Sunday, July 28, 2013

Why's It Gotta Be Sharks?

SyFy ran Sharknado, yet again, last night, along with a whole day of previous SyFy movies featuring sharks as the villains.  Such fishy creatures as the two-headed shark, prehistoric shark, sand shark, dino-shark, and my personal favorite for sheer silliness - octoshark, threatened us through our screens all day yesterday.

Like a mesmerized loon, I watched some of the movies while I was home yesterday.  Actually, Sharknado on the third viewing put me to sleep.  I snored through the climax when the enormous shark (looked like a Great White on steroids) dropped out of a tornado and swallowed first the heroine and then the hero - who fortunately had a chainsaw with him.  All he had to do was cut his way out and poof!  He was saved and so was the heroine.

And now they're advertising the annual Shark Week when a week's worth of programs are shown with real sharks and real gore.  What is it about sharks that fascinate us so?  I admit I DO NOT watch Shark Week, never have.  I'm an animal lover and don't care to watch any creature being eaten alive.  I didn't even watch the Disney nature films of the African Veldt when I was a small child.  I know that happens, but I don't have to watch it.

I do sit back and wonder at our society's obsession with sharks.  SyFy posts some of its' highest ratings when they run their goofy shark movies.  As case in point, Sharknado got huge ratings, that's why they've run it three times.

The movies are fun in a twisted way.  Done with the tongue planted firmly in the cheek, they are part of the grand tradition that includes the old monster movies, irradiated villainous creatures stomping Tokyo or whatever city happens to be there when they come ashore, and let's not forget the great Bruce Campbell.

These movies are pure escapist fun, easy to watch, easy to watch while doing something else, too...Everybody gets it - it's not reality.

But the obsession with sharks is rooted deeply in reality.  I remember a line from the movie JAWS, uttered by Murray Hamilton as the Amity mayor.  "When you yell barracuda, people say what?  But when you yell shark..."  That's true.  People are terrified of sharks yet fascinated with them at the same time.

I remember many years ago when I was a young girl (yes I was young once...)  I saw a woman pulled out of the water in Miami Beach.  Her legs were sliced to ribbons.  That's something you never forget seeing.  In her case, she had the misfortune to have been swimming through a school of barracuda.  From then on I have had a healthy respect for the little sharp toothed creatures.  They're bigger than piranha, not as aggressive, but can be if disturbed.

But the media doesn't report barracuda attacks.  Of course there may not be many of them.  But they always report shark attacks.  In the city in which I live, attacks are reported, fishermen catching sharks are reported, and marine biologists have been catching great whites off our shores and putting radio tags on them for tracking purposes.  When they get a live signal in the area, it is broadcast through the internet and the local news media and beaches are closed for swimming.

I guess we as humans have a healthy respect for such an efficient predator.  After all, we want to think we're at the top of the food chain...sharks don't respect that at all.  How dare they?!  Easy, we're just another dining opportunity to them.

Perhaps we make light of the very real threat by indulging in these silly movies - minimizes the threat by making it comical.

Just think what the world would be like if everybody in Germany and around the world had laughed at Hitler...There would have been millions of people who lived out their lives.  We would have been a different world - not necessarily better, but certainly different.

There isn't anything wrong with laughing at what scares us.  It eases the tension in our daily lives.
Laughter is good for our physical health as well as our soul.

Okay, I get it.  I'll quit ragging on the shark movies...after all, we ALL need a good laugh and escape now and then.

Until next time, enjoy whatever makes you laugh - laugh heartily and long.  You'll feel better.
But don't swim where sharks have been reported - and get out of the water if you see a fin...the consequences of staying in the water and laughing would not be at all amusing.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Red 2 (Retired Extremely Dangerous)

I had a lovely time today at the movies.  I saw Red2 on its opening day.  Yes, I know there were special previews last night, but the vampires have a contract out for a hit on me, so my night travel is limited...(You do know I'm kidding, right?)

I loved the first movie in this series, Red.  I can easily relate to it.  Older people steadily become invisible in public.  Just ask my dad.  He's been saying that for years.  The first movie came out after I had retired.  I loved the idea of RED - Retired Extremely Dangerous, of the retirees beating the younger hotshots at their own game.  Of course my best friend and I call ourselves REG most of the time - Retired Extremely Gorgeous.  Well, that's enough of my fantasy world - on to the movie.

