Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Hunger Games: The Mockingjay, Part 2

The last film in the popular Hunger Games series opened last weekend to the smallest opening weekend audience in franchise history.  Don't know why that should be, but it is. Like Harry Potter, Twilight, and other series, the filmmakers on this one elected to split the last book into two films.  Granted the industry may make more money that way, but the results are sometimes watered down versions of what they could be.

In the case of The Mockingjay, Part 2, it essentially split the climax into two, which can sometimes dilute the impact of the story.

I've read other reviews calling this sequel "grim" and it is. There is lack of explanation of motivation of some of the characters in the climactic events.  Anyone unfamiliar with the novel may wonder why some of these things happened and how one character, in particular, escaped punishment.

The original cast reprised their roles in this final sequel, including the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Everyone did a fine job, though some of them were reduced to little more than cameo roles.

Don't get me wrong, the film is entertaining.  I enjoyed it, but it would be so much richer as one film instead of two.

There were moments in Part 2 that dragged, slogging along with the speed of molasses.  I actually checked my watch a couple of times.

Of course I cheered for Katniss and the rebels and applauded the ultimate conclusion. We were just not given as much to cheer about this time around.

I think taken as a set The Mockingjay films will do justice to the last novel.  We'll just have to wait for this one to come out on video.

Until next time...

The new Star Wars film opens December 18th.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

FX Series - FARGO

If you haven't discovered the FX series FARGO, you should try it.  I'd suggest going to your cable carrier to watch the first episode of the season on demand, or go to Hulu, Netflix, whatever you have.

This series, created by the Coen brothers, who gave us the original film with Frances McDormand and an unknown at the time, Steve Buscemi, is just as quirky, funny, and outrageous (and not always in a good way) as the film.

Season 2 follows a slightly different storyline than the first season. In the first episode, the leader of the local crime family has a stroke, leaving the leadership position open.  Each of his three sons want to take it, including the most sinister, played by Jeffrey Donovan, late the star of Burn Notice. The youngest son decides to confront a federal judge in a Waffle House late one night.  In a monumental screw-up, he ends up killing her, the waitress, and the cook before he steals the money and runs out into the snow.  (This takes place in Minnesota and South Dakota, always filmed in the winter.) He sees a UFO in the sky and stupidly stands gawking at it, only to be run down by a hairdresser on her way home.  Kirsten Dunst (Peggy Blumquist) plays the ditzy woman.  The man is halfway through her windshield, but she drives home and leaves him in her garage still stuck.  When her husband Ed Blumquist (played by Jesse Plemons), a butcher, comes home, they panic as they try to figure out what to do. You won't believe what their resolution of the situation is...but that's FARGO for you.

The cast includes Ted Danson, as a Minnesota Sheriff, Patrick Wilson as his son-in-law (a state trooper still suffering from combat experiences in Vietnam in 1979 when the action takes place), and Jean Smart as the matriarch of the crime family, determined to take over for her ailing husband, no matter what her sons want.  She is different than you've ever seen her in this one.

There are a slew of guest stars...my favorite is Bruce Campbell (he's everywhere!) who plays Ronald Reagan on the campaign stump across the country in search of the Presidential nomination. You will not forget his Reagan portrayal, complete with memory lapses.  Painful foreshadowing for the real man, but that's FARGO for you, nothing is off limits.

When FX originally announced the first season of FARGO, I shook my head, wondering how they could replicate the ironic humor/tragedy of the film.  But they have.  The first season was excellent.  The second season promises to be even better.

I love FARGO, even the very broad Minnesota/Dakota accent which all the characters have down.

My favorite moment in the film? Pregnant Sheriff Frances McDormand inspecting an accident scene off a snow covered highway, leaning down to inspect something she doesn't get back up.  Her deputy asks her if everything was okay.

Her reply? In a wearily cheery voice,  "Nope, I'm ganna baaaaaaaaarrf." A star was born.

And I got the means to torment one of my coworkers...he couldn't stand the accent.

Check out FARGO.  It will leave you shaking your head in wonder.

Until next time...


James Bond - to many of you he may have been around for your entire life. I remember when I was a young teen going to see the first of the movies, Dr. No. It starred an actor, unknown to Americans, called Sean Connery.  I was hooked.

Ian Fleming was still around in those days and still writing.  I devoured all of the books as they were published.

Although I haven't always liked the later Bond films - I'm sorry, Roger Moore and the silliness of his era of the films drove me away. But Timothy Dalton with his one Bond film brought me back.  I've been back ever since.

Daniel Craig has become one of the best Bonds in my opinion, for all that my first thought of him was he looked more like a KGB agent than 007.

SPECTRE is the latest entry in the Bond collection. The entity SPECTRE is from the original Fleming books, worse than SMERSH, more deadly and more sinister, nihilistic in their enmity for all.  The head of SPECTRE, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, is also a Fleming creation.

The film SPECTRE opens with a crowded fast-moving scene in Mexico City on the dia de los Muertos. (Day of the Dead) similar to Halloween in the states, it celebrates the dead.

As the scene progresses, there's a lot to celebrate.  The action is huge, explosive, and loud with Bond triumphant when the scene ends.  But the sheer magnitude of destruction gets him censured and put on leave.

Of course he doesn't stay put as he's ordered.  Like an English bulldog with a bone clamped in his jowls, 007 keeps going after his nemesis. Do we ever expect him to do anything less?

This time, the entire 00 program is in jeopardy, seen as outdated, obsolete.  Drones and other electronic surveillance is so much neater than a single agent going about shooting indiscriminately, killing, leaving a mess.

Honestly, there's not much new to the story, but the story isn't the reason the Bond films remain popular. The action is bigger, louder, more improbable than ever before.

