Friday, August 31, 2012

Still Waters/ Bee Gees - Album Review

Greetings Pups,

This has been a rough year. We have lost several people who we may not have known but certainly loved. One of them was Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees. That loss devastated me because I have been an admirer of his for so long. So now, of all the Gibb brothers, the only one we have left is Barry. I must be honest. While I do love him, I never clicked with Barry as much as I did with his brothers, Andy included. I have no idea why, but now that he is all we have, I think I've learned to appreciate him more than ever before. I sincerely feel bad that it took this long and all these tragic losses for me to do so. Anyway, in honor of his birthday, which is tomorrow, I will be devoting this weekend to the career he shared with his beloved brothers. And I am starting with my all-time favorite Bee Gees album, Still Waters.

Though I always liked the music of the Bee Gees, at least what little of it to which I was exposed, it wasn't until I saw a performance of theirs in 1996 that I began to self-teach. I really began to look into their career, specifically, everything outside of the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. And then in May of 1997, I had the privilege of doing something for the first time - buying a Bee Gees album on the day of its release. It was, of course, Still Waters.

In the late nineties, there seemed to be a great interest in all things seventies. This, therefore, led people straight to the Bee Gees. While everyone seemed to wax nostalgic about their past music, it also sparked interest in their new music. So this album was actually a bit of a hit. No surprise when it had such a great, current sound, and they were helped by legendary producers like David Foster and Arif Mardin. It was certainly more successful than you'd think for a group that many people had foolishly considered practically irrelevant for the previous two decades. I bet they were surprised when they heard this masterpiece. And a masterpiece is exactly what I think this is. So let's begin.

The album starts off with the track "Alone", which was the lead off single. It got a decent amount of airplay and went top ten in several countries. Not ours, of course, because sometimes even we Americans just don't get it. The second single released was a beautiful love song entitled "I Could Not Love You More", and I don't know why, but this one actually made me a little misty the first time I heard it. It was so moving and classic, exactly what you would expect in a love song from the Bee Gees. The title track was the final single released. It is certainly one of the strongest on the album, though I do like some of the songs better. Let me discuss those.

The song "I Will" is absolutely gorgeous with a fantastic vocal performance from Robin. Before I heard it, I wondered if it was going to be a cover of The Beatles song of the same name, until I realized that they stopped trying to be The Beatles quite a while earlier. Actually, and some people may call me sacrilegious for this, I think this "I Will" is better than the one from the Fab Four. Sorry. Moving on.

"Smoke and Mirrors" is the closing track and, listening to the lyrics, I think this one was the perfect choice on which to end. Parts of it almost sound like something of a prayer with which you would send off a loved one. Seems like a good way to finish things off. Now, of course, we get a song with Maurice singing lead called "Closer Than Close". They always let him have at least one song. He was like the Ringo of the group. Oh, well, so much for not wanting to be The Beatles.

But my absolute favorite song on this album is "Miracles Happen". It's just gorgeous, especially the lyrics, and you all know what a lyric snob I am. It has an ethereal sound to it, and it's another one that makes me cry sometimes. I think I feel that way because those wonderful words bring me great comfort. It is, in my opinion, one of the finest songs they have ever written.

There are, of course, more songs featured here, but these ones are the highlights for me. There is truly not one weak track on this album. It's one of the most consistent sounding and well-produced projects in their whole career. No wonder it's my favorite.

Now I know that there may still be some people out there who think that the Bee Gees did nothing besides Saturday Night Fever. Right, because everyone can sustain a forty+ year career on six songs from a soundtrack album. But for those of you who know there is more, but haven't heard it, start with this album. It's the Brothers Gibb at their absolute best, and the fact that we will never have anything from them again, makes me treasure it all the more.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Top Ten Drake and Josh Episodes

Greetings Pups,

I have a confession. I love the show Drake and Josh. I know, I know. It makes no sense. At original airtime, I was between ten and fifteen years older than the demographic. But I was, and still am, a mere six years older than the stars. I believe that makes it alright.

Seriously, though, while this show was intended for the teen or tween market, it did not do what a lot of shows in this category do. It did not talk down to its audience. It did not treat these youngsters like they weren't smart. Sure, there was slapstick comedy and the writing wasn't Shakespeare, but it also wasn't completely stupid. To me, the makers of this show balanced fun and intelligence, so that everyone, kids and kids, not so much, alike, could really enjoy it. And that is why I have decided to honor them with a list of favorite episodes.

First, some show info.

Our title characters of brothers Drake Parker and Josh Nichols are portrayed by Drake Bell and Josh Peck. Portrayed perfectly, I might add. Technically, they are stepbrothers, but after the pilot, I don't recall that being brought up too much, aside from the different last names. They just considered each other brothers. At the start, Drake was the traditionally good looking, a little shallow, cool guy and Josh was the funny, lovable and, let's say it, a tad chubby one. It's okay to say that he WAS chubby, because he is not anymore. Like, he's not that anymore, something fierce. Down, inner cougar! Anyway, these two guys were, and still are, very talented. Even at their young age, they did a great job of carrying the show. Of course, it probably didn't hurt that they had a very good supporting cast.

In the periphery of the lives of Drake and Josh were a lot of recurring characters. We had friends from school, teachers and co-workers, like Josh's boss at the movie theater, Helen. She always gave Josh a hard time, but she really liked Drake, almost uncomfortably so. But I guess since he was not a minor in reality, it's okay. At home, they had their parents, who I actually like. They weren't made out to be total morons or something like a lot of shows disrespectfully do to the parents. No, they were fun, while remaining proper parents, even punishing the kids sometimes. How odd! And, of course, we have to mention little sister Megan, played by Miranda Cosgrove. As you all know, I am not a fan of kids on a regular basis, but she was amazing on this show. Hilariously devious and a diabolical little genius was our Megan. She was an absolute joy to watch. But moving on.

The Top Ten Drake and Josh episodes, away we go.

#10. "Foam Finger" (Season 3)- This is one of the episodes where we are reminded that they are stepbrothers, as it is centered around their first meeting at a ballpark. It's a bit of a Rashomon effect situation, where they each have their own version of what happened, but each one is funny in its own way. And hats off to the kids who played tiny Drake and Josh. They were pretty good.

#9. "Megan's First Kiss" (Season 4) - So Megan is growing up and has a boyfriend, and he is such a nice guy. Or is he? While this episode is obviously hilarious, we also get an uncharacteristically touching moment between Megan and her protective big brothers. It's actually very sweet and the main reason why it gets a spot on the list.

#8. "Number One Fan" (Season 2) - In the series, Drake is a guitar player with a band and is a bit locally famous. Naturally, he was the recipient of crushes, one of which came from a little girl who kind of got too crazy about him. He had to let her down easy, but, just like in the other hundred times this story has been done, that didn't work out so well. Still, the sympathy I had for the girl, having gone through somewhat similar situations myself, earned her episode a place here.

#7. "Josh is Done" (Season 4) - Drake and Josh have had several petty arguments over the course of the show, but here, Josh was pushed to his limit and decided to cut Drake off from his life. It was actually a bit serious in places, which made it really good. But if you want to talk funny, I'm just going to utter the name of a small character on the show - Clayton. If you know who this is, you'll know what I mean.

#6. "The Bet" (Season 2) - Josh is addicted to video games and Drake is addicted to junk food. So they bet each other about who can last longer without their vices. This is a story that has also been done on several shows, I'm sure, and yet I can't resist watching two males compete until their stubbornness and machismo nearly destroys them. Or gives one of them a rash. Just watch it.

#5. "The Pilot" (Season 1) - It's rare that I consider pilot episodes among my favorites for any show, but I make an exception here. It did a good job of setting up the series and what it would be about. Plus, we get to see a very interesting side of our Josh. VERY interesting.

#4. "Peruvian Puff Pepper" (Season 3) - Drake and Josh are planning to enter their salsa in a contest to win a big screen TV for their room. Megan wants to help so it can be won for the whole family. Of course, they say no. This leads to Megan being Megan and pulling off one of her most detailed pranks, one with a great payoff.

#3. "Honor Council" (Season 2)- Drake is brought before the school's honor council (kiddie court) when he is accused of bringing a teacher's car into her classroom. Seriously. This episode features Julia Duffy in the role of Mrs. Hayfer, the teacher who HATES Drake. I don't think teachers are supposed to be as obvious about it as she is. Still, this is probably the funniest I've ever seen Julia Duffy. And speaking of funny, there is a young actress here named Allison Scagliotti playing Josh's archenemy Mindy Crenshaw, who also hates Drake. She was fantastic in this episode and in every appearance she made on the show. Some of you may know her now from Warehouse 13, and she also showed up on one of my favorite shows, Destination Truth. What a gal! Oh, and by the way, yes. She did beat Josh in the science fair.

#2. "Theater Thug" (Season 3)- I could say a lot about this episode, but I will whittle down my reasons for putting this at number two by repeating three words uttered by Josh: "I ain't playin'!" Again, just watch it, and you'll know what I mean.

#1. "Josh Runs Into Oprah" (Season 4) - If there's one thing we know about Josh, it is that he looooves Oprah. Always has and always will. In this episode, his dream comes true when Drake gets them tickets and backstage passes to see Oprah, albeit, after he forgot Josh's birthday. As the boys drive through the parking lot, Josh, at the wheel, becomes distracted and literally runs into Oprah. His reaction when doing so is priceless and so is this episode.

Every now and then, I'm sure we all wish we were a different age for whatever reason. Maybe so we don't feel bad for watching a kids show while we are in our thirties. But then I realize, who cares if I like this show? I will never be ashamed or apologize for liking something good, and this show was great.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Shades of Ray - Movie Review

Greetings Pups,

Anyone else having Chuck withdrawals, like I am? Well, this post should help a little, since I will be reviewing a film starring the adorable Zachary Levi called Shades of Ray. This is an indie film from 2008, and it revolves around racial issues and relationship issues and family issues. It is an issue ridden movie, but they are all dealt with in a comedic and even heartwarming way. And that is a nice change from how some of these things are usually dealt with.

The story of Shades of Ray is about a guy named Ray Rehman, a half-American, half-Pakistani in his mid-twenties, and he is played by our own Zachary Levi. Let me stop for a minute. Zachary Levi (actual last name Pugh) is, according to my info, of Welsh descent, yet he got cast in this very ethnically specific role. Though he did a fantastic job here, I still wonder how this came to be. Oh, well, it's not the first time Hollywood has done this, as I made it quite clear in my Gerard Butler retrospective. And you know, I don't think Jake Gylenhall is Persian, or that Natalie Wood was Puerto Rican, and did anyone see Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany's? Yeah, that last one was a bit much. Okay, I'm getting off track. Back to this fine film.

