On the set of Through The Glass Darkly in Ellijay

Community, News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Ellijay has been seeing stars lately as Robyn Lively (The Karate Kid Part III, Teen Witch) and Shanola Hampton (Showtime’s Shameless, You Again) will star in Through the Glass Darkly, a psychological thriller co-written and directed by Lauren Fash and co-written by Susan Graham.

Director Lauren Fash (Center) smiles after another take of a scene in Through the Glass Darkly.

Director Lauren Fash, center, smiles after another take of a scene in Through the Glass Darkly.

Lively and Hampton play Charlie and Amy, an unlikely duo that team up to solve the recent kidnapping of a local girl, a crime which echoes the disappearance of Charlie’s own daughter. The script was featured in the Sundance/Women in Film financing intensive in 2017.

FetchYourNews (FYN) was allowed on set for a chance to speak with those involved in the film as they spent the day downtown in Ellijay at the Gilmer County Courthouse. With other locations including Pickens’ Tate House, the filming is set to continue into early March. Fash told FYN that the majority of the film was being handled in Georgia with some aid provided by some post-production in Los Angeles, California.

Officer Braden, Vince Foster, speaks with reporters after escorting Charlie, Robyn Lively, out of the Sheriff's Office.

Officer Braden (Vince Foster) speaks with reporters after escorting Charlie out of the Sheriff’s Office.

Fash said the film still has a lot of filming and post-production ahead of them meaning they will probably see their release in 2019.

Graham, of However Productions, is producing along with Autumn Bailey-Ford, of Autumn Bailey Entertainment, and Carmella Casinelli, of Bon Aire Productions. The film is executive produced by Stacey Davis and Jim Rine.

Set in 1997, Through the Glass Darkly follows Charlie, a 43-year-old woman recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, living in small town Georgia with her wife. When Elodie Carmichael, granddaughter of the town’s matriarch, goes missing, paranoia shakes the core of this sleepy community, reviving old ghosts and long-buried secrets. The movie itself has become an emotional work for Fash who says she has dedicated the film to her grandmother who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

Through the Glass Darkly, a film I’m dedicating to my grandmother, will delve into the mindset of someone suffering from Alzheimer’s. The film will be shot entirely from Charlie’s point of view. I want people to experience the dark tension of a mind torn between reality and delusion. And yet, how a person’s innate character can hold fast despite this insidious illness,” said Fash.

Shanola Hampton plays Amy, a reporter following the disappearance of Elodie Carmichael.

Shanola Hampton plays Amy, a reporter following the disappearance of Elodie Carmichael.

It’s rather easy to see how much Fash has given to the film, not just in work and sweat, but being a writer and director on the film allows another level of intertwining the mind behind the story into each character, each scene, and each frame. “I’ve been living with this story and these characters for three years, so everything is alive to me … I know this story through and through, I know every in and out. The creative process was a really long one, but it allowed me to really understand my characters and really understand the twists and turns of the story,” Fash stated.

Fash went on to say that those who know her will see a lot of her in the film as she continues to pour herself into the direction as well as the writing. “As a writer, in general, you’re always going to pull from your life experience,” Fash said. Even the locations show through the life of Fash as she spent her childhood visiting Jasper and Ellijay as her family had property in Bent Tree in Pickens County.

The locations jumped to the forefront in Fash’s mind when she was writing the script through very fond memories of our towns. As Fash tells it, “One of the themes of this movie is timelessness and things kind of staying the same over the years. These small towns, they all have that feel of having that timeless factor to them.” Instantly thinking of her childhood adventures to the area, Fash never thought past Jasper and Ellijay to provide a better set for her fictional town in the movie.

Being an independent film has allowed for the depth of connection between the film and its writer/director who says the film has other restrictions in budget and similar areas, but the freedom comes through the control over her vision she has without alteration. “At the end of the day, creatively, we have full control because we don’t have anyone to answer to. We were able to finance this film through investors and people who believe in the story and believe in the script,” Fash said.

