely DO NOT miss both Seasons of this one!
As a historian, I find the writing for this series absolutely top-notch. There are several elements that enhance and make this series MORE than just your average Gangster/Crime drama, here are 4 of them:
WWI History and Post World War I England
One of the great traits of this show is that the main character, the Patriarch as it were of the Peaky Blinders Gang, Thomas Shelby and his two brothers, Arthur and John are all WWI Veterans. Thomas as we learn was a “Tunneler” attached to the 179th Tunneling Company Royal Engineers. We learn in Episode 6 of Season 2 that Thomas was responsible for blowing up the German Strong point Schwaben Hohe, this fact made Thomas Shelby notorious for two reasons: The first being the explosion was the largest man-made mine crater of the First World War and was the starting point for the Battle of the Somme in 1916. The second is Mr. Shelby was only one of three men to survive that blast. The rest of his tunneling company were buried alive.
After the war there was a fellowship and brotherhood among all WWI Veterans, regardless of which side of the law you were on. Consequently, any man who did not serve in the Military in WWI was socially ostracized and seen as a coward, as is the case with the Lead Law Enforcement Officer, Inspector Campbell, played by Sam Neill. The “Small Heath Rifles” were famous in Birmingham (and all of England for that matter) for the Ordnance and Iron Works factories that produced Enfield Rifles and Ordnance for the Military. The men from Birmingham (called “Brummy’s) were considered tough, blue-collar working class men, not the frilly, soft social types you would find in and around London (People from East London were often called “Cockney’s).
The IRA and the Irish Civil War
Part of the genius of this series is it not only focuses on Crime, but delves into the Political arena as well. With the early 1920’s being a red-letter date in the History of the Irish Republican Army, the writers weave an intricate sub-plot involving how the British Government sought to exploit the schism inside the IRA concerning the peace treaty with Britain by using Thomas Shelby to assassinate a key British Military Officials and then laying the blame on the Anti-Treaty Irish. The appearance of a young Winston Churchill when he was Secretary of State for the Colonies during the time of the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 shows how in-depth and attentive the writers and director were to ensure the series maintained historically accuracy.
Ethnic and Racial Divides
Great Britain in the 1920’s was a very diverse country, racially and ethnically. As such, most of the cities were segregated along these lines. Jews, Italians, Indians and Gypsies all had their own neighborhoods or “Quarters”, and consequently, they also all had their own Gangs to protect these areas. It is interesting to note that the majority of the Peaky Blinders and its founding family, the Shelby’s, are of Romany Gypsy blood and as such are thought of and treated as inferior by the majority of the British. In Season 2, we see one of my favorite characters in the Show, the Jewish Gang Leader Alfie Solomons (played by Tom Hardy) join forces with the Peaky Blinders against a rival Italian Gang in an attempt to gain control of the lucrative speakeasy’s and racetracks in and around London.
Historical Accuracy With Weapons
I have always made it a habit to keep a keen eye out when I watch Historical period piece movies/series to see if they stayed on their toes in the prop and set department. Peaky Blinders delivers in this area big time! First of all, being this is set in Great Britain in the 20’s, firearms were not very plentiful to civilians and gangsters (Unlike in America, where during the good ole’ Pre-NFA Days (National Firearms Act) you could order a Thompson Sub Machine Gun from a catalog!) Still some firearms are seen in the show:
Variations of The Webley Revolver
Harrington and Richardson Premier 2nd Model
Smith and Wesson Victory Model
Mauser C96 Broomhandle and Bolo SA
FN Model 1900 SA
Webley and Scott MK I SA
FN Model 1910 SA
Luger P-08 SA
Lee-Enfield No.1 Mk. III Rile
Lewis Machine Gun
Be sure and Check out all 3 Seasons of The Peaky Blinders on Netflix, you won’t regret it.
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