Between his colorful comments on Hell’s Kitchen and Kitchen Nightmares, and his savage Twitter food criticisms, Gordon Ramsey is the absolute embodiment of English snark. Granted, you’d be a hard ass like him too if you demanded the best from your subordinates. Much like an NCO treats their troops, nothing is done out of spite — he’s just pushing them to be the best they can be.
The tables flipped in season 4 of his show The F Word (UK).
Corporals Ben Slater and Tim Richards met with Ramsey at the Commando Training Centre Royal Marines (CTCRM) near Lympstone, Devon. The CTCRM is the principal training center for the UK’s Royal Marines.
The crews that are there for 32 weeks at a time are given mundane food, despite the twice the average calorie intake. Before they would allow Ramsey to do what he does best, the Royal Marines were going to show him why troops need those extra calories…
…by running him through the Woodbury Common’s endurance course.
Right out the gate, Ramsey arrives to the 17k (roughly 10.5 miles) course late. As every fighting man and woman in the world knows, “If you’re not early, you’re not on time. If you’re late, you’re SOL.”
The stern and loud head chef was dropped to do 100 press-ups (the British way of saying push-ups.) Referring to the instructor, Ramsey even quips “Is he always that miserable first thing in the morning? Does he ever crack a smile? F*ck me.”
Every recruit runs the course carrying 32 lbs. of gear and an SA80 Rifle. And then they take the ‘sheep dip’ and ‘smartie tubes.’
The sheep dip is a unique and traditional obstacle on the Commando Course. It consists of submerged concrete tunnels, filled with water and mud, that you must swim through. You are entirely reliant on the other Marine to help you make it across to the other side. The smartie tubes are just a tiny sewer tunnel that you need to crawl through.
He didn’t finish with any impressive time, but he held his head up high — and he didn’t finish last. Not bad for a man twice the average recruit’s age.
Afterwards, he finally got to return the favor and give the Royal Marines a lesson in cooking to help get past the monotony of their rations and the British version on an MRE.
Before his sudden reemergence at the Caspian Economic Forum, speculation had recently been swirling in Turkmenistan after the country’s strongman president disappeared from public view for more than a month.
Considering that Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov regularly dominates the airwaves in the tightly controlled state, his abrupt absence did not go unnoticed, prompting speculation that he was in poor health or even dead.
This obviously posed a problem for the Turkmen authorities, who have spent years cultivating an elaborate cult of personality aimed at boosting the totalitarian leader’s power and prestige.Turkmenistan’s Singer, Race-car Driver, Jockey, Autocrat
When ubiquitous dictators suddenly evaporate into thin air, it can have a destabilizing effect on their regimes.
Perhaps hoping to avoid the crippling uncertainty that gripped the Soviet Union immediately following the demise of Stalin or the rampant rumors that accompanied the long-drawn-out announcement of Islam Karimov’s death in neighboring Uzbekistan in 2016, the Turkmen authorities went into overdrive to assure the populace, and the world at large, that their glorious leader was alive and well.
This all culminated in state TV broadcasting an Aug. 4, 2019 highlights package showing a 35-minute montage of clips of what Turkmenistan’s all-singing, all-dancing president had been doing on his “holidays,” including riding a bicycle, firing an automatic weapon in combat gear, bowling with astonishing accuracy, riding a horse, working on a new book, composing a new song, and driving an SUV through the desert to the Gates of Hell — a perpetually burning crater that resulted from a Soviet attempt to flare gas there in the early 1970s.
In a five-minute segment on The Daily Show, Noah used the opportunity to reprise some of the video “highlights” of Berdymukhammedov’s bizarre reign, including the South African comedian’s own personal favorite, which shows the Turkmen leader rocking out with his grandson.
Among other things, Oliver took great delight in dissecting the Turkmen president’s fascination with horses, which RFE/RL has also covered in the past.
The British-born comic paid particular attention to the time when Berdymukhammedov had an embarrassing fall while riding a beloved steed, a story that the Turkmen authorities did their best to try and bury.
Besides mining the subject for laughs, however, both also made sure to draw attention to the dark side of life in Turkmenistan, particularly its abysmal human rights record.
According to its latest World Report, Human Rights Watch singled out the country for particular criticism, calling it “one of the world’s most isolated and oppressively governed” states, where “all forms of religious and political expression not approved by the government are brutally punished.”
With this in mind, Oliver also took the time to take a swipe at Guinness World Records for actually sending verifiers to validate what he described as Berdymukhammedov’s “bizarre obsession” with setting global firsts (something he shares with some Central Asian counterparts).
John Oliver repeatedly cited RFE/RL reporting in his Berdymukhammedov segment.
(Last Week Tonight/YouTube)
In Oliver’s view, enabling Berdymukhammedov to register such Turkmen records as having “the most buildings with marble cladding” or the “world’s largest indoor Ferris wheel” only serves to “reinforce a cult of personality and confer a sense of legitimacy on a global stage.”
Typically, Oliver was to have one last laugh at the Turkmen leader’s expense, however.
