Saturday, November 30, 2013

The World's End

Obviously from some of my posts, I am an anglophile - translated I like British entertainment, especially the humor.  This stems from my checkered days in college where I got to watch what I wanted, instead of my parents' choices.  I discovered such wonderful things as Masterpiece Theatre and my personal favorite, Monty Python's Flying Circus.  I was warped for life!

I watch Monty Python whenever I get the chance, as well as Keeping Up Appearances - the saga of Hyacinth Bucket (no, it's Bouquet!!!)  These shows make me laugh, always a good thing.

Though I came late to the party, I've discovered the writing team of Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright.  They have given us such irreverent films as Paul, Hot Fuzz, and my personal favorite - Shaun of the Dead.  What hoots these films are!

And, of course, the fact that Simon Pegg plays Montgomery Scott in the Abrams Star Trek franchise delights me as well. He makes a wonderful Scotty.

I recently watched The World's End, which is the latest collaboration from this talented team.  Like all of their films, there are some surprises in this one.  Simon Pegg and Nick Frost play friends since childhood.  Nick Frost usually plays the more outlandish of the pair with Simon Pegg the more conventional one.  Those roles are reversed in The World's End.  Simon Pegg makes a surprisingly good slacker/bad boy who never grew up.  Nick Frost makes a surprisingly good conservative business man who doesn't even want to see his old friend in the beginning.

This one is the story of a group of friends who, at Pegg's insistence, recreate their historic pub crawl in their home town for one last chance to finish it.  You see there are eleven pubs (public houses - bars) in the small town from whence they came.  When they were graduating from school, they tried to make all of them in one night, but they failed.  They never made it to the last pub on the list - The World's End.

One by one the friends are coerced from their conventional adult lives to join Pegg's character on one last fling.  Do they make it?  I'm not telling.

I will say they encounter some adventures on the way.  It is a life changing experience for them all, some more so than others.

There is a quirky take on the term "blue blood" which feels like a slam at British aristocracy, in the most comic way possible.

The climax is a big surprise.  The last pub is aptly named.

This is howlingly funny in places.  I guffawed while watching it.  There are a few serious bits, but that balances out the story.

The World's End is now out on video and pay-per-view for cable subscribers.  In my opinion it is much funnier than the recent comic version of the apocalypse.

If you haven't seen their other films and like to laugh, you should rent them.  Hot Fuzz is the story of a small town police force and the London officer who is transferred into their midst.  It has some hysterical moments....Yarp!  The straight-laced London officer gets corrupted by action films and becomes a super cop.

Paul is a must see for any Sci-Fi fan.  It's about two fans who go to World Con and meet a real alien, who is a trash-talking cigarette smoking little guy (with the voice of Seth Rogan.)  Look for Signourey Weaver in an offbeat role for her.  Great cast in this one.

Finally, if you haven't seen Shaun of the Dead, you're missing a treasure.  Of course there are zombies (don't say the Zed word!) galore.  There is some gore but trust me, it is funny.  As I mentioned, it's my favorite piece of all of these good films.  You won't catch everything in one watching.

Enjoy these wonderful films.  You'll have a great time and lots of laughs.

Oh by the way, we wave goodbye to the 2013 hurricane season today!  Yeaaaaaaaaayyy!  That's important to people in Florida.

Until next time...

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Adventures in Time and Space

The wildly popular BBC series "Doctor Who" had the misfortune to debut on the same day John F. Kennedy was killed.  Very few people watched the original airing as the British people were glued to the news just like we Yanks.

So it's no coincidence that "Doctor Who" celebrated its fiftieth anniversary at the same time we commemorated JFK's assassination fifty years later.

Fortunately for generations of fans, the BBC decided to rerun the first episode, gathering fans, until it became the phenomenon we know today.

Adventures in Time and Space is a movie produced by the BBC and shown on their network, as well as BBC America.  Written by Mark Gatiss, who has penned several episode scripts for the series, it is funny, yet surprisingly poignant.

