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Review

The cover of Michael Medico’s new novel, The Sainted. Photo from Medico
The cover of Michael Medico’s new novel, The Sainted. Photo from Medico
The cover of Michael Medico’s new novel, The Sainted. Photo from Medico

By Melissa Arnold

Michael Medico of Northport has written for decades in marketing, but now that he’s retired, he’s decided to explore writing fiction. His first novel, “The Sainted,” was released this past fall, and the 69-year-old couldn’t be happier.

The book finds Chris, a devout Catholic from Long Island, experiencing visions and dreams from the saints — ordinary men and women who lived extraordinary lives for God. The dreams begin as helpful advice and guidance, but their messages soon turn dire as the saints warn of impending doom. Chris is thrust into a classic battle of faith and doubt, good and evil, that can speak to readers of all backgrounds.

Medico took some time recently to share what it’s like being a newly published author.

Tell me a little bit about your background.
I was born in Manhattan, raised in the Bronx and then moved out to Long Island when I was about 13 years old. I was in the Navy, and after I got out I was in the advertising industry for 45 years before I retired. I’ve written pretty much my entire life, but it was mostly commercials and articles — not something really ambitious like fiction.
I love reading fiction in my spare time, especially books that deal with suspense, thrillers and the supernatural. I read Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Tom Clancy and many more in that vein. That genre has always interested me, and I thought if I wanted to write fiction, I would try that.

What was it like for you to get published?
I have an agent, Alan Morrell, and we’ve been friends for 25 years. He was able to help me find a publishing company called Brick Tower Press. The process took about a year. It’s beyond a rush, both fun and frustrating, but certainly a very rewarding experience.

What gave you the idea to write a faith-based book? Are you a person of faith?
I’m a lapsed Catholic but am very much a man of faith. I’d gone to both parochial grammar school and high school. So I have a background in Roman Catholicism and have always been inspired by the saints — these real people who lived their lives in an amazing way, regardless of whether they were single or married. Some were even martyred. There are over 10,000 people that the Church honors as saints, and I wanted to help give people an understanding of who they are while writing something entertaining at the same time.
St. Agnes is someone who amazes me. She came into the world surrounded by lights, and her devotion to God throughout her life, even as a little girl, is so inspiring. So many [saints]have faced terrible evils but   are still totally consumed by their love for God.

Early in the book, you described the main character, Chris, in great detail. Is he based off of you in any way?
We do have similarities — we’re both Italian, both grew up Catholic, both raised in the Bronx and moved to Long Island, but he’s a far better man than I am. He continues to go to Mass as an adult. We’re all sinners, and Chris has his flaws, but he’s a truly good man. He represents every man, all of us. He embodies the good and bad of human life. And I think that’s important for the way Satan sees him in the book. Chris is like a trophy for [the devil] — if he can get Chris, he can get anyone.

Michael Medico. Photo from Medico
Michael Medico. Photo from Medico

You’ve paid a lot of homage to New York and Long Island in this book. Why did you choose to have the story take place here?
I guess I really could have set it anywhere, but I grew up in the Bronx and moved to Long Island. My wife and I settled in Huntington — it’s beautiful and has a great culture. They have the arts, restaurants, live music and, most of all, good people. It’s home. I thought that would be the best place for Chris to be.

This story has a classic good versus evil theme. How do you think people today relate to that?
Chris is thrust into the middle of this terrible evil, and I think a lot of us can relate to that in seeing the senseless tragedies that happen here on earth. We all have to find a way to respond to those things.

The book is part of a trilogy. What are your plans for the next two books?
The second book is already finished. We’re just editing it now. And I’ve written the first chapter of the third book.
Those stories will explore how the events in the first book affect people around Chris and, later, the rest of the world. The series will culminate in a great confrontation of good and evil, but I haven’t decided exactly how that will go yet.

Do you hope to write other books after this series is completed?
I’m thoroughly enjoying my writing, and I hope to do it as long as I’m able. It keeps my mind sharp. I’m contemplating writing at least one book for children in the future.