So, Ray is an aspiring actor and bartender. Or, you know, a bartender. And he lives with his best friend, Sal, played by Fran Kranz, a dude who is pretty funny. Ray's Pakistani father, Javaid, is played hilariously by Brian George, who some of you may recognize from Seinfeld, and who also happens to be a British-Israeli. What is with the casting in this thing? It's okay. He did a great job, too. Anyway, he insists that his son only date Pakistani women who are strict Muslims. Interesting, because he obviously married a white woman, namely Ray's mother, Janet, played by one of my most beloved actresses, Kathy Baker. But when Javaid's wife kicks him out and he goes to stay with his son, we pretty much are told why he feels the way he does. Still, it seems that Ray only dates white women. He even has a serious girlfriend named Noel who is - Yep! - white. It's Bonnie Somerville playing her, so we're talking about a blonde haired, green eyed, which is close enough to blue, white girl. Uh-oh.

Unfortunately, while Ray's mother is aware of his "career" and girlfriend, his father thinks he is an investment banker and still holds out hope that he will settle down with one of those nice Pakistani, Muslim women that he holds in such high regard. Enter Sana, played by Sarah Shahi, the daughter of some of Javaid's friends, who he tries to fix up with Ray. After finding out that they have much in common, including their mixed heritage, Ray begins to question what it is that he really is looking for in a woman and his life in general. This leads to plenty of conflict and a young man just trying to figure things out.

Like I mentioned before, this movie does have a lot to do with the issue of race and ethnicity and the way that it affects people's lives. Even though I personally have never had to deal with it in this way, I understand that it can be, and usually is, a very serious thing. But I think this film handles it in a way that is actually true to life for a lot of people. It's not always just about the violence and the hatred. Sometimes it's just about how it plays a part in the average, everyday actions and decisions of average, everyday life for average, everyday people. Many of us, no matter who or what we are, spend our time wondering what we want and what is best for us, and many different things can factor in to how we feel about that. Sometimes, like in this film, where we and our families come from has a lot to do with those decisions we make for our lives. And ethnicity also leads to the different traditions, cultures and beliefs that go along with them. So it can cause conflict in what one chooses to do and how the other people in their lives will have to cope with it. It certainly does here.

Still, even though Shades of Ray has a story line that is heavily centered around this subject, it also is about family and relationships and the insane dynamic between what we want and what our parents want for us, which makes it very universal. It also manages to work in the humor that can be involved in these situations, and it does so very well. Again, I appreciate movies that deal with racial issues in a very serious way, because they are necessary, but it is refreshing to see it done like this, too. So, factor in all of this, and you've got yourself a simple but wonderful story, full of love and laughter and life. And Levi. Yeah, if you're a fan of my sweet Zachary, give this movie a chance. If you're not a fan, what's your problem? And check it out anyway.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Monday, August 27, 2012

Law and Order: U Kopy Kat

Greetings Pups,

In case anyone has yet to figure it out, I love Law and Order. It is my favorite show, and I include the whole franchise, because it is basically the same show with different characters. I was quite upset with the cancellation of Law and Order: Criminal Intent and the original Law and Order a year earlier. What really made that second one hurt was the fact that immediately afterward, they began airing Law and Order: Los Angeles. It made no sense to me, especially since I find Law and Order synonymous with New York. Having said that, I know some people who find it odd for me to feel that way since I do, in fact, love Law and Order: UK. I know it seems a bit hypocritical of me, but let's be honest. Law and Order: UK is London-based and London is pretty much the New York of England. Well, that's what I've always called it. And besides that, a gorgeous man with a British accent trumps all. I'm talking to you, Jamie Bamber.

Now there is something about Law and Order: UK that doesn't necessarily bother me, but it does give me pause for thought. And that is the blatant recycling of stories. I kid you not. There have been numerous times when I would be watching an episode of Law and Order: UK that I had never seen before, but I would feel as though I had. It is because I had already seen the U.S. version of it. That's right. They would completely lift episodes from our version and remake them on theirs. And I don't just mean an "inspired by" situation. No, they would do the same exact episode, right down to using the same character names, and even dialogue.

I suppose if you take into account how many episodes there are of each series, it may not seem like that much of an offense. Keep in mind, though, that there are a few years of the original series that I don't care for due to reasons that I won't mention. Don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. Point is, I probably didn't catch all of these copies, but I did catch many. Let me tell you about a few of my favorites. P.S. I will giving spoilers, so do as you must.

"Helpless"(U.S.)/"Alesha"(U.K.) - These episodes center around female characters. In the U.S., it was Dr. Elizabeth Olivet, a clinical psychologist on retainer for the NYPD, and in the U.K., it was Alesha Phillips, who works as a Junior Crown Prosecuter, their version of District Attorneys. Both women go to an gynecologist and are assaulted. They report the doctor, and, though, the detectives find some evidence that he has done this in the past, the case is weak. So both women go back with tape recorders hoping to catch him, only to be drugged and full on raped in the process. This leads to many problems, especially when the defense attorneys find out that the women knew one of the past victims of the doctor. But they get him in the end. Though my point of this post is to be a bit critical, can I say what a fine job both actresses Carolyn McCormack and Freema Agyeman did in their respective episodes? Because they did.

"Manhood"(U.S.)/"Samaritan"(U.K.) - While waiting for back up that never shows, a cop is fatally shot. We later find out that the cop was gay and, apparently, the back up did not help because of that. Of course, they had to make the bad cop who did not help a "religious" man who was not fond of homosexuals. Once again, trying to prove that Christians hate them. Here's a newsflash: if someone says they hate gays and would stand by and watch as one dies when they could be helped, that person is not a real Christian. Just so you know.

"Bad Faith"(U.S.)/"Confession"(U.K.) - These episodes center around U.S. Detective Mike Logan and U.K. Detective Sergeant Matt Devlin. In both, a cop is found dead whom each of the detectives knew. All of this leads back to abuse by priests in the Catholic Church, and we find out that Mike Logan was a victim himself, which explains a lot about him. Matt Devlin, however, just knew about what was going on when he was a kid. But other than that, the episodes are very similar. The U.K. episode does something interesting, though. It proves why there can never be a Law and Order: U.K. SVU type of show. Here's why. The word pedophile. All of us Americans with no accents know how this word is pronounced and how it sounds to us. In the U.K., they say the word like this - PEE-dophile. Got it. Okay, it's fine once, but when one says it over and over again, like Devlin did in the courtroom scenes here, it's starts to get . . . amusing. After about five times, I literally said, out loud, "Honey, can you just say child molester? Because I am laughing heartily and I do not want to be doing so when it comes to this subject."

"Endurance"(U.S.)/"Duty of Care"(U.K.) - Here, an apartment building is on fire and a kid with severe mental and physical problems is found dead. Of course, the parents are questioned. Turns out, the mother withheld meds or something during a seizure to put him out of his misery. But, oops, that didn't kill him. It just sort of rendered him slightly unconcsious for a bit, so the fire she lit was what killed him. Painfully. I guess the other thing these episodes have in common, besides exact dialogue, is the lesson that one should think before doing something that is, let's say, extreme.

"Killerz"(U.S.)/"Broken"(U.K.) - If you are indifferent to children, you fall into the category of the only people who can truly enjoy these episodes. You're going to get upset if you like kids, and you're going to get upset if you don't. A little boy is killed (sad) and a grown man is questioned about the murder based on the testimony of two little girls. But, surprise, the little girls, one 13 who is a little slow and the other 10 who is quite precocious, are the guilty parties. Okay, though these episodes initially have similarities, there is a twist that makes them quite different. In both shows, the older girl is not considered the mastermind, but the younger one is. However, in the U.K. version, she is seen as a victim herself because her mother is a working trollop, as they say, and she does work out of their house. So we have some sympathy for the girl since she clearly had no concept of right or wrong. In the U.S., however, the girl is a full on, mini sociopath, though they say you can't diagnose them that early. Um, I bet you can if you try really hard, doctors.

And these are merely a few of the examples I have caught. Both versions of each episode are great and should be watched, so I'm not criticizing on that part, just on the unoriginality of the whole thing. Funny enough, when I wished they would have copied, they didn't. In the 15th season episode "Tombstone" of Law and Order, Detective Ed Green was shot. He didn't die though. They just needed to do something with Jesse L. Martin's character while he went off to make Rent. In the 5th series (as they call it) episode "Deal" of Law and Order U.K., Detective Sergeant Matt Devlin is shot. But he DID die. What? I remember thinking "But he can't die. They're copying another story. It's supposed to go 'Hot guy gets shot; hot guy lives!' What is the deal?!

Now if anyone still thinks I'm kidding about this, I am not the only one who sees it. If you go online and look for lists of the U.K. episodes on Wikipedia, they literally tell you which ones match up with the U.S. version. So I am not crazy, and people have written about this even more in depth than I have.

I don't know why they chose to do this. Maybe they thought neither of the shows would ever cross the pond like they have. Still, like I said, it doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things. Both shows are excellent and need to be seen. So what if you're seeing repeats. I have watched the same episodes of every Law and Order over and over again, and I am always entertained. Plus, since there are so many, I often forget how certain episodes end, so it's almost new again. Oh, well, long live the Law and Order.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Sunday, August 26, 2012

In Your Dreams/ Stevie Nicks - Album Review

Greetings Pups,

As much as I love certain people, I hate it when they make me wait. Example. In 2001, Stevie Nicks released a great album called Trouble in Shangri-La and then didn't release anything new for TEN YEARS! Why, Stevie, why?. Okay, to be fair, she did release a live album and a "best of", but those don't really count. And she did do the Say You Will album with Fleetwood Mac, where she wrote about seven of the songs. Still, her Mac songs have always felt different to me than her solo work, and it just wasn't enough. I mean, the reason she broke off from Fleetwood Mac to begin her solo career was mainly because she did not have enough of an outlet for her prolific songwriting. But I will try not to complain too much, because, well, first of all, it's Stevie, and I love her. But also because, finally, in 2011, we did get a new album called In Your Dreams, and it is fantastic.