Brian Cox (Red, Red2, among many other roles) plays Sidney Newman, a brash Canadian hired by the BBC to update their image and the quality of their presentations.

Jessie Raine plays Verity Lambert, Sidney's former assistant, whom he hires to be the producer for this new "children's program" he's decided to add to the line-up.  A woman producer was not the norm in those days and Ms. Lambert had her own battles to fight.

Sacha Dhawan plays Waris Hussein, a Indian misfit among the all-English staff.

David Lambert (Filch in the Harry Potter series, and the sexual offender driven to suicide in Broadchurch) plays William Hartnell, the irascible older actor who originated the role of the Doctor.
While this cast works very well together as a true ensemble, it is Lambert's show.  He gives a measured performance going from angry curmudgeon to bewildered victim of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries.)  And the hardest part to take is that Hartnell begins to enjoy his fame as the Doctor.  He grows comfortable in the role and even likes teasing young fans in the park.  He tells them to run because the Daleks are coming.  They run away screaming, "Exterminate, exterminate" with their best Dalek imitations, to the delighted laughter of Hartnell. He loves playing the role he was so reluctant originally to accept.

The point of the script is that four misfits, Sidney, Verity, Warris, and Hartnell came together with an "impossible" concept according to the administrators at the BBC and made a magical show that has endured.  They bucked the considerably hide-bound system and won.  Doctor Who has an enormous fan base, all over the world, called Whovians.  (Sounds sort of like Trekkers, don't you think?)

After several years of success, one by one the originators leave the show.  Hartnell is the last to leave and he does so unwillingly.  He has been having serious problems with his lines due to his disease.  He cannot remember the correct words, says outrageous things, and is quick to fly into a rage.

Finally, the role is recast and he is informed.  He takes it very well, a true English gentleman.  But he has one more episode to film where the Doctor will be regenerated into someone else - something they have used throughout the series to recast the role.  Hartnell begins his lines and loses them as he looks around the set of his beloved TARDIS.  A young man appears to him, smiles and nods.  It is Matt Smith, the eleventh actor to play the Doctor.  Hartnell leaves knowing his character will continue.

I am a fan of Doctor Who.  My favorite actor in the part was David Tennant, the tenth actor to play the role.

But I'd be willing to bet even the most hardened cynic would be moved by Bradley's performance.  He's got the part down.  I cried as I recognized the elderly man dealing with confusion and fright.

This film is a fitting tribute to the series, to Hartnell, and the others who have come later to the role.

It's another wonderful job by the BBC.  Oh, and by the way, Doctor number twelve will be introduced next month.  I for one am looking forward to it.

Don't miss this film if you like Doctor Who.  You won't be disappointed.

Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

Enjoy a good movie, a book, some music, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, football, whatever strikes your fancy.

Friday, November 22, 2013

November 22, 1963

I remember it all in black and white, because that's the way we saw our television broadcasts in 1963.  There is one exception to the memory - Jackie Kennedy's beautiful pink Chanel suit.  Somehow that is the one spot of color on an otherwise stark day.  It wasn't until many years later that the color film shot by Abraham Zapruder was released to the public and we could see the assassination "in living color."

I was fourteen years old, in junior high, as we called it in those days.  We had just gone to our home room after lunch.  The home room teacher was one of the young football coaches, always joking and irreverent.  I remember he walked slowly into the room, his face stunned.  He told us someone had shot the president in downtown Dallas.  With the usual teen-aged attitude, we didn't believe him.  "Yeah, right...good one, Coach Douglas..."  But then he persisted and I noticed his face was ashen, a funny grey, leached of flesh tone.  Gradually, we accepted what he said.  The principal put the sound of the television broadcast on the loudspeaker system.  We sat and listened.