Where can people find the book or learn more about you?
I’ve set up a website at www.thesaintednovel.com. There’s a short bio on me, a sample of the book and ways to purchase it, plus a form to contact me. You can also buy the book online just about everywhere books are sold, including for Kindle and Apple devices.

Michael Medico will hold a book signing at Book Revue, 313 New York Ave., Huntington, on March 9 at 7 p.m. For more information, call 631-271-1442 or visit www.bookrevue.com.

A scene from ‘The Finest Hours.’ Photo from Walt Disney Pictures

By Rich Acritelli

Last week Walt Disney Pictures released “The Finest Hours,” a film based on the story of four Coast Guard members that braved a nor’easter that caused havoc off the coast of Cape Cod in 1952. From the beginning, you will notice an impressive cast that works well together to bring this story to light. Directed by Craig Gillespie, the film stars Chris Pine (Boatswain’s Mate First Class Bernard “Bernie” Webber), Casey Affleck (Robert Sybert), Holliday Grainger (Miriam Pentinen), Ben Foster (Seaman Richard Livesey) and Eric Bana (Chief Warrant Officer Daniel Cluff). 

Gillespie depicts the simple life of the 1950s with the customs of enjoying a nice drink, meal and the chance to attend a town dance. This film starts by showing Coast Guard service member Webber as an easy going and hard-working man who goes on a blind date with Miriam Petinen. While they are opposites, they fall in love with each other.  The movie depicts a different kind of love with Miriam asking the cautiously mannered Bernie to marry her. After an awkward moment, he states that they will get married, but only after he receives permission from his commanding officer.  As Webber works on getting approval from Chief Cluff, a terrible storm hits the shores of Cape Cod. 

Gillespie does a good job in casting Bana who is a proven actor who could handle the rigors of military films (“Black Hawk Down,” “Munich,” and “Lone Survivor”). Before Webber can ask for approval, Cluff is faced with anxiety from two different fronts.  First, he understands that a rescue operation for the SS Pendelton is being conducted from the headquarters in Boston, but he is unsure how his men fit into the rescue endeavor. Second, he is a southern officer who has not yet gained the respect of these northern men who openly doubt his professional abilities.

As rescue efforts are mounted, Webber is ordered to take three Coast Guardsmen to search for the Pendleton.  It is believed that this is a suicide mission that will only lead to the death of these men. Webber has to maneuver through hazardous waters in a vessel that is too small to handle the fury of these poor maritime conditions. 

The film does a masterful job of showing the strains that are placed on these men to locate this ship. They display a comradeship that never losses focus of their objective to locate the Pendleton.

With Webber organizing the rescue efforts, the Pendleton and its crew is commanded  by Sybert played by Affleck who is masterful in showing a man who is conflicted by his superior knowledge of this ship, but a man who is deemed to be a loner.

It becomes apparent that the ship will sink after it is split in half by the storm.  Sybert refuses to accept his crew’s position that they should abandon ship in their small rescue boats. He firmly states that they will be killed from the rough waters. Sybert believes that they have to run the tanker ashore if they are  going to have any chance of seeing their loved ones. At the same time, Webber’s crew is risking their lives to reach the Pendleton: Their compass malfunctions from the multiple times that their ship takes on water from the tenacity of the massive waves.

Unflinchingly, Webber is faithful to his duty to find the Pendleton and save the crew of thirty-two men from drowning.

The film concludes with the residents  of Cape Cod helping Webber bring the men to safety. Members of this community along with Webber’s fiancée figure out the location of the tanker and they travel to a nearby dock where they turn on all of their car lights as beacons of hope to guide the rescuers to safety.  From start to finish, “The Finest Hours” portrays the devotion of the Coast Guard to overcome the gigantic weather strains that are caused by Mother Nature.

‘The Finest Hours,” rated PG-13 (for intense sequences of peril), is now playing in local theaters.

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Leonardo DiCaprio in a scene from ‘The Revenant.’ Photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox

By Zachary Hank

Leonardo DiCaprio has already received much critical acclaim for his performance in “The Revenant.” After  winning the Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture, his sights are set on the upcoming Academy Awards on Feb. 28 where he may take home his first Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role. The film itself has experienced an outstanding response, receiving 12 nominations for the 2016 Oscars, including best picture, best director, cinematography and visual effects.

Based on actual events, “The Revenant” tells the story of fur trapper Hugh Glass. Set in 1823 in the early American territories of Montana and South Dakota, the film recounts Glass’ recovery from a bear mauling and retribution against his companions who killed his son and left him for dead.

It is undeniable the amount of preparation put into this film by each of the actors, but what also stands out is the fantastic camera work, directing and special effects in the film as well. Simply put, the film is gorgeous, absolutely beautiful in almost every shot. The film is directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, whose latest success was last year’s “Birdman.” As in that film, the camera work feels very clean and natural. There are also multiple times in both films when the shots of surroundings and setting occupy a few minutes of screen time, but in “The Revenant’s” case, these landscapes and scenery shots feel absolutely breathtaking.

The movie does a fantastic job at encasing the viewer within whatever setting is present. If it is a crowded, claustrophobic forest, then you’ll feel the same sense of paranoia and suspense as the characters do. Every shadow, every minimal sound and every minor detail is caught with remarkable precision. The bear mauling is very realistic and the special effects feel lifelike. Overall, “The Revenant” is hands down one of the most visually stunning films of the last few years. Now, with all these aesthetics praised, there comes a matter of addressing the film’s plot.

Although the film is based on actual events, it can’t be blamed for the screenwriters developing a weak plot. They did a lot with what they had, and that happens to be one of the film’s downfalls. Originally, there was a relatively simple story. However, it has been stretched to make an epic of two and a half hours; and the film really doesn’t have as much emotional depth or, truthfully, any real amount of depth to justify this amount of screen time.

While it may be more realistic to witness Glass’s recovery and journey in almost real time, it’s simply not worth watching the man struggle to learn to walk again for about half an hour.

Clearly, this is a very ambitious film of a story that did not warrant this scale of production, but that seemed to be the film Iñárritu wanted to  make. So while there’s not an overlying truth or revelation to be found within the actual story other than be careful not to be mauled by a bear, Iñárritu twists this plot to exploit the suffering and cruelty toward Native Americans by European settlers, especially the French.

Sure, Glass’ son was half Native American, but in reality the story does not have much to do with racial issues, and Iñárritu’s inclusion of multiple plot lines of the French and their interactions with local Native Americans doesn’t feel anything more than an attempt to make a statement on something that really didn’t have much relevance to the story’s plot. Yes, Glass does have these flashbacks to a Native American village being burned down and the death of his wife in the flames, but then again, the flashbacks themselves aren’t entirely necessary and sometimes just feel pointless. They’re overly sentimental and just feel forced.

Still, even needless flashbacks can have an impact if they’re brought on by dynamic performances. Everyone in this film does a pretty good job. Tom Hardy in the role of John Fitzgerald, an adversary of Glass, really delivers a fantastic performance and is probably the most deserving of being nominated for Best Supporting Actor this year.

Now for the lead. It’s impossible to critique DiCaprio’s preparation and dedication to this role. He’s clearly put the work in and it’s pretty much what you would expect. If you weren’t sold on him before, maybe you will be now, but in reality it still feels like DiCaprio up there — he has a personality that can’t be shaken and seems to follow him to each role.

Many people are rooting for DiCaprio to win an Academy Award for the first time, and chances are he’ll probably do so as “The Revenant,” which may be a bit overblown, is definitely one of the most stunning and well-acted films of the year. If you don’t mind sitting through stretches of time with nothing really happening, then chances are you’ll be rewarded by some fantastic elements.

“The Revenant” is rated R for strong frontier combat and violence including gory images, a sexual assault, language and brief nudity.

The cover of Chris Brady’s new children’s book. Photo from Brady

By Melissa Arnold

On Dec. 14, 2012, 20 children and six adults were killed in a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Chris Brady, 33, of Rocky Point, was profoundly impacted by the events of that day and has spent the past three years developing “Twenty-­Six Angels,” a children’s book inspired by those who died. The book was published on Nov. 13, and Brady hopes it will inspire children and adults alike to spread peace in our world.

I recently sat down with Brady to learn more about the book and what he hopes for the future.

