Woman Around Town’s Editor Charlene Giannetti and writers for the website talk with the women and men making news in New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities around the world. Thanks to Ian Herman for his wonderful piano introduction.

Kevin Bacon

Patriots Day – Profiles in Courage


What should have been a day of celebration turned into a day of tragedy when two brothers, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, planted bombs that exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013. Now, nearly four years after that attack, Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg produce a film that recreates, often in grisly detail, the aftermath of the explosion and how law enforcement, with the help of local citizens, come together to identify the killers.

Patriots Day follows a pattern that Berg/Wahlberg created for their previous film, Deepwater Horizon, also based on real events, in that case the explosion of a drilling rig off the coast of Louisiana that remains the largest ecological disaster in U.S. history. (Read the review.) With each film, we are pulled in as we learn about the people involved – good guys and bad guys – who will play a role as the catastrophe unfolds. Each time, we brace ourselves, knowing all too well what’s to follow.

With Deepwater Horizon, Wahlberg played a real life character, Mike Williams, an electronics technician who worked on the rig. In Patriots Day, he plays the fictional Tommy Saunders, a Boston police sergeant who because of transgressions that are not explained (although the way he barrels into any situation portrays him as a management nightmare), he is assigned marathon duty as punishment. He complains to his wife, Carol (Michelle Monaghan), about wearing the day-glo vest that makes him look like a clown. Saunders prefers to be at the center of the action and this inconvenient assignment will do just that – placing him near the finish line when the bombs go off.

While Saunders is perhaps a composite of the many police officers who served Boston at that time, the film’s other characters are based on real life figures. Christopher O’Shea and Rachel Brosnahan play a married couple, Patrick Downes and Jessica Kensky, who come to watch the marathon. During a bedroom scene in their apartment, the camera zeroes in on their legs, a foreshadowing of the devastating injuries they will suffer because of the blast.


Michelle Monaghan

Jake Picking plays the enthusiastic and fresh-faced MIT campus police officer, Sean Collier, thrilled when an MIT grad student agrees to go to a concert with him. Collier, refusing to give up his weapon, will be shot in his patrol car by Tamerlan.

During rescue operations, Steve Woolfenden (Dustin Tucker) is separated from his three year-old son, Leo (an adorable Lucas Thor Kelley). Father and son are later reunited at the hospital.

Our first glimpse into the Tsarnaev home shows Tamerlan and Dzhokhar relaxing in the living room watching TV, while Tamerlan’s wife, Katherine Russell (Melissa Benoist, in a chilling departure from her Supergirl persona), takes care of their little girl. Any semblance of normalcy, however, is dashed when the camera zooms in on Tamerlan packing a pressure cooker with metal parts.

Tamerlan is portrayed as the brains behind the operation, frequently bullying his brother into following his lead. The pair, Tamerlan wearing a black hat, Dzhokhar a white one, wind their way through the marathon crowds, finally depositing their lethal packages at two points and then leaving. Later, they watch coverage of the explosions from home, pleased with the carnage they have caused.

Video of the actual explosions played again and again on TV. In the film, however, Berg/Wahlberg go further, showing the aftermath, the injured runners and spectators, the blood-soaked clothing and pavement, even a sneaker-shod foot off to the side. The body of the youngest victim, eight year-old Martin Richard, is covered in a tarp, left for hours after the area has been cleared until crime scene specialists can gather forensic evidence from his body. Guarding the body is a lone cop, tears streaming down his face when the ambulance finally departs.

What the public didn’t see after the bombings was the incredible response by law enforcement. Shortly after the event, the marathon area was flooded with FBI agents, police officers, and local and state government officials, including Police Commissioner Ed Davis (John Goodman), and FBI Special Agent Richard DesLauriers (Kevin Bacon) who declares the bombing a terrorist event after examining bomb fragments. Taking over the investigation, he asks for a control center which is set up in the Black Falcon terminal on the South Boston waterfront. In that space, the marathon finish line area is meticulously recreated, with evidence collected after the bombing placed where it was found. Meanwhile, tech experts scroll through video of the marathon crowds and soon are able to isolate the Tsarnaev brothers as suspects. Wahlberg’s Saunders, who knows Boston’s streets, is called in to figure out which cameras should be checked for images of the bombers. Although DesLauriers is reluctant to release the brothers’ photos before they are confirmed as the bombers, he’s forced to do so when someone leaks the information to FOX-TV. Tamerlan and Dzhokhar are watching in their living room when they see themselves on TV. They know they have to flee if they are going to get to their next target, New York.


Kevin Bacon, Mark Wahlberg, and John Goodman

They carjack a Mercedes SUV belonging to Dun Meng (Jimmy O. Yang from HBO’s Silicon Valley), who manages to escape and alert the authorities. Cornered in Waterford, the duo exchange gunfire with a growing throng of police officers, including Waterford’s Sergeant Jeffrey Pugliese (J.K. Simmons). This shoot out is dramatic, showing how the brothers, armed with pipe bombs, continued to keep the cops on the defensive.

