Patriots Day: A Gut-Wrenching Portrayal of the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing

patriotsdayPatriots Day follows fictional Boston police sergeant Tommy Saunders (Mark Wahlberg) as he helps track down brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who detonated two bombs at the 2013 Boston Marathon. The tragedy occurred at 2:49 p.m. local time on April 15, 2013. Massachusetts celebrates Patriots’ Day on April 15 to commemorate the anniversary of Lexington and Concord, the first battles of the Revolutionary War. It’s estimated around 500,000 spectators attend the marathon. The bombs, made from pressure cookers, detonated 12 seconds apart, killing three and wounding approximately 264.

The film opens the night before the marathon, establishing a backstory for Sergeant Tommy Saunders. He is a well-meaning cop who got into a fight and has to pull guard duty at the marathon finish line before he can assume his regular duties. From there, we are shown snapshots of characters as they get up and start their day, but it is unclear how most of them will tie into the plot. We see future bombers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, his wife and daughter, at their apartment. Their morning is not typical, as one watches a video of masked terrorists demonstrating how to construct a pressure cooker bomb.

The terror, gut-wrenching shock, and confusion of the bombing is dramatically portrayed, as is the following manhunt. We see both law enforcement and the Tsarnaev brothers as they head for a fiery confrontation in the Boston suburb of Watertown. Moments of humor break up the dramatic, heart-racing scenes. During the final shootout with the Tsarnaev brothers, a man tosses a sledgehammer from his porch at police officers crouched behind the fence. “Give ’em hell!” he shouts, as if the crude melee weapon will do anything against the terrorists’ guns and homemade bombs.

It is meant to show defiance and resiliency in the face of terror, and Patriots Day is full of such crowd-pleasing moments, but how accurately does the film depict these events?

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Video from Fort Myers Haunted History Tour

I had the opportunity to go to Fort Myers, Florida around Christmas last year and decided to take the local ghost tour. I have to say, it was one of the best I’ve ever been on–and I’ve gone on ghost tours and haunted walks all over the country (even one in Canada). The Haunted History Tour is part of Fort Myers’ True Tours. Check out some video below and then read my review!

Fort Myers Haunted History Tour

I’ve gone on over a dozen ghost tours all around the country, and even Canada, but for some reason I never thought to review one until now. The Haunted History Tour of Fort Myers, Florida was one of the best. Our tour guide, Lauri, was upbeat and enthusiastic. I learned a lot about the history of Fort Myers as well as its legends.

I had the opportunity to go to Fort Myers around Christmas last year and decided to do something fun one evening. From talking with locals, I learned downtown Fort Myers has gone through a renaissance in recent years. In 1985, it served as a shooting location for George Romero’s Day of the Dead. The abandoned downtown seemed like the perfect locale for a zombie film. Today, it is beautiful, with brick streets, plenty of lighting, bars, shops, and restaurants. I spent some time at a trendy art bar, Space 39, and a cool 1920s themed bar called The 86 Room.

The Haunted History Tour is part of Fort Myers’ True Tours. It’s easy to see their commitment to quality. Its founder, Gina Taylor, was the first director of the Murphy-Burroughs Home, former director of the Southwest Florida Museum of History, a founding member and vice president of the Lee County Trust for Historic Preservation, Board member of the River District Alliance and of the Matlacha Chamber of Commerce, and a member of the Southwest Florida Attractions Association.

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Hotel Alex Johnson’s Enigmatic 8th Floor

The Hotel Alex Johnson sits at the heart of beautiful downtown Rapid City, South Dakota. It is a luxury hotel with stores, a coffee shop, and a bar and restaurant on the first floor and a swanky rooftop club on the tenth floor. Prices are reasonable in the off season, so when a friend and I visited South Dakota in early April, we jumped at the opportunity to stay here. It helped, of course, that this hotel is rumored to be haunted.

Alex Carlton Johnson was Vice President of the Chicago-Northwestern Railroad. As construction began on Mount Rushmore, he knew tourists would need somewhere to stay, so he invested his fortune in a hotel. The Hotel Alex Johnson opened in 1928 and was described as the “showplace of the West.” Its famous guests included President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Alex Johnson died in 1938, but according to some hotel employees, part of him never left.

