Thursday, October 31, 2013

Boo-ya! Hallowe'en Traditions and Spaced Invaders!

Before I start, let me give you a head-up on today's noteworthy blogs. My partner in crime, William Kendall, always delivers at Speak of the Devil--and at his new photoblog, Ottawa Daily Photo. PK Hrezo has a fun Haunted House blog today--and is celebrating her new novel, Butterman (Time) Travel, Inc. which is now one of Amazon's Top 100 time travel novels!

For years after my dad passed away, Mom, Collin and I spent Halloween watching appropriately-themed movies. The Universal Studios horror films from the 1930s were among our favorites. Occasionally, we'd have a Crapfest and watch the worst of the worst, like Plan 9 From Outer Space (for those who haven't seen it, yes, it really is that bad).

After Mom died, Collin and I winged it. Sometimes we watched horror movies, sometimes movies and TV shows with Halloween themes--like Roseanne's hilarious Halloween episodes and my personal favorite, Spaced Invaders, a comedy about a group of IQ-challenged aliens who, separated from their invasion-bound fleet, pick up a radio transmission of Orson Welles' War of the Worlds and assume they're supposed to attack Earth.

Hiding out on a farm facing foreclosure, the alien idiots, whose leader wears LA Lakers attire and sounds suspiciously like Jack Nicholson, plan to take over the small town. Somehow, though, some of them end up being mistaken for trick-or-treaters and are stuck in a car with the kids and a mom who doesn't appreciate the attitude of the most aggressive of the aliens, who threatens to turn her to toast--"or in your case, a whole loaf of toast!"

Guess who ends up kicked out of the car?

These aliens couldn't take over a station wagon, let alone a planet. As the town sheriff's young daughter puts it in her attempt to get her dad to give them a break, "They're not bad. They're just...stupid."

If you've never seen it, check it out. It's funny. Really.

And then there's the one Halloween tradition we always observe: buying the candy at half price the day after Halloween!

Saw this on I Love Minions' Facebook page and though it would be the perfect way to wish everyone a Happy Hallowe'en....

Monday, October 28, 2013

A Celebration...and Revelations

First, the celebration. Some months ago, I entered Collin's cover design for my reissued novel The Unicorn's Daughter (previously published by Berkley Books in 1990 as A Time for Legends) in a cover art contest at AUTHORSdB. I entered it...and promptly forgot about it, until I received word a couple of days ago that it had made it to the semi-finals!

I've been hoping he'd work at making it a full-time business. (I had to promise to never again ask him to do freebies for authors in a financial bind--I did that twice for authors who took their business elsewhere when they could pay for covers. It would have been one thing if they had just been clients--but they were supposedly my friends! With friends like know the rest!). Maybe, if he wins the competition, he'll pursue it as a career once again. I hope.

As for the revelations...I've been working on a memoir for a few months now. It's not a writing memoir, but one of a very dark time in my life, something I've only discussed with my closest friends. It was one of those friends who encouraged me to tell my story, suggesting it might help others in a similar situation. I've kept it under wraps until now, wanting to be certain I could do it. Nonfiction isn't exactly my thing--the truth requires coloring inside the lines, so to speak.

No title yet, and no cover...but soon. Very soon.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Movie Review: GRAVITY

 grav·i·ty  (grv-t)
1. Physics
a. The natural force of attraction exerted by a celestial body, such as Earth, upon objects at or near its surface, tending to draw them toward the center of the body.
b. The natural force of attraction between any two massive bodies, which is directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them.
c. Gravitation.
2. Grave consequence; seriousness or importance: They are still quite unaware of the gravity of their problems.
3. Solemnity or dignity of manner.

I wondered about the title--but there you have it.

This is a movie that must be seen, at least the first time, on the big screen--and the bigger the better. Seeing the visuals of the earth from space makes me long for a journey into space, but that's not going to happen. I'd never pass the physical. So I'll have to be content to be an amateur astronomer and enjoy the awe-inspiring view from the eyes of filmmakers.

Gravity has only two actors, Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, onscreen, and three voice actors at the beginning, including Ed Harris (Apollo 13). The story opens high above the earth, where the crew of the fictional shuttle Explorer is attempting to make repairs to the Hubble Telescope. Clooney is cocky mission commander Matt Kowalski, joking about being out to break the space walk record, while Bullock's character, Ryan Stone, is a medical engineer, a first-time astronaut suffering from severe anxiety.