In Red 2, Frank (Bruce Willis) and Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker) are still together.  But she is becoming more and more restless.  Frank doesn't want to do any more missions.  He wants to keep her safe.  She wants action, adventure.  No small conflict, there...Throughout the film, everybody gives Frank advice on relationships including Marvin, Victoria, Ivan, the Korean hit man, and their target a man known as The Frog.

They run into Marvin (John Malkovich) who is as paranoid as ever, at a Costco.  (What is it with Costco in the movies lately?  Anybody seen The Watch?!) He insists the CIA are coming after them.  And like last time, they are indeed.  The action takes off from there.  They all team up again with Victoria (Helen Mirren) who has been given a contract by her old employer, MI-6, to eliminate Frank.  Into the mix comes her old lover Ivan (Brian Cox).  Catherine Zeta-Jones plays Svetlana, a former lover of Frank's, who is with Russian Intelligence.  Also added to the cast is the "best hit man in the world" a Korean played by Byung-Hun Lee, who has been paid by the CIA to eliminate Frank as well.  Anthony Hopkins does a 180 degree turn as a famous scientist, apparently mad...he seems jolly, forgetful, not at all sinister like his Hannibal Lecter, but very effective nonetheless.

This movie is filled with adventure, major stunts, mayhem, and laughs.  The auditorium of the large theater was half filled this morning.  Most of the audience were older people.  We all laughed uproariously and got the gags.

Filmed in Colorado, New Jersey, London, Paris, and Moscow, it was a fast moving story.  There were shots of modern Moscow whose populace is much more at ease, smiling on the streets, than they were in the Soviet days.  One funny bit that made me howl - our good guys were searching for something hidden there thirty plus years ago.  When they got to the entrance to the underground tunnels they needed, there was a Papa John's Pizza store in the way.  Easy, they just blasted through the men's room wall and found the tunnels.  But the thought of that store in Moscow was a hoot!

Produced by DC Comics, I kid you not, this film is an action picture - high octane and filled with comedy.  I laughed myself silly and was highly entertained.  As in the original, they take another job at the end which ends the film on a note of comic hysteria.  The end credits roll to Perry Como's (Perry Como?!!) version of "Papa Loves Mambo."  It's a fitting end to the film.

It's much more fun than the first one, less serious.  Oh there are things with deadly consequences, but they all keep going, often with hilarious results.

Great job to the cast, the director, the stunt people.  It is a riotous ride, especially considering the ages of the stars.  Some of the stunts are memorable.  I never thought I'd see Helen Mirren ... well, you'll just have to see the film.  There were a long list of stunt doubles in the credits.  I can certainly see why.

In all seriousness, Kids, time passes very quickly.  It will surprise you how one day you turn around and a lot of people at your job are much younger than you.  Your kids are grown with kids of their own.  Intellectually, you know it's been years and years, but you don't think about it on a daily basis.
The world starts passing you by as you take a step back, out of the action.  It feels good to do that, but you know what?  The downside is you know you're becoming irrelevant in the eyes of society.  That does NOT feel so good.  You are ignored more and more by society, because you remind your peers of how old they are, and the younger folks of their fate to be, a dreaded thing in our youth centered culture.

It's a lot of fun to see your peers in a movie full of action and adventure.  For most of us it's pure escape, but what's wrong with that?  It's why we invented pop culture.

Go see this one.  It's a megawatt action flick and a hoot...

Oh, and just because I was glad to see my peers in an action movie, does NOT mean I won't be going to see the new THOR movie coming out soon...Now, he's cute.  Woof!!!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Host - the movie with an afterward about Sharknado

Early on in the life of this blog, I reviewed the book The Host by Stephenie Meyer.  The film came out this spring.  As usual, I didn't make it to the theater to see it.  But now it's available on video and pay-per-view.

The film version of The Host opened to mediocre reviews.  Who cares?  I loved the book, especially the concept of an alien implanted in a host's body, lots of room for dramatic conflict in such a situation.  But this isn't the invasion of the pod people.  This host is very strong-willed and does not give in to the intruder.  They learn to work together and call each other sister in the end.