In Your Dreams is Stevie's seventh studio album, released thirty years after her solo debut Bella Donna. This one was very much a collaborative effort for her and Dave Stewart (the one from the Eurythmics), and, I must say, he did an excellent job. Most of the songs were written by the both of them, but there were also contributions by a couple of others, including Edgar Allan Poe. More on that later. And, to put it bluntly, this album was definitely worth the wait. I think it may be her best work ever, proving that life experience does have some benefits, and it is not only wine that gets better with age. So let me take you through some of the high points.

The album starts strongly with a song called "Secret Love". Stevie had written it in 1976 for Rumours, but it didn't make the cut, much like her beautiful song "Silver Springs". Seriously, were they contractually obligated to only have eleven songs on that album? Because rejecting these two songs seems crazy. Another great track is "Wide Sargasso Sea" which is a song that is based on a movie that was based on a book of the same name. The story is a precursor to the story of Jane Eyre, and when Stevie saw the film, she wrote a long poem about it, something I have done with several movies myself. That poem then morphed into this powerful song, which is so strong and driving it almost overwhelms you. But in a good way.

Speaking of being inspired by other writers, as I mentioned, the song "Annabel Lee" is adapted from the poem by Edgar Allan Poe. It seems odd for someone as lyrically gifted as Stevie Nicks to use someone else's words, but she knows what's good when she hears it. And the end result is phenomenal. She can certainly get inspired by anything or anyone, even Reese Witherspoon. Yes, Ms. Witherspoon dropped by some recording sessions and apparently a random comment she made inspired "Cheaper Than Free", a simple but alluring song that closes the album.

And for those of you who are fans, or stalkers, of Reese's one time co-star Robert Pattinson, there is even a song for you. "Moonlight (A Vampire's Dream)" has a very interesting history. The first and third verses were written by Stevie in the seventies about her relationship with Lindsey Buckingham. But, after she saw Twilight: New Moon, she wrote the second verse and the chorus about the relationship of Bella and Edward. One can certainly see the parallels between the two of them and how they show that some love is everlasting, even through separation. As much as it pains me to admit that. It always pains me to give any kind of compliment to Twilight. Yeah, I need to wrap this up. But, speaking of which, maybe on the next album Stevie makes she can write a song about cheating. She will, obviously, have to go no further than the real lives of some of those Twilight stars for inspiration.

Now I could go on and on about each song on this album. I like all of them, some more than others, but when even my least favorites are really good, that says a lot. Still, I have to give a major nod to the best song here. For years, my favorite Stevie Nicks song has been "Has Anyone Ever Written Anything For You?" I love the song itself and the story behind it. However, "Italian Summer" could definitely give it a run for its money. I can't even begin to describe how exquisite it is. Everything about it, the music, the arrangement, the lyrics (of course!) are absolutely perfect. There is literally nothing wrong with this song. It is flawless to me, and it is 100% Stevie, destined to become a classic alongside such gems as "Rhiannon" and "Landslide". In case you haven't figured it out, it's my favorite song on the album.

So if you are a fan of Stevie's, you should certainly own this album. If you are not a huge fan but have had your interest peaked by this review, here's a suggestion. Go to You Tube and find a two-part, behind the scenes, mini-documentary by searching Stevie Nicks In Your Dreams. It gives a great insight and a lot of clips of the music, if you want to give it a listen. It will not disappoint and neither does this album.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Top Ten Kennywood Rides

Greetings Pups,

So yesterday, I put up a post about people who have left the Pittsburgh area and went on to become famous. Now I know I may have been a little harsh about having to live here as an artist, but I'm not above saying that living here doesn't have its good points. For example, rumor has it that the town in which I currently live is famous for pretty much kicking Christina Aguilera the heck out. That was, in fact, part of the basis of its appeal. Actually, I can think of something else we have here that no one else in the world does. And that is Kennywood Park.

If anyone doesn't know, Kennywood is an amusement park in West Mifflin which is a suburb of Pittsburgh, and for all of us who live within fifty miles of it, it has been a big part of our lives. It truly is a historical landmark being one of only two amusement parks in the National Register of Historic Places. In its over one hundred year lifespan, Kennywood has built a reputation of being extremely well taken care of and extremely fun. Though some changes have understandably occurred over its past century of existence, they have managed to keep the spirit of the history alive. Of course, the best part of the whole experience is the rides.

In my life, I have seen rides come and go and come back, but I've always had my favorites. So today, I will share with you all my top ten Kennywood rides, and for those of you who have not been there, I will do my best with descriptions. Now, to clarify, these are only rides that I have actually been on, so if you see any glaring omissions, that's probably why. Oh, and I stayed out of Kiddieland, the kids part of the park, mainly because most of the rides there are mini me's of the adult park rides. Not to say I didn't love my time there. But feel free to comment on your own favorites from either section. And rides only. I know that the Mushroom Fountain and the Potato Patch are life changing experiences, but they just don't have a place here. Maybe later. Okay, let's ride.

Honorable Mention: The Laser Loop - As I just said, no rides that I haven't been on are allowed. That is why this one did not make the official list. This roller coaster went away before I was old enough, or possibly brave enough, to ride it. I did want to mention it, though, because for all the years it was there, it was the signal that we had arrived. We would be in our car, still on the road, after the long trip and we would see the highest point of that ride rising up into the sky. We would see that and say, "We're here!" It's just a big memory and I wanted to share it.

#10. The Raging Rapids - This is a ride that had to earn a spot on this list. I did come to love it, but, initially, it was a little too realistic for me. Since whitewater rafting is something I would never do in real life due to my not wanting to drown, the fact that it had the "raging" water and rocks and stuff was a bit of a deterrent. But once the nerves were set aside, it became a must ride on every visit.

#9. The Kangaroo - This was a going around in a circle ride that had one hill that led to a jump, hence, the kangaroo name. I just loved how it made us feel like we were flying. And I love the shout out to the park mascot, Kenny Kangaroo. This may have been one of the first "grown up" rides I went on after I was no longer allowed in Kiddieland. That was one of the negatives of getting really tall, really fast when I was still really nervous about those big rides.

#8. The Turnpike - You know how we, as adults, may have a tendency to really hate driving? Well, as much as we hate it now, that's how much we wanted to do it as kids. The Turnpike gave us that opportunity. Now I grew up in the era where the cars were electric, but apparently they used to be gasoline powered since the whole thing was sponsored by Gulf. It closed in 2009, but I hear it might make a comeback. Let's hope so.

#7. Noah's Ark - Okay, I'm cheating a little here, since this is technically a walk through attraction and not a ride. But there is one part where the floor shakes, so it counts. It is basically exactly what you think. You take a walk through Noah's Ark, getting to see all the animals and what not. It was a bit of a freak out for little kids because it had a lot of dark areas, but if you make it through, you felt pretty grown up. My only objection is the entrance. You used to get in by walking through a whale's mouth. Sweet! Then they just made it a door or something. I have no idea why. Still good, though.

#6. The Wave Swinger - Or the Bavarian Wave Swinger if you wanna get technical. Even before I rode this one, it served to engage my imagination, which came in handy for the writing. I remember watching those people swing around on their seats through the air, and I would picture the chains breaking free and the people continuing to swing around. Not in a horror movie way, though. No, I would just imagine them flying through the air, up and up and up. It was magical, and so was I.

#5. The Steel Phantom - I believe this was the first roller coaster I rode that had the upside down element. Now it is still in the park, but also kind of not. It opened in 1991, but was revamped about ten years later and renamed Phantom's Revenge. I guess they took out the inversions, whatever those are, because people were complaining that that part of the ride was painful. Oh, please. It hurts to be beautiful and to ride mega coasters! Oh, AND the Steel Phantom and Kennywood itself got mentioned on an episode of CSI, where Grissom said he holds the record for most rides in a row or something. But I think he makes things up.

#4. The Racer - This one holds a special place in my heart because it was the first roller coaster I ever rode. And since the concept is that the two cars race, it cemented my competitive edge and made me always want to WIN!!!!

#3. The Pirate Ship - This is what I call a transitional ride. Let me explain. It's a big ship that swings back and forth, and the swings get bigger and bigger until the people sitting near the back are practically upside down. A lot of us start in the middle of the ship where it's not so bad, but then we work our way back. Yes, I did eventually make it to the back seat, and I loved looking straight down into the guts of the ride! That's right, the guts.

#2. The Whip - This is a pretty simple ride. It goes around in an elongated circle motion, where, at the ends, the cars are whipped around. It also used to be under a pavilion, which brings me to the elephant in the room. Sadly, about ten years ago, a woman died on this ride and several others were injured. It happened due to a micro burst that hit the pavilion causing it to collapse. Of course, they had to close the park for awhile, but soon they reopened as did the Whip sans the pavilion, which makes it safer but still fun.

#1. The Turtle - Again, nothing fancy here. You sit it a big metal turtle and go around and around and over about three hills. And it was one of the adult section rides that was for everyone. I think this is my favorite because, again, it's special to me. This was always the last ride we would go on before we left the park, and we were the kind of people who showed up at 11 AM when the park opened and stayed until 11 PM when it closed. We would hit The Turtle, then the Potato Patch for some cheesy fries for the ride home and that capped off our day. It was a good way to end.

I don't have a ton of happy memories from my childhood, but a lot of them have to do with the time I spent at Kennywood Park. It makes me realize that, sometimes, not a lot has to be done to make a person's life better. So, in all sincerity, I would love to thank the people who have always kept the place open to give everyone great memories. They are worth their weight in gold. And Potato Patch fries.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Friday, August 24, 2012

Top Ten Pittsburgh Escapees

Greetings Pups,

As I mentioned before, I am from a town in Western Pennsylvania. I have always been from towns in Western Pennsylvania. And since most people outside of this area have probably never heard of any of them, I have taken to telling them that I'm from "just outside of Pittsburgh". And I'm sure that many of the residents of small unknown towns just bring up the nearest big city when asked where they're from. It's a time saver.

And, as I have also mentioned, I have never quite felt like I fit into an area like this. I mean, I'm an artist who does not like sports, and there is really no place for my kind around here. Sure, we have an art college and the Andy Warhol Museum, but I'm not sure that this is a place to which artists would likely come. We tend to make a run for it if we actually want a career in the arts or the entertainment industry. I'm speaking simply from my own experiences of how people have treated me. I'm sure there are many residents here who are supportive of, or are themselves, artists. I just haven't met that many. Art just has never felt like much of a priority where I live.