There are two rooms on the eighth floor that are widely believed to be haunted, so much so that the Hotel Alex Johnson offers a special “ghost adventure” guest package to stay there. The rooms are 802 and 812. According to authors Chad Lewis and Terry Fisk, a young couple staying in Room 802 had several hair-raising encounters. They described hearing music that did not seem to have a source, and both said they awoke to feel like they were being choked. Their pets also appeared agitated and behaved strangely.

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Hearts of Iron IV Minor Nation Strategies: Greece

screenshot-158Welcome to the latest in a series of posts looking at minor countries in the game Hearts of Iron IV by Paradox Entertainment. Hearts of Iron IV is an epic historical simulator that allows you to experience the Second World War as any country, and perhaps, change history. These articles examine the benefits and drawbacks of playing as any of dozens of minor countries in HOI IV. This week I’ll be looking at Greece.

Greece starts the game in 1936 as a neutral, authoritarian state with 90% national unity and annual elections. It has limited conscription, export trade focus, and civilian economy. The fascist party, led by Georgios Kosmidis, has 23% popularity, the democratic party, led by Konstantinos Tsaldaris, has 10%, the communist party, led by Markos Vafiadis, has 2% support, and the ruling nonaligned party, led by President Ioannis Metaxas, has 65% support. The next election will be held in June 1936.

Greece is divided into seven states, with predominantly mountainous terrain and a long Mediterranean coastline. Its strategic resources are plentiful for a minor country. In terms of industry, it has 4 military and 8 civilian factories and 1 naval dockyard, plus 10 additional open slots, 20 tungsten, 68 chromium, 58 aluminum, and 24 steel.

Greece has 9 infantry, 3 mountain, and 1 cavalry divisions, but no air force. Its small coastal fleet consists of 1 heavy cruiser, 1 light cruiser, 8 destroyers, and 6 submarines. It has 28,020 manpower initially available for new units, and one general available to command your troops. General Markos Drakos has a skill level of 3 and is a hill fighter, granting troops under his command a bonus of +10% attack and defense and +5% movement in hills.

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Live by Night: A Lively Gangster Tale

live_by_night_filmStrong performances by supporting actors and actresses, wonderful choreography, and exciting action make Live by Night (2016) a thrilling gangster flick despite Ben Affleck’s uninspired acting. Affleck adapted the screenplay from a novel of the same name by Dennis Lehane. The film’s genuine look and feel is no doubt attributable to the source material. Although the characters are not based on real people, they might as well have been. For his part, Lehane wrote the novel about rum running to show the “sexy side of Prohibition.” Exotic, tropical locales, flashy clothes, fast cars, and excessive violence characterize both the novel and the film.

This sprawling movie spans several decades and locations, from Boston to south Florida. As the film opens, Joe Coughlin (Ben Affleck) is a WW1 veteran and bank robber in Boston. He falls in love with Emma Gould (Sienna Miller), mistress of Irish mob boss Albert White (Robert Glenister). Italian mob boss Maso Pescatore (Remo Girone) tries to blackmail Coughlin into killing Albert White. Unfortunately, Emma betrays him and White tries to have both her and Coughlin killed.

After spending several years in prison for a bank robbery gone wrong, Coughlin approaches Pescatore and asks him to help get revenge on Albert White. Pescatore sends him to Ybor City, Tampa, Florida, where White had set up his own operation, to run his speakeasies and muscle out White.

While there, Coughlin meets and marries a Cuban woman named Graciela Corrales (Zoe Saldana). He battles the KKK, other gangsters, hostile businessmen, and Evangelical Christians in his pursuit to corner the rum market and ultimately get Florida to legalize gambling so the mob can run its casinos. Coughlin and Pescatore come to blows in a bloody climax and Coughlin retires from his life of crime.

Live by Night is ultimately about “what goes around, comes around.” In several instances, characters’ past decisions come back to haunt them, and their bad behavior is repaid with pain, suffering, and loss. No one escapes this movie unscathed, except perhaps for Coughlin’s son, who I assume goes on to lead a normal life. Read the rest of this entry