Shot in part in the New Orleans area, some of the film features beautiful historic settings, and areas deep in the bayou.  Much of the rest of the film was shot in the Shiprock area of the Navajo nation in New Mexico - a beautiful, spiritual setting in the desert.

It seems renegade humans are hiding from the all-powerful aliens wherever they can find sanctuary.
Wanderer is implanted in Melanie and the battle begins.  Melanie finally convinces Wanderer that she must honor her promise to her young brother and go back to him.  So Wanderer/Melanie go in search of them. 

Wanderer is not welcome among the humans, nor does she trust them.  But she is an old soul, veteran of 1,000 years of life lived in various hosts on different planets.  As she learns from the humans, they learn from her as well to a unique and satisfying conclusion.

Into the mix, there is an ambitious seeker of her people in a human host, who is relentless in her pursuit of Wanderer.  The seeker violates all of the beliefs of her peaceful species by committing acts of violence and murder.

How can the species be peaceful if they take over humans, you ask?  Simple, time-honored concept - they think they know best.  They don't intend to do harm and do not understand the harm that they inevitably do.  But in the end, some of them become enlightened by the human way of life, leaving an opening for a most interesting future.

Saoirse Ronan as Melanie/Wanderer is a beautiful young woman and a capable actor.  She works with an inner dialogue, often contentious, and always audible to the audience.  Melanie/Wanderer becomes two unforgettable characters.

Diane Kruger as The Seeker/Lacey is a memorable villain, refusing to give up the hunt when ordered by her kind to do so.  She makes a perfect counterpart to Melanie/Wanderer.

Max Irons as Jared is Melanie's longtime love interest.  He does a good job of portraying the confusion and disbelief when confronted with Melanie/Wanderer.

Jake Abel as Ian is Wanderer's love interest - yep, she has her own.  Now THAT does get a bit complicated, but is well handled in the film.

William Hurt as Melanie's Uncle Jeb adds the wisdom of a lifelong warrior to the cast.  He is one of the first to believe that Melanie is alive inside her body, along with Wanderer the alien.

Frances Fisher as Melanie's Aunt Maggie is great in her role of angry, disbelieving woman who has seen too many people that she loves be taken over by the invading aliens.

The script follows the wonderful novel very well.  The only thing I miss in the film are the descriptions of the other worlds Wanderer has visited and the type of hosts she has had.  There is some hint of it.  The individual aliens "souls" as they call themselves are beautifully depicted from the description in the novel.

The film is lovely, a couple of beautiful love stories rolled into one movie.  The colors of the production are muted but beautiful.  The desert panoramas are glorious and make me want to go back to visit New Mexico once again.

Honestly, I read all the books in the Twilight series and saw all the movies.  But The Host, novel and movie appeals to me more.

The closing credits roll to Radioactive by Imagine Dragon, the same theme music used for SyFy's great new series, Defiance.  What's not to like?

Watch the video of this one. You won't be disappointed.

And now from the sublime to the ridiculously campy - Thursday night, SyFy premiered another of their often ridiculous, often hilarious horror films about marauding monsters.  In keeping with their oft-used theme of sharks (when they're not doing crocodiles and snakes), this one was about hordes of sharks being sucked up into multiple tornadoes and dropped down on an unsuspecting populace.

I watched it and enjoyed it but did not focus on it - in other words I was reading and doing other things.  These movies don't require one's complete attention.  And remember, I'm not a big fan of gratuitous gore...

But the funniest thing of all about Sharknado is that it broke all records on Twitter with lots of folks, including famous ones, watching and tweeting about the film while it was being aired.  That makes me laugh more than the movie did...I guess watching big breasted bimbos in skimpy clothes with buff guys in peril from sharks dropping from tornadoes appeals to a bunch of us...

Wonder what the founding fathers would say about that?  Pass the popcorn?

Later, Gator...oh wait, that movie will be out next month...bless you SyFy.  From Ghost Hunters to Defiance to Face Off to the monster movies, you represent a microcosm of American entertainment.
You go SyFy!  Besides, you were the creators of my all time favorite, Battlestar Galactica.


Monday, July 8, 2013

World War Z

I did it! I went to see World War Z today.  It was a surprising zombie movie, pleasantly so, I might add.  This is not your teen-ager's zombie movie with gore and little substance.  This is also not a remake of Night of the Living Dead.