Now I know that, recently, Pittsburgh has become a place that movie makers find appealing, though it always has held intrigue for some of them. It may be the appearance or the history, and, frankly, those things are what I have always found quite attractive about this area. Though I rarely go to the actual city of Pittsburgh, most of my time there having been due to school field trips, I have always enjoyed the way that you can practically feel the lives and stories that have existed there. It's something special for a city to possess. Still, it is nice that Hollywood has taken notice. Even Batman! P.S. This will not be my only Batman reference. If any of you read my last post, you will understand why.

Anyway, over the decades, we have had many people in the past leave the city and its surrounding areas who have gone on to become famous, even legendary. And we, who are still here, always enjoy seeing them do so. So I thought I would dedicate a list to my favorite Pittsburgh Escapees, as I call them. Now, keep in mind, some of these people may not be from actual Pittsburgh. They might be from, ya know, "just outside of Pittsburgh". But this title was easier than saying Western Pennsylvania Escapees. And remember, these are people who reached success OUTSIDE of the area. That means no Mr. Rogers, because he hit it big here and stayed here. And yet, he may just figure out a way to get mentioned. We'll see.

So here is my top ten.

#10. Billy Mays - I love a good TV pitchman, and he was the best. Even if I knew beyond any doubt that I did not need what he was selling, for a second, I would always consider buying. He has been well-remembered since his passing, and I think they even still show his commercials, which is a tad creepy. But I say thank you, sir, for bringing OxiClean and Mighty Putty into our lives.

#9. Tamara Tunie - If anyone out there is a fan of Law and Order: SVU, you'll know exactly who this fabulous lady is. She has played M.E. Melinda Warner on that show since 2000, but it took them at least five years, though it may have been more, to get her name in those title credits. That alone would have earned her a spot on this list, but she deserves it for many more reasons.

#8. Joe Manganiello - I did not see Magic Mike. I have seen but do not watch the True Blood show. I have merely seen Mr. Manganiello in some guests spots on shows like White Collar, where he played a criminal. I've gathered that he is a decent actor with a penchant for playing indecent characters. Oh, what?! His most famous roles have been as a stripper and a werewolf, and werewolves can be crazy nasty. Trust me, I know. So you may be wondering why I put him on this list. Well, look at him. Seriously, just look at him and tell me he shouldn't be here. But to redeem myself from being totally shallow, I've also heard that he does nice things for the Children's Hospital. So there. Not shallow!

#7. Gillian Jacobs - I don't know how much she is like her Community character, Britta Phillips, but if they're alike at all, I have no idea how Gillian and I aren't lifelong best friends. I mean, we're about the same age, we could feed off of each other's quirkiness, and we fundamentally disagree on so much that it would have made for some fantastic arguments. What more could someone want out of a friendship? Seriously, though, she is a great actress, and she makes me laugh. In my book, that means a lot.

#6. Frank Gorshin - He was The Riddler, my favorite villain in the Batman's Rogues Gallery, and he was in my favorite episode of CSI, so those two things give him an automatic in. Plus, he is of Yugoslav descent, and as a person of partial Yugoslav descent myself, that just gives me another reason.

#5. Dennis Miller - Yeah, I like Dennis Miller. Problem? He seems to be quite a polarizing character, since I've only ever talked to people who either love him or hate him. No in between. I just can't figure out why anyone would hate him. He's a funny guy who speaks out about the things in which he believes, even if it goes against the flow of Hollywood. I have to love a guy who can do that.

#4. Shirley Jones - I grew up watching her on The Partridge Family, and I absolutely loved her in Oklahoma!. I actually used to sing along with her and be reminded that I am not as good of a singer as I like to think I am. But who is, compared to this legend? She is a woman to be honored and admired for her immense talent and ever present gracious demeanor. Oh, and for all those adorable boys she brought into the world. Yes, her sons are very good looking, stepsons included.

#3. Jeff Goldblum - Oh, Mr. Goldblum. Yes, he was creepy in The Fly, and even more so as Ichabod Crane in a TV movie of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. I did not make that up. But he made such a gallant effort at trying to replace Vincent D'Onofrio on Law and Order:Criminal Intent. I mean, you can't really replace Vinny D, but he did his best to keep the show great for us. I have just always been a fan. It probably has a lot to do with the fact that he does have a lot of quirkiness in him, and I've always gravitated toward those types of people. And I do like a man who could potentially rescue me from cloned dinosaurs. No points against him there!

#2. Julie Benz - I love a woman who can play a vampire as well as she did. And not one of these vampires of today that stay pretty even in a state of "I'm ready to eat!". Nope, she did it when things had to get ugly. That takes some courage. And since her days as Darla, we have seen Miss Benz beautifully move her career forward. She even got to be in a Rambo movie. But even with all the fabulous work she has done, I cannot forget the first time I saw her. It was as a character named Babs Nielson on a completely unappreciated show called Hi, Honey, I'm Home! Seriously, look it up. It was awesome!

#1. Michael Keaton - He's Batman. He will always be Batman. But that is not the only reason why he has earned the top spot on this list. I have always loved him. There is something undeniable about this man that makes him so incredibly likable. Of course, he is. Mr. Rogers doesn't hire meanies. Yes, he did work for Mr. Rogers, who has, indeed, managed to be mentioned here. And I think Michael Keaton has, more than anyone, never forgotten where he came from. He even brought it on home for the filming of his movie Gung Ho, in which he stood on the gazebo of downtown Beaver, and it is still there to this day. I don't know if it's official, but I call it the Michael Keaton Gazebo. Anyway, he is my favorite from this area, and it will take a lot for anyone to ever knock him from the top spot.

Hopefully, this fine group will not be the last to make the city proud. In fact, should my excellent writing ever allow me to break out of these walls, I may have to make another list and put myself on it. Kidding.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Batman vs. Superman: Here We Go Again

Greeting Pups,

I don't know why people are always so fascinated with the "Who Would Win in a Fight?" question, but the most popular scenario seems to be that of Batman and Superman. It's funny that this question is often posed for them, considering a lot of people think that they are friends. Of course, if you are in the mindset of someone like Frank Miller, you would believe that "these two people would not be friends". And though I have enjoyed watching them work together in Justice League and in Superman/Batman Public Enemies, where Superman actually referred to Batman as his best friend, if I'm being completely honest, I have to agree, at least somewhat, with Mr. Miller. I get that opposites attract, but I wonder if they are too opposite.

I know that at their core, both of these superheroes are good guys who want to fight the bad guys and protect all the helpless civilians, but their attitude toward doing so is very different. Superman has this mentality that humanity is basically good and there are merely occasions when a bad person can be found. He follows the Donny Osmond philosophy of life in which "one bad apple don't spoil the whole bunch . . . girl". And while that seems like a nice way to think, it is still a bit naive. Batman, on the other hand, does not hold mankind in such high regard, which is interesting since he is more a part of it than Superman. He pretty much sees the world as a place full of bad people where an occasional pure soul might creep in. I mean, it's no wonder considering his back story. It's why he goes out proactively looking for the trouble he knows is going on, as opposed to Superman, who just kind of waits around for someone to call out for help.

Now, if we look at this from a political angle, there seems to be a consensus that Superman is a Democrat and Batman is a Republican. I suppose there are many reasons to support this idea. In the beginning of Superman's creation, he was considered a reflection of the liberalism of President Roosevelt, and often was a champion for social issues. Batman has often been compared to Dirty Harry, who is clearly not a liberal. Of course, that comparison could not have been made before 1971, but he was always considered to be that type of vigilante character. Perhaps, it is this reason why I have always chosen him over Superman.

That's right. When it comes to the dilemma of Batman vs. Superman, I will always side with Batman. Perhaps, I should have mentioned this at the start, but I had to appear as being unbiased. It's not that I don't like Superman at all. I do like the movies and the way he's always happy to help. Of course, I love Smallville, which is technically pre-Superman, but it still counts. And to tell the truth, I would most likely choose Lex Luthor over the Joker when asked who my favorite villain is. Though that may have more to do with my crush on Michael Rosenbaum than anything, but I do like a character that is evil in a subtle way. And the Joker is nothing if not unsubtle.

If I am going to give Superman the upper hand on anything, it would be casting. For decades, we have had shows and films featuring both Batman and Superman, and when it comes to casting these characters, I've always thought the Superman franchise did a better job than that of Batman.

I'm not saying that the actors who have played Batman didn't do a great job. Well, except for Clooney, but what are you gonna do? The problem is that, as good as they are, you're still seeing that actor pretending to be Batman. You're just seeing Michael Keaton or Val Kilmer or George Clooney or Christian Bale As Batman, instead of simply seeing Batman. With Superman, they've always hired relative unknowns to play him. Even back to the original series with George Reeves. Though he had had a small role in Gone With the Wind, for the most part, I'm pretty sure he wasn't all that well known. No one really knew who Christopher Reeve before he was in the movies, nor did anyone know about Tom Welling before Smallville or Brandon Routh before Superman Returns. And I know they are making yet another Superman movie starring a guy about whom I know nothing. I intend to keep it that way until I see the movie. The point I'm trying to make is when we saw these guys portraying Superman we weren't seeing an actor about whom we had a preconceived notion. Nope, we all just saw Superman! Or Clark Kent, in the case of Tom Welling. Alright, everyone just saw Kal-El. How's that?

But speaking generally, I just have more of a penchant for the Batman story. Maybe I like the fact that it's a little darker and grittier, and I happen to think that it's closer to how the world truly is. Of course, the fact that he is so wounded is also something that attracts me. Remember? Project. And though I did say this is more true to life, I will not say that thing that other people tend to say about Batman. You know, the whole "He's just a regular guy without superpowers, but he's still a superhero" thing. Correct, he has no superpowers, but he does have about ten BILLION dollars, so . . . regular? Not so much.

Though most of has have chosen a side in this epic battle, I'm sure it is a debate that will continue on for generations. And while we manage to take a break from it, I suppose I can let these two guys be friends. If they can stand each other long enough.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Circling the Kane

Greetings Pups,

Last month, something wonderful happened. After an excruciatingly long wait, Leverage has returned to me. I am happy. Since its 2008 debut, I have come to love this show, along with each and every cast member and the characters they portray. Now, of these five cast members, there were three, Gina Bellman, Aldis Hodge and Beth Riesgraf, about whom I did not know. Of course, I knew about the Leverage leader, Timothy Hutton, and had been a huge fan of his for years. Though I had heard of this show in passing and gave it a solid maybe, it was the fifth member of this little crew who was the bait to lure me in completely. And that number five who is number one in my heart is Christian Kane.