Taking a leaf out of Berdymukhammedov’s book, the Last Week Tonight ended the show by attempting to break another record, making what Oliver described as the “world’s largest marbled cake” — a 55-square-meter confectionery decorated with a huge picture of the Turkmen president infamously falling off his horse.
It’s probably safe to assume that this is probably not a record achievement Turkmen state TV is going to be trumpeting anytime soon.
Hobbs & Shaw, the Fast & Furious spin-off film starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Jason Statham, comes to theaters this weekend, hoping to further solidify F&F as the most bankable franchise that doesn’t involve jedis or superheroes. And once you have enjoyed 136 minutes of watching Johnson and Statham bicker like an old married couple, you will likely find yourself faced with one question: Is there a scene after the credits? After all, sitting around watching the credits roll can be a real bore but it might be worth the wait if the movie ends up giving fans an Easter egg or hints at what the sequel might be about.
Fortunately, this question has already been answered by none other than Johnson himself, who responded to a question about a post-credits scene on Twitter and affirmed that there is a definitely a post-credits scene that will give fans an idea of what is coming next in the Hobbs & Shaw corner of the Fast & Furious universe.
Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw – Official Trailer [HD]
Having seen the film, we can confirm that what Johnson is saying is 100 percent true and while we won’t be sharing any spoilers regarding the scene or the film in general, the scene definitely points to who will be joining Hobbs and Shaw on their next mission to save the world from total destruction.
Of course, this all assumes that there will be a Hobbs Shaw sequel at all. Though, considering that it’s currently projected to make nearly 0 million at the global box office this weekend, we wouldn’t advise betting against the two teaming up again.
Hobbs Shaw comes to theaters August 2.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
History’s Vikings is finally back for the second half of season 5 and the story has shifted focus from the legendary Viking warrior, Ragnar Lothbrok, to his sons, Björn Ironside and Ivar the Boneless.
While previous installments of the show took plenty of creative liberties in order to craft a coherent story of the sparsely documented early days of the Viking Age, the lives of Björn and Ivar are more thoroughly recorded, which means this season is likely to be rooted in hard evidence.
In real life, Björn “Ironside” Ragnarsson was a legendary king of Sweden and founder of the Munsö dynasty. He brought tremendous prosperity to his people by leading vicious raids and establishing bountiful trade routes across the Old World. Ivar “the Boneless” Ragnarsson, on the other hand, is remembered as either being a masterful, yet slightly psychotic general of the Great Heathen Army or as the revered founder of Dublin — sometimes both.
Since most historical accounts are steeped in myth and lore, it’s hard to pin down what kind of Viking Ivar was.
The stories are fascinating nonetheless. Upon first hearing his name, you’re bound to wonder how he came to be known as “the Boneless” — there are several theories. Some historians believe he suffered from osteogenesis imperfecta, otherwise known as “brittle bone disease,” a genetic disorder that causes the person’s bones to be, as the name implies, extremely brittle, which was a less-than-desirable affliction to have during in the Viking Age.
This theory is reinforced by accounts from the Great Heathen Army’s siege of Northumbria, during which, according to both English sources and Norse legends, he was carried atop a shield. This gave the English “proof” that he couldn’t walk on his own — a trait common among those with osteogenesis imperfecta. It’s important to note, however, that other sources of this period say that a viking victoriously riding on the shields of their enemies was the equivalent of sending a ceremonial middle finger to the losing side.
There’s also speculation that, since he never fathered any children, the name may have been in reference to him being impotent. Though there’s no conclusive proof of this, vikings were known for giving each other crude nicknames of that ilk.
Finally, a third theory stems from poems describing his agility in battle. The poems said that he was a fluid fighter, like a snake on the hunt. “The Boneless” would then imply that he fought as if he had no bones, dodged around swings of swords and axes with ease.
It’s hard to say now which of these theories is most true.
Still, it’s important to recognize that they’re not necessarily mutually exclusive — as is shown in the television series.
Fans of the show are quick to call it a plot hole when Ivar is seen wavering between walking with a limp, walking with crutches or a cane, flat-out crawling around. That’s not a plot hole. That’s just how life with Type 1 OI can be.
Though the evidence isn’t conclusive that he lived with brittle bone disease, there’s enough evidence to assume. Legend has it that his mother, Aslaug, was a shaman who foretold that if she and her husband, Ragnar, were to consummate their marriage within three days of his return from a siege, their child would be cursed. Overcome with lust, Ragnar didn’t heed her warning.
In actuality, osteogenesis imperfecta is extremely rare — fewer than 20,000 cases occur in the United States annually. Patients with most severe cases of OI, unfortunately, don’t typically make it past infancy even with modern medicine. Living with Type 1 OI, the most common and most mild type of OI, is understandably difficult, but it’s not a death sentence — even during the Viking Age.
Modern-day Dublin was established through a healthy diet and moderate exercise. If it’s good enough for Ivar, it’s good enough for you.