The bell rang and we got up to go to our next class.  It was English and was taught by my favorite teacher.  I sat right in front of his desk.  We hadn't been in there long when Walter Cronkite's voice came on the loudspeaker and announced that President Kennedy was dead and then swallowed a sob.  I remember I began to cry.  One of the boys sitting beside me reached out and awkwardly patted my shoulder.  The teacher held my hand for a moment, fighting his own grief.  Other than the soft crying from some of the girls, the classroom was quiet.  None of us had words.

I don't remember much of the rest of the day.  We stayed in school that afternoon until the bell rang.  I don't remember how I got home.  What I do remember is the silence...not only was our president murdered, he was killed in our home.  The sense of shame and guilt began to build, an awful burden for an adolescent.

Later on, I learned my mother had been having her own adventure.  My older brother was getting married in one week.  We were going to Atlanta for the ceremony.  I was to be a bridesmaid.  Mom had a busy day planned.  She had taken our white satin pumps to a specialty shoe store to be dyed to match our dresses.  So she went blithely off to get her errands accomplished.  She didn't listen to the radio while she drove, so she didn't know what happened.  I can hardly believe it, but she went to several of the fancy stores and didn't learn about the president.  The last errand she had was the shoe store, which happened to be across town, in the Oak Cliff section, on Jefferson street.  It was across the street and down the block from the Texas theater...

My mother, a small, somewhat shy woman, witnessed history.  She saw them capture Lee Harvey Oswald and watched them take him away.  In fact, it was the manager of the shoe store who saw him sneak into the theater and told the management who called the police.  Only then did my mom learn what had happened.

That night and for days to come, all that was on television was news.  It was like what happened on 9/11.  In 1963, we had the major networks and that was about it.

The following Sunday morning, we were getting ready for church and saw Jack Ruby shoot Oswald on live television.  The shame and guilt grew even greater as the television commentators blamed the Dallas Police for Ruby's deed.  There was even an issue of Mad magazine that came out the next month that had a cover about it.  Alfred E. Newman was shown saying "Don't worry, Lee.  The Dallas Police will protect you..."

That Monday schools were closed all over the country.  We watched JFK's funeral services.  I remember Jackie Kennedy, her eyes puffy but dry, walking in the procession at its head.  I knew then that I was looking at courage personified.  She grew in my estimation and stayed there, no matter what her life choices were later.  She had the guts to make those choices.

We left to drive to Atlanta.  Though we knew feelings in the country were high against Dallas and her people, we didn't give it much thought.  We stopped for gas in Alabama.  In those days, they pumped it for you.  Dad got out of the car to stretch his legs.  The attendant came up to him and noticed the Texas plate.  He asked Dad where we came from and Dad said "Dallas."  He refused to sell us any gas and ordered us out of his station.

On the day of the wedding I went to a beauty salon to have my hair done.  Busy with the preparations, my mom dropped me off.  The beautician talked to me while she worked on my hair.  We talked about the wedding.  She asked where we were from and like an idiot I said Dallas.  I am not exaggerating, every woman in that shop, customers and staff alike circled around me and peppered me with questions.  I tried to explain to them that I was in school the day it happened but they didn't listen.

It was a traumatic experience as a young teen-ager, but as an adult, I understand they needed someone to blame for the unimaginable, to explain the unexplainable.

I carried that guilt around for years afterward, like a stone in the middle of my chest.  There must have been something we as a city did to allow such a thing to happen there...Now I know it was happenstance or fate who put JFK in the path of the insignificant little sniper, nothing to do with us. 

That being said, while I do finally believe Oswald was the shooter, I don't know the real reason, the how or the why.  I also don't know Ruby's true motives.  There has been too much corroborated evidence of the mob wanting JFK dead.  Unless we know the real reasons, there will always be doubt, unhealed pain of not knowing.

The facts remain that JFK was the hope for all of us.  He was perceived to be just that.  He was young, vital, handsome, a hero in World War II.  He had saved us all from nuclear war.  He had great plans for the country to end poverty and prejudice.  We were all looking forward to the future, then his plans were aborted with gunshots from the Texas Schoolbook Depository.