It's the story of Jerry (played by Brad Pitt), his wife, two daughters, and a young boy they picked up along the way.  It starts with the family at home in Philadelphia.  They get stuck in a monumental traffic jam and then like Independence Day, cars start blowing up ahead of them.  They don't know what's happening.  People are running in the opposite direction from the way Jerry is trying to drive.  Finally, they're involved in an accident and are on foot.  That's when they begin to see the zombies.
The family is VERY lucky to escape into a building and be taken in by a family of strangers.  You see Jerry is a former investigator with the U.N.  They call him on his handy-dandy satellite phone and ask him to come back.  He asks for asylum for his family and they agree, ultimately sending a helicopter after them.  It's not all that easy, but to tell you more would ruin the suspense for you.

Anyhow, once they are all safe on a US Navy vessel out at sea, Jerry is given information and sent to begin his research on the identity of "patient zero" the one who began the infestation.  I've seen reviews that compared this to the film Contagion, rather than your typical zombie flick.  In a way, that's right.  Pitt's character goes to south Korea, to Jerusalem, and finally to Wales.  There's some amazing footage along the way.  The zombies swarm like army ants and will keep moving even if shot, unless the head is destroyed.  There are also a couple of clues that he witnesses, which lead him to the correct conclusion.

Also he sees a hydrogen bomb blast from the airplane en route.  Actually it looks like an aerial shot of the big test on Bikini Atoll in the Pacific in the late 1940s - early 1950s.  But it's still effective.  In other words, the world is in chaos. 

But bit by bit the balance of power swings back to the living.  The movie has a good ending, or as good as it can have with the world's cities decimated.

It's a surprising film for its lack of gore and focus on the suspenseful plot rather than drooling revenants.  Oh don't get me wrong, there are plenty of zombies around, but they tend to whimper and snap their teeth periodically if denied food.  Also, and this was interesting to me as an actor, the zombies have different physical traits.  They're not all alike.  Either the director gave each actor a piece of business or allowed the actors to come up with their own.  Good job, no matter who was responsible.

There is one universal warning that should be heeded from this film.  If you're ever on an airliner, mid-flight, and the little yapping chihuahua keeps barking at the elevator door, DON'T PUSH THE BUTTON to lift the elevator.  I promise you'll regret it.  Actually I imagine the chihuahua did, too.  But that's the breed for you - bark first, think later...come to think of it, that's most dogs.  Sorry Chihuahuas, I didn't mean to do breed profiling...

Sideline - do any of you remember the hilarious comedy show on tv in the 80s, WKRP In Cincinnati?
Their newsman, Les Nessman, was a wonderful character.  He pronounced things as he wished, no matter how often or who corrected him.  He called chihuahuas - Chee/hu/a/hu/as...

Anyhow, go see World War Z in the theater if you can.  The special effects are amazing and are best viewed on the big screen...though they'll play on a tv, too, I'm sure.

This is the third movie I've gone to see in theatres since starting my blog.  You folks are changing me!  That's okay.  I went frequently in my youth.  It's only advanced middle-age that has slowed me down in theatre attendance.

Enjoy our pop culture, read, see a movie, watch tv, or listen to music - do all three at once, whatever your fancy.

Til next time...

Friday, July 5, 2013

Royal Street and River Road - Sentinels of New Orleans Series

I discovered a wonderful paranormal series called SENTINELS OF NEW ORLEANS by the talented author, Suzanne Johnson.  She has published two novels so far with the third due to come out in August.

These are great stand-alone novels.  As a series, they are outstanding.  They hold the reader's interest from beginning to end.

ROYAL STREET, the first book in the series, takes place immediately before Katrina hits New Orleans and continues in the aftermath.  A longtime resident of New Orleans, Ms. Johnson eloquently describes the destruction and the hardships the citizens suffered, even in areas that did not flood.  She quotes news stories from the Times-Picayune to begin each chapter.  The quotes move the readers through the transition of recovery, again making it real for those of us who were not there.  The story is a lively introduction to the series where we meet Drusilla Jaco (DJ), junior wizard.  She maneuvers through the story frequently in peril, often confused as she operates without the guidance of her mentor Gerald St. John who has gone missing in the storm's aftermath.