Any viking with Type 1 OI, like Ivar, would not be suited for the shield wall or disembarking from ships to raid monasteries. Instead, as all legends, tales, and historical accounts of Ivar say, he would stay in the back and strategize from a location that wouldn’t put his body in jeopardy.
Adults with Type 1 OI are encouraged to maintain a healthy, low weight/high repetition workout routine. Higher weights can cause fractures in the bones that take years to heal, but toning muscles with lower-impact exercises helps fortify the bones. These same low weight/high rep workout routines also result in a more lean and agile body type, just as Ivar was described in the poem, Hattalykill.
Additionally, one of the best treatments for brittle bone disease is a high-calcium diet. Luckily for Ivar, the typical Danish diet is one of the highest in calcium in the world. Once you factor in all of these, the likelihood of Ivar managing to be a deadly fighter with Type 1 OI is far more plausible.
In one man’s story, you’re the villain. To the others, you’re the hero.
Ivar the Boneless was a complicated character, both in reality and in fiction. Ivar was painted as the villain by Christians of Old England and loathed by other vikings when he left for Ireland. In Ireland, he was a beloved leader known as Imar the King of the Norsemen of all Ireland and Britain.
Again, much has been lost to time, but there’s a lot of evidence that suggests Ivar and Imar are the same person. Both were Norsemen, both were said to rule in Dublin around the same time, and both were said to have been killed around the same time. There are even periods of time in which Imar isn’t mentioned in the Fragmentary Annals of Ireland that line up perfectly with Ivar’s return to Denmark. The peculiar thing is that Imar was never said to have brittle bones — and he fathered three children who carried on the Uí Ímair dynasty.
The series actor who portrays Ivar, Alex Høgh Andersen, explained in an interview with the New York Post, “he is an antihero with emphasis on ‘anti.’ It’s interesting to have a character who is becoming the lead character and yet he’s almost the villain.”
Since campfire tales and second-hand accounts written well after a person’s death can skew a person’s story, it’s hard to accurately describe Ivar as a leader. Imar was said to have been deeply loved by his people but Ivar was depicted as a monster by his enemies — but one man can certainly be both.
‘Tis the season for yuletide carols, family, gifts, entirely too much food, and, of course, some much-needed downtime. Somewhere between “I swear to defend….” and getting that sacred DD-214, many of us developed quite the affinity for film and television.
So, it’s only natural that we spend our downtime getting together on the nostalgia train to binge watch a few of our favorites. Christmas might be over, but there’s still time to enjoy these must-see holiday films. So, grab your spiked eggnog, a warm blanket, and snuggle up for a day’s worth of cinema magic as you pretend the break isn’t rapidly coming to an end.
Tim Allen is comedic greatness in this role.
(Walt Disney Pictures)
‘The Santa Clause’
The greatness of this film lies in two words: Tim Allen. His comedic timing is great here, and it really serves the premise of the movie: a dad kills Santa Claus and is forced to become Santa himself.
I mean, it’s a completely impossible narrative (Santa Claus is immortal, duh), but it’s fun all the way through.
This one is for all the dads
(20th Century Fox)
‘Jingle All The Way’
This one’s another movie about a dad and holiday hijinks. Arnold Schwarzenegger is on the search for a near-impossible-to-find toy in a quest to buy the affections of his son. In a lot of ways, this movie from the ’90’s has proven to be prophetic for its time. Much of the shenanigans that Schwarzenegger’s character experiences have become the standard holiday shopping experience.
No holiday season is complete without Kevin.
(20th Century Fox)
By now, you’ve probably noticed that parental neglect and aloofness is a bit of theme among the items on this list — but Home Alone cranks it up to full blast.
Kevin McCallister, as played by the immortal Macaulay Culkin, became the iconic ’90s smartass that indirectly shaped a generation. In the film, Kevin proves to be more than capable when he defends his family home against would-be invaders using nothing but wit and a closet full of toys.
It’s sheer conjecture, but we’re sure Kevin McCallister grew up and served — that resourcefulness says “veteran.”
Yippee ki yay, MF.
John. Mc. Clane.
Die Hard is definitely the most non-holiday movie on this list but, make no mistake, it is absolutely a holiday flick! It’s got a Christmas tree and a happy, warm and fuzzy ending.
Close enough for me!
It is, literally, a Christmas story.
‘A Christmas Story’
“You’ll shoot your eye out!”
It’s one of the most iconic lines in cinema history, but it’s not even the best in the film. A Christmas Story is brilliantly written, fantastically acted, and features some of the best narration in film.
This one is to be viewed, preferably, on Christmas Day, but as long as there’s snow on the ground, it’s still good.
Joanna Mendez, former Central Intelligence Agency Chief of Disguise, watched spy scenes from a variety of films and television shows in order to break down how accurate they really are. From Jason Bourne finding his cache of passports and foreign currency to Carrie Mathison’s (Homeland) half-assed “disguise” through airport security, Mendez doesn’t hold back in her opinions and expertise.