Like a lot of people, my exposure to Christian Kane began when he had a recurring role on Angel. Fun Fact#1 - He and David Boreanaz are the only two cast members who were in the pilot and the finale. Fun Fact #2 - That pilot also features, future Sawyer himself, Josh Holloway as a vampire . . . for, like, a minute. So, in that one episode, you get Christian Kane, David Boreanaz and Josh Holloway. Go ahead, ladies. Dive on in and take your pick. Back to the subject.

Christian played a lawyer named Lindsey McDonald (Why is he constantly given names that don't suit his manliness?). Now this character certainly had a boat load of ups and downs. He could be pure evil, or a man trying to seek redemption, or something right in the middle. To say the least, he really kept our minds active and entertained for his entire time on the show.

Another great thing about his time on Angel was that we got to experience some of his other talents, namely singing. Initially, I thought, "Oh, great. Another actor who wants to be a singer". But, as it turns out, music is actually as equal a passion for him as acting, maybe even more so. In fact, a role he got before Angel was as a country singer on a short-lived show called Fame: LA. A part of me wishes that show would have made it. Anyway, I'll get into the music stuff in a bit.

During and after Angel, Christian had roles in several movies. For example, he was Ashton Kutcher's competition (really?) for Brittany Murphy in Just Married, a half-white/half-Lakota railroad worker in the star-studded Steven Spielberg mini-series Into the West (moving up, aren't we?), and as one half of a scary killing duo in Hide, a movie that was nothing like Natural Born Killers at all. One of the biggest moments in his acting career, I think, was when he was cast as a young Robert Duvall in Secondhand Lions. Hmmm. I've seen a young Robert Duvall. We all have, in To Kill a Mockingbird. I couldn't really see a visual connection there, but Christian still did a fine job, even when acting in the vicinity of legends like Robert Duvall, as well as Michael Caine. I suppose if he ever felt intimidated by Michael Caine he could have just thought "At least, I was not in Jaws: The Revenge".

As far as TV goes, Christian did make appearances on Dawson's Creek and Las Vegas. Hey, why the heck not? He also had a regular role for the first season of a show called Close to Home. I actually liked the show, and thought it deserved more of a chance than it got. But his most significant TV role since Angel is his current one on the superb show Leverage.

If any of you haven't seen it, shame on you and here's a summary. Five former bad guys band together to help people who have been scammed or treated unjustly by using their special skills. Christian plays Elliot Spencer (again, a name nowhere near manly enough for him) whose technical title is "The Hitter" because he likes to fight. Okay, I don't actually know if he likes it, but he sure does it a lot. Some of us have taken to calling him "The Hitter with a Heart", which is exactly what he has become with the evolution of his character on the show. Elliot does have a dark past, which remains somewhat mysterious, since we are given few overwhelming details about it. But we do know he can cook, and for many of us,(by "us" I mean the ladies) that is a major plus point. The very best thing about his character, in my opinion, is that he almost never laughs or smiles, since he spends most of his time angry or annoyed, and yet he is one of the funniest characters on all of television who is not a technically funny character. His work with Aldis Hodge as Hardison is always phenomenal and chock full of hilarity. I'm just going to say the words "blue slushie" and leave it for the Leverage fans to jovially remember. And, like on Angel, we got an episode where we are privileged to hear him sing. So let me use this to segue into his real life music career.

In 1997, Christian met a guy named Steve Carlson, a man with whom he began writing songs and with whom he would eventually form the band called Kane. Oh, you little Jon Bon Jovi wannabe, you! Kidding! In my book, Christian Kane is way awesomer than Jon Bon Jovi. Anyway, they released a self-titled debut in 2000 and a live album in 2004, but it was in 2010 that Christian had his biggest musical success with the release of The House Rules. And every bit of success with this is very much deserved. The album is great, and, much like Christian himself, it is - Oh, yes, I'm gonna say it! - a little bit country, a little bit rock and roll. So if you like that kind of sound, I suggest you check it out.

And there you have my retrospective on the career, thus far, of the wonderful Christian Kane. Like many of the people I love, he is completely underrated. Although, in this case, he is underrated as both an actor AND a musician. What is the deal with that? I mean, as an actor, he has proven time and again that he can play many types of characters, from sweet to serious, from funny to dangerous, and sometimes those types overlap, being done so beautifully. And as a musician, he's a fantastic songwriter with a great voice in which I can hear a hint of a young Lindsey Buckingham. And while we're on the subject, I may as well mention that his speaking voice kind of reminds me of a young Clint Eastwood. I should stop before this humble man develops an ego.

In conclusion, I love this person, and everyone with good taste who has managed to give him some attention, most likely loves him, too. Now if he could only stop scaring us, and probably his mother, with all that stunt work he does, everything would be just dandy!

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Shattered Glass - Movie Review

Greetings Pups,

There is a famous quote by a writer named Walter Lippmann that states, "There can be no higher law in journalism than to tell the truth and to shame the devil". I have heard this quote, and I agree with it. However, years ago, a young man named Stephen Glass either never heard this quote or heard it and said "Whatever!"

In case you're not familiar with this story, Stephen Glass was a young journalist who wrote for The New Republic in the late nineties. He was one of their stars, due to the excitement and nuance of all of his writing. It seemed to many almost too good to be true that all these stories just managed to fall into his lap. Turns out, it didn't just seem that way; it was that way. Stephen Glass had fabricated facts in the majority of his stories, and some stories were completely made up in his own head. It caused a huge scandal, so much so, that in 2003 a movie was based on it called Shattered Glass. And it is a movie that I love!

If you haven't seen it or even heard of it, I can understand. A lot of people haven't. It was basically a low budget, indie film that got a very, very limited release. I mean, box office-wise it didn't even hit three million bucks. However, it was extremely, highly acclaimed by critics, and everyone who has seen it subsequently seems to love it as well.

As I said, this film is centered around the scandal itself, but it goes beyond just what we may have read about or heard about and deals on a deeper, more human level. It more explores Stephen Glass and his relationships with others than the actual scandal, although that is obviously the core of the story. It takes us through his days at The New Republic as he enjoys his rise as a well-respected writer, not only at that magazine, but at several others. And, of course, it documents his downfall and the aftermath of it. That is the basic plot. I know that it may not sound that exciting on the surface, but it is carried out so excellently, and it does not disappoint. Now, though, I believe that both the script and direction of the movie are superb, I have to lay most of the success of it with the incredible cast.

The main character of Stephen Glass is portrayed by Hayden Christensen. Yeah, he was Darth Vader. I am giving you one second to think out that and then forget it, so I can move on. Ready? Okay. He actually gives a stellar performance, his best, if you ask me, but he is merely the first in a long line of actors' best performances here. We get fantastic work from Steve Zahn, Melanie Lynskey, Rosario Dawson, Chloe Sevigny and, in a rare dramatic role, Hank Azaria. But the one who blew me away completely was Peter Sarsgaard. He played Stephen Glass's boss, Chuck Lane, and he was perfect. There's just no other word for it. He played this part with a quiet intensity, and it made it all the more real. He never went over the top unless it was absolutely necessary, and it was a few times, but he had these little subtleties with his acting that made it incredibly true to life. In this performance, Peter Sarsgaard proves that the best acting isn't acting; it is simply being.

And may I say one more thing concerning the creativity of this movie. That would be a shout out to the title. Obviously, the term "shattered glass" doesn't seem that creative, but factor in that his name was Glass and the movie is about his own shattering, and it gets better. The real genius is the fact that this title is reminiscent of the titles that Stephen Glass would give his articles. He used a lot of wordplay that made them stand out. So, really, what else could the title here be?

Now I am obviously recommending this movie to everyone who likes great movies, but this would certainly appeal more to someone completely intrigued by films like All the President's Men. You may think I am stepping out of bounds by comparing this film to that Hoffman/Redford classic. After all, I am but a lowly non-paid, blogger/reviewer. It's not like I'm Roger Ebert or something. Oh, but wait, my pups. Roger Ebert did say that about Shattered Glass. He said it deserved to be compared to All the President's Men among movies about journalism. You wanna argue with Roger Ebert, legendary reviewer? Go right ahead. Actually, speaking of Robert Redford, I also liken this to one of the films he directed, Quiz Show, It's another movie that is severely under-appreciated and also has a story that, on the surface, may not seem all that intriguing, but it is so perfectly executed, it must be seen.

In all seriousness though, Shattered Glass truly is a great movie. It's one of those films that proves you do not need a massive budget or explosions to make a movie good. All you need are the basics; good script, good direction, good acting. It has these things to the tenth power and then some. Now it may not be suitable for "blockbuster" night, but if you like a real story, a real movie that is just plain good, it should be put on your must see list.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Monday, August 20, 2012

Top Ten Whose Line is it Anyway? Games

Greetings Pups,

What do the TV studios love more than a show that is successful and cheap? Probably nothing. No wonder Whose Line is it Anyway? lasted for so long. That show was hilarious and it is one of my all time favorites. If you haven't seen it, let me give you a little back story.

Whose Line is it Anyway? started as a British improv show, first radio then TV, hosted by Clive Anderson, and it featured several UK comedians such as Josie Lawrence, Tony Slattery and Stephen Fry, the former comedy partner of Hugh Laurie. They also let some non-Brits invade, as well they should, with appearances by many people who would later be on the U.S. version of the show, like Ryan Stiles and Colin Mochrie.

Speaking of which, in 1998, the show got rebooted for a U.S. audience with Drew Carey as the host, due to the popularity of his sitcom. The other regulars on the show were Ryan and Colin, and, in the second season, Wayne Brady. The fourth chair was vacant for a number of revolving door comics, like Greg Proops, Brad Sherwood and Chip Esten. Sometimes celebs like Whoopi Goldberg and Robin Williams would drop by. Even a pre-Colbert Report Stephen Colbert showed up, suit and all, one time. And off the panel, they would occasionally be joined by people like Sid Caeser and Richard Simmons. Yeah, that Richard Simmons thing should be seen by every person on the planet, because it was probably the funniest thing I ever saw on that show.