Tamerlan is shot and then run over by his brother who escapes in the Mercedes SUV. With Dzhokhar on the run, the Governor Deval Patrick (Michael Beach), closes down the city, asking people to shelter in their homes. The younger brother is discovered hiding in a boat in someone’s backyard and finally apprehended.

Berg splices in real footage from the marathon and several times we see the actual photos of Tamerlan and Dzhokhar flash across the screen. Alex Wolff (Dzhokhar) and Themo Melikidze (Tamerlan) are appropriately evil and creepy as the brothers bent on killing Americans. Particularly chilling, however, is Benoist as Tamerlan’s wife who converted to Islam and supported her husband’s efforts. She was never charged with a crime. Four people who were charged and sent to prison included Dzhokhar’s college friends who knew what he had done and never reported him.

Similar to what Berg/Wahlberg did with Deepwater Horizon, the real people involved with the event are interviewed at the end. The film ends with David Ortiz, along with police officers who were at the marathon, marching onto the field at Fenway Park, celebrating “Boston Strong.” The Boston Red Sox would go on to win the World Series, a well-deserved gift to a city that had seen too much tragedy.

Photos courtesy of CBS Films

Five Films For Dog Lovers


As a dog-walker, pet-sitter, and pet parent myself, I take more than a small interest in canines – in real life or on camera.  From Rin-Tin-Tin, to Lassie, to Bear the crime fighting dog on Person of Interest, man’s best friend has always shone in Hollywood. Here are some of the best examples to make it to the silver screen.

Old Yeller (1957) This coming of age Disney drama was based on the Newberry award winning novel of the same name. In 1860’s post-Civil War Texas, Travis and Arliss befriend a lovable mutt they name “Old Yeller,” for his coloring. They have a series of adventures and Yeller saves the boys multiple times whilst becoming a beloved member of the family. But sadly, there’s that darn hydrophobia (aka rabies) out there… Warning this is generally considered one of the biggest tear-jerker films of all time, so stock up on Kleenex.

101 Dalmations (1961)  We all know the story. When their puppies are kidnapped by the evil Cruella De Vil (one of the most memorable and iconic villains of all time) Dalmatian couple Pongo and Perdita set out to find them. Along the way they rescue over 84 other additional puppies as well. Hence the title. This animated adventure from Disney based on the 1956 novel The Hundred and One Dalmations by Dodie Smith was an instant classic.  It was reissued in theatres four times in 1969, 1979,1985, and 1991 as well as being made into a live action remake in 1996.

Best in Show (2000) This mockumentary follows five entrants into a snooty dog show and the bizarre antics that follow. The antics in question are actually all on the part of the dog owners and human handlers – the dogs themselves are a lot more level-headed. The legendary Christopher Guest (This is Spinal Tap, Waiting for Guffman) starred, directed and co-wrote this hysterically funny comedy with Eugene Levy (Splash, American Pie), who starred as well. The cast is a plethora of comedic riches with mesmerizing turns by Bob Balaban, Parker Posey, Michael McKean, Jennifer Coolidge, John Michael Higgins, Jane Lynch, Michael McKean, and Catherine O’Hara.

My Dog Skip (2000) Based on the autobiographical novel of the same name. In the 1940s,Willie Morris (Frankie Muniz of Malcolm in the Middle and Agent Cody Banks) is a lonely nine year-old with a veteran father (Kevin Bacon) and extroverted mom (Diane Lane).  The latter decides against the wishes of the former to give Willie a Jack Russell Terrier for his birthday. Willie names the dog Skip and he quickly becomes the best and most important friend of Willie’s childhood.

Eight Below (2006) Professor McClaren (Bruce Greenwood of Double Jeopardy and Star Trek) travels to a remote Antarctic base in search of a meteorite. Local guide Jerry (the late Paul Walker of The Fast and the Furious franchise) decides the only way to make the trip is via dog sled. McClaren gets his meteorite, but is injured in the process and Jerry’s sled dogs rescue him. Back at base, the humans are evacuated due to an incoming storm, but the dogs are left behind – and then the humans can’t come back. Which leaves eight beautiful, brave, and smart Huskies abandoned to survive by themselves for months on end in the harshest environment on earth. Thank god they are, after all, Huskies. Loosely based on true events that happened to an ill-fated Japanese expedition to the Antarctica, it received good reviews and was a box office hit.

Top photo from Bigstock

Winnie’s book, The Dog-Walking Diaries – A Year in the Life of an Autistic Dog-Walker, can be bought for the dog lover in your life by clicking here to purchase on Amazon. 

Five Desert Horror Flicks


Desierto, which opened on October 14, won a prize at the Toronto International Film Festival AND was selected as the Mexican entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards.  The desert plays a staring role in Jonás Cuarón’s film about immigrants fleeing across an unforgiving landscape while trying to escape from a vigilante intent on killing those crossing the border from Mexico into the U.S. It’s a sobering film and one that is must see. (Click to read the review.)

The film caused us to look back at others that have been set in the desert. Here are our selections:

The Hills Have Eyes (1977) Written, directed and edited by Wes Craven the master of horror himself. Starring Scream Queen Dee Wallace (The Howling, Cujo) and Michael Berryman of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Weird Science. A car crash leaves the seven members of the Carter family and their two dogs stranded in the Nevada desert. They end up set upon by a clan of savage, inbred, cannibals. (Don’t you just hate it when that happens?) The film was originally given an X rating by the MPAA and had to do considerable edits to get down to an R rating. It did all right in its initial box office release but now enjoys a massive cult following and has spawned a major horror movie franchise.