During her 27-year career, her position in the CIA’s Office of Technical Service involved providing operational disguises and alias training in hostile theaters of the Cold War from Moscow to Havana. Her duties included clandestine photography and preparing CIA assets with the use of intelligence-collecting equipment like spy cameras, as well as processing the information brought in.
Think “Q” — James Bond Q, not Star Trek…
Now retired, Mendez continues to consult with the U.S. Intelligence community as well as lecture with her husband Antonio Mendez, also a retired intelligence officer, with whom she has published several books about their covert experience including Spy Dust, which reveals “the tools and operations that helped win the Cold War,” and Argo, which would become an Academy Award-winning film of the same name that told the story of “the most audacious rescue in history.”
In the video below, Mendez lets her critiques fly. Check it out:
Former CIA Chief of Disguise Breaks Down 30 Spy Scenes From Film & TV | WIRED
“Carrie’s disguise, which basically consisted of dying her hair…was absolutely ineffective. She’s still Carrie…but with dark hair. She could have cut her hair and restyled it. She could have changed her makeup. She could have put on sunglasses to hide that crazy-eyed look she has…” claps Mendez.
She then jumped to a scene from Alias where Jennifer Garner nails her disguise. “She didn’t just dye her hair — she dyed it outrageously red and then adopted the whole persona to go with it. We could have used that as a training film!” she laughed.
Mendez moves on to Matthew Rhys’ character in The Americans. “He was never trying to look good. He came really close to projecting ‘the little gray man’ that we would talk about at the CIA. You wanted to be forgettable,” she commended.
Mendez then moves on to a “quick change,” the name for a move where an agent clandestinely changes his appearance in 37 seconds. She commented on Mission Impossible III, and in particular discusses why Tom Cruise’s “priest” would have been ethically off-limits.
From Megan Fox in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, to Ansel Elgort in Baby Driver, Mendez breaks down the “quick change” further — and also warns against stealing.
The video covers blending in with the crowd in James Bond — and CIA inventions that helps its agents remain discrete; being assigned a new identity in Spy; cultural customs in Inglorious Bastards; and life-like masks that cover the entire face in order to give the appearance of a completely different face.
The video is highly entertaining, not just because it grabs clips from iconic pop culture favorites (Austin Powers and Sherlock Holmes make appearances) but also because Joanna Mendez has a great, wry humor (“we never tried to disguise ourselves as furniture at the CIA…”).
Watch the full video above and find out what the CIA really thinks about black cat suits and seducing the enemy!
So many NFL players love the military and honor military service. Many players have gone overseas on tours with the USO to visit deployed troops and many more come from military families. They go the extra yard for those who served whenever possible.
During Super Bowl Weekend, the NFL hosts a “Super Bowl Experience,” a sort of pop-up, interactive theme park where fans and their families can view the Lombardi Trophy, see what it’s like to run the NFL combine, and so much more.
Military members, current and prior, get an enhanced experience at the Super Bowl, however, courtesy of USAA, one of the U.S. military’s favorite financial services companies. USAA sponsors the Salute to Service Military Appreciation Lounge within the Super Bowl Experience.
It’s a place exclusive to service members, veterans, and their families (who don’t need to be a USAA member). It’s where a series of NFL players with deep ties and affinities for the military and military service give families a more personal experience.
USAA’s Salute to Service Lounge was the only stop of its kind during the entire Super Bowl weekend. Veterans and families meet some of their favorite NFL personalities, get signed memorabilia, and listen to NFL stars talk about their experiences in football and with the military.
(We Are The Mighty | YouTube)The NFL’s annual Salute to Service Award recognizes exceptional efforts by members of the NFL in supporting U.S. service members, veterans, and their families. Former Minnesota Viking and Carolina Panthers Defensive End Jared Allen, who stopped by this year’s Salute to Service Lounge, is a recipient of this award.
Even though these NFL legends, past and present, have busy schedules during Super Bowl weekend, not one rushed or hurried military veterans through the autograph lines. They shared stories, hugs, and selfies with any veteran who came by.
Got an hour or 24? Starting a new show, especially a really good one, can be as exciting as riding a roller coaster, boasts a much lower risk of exposure to COVID-19 and provides days of entertainment rather than minutes.
Dive into these series about the military and government to keep quarantine interesting. While our recommendations include both the classic and the cutting edge, they’ll all keep you entertained and might even teach you something in the process.
Where to watch: Hulu Rating: TV-PG
Ah, the classic. M*A*S*H is one of the most popular television series of the past 30 years, depicting life in a hospital base during the Korean War. Running from its first airing in 1972 to 1983, the series proved to be a quintessential series of the 70s. It’s a sitcom, but an abnormal one; each episode has a completely different tone and discusses a diverse range of topics.
That’s part of what makes M*A*S*H so great — it’s an excellent show to watch with family and everyone is guaranteed plenty of laughs while watching, but it also delves into heavier scenarios. Its flexibility is unmatched in film today. M*A*S*H boasts well-known actors such as Alan Alda, Loretta Swit, David Odgen Stiers and Gary Burghoff and has won several Emmy awards. If you haven’t already enjoyed M*A*S*H, seasons one through 11 are available for viewing on Hulu.