Vince Foster, left, and Robyn Lively play Officer Braden and Charlie as they film the new movie Through the Glass Darkly in Ellijay, Georgia.

The creative freedom is something echoed by one of the films stars, Shanola Hampton, who called independent films a “passion paid project.” She continued saying, “There is a certain love that is deep and rooted inside the script and inside the project and the people that are working behind it. All of the crew, all of the producers, everybody loves this project. So, you can feel that, and everybody wants to bring it to life in the best way. That energy is something that I live by, being part of positive energy is what I love.”

It wasn’t just Fash’s ardor that drew Hampton to the script though. Hampton noted she was close to her grandmother as well, which lead to a personal connection when she first read the script. “Fash is so passionate, she knows exactly what she wants,” Hampton said. “She has been working on this for three years. Anytime somebody has their ‘baby’ and they’re watching their ‘baby’ come to life, it’s a beautiful thing to do and be a part of.”

The connection strengthened with the chance for Hampton to try a new challenge in her range after spending so many years with Veronica on Shameless. Hampton noted that her Master of Fine Arts has allowed her a large range in her acting adding, “Because I’ve been on the show for eight or nine seasons, you get pigeonholed into Veronica sometimes. So, it’s been great to have the opportunity to show different things and to do other projects when I’m off from Shameless.”

Shanola Hampton (left) and Robyn Lively (right) pose for a picture in between takes of Through The Glass Darkly in Ellijay, Ga.

Shanola Hampton, left, and Robyn Lively pose for a picture in between takes of Through The Glass Darkly in Ellijay, Georgia.

Those on set seem to have grown closer quickly. You see the hugs and jokes between takes and you feel the friendship grow even after only an hour or two on set. Graham noted, “We are honored and thrilled to have Robyn and Shanola in this film. Their passion for this female-led project and their dedication to bringing these complex women to life is truly inspiring.”

Fash called Hampton “a light” on projects she is involved in. While admitting she didn’t have personal knowledge before casting her, Fash says her film is a very dark film, but Amy, Hampton’s character, is the light in that darkness.

Fash also praised Robyn Lively saying, “To see her in this role was just kind of mind-blowing to me, because it was exactly what I had written and spent two-and-a-half years creating. To see her take on it was jaw-dropping.”

Seeing the chemistry of those involved, to see the action on the set and the crew hard at work, it is a rare treat to be allowed access to this work in progress and to have moments with each involved. Truly seeing the massive team that works so hard on these projects adds a weight to the film.

As filming continues through the next several weeks, the project will move across our two counties and is set to spend an entire week filming on location in the character’s home. Follow along the journey of Through the Glass Darkly through their social links on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram before it hits theaters next year.


‘Through the Glass Darkly’ filming in Ellijay

Community, News
Through the Glass Darkly

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Residents in Gilmer County are seeing film crews traveling throughout the town this week as an independent film Through the Glass Darkly films on location.

Directed by Lauren Fash, the film will follow a kidnapping crime and an unlikely duo’s attempt to solve it. According to Variety Magazine, the movie is set in 1997 in a small town in Georgia, with Robyn Lively portraying a 43-year-old woman named Charlie, who has recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. When the granddaughter of the town’s matriarch goes missing, paranoia shakes the core of this sleepy community, reviving old ghosts and long-buried secrets.

Shameless star Shanola Hampton will star alongside Lively, from Teen Witch, in this psychological thriller that will reportedly be filming at locations in both Pickens and Gilmer counties.



On the Town: Justice League

On The Town with Lonnie Adams

Here we are. It has finally happened. The group movie to bring all your favorite heroes together in one film… the Aveng… wait a second. Sorry, fast forward to Justice League.

I make a joke of this, but really, it’s going to be incredibly hard for those of you who have seen the old movies, and even those of you who just watched Thor Ragnarok last week, to not compare the two Super Group films. Especially with Whedon’s previous experience with the other franchise. But we’re not here to talk Marvel. It’s DC’s turn. And Whedon  didn’t direct much of this film, it was Zack Snyder.

