Friday, June 28, 2013

Redemption - All roads don't lead to salvation.

I just watched a first run movie called "Redemption."  It has nothing to do with zombies, or sci-fi, or high octane special effects.  So it's a bit different than my usual movie fare. 

"Redemption" is a British film, starring Jason Statham and Polish actress Agata Buzek. Statham plays Joey Jones, a special forces team member for the British army in Afghanistan.  In the beginning of the film, his team is ambushed, and are all killed except him.  He goes on a killing spree to exact retribution.  When it is over, he goes AWOL and makes his way back to London.

He is suffering from PTSD with nightmares of the attack and his mates all dying.  He sees swarms of hummingbirds flying around, which represent the ever-present drones above the battlefield.  Eventually, he is found living on the street, frequently drunk and the target of criminals who prey on the homeless.  He has one friend, a girl named Isobel.

One night they are attacked with some other homeless people.  He stays and gets beaten badly so that Isobel can flee the scene. He fights back and manages to get away.  He finds his way to a penthouse and makes himself at home.  He cleans up, sobers up, lies to the neighbors when he finds the man who lives in the penthouse is gone for several months.

He goes to a mission where the homeless can get a hot evening meal.  The nun who runs the soup kitchen knows him.  He asks her for medicine which she finally gives him when convinced he cannot go to a hospital due to his AWOL status.

The rest of the film which I won't spoil for you, is about him getting sober and finding work.  The job he takes is as an enforcer for a Chinese mob boss.  He does some awful things but makes loads of money which he shares with the mission and others, all the while, having flashbacks to the ambush in Afghanistan.  He becomes again the formidable man he once was, despite the PTSD.

His relationship with Sister Christina grows.  He learns her own story of abuse and redemption.  They become a bit too close.

In the end, he does one final act of revenge for the death of a friend.  Sister Christina heads to a mission in Africa to live out her life there ministering to the starving populace. 

After helping others with the money he made, Joey disappears once again in the drunken world of the homeless.  It ends with the London police tracking him on their security cameras.  He's wanted for murder.

This description of the film sounds dour.  But it in reality it is a poetic drama about two damaged people who come together and find a moment's happiness until they part to continue their penance.

Beautifully acted and directed, this is an affecting film for adults.  Originally entitled Hummingbird, there are no big budget special effects, or fantasy, no suspension of belief needed.  The damp streets of London serve as a perfect background for the drama.  There are some lovely moments but even those are evocative of sadness.

It isn't for everybody or every mood.  But on this evening, it's perfect for my mood.  Bravo, Mr. Statham for a job well done.

Until next time, with more movie reviews (yes, there'll be zombies, and an endangered White House reviewed in the next week or so...) take care.  Escape the heat and keep cool.  Go to a movie.

Monday, June 24, 2013


Hi everybody!

I'm sorry I haven't posted much lately.  But the truth is, I am in the middle of an intensive online writing workshop with LOTS of homework.  Of course I would be working on two different novels and using them both for the homework.

For the True Blood fans out there - FINALLY, in episode 2, there is some semblance to a plotline from one of Charlaine Harris' wonderful books.  Glad to see you Niall!  After the first episode, they had me worried. 

And what's up with Falling Skies?  Now, that's what I call a cliff-hanger ending to this week's episode!

I'll get back to you when the homework for this workshop is all done, probably later in the week.

Until then, just picture me hunched over my computer, my glasses reflecting the screen, as I write furiously!

Eventually I plan to get to the theater to see World War Z, but you know, homework comes first...

Enjoy your favorite bits of pop culture.

Later, Gators...

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Warm Bodies - A Zombie Love Story

I don't know why zombies are so popular these days, from television to books to movies, the shuffling dead are all over pop culture.  Some of the representations are gross, gory things, scary, fully grown horror stories.  Some are a bit different.  I already posted about the BBC's mini-series called "In The Flesh" and mentioned the hilarious film "Shaun of the Dead" in the same post.

Yesterday for some reason, I decided to watch "Warm Bodies" newly out on video.  It's based on the novel by Isaac Marion.  It is billed as a zombie love story.  Surprisingly, that's exactly what it is.

It the world of the story, zombies are bent on killing the last surviving humans.  The zombie numbers grow while the human numbers diminish.  When the zombies waste away to skeletons, they are vicious predators, somehow faster than their stumbling counterparts.

The humans are safely behind a huge constructed wall in an urban area.  Their soldiers, led by the General Grigio, played by John Malkovich, patrol the wall 24/7.  Because food is scarce, they send out trained young people to forage and bring back supplies.  One of these is Julie, the daughter of General Grigio. 

On one trip outside the walls, the team gets surrounded.  Her boyfriend, a headstrong young man, gets killed.  One particular zombie, eats his brain and gets his memories.  He becomes very protective of  Julie, intent on keeping her safe.  He cannot remember his name, indeed can barely growl in the beginning.  But he remembers his name began with the letter R, so that's what he's called.

The love story develops between the two main characters.  The more R loves Julie, the more human, the more transformed he becomes.  And the oddest thing happens, it's contagious.  Other zombies begin transforming as well.

Of course the General is having none of that, but ultimately listens to his daughter's pleas when R saves her once again.

This really is an entertaining film, told from the zombie's point of view with all his problems in the thinking process and issues with his motor skills.

This is a modern take on Romeo and Juliet, complete with the balcony scene.  It is a sweet story of young love with a better ending than its predecessor.

Notable as R is Nicholas Hoult, who goes from pasty-faced stumbling zombie, to a very attractive young man.  Teresa Palmer as Julie makes a wonderful counterpart to R.  It is a believable situation as played by these two young actors.

Malkovich is his usual credible self in the role of the unforgiving General who relents in the end for the sake of his daughter.  Rob Corddry plays Marcus, R's zombie friend who improves as fast as R.

The film ends with the new world and the transforming zombies reentering human society with some comic results.

I really enjoyed this film and found it highly entertaining.  It's a perfect entry for Father's Day because the father's love for his daughter changed the course of the world.

Okay, tonight, be doo doo doo doo doo (twanging guitar) is the opening of season 6 of "True Blood!"  Get ready for them all to invade your homes once more...

And on a personal note, thank you to everyone for giving my blog over 3,000 views.  It is much appreciated!!  I considered singing the song from "Sunset Blvd" as Norma Desmond sings to her fans out there...but I thought I'd spare you.

Take care.  Enjoy your day, your dad, and our pop culture!  And remember, the grandaddy of all zombie flicks opens next Friday, "World War Z" with Brad Pitt and a star-studded cast.

Monday, June 10, 2013

A few words about - Heart of Excellence - In the Flesh - Game of Thrones

Well, today is going to be an eclectic post.  First things first, as I have previously posted, the Ancient City Romance Authors chapter of Romance Writers of America, is holding its annual contest for published writers.

For an informative interview of award-winning author Elizabeth Sinclair about the Heart of Excellence, please go to the wonderful blog of Skye Taylor (also a published author) by clicking on the link below:

"In the Flesh" - for those of you familiar with BBC America, you know the quality of their series, everything from the wonderful "Doctor Who" to "Copper", "Luther"(both soon to return), and "The Hour" which was a hit in the US but not renewed.

This past weekend, BBC America ran a three part series called "In the Flesh."  It was following the current zombie craze, popular world-wide these days.  But this series was a bit different.  The people are called sufferers of "Partially Deceased Syndrome" officially and "rotters" by those who oppose allowing them to come back home.  Those suffering from PDS are rounded up by the government and taken to rehab facilities where they are medicated, given a bit of therapy, and taught to use mousse make-up and contact lenses to make them look normal.  They can walk and talk and think and laugh when properly controlled.  Families get their relatives back from the dead.

Of course the people who formed militias to hunt down the zombies when they returned initially, are not happy about having these "rotters" back in their midst.  The story centers around a young man with PDS who has horrendous memories of his time as a zombie.  While there is some gory imagery in this series, it is very minimal.  Otherwise I would not have watched it.  As it was, I watched it with the tv remote close at hand in case I had to flip the channel quickly.  Yeah, I know I'm a chicken sometimes...

"In the Flesh" was fascinating.  The young man, Kieran, had killed himself, then risen from the grave as a ravenous zombie.  Given to depression, his PDS and memories of his activities haunted him.  His sister had joined a militia group and had blown away the affected.  Happy homecoming, huh?  He didn't want to stay but had nowhere else to go.

Then his closest and dearest friend, also suffering from PDS, a war casualty, returned to town.  Matters were exacerbated.  His father was the leader of the militia and expected his son to be the same.  Needless to say it led to conflict, big time.

"In the Flesh" will likely be repeated.  It is available on demand from most cable companies that carry BBC America.  Check it out, it's a different take on zombies.

Of course, I have to say one of my favorite zombie flicks is "Shaun of the Dead" starring Simon Pegg, aka Montgomery Scott in Abrams' Star Trek series.  What a hoot that movie is!  The same production team is coming out with another one later this year.  I'm looking forward to it.

Then, too, there is "World War Z" coming out this month starring Brad Pitt and a huge cast, brought to us by the team who did "Independence Day" among others.

Okay, on to the finale of "Game of Thrones" - well, I'm glad no other character I liked was massacred, although Jon Snow came pretty close at the hands of the woman he loved.  Why did she keep shooting him with arrows?  Didn't want him to go?  Just in a fit of pique? "I'll make you sorry?" Whatever it was, it was too much.  Glad he made it back to Castle Black and theWatch where they can take care of him.

Arya has taken up the gauntlet and begun the revenge for her murdered family members.  She's a pretty efficient little killer.

I'm glad, I guess, that Jamie Lanister made it home.  Don't know what will become of him or his lady companion. 

Tyrion and Sansa seem to be getting along all right, but I worry for her safety in such a family.  Wonder what they'd do if they knew Arya is alive and determined? Or that Bran is becoming a powerful being?

Maybe the Nightwalkers will come after them.  At least Joffrey, please?!!!!  Put us all out of our misery and whack that bozo!

My usual complaint was true last night, too - there was too little of Dany and her dragons.  BUT, and it's a big one, the final scene with all the freed slaves filling the scope of the scene and calling her Mhysa (Mother) as her dragons flew overhead was another memorable one.  I like the one where the dragons hatched better, but this one was good, too.  Those dragons, which I thought were all CGI, are puppets.  They look amazing.  I imagine some of their movements are computer enhanced.

So now we have to wait a year to find out what will happen.  Sigh...

Oh well, next week "True Blood" returns and from the trailers, it looks to be a good season.  At least Bill is no longer the blood monster he was at the end of last season.  Maybe he was just worried during filming that season because his real-life wife who plays Sookie, was pregnant with twins...She does look very different in the trailers for this season.

I've been going around twanging - "I want to do bad things with you..." that's the theme music for "True Blood."  I'm ready for my vamps, werewolves, shifters, and all manner of supes.  Come on home, folks!

In the meantime, enjoy our pop culture in whatever forms you fancy!  There's a lot out there from which to choose.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A Good Day to Die Hard

Love that John McClane!  He's got the hardest head in movies since Rocky Balboa.  What's not to like?  He's the archetypal American "cowboy" - fiercely independent, always plowing ahead into danger with no thought but to get the bad guys.  You know he'll come out victorious in the end, scarred from battle and in need of medical attention.

Besides the villains he fights are always really bad guys!  In this latest installment of the franchise, his son is missing in Russia.  So John goes off to find him, estranged though they may be. He runs afoul of conniving criminals bent on stealing weapons-grade uranium from the ruins of Chernobyl. Of course that's a frightening prospect.

John finds his son, played by Jai Courtney, looking like a younger version of his dad.  Jr. is NOT glad to see him.  In fact the first half of the movie, Jr. is making concerted efforts to get away from John.
But they join forces ultimately and Jr. learns a trick or two from dear old dad.

In one scene, they steal a car outside a bar.  When they look in the trunk, they find a huge cache of weapons.  Jr. tells his dad they're outside a Chechen bar, where the patrons are not allowed to bring weapons inside.  In view of the Boston Bombing, which occurred long after this film was released to theaters, that is not as funny as it used to be.

The film is filled with action scenes, some of the biggest, most destructive I've ever seen outside of one of the recent filmed versions of the apocalypse.  You sit back gazing in morbid awe, as you watch the grandaddy of all traffic crashes.  Briefly you wonder what kind of deductible McClane must have - probably rivals the national debt of a small country...

But the action doesn't stop there.  It gets bigger and definitely meaner, culminating in a firefight at Chernobyl.

In the end John asks his son if they'll suffer any ill-effects from the residual radiation, to which Jr. replies "you'll probably just lose your hair..."

Seriously, I don't know how they can top the scope of the action sequences in this movie.  McClane would have to appear swimming in the north Atlantic, dragging the bow of the Titanic behind him...

But, it's fun and entertaining.  That's the point of formula films.  You know what will happen.  You expect the wild ride and the triumphant ending.  That's why you watch them.  They truly are a great escape.  Just enjoy the ride.

I know this film got mediocre reviews when it opened.  But so what? It's not a serious film drama.  It is what it is - a fun piece of our pop culture.  Bruce Willis' John McClane has been a pop culture icon since the first movie years ago.  Yippee Ki Yay...

Recently I watched two different movies with an eye to reviewing them here on the blog.  But, you know what?  I didn't find anything positive I could say about them.  One of them was a very popular film that came out in theaters.  The other was a much-hyped made for cable drama.  I respect all creative efforts and will not tear down anybody's.  Creating, whether it's a film, a book, a piece of music, a piece of art, or a theatrical production, is hard work, don't kid yourself.  The act itself deserves respect, even if we don't like the results.

Oh, and speaking of cable, is anybody out there a fan of HBO's Game of Thrones?  I've watched every episode since it came on the air.  Alas, Sunday night I tried to watch a late night showing and fell asleep in the middle.  Imagine my surprise when I looked on the Internet Monday and found the great outcry at the decimation of the Stark family...actually since talking to my manicurist today, I'm glad I missed the actual scene.  I knew their murderer was up to something.  He got that mean look in his eye that he used when he played Filch in the Harry Potter films.  I haven't read the books from which the series is taken, except the first one.  I just hope nothing happens to Arya or Brandon.  Sansa isn't really like the Starks.  Geez.

I hope nothing happens to Dany either.  Poor girl has had enough trauma in her life!  I'm rooting for the dragons, personally...

Until next time...A Good Day to Die Hard is now out on video.  Enjoy!