Lyndon Johnson got most of JFK's legislative agenda through.  Equal rights for African Americans became the law of the land, though the opponents have not gone quietly.  Thank you, JFK, for the dream of equal rights, Medicare, and work programs for the poor.  Thank you, LBJ, for getting them implemented.

At that time in my life, I still had all my relatives and grandparents.  Nobody had died in the family during my lifetime.  The assassination was a loss of innocence for me, the beginning of a cynicism that grew with the events of the rest of the sixties...

Jackie Kennedy's comments about Camelot and her husband's presidency were right on the money.  It was a time of dreams, of youth, beauty, culture, and most of all hope.  And though I wish it otherwise, such a time will never come again.  Our innocence as a nation has been forever lost.

"Don't let it be forgot, that once there was a spot for happily ever aftering, that was known as Camelot."

Rest in peace.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Man of Steel

In all my pre-move running around, I finally got to sit down and watch a movie.  I saw the lavish, big-budget production "Man of Steel", the latest installment in the Superman saga.

I watched the old Superman tv series, "It's a bird! It's a plane! It's SUPERMAN!!!!!!!!!!!"  I think I was about six when it first came on the air and like any good couch potato child of my generation I watched it and loved it.  Although I have to say even then I thought Superman's suit was dopey looking.  I mean it was in the pre-polyester days and looked to be made of cotton jersey, ill-fitting, uncomfortable, and probably made poor George Reeves perspire.

Then there was the 70s film versions with heart-throb Christopher Reeve.  He was gorgeous.  Of course I can't watch that series of films anymore knowing what his eventual fate would be.  It is just too painful now.  I've seen billboards in the last couple of years featuring him in his wheelchair and headlined "Super Man."  He truly was an inspiration.

Then there was another film, "The Return of Superman" which hovers at the edge of my aging brain.  I saw it in the theater, no less.  But I don't remember when it came out.  The actor was a one-shot Superman, but also very handsome, as I remember.  Of course that one had the addition of Lois Lane and her son...that was a grown-up version of the franchise.  They didn't make any more films in that incarnation.

And now we come to the extravaganza version of Superman, with all the bells and whistles (amazing special effects) of the world of CGI.  Henry Cavill is truly beautiful as Kalel, aka Clark Kent.  He does things to that spandex suit that make my old girl's heart go pitter pat...(and no, I'm not comparing myself to Aunt Pittypat in Gone With the Wind...I'm not that far gone yet!)

Henry Cavill has a physique that reminds me of Joe Manganiello of "True Blood" and "Magic Mike" fame.  I know there are probably a few hundred guys built like that around the LA area, but I rarely see anybody who looks that way.  I had to watch the movie twice because I got a tad distracted...

Amy Adams is one of my favorite actresses these days.  She is so versatile, turning in wonderful performances in such diverse films as "The Muppets" and "The Fighter."  She was magnificent in "Doubt" as a young nun confronted with a complex situation.  She makes a beautiful but plucky Lois Lane.  And unlike poor Margot Kidder's Lois Lane, Amy's is in on the secret.  She knows who Clark Kent is, she's met his mom, for heaven's sake!

Michael Shannon makes a wonderful General Zod from Krypton, the part played by the great Terence Stamp in the 70s films.  Shannon is one of those actors who sneak up on you.  He is terrific at characterization.  Currently, he is appearing on "Boardwalk Empire" as a man, horribly repressed, and steeped in contradictions.  You know he's going to blow any minute.  He's already leaking out a bit of steam.  And then there was the indie film "Take Shelter" with Jessica Chastain.  If you haven't caught that one on cable and like sci-fi/cerebral horror films, check it out.  His performance is amazing in that one.  You'll remember the ending for a long time to come.

Russell Crowe plays Jorel, Kalel's Krypton father.  His role is much better written than Marlon Brando's was in the first series of films.  Crowe's Jorel is a man of passion and purpose, even his artificial intelligence left to teach and protect his son.

Kevin Costner has a brief but important part as Jonathan Kent who finds the infant Kalel, adopts him and names him Clark.  He dies a noble death of sacrifice.

Diane Lane plays Martha Kent, Clark's mom.  When I first saw her in the film, she was artificially aged for the role.  I thought she better run home and apply some of the anti-aging products she sells on tv.  But she is shown as a younger woman later on in the film.  Whew.  I was afraid she really looked like the older version...but she gives a good performance.

I was happy to see Chris Meloni previously from "Law & Order: SVU" and "True Blood" in the film.  He is such a commanding presence onscreen, he's always a pleasure to watch.

Lastly, but certainly not the least, we come to the biggest stars of the film, and I do mean biggest - the special effects.  The final battle between Kalel and Zod rips up Metropolis and leaves it a huge pile of rubble.

The fight goes on awhile, but doesn't drag on because the special effects are so amazing.

This film is well worth viewing.  It's fast-paced, exciting, and filled with attractive people.  Plus, it is true to the Superman legend.  What's not to like?

Lastly, please forgive me for not mentioning the series "Smallville."  But I never really saw it.  I've seen snippets on early morning TNT, when I've been half asleep.

Some exciting news for me...I am planning to start a second blog of free reads.  It was suggested by one of my writing buds.  I will post original short works of fiction that I wrote.  However, I probably won't be doing that until after the holidays.  So stay tuned.

I'll be thinking while I'm packing...

Take care.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Windwalker by Dinah McCall

Windwalker by the imaginative Dinah McCall is an amazing novel.  In the beginning we meet teacher Layla Birdsong, who is attending an education conference in Chicago.  Late one night, she takes a wrong turn on the mean streets and is attacked by a vicious gang of men, intent on robbery, rape, and murder.  As they begin to carry out their plans for her, she fights back, stabbing one attacker.  Then a whirlwind appears in the alley and morphs into the shape of a warrior, a Native American warrior.

The next thing she knows, she is in her hotel room, naked and bleeding.  She remembers something out of a vision, but is very confused.  The warrior appears before her and tells her she is now a red feather warrior.  She remembers her father telling her that meant she had killed an enemy in battle.  The warrior tells her people will come for her, wanting her help.  He tells her his name is Niyol.  Before the warrior disappears he tells her she is his and that he will return.

The police find the dead men and Layla's purse with her identification.  They are also blown away by the footage from a nearby security camera.  The police come to her hotel room and rush her immediately to the hospital.  There her journey begins to get truly interesting.  She is beset by those that want her to succeed and those that do not.

This is a tale of ancient prophecy of the last days of planet Earth, of the quest to find the way to safety, of an ancient promised fulfilled, and a couple reunited.

Ms. McCall has written a rich story filled with spiritual dreaming.  It is a fascinating tale that will keep the reader turning the page, rushing to know the conclusion.

Published in 2012, it is the first book in the Prophecy series by Ms. McCall.

For all fans of the paranormal, of Native American stories, of suspense, and characters who battle forward through deep adversity, you will love this book.

It took second place in the 2013 Heart of Excellence Readers' Choice Awards for the Paranormal category.

This is a terrific read.  Enjoy!  (Isn't the cover gorgeous?)


Forever Lovers - Forever Lost

Singing Bird: Died in a world just beginning.

Layla Birdsong: Reincarnated as it is coming to an end.

The Danger: A meteor called Firewalker on a collision course with Earth.

Her Mission: Take what's left of the Native American race back to their beginning.

Her Hope:  To change the past and the future will change with it.

Cayetano: From ancient Mayan to Windwalker, an all powerful and angry spirit trapped in eternal punishment for his earthly sins.

His Only Hope: Singing Bird offering up her spirit to undo his curse.