Daniel Craig does another fine turn as 007.  Ralph Fiennes, introduced as the new M  in the last film, is excellent. His character will surprise you.

Christoph Waltz plays Blofeld with relish, complete with the character's sinister white Persian cat. Nobody can play someone so unapologetically wicked as he can.  His villains are so happy in their evil.

Lea Seydoux plays James' reluctant love interest, although she gradually accepts the inevitable.  Her character is the daughter of a late SPECTRE member.

Ben Whishaw continues his fresh take as Q, the long-suffering quartermaster. (Aren't they all when Bond breaks their toys?)

Also notable is Dave Bautista as a cruel SPECTRE assassin.  I kept wondering where I'd seen him.  It was only when I sat through the cast credits I realized he played Drax in Guardians of the Galaxy.  This character is very different from that one.

If you like the Bond films, enjoy them as entertainment, check out this one. It's a great way to spend a couple of hours, enjoy your popcorn with an exciting movie.  Some of the stunts are amazing.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Bridge of Spies

Spielberg has given us another wonderful film in Bridge of Spies. Based on actual events it is taut and thought-provoking.  If you think that means boring, think again.  It is a riveting story which involves the audience from beginning to end.

This is the story of James Donovan, a NYC attorney, whose high-powered firm represents big insurance companies. One day he goes into the office and is told the senior partner wants to see him immediately. He is told the government has requested him to represent a Soviet spy they've apprehended. Donovan was on the prosecution team at the German (Nazi) war crime trials in Nuremberg. The CIA thinks he would be a great lawyer for Soviet Spy Rudolf Abel.  Trouble is, Donovan IS a great lawyer, and takes the case to heart, giving zealous representation of his client, whom he comes to like.

When sentencing time comes, he visits the judge and pleads the case against the death penalty for his client. I won't spoil the story for you by telling you his reason for this, but it proves sound as well as eerily prophetic.

Naturally, Donovan makes himself and his family a target of the public outcry by his position.  But he continues on his crusade to follow our Constitution and give his client a fair trial and later an appeal.

There is also a subplot about the U2 spy plane debacle which centered on pilot Francis Gary Powers.  He crashed on his mission over the Soviet Union and was captured and held as an American spy.

The two governments discuss exchanging Powers for Abel.  Naturally, they get Donovan to do the negotiating.  When he gets to Berlin, where the wall has just gone up separating the eastern part of the city from the west, he finds the East Germans hold an American student who was caught behind the wall.

He becomes determined to get both men home, which all of the intelligence people, ours and theirs, say is not possible...

I won't reveal anything else about the plot.  Don't want to spoil it for you.

Tom Hanks does a wonderful job as Donovan.  He has aged (haven't we all???) But he retains his extraordinary talent to create an everyman character with many layers under the surface. This is not a showy performance.  It's not that kind of character.  But he is magnificent.  I wouldn't be surprised if there's another Oscar nomination in it for him. Let me tell you something as an actor, anybody can emote loud and broad, but it takes a real master to use subtle facial, body, and vocal clues to reach the film audience, eliciting emotion from them.  Hanks is such a master.

Also notable is Mark Rylance as Soviet Rudolf Abel, a talented artist as well as an enigma.  I grew to really like him during the course of the film, as does Donovan.

Amy Ryan plays Donovan's wife, Mary, who worries for her family but trusts her husband. Ms. Ryan holds her own in the talented cast.

Austin Powell plays the hapless young pilot Francis Gary Powers, for whom nothing goes right on his doomed mission.  He turns in a layered performance as the ace who is caught by circumstances he never anticipated.

Sebastian Koch plays Wolfgang Vogel, an east German attorney who meets with Donovan before seeming to set him up to fail.  The character must be unreadable in order to work in the course of the plot.  Koch plays the difficult man with ease.

A film is a collaboration of many artists working together.  The Coen brothers were co-writers on the script. But the film has the Spielberg stamp, we've come to know.  It is a well-made film with incredible attention to detail.

I read a review in the paper before seeing the film today.  It said something about the audience should pay attention to the early banter in the film, as it will come to have significance at the end.  Now that I've seen Bridge of Spies, I know what the reviewer meant.  I give you the same advice.

There is a lovely bit at the climax of the film.

Steven Spielberg is arguably our best American director today in his meticulous methods of film-making. His attention to detail is incredible whether it is in Jaws, ET the Extraterrestrial, Schindler's List, The Color Purple, War of the Worlds, or in Bridge of Spies. His films shine in their humanity.

For us older folks who remember these events, the film will spark memories of our reactions to what is now history.  For the rest of you it will show you what life was like in those gut-wrenching days when we anticipated Soviet hydrogen bombs coming to incinerate us with little to no warning.

Don't miss this film. You won't be sorry.

Until next time...

Thursday, October 15, 2015

San Andreas

San Andreas, the granddaddy of all disaster movies finally came out on video.  I had hoped to see it when it was still in theaters, but hey, the usual happened and I waited to see it on pay-per-view.

Whew, this one is a huge scale disaster flick. I'm old enough to remember Earthquake.  In that one, there were special frequency sound effects that made you feel like your seat shook during the quake.  Everybody flocked to it, some more than once...see I was seeing this guy and he was....well, never mind.  I saw it so much I memorized most of the inane dialogue. ("Help me...my son is hurt...help me" woodenly delivered and accompanied by movement reminiscent of 1970s NFL cheerleaders...)

At any rate, San Andreas is way beyond Earthquake, in special effects (CGI is a wondrous thing), in the story, the characters, and variety of disasters...it's like former earthquake films, collapsing buildings, large scale fires, tsunami films, and big sinking ships falling on the unwary all rolled into a two hour movie.  In other words, I am very glad I didn't see this one in the theater.  For me, it would probably have been too much.

The disaster starts about ten minutes into the story and continues sporadically building to the end.

The cast consists of beautiful people.  Of the main characters, only Dwayne Johnson's and Paul Giamatti's characters have brown eyes.  The rest of the major players have impossibly blue eyes of varying shades. And everyone has bleached white teeth.  In other words, they are impossibly pretty people, too.  The film looks like they combed the headshots of all the young actors in Hollywood to find the best looking...You know you're looking at California by the beautiful people as well as the landmarks.

Still, this is an entertaining film, not riveting, but very entertaining.  The storyline is good, but like in most disaster flicks, an afterthought to the chaos around them. Most of the good guys survive, and the weak-kneed villain gets his just desserts on the Golden Gate Bridge.  And he knows it's coming.  Probably just as well because he does a despicable thing during the early minutes of the disaster, compounded with another later on in the name of his own survival.

The one most uncomfortable moment for me was during the tsunami when a huge container-carrying freighter was capsizing on top of the main characters.  Given the recent events with a freighter out of Jacksonville which apparently sank during Hurricane Joaquin, seeing this portrayal took the action out of the only-a-movie category and reminded me of the doomed ship and crew.

There were images of falling buildings that reminded me of 9/11, as well. But I just say, it's only a movie, though it is unfortunate that we all know these images from real tragedies. We're not as innocent of such things as we were in the 1970s.

It is a very entertaining film.  As disasters go, it hit all the genres. The cast were believable in their roles, as previously noted, attractive people who were fun to watch.

I for one, love Dwayne Johnson as a hero.  He makes a superb and most believable one.  If you want a bit of exciting entertainment, check out San Andreas. They hit all the buttons in the disaster genre.

And now for something completely different...We have several zombie television shows currently on our networks.  I watch most of them, though admittedly I miss episodes.  But my favorite is SyFy's Z Nation. Why? It's exciting in places but it is also wryly hysterical in others. In last week's episode, our heroes, who escort the only human known to have survived a zombie bite to a medical lab in California in the hope of providing an antidote for all humanity, were in Wisconsin.  In a small town, they encountered the remnants of a cheese festival.  In the town square was a huge (and I mean HUGE) wheel of cheese.  It was taller than the people as it rested on its end.

One of my favorite characters is an older doctor, permanently mellowed by his hippie youth.  He's a hoot with his memories of the culture of his day.  At any rate, he constantly has the munchies, and attacks the wheel of cheese to cut out a chunk.  As he sighs eating the first real cheese he's had in a couple of years, a zombie horde comes over the road in their direction.  Much to Doc's chagrin, his group pulls out the stops holding the giant cheese wheel in place and rolls it toward the oncoming horde.

It rolls over the zombies, picking them up in a permanent zombie cheese ball as it travels onward.  One of the good guys says, "how long do you think it will do that?" And our leading lady shrugs and says, "from here it's all downhill to the Mississippi..." At the end of the episode, there's another shot of the cheese rolling down the road, picking up more of the "walking" dead. Quirky but fun...

Okay, I'm back and hope to see the new Spielberg film in the actual theater this weekend.  Popcorn, here I come!!

Until next time...

Take care and watch a movie.  They really are great escapes.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Scream Queens

Tonight, the second episode of Scream Queens will be shown on the Fox Network.  If you're not watching it, why aren't you? It's a pluperfect hoot!

I taped the first episode last week and howled through it when I watched it a couple of mornings later...

Basically, it's a take-off of all the "nubile young things being threatened by a diabolical killer" whose identity is always concealed - a hockey mask for Jason in Friday the Thirteenth films, or a William Shatner mask painted all white for Michael Myers in the Halloween franchise.  In the case of Scream Queens, it is a figure in a red devil costume, complete with a hard plastic mask.

Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Myer's chosen target who always managed to elude him years ago in Haddonfield, IL, the setting for the Halloween movies, plays the dean of students at the mythical university in which this farce is set. She plays her role with her tongue firmly planted in her lean cheek.  Her character is hardly a paragon of virtue.  Of one thing we are sure, she detests sororities and sorority girls. (Probably due to her own misfortune at their hands in her college career...)

They have guest stars (all under 25) who play the members of the sorority in question, who are invariably murdered during the episode by our red garbed villain or villainess...it's impossible to tell.

Scream Queens reminds me of my own sorority days.  Although I didn't belong to the snooty, rich girl chapter at my school.  I belonged to the chapter, losing members, who were desperate enough to take on a maverick like me...but I am familiar with the type portrayed in Scream Queens. Our campus was filled with them. And yes, they dated all the jocks, dressed in designer clothes, and walked about wafting expensive perfume around them, along with the distinct scent of entitlement.

Anyway, if you're in the mood for silliness to the max, and watching the rich girls bite it in fulfillment of their Karmic load, check out Scream Queens.  You'll get at least a giggle or two, if not full-fledged guffaws.

Until next time, I'm back......and will write another post soon.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

New Day

Well, this is a brave new world today.  Yesterday my dad moved into his new apartment in a senior living community...He called me several times last night and started calling me at 6:20 this morning complaining about the "hotel" and demanding to go home.  He said he didn't know how they'd gotten his furniture and clothes there, but he wanted it all taken back...

After three more calls this morning from him, I finally called the facility. I learned they have a concierge service to have employees take the new residents to meals, to activities, all for a fee...I said YES, I'LL PAY IT!!!!

I told him later this morning that a couple of young ladies had been assigned to him during different times of the day and one of them would take him to lunch.  Haven't heard from him since.

It's good but I'm not celebrating just yet...I don't know if I can trust this brave new world I met today. It's been so long since I was free to do whatever I choose on any given day, I'm hesitant to put more than a toe in the water, so I can jerk it back when the alligator surfaces.

I actually got some work done this morning.  I met the shredders at the house where they dumped the forty years worth of financial records in their big tubs, carted them to their truck and weighed them...My niece and I went through 295 lbs of paperwork...I KNEW I COULDN'T CARRY THOSE BAGS...geez.

Is that the sum today of 40 years of a person's life? Well if the person is my dad, it's the sum total of 40 years of meticulous record keeping, anyway.

Later this morning, I actually cleaned my place.  We were drowning is dust-covered doggy hair.  My Tzus and I have all been sneezing and coughing...funny thing about that. I'm going to delve into more domesticity in a few minutes and change the sheets, then wash a load of towels. I hope I remember how to work the washer...

In this strange lull of emotionally charged activity I'm uncertain, cautious, concerned it will not last...

I'll give it the final test.  If I'm not awakened in the morning by an angry call before 7:00, I'll know the new day is finally here.

Take care everybody.  Keep dry if you're in my vicinity.  Rain's pouring off the patio overhang once more.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Wonder Woman - Aging Gracelessly

Sorry I haven't been on my blog since August 1st.  Oh well, what's a month or so between friends?

Actually, I've been rather busy lately.  As my dad enters a new phase of his life, with the help of my wonderful niece, I'm helping him transition.

Well, that sounds nice and bland compared to the reality of my current life. Nothing in the previous sentences gives you the visceral, emotional, physical jarring experienced by adult children caring for elderly parents as they watch them disappear.

You know my all time favorite superhero was Wonder Woman.  Sorry, Captain America, sorry Thor, I was a budding feminist even as a child. I didn't know it then but I did know girls could do just about anything their brothers could, with a few anatomical exceptions.  Not a popular opinion in those days, but hey, I was nothing if not progressive.

As most children believe, I thought I was invincible. And that attitude stayed with me well into my adulthood. I was in my fifties when the first blow struck.  My mother, after several years of illness, was diagnosed with colon cancer and too weak to take the prescribed therapies of the day.  She could have fought to grow stronger, but she opted not to. She opted to do nothing, so after seven months of being confined to bed she died, holding my dad's hand. My father took excellent care of her with the assistance of Hospice staff.  I watched as he waned with her and worried he would leave soon, too.

He survived the last twelve years since her passing, but not without gradually fading.  Five years ago I made the decision to move across the country to assist him however I could.

These last five years have been calm in places and horrendous in others, watching him decline, watching him disappear and become an angry, verbally biting stranger at times.

So we came to the inevitable decisions, should he stay at home or go to a place where he could have 24 hour care available? I let him make the decision, as it's his life.  I wanted him to have autonomy as long as he could. We put the house on the market and began looking for places he could move. The first time the house was on the market and there was an interest expressed by a potential buyer, he knee-jerked and took it off the market.

We waited another five or six months before relisting. Finally, there's a buyer in the picture, and now the time is coming to move Dad, prepare for and hold an estate sale, and close on the house, walking away from their home of thirty years.

Folks, I never lived in that house, but this is hard...all the memories of my childhood, my parents, my brother,my grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles, are all wrapped up in that home.

For the last month or so, I've been cleaning out possessions, marking other things to come with me, as my niece and her parents have as well.  Bit by bit the "things" are going.  It's funny how inanimate objects spark memories, old feelings, make you confront unresolved issues of the past. The latter is the hardest part of all. You fall into an exhausted sleep at night and first wake up to face another day, your natural good humor lasts about ten seconds, until you remember what hurdle is scheduled for today.

My niece and I have gone over about forty years worth of financial records in my dad's office.  We've got eleven giant trash bags filled with them and two large plastic tubs filled with his taxes for the last five years, as well as information for his 2015 taxes...

Dad doesn't keep his ac on very much, so in Florida, even my fit, athletic niece broke into a daily sweat through the process. I looked like a wrung out mop at the end of every day, covered in the dust of old paper. I went home exhausted each day to be greeted by my puzzled, elderly shih tzus who would come sniff me in wonder...What have you been doing?

As the stress builds, I am increasingly short tempered, growling like a bear.  My family knows to back off now when mato sapa (black bear) appears...

As with most real estate deals, we've had some stumbles along the way.  Now we are being forced to replace the roof on the house...sigh. There is a schedule in place for what needs to happen...Dad moves on a certain day, the next day the estate sale people take over the house and spend three weeks cleaning out, rearranging, staging, preparing for the sale...did I mention it's a BIG house with lots of stuff in it?

Now we'll have the added issue of roofers hammering away...I just keep telling myself it will all be what it is. I've done all I can and couldn't change the outcome anyway.

Lesson for all of you out there, never ask What more can they do to me? You will find out in short order. I asked that once, parked at a park under the trees leaning out the open window in a fit of depression years ago.  I barely finished the sentence with a bird pooped right on the top of my head...Like I said, don't ask.

Someday, hopefully when the weather turns, I'll get back to my life, watching movies, reading books, seeing television shows and blogging about them.

Til then I remain a disheveled, perspiring, depressed, droopy Wonder Woman, with no stamina and little impetus to write...

Take care.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Go Set a Watchman

When I first read the release about a new book, based on a heretofore unknown manuscript from the great author, Harper Lee, was being published, I was intrigued.  Later when it was revealed this story was a continuation of her Pulitzer Prize winning novel, To Kill A Mockingbird I was concerned. What would this one do to my favorite novel? Would the new story diminish the original or would it enhance the first novel? Don't mess with one of my favorite books.

I hesitated before buying it.  Of course I couldn't hold out for long, I downloaded it and devoured it. The publishing of this novel was delayed by concerns this might not be the work of Ms. Lee. She is an elderly recluse these days. But once the origin was verified, the book was published and debuted to stellar sales.

Upon reading it, I realized this is indeed the work of Harper Lee.  No one has the writing style in the English language with a deep-south accent like Ms. Lee. Her prose is as distinctive as it is lyrical.  She pens even ugly scenes with beautiful language.

Go Set a Watchman is the sequel to her previous novel.  In this one, young Scout, now called by her given name, Jean Louise, is a woman. She left Maycomb, Alabama years before and escaped to Manhattan, living a very different life from her peers at home. She visits home on an annual basis.  The book begins with her journey back to see her family.

While she still worships her father, the memorable Atticus Finch, her relationships with other family members are more ambivalent.

SPOILER ALERT - Sadly her brother Jem is not a character in this one except in the scenes from their childhood interjected into the story.  He inherited their mother's heart disease and died in his 20s. Childhood friend Dill is an expatriate living in Italy.

It is the beginning of the civil rights era in the novel.  Jean Louise is an adamant supporter of equal rights for all which brings her into conflict with those she loves.

Even Atticus is singed by the events, his own beliefs, and the passage of time.  Since I don't want to spoil the story for you, I will say no more on the subject.

This book will grab your interest and play on your emotions.  I laughed aloud reading some of the scenes from Scout's childhood and wept while reading some of the scenes about Jean Louise, the woman.

It is a shame for us all Ms. Lee only published two books.  She is an amazing writer compelling the reader to follow her story and live through the emotional turmoil of her characters.

Side note: A couple of years before he passed away, Gregory Peck toured the country with a one-man show which was really him talking to the audience about his life and career.  I was privileged to attend a performance in Austin, Texas. He spent considerable time on the subject of  "To Kill a Mockingbird," the film, in which he played Atticus Finch. He also won the Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal, while the film won Best Picture.

At the time, he said he still got weekly mail from school students all over the country, who studied the book and watched the film in class.  He said Atticus was the finest role he ever played and his favorite.  He said the story was such an excellent teaching tool which is still relevant in 21st century America. I agree with him. I sometimes think in our fast-paced Internet world, we focus on easy quick relationships with each other, often missing the rich experience other people bring to our lives. We lose compassion in our gigabyte world and understanding of each other.  We are becoming more of a world of  "us" vs. "them." Don't agree? Watch the news.

He said Mary Badham, the child actress who played Scout in the movie, was so influenced by the story she grew up and went to law school.  At the time I saw him, she still  practiced law.

Go Set a Watchman is a fitting sequel for To Kill a Mockingbird.

Read it, you will be enriched for the experience.

Thursday, July 23, 2015


Okay, don't blame me.  The title of this post is the title of the third entry in SyFy network's Sharknado franchise.  The movie debuted last night among great hoopla and abundant social media remarks, tweets, posts, pins, etc.

It was truly a festive occasion, shared by millions of viewers. The network played all three of the films in order starting late yesterday afternoon.  While I missed much of the first one yesterday, I caught the second one on the way to the third.  It was good to refresh my memories of the franchise.

As the title implies, this movie franchise is inherently silly, comically gory, and acted with tongues placed firmly in the cheeks.

This one was frakkin' hilarious!!! I laughed 'til I cried in places. Mostly at the inventive ways the marauding sharks found to eat the people and the equally inventive ways the hunters took out the sharks.

There were famous people in cameo roles, some a bit larger.  For example, conservative columnist and pundit, Ann Coulter, played the vice-president of the United States.  Mark Cuban, owner of the NBA team the Dallas Mavericks, played the president.  Needless to say, they were each individually assaulted by sharks.

One of the most comic bits of casting was disgraced-for-sexting former congressman Anthony Weiner playing NASA's head of Mission Control.

A still lovely Bo Derek played the mother of Tara Reid's character in a bigger than cameo role.

Penn and Teller had a nice bit with David Hasselhoff, who played hero Ian Ziering's father, the square-jawed hero who begot a square-jawed hero son.

Frankie Muniz had a wonderful heroic character to play.  The guy just doesn't stop, not even when sharks take first one leg, then one arm, then the other leg, and finally the other arm.  He crawls on his belly to the ignition button for a bomb and explodes the bomb with his chin.  Now, that's good old determination! It wiped out a small horde of the hungry sharks.

Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan played themselves who reported the occurrences in NYC live on the air. Of course the sharks ultimately attacked them, as they did the anchors of NBC's Today Show.  Kelly, Hoda and Cathy Lee scored some points for the beleaguered humans.

There are other famous faces both eaten and not, but I will need to see it again to catch all of them.

There were some inventive situations to say the least as the sharks chomped their way down the entire Eastern seaboard.  And the ultimate trick was when they encountered SHARKS IN SPACE!!! One of the characters actually screamed out that phrase, reminding me of the old Muppet sketches called PIGS IN SPACE.

Yes, these movies are gory, but it's all in fun - sort of like the old Monty Python sketches which payed homage to Sam Peckinpah's violent films - quarts of spewing red paint and cartoon violence.

Everything is so over the top, it's hysterical.

Okay, I admit it, I liked the other Sharknado movies, too.  They represent complete abandonment of all reason and acceptance of a wild and wacky world.

In other words, they are pure escapism.  Look after the last month I've had, with an elderly parent sinking deeper into delusion day by day, and a beloved dog diagnosed with glaucoma, which resulted in his losing his eye earlier this week (via surgery), I was ready for a laughing fest.

Last night I got the granddaddy of all laughing fests.  Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No, is being shown again this Saturday night at 7:00 pm EDT. I'm not ashamed to admit I'll watch it again.

And, get ready....wait for it...Yes, Virginia, there will be a Sharknado 4.  I don't know how they're going to top the scope and breadth of Sharknado 3, but I have every confidence they will.

On a more serious note, SyFy showed some intriguing previews last night of upcoming mini-series on the network.  They showed snippets of two of them that will appear next December.  These look to be serious sci-fi works on a par with Battlestar Galactica and the current Defiance.  Stay tuned.

But if you see a shark flying through the air,  RUUUUUNNNNN!!!!!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015


Ladies, have you been languishing this summer, longing for the return of Outlander? Believe me, I understand.  For some of our favorite limited series, it's a long time between seasons.

A couple of weeks ago with nothing to watch on a Sunday night (Game of Thrones had shown its last episode), I discovered a wonderful series currently running on PBS' Masterpiece Theater.

Taken from a series of novels the television version, Poldark, is an excellent way to wile away an hour.

Set in the late 18th century, it is the story of Ross Poldark, an Englishman from the wild and windswept coast of Cornwall. In the first episode, he is seen with the British Army, losing a battle in Virginia against George Washington's troops in which he is forever scarred by an American saber. When the war is over, he returns home.

Once back in Cornwall, he finds his father has died, his home is in shambles, his uncle in the grand estate, and the woman who promised to wait for him engaged to his cousin. Needless to say it isn't the homecoming he expected.

He is invited to the upcoming wedding, but leaves to go back to his own home.

Thus, he begins his life anew with all of his former expectations gone. A rebel at heart, he does not fit in with the local gentry.  The working people accept him, but as a gentleman not one of them.  It's a lonely life for Ross, but he's determined.

This one's got lots of tension and good action.  Yes there are love scenes, even some "proper" sex scenes (no nudity so far...) The cast is excellent. And it is shot on location in Cornwall, a stark but beautiful part of the coast of England.

This is another great series produced by the BBC. They produced a series on the Poldark novels in the late 1970s.  I never saw it, but from the pictures, I think I like the contemporary series better.

Aidan Turner, an Irish actor, seen recently in films such as The Hobbit and the first Mortal Instruments film in which he played Luke, the charismatic leader of the werewolves.

If you're looking for a romantic historical series this summer, check your local listings for Poldark, shown on PBS, as in you can get this one even if you don't have cable...

If you need further impetus to watch the series, check out this:

Aidan Turner as Ross Poldark

Happy viewing!

Until next time...

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Saga of an Aging Ming the Merciless

Lest you forget, I'll remind you Ming is a shih tzu (and isn't usually without mercy - he's a sweet little guy). Last week our vet urged me to go to a veterinary ophthalmologist to determine what was wrong with Ming's eye.  I did and it turns out he has a big ulcer and glaucoma in the one eye.  The other eye was pronounced healthy.

So we had a regimen of four drops to be administered four times a day, with one of the four administered twice a day to the good eye.  I had to have them number the bottles for me. I did the best I could administering the drops, but I can't say I hit the eye each time.

Have you ever tried using eye drops on a dog who doesn't want to get them? That's like a vet long ago telling me giving a small six pound dog a pill wasn't hard.  He said all you have to do is push it down his throat and hold his muzzle closed until he swallows it...uh huh.  My little guy, Wicket, a lhasa-shih tzu cross with long grey coat, ears, and beard, would swallow with big gulps.  Then I would pat his head and go about my business, only to find the spat out pills behind the drapes, under the furniture, in potted plants.  He was no dummy.

Crafty little guy. But I discovered a surefire method of getting him to swallow pills.  I embedded the pill in a small cube of cheese, which he swallowed whole.

So back to Ming - today we went back for a checkup.  Turns out the ulcer has grown and Ming is now blind in the eye. His other eye is still seeing very well, ulcer free, with normal pressure.

So now we come to it...we're going to continue the medicine regimen for another ten days.  I will take him back and if the affected eye shows no improvement, it will be time to remove it for his health and comfort.

I saw several dogs at the vet's this morning with similar conditions.  Two of them were also shih tzus, one young one with an ulcer on her eye, and one thirteen-year-old who had the surgery to remove his eye last week. The latter was lethargic and had to be carried.  That frightened me, even though Ming appears to be in better shape than that dog.  Ming is fourteen.

The vet reduced the number of eye drops from four to three.  They are each to be given four times a day in the affected eye only.  The vet added an antibiotic pill and a pain pill.  He said his big concern is the discomfort if the ulcer does not improve.  I can understand.  I don't want Ming hurting, and he tries very hard to rub the eye and the area around it, despite wearing the "cone of shame."

So we'll see.  He got his first pills when we got back from the vet's late this morning - in, you guessed it - cheese! He never spits out his pills.  Now his sister might not fall for the ruse, but she's another story entirely.

I hate the thought of Ming losing his eye. But I don't want him in pain or have the condition move to his sighted eye, either.  So I guess it's time to medicate him, give him lots of love, and nightly Reiki. He's such a sweetheart and deserves the best.

I'll keep you posted.

Once more here's the baby picture of my three dogs taken in 2001 - from left to right they are: Mighty Manfred the Wonder Dog or Sparky as we called him, (gone in 2013 from cancer); Miss Myrna Loy (still with us); and Ming the Merciless - the alpha dog, now blind in one eye.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Manifesto of an Aging Southern White Woman

Like most of you, I was horrified at the events in Charleston this past Wednesday evening. I was stunned by the reaction of the community and in a different way by politicos who used the violence as impetus to push their political agendas.

I am no gun advocate.  A personal tragedy in our family when I was in college forever cemented my rejection of guns.  My 18 year old cousin was getting married the next day.  Like all soon to be brides she rushed around the house, packing, thinking of a thousand details, and likely worrying what might go wrong at the wedding or reception.  Her older brother decided it was a good time to clean his gun.  During the process, he test fired what he thought was an empty chamber. He shot and killed his sister where she stood. I come from generations of people in law enforcement and the military, but I don't have guns and I won't.

To both sides of the debate on gun control, I say, forget it, fellas...that ship sailed a long time ago. We're a country with a long-standing historical gun culture. (I'm from Texas, for heaven's sake. We carried cap pistols in my high school drill team when we wore our cowgirl outfits and fired them during our routines.) It is unrealistic to think we could ever enact a law to make people give up their guns. Should we attempt to pass such a law, we'd have the second coming of the American revolution.

No, I don't think guns should be allowed at schools. Teen-agers are known for notoriously lacking impulse control. But our legislative entities will waste valuable time, energy, and our tax dollars arguing about an issue they will never resolve. Be realistic with your goals and move onward.

I am upset both sides mentioned gun legislation in response to the massacre in Charleston. Their cynical belief it is time to exploit the pain of the American citizens to push their candidates' agendas infuriated me. This is not the time for such shenanigans. It takes the focus off the tragedy where it should be.

We've seen a lot of young men, particularly, like the shooter over the years.  Angry, disenfranchised, usually anti-social and uneducated, they embrace white supremacy and blame the government and African-Americans for their own pain, anger, and lack of success in the world. I suppose to take responsibility for one's own failure is unthinkable.  It's much easier to look to people who are different and point fingers.  "It's THEIR fault, not mine..."

In all the photographs of the killer I've seen on television and the internet,I noticed one thing about him. His eyes completely lack expression. His soul is dead inside him. I have no idea what made him the way he is, but he has no compassion or empathy, no apparent shame over the murders. There's no question in my mind whatever made him a monster, he truly is one.  To sit and talk with the people for an hour without developing any rapport, any awareness of their humanity, and then stand up and pick them off is the work of a monster, nothing more and nothing less.

We've been introduced to several such monsters in my lifetime, Charles Manson, Timothy McVeigh, and now Dylann Roof, to mention a few. I would include Adolf Hitler in this list and some of his cohorts, but they died before even I was born...

Finally, I was stunned by the reaction of the victims' families at the bond hearing and on the talk shows this morning. They forgave the killer of the ones they loved.

I don't know if I would have the goodness and grace to forgive the killer of a member of my family.  But I am impressed with the depth of the families' faith and forgiveness. To me, this should be the starting point of any discussion about going forward from this point.

If we are to survive as a nation, we must celebrate our differences not wage war against each other. We must work together to listen to people around us.  If they are in trouble, we need to try to help them, not ignore them when they spout hatred, saying "I don't judge people." It's time for all of us to help each other, not turn away as if we do not see.

I remember other words, which the forgiveness of the Charleston victims families, brought to mind.

Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.

And on an after note, this morning CBS Sunday Morning ran a clip from a film shot by one of their producers.  He went to Sing Sing prison and interviewed prisoners convicted of murder or other gun crimes and asked them what they would say to their twelve-year-old selves. The clip shown was very powerful. If you're interested the film is up on their website.

Such a film might help prevent other young people from turning the way of the Charleston killer. It's time to deal with the problem.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Trusting Will

Skye Taylor, author of the popular Camerons of Tide's Way series has released the third novel about the wonderful family.  Trusting Will tells the story of Brianna Reagan, a young widow of an Army Ranger, who is left with a young son, Sam.

A friend of Zoe Cameron, the heroine of the first book in the series, Falling for Zoe, Brianna remembers the town of Tide's Way with fondness and decides to move there to be close to her longtime friend.  She tries to make a normal life for young Sam and allows him to join the Cub Scouts.  She meets his scout leader, handsome Will Cameron, the brother of Zoe's husband.

Brianna is determined not to risk her heart or Sam's again after the death of her husband.  She wants nothing to do with love. Will is just as determined to get to know her much better. After moving into the vacant apartment upstairs from Brianna and Sam, Will begins getting to know the boy and his mother better.

This is the lovely story of a wounded widow and her orphaned son learning to love once again and the kind, sensitive man who loves them both.

Trusting Will is a wonderful tale of healing and love, for Brianna, Sam, and Will. Ms. Taylor has captured the emotions of the main characters and portrayed them with love and understanding. Rounded out with fully fleshed secondary characters it is a satisfying read that you will remember long after you finish the book.

Don't miss this five star novel.

It's perfect read for a day at the beach, by the pool, or at home.

You'll love the characters and become enchanted with the town of Tide's Way.

If this is your first visit there, I guarantee it won't be your last.

Links for purchase:

To find out about the author's other books and stories, check out her website:

Skye Taylor's website

Sunday, June 7, 2015

No Grits No Glory

I just finished a wonderful book last night by talented author Elaine Calloway.  It's a lively paranormal entitled
No Grits No Glory.

It's the story of cosmetologist Brianna McNeil who works in a funeral home in Savannah.  She is an Irish American from the Northeast.  To say she suffers some culture shock when she moves to Georgia's historic city is an understatement. Not only are the customs, society, and landscape alien to her, the previous tenants of her new home are still there...in ghostly form. They are family members who were murdered in their house.

Most of us wouldn't notice them, but Brianna is special.  She not only sees dead people, she hears them, and can (and does) carry on conversations with them.  This trait is something she does not reveal since it caused her parents to have her hospitalized for an extended stay in a psychiatric facility when she was younger.

The ghostly inhabitants of her "rent to own" home are a father, a mother, and their sixteen-year-old daughter. None of them are shy about telling Brianna exactly what they think.  Virginia, the mother, is particularly abrasive, expressing her thoughts about that "Yankee girl" in her home loudly and often.  Also she has a habit distressing to Brianna of cooking big pots of grits on the stove.

Now that wouldn't bother me.  I'd love coming home to hot cheese grits anytime, but I'm from the south and appreciate haute cuisine.

When Steven, the estranged surviving son of the family who once owned Brianna's house, returns not knowing the fate of his family, he is devastated to find a stranger in their home. He is further devastated when he learns their fate. Brianna is drawn to help him.

Did I mention he's a gorgeous musician? Did I mention her sheltie, Plato, takes to him at first sight?

Naturally Virginia doesn't like their attraction at all.  The family harangues her whenever he is present, demanding she reveal their existence.  Brianna is understandably reluctant to cooperate, having learned to keep her abilities secret after a few months of torture in the psychiatric hospital.

Add to this a murderous villain with a scheme to become the largest real estate developer in the city, Brianna's deceased brother, Declan, who is forbidden by his mentor to approach his sister, the splendor of Savannah, a host of wonderful supporting characters...and you've got a great read.

It's sometimes riotous, sometimes nerve-tingling with danger, and very well written.

This one's a winner. It's Book #1 in the author's Southern Ghost Series.

Check it out!

Available from:


Monday, May 18, 2015

Day Shift by Charlaine Harris

Okay, I admit it, I'm prejudiced when it comes to Charlaine Harris, add me to her legion of fans.  I love her new series about the mythical Texas town of Midnight. Just like I loved the Sookie Stackhouse books that came before. I loved her irreverent take on supernatural beings ("supes" as they were known in Bon Temps) coming out into mainstream America.

Midnight Crossroad was her first book in the trilogy set in this mythical little town somewhere in the middle of the Lone Star State.  The town is basically a crossroad with a few occupied buildings and several boarded up ones.

There is only a handful of residents in this tiny place.  There is a pawn shop (open all night for the convenience of some of its patrons), a combo gas station/convenience store, a combo antique store/nail salon run by two unusual openly gay men, one restaurant run by a pistol-packing mama who lives in the double-wide out back of the restaurant with her husband and infant son, there is the resident benevolent witch who holds classes and sells herbal products in her home, a small chapel and pet cemetery run by the taciturn Reverend, and the home of the resident telephone psychic (who really has talent though it comes only sporadically) he gives in-person readings, scheduling them over the weekend in an elegant Dallas hotel suite which he books for that purpose.

The folks who run these establishments have many secrets.  We haven't learned them all yet.  There is still one more book to go in the proposed trilogy. But Day Shift gives us tantalizing glimpses of mysteries yet to be solved. As an animal lover, there is one character I dearly love, but you'll have to read the books.  I'm not going to spoil the surprise.

There's something so appealing to me about Ms. Harris' work that I read the latest edition twice back to back.

If you loved Sookie Stackhouse and her world of Bon Temps, La, check out the Midnight, Texas series.

Even though everything isn't coming up roses in Midnight, this book will make you laugh, smile, and feel for these likeable folks who may or may not be human.  The jury is still out on some of them.

As for me, I may just move to Midnight.

Check out these wonderful books.  They're great reads.

Until next time...

Friday, May 15, 2015

ABC's American Crime

Honestly, I don't watch much on ABC these days.  In the last year or so I've gotten hooked on a few of their series - anything from the Marvel franchise, Forever, How to Get Away With Murder, and American Crime.

The latter concluded its first season last night. This series is like none other.  It started with a horrible crime and spread through the families involved with an astonishing ripple effect.  The plotline was incredibly relevant to our day and time.

The series started with an attractive young Anglo couple attacked in their home.  The husband was killed. The wife was beaten, raped, shot in the head, but survived with no memory of the event, or notion of who she had been. The families of each of the victims came together and dealt with the horror in different ways.

A young Mexican-American teen-ager became involved because he had rented a car of his father's to the first primary suspect in the attacks. Police suspected it was used to go to the crime scene. Their first suspect was the Mexican gang member who rented the car.

The real culprits of the crime turned out to be an African-American man and his drugged-out Anglo girlfriend. For all their dependence on chemical coping, the couple was very much in love, a bit of poignancy added to the mix.

By looking at the people involved in the crime, you can guess the kinds of tension that built and exploded during the season.

The storyline, riveting and timely, descended into a racial conflict which threatened to boil over into more violence.

Each episode of the series grabbed my interest immediately and made me come back the next week, even though the ugliness of parts of the story repelled me.

Filmed in California (it supposedly took place in Modesto), the outdoor scenes were filmed on the dusty, drought damaged yards and streets. The bleakness of the grounds added to the atmosphere of the story.

An exceptional group of actors at the top of their games filled the cast.  Felicity Huffman in a role in which she was almost unrecognizable did a superb job as the mother of the murdered young man.  Her character was filled with long repressed emotions coming to the top.  I hated the character at times but always understood her. I will not forget her in this part. She was as bleak and unforgiving as the dry ground around her.

Timothy Hutton  played her ex-husband, a reformed alcoholic/gambling addict, now a shuffling, ineffective man destroyed by his cold wife and his own failure to be the father his children needed. He is a pitiful character not quite part of the events, shunned by his ex and his remaining son, desperate to be part of the family once more. Desperate to atone. I'm used to Hutton playing the clever wise-cracking role.  To see him in this role was shattering.

The versatile Regina Taylor played the sister of the man suspected of committing the crime.  The character was an African-American woman who was a Muslim.  She was a super strong woman in her faith in her religion and her brother. She was a righteous woman who did whatever necessary to support her brother. She created a memorable character.

As a writer, I was fascinated by the scripts for each episode.  The progression of the story was established well as the audience learned more about the crime, the victims, the suspects, and their community.

There were plot twists and surprises with the ultimate surprise being the ending.

It was announced last night that the series will return next year.  Undoubtedly it will be a new story as this one concluded.

If you like drama that will grab you and keep your interest and bring insight to our own current events, catch American Crime on demand or when it comes out on video.

I predict there will be Emmy nominations for some of the cast members, and probably Golden Globes.

The series was hard-hitting, but like witnessing a crime in front of me, I could not look away.

Until next time...