That said, I can see where Snyder took a lot of time with Whedon. I can see that he studied him. He studied the successes of previous Superhero films regardless of their company. Snyder manages to make great leaps forward on the Superman and Batman characters. Ben Affleck even surprised me with a much deeper Batman and Bruce Wayne than the one we see in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

While the movie goes that Bruce Wayne, aka Batman, begins recruiting for a team to defend a coming invasion, you begin to see a deeper undertone that Bruce is grasping at a team, anything to provide him a reason to keep moving. Is he recruiting the team to save the world, or to save his own sanity? A much older Batman starts feeling the pain catch up with him. A few key scenes drive this home with between Bruce and Diana Prince, aka Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot).

I see a lot of good in the Justice League, a levity that lightens what could have been too much boring somberness, a misstep or two that save it from being too convenient of a team for the plot, and a lightness of the film that prevents it from taking itself too seriously. I see enough time given to Flash and Aquaman to show their importance without taking too much from the established characters. Sure, I wish it was longer, but I also see how much longer may have drug out this simple story line to the point of “beating a dead horse.”

I even feel like I should give a nod to Henry Cavill for taking a character I despise, Superman, and adding a little more vulnerability to him.

Oh yes, don’t hate me for saying it. I despise Superman. Justice League doesn’t manage to fully take me off that feeling. In the comics, in Man of Steel, in Batman v Superman, and in this film, Superman becomes an overpowered god figure who fails to show a humanity that makes him relatable. Batman v Superman explored the concept of Superman’s conflict better than some I’ve seen, but I’ve yet to truly feel that Superman struggles with himself over the power he has and when and how to use it.

Don’t think I blame this flaw on Directors or Actors, though. It’s a problem I’ve always had with the character. Although I would like to see more from Cavill to express this inner struggle that is supposed to be going on instead of joy at combat, I give him credit for a better showing at his weakness to humanity in general.

It wraps up a nice bow on the box of things I enjoyed in this movie. That said, I really want to describe the plot of this movie as Batman struggling to form a team of the World’s Greatest Warriors. Why? Well, to save the world from Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) who is attempting to connect three “mother boxes” to transform the Earth or something.”

I never get enough depth to the plot to feel like its anything more than just the excuse to build the team. Indeed, the team’s origins is the movie and the it gets topped off with a nice battle at the end.

While we all probably know the ceaseless issues that befell this film, I can’t give it a pass on it shortcomings. Wonder Woman opposites Batman as the Mother and Father figures of the group where Dad’s getting to old to play, and Mom is too nice to tell him so. While I found myself enjoying the idea of Batman showing a different side to set up as the brains of the operation, I feel it forced onto Wonder Woman. Almost as if the studio realized who made the biggest box office hit and wanted to capitalize on it.

In fact, the majority of the film feels like it was rushed to capitalize on different things. I wish that the Barry Allen, aka the Flash (Ezra Miller), and Arthur Curry, aka Aquaman (Jason Mamoa) had their solo flicks before Justice League released. Neither feels well established in Justice League. Victor Stone, aka Cyborg (Ray Fisher), seems the only one appropriately explained before the final battle ensues.

The humor also feels forced and a little childish at times. As if it was rewritten in later. Although, the actors roll well with it to create a few very comical moments and I applaud the studio for responding to what people have been saying about their other films, I encourage them to keep at it, make it a little more natural. Realize the great moments of Justice League and move forward growing those.

Overcoming a lot of issues, Justice League shows great potential even if it didn’t fully deliver on those promises. Let’s stop beating around the bush and get right down to it… Is Justice League worth seeing?

Yes, but just barely. Don’t let the barely part scare you. It is worth seeing, and it offers hope for the sequels and solo films coming for each of these characters. While it very noticeably falls short in some areas, it very noticeably excels in others. Throughout the troubles with shooting, re-shooting, and staffing, it comes out the other side far better than it should have been with so many changes. It needs work before a sequel, but I am still glad I watched it.