The Risk:  Firewalker - If it comes too soon, before what's left of their people get through the portal, her sacrifice will have been in vain.

Links to purchase:


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

O the insecurity of apartment living!

Picture it...(sorry, Sophia)...Florida're minding your own business in your nice apartment.  You have a much beloved patio garden that you tend.  That's such a zen thing to do, calms me down when things get tough.

Anyhow, suddenly, there are strangers roaming the property looking at the buildings and taking notes.  What's going on?  You wonder, but mind your business and go watch a movie.

Then one day, there's a letter on your door.  The property has been sold to the same LLC that bought the property next door.  Now you get mildly alarmed.  The property next door has been undergoing a serious make-over.  You drive by their signs daily proclaiming "granite countertops!" "New Appliances!"  "Laminate Flooring!"  And you feel the four horsemen galloping inexorably your way...

Sure enough, soon you're getting emails from the new management company.  They're going to repair the buildings, put up, you guessed it - granite countertops, new appliances, laminate flooring yadayadayada...

So you wonder, how in the heck am I going to live through a construction zone?  Will they actually rip out the tile and the carpeting with me in the apt?  And how will my Tzus react?  I can see them needing canine shrinks to talk them through their stress...they're far too old to chew the carpet or anything else.

Then the hammer falls.  You are notified that they won't renew your lease when it's time in a couple of months.  You won't be able to remain in your current unit...

The fact that the workmen are already here replacing rotted wood in the trim and filling up our cul-de-sac with a giant dumpster makes it very real.  The hammer is falling, literally and metaphorically.

Now my mind goes into crisis mode...after years of working for the government, putting out everything from smoking embers to enormous blazes of out of control situations, it just goes into that mode automatically.  It's purely a survival instinct.

Sideline - I could have told the Feds there would be major difficulties in rolling out the Affordable Care Act - I've never seen a government program yet that rolled out on time and without blips.  One program in the state where I worked took five years to fix before it worked correctly.  Of course I'm talking about programs that involve major work with computers...makes you think, doesn't it?

Back to the crisis - I have an appointment with the manager tomorrow morning to discuss my options, all of which involve my least favorite thing in the world, packing up my pack-rat existence and moving and having to unpack at the new place.  As a friend suggested, I'd rather have a root canal - MUCH RATHER.

There are benefits to all of this.  The apartment complex next door is an option, and it's very nice now.  Much of my garden won't have a home there, but I'm working on finding good homes for some of the plants.

If I move over there, I doubt I'll be doing battle with Godzilla's spider relatives - I had one hide in my closet for three days.  Every so often I opened the door suddenly, broom in hand, but the bugger would inevitably be on to that ploy and hide.  Finally one night, about 2am the spider came out of the closet. (Okay, stop the laughing!) I left the lights on so I could monitor the culprit.  I chased him down telling him if he had let me catch him previously, I'd have caught him in a jar and put him outside.  His demise was his own fault.  Defiant to the end, he met his death as the broom descended, on his eight legs, steadily watching it come to get him...When it was over, I scooped him up in the jar and consigned him to a watery grave.  Since then I have been paranoid when I open my bedroom closet, wary of arachnids...The one I killed was almost the size of my fist with its legs included...and they say everything is bigger in Texas!

And then there was the snake that slithered in one evening when I opened the front door...maybe the new place won't be so bad, after all.  Of course they've got several retention ponds on the property which sometimes invite gators to come and stay awhile...

I may not be putting up as many posts for the next couple of months.  Just imagine me with giant garbage bags, filling them with kitchen stuff (I don't need a lot of pots and pans because I rarely cook anymore.)  Then there will be bags of paper to shred...more things for Goodwill...before I finally get to packing.

Everybody take care...I've got a review to post later this week on a great book entitled Windwalker by the terrific author, Dinah McCall...the cover is to die for, girls!

Take care.

Now, where did I put the number to 1-800-Got Junk?