Filled with vivid characters, who are believable, even with their preternatural status, they entertain the reader.  You will relate to these beings.  Some of them will attract you.  Some of them will frighten you.  All of them you will remember.  It's a great read, filled with fun, spiced with danger from the storm, and the beings that are unleashed. 

ROYAL STREET (Sentinels of New Orleans #1)

As the junior wizard sentinel for New Orleans, Drusilla Jaco’s job involves a lot more potion-mixing and pixie-retrieval than sniffing out supernatural bad guys like rogue vampires and lethal were-creatures. DJ's boss and mentor, Gerald St. Simon, is the wizard tasked with protecting the city from anyone or anything that might slip over from the preternatural beyond.
Then Hurricane Katrina hammers New Orleans’ fragile levees, unleashing more than just dangerous flood waters.

While winds howled and Lake Pontchartrain surged, the borders between the modern city and the Otherworld crumbled. Now, the undead and the restless are roaming the Big Easy, and a serial killer with ties to voodoo is murdering the soldiers sent to help the city recover.
To make it worse, Gerry has gone missing, the wizards’ Elders have assigned a grenade-toting assassin as DJ’s new partner, and undead pirate Jean Lafitte wants to make her walk his plank. The search for Gerry and for the serial killer turns personal when DJ learns the hard way that loyalty requires sacrifice, allies come from the unlikeliest places, and duty mixed with love creates one bitter roux.

Buy Links for Royal Street...The ebook for Royal Street is on sale for $2.99 (in all formats) through August 9.

Barnes and Noble:
Book Depository:

Books a Million:

RIVER ROAD is the second novel in the SENTINELS OF NEW ORLEANS Series.  This novel begins three years after the first one.  Life has gone on, though DJ is still dealing with the remains of Katrina's damage.  It seems the storm opened breaks in between New Orleans and the Beyond.  Lots of inhabitants of the latter are still slipping back into the mortal world and wreaking havoc, especially for the wizard sentinel of New Orleans and her partner, Alex Warin.  There's the ever present conundrum of the undead Jean Lafitte.  What exactly does he want?  One thing is certain, an undead pirate is still a pirate and cannot always be trusted.
Into the mix of this wonderful story come mermen, nymphs, and elves.  Someone is poisoning the Mississippi, intent on killing humans, as well as any preternaturals who come into contact with the water.
Not only does DJ have this mystery on her hands, but someone is killing wizards.  Plus, she is attracted to Jake Warin, Alex's cousin, as well as Alex himself.  And did I mention she had a dinner date with Jean Lafitte?
Like its predecessor in the series, RIVER ROAD is an engrossing, entertaining read.  It will leave you anxious for the third novel ELYSIAN FIELDS.
Enjoy these terrific books.  They make great summertime reads!

RIVER ROAD (Sentinels of New Orleans #2)

River Road by Suzanne Johnson is the fun, fast-paced second book in the Sentinels of New Orleans, a series of urban fantasy novels filled with wizards, mermen and pirates. These novels are perfect for readers of paranormal fiction and “fans of Charlaine Harris and Cat Adams” (Booklist) and RT Book Reviews agrees that “for readers missing Sookie Stackhouse, this series may be right up your alley.”
Hurricane Katrina is long gone, but the preternatural storm rages on in New Orleans. New species from the Beyond moved into Louisiana after the hurricane destroyed the borders between worlds, and it falls to wizard sentinel Drusilla Jaco and her partner, Alex Warin, to keep the preternaturals peaceful and the humans unaware. But a war is brewing between two clans of Cajun merpeople in Plaquemines Parish, and down in the swamp, DJ learns, there’s more stirring than angry mermen and the threat of a were-gator.

Wizards are dying, and someone—or something—from the Beyond is poisoning the waters of the mighty Mississippi, threatening the humans who live and work along the river. DJ and Alex must figure out what unearthly source is contaminating the water and who—or what—is killing the wizards. Is it a malcontented merman, the naughty nymph, or some other critter altogether? After all, DJ’s undead suitor, the pirate Jean Lafitte, knows his way around a body or two.

It’s anything but smooth sailing on the bayou as the Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series continues.

Buy Links for River Road...

Barnes and Noble:

Book Depository
Books a Million:

Enjoy these well-written novels.  They will take you on a wild and wonderful journey.

Until next time...