On the Town: Thor Ragnarok

On The Town with Lonnie Adams

Are parodies real entertainment? After all you’re taking something established and tearing it down, aren’t you? Are you? What if you owned the original? What if you weren’t making fun of something else, but making fun of your own past?

Does that make it okay? Parody, by definition, is a sort of comedic imitation. And the infamous “they” tell me that imitation is the highest form of flattery. So, are you creating something new with parody? What an artists debate this could be.

Thor Ragnarok dives headfirst into this debate as it presents a FAR more comedic take on Thor’s part in the greater MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe).

In what harkens back far more to the recent Guardians of the Galaxy movies than it’s own predecessors, Ragnarok presents a very tongue-in-cheek story where Thor (Chris Hemsworth) rallies defenders to save his home realm of Asgard. I cannot overstate how well Director Taika Waititi took the funnier parts of the first two stand-alone Thor movies and grew them into Ragnarok.

What I can say is that even as I write this, I still haven’t decided if its pure genius or not my thing. I greatly enjoyed the first two Thor movies. Though an understanding that Thor: the Dark World is widely viewed as, to date, the weakest of all of Marvel’s movies. I love the comedy and I loved the execution. I’m still trying to come to terms with the “parody-like” role that this film has taken. The cast and direction of the movie obviously understands the pitfalls its previous films had, and unashamedly points them out in great detail.

Hemsworth shines in the film for a very unusual reason. On one hand he is sort of the unmanageable “god” sterotype.

As I watched, I felt myself remembering times with my closest friends when we break down into hysteric fits of laughter and the one guy is the only thing keeping us on track of conversation and not digressing out of control. Hemsworth is that guy that manages to link the absurdity with a viable plot against the vile vixen Hela (Cate Blanchett).

In fact, Hela is the completed other side of the coin as she shows little comedy and more of the regular, if a little underdeveloped, evil villain of Marvel’s films. It’s all revenge and murder with that lady. However, Blanchett adds a certain elegance to Hela that not only makes her fierce, but unstoppable in both story and presence.

The real gem shining in the background comes from one lesser villain, Ragnarok has a few, known as the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum). This character might just be one of my favorites in this film. He stands out in exactly the way you’d expect from Goldblum hitting all the right notes on the off beats of rhythm in the movie. It’s a different kind of ego/insanity that makes me enjoy that Planet Hulk storyline.

Oh yes, fans of Marvel Comics will very easily delineate two different comic events in this film. Planet Hulk and Ragnarok see the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) join Thor to become quite the pair as they add Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) into the group.

They join up on Sakaar, a most wretched hive of scum and villainy. Oh… pardon the copyright, I’ll just call it a parody. Anyway, Sakaar becomes a character on its own with an inspired art direction, and Goldbloom’s personality. It heralds the MCU’s exploration of more territory than the nine realms previously mentioned in the franchise. From the fields of otherworld trash to the arena fights at its center, Sakaar is far different than any planet we’ve been to in this universe.

Ultimately, I cannot fault this film for it’s parody style. It more than makes a good movie of itself, and I laughed throughout the entire movie. It provides a whole new take on Thor and marks a big step forward for Marvel as the MCU continues to distance itself from other films and from its comic book heritage. It deserves a right to stand on critic acclaim and doesn’t disappoint on all the hype it received. In fact, I’d say it Ragna-ROKS the expectations I had for it. Okay, you’re right, too cheesy, I won’t say it again.

Avid readers may notice a distinct lack of introduction to the story of Thor Ragnarok. No, I’m not going senile… yet. But I am avoiding this for a reason. I will tell you that Thor starts the movie searching for more Infinity Gems, but gets called home by dreams of Asgard’s fall, but I don’t want to reveal a few things early in the film that have a larger take on the latter half. Suffice it to say that the comedy relies a great deal on timing and surprise, I don’t want to lessen the movie from telling you anything risky. That’s right kids, NO spoilers today!

All in all, a great work by Waititi who shows that with great talent to support you, taking risks and changes in films can be rather rewarding.

I leave you with two pieces of advice. Look deep in between the cracks of the “rocks” and you might see Waititi acting in the film, and when you see the mid-credits scene and you are thinking about getting up and leaving, Don’t.


On The Town: Blade Runner 2049

On The Town with Lonnie Adams

Why go to a theater? If you know you can get a movie later on DVD, what could possibly possess you to spend the money to go out and see a movie in theaters. Now let’s be honest, impatience probably plays a lot into this for some people. Still, there has to be something that makes you want the theater instead of your own big screen at home.

Blade Runner 2049 answers this question in a big way. The scope of the film not only lends itself to the theater experience, but its classic sci-fi idea of simple extravagance demands the size and “epic-ness” of the good ol’ silver screen. Even the score lends itself to the audio of a theater. Certainly, my own little excuse for a home theater could never properly compare to feeling the vibration of the deep bass and the loftiness of the horns that shine so bright in this movie’s soundtrack.

The score draws you in deeper with another sci-fi classic trope that provides a sub-plot that comments on the colloquial society. It’s the juxtaposition of that non-literary commentary against the very fictional world that allows people to take a stark look at themselves as a society without realizing it at first. Science Fiction has become my favorite genre throughout my life for this reason.

Those who recall the first Blade Runner will catch several references to Rick Deckard and the original movie. As they move later into the story, the twists not only reference, but tie this sequel so to its predecessor so tightly that I do sort of regret taking a friend with me to see it. She had not seen the first one.

The movie follows another Blade Runner. Instead of Rick Deckard, We get ‘K.’ That’s right, ‘K’ is a replicant. Because instead of realizing our mistakes with the creation of replicants, society just built different ones that are, supposedly, more obedient. Sound Familiar?

The story reminds me of an old quip about the abominable idea of “robots building robots.” However, this film offers the aberration of that quip as “Replicants killing replicants.” Let’s not mistake, replicants aren’t robots, or androids, or cyborgs. They’re synthetics. The humans, minus something. Another debate the movie subtly asks, “Can these ‘skin jobs’ have a soul?”

Some of the best sci-fi stories ask really hard questions that bear no meaning to today’s world. Stories like Mass Effect, I,Robot, Ghost in the Shell, 2001 Space Odyssey, and even Aliens have explored the sentience, feelings, and ‘humanity’ of non-human entities. The original Blade Runner’s thoughts on this continue to its sequel to create what I can only refer to as the pure quintessential sci-fi movie of the new millennium.

This claim builds on all these things I’ve discussed as the foundation of the film, but further into what it adds. Ryan Gosling does well with his role as K. I think I would have liked to see a little more emotion later in the film as his character starts discovering things about replicants, humans, society, and his role in them all as a replicant Blade Runner. However, this does allow his humanity to be shone better through the character of Joi, Ana de Armas, as a mirror of the humanity he feels placed into a separate representation. The interplay between these two immersed me into this unspoken battle to create a life, a soul, out of nothingness. The final act in the story pairs this well against the original Blade Runner movie and Rick Deckard as a human Blade Runner.

This is what I lack in so many other remakes. I don’t want a remix of the same thing, I want to continue the debate. I want to continue my feelings. Director Denis Villeneuve doesn’t rest on the previous movies accomplishments, he pushes forward, presses the envelope, expands the universe, and challenges the established foundation. It is a dangerous attempt as so many fail. Not here, though. Villeneuve delivers on everything I wanted when I watched.

I also have to praise an amazing special effects trick regarding these two characters and a third. I don’t want to spoil the scene, but you’ll know it when you see it as I say it involves interplaying a human and a hologram. I want to watch the behind the scenes footage just to see how they made this scene that plays such an integral part in K’s growth, or descent depending on how you look at it. This scene alone makes me hate my decision to try not to spoil things as it demands thoughtful discussion and exploration. To not do so is a cinematic treason. And yet, here I sit, screaming at my computer for every living person to see this film so I can talk about it.