2: Madam Secretary
Where to watch: Netflix Rating: TV-PG
Heartwarming yet surprisingly suspenseful, Madam Secretary made me proud to live under the U.S. government. The family drama depicts fictional Elizabeth McCord, U.S. Secretary of State, as she navigates realistic diplomatic issues in the White House. The series also showcases her homelife as she balances being a working mom and life with her husband Henry McCord, a CIA operative and ethics professor. Tea Leoni plays the lead role of Elizabeth McCord and produced the series as well. The greatest appeal of Madam Secretary is its versatility – it’s easy to watch with family due to its subplot regarding Elizabeth’s home life, and gripping enough to binge by yourself, too. It sounds hard to believe, but take it from someone with an attention span shorter than the average TikTok – you’ll be invested in Elizabeth’s diplomatic dilemmas. Seasons one through 6 are available on Netflix, and additional episodes are on HBO.
3: West Wing
Where to watch: Netflix Rating: TV-14
West Wing depicts the political excursions of the White House staff and cabinet members of fictional president Josiah ‘Jed’ Bartlet. This series is similar to Madam Secretary, but can be seen as more of a “political epic.” As the series continues and each member of the staff’s personality is portrayed, the show’s superb writing and thorough characterization shine. Actors Martin Sheen, Rob Lowe and Allison Janney star in the show, and the series boasts 27 Emmy awards. Additionally, TV Guide ranked it the “#7 TV drama of all time.” While President Bartlet is a democrat, the show stands out for its depiction of modern issues from an apolitical perspective, highlighting the nuance behind bipartisan decision making. Not to mention, incredible acting for well-written characters.
4: TURN: Washington’s Spies
Where to watch: Netflix Rating: TV-14
This one’s a bit more historical. Set in 1778, Washington’s Spies depicts a seemingly ordinary farmer who spies on British Loyalists and soldiers for the blooming American government. This one will appeal to anyone who’s been into Hamilton, which – be honest – is probably more of us than we’d like to admit. It’s got all the good military action combined with the appealing, tried-and-true trope of an undercover spy, topped off with rich history. Parents will enjoy the espionage and historical subplots, while kids will enjoy the rich action. A crowd pleaser all around. Seasons one through four are available on Netflix.
Where to watch: HBO Rating: TV-MA
Veep, considering the profanity, probably isn’t a series to watch with younger audiences, but its satirical take on politics brings a hilarity unlike anything I’ve ever seen. The series depicts the career and personal life of Selina Meyer, the newly elected Vice President of the United States, and her dysfunctional relationship with the president and her staff. Veep is refreshing because political roles – even high up ones – aren’t glorified, as they are in so many other series. Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays Selina and the show runs for 65 episodes on HBO.
Where to watch: Hulu, Showtime Rating: TV-MA
Homeland, while portraying American intelligence in a gripping way, is leagues above other shows listed because of its plot. It’s exciting above all else, and stays interesting and fresh as it follows main character Carrie Mathison. Carrie’s inner demons provide conflicts just as tangible as terrorism threats, and while the seasons build up to climactic, explosive endings, Carrie’s character pulls the show eight seasons. Available on Hulu and Showtime, Homeland stars Claire Danes as Carrie as well as Mandy Patinkin, Rupert Friend, and Maury Sterling.
7: Jack Ryan
Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video Rating: TV-MA
Those who fell in love with John Krasinski in The Office will be especially attracted to Jack Ryan – and I don’t just mean the grade school kids who obsess over Jim and Pam. Those of us who have seen Krasinski act in and produce other media know he’s capable of amazing character evolution and series production, and Jack Ryan is no exception. In fact, this show very well may be the best example of his abilities. Season one follows Ryan as he tracks bank activity from Suleiman, an Islamic extremist, and is faced with more action than he ever faced in his intelligence work. Originally released on Amazon Prime in 2018, Jack Ryan quickly became very popular and was later nominated for several Emmy awards. Season two depicts Ryan entangled in Venezuela corruption and political unrest. Jack Ryan should be a go-to when looking for a short action series that’s as eventful as our imagined roller coaster.
8: Band of Brothers
Where to watch: HBO Rating: TV-MA
The 2001 miniseries Band of Brothers reminds me of a mini pack of MM’s. Following “Easy Company,” a battalion during World War II, Band of Brothers dedicates one episode to each central member. The miniseries is historically accurate, and each episode depicts the actual experience of each member, with the narratives engaging enough to compel the viewer to keep watching more. It’s the classic “one more episode!” approach to every show worth binge watching, and realistically, have you ever only eaten a half of a pack of MMs? From the pilot episode, you want to keep going; the tantalizing string of episodes makes up for what it lacks in length by stellar acting, screenwriting and a hell of a plot. Actors include David Frankel, Mikael Salomon, Tom Hanks and David Leland. It’s produced by Steven Speilberg and Tom Hanks and won seven Emmy awards.
9: The Spy
Where to watch: Netflix Rating: TV-MA
Ah, another historically accurate miniseries! The Spy portrays the mission of spy Eli Cohen during the often-overlooked six day war between Israel and Syria. Taking place in 1967, the miniseries follows the aforementioned Eli Cohen as he spies on the Syrian government for the Israeli Intelligence Agency (Mossad). Cohen establishes himself among Syria’s elite, and is promoted in the Syrian military. The series is only six episodes, and therefore is a quick watch. Similar to Band of Brothers, The Spy leaves you wanting more after each episode. It’s available on Netflix.
10: The Blacklist
Where to watch: Netflix Rating: TV-14
The Blacklist depicts the endeavors of ex-crime boss Red Reddington and his requested FBI forensic psychologist partner, Elizabeth Keen, as the duo take down crime lords that Reddington used to work with. Each episode depicts the pursuit of a criminal so cunning and covert they aren’t even known to authorities. Reddington’s assistance in the mission. The Blacklist stands out for its refreshing take on a classic crime trope, and keeps the viewer interested with the clues into the nature of the personal lives of Reddington and Keen. Spanning seven seasons, The Blacklist is easy to binge watch or to fall back onto when tired of other shows. It stars James Spader and Megan Boone and won the Primetime Creative Arts Emmy in 2014.
With the end of Season 2 of The Mandalorian, the next Star Wars media fans can expect is Star Wars: The Bad Batch. The animated series is slated to premiere sometime in 2021 and is a spinoff of the popular Star Wars: The Clone Wars series. However, some fans may not know that there was a Clone Wars series before the one that just ended. Although it is now considered non-canonical, Star Wars: Clone Wars can serve as a fix for fans in need of more Star Wars content before The Bad Batch is released.
Like the series that came after it (at least initially), Clone Wars aired on Cartoon Network. Unlike its successor, the series utilizes 2D animation and was released in shorts. The first two seasons contain 10 3-minute episodes each while the third and final season consists of five 12-minute episodes. The series was released over the course of three years between 2003 and 2005 and served as the bridge between Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. Fans who left theaters in 2002 wanting to see the new clone troopers in action got plenty of it in Clone Wars.
While the original 2D Star Wars series still has its share of politics and character development, it can be argued that it also has grander and more epic battles than the later 3D series. Although the series has a total runtime of just 2 hours, it’s packed with intense lightsaber duels and heavy clone vs. droid action that keeps viewers entertained the whole way through. This is due in large part to the series’ creator, producer, and director Genndy Tartakovsky.
Tartakovsky is well-known for his work on other Cartoon Network shows like Dexter’s Laboratory and Samurai Jack. The latter inspired much of the action that makes Clone Wars such an epic show. Whereas the 3D series started off more kid-friendly before it evolved to a (mostly) more serious show, the original Clone Wars was not afraid to give viewers a more intense flavor of action right off the bat. Without spoiling anything for new viewers, themes like the dark side of Anakin Skywalker and the brutality of the Clone Wars are featured prominently in the series. Expect to see droid bits flying, clone trooper helmets getting crushed, and lots of lightsaber-swinging action.
Though Clone Wars has been placed under the Star Wars Legends banner, many of its characters and events carried over into its canon successor. Fans of the 2008 series can expect to see more serious versions of villains like Asajj Ventress and General Grievous. Moreover, elite clones like the ARC Troopers are depicted as deadlier and more efficient than their 2008 series counterparts. Fans will also recognize James Arnold Taylor who voices the ever sassy Obi-Wan Kenobi in both Clone Wars series.
Clone Wars is the perfect addition to a Star Wars marathon. Put it on after Episode II and before Episode III for a seamless transition and an action-packed summary of the legendary Clone Wars. Though it’s not available on streaming services like Disney+, it has been uploaded to websites like YouTube for easy viewing. Alternatively, for fans that prefer physical mediums, the DVD box sets can be found used online. Just be sure to search for Star Wars: Clone Wars Volumes 1 & 2.
As an ardent Star Wars fan, I know what can come of voluntarily walking into the lion’s den of this fandom to offer any sort of commentary. Rest assured, I’m not going to challenge any well known canon (or dare mention the word midi-chlorian), but instead offer up some of the most interesting bits of Star Wars trivia, that are based more in fact than fiction.
George Lucas has never shied away from sharing the sources of inspiration that influenced the universe he created. In a 2005 interview, he told the Boston Globe:
“I love history, so while the psychological basis of ‘Star Wars’ is mythological, the political and social bases are historical.”
Star Wars, its heroes, and its villains were born from the likeness of Nazi Germany, Ancient Rome, the Vietnam War, the Knights Templar, and even U.S. Presidents. Lucas’s world reads as both commentary and cautionary tale, portraying what can happen when dark overpowers light.
Emperor Palpatine: A melting pot of authoritarianism
One of the most formidable characters Lucas created, Sheev Palpatine’s origins as both emperor of the Galactic Empire and Darth Sidious, a Sith Dark Lord, were composed of a handful of leaders throughout history who perceivably aimed to dismantle democracy. Originally, the character of Palpatine was based predominantly on Ming the Merciless, the fictional tyrannical dictator and archenemy in the Flash Gordon series, both print and screen. In the book Skywalking: The Life and Films of George Lucas, author Dale Pollock details the influence Ming had not only on Palpatine, but on Darth Vader as well.
In fleshing out a more long term vision of Palpatine as the series took off, inspiration started to come from the real world. Borrowing from the behaviors of dictators like Hitler and Julius Caesar, it was easy to see the kind of manipulation and underhandedness the character was meant to embody. The trajectory of Palpatine’s rise to power, including abusing an elected position to change or control governmental bodies, is perhaps an only slightly more dramatized version of real history.
Even the use of the title “chancellor” (prior to his invoking martial law and declaring himself Emperor) was a nod to Adolf Hitler, who bore the same title in 1933 as a result of Nazi Party electoral victories. The Nazi’s also gave the inspiration for Stormtroopers, who share a name with German soldiers from WWI as well as WWII’s Sturmabteilung, or Storm Detachment, the Nazi Party’s paramilitary organization.
The historical allusions were also found in the cinematography. A notable scene is in Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, when Emperor Palpatine arrives at the Death Star and is met with an air parade of TIE fighters as well as stormtroopers, Army & Navy Troopers, officers and droids, all poised for the event within Hangar 272. The visuals in this scene were meant to resemble Russia’s May Day military parades.
One final name on the Palpatine vision board was the 37th President of the United States, Richard Nixon. Lucas started diving further into the character during Nixon’s re-election campaign, reflecting on the state of the world, and questioning how seemingly flawed but functional democracies can become dictatorships. At a story conference in 1981, Lucas was asked whether or not the Emperor was a Jedi, to which Lucas replied:
“No, he was a politician. Richard M. Nixon was his name. He subverted the Senate and finally took over and became an imperial guy and he was really evil. But he pretended to be a really nice guy.”
…not exactly the greatest way to have your legacy paid homage, but hey, at least you can say you were a muse to George Lucas.
Ewoks & The Rebel Alliance: The poster kids for intergalactic guerrilla warfare
Prior to setting his sights on Star Wars, Lucas was slated to direct the now critically acclaimed war movie Apocalypse Now, a job that ended up going to Francis Ford Coppola, following his successes with the first two Godfather movies. With the Vietnam War weighing heavily on most people’s minds, it easily seeped into both the obvious and subtle context of artistic expression, especially for those who purposefully wanted to send a message.
Love them or hate them, Lucas had a reason behind creating the polarizing, meter tall inhabitants of Endor. He wanted the juxtaposition of a group using less advanced means of fighting taking on the much more technologically adept force of the Empire. The Ewoks used primitive weapons and modes of transportation–knives, spears, hang gliders–and in terms of surviving in their natural environment, they thrived in ways the Empire’s technology was unable to adapt to. They were able to understand, respect and adapt to their terrain in a way that gave them the upper hand in a lot of ways. The defeat of the Galactic Empire was a direct comparison to the Viet Cong, who fought against American soldiers during Vietnam.
The Ewoks weren’t alone in their position of little fish in a big pond. Lucas applied the practices and techniques of both the Viet Cong as well as the People’s Army of Vietnam when thinking about the Rebel Alliance’s approach to combating the power of the Empire. He likened the Empire to the United States, a larger and more technologically advanced superpower, versus smaller groups.
“The irony is that, in both of those, the little guys won. The highly technical empire — the English Empire, the American Empire — lost. That was the whole point.”
-George Lucas, from James Cameron’s Story of Science Fiction
A tale of two Empires: Neither Rome nor the Republic was built in a day
We’ve already mentioned the impact Julius Caesar had on the development of the character of Palpatine, so the leap of comparing the Star Wars Empire to that of Ancient Rome isn’t really all that far. They both began as republics, seemingly strong ones that theoretically should have been long standing parts of their development over time.
Both Caesar and Palpatine held onto their elected positions much longer than they were slated to, due to conflict and under the guise of “protecting their republic”
…which was really just an opportunity for them to gain more control and the ability to give themselves a job promotion that inevitably shifted both republics into dictatorships.
They also each had their own instances of entering into, or starting, conflicts with the reasoning of either expansion or supremacy. Rome had the Punic Wars, three separate conflicts between Rome and Carthage, who were the two major powers of the Western Mediterranean at the time. Star Wars had both the Old & New Sith Wars, as well as the Clone Wars.
The Clone Wars are probably the most integral to the recognition of the darkness it takes to overthrow a democracy, as they were masterminded and orchestrated by one person orchestrating both sides (Palpatine as Chancellor of the Republic, and Palpatine again, as Darth Sidious, at the head of the Separatists).
The Empire and Ancient Rome also share the similarity of being slowly brought down by much smaller factions, with the Roman Empire being met by force from the Huns and Germanic tribes, while the Rebel Alliance took on the Galactic Empire.