In the middle of their space walk, the crew receives an emergency transmission from Mission Control. A Russian satellite has exploded, and the remnants are headed their way. They're ordered to abort the mission--but it's already too late. When the debris hits the shuttle, it's also destroyed. Kowalski and Ryan--the only surviving crew members--are stranded in space.

With Kowalski leading, the two of them make their way toward the International Space Station, where a Russian Soyuz capsule is docked. The plan is to board it and head for home...but it's also been hit by the satellite remnants. The pair are running out of options...and oxygen. They have one last chance to survive in the most hostile environment imaginable and make their way home.

Ryan--who says she was so named because her father wanted a boy--is a woman who doesn't feel she has much to live for. As Kowalski tries to engage her in conversation, she reveals that she had a daughter who died after a head injury "She hit her head, and that was it"). I found it a little puzzling that her commander didn't already know this--don't astronauts get to know each other pretty well during their mission preparation? Though noted astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson found several flaws in the film, for me, the flaws are minor and did not detract from my enjoyment of it.

The earth from space and George Clooney--come on, the view doesn't get any better than that!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

A New Outlet for My Motormouth!

It's either feast or famine on this blog.

One week, I write three posts, and the next week, nothing. But this time, there's a good reason for it: I have a new writing gig! I am now--drum roll, please!--a contributor for Moviepilot, a site devoted to the coverage and discussion of movies and TV.

I've enjoyed the site for some time now as a subscriber, but while attempting to post a comment a couple of weeks ago, I got a message suggesting I apply for a contributor spot and expand my comments into an article. I did, and was accepted! Yay!

The email I received urged me to "be opinionated." Me? That's like giving me a license to kill! This is going to be sooooooo much fun! I'm a real movie/TV junkie. (A confession here: if screenwriters were not the low guys on the Hollywood totem pole, with virtually NO control over their work once delivered, I'd be writing screenplays instead of books.)

Anyway, I'm almost finished with my first two articles for Moviepilot--one on the dysfunctional princes of Asgard, Thor and Loki, and the other on the new TV series Agents of SHIELD. And of course, there's going to be something on those delightful mischief makers, the Minions!

I'll be posting links here--I hope you'll check them out (and comment, of course!)

In the meantime, check out William's review of The Princess Bride at Speak of the Devil...his latest and greatest photos at Ottawa Daily Photo...and our joint blog, Basking in the Afterglow!

And a Happy Birthday (one day late) to a very special friend: Hope you got lots of chicken strips on your big day, Hamish!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Is That a Ten-Car Pile-Up? Nope--It's Miley Cyrus!

Yesterday was the twenty-first anniversary of Sinead O'Connor's infamous Saturday Night Live appearance, during which she ripped up a photograph of the Pope. It was also the beginning of the end of her career. Sinead, who knows firsthand about career suicide, posted an open letter to Miley Cyrus to warn her.

Too bad Miley didn't take it in the spirit in which it was offered. She might end up wishing she had.

I'm far from the intended demographic of her now-defunct TV series, Hannah Montana, but I admit that I liked it. I'm a longtime fan of her dad, Billy Ray (no Achy-Breaky jokes, please!), and I enjoyed seeing father and daughter perform together. It was funny--and clean. But almost as soon as the series ended, Miley turned into a bottle-blonde, foul-mouthed Trampzilla.

This seems to be a common reaction among former Disney Girls--Miley, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, just to name a few. (Both Britney and Christina have outgrown the need to act out, so maybe there's hope for Miley, too.) They shed their Disney skins like snakes. They go as far in the opposite direction in their appearance and behavior as they possibly can in an urgent attempt to establish their adult status. I'm still trying to figure out why Miley--and so many other young women--equate trashiness with being an adult. (In spite of statements that she broke off her engagement to actor Liam Hemsworth, I've yet to find anyone who believes it. Most are guessing he got tired of her outrageous behavior and dumped her.)

I wonder why the Disney Boys don't struggle? Justin Timberlake, for example--he's made a smooth transition from child performer to boy band member to solo performer to actor--without any craziness.

In her documentary, Miley: The Movement, Miley suggests it's better to have people talking about her for two weeks than for two minutes. But there's a small problem with that: no one is talking about her music. She's a singer, but all anyone talks about is her half-naked public appearances, her tongue, and her "twerk." (When she backed her little butt up to Robin Thicke at the VMAs, she looked just like our dachshund in heat. The dog would back up to our neighbor's fence, trying to get their male dogs to climb aboard.)

Sure, people are watching her--like they'd watch a ten-car pileup on the interstate. You know how that goes--you don't want to look, but you just can't help it. People are talking about her--but ninety percent of what's being said, online and on TV, is negative. That's not necessarily going to translate into sales of her music.

She defends her actions--as does her father, thought I doubt any of this is easy for Billy Ray--by calling it art. Art. Ahhh...these days, all sorts of crap--literally--is passed off as art. Don't believe me? Check out some of these sculptures....

Lionel Richie offered words of encouragement to Billy Ray. Lionel's own daughter, Nicole, a former wild child, is now settled down, married with children and a successful career.

All things are possible, I suppose.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

DVD Review: IRON MAN 3 (Blu-Ray edition)

Darker than the two previous Iron Man movies, Iron Man 3 is a cautionary tale. It reminds me, oddly enough, of an episode of the TV series Touched By An Angel, in which the angel Monica, in an uncharacteristic bad mood, snaps at someone, setting off a chain of events that results in a woman's suicide. One never knows what impact a seemingly unimportant act or comment might have on another.

At the start of the film, Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.), in voice-over, says that he created two of his own demons. He recalls the events of New Year's Eve 1999. His callous treatment of two idealistic young scientists, Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) and Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall), at a party in Switzerland set into motion a thirteen-year quest for revenge that would lead to countless deaths and destruction.

When Tony must face those demons, the timing couldn't be worse. He's been struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder since his all-too-close brush with death in New York (in The Avengers). He's unable to sleep. He's plagued by self-doubt. He builds one Iron Man armor after another, for a grand total of forty-eight. He worries that he can't protect the one thing--the one person--he can't live without: Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), now CEO of Stark Industries. Yet in his manic state, he seems to be neglecting her, and that worries his friend and former bodyguard, now head of Stark security, Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau)--especially when Aldrich Killian shows up at Stark Industries one day, presumably in search of funding for his Extremis project (which reminds me a lot of the supersoldier project in Captain America: The First Avenger).

Extremis is one of those discoveries that, in the right hands, could have been a gift to humanity--but it's in the hands of a madman, and it's dangerously flawed. But is the madman the Asian terrorist who calls himself The Mandarin (Sir Ben Kingsley), or is it Killian himself? Not everything in Iron Man 3 is what it appears to be.

The movie could be subtitled Tony Stark Finally Grows Up, because until now, he's been, for the most part, a big kid with a lot of really cool toys. He's the boy who never thought his father loved him. I've often wondered what his relationship with his mother was like, and what role it played in his inability to commit to Pepper through two movies and countless comic books. A shrink could make a career of this guy.

Iron Man 3 is more about Tony Stark than it is about Iron Man. As he searches for the identity of his enemy, he also searches for his own identity in his post-Avengers world, and what he discovers in the midst of all the explosions, battles and confrontations is, I think, as surprising to him as it will be to his audience. I loved it--as always, RDJ delivers the rapid-fire wit in abundance, and though there's less banter between him and Paltrow this time around, there's some funny dialogue between him and best buddy Rhodey (Don Cheadle), who hates having to trade in War Machine for Killian's flashier Iron Patriot armor--Rhodey's password, WARMACHINEROCKS, pretty much says it all. There's also some great scenes between Tony and a young Tennessee boy (Ty Simpkins) that makes me wonder--could there be a baby in Tony and Pepper's future?

At the end of the credits, a message appears on the screen: Tony Stark will return. Not Iron Man will return, as in previous films. Could this be a hint of things to come? Robert Downey Jr. is under contract to appear in the next Avengers film. Will he appear as Tony, a SHIELD consultant? Maybe Iron Man is destined to be a drone, controlled by Tony from the SHIELD Helicarrier?

I have the Blu-Ray edition, which included some great extras, like a gag reel (I think every film should come with a gag reel--though granted, it might not be appropriate to include cast bloopers with movies like Schindler's List, Lincoln or The Godfather), a Second-Screen Experience hosted by JARVIS, a deconstruction of an action scene aboard Air Force One, and a Marvel One-Shot short films, Agent Carter--featuring Hayley Atwell, reprising her role as Steve Rogers' love interest from Captain America: The First Avenger, now about to become one of the first members of SHIELD (along with two more familiar faces from that film). There's also a featurette, Marvel's Iron Man Unmasked, and some deleted and extended scenes.

Since we'd already seen the movie, when we brought the DVD home, we spent the first evening just watching the extras!