Tell me a bit about your background.  What got you interested in writing?
I’ve always had an artist’s spirit. Writing has always been my way of chronicling my life. I have a book of probably a hundred poems that have gotten me through so many experiences. But I always wanted to be an actor and singer, so those things were always in the forefront. I’ve worked in retail and in the fitness industry, and also have a master’s degree in health care administration. Writing is kind of my hidden talent, but this story was something I needed to share.

How would you describe the book to someone who hasn’t read it?
It covers the theme of nonviolence and how the power of youth can combat evil in any circumstance. It’s about putting down your weapons, whether that’s guns, negative emotions or poor treatment of others.
In the book, the halos of angels light up when they sing. That light banishes everything evil in the world. When the book begins, there aren’t enough angels and the world is in despair. Then, 26 new angels are born. They face a lot of doubt from the older angels, but they’re given a try and are sent to bring a message of peace and nonviolence to the world.
I stayed away from any kind of religious elements. ­­ I chose to use angels because of the way they’re glorified in our culture, and there’s something cherubic about children. I thought it would be a nice symbol to use.

Chris Brady photo from the author
Chris Brady photo from the author

What inspired you to write about the Sandy Hook tragedy?
(The day of the shooting), I remember pulling my car over and listening to all the broadcasts. ­­ I was fixated on them. It was horrible listening to parents wondering if their child was alive, and I couldn’t imagine what they were going through. On 9/11, I was downtown (in New York City) and used writing to work through that, so it’s not surprising that I felt the need to write about this as well.
I was the choreographer for three years at Rocky Point Middle School and worked with sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders. The book was partially linked to that experience of collaborating on an art that teaches the students to use their talents in a positive way.
Having worked with middle schoolers, I asked myself, what would I say to these kids? I’ve found myself suffering through tragedy and trying to cope with things I couldn’t understand, and I thought about what I would say to a younger me, as well as the families and loved ones of children who have lost their lives.
There’s something so unbelievably pure about first-graders. I told myself there has to be a way to brighten people’s lives in the absence of these children, and it’s happening. You can choose to either wallow in the darkness or make something brighter out of life. This was my way of balancing out the darkness with light and combat unspeakable evil with incredible good.
Obviously, one story can’t fix everything. But if we continue to give back to the people left behind, light really will shine through that darkness.

Who is the ideal audience for “Twenty­-six Angels”?
The book says ages 4 to 8, but I really think it would be appropriate for kids 6 to 10 or even 6 to 12. It can speak to all children and has a timeless feel. The poetry is a little bit elevated, but because it’s sing­song (in style) and rhymes, it’s easy for young children to grab onto. I read the book to a group of 4-­year­-olds and they definitely understood the message, which was great to see. Beyond that, it’s really for anybody looking for comfort. I’ve had an equally strong response from adults and children.

The book is written entirely in rhyme. Why did you choose this format?
With this subject and the idea of creating a song together, I thought rhyme would be most effective for the message.

How can parents or other adults use this book to help the children in their lives?
The first thing that you can teach a child is the difference between play and reality. We can play pirates and Jedis, but they really have no business with a weapon. That might be an unpopular opinion for some, but it’s what I believe. All of us are capable of violence, and children need to learn to channel their passions in a positive way.

What are your plans for the future?
I’m hoping to take any proceeds from the book and use them to help the people of Newtown in any way I can. I learned recently that many people are just showing up there to help out. This book belongs first and foremost in the hands of the people affected by the tragedy. It’s not about the profits for me.

Where can we get the book? How much is it?
You can find the book at all of the major online retailers, as well was www.archwaypublishing.com. The more interest there is, the more likely we’ll be to get it on shelves in the future, too. It’s available in hardcover for $22.95, softcover for $16.95 and as a digital e­book for $3.99.

Where can people learn more about you or contact you?
You can always email me at chrisbrady22@gmail.com. You can also find out more on the book’s Facebook page, “Twenty­Six Angels ­ Children’s Book Launch.”

Chris Brady will hold a book signing on Saturday, Jan. 16, at Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson, at 11 a.m. For more information, call 631-928-9100.

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