“The whole point of the movies, the underlying element that makes the movies work, is that you, whether you go backwards or forwards, you start out in a democracy, and democracy turns into a dictatorship, and then the rebels make it back into a democracy.”
The Jedi: Sharing the moral high ground with ancient warriors
Jedi are well known for being keepers of peace, guardians of justice within the Galactic Republic, and an overall force for good within the universe. Their ability to defend and protect, while also embodying the noblest of character traits is arguably what makes them the ultimate good guys (with Anakin being a divisive exception). They use the Force for good, are never self-serving, and remain committed to improving themselves through training and seeking greater knowledge.
“In a dark place we find ourselves, and a little more knowledge lights our way.”
-Jedi Master Yoda, Episode III; Revenge of the Sith
Aesthetically, Lucas modeled the Jedi after both Shaolin monks and Japanese samurai, in the kinds of clothing they wore as well as drawing some inspiration for the Jedi fighting style and lightsabers from Katana fighting. The monk and samurai belief systems can also be seen mirrored throughout the Jedi timeline.
In the bookStar Wars and History, author Terrance MacMullen puts forth another area of influence in creating the Jedi: the Knights Templar. Often referred to as “warrior monks”, the Templars were a Catholic military order, originally established in 1119 to protect Christian pilgrims in the dangerous “Outremer,” or Crusader states, following the First Crusade. Of all the warriors that built the idea of the Jedi, the most direct parallels can be drawn to the Templars.
Both Jedi and Templars went into battle fearlessly, regardless of being outnumbered or overpowered. It was this dedication to the cause, or rash invincibility complex, that distinguished them both as formidable opponents and examples of aggressive morality. This fearlessness was guided by invisible forces on both sides. For Jedi, it was quite literally the Force, while the Templars were driven by their faith.
Oppression plays a large role in the history of Templars and Jedi as well. In 1307, almost 200 years after their inception, the Templars were taken down by King Philip IV of France, who essentially just wanted to steal their amassed wealth and pay off his outstanding debts. Many high ranking members were taken tortured and ultimately burned at the stake. In 1314, two years after Pope Clement V disbanded the order, the Grand Master Jacques de Molay was burned alive. Which is essentially like if they had publicly executed Yoda.
Jedi also faced oppression at the hands of the Galactic Empire and the Order of the Sith Lords when the Great Jedi Purge was ordered, which aimed to extinguish any Jedi who remained following Order 66, a previous attempt to destroy the Jedi en masse. While the vast majority were lost, the Jedi Order, though bruised, remained intact and held together by the surviving Jedi.
The overarching reach and appeal of Star Wars is undeniable and virtually untouchable, but even more interesting still is its ability to parallel almost any moment in time. History buff that he is, Lucas was able to pick up on common tropes of humanity, and present them in an approachable and entertaining way.
“The story being told in Star Wars is a classic one. Every few hundred years, the story is retold because we have a tendency to do the same things over and over again. Power corrupts, and when you’re in charge, you start doing things that you think are right, but they’re actually not.”
-George Lucas, in a 2005 interview with Wired Magazine
With politics, world events, media and entertainment seemingly enmeshed like never before, Lucas’s legacy and continuing commentary is a great representation of art imitating life, and life imitating art (we didn’t even get to tackle Star Wars metaphors being used in politics, I’m looking at you, Ronald Reagan). In the end, it feels like the classic battle of good vs. evil is almost unavoidable, both on and off screen. What seems equally predictable however, is that light always finds a way to overpower the darkness.
Even if you haven’t watched “The Mandalorian” on Disney Plus, you’ve undoubtedly seen all the Baby Yoda memes, fan art, and backordered holiday gifts.
As soon as the adorable green creature appeared on the Disney Plus Star Wars series “The Mandalorian,” everyone — including yours truly — wanted a piece of Baby Yoda. Despite Disney being slow on the uptake for Baby Yoda merch, there are still many great holiday gifts for fans of the fuzzy adult-baby though some are only available for pre-order and will arrive in spring 2020. This means some of the gifts below will an extra surprise when Baby Yoda arrives in the mail.
Here are 11 Baby Yoda gifts for fans of “The Mandalorian”:
In addition to hundreds of classic Disney movies, old shows, and original programming, Disney+ is the only place to see the Child in action. From day one of Disney+, “The Mandalorian” has been a hit both with audience and critics. If they don’t already have Disney+, now’s the time to get it for them.
At a little under four inches in height, this Funko bobblehead of the Child will fit nicely on a desk, bedside table, or even on the front dash of your car. This is available for pre-order right now and is expected to arrive May 13, 2020.
This 10-inch plush toy is a soft and cuddly incarnation of Baby Yoda, and even comes in special packaging that’ll look like the crib from the show. This item is available for pre-order and won’t arrive until April 1, 2020.
They’ll be able to bundle up like Baby Yoda in this cozy sweatshirt. The crew neck and ribbed hems will give them that classic sweatshirt silhouette, but the Baby Yoda print is super topical and relevant for 2019.