Now there were not that many changes made to the format of the show, especially the games. For the most part, the U.S. version used the same games as the U.K. version. So today I will be giving my top ten list of Whose Line is it Anyway? games. Though I did watch and love both versions, today, I'll mainly be focusing on the U.S. version, since I'm sure that is the one that most of you have seen. So here we go.

#10. 'Film Dub' - The performers watch an obscure film clip on mute and fill in what they want the actors to say. This one just made me want to find these movies and watch them just so I could know what they were really saying. You know what? I don't want to do that because there is no way it would be more entertaining than what I got on this show.

#9. 'What Are You Trying to Say?' - This game would have been higher on the list, but it was only aired once, as far as I saw. I have no idea why, because it was hilarious to see Ryan and Colin make assumptions about what the other was saying about them, which was the point of the game. And, as I recall, it made me think twice about the phrase 'double breasted'.

#8. 'African Chant' - Don't worry. I'm sure no one was offended by this game at all. Here we had Wayne, who, in case you didn't know, is black, leading the three remaining white performers in, yes, an African chant. I think it may have been that racial fact that made it funny, which is why I brought it up. But I guess as long as they got no angry letters, it's all good. And it just gave Colin and Ryan another excuse to dance.

#7. 'Song Titles' - The performers are made to speak in only song titles in this game. It's a game that I would be great at but would never win. Mostly because I know so many songs that I would say ones that are real, but, since no one else really knows them, I would get buzzed out. How unfair. Once again, my huge brain would be my downfall.

#6. 'Infomercial' - Ryan and Colin get a box of random items and must sell something using those items, such as cures for hair loss or cellulite (or celluloid, if you're Ryan. Just look it up). One time this game was played stood out because Colin was referred to as a celebrity guest, Craig T. Nelson. That was an ongoing joke on the show.

#5. 'Song Styles' - An audience member is chosen to have a song sung to them in a specific style or as a particular artist. It was one of the only times I could enjoy a Britney Spears or Eminem song. My personal favorite was when Wayne and Chip sang to a little old lady as the Bee Gees, and if you're surprised by that, well, welcome to my blog.

#4. 'Title Sequence' - This game was for everyone. Two players would sing the theme to a show, while the other two acted it out. But the show would be about two random people living together or being friends, like Brad Pitt and Bea Arthur. I didn't make that one up. Little did Brad know, he was in for something much worse. They almost got into trouble once because an audience member suggested Bill Cosby and Hitler, but, since you can't make fun of Hitler, they weren't allowed. Okay then. Perhaps, they should look up a man named Tim Conway and think about that again.

#3. 'Newsflash' - One performer stands in front of a green screen while two others give him clues as to what is behind him. Again, I have no idea where they got some of those videos, but I really want to know. The most genius installment was when Colin was standing in front of clips of himself. He was so in tune, he even made a bald joke BEFORE he knew it was himself up there.

#2. 'Sound Effects' - There are two versions of this game. Earlier, Colin would silently act out a scene as Ryan made sound effects. Later, Ryan and Colin would act out a scene with dialogue, but also with sound effects being made by two audience members. If I learned one thing from this game, it is that when all else fails, bark like a dog.

#1. 'Questionable Impressions' - This a great variation on the game called Questions Only, where they are, no kidding, allowed to only speak in questions. Here they are, again, only allowed to speak in questions, but they must also do an impression of a celebrity. Oh, the many, many times we got to see Ryan as John Wayne. Priceless!

I don't know why this show was ever cancelled, since, like I said, it was successful and very inexpensive to make. Apparently, they could knock off several shows in just a day. But the good news is that the show really got people excited about improv and that hasn't stopped. Still, I miss the days of a Drew Carey led comedy troop making me laugh. Thank God for reruns and DVD!

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Norton, South, East and West

Greetings Pups,

You know how there are some people in the world that you just can't not like. No matter what they may do or say, you just continue to enjoy them. In my life, there are not many of these people, but there are a few. One of them happens to be a man by the name of Mr. Edward Norton.

Now I don't know if other people are like this, but, every so often, I get "on a kick" when it comes to certain actors. By that, I mean, I perpetually like them, but when I just happen upon one of their films that I haven't seen for awhile, I am reminded of exactly why I like them. This leads to my wanting to watch as many of their films as I can right away. Well, the current Edward Norton kick that I am on just so happened to coincide with his birthday, which was yesterday. You may be wondering why I didn't do this ON his birthday. That would have been impossible, because yesterday was the final day of my Shark Week tribute, and since I have never seen him with a shark, I had to make him wait. Call it a belated birthday present.

Like most people, I was first graced with the presence of Edward Norton with his role in Primal Fear. And this wasn't just his first BIG role. No, this was pretty much the first thing he ever did in Hollywood. So you will not find any random clips on You Tube of him playing "Guy #3 in the bleachers" on some long gone eighties sitcom. I guess he lucked out on that one. Of course, if we want any embarrassing footage of him, we can always bribe his mom.

Anyway, rumor has it that he beat out over 2,000 other guys to get this part, which is a testament to the genius of whoever that casting director was. And this was a phenomenal introduction to the world. I don't get mesmerized very often, but he certainly did that to me in this movie. It's no wonder that he got an Academy Award nomination for this. Did we win? Let's talk about that a little later.

I can't give away too much with this film, because that would be rude, but Edward completely embodied the idea of a young, helpless, man child who is wounded beyond imagining. I think there is no person I've ever met who didn't, at least for a moment, just want to give him a hug. Well, no woman, anyway. Yeah, I think it was here, in this first role, that he really roped in the ladies. Because, as we all know, we women love a project. And though this may have been the first time he did this, it would not be the last.

Over the next couple of movies, we started to get used to him being a certain type of character, which was - and I say this with all the love in the world - a skinny, kinda geeky . . . whatever. First, he played a skinny, kinda geeky lawyer in The People vs. Larry Flynt and then a skinny, kinda geeky hopeless romantic in Everyone Says I Love You. And in that second one I mentioned, he got the opportunity to . . . sing? Edward should not be offended by how I said that, because everyone who "sang" in this movie got a question mark after the word. Once we got used to that, Rounders came along, where he portrayed an ex-con who was also a gambler. Now that added a bit of an edge to him, but it was merely an appetizer to what was to come next. Prepare yourselves for American History X.

This was, without a doubt, the best performance of his career, so far. It is a powerful movie with a powerful message. HOWEVER, let's get the shallowness of this discussion over and done with, and I will do so by saying three words - Edward Norton's body! He looked so incredible in this role, I don't know where to begin. I mean, he was playing a Neo-Nazi so he obviously had to shave his head and get a load of crazy, fake tattoos, but all that aside, it looked like he'd packed on about 40 pounds of muscle. Pure muscle! In one scene, he's just standing in the street with nothing on but boxers and combat boots. You see nothing but abs and biceps, and I just thought, as my mouth gaped open, "What happened to my sweet,little Edward Norton? Apparently, this scary man has eaten him!". But if you put the skinhead thing and all those bad tattoos out of your mind, he looked really hot! Yeah, I said it.

All kidding aside, this movie was incredible. Difficult to watch, yes, but important to watch, because it can truly affect a person and make them think hard about their life's actions. And, like I said, Edward was unbelievable here. I could point out a ton of scenes in which he took my breath away, but two stick out a lot. One is his performance at the very end, which I obviously can't give away, and another is the scene where he gets arrested. He gives this look to his brother that is absolutely frightening, and it is pure perfection. That alone should have won him an Academy Award. He did get nominated again. Did he win this time? Well, let's talk about that now, shall we?

Like I said, he got a nom for Primal Fear. He didn't win. He lost to someone who, in my opinion, made a total fool of himself at the ceremony. Another nom for American History X came, and there was no way he wasn't going to get it for this one. Well, surprise, he lost again to someone who, in my opinion, made a total fool of himself at the ceremony! Yeah, when he gets nominated again, and he will, I suggest he makes a promise to do something crazy when he wins, then he WILL win. Simple plan.

Well, that was over a decade ago and Edward has done a lot of work since then. There was Fight Club, The Italian Job and The Illusionist, among others. He was even kind enough to do a cameo in Frida. He was such a good boyfriend to Salma Hayek. Of course, I loved him as The Incredible Hulk. I totally got a Bruce Banner vibe from him. And let us not forget Red Dragon where he played a role that had already been portrayed by the great William Peterson. So why didn't they just get Edward Norton to replace him on CSI? Hindsight is 20/20.

Okay, now we have to discuss the bad news. Like every great actor, Edward has had his share of missteps. And these are simply my opinion. It's been a while since I've seen Keeping the Faith, but I don't recall being particularly crazy about it. Perhaps, I could give it another chance. I guess it just surprised me that he actually directed it. I would have thought he'd go more for a small but intense indie film, but it was up to him. And speaking of directors, I tried very hard to like 25th Hour, but . . . well, let's just say, I am a huge fan of both Tyler Perry and Clint Eastwood. Figure it out. I guess we'll just have to settle for my liking him in it, if not the actual movie. And do I even have to mention Death to Smoochy? Please don't make me talk about it. I'm still traumatized. Again, these are just my opinions, but he clearly seems to have more checks in the plus column than the minus one.

So let's end on a positive note. Edward Norton is one of the few actors for whom I have great respect. I consider him less of a movie star and more of an artist. He seems to, for the most part, truly care about his craft, having pushed himself to the limits many times so that a story can be told to its fullest potential. I can't say enough good things about him, and I hope he continues for decades to come. And he is so adorable!

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Beyond Survival

Greetings Pups,

I wondered for a while what to do on the final day of my Shark Week tribute. I know I talked a lot about fictional shark stories, and that's good and fun. At least, I hope it has been that. But I felt it necessary to discuss the impact that this animal could have on a real person, because, though in the movies it is entertainment, people have been victims of sharks. Today, I want to talk about one of the most famous, not victims, but survivors - Bethany Hamilton.

For anyone who doesn't know, I'll try to sum up her story.

Bethany Hamilton grew up in Hawaii with dreams of becoming a professional surfer. She began at a very young age and showed a lot of promise. But in 2003, at the age of thirteen, Bethany was attacked by a tiger shark while surfing with her best friend, Alana, and Alana's father and brother. Her left arm had been torn off, and her friends rushed her to the hospital. By the time they arrived, she had lost 60% of her blood, and subsequently had to endure several surgeries. It was truly a miracle that she survived, but that was only the beginning of the miracle.