Discussion has also arisen on another character’s return to the story. Harrison Ford reprises his role as Rick Deckard.

He quickly proclaims to the world, which he has been doing with his numerous remakes, that he is as ready to act, as good at it, and as capable of playing his old roles now as he was when they were new. The plot utilizes Deckard so naturally, his integration so fluid.

Many people have questioned remaking all of his older films, but the plot here demanded his character. And rightly so, I don’t believe the film would have been successful or as powerful without this character. It sits so naturally as a sequel, the lines between the two plots blur several times. It connects so well because this is the one. This is him, the legendary actor, Harrison Ford. So many quiet subtleties allow the beauty of his acting to speak volumes in the moments between his spoken lines, and all the more when he does speak.

With all the good in the movie, it’s almost heart-breaking to point out flaws. I don’t want to ramble on and make you think that any movie exists without something to improve upon. I wanted so bad to see a little more exploration of the rift between humans and replicants. I can’t honestly say it isn’t explored, its there underwriting every scene with tension. However, later in the movie, you don’t see some of the very obvious slights against replicants as second class, sub-human. The tenseness of the separation becomes less overt as you start exploring replicants as human. It seems to lessen the human hatred of ‘skin-jobs’ as they call them in the latter parts. A small detail that many may chastise me on for pointing out, but like I said, just something to improve upon for the next sequel. Let’s pray they get Villeneuve back for that one, too.

Another small issue detail also stands as a classic sci-fi and horror movie trick (Spoiler Here, I can’t help myself) by the time you finish the movie, you sort of forget about the one other bad guy in the background. I have to do an “on-the-other-hand” moment here as I say Jared Leto’s character, Niander Wallace, doesn’t overplay his role. His right-hand-replicant named Luv, Sylvia Hoeks, stands as the main antagonist. Leto establishes that extra background that adds depth to the world they create and shows another comment about society, there are bad men everywhere. I just feel there could have been more done with this character.

You may be laughing at how trivial these issues are, but there they are. I think it stands as a testament to the sheer force this film holds. Not only am I still begging people to go watch this film, but watch it now, on the big screen. Do not wait, do not pass go, do not collect $200, drive down to East Towne Cinemas right now and buy a ticket. Seriously, why are you still reading this, go buy a ticket.


On The Town: Kingsman The Golden Circle

On The Town with Lonnie Adams

What is the mark of an enjoyable movie? Is there one thing that stands out above the rest that just let’s you know this movie is better than others? I’m not talking about critics who analyze movies. I am speaking of you, at home. When you watch a movie and think to yourself, “I liked that.” Was there one mark or trait which signaled that it was likable?

Maybe it was relatable, it touched home with you. Maybe it was a suspenseful, dragging your attention into it. Most times, I try to think if movies are memorable. I’ve watched numerous movies, and even some that I like weren’t that great of movies, but they stuck with me for one reason or another. You and your friends probably retell funny quotes from your favorite movies at certain times. Maybe I could say, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t…” and you could finish the quote.

Any way you take it, great movies follow you. Stories stick with you. The great ones are memorable.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle, tends to fall short on that point. I walked away from the movie thinking much of it was forgettable. Which is probably pretty bad for a guy writing a movie review, but here we go.

We join Eggsy, Taron Egerton, after the first film having vaulted him into a covert secret organization for security of England in an almost “Bond-esque” style film. The movie itself is very tongue-in-cheek parody of spy films and flaunts it with over-the-top action and comic book cheesiness.

Eggsy encounters the decimation of his agency and ends up requesting help from an American similar organization known as ‘Statesman.’ The ensuing antics take a vast number of movie tropes into a meat grinder for a rather fun concoction of jokes and situations that add the right amount of cheese to make it amusing.

From the ‘a-little-too-convenient’ gadgets to the larger-than-life evil supervillain and back to the crazy obvious names, the tropes make “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” easy to follow, ubiquitous, and rather shallow in the grand scheme.

However, that’s not to say a film like this doesn’t have it’s place. Watching a cowboy cut another man in half with a ‘laser-lasso’ is definitely something I haven’t seen, yet. The cowboys are part of the new allies Eggsy finds along with an old one to help him on his new quest to save the world. He also sticks with the princess that many will remember from the first film with a, now infamous, anal sex joke.

As you traverse the almost two-and-a-half hour plot, you’ll find the same style of humor spread throughout. Those obvious names? “Poppy” is the drug dealer/mastermind villain. But these things make the film fun and cheeky for the time you spend in their world.

Still, I could see how some people could find a bit of the humor tired and maybe stretched out too much. It’s not an awful movie, but like I said before, forgettable makes it suffer and miss the mark of a “good” movie. Still, I could have seen a bunch of the guys rolling into this film for a good laugh at the end of the day.


David Ralston Talks Education and Politics in Ellijay

David Ralston visits the Ellijay Church of Christ to speak with the Retired Teacher's Group of Gilmer

ELLIJAY, GA – Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston visited Ellijay on Wednesday, September 13, to speak with the Retired Teachers Association.

Before holding a regular meeting, the Association received Ralston with a lunch reception and a meet and greet with the members. As he began his remarks, Ralston noted he was returning to the capital the same day to continue working through Georgia’s recovery of Hurricane Irma.

Speaker David Ralston offers comments to the Gilmer Retired Teachers Group about the State's progress in Education and Growth.

Speaker David Ralston offers comments to the Gilmer Retired Teachers Group about the State’s progress in Education and Growth.

Taking a moment to recognize those involved, Ralston praised workers and volunteers who continue to clean up and restore Georgia in the aftermath. “I have never been prouder of the response that our state has had to what has been a tremendous storm. Hurricane Irma has really brought a lot of destruction to our state,” said Ralston.

Ralston continued his remarks speaking on the state’s budget. He said, “I tell people, there is only one thing we have to do every legislative session, and that’s pass a budget. We have passed a balanced budget in Georgia with no tax increases for the seven years that I have been honored to hold this position.”

Saying they had managed this in a conservative and responsible way, Ralston continued telling those in attendance the number one spending item in the budget every year is Education. According to the Speaker, last years $24.9 billion budget held 62% of new revenue budgeted for K-12 Education. This included $162 million for a 2% adjustment to state teachers salary.

The Teachers Retirement System (TRS), holding 218,000 active members and 118,000 retired members, was a focus of Ralston as he spoke about strengthening the system, protecting pensions against ideas of certain candidates for governor, and maintaining his “covenant” with teachers for their future and the future of their careers. Continuing in the financial aspect of education, Ralston commented, “I insist on a very strict actuarial study of what works and what don’t, between what is sound and what is not.”

The Speaker also talked of Georgia as a whole saying the state has added almost 600,00 new jobs in the private sector over the last 6 years. We are one of the fastest growing economies in the nation. Businesses are leaving other states in order to move here to Goergia. He continued, “We are now the number two state in the nation for the entertainment industry.”

Taking a moment to recognize complaints on the film tax credit, Ralston noted the $60 million a year credit generates over $9 billion a year saying, “Sometimes we have to invest a little to gain a lot, and I think strategic investment is a good thing.”

In an effort to spread the growth that Georgia is experiencing, he began speaking of the the challenges of rural Georgia. The Speaker spoke of a new two-year initiative called the ‘Rural Development Council.” The council’s plan is to examine every component of rural Georgia’s economy through education, healthcare, transportation, infrastructure, and more.

Ralston closed his comments thanking the teachers present for what the mean to the community and for the honor of representing the area in Atlanta.

However, before leaving, the Speaker took time to answer a few questions including one about the concept of Casino gambling in Atlanta saying, “I think the casino companies are a whole lot more interested in it than the members of the General Assembly.”

He went on to say there were several issues at play such as the general question of “Do you favor the expansion of gambling?” But if yes, more questions arise of “How many do you allow in the state?” “Do you allow one big one and one small one?” Ralston went further to say the next issues then would be about the tax rate and the distribution of proceeds.


On The Town: The Dark Tower

On The Town with Lonnie Adams

There is always a question in my mind when I go see a movie based off of a book. That questions shifts slightly if I’ve read the books.

I must honestly admit that I have not seen a lot of movie-from-a-book titles be as successful as I wanted them to be. The Dark Tower, however, is one that I have not read. Yes, you may begin sending me your hate mail for not having read it before. I know I should be chastised and told how horrible my life is without having read the books.

I will admit one thing for this movie, if nothing else, it has sparked me to really want to read the series now. The world renowned author Stephen King’s masterpiece series finally gets a big screen adaptation, but that question still lingers. “Does it do the books justice?” if I have read the books or “Does it make me want to read the books?” if I haven’t.

We’ve all heard the tired phrase from other films, “It’s not as good as the book.” Honestly, I doubt any two-hour movie ever completely encapsulates the feeling fans get from reading through a book or series. It’s so incredibly hard to translate that into a film. Those of you who read my review on “The Shack” know that we have had this conversation before.

However, it really arises here. Those I’ve spoke to who have read the books were largely disappointed with the film. Flipside, those who haven’t read the books really enjoyed the movie to an extent.

The Dark Tower, On the Town Movie ReviewWe join Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) late after he has lost a dear family member, dealing with emotional turmoil and having visions of doom. Naturally, all the ‘normal’ adults do the absolutely wrong thing and seek psychiatric help for the issue. What kind of fantasy story would it be without the lone hero standing against the disbelief of the world?

Still, Jake begins trying to find out what the meaning of his visions are, and winds up kicking off his grand adventure in the process. He joins up with Gunslinger Roland (Idirs Elba) to fight the man in his visions, the Man in Black. It all sounds great as Jake just happens to find the last of a great, powerful, and slightly mystical group called the Gunslingers. Okay, okay. yes, you can definitely see a lot of inspirations that King had for his series in the plot of the film, things like the Dark Tower itself strangely missing a flaming eye at the top or the idea that Walter, aka the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey) has a super laser that destroys planets, I mean a tower… just a thought.

Push past that and I’m sure you wind up having a great story in a wonderfully created universe, or so I am told by fans, but you really don’t see it on screen. It all happens a little too fast to fully explore this world and its machinations. Walter, honestly, why destroy the one thing keeping out all the uncontrollable bad monsters that would just a soon kill you, too? Now, I hear the screams of all you fans yelling the answer at your computer, but, seriously, several things get overlooked in the films haste to get the great action scenes and fantasy-style-physics-bending-fights that play so well here.

Major kudos to Elba and McConaughey as they bring real star power to the roles and add a certain gravitas to their characters. I almost followed his commands and McConaughey’s Walter uses sorcery to lithely spew words that are automatically obeyed, like walking to a screaming woman and just whispering “be quiet” and she suddenly can’t make noise. You sir, are more snake-like that Voldemort himself as you slither across the screen.

On the other hand, Elba draws me in as this paragon of honor and nobility who has lost his light. He shines as a beacon of humanity itself, so desperate for redemption, but believing it constantly beyond his strength. The man exudes the fatherly feel for Jake and Elba expertly portrays the battle inside him alongside his battle against Walter.

The movie has so much going for it, that it hurts all the more for its shortcomings. It stalls in development, creating an almost too easy story line that lacks complexity or depth. While explaining an expansive universe full of parallel Earths, it only shows you two. I barely learn anything about the Gunslingers other than their chant and a strange, convenient, rule that you can’t disobey a gunslinger in one point of the movie.

Maybe I am jaded by the hype the movie received. Maybe it was built up too much as people went nuts when they heard it was happening. Sure, there were lots of rumors and gossip about bad test audiences, trouble with shoots, and issues with editing, but people still had me far more excited about the potential of the film than what you actually receive.

That said, I’d still tell you to go see the movie, Elba and McConaughey make up a lot of slack, and the premise is there for an excellent film, even if it was weak on the execution.


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