Near Dark (1987) This American Western Horror film was among the earliest films directed by Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty, The Hurt Locker) and she co-wrote it with Eric Red (The Hitcher, The Last Outlaw). Young Caleb Colton (Adrian Pasdar of Carlito’s Way and Heroes) with beautiful young drifter Mae (Jennie Wright of The World According to Garp and St. Elmo’s Fire). Unfortunately it turns out Mae’s part of a nomadic vampire ‘family’ living out of an RV and she bites Caleb so he can join them. It made almost no money in its initial release despite great reviews but has since become appreciated as a cult classic and genuinely fresh take on the vampire genre. Not to mention coining the classic phrase, “I hate it when they don’t shave.”

Tremors (1990) Directed by Ron Underwood (City Slickers, Mighty Joe Young) and starring the one and only Kevin Bacon as cowboy Valentine McKee. ‘Val’ and his partner Earl (Fred Ward of Escape From Alcatraz) are a pair of handymen in former mining settlement Perfection, Nevada where a series of strange incidents occur. With the help of seismology grad student Rhonda (Finn Carter from Ghosts of Mississippi) they figure out that Perfection, is now being plagued by giant underground snake monsters. It was only a modest hit at the box office but did HUGE on video, TV, the Internet, etc.  It currently holds a ‘fresh’ rating of 85% on the Tomatometer and is a favorite among monster movie fans everywhere.

Wolf Creek (2005) This Australian horror film was written, co-produced, and directed by Greg McLean who later went on to work on such films as Crawlspace and Red Hill.  Three backpackers are taken captive.  They manage to escape only to be hunted by a depraved serial killer. Loosely based on the real life murders performed by Ivan Milat in the 90’s and Bradley Murdoch in 2001. It had its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for seven Australian Film Institute awards including Best Director.

Bone Tomahawk (2015)  This Western horror film was written and directed by novelist S. Craig Zahler and starring Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox, and David Arquette. In the community of Bright Hope sometime around the 1890’s a series of mysterious deaths is finally traced to a clan of cannibalistic savages known as the Troglodytes who live in the Valley of the Starving Men. A posse of course is sent out but things don’t go quite as planned. Critically acclaimed, for its realism, its direction, its screenwriting and most especially for Kurt Russell’s performance it has an 89% fresh rating on the Tomatometer and was nominated for two Independent Spirit Awards.

Five Great College Films


Ah, September, when the weather grows cooler, the leaves start to change, and everyone goes back to school including everyone in higher education.  In honor of this timeless rite of passage consider one of the following films set on campus.

Animal House (1978) No such list would be complete without the immortal classic about a dean’s quest to expel the Delta Tau Chi fraternity from his campus in 1962. With fabulous turns by Kevin Bacon and the late great John Belushi, Animal House is generally considered the definitive frat comedy. Besides being side splittingly hilarious, “Thank you sir may I have another?” it’s also almost scarily on point, as my father (a former fraternity president) and uncle (a former frat rabble rouser) can both attest.

Real Genius (1985)  Mitch Taylor (Gabe Jarrett) is one of the youngest students ever accepted to Pacific Tech university (loosely based on CalTech). He and his science club legend roommate Chris Knight (Val Kilmer) partner up on a laser project together. But when their teacher and mentor steals their laser and plans to put it to use as a weapon, they scheme for payback. One of the great 80’s classics.

Drumline (2002) This musical/drama revolves around a fictional historical black college and university marching band and their plans to compete at the BET Big Southern Classic. Starring young rapper Nick Cannon, Zoe Saldana, at the beginning of her career, and Orlando Jones, it has an over 80 percent fresh rating on the Tomatometer and was nominated for Outstanding Motion Picture by NAACP Image Awards as well as being nominated for three Teen Choice Awards including Best Drama, Best Actor, and Best Breakout Star.

Accepted (2006)  In this surprisingly witty, insightful, and even heart-warming comedy a group of various high school students having all been rejected by the colleges of their choice, create their own fake college. Much to their surprise their fake college soon becomes a magnet for scores of other misfits who’ve also failed to find acceptance elsewhere AND starts to function as an actual educational center.  Starring a young Justin Long and Jonah Hill not to mention Lewis Black at the top of his game.

Starter for 10 (2006) This comedy-drama is adapted from the novel of the same name and set in the 80’s. James MacAvoy is at his most charming here playing Brian Jackson a first year university student who’s lifelong dream is to appear on the televised quiz show University Challenge.  He’s over the moon when he finally makes the team even if the captain Patrick (a hysterically funny turn by Benedict Cumberbatch) is a stuck-up pretentious prig. But complications ensue for Brian in the form of former mate Spencer who feels abandoned (Dominic Cooper) and two very different women aristocratic blond beauty Alice (Alive Eve) and political activist Rebecca (Rebecca Hall).

Photo from Bigstock