A mere month after the incident, Bethany returned to the water, refusing to give up her dream of becoming a professional surfer. Not only did she struggle and work hard at having to learn to do everyday tasks in a new way, but she also had to learn a new way to indulge in her passion of surfing. By not giving up, even with moments of overwhelming difficulty, she exceeded all expectations and did it. After winning several competition, her dream was achieved in 2007 when she turned pro.

I cannot even begin to explain how much of a hero this young woman is to me. It wasn't enough for her just to recover, or just to survive. She was going to live in the fullest sense of the world. Once she realized that her great love of surfing was possible, she knew that nothing was impossible. And she has never been shy about saying how she has made it through this entire experience.

From the beginning, Bethany has spoken openly and proudly about her faith in Christ and how, through Him, she has been able to always make it in life. As a Christian myself, I am so happy to see someone in the public eye who is not ashamed to say these things. I have been in the presence of people who called themselves Christians, but who were ashamed to speak of it in front of their friends. But then, I saw this little girl of thirteen, who had this horrific thing happen to her, stand up in front of crowds, cameras, the whole world, and proclaim her faith. And I was so thrilled that when the movie of her story, Soul Surfer, came out, it did not downplay that faith at all. Thanks, Hollywood. You did something right here.

And now Bethany Hamilton has grown into a strong, beautiful woman. She took this thing that, at first, did seem so horrific, and turned it into a blessing. What happened to her has given her the ability to reach so many people with the message of God's love, and she has even expressed that she wouldn't change anything, because if she had not had to go through this, she would not be where she is now. Bethany knew that God had a beautiful plan for her life and this was just another part of it.

What an amazing person!

So as this week draws to a close, remember this. We do have fun with those movies, and there's no shame in being entertained by them. But let us not forget those real people who have been affected. While there have been terrible incidents of pain and death, there are also stories of survival. May we remember through this wonderful woman and all the survivors that any tragedy can be turned into a triumph.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Friday, August 17, 2012

Jaws: The Revenge - Movie Review

Greetings Pups,

Okay, we're almost done. We've made it through three Jaws movies. We've had great moments and bad moments and "What were they thinking?" moments. And we have powered through all of this together. I hope everyone has built up their strength, because we are really going to need it to get through this.

I am not certain what possessed anyone to do this, yet another Jaws sequel. Although the previous one did actually make its budget back a few times over, it was not exactly thought of as a shining moment on the legacy. But I guess the studio had an extra twenty million bucks lying around and no ideas for movies, so they did this. Oh, they did it, alright! So here we go - Jaws: The Revenge. And, in case you don't remember from my previous reviews, spoilers and details.

Jaws: The Revenge takes us back to our original destination of Amity Island, for a little while. They may have wanted to do it at Sea World again, but I'm sure Shamu said, "Heck to the no! Stay out of my house!". The story here centers around Ellen Brody, the wife of the late Chief Martin Brody who died of a heart attack between movies. Again, they tried to get Roy Scheider to do a cameo, but I guess they forgot about the fact that he did another movie just to avoid being in Jaws 3-D. Now had he taken the job, he would have been eaten by the shark at the start of the film. Well, no such luck, but they do have a picture of him up at the police station. See, there he is. So it'll be just like the first Jaws. Right?

Enter Sean Brody, the chief's younger son, who has taken a job of a police deputy in Amity. He lives there with his fiance, Tiffany and his mother. Okay? The story begins a few days before Christmas, and Sean is sent out on a boat to clear a log or something from a buoy. Don't worry. I'm sure there is no shark in the water. There is. We know there is because of that ridiculous angle where the camera keeps bobbing up and down in the water. I'm pretty sure that's not how it looks to a shark since their eyes are on either side of their head. Anyway, Sean reaches over the side of the boat and the shark pops up and rips off his arm. Just his arm. He screams but is drown out by the joyous Christmas choir on the shore. And pay attention right before this happens, because you will actually see blood in the water . . . before the biting. I don't know how that works, unless this Jaws is a female once again and her Aunt Flo happens to be visiting. That would explain the hunger and the crankiness. Then, the boat teeters and Sean is pulled completely over and eaten. Was anyone really surprised by this? I mean, in these movies, Brody, water, shark are as predictable as 1,2,3.

The next day, his body is found and identified by his mother. She's a little upset, but finds comfort in the presence of her other son, Mike Four. He comes back to Amity with his wife, Carla and their five year old daughter, Thea. They live in the Bahamas where Mike Four is a marine biologist. Hold on a minute. This movie is four years after the last one, where he was involved with a different woman, had no kids and was an engineer. Ever heard of continuity? And you'd think all these bad water experiences would make someone turn from a marine biologist to an engineer, not the other way around. But, like I said, he lives in the Bahamas where great whites never go, according to this movie. I guess it's too warm or whatever.

As Mike Four attempts to comfort his mother, she exclaims, "It came for him. It waited all this time, and it came for him". I assume she's referring to the shark, which begs the question, does she know that this is not the same shark from the other movies? Because they kinda died. Still, she wants her family nowhere near the water. She is convinced that the shark has it in for them, after it killed her son and . . . scared her husband to death? So it wasn't a heart attack. He died from the fear of an animal that he single handedly killed . . . twice. TWIIIIICE!!! Mike Four decides to get her out of Amity for Christmas and takes her to the Bahamas, because there is no water there.

Upon arrival, we meet some fun new characters. First, we meet a guy named Hoagie (really) played by Michael Caine. Yes, THAT Michael Caine. He is a pilot and serves as something of a love interest for Ellen. Terrific! They have introduced the only thing that could make this movie worse - old people making out! Let's move on. We also have Mike Four's partner, Jake, played by Mario Van Peebles. Love him! Those two go out on their boat and look for snails for some reason. Sounds exciting. No, it doesn't! We need something to spice up the workday! Heh, heh!

So Mike Four, Jake and their crew go out to do their snail work. Jake goes down in some kind of mini submarine, and when he looks to his right, he sees a great white shark. And not just any shark. This is the one that killed Sean, because when it surfaced and took a bite out of the boat, it looked right at Mike Four and said, "Hey, Brody, I totally ate your brother, and he was delicious. I wish I could have eaten your dad, but I'll just have to settle for having scared him to death!". Okay, that talking shark part did not happen, but would you really be surprised if it had? Now I don't know if Mike Four actually thinks it is the same one, but he tells Jake to not tell his mom about it. Jake is pretty excited, though, because he reminds us that great whites don't come to the Bahamas. They decide to dump the snails and try to do something with the shark.

In the meantime, Ellen begins to have her little romance with Hoagie, which helps to get her mind off things. But nightmares about the shark make her think that they have some kind of psychic connection. Fine, whatever. I mean, in the last movie, it was a magic, lake shark, so it may as well be a psychic "I know where you are and I'm gonna follow you" shark. Is anyone else crying right now?

The former snail chasers decide to use a device that will allow them to track the shark's heartbeat. But they have to attract him first, so . . . chum, anyone? And, eventually, because he's a Brody, Mike Four gets chased by the shark. Not to be outdone by her father, the little girl gets attacked, too. Well, sort of. See, she goes out on this banana boat while her mother gives a speech about this hideous sculpture she made, and the shark shows up. Actually, it kinda floats up. It's really weird. And then it eats some woman sitting BEHIND the Brody girl. You missed! Needless to say, the people on the beach are a little freaked out. Not Ellen, though. She's just really perturbed. So she decides to steal the boat of Mike Four and Jake in order to find the shark so she can . . . yell at it? I don't know. We don't really know what her plan is once she finds it. Good luck, Grandma.

Mike Four returns home to find his daughter traumatized. He doesn't help things by finally telling his wife that they knew about the shark all along. When he realizes what his mother has done, he grabs Jake, Hoagie (I never get tired of that name) and Hoagie's plane to go and look for her. Oh, they find her alright, just as Jaws slowly lifts itself out of the water to scare her. Good timing. Hoagie lands the plane in the water and as Jake and Mike Four swim to the boat, unharmed, the shark pulls Hoagie and the plane underwater. He's clearly dead. Not so fast! About a minute later, he climbs up the side of the boat, pretty much completely dry. So he can cheat death and dry off fast. He is so talented.

Jake then gets an idea to drop this thing in the sharks mouth and then take this other thing that will activate the "in the mouth" thing. Look, he gives some long, scientific explanation about it that I did not understand. So he climbs up on the mast, I think. Okay, he climbs up on the pointy thing in the front of the boat and puts his plan into action. Unfortunately, he also falls into the sharks mouth, gets mauled and pulled underwater. If there is any logic in this world, he could not have lived through that!!!

And so to avenge his friend, Mike Four grabs this flashlight looking thing and taps it, causing Jaws to emerge from the water in severe pain. I guess it's in pain because it roars.


Even though this gadget seems to be working, Ellen decides to take the wheel and go toward the shark, stabbing it with that front of the boat, pointy thing. And how does she do this so easily? Well, because the shark is literally upright and out of the water. No lie. It looks like they're in about four feet of water and he's standing up on his back fins as though they were feet. And then, it explodes! For no reason! It just explodes.

Now you may think that what I've already said is preposterous enough, but oh, no! As Ellen stabbed Jaws, she had a visual memory of the end of the first movie when Brody shot it! You cannot have a visual memory of something you did not witness. It's, like, impossible. And on top of that, once Jaws is dead, guess who isn't? Yes, that's right. After being mauled by a great white and dragged underwater, where he has presumably been for the last five to ten minutes, Jake is seen floating in the water. Not dead. Well, he's not dead if you saw that version of the movie. In another version, he is not found alive. And since members of my extended family had seen different versions, Jake's death or non-death was a cause for debate for years.

Finally, the movie concludes with Mike Four and his family sending Ellen back to Amity in Hoagie's, I'm guessing, new plane. And that is the end. Hallelujah!

Wow! Just wow! This is a truly not good movie. Don't believe me? Go to Rotten Tomatoes. The Tomatometer gives it a zero percent approval rating. ZE-RO! And apparently Michael Caine has never actually seen it. So he got paid a lot of money to make it, but has not suffered through it. He's smarter than all of us on two counts. Although, he did miss being at the Academy Awards ceremony where he won his first statue because of the filming of this movie, so I guess we're even.

You know, it's been twenty-five years since this movie came out, and I am genuinely surprised that no one has ever made another Jaws movie. Only because of the uncreative climate of the industry. Surprised, and also grateful.

