Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Adventures of Zelda Pug and Peach

The Adventures of Zelda: Pug and Peach (Zelda, #3)The Adventures of Zelda: Pug and Peach by Kristen Otte

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Like most pet parents I have often wondered what my dogs' internal monologues are like. Kristen Otte captures this sentiment perfectly. It's a real treat to be a part of this spunky little pug's adventures. In volume three we get to know Zelda's new sister Peach who is just as spirited. Together the furry duo wage a crusade against the neighborhood squirrels and "help out" the smaller humans with an Easter egg hunt. They even have a harrowing encounter with the Easter bunny. Find out what it's like for a dog to navigate a "polar vortex." This book is incredibly endearing and suitable for people/dogs of all ages. I guarantee you'll have a smile on your face while reading it!



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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Lucy

I was not the least surprised that LUCY made $44M & became no. 1 at the box office this past weekend. I was surprised to see a glowing review by a fellow female writer. Did we watch the same film? I approached the film with a bit of caution. Director, Luc Besson is best known for his masterpiece THE PROFESSIONAL & THE FIFTH ELEMENT, but in recent years he has released some lackluster films (THE TRANSPORTER series). I really wanted to like LUCY, but I just couldn’t. It's basically a few poorly done MATRIX shots wrapped up in a black Versace dress.



Most complaints lie with the seriously flawed plot. That aspect didn’t bother me as much since I did not plan on watching a documentary going in to LUCY. I do not watch films to critique the scientific accuracies. Cinema is a form of art. You cannot expect an artist to logically explain a piece, so why do it with film? This was a major issue with the film GRAVITY as well. The genre of science fiction exists because it is just that…fiction. Moving past the plot, the bigger flaws lie within the script. This film is riddled with bad acting and even worse writing. Do all actions films lack dept? The film tries desperately to be ever so thought provoking, but falls very flat. It's as if someone who skimmed the Cliff's Notes explaining Jean Paul Sarte philosophies.



The main point of the article I read is to prove that women can carry a successful film. I certainly support this notion, but this is not the film to demonstrate that idea. I agree we need more female driven films in strong roles. We need women taking on bigger roles outside of the cheesy romantic comedy. I certainly hope this turd doesn’t lead to a Black Widow film like everyone anticipates. When will people realize ScarJo is not a great actress? The Black Widow character could be really great, but ScarJo’s uninspired acting takes her in a very one dimensional direction.



The solution to this predicament is to start with better writers. It’s no secret that the film industry is a man’s world. The industry is saturated with male producers, directors, and writers. Many of whom are not capable of writing a well developed female character. Lars Von Trier has built a career on extremely complex female characters. His leading ladies are far from the stereotypical manic-pixie-dream-girl. It’s easy for men to feel alienated and uncomfortable watching his films as a result. We’ve had amazing female characters throughout the years such as Ellen Ripley, Beatrix Kiddo, and Sarah Connor. However, in the last two decades the strong female character has drastically faded. Unfortunately, most women in recent action films only exist as eye candy. They have the typical tough exterior like a wild tiger that needs a little taming by Vin Diesel or Jason Stratham.



I’m sorry to say that LUCY is not going to revolutionize the film industry. It had a big start, and gradually descended into stupidity. I’m also sorry to say that Luc Besson pretty much peaked with THE PROFESSIONAL. How can a film about being the smartest person in existence be the dumbest film of the year? Don’t bother wasting your time.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Texas Frightmare Weekend 2014

A couple weeks ago we went to Dallas for Texas Frightmare Weekend which is an annual horror convention. This year was a ton of fun so let me share some highlights with you.

On the way to Dallas, we stopped in Waco to visit the Dr. Pepper Museum. The museum had a lot more exhibits than I expected. It was really cool to see the old bottling equipment. They even had dozens of old soda machines from a wide range of decades. I got a lot more insight on the process of making soda. There’s even an old timey soda fountain where you can indulge in as many Dr. Peppers as you wish. I had one!



This year’s guests were all incredible icons from some of my favorite horror films. George Romero was in attendance as the guest of honor with Tom Savini, David Emge, and Scott H. Reiniger of DAWN OF THE DEAD. We saw Linda Blair from THE EXORCIST and John Kassir aka The Crypt Keeper himself! I was more excited to see Doug Bradley, Barbie Wilde, and Nick Vince of HELLRAISER.





For as long as I can remember, Pinhead has been my favorite horror icon and getting to meet Doug Bradley was a dream come true. He was very nice and told me I have a lovely name. I wanted to buy his book, but unfortunately he was out. He did offer to mail me a copy when he got home. How stoked was I to get a package in the mail from Pinhead himself! Barbie Wilde was incredibly gracious as well. I’ve wanted to read her book for a while and was pleased to see it for sale at her booth. She was kind enough to sign it for me. The HELLRAISER panel was awesome. Everyone talked about how remakes are awful. When Nick Vince brought up the idea of a “reboot,” Bradley said that was a bullshit word. I completely agree. Most remakes are atrocious to begin with. A HELLRAISER remake is completely unnecessary since the story lives on in the comic books. In fact, a NIGHTBREED comic book is slated for release later this year. Clive Barker either writes or has creative control of all the series and I must say they are fantastic. We should always remember that Clive Barker is a writer first and foremost. His stories are best told in their original medium free of censorship and the Weinsteins.



My other favorite panel of the weekend was the one with Jason Baldwin of the West Memphis 3. This case was something that I followed for many years and felt very personal to me. To be able to sit in a room with Baldwin as he told his story was really emotional. His outlook really puts things into perspective. Most of us complain about asinine things like traffic or the wrong coffee order while this man spent nearly twenty years in prison for a crime he did not commit and he still has a positive attitude about life. I am just inspired by his courage. He mentioned that initially he was apprehensive of being a guest at a horror con simply because of the backlash that was received upon initial arrest. He has since embraced the community because he realized there is nothing wrong with liking horror movies or wearing black clothing. There’s nothing wrong with being different. There is something wrong with a justice system that will persecute an individual based on their outward appearance. Jason talked about life since incarceration. He continues to be an advocate for equal justice and prison reform. He and his wife have produced the upcoming film, DEVIL’S KNOT based on the events of the case. I certainly hope some good comes of this horrible tragedy.




Another fun panel was the TERMINATOR retrospective. This panel included Michael Biehn, Earl Boen, Jenette Goldstein, Linda Hamilton, Peter Kent, Kristanna Loken, and Robert Patrick. They talked about everything from nude scenes to extremely dangerous stunts. Peter Kent, Arnold’s longtime stunt double, did an amazing impression of Arnold. He seemed like he would be a lot more fun to hang out with than the real Arnold.



We saw a panel hosted by Dee Snider with Tom Savini, Bill Moseley, and Tom Morga. I was actually surprised to see how engaging and well spoken Dee Snider is. He talked a bit about STRANGELAND which was a terrible film. I guess he’s working on a sequel. Tom Savini is always entertaining to listen to. The man has a lifetime of stories to tell about his movie making experiences. Tom Morga was also really interesting as he’s done a lot of stunt work for things like FRIDAY THE 13th, HALLOWEEN, THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, and JURASSIC PARK.



TX Frightmare Weekend always falls on Free Comic Book Day so I usually miss out on all the madness at my local comic book shop. This year I got lucky. Writer/artist Mike Norton of Battlepug fame was in Dallas signing books at Zeus Comics. Battlepug is my favorite comic book and it always brightens my Mondays when a new installment arrives. It was really cool to meet Mike and talk about pugs and beer. He was even kind enough to donate some prints for auction to the Pug Rescue of Austin. Of course I had to buy a print for myself.



Saturday evening we drove to downtown Dallas to explore Dealey Plaza where President Kennedy was assassinated. I would love to have visited the museum in the book depository building, but it closes early in the day. Nonetheless, it was very eerie wandering around the infamous grassy knoll at night. There are two “X”s in the middle of the road marking the spots where Kennedy and Governor Connelly were shot. As a kid, I was really engrossed in the Kennedy Assassination and history of the slain president. It was really fascinating to examine the scene of such a notable, historic event. The whole area virtually looks the same as it did in November of 1963. I definitely want to go back and visit the museum.





We had a really great time in Dallas. This is definitely one of my favorite conventions to frequent. It’s nice to see so many people who share the same interests as you do. Every guest I encountered was so cordial and grateful to all the fans that showed up. I look forward to next year’s event!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Pittsburgh, PA

Last week I got to visit my good friends Sean & Adele in Pittsburgh, PA. I had a great visit so I thought I'd share some pics and a couple of highlights. Sean & Adele actually live in Glassport which is about ten miles southeast of Pittsburgh proper. Their lovely home overlooks the Monongahela River. We couldn't have asked for better weather too while I visited. Just earlier in the week it was actually still snowing so I'm pretty thankful that cleared up as I am allergic to snow. As an avid film connoisseur, one of my favorite things to do while on vacation is to visit local filming sites. The town near Glassport called Clairton was used as the setting for the Oscar winning film, THE DEER HUNTER. You can actually see the largest coke manufacturing facility (Clairton Works) in the United States from Seandele's home. I also got to see the town of Braddock, PA which was the backdrop for the film OUT OF THE FURNACE.



Monroeville Mall
I finally reached one of the holy grails of filming locations, Monroeville Mall. Any horror diehard knows this iconic location as the setting for George Romero's masterpiece, DAWN OF THE DEAD. I have certainly been dying to cross this off my list. The commentary for DAWN OF THE DEAD will give more insight on the actual filming if anyone is interested. DAWN OF THE DEAD was filmed in 1977 and although much has changed since then, parts of the mall still look familiar. The mall was also used in a few scenes of ZACK AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO. It was pretty cool to stand on the site of such a quintessential film like DAWN OF THE DEAD.





Carnegie Museum of Natural History
I love museums, especially science and history museums. This one did not disappoint! It was a lot bigger than expected with several floors of everything from dinosaurs to statues to botany. Come to find out, Carnegie Museum of Natural History was also one of the locations used in SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. They have an incredibly vast collection of bugs and insects similar to the moth from the film. The hall of statues was really cool too.





The Warhol
I can't tell you how excited I was to visit the Andy Warhol Museum. It was absolutely amazing; I could have spent an entire day there. You can't take photos of the actual pieces, but no photo could do them justice anyway. It was incredible to be able to see such historic works of art up close. The texture and colors are truly amazing. One of my favorite pieces was the Jackie Kennedy painting. There was an entire wall covered in Mao wallpaper and the classic Mao paintings hanging on it. The museum was six floors of various work that included items from his college days to his commercial work. One thing I did not know was that his mother Julia was also an artist. The museum contains several pieces of her work as well. I had always presumed the famous pop art pieces were made on canvas, but I found that they were done on linen which makes sense when screen printing. I was also pleasantly surprised to find a whole section of collaborated pieces by Warhol and Basquiat. I definitely recommend visiting this amazing museum if you have a chance.









Monongahela Incline
We rode this cable lift to the top of Mt. Washington. We had the most beautiful view of the entire city. One thing Pittsburgh is known for is its many bridges and sprawling hills. The city is surrounded by so much amazing architecture. There's a ton of history in Pittsburgh and I can see why Christopher Nolan chose is to portray Gotham city in THE DARK KNIGHT RISES. I had such a wonderful time and hope to make it back again. Special thanks to Sean, Adele, Liam, Shiloh, and Chambers for being such gracious hosts.