So if you choose to see this movie, I'll give you a tip. Watch it, then IMMEDIATELY watch the first Jaws again. It won't wash away the memories of number four completely, but it will take you back to the good place of the first one.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Jaws 3-D - Movie Review

Greetings Pups,

When I was a kid, I never got to go on any big vacations. But we did manage to make summer trips to a local amusement park, and, when we felt like driving even further, we'd make a pilgrimage to Sea World. I know what you're thinking. I've said I lived in Pennsylvania, so wouldn't a trip to Sea World be considered a big vacation? Well, believe it or not, there used to be a Sea World in Ohio. As an adult, I have contemplated the logic, or lack thereof, of putting a water park like that in a place like Ohio. As a child, though, I just enjoyed myself. But all of that is beside the point. The actual point is that you'd think combining a favorite place with a favorite movie would be just perfect. Then, I saw Jaws 3-D, and it was certainly . . . amusing. And that is not really what you want from your Jaws movie.

Here's a little side note, though, speaking of amusing things. The initial idea for another Jaws sequel was going to be called Jaws 3, People 0. Get it? And of course, it was going to be a parody, a spoof of itself. But someone said, "No, you can't possibly turn Jaws into a comedy!". Considering the film they eventually did make, that argument seems almost ironic.

So they began production on a "serious" Jaws sequel, and somewhere along the line, someone decided to add something special - 3-D. Believe it or not, 3-D films have been around in some form since 1915, but it was very expensive and not used often. It gained more popularity in the '50s, then had a resurgence in the '80s. I only bring this up because it's important to remember that the 3-D of yesteryear is nothing like that of today. All the 3-D we've seen in the past few years has less to do with things coming out at the audience and more to do with giving an incredible depth to the entire visual experience of the film. In the past, it was like watching a normal movie with a few instances of things, like I said, coming out at you. And it was basically just a gimmick. I suppose the makers of Jaws 3-D felt like they needed all the help they could get for this. Anyway, on to the story. Third time: spoilers and details galore again.

Jaws 3-D is the first one of the movies not to be set in the Amity Island of the first two. Instead, this time, like I mentioned, we get to have an adventure with our favorite great white shark at the Sea World of Orlando, Florida. Wait! Wait a minute! I'm sorry, but I must stop again. I am not a genius when it comes to geography, but isn't Orlando - what do you call it? - oh, yeah, LANDLOCKED! I know there are lakes and whatnot, but it's like 50 miles from the ocean. That raises the question of how in the world a great white shark got there! Are there underground tunnels or canals that lead from ocean to lakes, or did someone just get a baby great white and then flush it down the toilet! That's how the alligators get into the sewers, you know. Whatever! Don't ask me and don't ask the movie. They never explain it. It just seems a little implausible to me. I guess Jaws is just magic. A magic, lake shark. Oh, and while we're on the subject of things that make no sense, neither does the fact that Sea World allowed themselves to be associated with this. I don't think having people getting eaten by sharks is the best way to advertise. But I can't even get into that now. Please comment if you have any explanations. Continuing on.

Though this time we are not blessed with the presence of Roy Scheider, we do get a Brody. Actually, two. Our main character (human) is Chief Brody's oldest son, Mike Three, played by Dennis Quaid. Yay? He works at Sea World as an engineer and is dating a woman named Katherine "Kay" Morgan, a marine biologist played by Bess Armstrong. Some of you may remember her as the mom on My So-Called Life. She works closely with two dolphins, Cindy and Sandy (why not?), but is worried because they have been acting strange lately. Mike Three has problems of his own, namely a broken underwater gate, so he asks his mechanics to fix it. One of them, Shelby Overman, takes on the job and does so alone, as the sun begins to set. Clearly, the perfect time for such a task. After a few "Hey, what was that?" moments, he gets attacked by something. Perhaps, the magic lake shark. He is completely devoured, save an arm which is left to give us another 3-D moment.

In the meantime, Mike Three gets a visit from his little brother Sean, played by John Putch, son of Jean Stapleton. Now I don't remember what he does for a living in this movie, but I seem to recall the stench of unemployment all over this kid. The two brothers, along with Kay, go out for some drinks at the redneck-iest bar in all of Orlando, where they meet up with a pre-Back to the Future Lea Thompson, playing a Sea World skier named Kelly. Naturally, she and Sean get together, because that's what happens. Both couples end up frolicking on the beach at night, but little do they know that in the distance, two coral thieves, yes, coral thieves, are being eaten by, again, something we don't see. Magic lake shark?

The next day, Kay and Mike Three find out that Overman is missing. They think something may have happened to him underwater, so they get their scuba on and start looking for a body. No body. But they do find something - a shark! And we finally see it! Oh, but this is a little shark - keep that in mind. Miraculously, the dolphins swim them to safety, though no one is able to prevent the shark from entering the confines of the park. Funny thing, once Kay and Mike Three are safe on the surface, he keeps shouting, "What was that?!", Dude, it's a shark. You've seen one before. Remember Jaws 2?

Of course, they immediately warn the manager, Calvin Bouchard, about the shark, but he doesn't believe them. I guess he's supposed to be like the mayor from the first two movies, but I don't find him so despicable. Why? Well, could it have something to do with the fact that he is played by the fantastic Louis Gosset, Jr.? Probably. I love him in this movie, and I love the way he says his name. Just trust me. Anyway, Calvin does not believe, but this news is thrilling to a shark hunter friend of his named Philip FitzRoyce, who I think is supposed to be like Quint. He is played by the late, great Simon McCorkindale, future Manimal star and one of my first crushes. What? He had an accent. I can't help myself. FitzRoyce has the idea to get worldwide publicity by killing the shark on camera. Kay reminds them that that would be a one time thing, and they could get ongoing publicity by having the "only great white in captivity" and nursing it back to health. Calvin agrees to her idea, and they do manage to capture the baby shark, keeping it safe and away from the park visitors in a "behind the scenes" tank.

But, as always, capitalism wins out and Calvin, against Kay's expert advice, has the shark moved to an exhibition tank, where it dies. You know, I thought it did, in fact, just die. Apparently, it killed itself, something that great whites in captivity tend to do, which is probably why they can't be kept in captivity. So, no more shark. We should all be safe. Oh, you'd think so, wouldn't you?

This leads us to another park attraction, the Undersea Kingdom, which is basically a haunted house type thing and a glass tunnel that people can walk through and observe undersea life . . . and chewed up human corpses. Yes, the body of Overman floats into view leaving spectators terrified. Once Mike Three and Kay see the body, she realizes that the baby could not have done this. Nope, its mommy did! That's right, girls. Our day in the sun has arrived. We may not have passed the ERA (at least, I don't think we did!), but we got something better - a lady Jaws! WIN! Anyway, they tell Calvin and FitzRoyce in an underwater restaurant, which is surrounded by glass. FitzRoyce gets all excited, because he's clearly becoming psychotic about this thing, but Calvin is skeptical. Or he is until something shows up in the water outside the restaurant. Everyone wave to Mama Jaws!

The shark swims off and damages the Undersea Kingdom tunnel, trapping a lot of people in it. Yeah, say what you will about the rest of this film, but this part kind of freaked me out the most. You've got shark threats, possible drowning, hypothermia, and clausterphobia all at once. Not fun at all. After that, the shark decides to take a tour of Sea World, including an attack on the Bumper Boats, where Sean and Kelly become surviving victims, and then on to a surprise visit to the ski show. And here we see Mike Three make his father so proud by grabbing a microphone and shouting at everyone to - you guessed it - "Get out of the water right now!". Ah, memories!

So FitzRoyce and his little assistant go down to try and trap the shark. Unfortunately, he is attacked. And since FitzRoyce always has explosives for some reason, he tries to use a grenade to blow up the shark. The shark, but not himself? Doesn't really matter because he gets chewed up before he can pull the pin. But the shark does get trapped, somehow, in a cage or a pipe or something. I don't know, everything is so grainy in the underwater footage I can't even tell.

Now that the shark is trapped, Mike Three and Kay go down to try and fix the tunnel so that the people can get out. They do get out, so their plot is over. But Calvin says they should shut down the pumps because I think he wants to suffocate the shark instead of blowing it up, which is what everyone else is voting for. Well, his idea doesn't work and the shark escapes. So we've learned twice in three movies that sharks do not fall for these suffocation attempt tricks. They will blow up though. Anyway, Mike Three and Kay get to the control center (also underwater) where two technicians and Calvin are waiting. And here is where we get the most classic scene in the film.

All five of them are sitting there, assuming they are safe, but then they look up at the glass window in front of them and what should they see? Well, they SHOULD see the shark SWIMMING toward them, but what they actually see is the shark gingerly floating toward them. I think comedian Brad Sherwood described it best when he said something to the effect of "This was like a loaf of frozen bread floating in the water." I mean, there was NO fin movement at all! And when it did hit the glass, the glass that didn't look thick enough for a jelly jar, the shark just stopped, in the water, in some kind of suspended animation. That does not happen! But then again, this is the magic, lake shark, so . . .

Well, Calvin and the female technician get out, I assume. The male one, who happened to be Calvin's nephew, does not. Mike Three and Kay try to swim out as Mama Jaws is stuck in the window trying to wiggle her way out. But, surprise, Mike Three sees something. A grenade, in the hand of FitzRoyce, attached to the body that hasn't been swallowed yet. Why again? Anyway, he gets this metal reachy thing and pulls the pin. Again, they ride the dolphins' coattails, so to speak, to safety. I find that hard to believe. And we have our final 3-D moment when we get a close up look at Jaws' jaws.

So they surface with Cindy the dolphin, but where is Sandy? Mike Three exclaims that he thinks she didn't make it. Um, newsflash! If she didn't make it, then one of you wouldn't have made it either! But she did make it, and she let's them know by jumping up into the air, doing the twisty body trick thing that she couldn't do before. Hooray!

Jaws 3-D, pups. It's not too good. Actually, if you want the hard truth, the reason that Roy Scheider was not in it is because he found the idea laughable. In fact, he signed on to another movie just so he would be unavailable at the time they were filming. Saying no was just not enough for him. That is sad. Funny thing though about this movie, other than the obvious, it's strangely mesmerizing. It's one of those movies that, if I find it in a fit of channel surfing, I stop and watch. It's not a bright spot in the Jaws legacy, but I think it should be seen at least once.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer