Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Haunting (1999) - Movie Review

Greetings Pups,

Remakes. What the heck with remakes? I seem to recall doing an entire post about this less than stellar phenomenon, one I still do not understand. And the reason why I don't get it is because, much more often than not, the people in Hollywood make the genius decision to take a movie that is already good, sometimes near perfect, and wrongly think that they can improve upon it. Yes, they really did a lot to make better films like Psycho or House of Wax or, today's target, 1999's The Haunting.

This movie was based on the 1963 film of the same name. Now I may, one day, do a review of that, so I don't plan on saying too much, though I may have to bring up some comparisons. It's almost necessary. I can begin by saying that the original The Haunting is pretty much brilliant. It's not so much a horror movie as it is a psychological thriller. It's all about Dr. Markway (Richard Johnson) taking three people to a house that is believed to be haunted. No kidding. He chooses people who are in some way connected to the paranormal. First, there's Theo (Claire Bloom) who is a psychic, and Luke (Russ Tamblyn), the heir to who currently owns the house and a skeptic. But who we focus most on here is Eleanor, or Nell (Julie Harris). She is a timid woman who has spent years caring for her invalid mother and doesn't really understand why she was chosen for this. As the story continues, we begin to see Nell mentally unraveling, but also beginning to feel strangely comfortable in the house. As the audience, we start to wonder if the haunting referred to in the title is less about the house and more about Nell and her personal demons. And for most of the movie, you don't know if it's all ghosts or just her. All of this gives the film a depth and complexity that one normally doesn't find in a supposed horror movie. There is this incredible subtlety to everything that happens, as to make you think about all the events you are witnessing.

When it comes to the technical aspects of The Haunting, it's just a wonderfully made film. Robert Wise was the director, so, obviously, you're probably not going to be disappointed. He did an amazing job at making every little thing count. The sets were perfect, especially the house they got for the exteriors. You feel uneasy just looking at it. And the most important thing is that it was filmed in black and white. Robert Wise even had it put into the contract that it had to be filmed that way, and he was very right. I try to imagine what this movie would have looked like in color, and it just wouldn't have worked.

Bottom line is that this is a brilliant piece of cinema that should be seen by everyone. It was so brilliant that thirty-something years later, someone decided that they could make it better because they had computer stuff and whatnot. Yeah, no. And so that brings us to the remake of The Haunting. Oh, dear. And, again, major, major spoilers ahead.

So this movie was made in 1999, directed by Jan de Bont. Yeah, that's a mixed bag on that one. I mean, sure, he directed Speed, but he also directed Speed 2. So, yeah. It stars Liam Neeson as Dr. Marrow, Lili Taylor as Eleanor/Nell, Catherine Zeta-Jones as Theo and Owen Wilson as Luke. Not a bad cast. They would have been even better if they had something substantial to work with, but whatever.

Now this remake has several differences from the original, starting with the reason why the doctor brought them to the house. He claims to be doing a study on insomnia, which is what he will be telling his subjects, but it's really a study in fear. I don't really get that change. Plus, it strikes me as something that might be, if not illegal, certainly unethical. Oh, well. Hippocratic oath, schmippocratic oath. Am I right? Anyway, we eventually meet all our characters, starting with Eleanor. In this version, she is also a woman who was taking care of her sick mother, but, though she's not the most outgoing person, she doesn't seem nearly as timid or shy as the original. Then, we get our Luke, who is in no way related to anyone having to do with the house. Nope, he's just some kind of irritating guy, who may or may not be a little high. Or, perhaps, that's just Owen Wilson. And, finally, there's Theo. Hey, remember how I mentioned the subtle way things were handled in the first movie? Not here, and certainly not with Theo. In the original, they simply and barely implied that she might be a lesbian or bisexual, probably because, back then, they couldn't have non-heterosexual characters in films as easily as they do today. In the remake, we are reminded of her sexuality with pretty much every line she says and every action she shows. I mean, look, it's fine if being bisexual is a character trait, but it kind of became her only character trait, and that's not what this film was supposed to be about. Moving on.

So they all get to the house, including two of Dr. Marrow's (don't get attached)assistants, and before they go to bed, he tells them the story of the house's original owner, Hugh Crain and his wife, Renee. They wanted kids, but never got to have any, due to the fact that they all died at birth. This caused Renee to kill herself and Crain to become a recluse. Um, nighty-night, everyone? Oh, wait, no. Before they actually go to bed, we see a piano unwind one of its wires and attack one of the assistants causing both of them to have to leave. So, I guess the mystery of whether or not the house is really haunted has been taken care of. Don't get me wrong, though. I would have been quite happy if all the effects in this thing were as practical looking as that first one. That is not what happens. More on that later.

And then, off to bed with everyone, including the doctor, because he's ... not doing any scientific studies on their sleep/fear? Seriously, wouldn't his whole thing, no matter which it is, require him to do some observation, maybe take some notes? I don't know. During the night, Eleanor and Theo are woken up by some banging in the walls. Everyone gathers in the kitchen where Luke suggests it might be noise from the old pipes. They all think that could have been the explanation. Well, THEY think that. WE don't, because we already know the place is officially haunted. Remember, piano incident? Actually, the whole 'noise in the walls' scene was done fairly well, but then we get to our next 'scary' scene, or as I call it, the "Welcome to the Movie, CGI. You're Never Gonna Leave, Are You?" I'm not kidding. The film becomes like seventy percent CGI after this point, though I might be being kind about that.

First, Eleanor starts seeing these little ghost children under her sheets, which doesn't freak her out all that much for some reason. It would freak me out, but I don't like kids, really, so that could be it. Then, the house starts to pull the big time scaries by making mean faces at her. No lie. The room she is in scrunches up and turns into a mean face. What the heck? Now, one thing that was the same in both films was Eleanor starting to pretty much fall in love with the house, but in the first movie, it's presented as being creepy and kind of disturbing, which it was. Here, it's almost painted as delightful and comforting and, dare I say it, whimsical. No, movie, it is not any of those things. It's creepy. But that's just the start, because soon everyone finds Eleanor in this little room she discovered in the house. It is apparently the room where a baby was born to Hugh Crain's second wife, Carolyn. Wait, who? Oh, but we're done yet. Eleanor informs everyone that SHE is, in fact, Carolyn's and Crain's great, great granddaughter. She says that Crain stole children from the mills, murdered them and burned them in the fireplace so that they'd have to stay in the house with him forever, and she is the only one who can help the children pass on. WHAT! This makes no sense! Certainly not in context of the original story. them pass on? You are not Jennifer Love Hewitt, woman! But, wait, there's more!

They all try to run out, but the house locks them in. Which brings us to the most hilariously awesome scene in the film. I'll just say it involves Owen Wilson and the giant fireplace. Perhaps, you've heard of this. There's got to be a clip of it somewhere, and I suggest you find it. Anyway, it ends with Eleanor facing the ghost of Crain, spouting off all this nonsense that it's about family, calling him 'Grandpa', no less and some crap, then she defeats him with the power of love or some crap and goes to Heaven or wherever with the spirits of the children. Again, WHAT! And everyone who survived leaves. The end.

Hey, movie..BITE ME!

Yeah, I just can't with this thing. Seriously, if you look up any top ten list of the worst remakes ever, chances are, you'll find this one there. It's pretty bad. Forget the fact that the people who made it were arrogant enough to think they could improve upon the brilliance of the original because they had computers and stuff, but even as a standalone, it's not very good either. It's too much and not enough. So, if you want to watch a good movie called The Haunting, hustle yourself back to 1963. If you want a movie called The Haunting for bad movie night, this one can probably be added to your list.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Teen Witch - Movie Review

Greetings Pups,

When I was younger, I seem to remember a lot of adults looking at me like I was, well, less than. Just because I was young. Why do some grown-ups look at kids and teenagers like they have no profound thoughts or like they're totally vapid? I don't know, maybe because of movies like Teen Witch.

Okay, so we all know that when one thing becomes popular, many other things come along to try and copy it in order to cash in. The popular thing we've been dealing with for the past five years or so has, obviously, been Twilight, but back in the day we had a situation like this albeit on a smaller scale. In 1985, a great movie was released called Teen Wolf starring Michael J. Fox. You kids today may know it as what spawned one of only three decent shows on MTV. Now, naturally, because of its success, the movie had a sequel, which wasn't that great, at all. But they couldn't stop there. Since they apparently thought that only guys watched and liked Teen Wolf, they decided to do a girlie version of it. Oh, so kind of like how someone thought only guys eat Count Chocula, so, therefore, we got Frankenberry. Because, you know, girls, pink. Of course! And it looks like boys are wolves and girls are witches. Go figure. Anyway, this is how we got Teen Witch. So let's get to the plot of this thing, such as it is. And I will be giving a few spoilers, though not the ending. How nice am I?

Teen Witch is a 1989 comedy, technically, starring Robyn Lively as Louise Miller, a high school student, who is kind of a nerd. A nerd who we eventually find out is as vapid and self-absorbed as the popular kids. More on that in a second. Hey, wait. Robyn Lively is playing a shallow teenager. Clearly, the ability to do that runs in her family, since her sister, Blake, is best known for playing one of the most egomaniacal characters ever on television. Moving on. So, Louise is a nerd, because the leads in these kinds of movies always are, and she is crazy about the hottest guy in school whose name is Brad. Of course, it is. And he is played by a twenty-six year old actor. No lie. Well, this was 1989, which means that this film could have simply been serving to prepare us for the "high school" cast of Beverly Hills, 90210. She also has a best friend named Polly, an out-of-touch mom and dad, and a little brother who is, without a doubt, one of the most irritating characters I have ever come across in a film. Anyway, let's get to where the story kind of takes off.

One night, Brad is out driving with his girlfriend, Randa, a mean, blond cheerleader(Could this thing get any more cliche?), and he kind of hits Louise with his car, accidentally, I suppose. He offers to take her home, but she declines and ends up at the house of Madame Serena looking for help. Madame Serena is played by someone you may recognize, Zelda Rubenstein, the "this house is clean" lady from Poltergeist. She's always fun, am I right? Anyway, Madame Serena finds out that Louise is the reincarnation of a witch that was her friend many years ago, and she will develop her powers when she hits sixteen the following week. And that is exactly what happens.

So there's thunder and lightning and rain, and she gets her powers. Of course, Louise goes through that phase of not really knowing how to work them or understand them, so she has to go back to Madame Serena for help. She gets all these books that tell her what she can do, and what she can do is basically will anything to happen. Of course, her spells are undone by water, though. Yes, we all know the drill. Witch, water, no.

Now here comes the fun part. What does Louise want? To help people who are going through hard times? Nope. Boy! She wants Brad to love her, so she casts a spell, and he does. But then she's all, "I don't want him to love me because of a spell." So she cancels it or whatever, and since unenchanted Brad apparently only dates the most popular girl in school, Louise casts a spell on herself that makes her just that. Okay, we've got problems with this scenario, twofold. First of all, I don't know why she wants this guy, other than the fact that he's old enough to rent a car for her. Second thing, Louise, if you cast a spell on yourself to make you the thing he wants, it's pretty much the same as casting a love spell on him. Just saying.

Anyway, Louise does become popular, everyone loves her, but her best friend just thinks she's turned mean. There are these white guys who rap, not to be confused with the cheerleaders who do a full-on musical number in the locker room about how much they like boys. Yeah. Then, everything comes to resolution, sort of, at a dance, as these movies always do. So, this actually has quite a few things in common with Mean Girls, except there's magic, and Mean Girls was way better. By the way, thank you, Lizzy Caplan, for not rapping. We love you.

Apparently, this is one of those films that, in retrospect, some people have a soft spot for, mostly due to nostalgia. It has become a bit of a cult classic, I guess, but let's not kid ourselves. This is not a good movie. I don't personally find it all that interesting, but I can see how people might get a kick out of it. To be fair, it had a few amusing moments, and Robyn Lively was kind of cute as the lead. I've actually seen her in some things since this. She's become a pretty good actress. But overall, this just wasn't for me, so I'm not sure if I can officially recommend this film. Still, if it seems like the kind of bad movie you would enjoy, go for it.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Birdemic: Shock and Terror - Movie Review

Greetings Pups,

Hey, remember the movie The Birds? Remember how great it was, what with the fantastic story that built up all that tension and the amazing visuals and the wonderful acting? Well, get that out of your head, my friends, because today we are talking about Birdemic: Shock and Terror. This is going to be interesting.

Birdemic: Shock and Terror, or just Birdemic as most people call it, is a 2008 film that has become something of a legend in its sheer, utter awfulness. I've heard it referred to as an independent, romantic, horror film. Whatever you say. It certainly does look like an indie film, and they do try to cram in some alleged romance and horror. They do not, however, make much of an effort to cram in any good acting or writing or directing or...anything. Yet, in all the failure, it has become a favorite for the bad movie nights in homes all across the land. I can certainly see why.

And so I have chosen to review this ... gem of a film. I guess I should warn of spoilers since there is so much I have to say about the stuff that sort of happens. But I could tell you every tiny detail and it will not compare to the thrill of seeing it for yourself. No reviewers words can do this thing justice. And away we go.

We begin with the credits, of course, which last about four minutes and consists of some Grade-A stock music that runs on a loop, repeating itself about sixfold, and footage of a guy driving. Just driving and driving and driving. You may think that sounds boring, but they switch it up on you, for sure. I mean, in some shots, you're looking at the car driving from the outside, and then it's like you're inside the car. I know, calm down, right? Actually, if you enjoy listening to that kind of music, whilst watching people do things like drive or walk or applaud or sit there and wait for the director to say "Cut!" which he should have done a good thirty seconds earlier, then this is the movie for you. Because there is a ton of that. Come to think of it, if this movie would have been called Establishing Shot, that would have been much more accurate.

So we've got this guy, Rod, who is some kind of software salesman, and one day, he runs into this girl he used to go to school with named Nathalie,(Yes, spelled with an 'h'!)who is an aspiring model. And she's doing quite well, since one minute we see her doing a photo shoot at a place with a "One Hour Photo" sign in the window, and the next she finds out that she's getting the cover of Victoria's Secret. I am about %74.8 sure that this is exactly how Tyra hit it big. Anyway, they go out on a date and have some riveting conversation. Then, we find out that his best friend, Rick, is dating her best friend, Mai. What are the odds? We all know what that means, right? Double date! So they go on a double date to the movies where they see An Inconvenient Truth. Remember that. It's important to the plot, sort of.

In amongst all of that, we get to see Nathalie interact for a few minutes with her mother, and Rod score some multi-million dollar deal at work. And, of course, since things are going so well between them, Nathalie introduces Rod to her mother in another conversation that last about three minutes and adds nothing to the story. And, again, the new, happy couple go out for a night of dinner and dancing(allegedly) and then go back to a hotel room for some extracurricular activities. If you know what I mean. And the movie is half over.

What's that you say? I've already discussed half the movie and I've failed to mention something? Well, what could it be? Oh, are you referring to - BIRDS!?! Well, here's the deal, pups. You don't get any in the first half of the film! Wait a sec. Let me amend that statement. Twenty-two minutes in, as Rod and Nathalie go for a walk they see some birds in a tree, then, about fifteen minutes after that, they find a dead bird on the beach, with some actual(I think) sea gulls in the background. And then, finally, FORTY-SEVEN MINUTES INTO A NINETY-THREE MINUTE MOVIE CALLED BIRDEMIC, we get some actual bird action. Shall I continue?

After the night of ... whatever between Rod and Nathalie, in the very next scene, we are, out of nowhere, bombarded with the most glorious CG birds you will ever see in your life. And they are accompanied by airplane zoomy sounds and even more CG in the form of explosions. It is, quite frankly, the most fascinating thing ever created by human beings.

Now here is where the bird part of Birdemic begins. Rod and Nathalie first baracade the window to keep the birds out, and after a while, they decide to leave with another couple, Ramsey and Becky, in their van. But they must have a way to defend themselves? They begin with hangers. Yes, hangers. But then they upgrade to a machine gun. I'm not kidding. This guy had a machine gun in his car. He also had a smaller gun, too, because, you know, everything in moderation.

On their little adventure, they pick up two annoying kids, and they stop at a store for supplies. So they can leave with them. Instead of staying where they have shelter and whatnot. Nope, got to get back in the car. And that leads them to this other random guy who says that the birds have bird flu and it's because of global warming. Yeah, remember how I said that movie they saw was a plot point? Well, throughout this film, they pepper in, very unnaturally, all these references to global warming. I guess this is an environmental movie.

Anyway, Becky dies rather uneventfully, and then we get the bus scene. Oh, yeah. The group comes across this bus with a bunch of people in it, and they don't want to get off, because, you know, birds outside. But Ramsey pretty much drags them off, only to have them all be attacked by the birds either spitting or puking on them, I can't decide. Either way, this stuff is apparently like acid, so they all die. WHAT THE HECK AM I WATCHING?

So, Rod and Nathalie and the kids go to a gas station to get gas in order to go to somewhere else where they won't have supplies or shelter like they would at the station. But after they leave, they are carjacked by a guy who wants their gas. He gets it, then a bird gets him. Then, they get out of the car to go into the woods for water. Interesting, since they had just acquired a huge case of it from the store. But if they didn't go into the woods, they wouldn't have met the treehouse man, who says that the trees are his family. Because why not? But the birds come again, so they flee in their car, only to find on the side of the rode, Rick and Mai in their car, dead. What are the odds again?

Finally, they all go to the beach, after they run out of gas, to fish and then cook the fish on an open fire. And that will not attract the birds at all! Seriously, the kids starting whining that they didn't want fish but rather a Happy Meal. It seemed annoying at first, but having a Happy Meal in this situation almost seemed logical compared to what they were doing. And surprise of all surprises, the birds come back, forcing them into the car. Again, it is a wondrous sight to see. Then, they fly away. Everyone gets out of the car and Nathalie says something like, "Why did they stop?" Okay, it's a bit presumptuous to think that they stopped for good, considering they attacked about a minute ago, and there were longer stretches of time where they weren't attacking, but they always came back. Who cares though? We have reached the mandatory ninety minutes, which means we're done. And so our four survivors look at the horizon at the totally realistic birds flying away. The end.

Wow. Just wow. This movie is downright awful. The story, the dialogue, the acting, all awful. And yet, I am telling you that you should definitely watch this. It is, to say the least, an experience. And it is one of those movies that, if someone somewhere starts a conversation about it, you do not want to be left out. So watch Birdemic and then watch The Birds to make the pain go away.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Monday, October 28, 2013

One For the Money - Movie Review

Greetings Pups,

I think one of the hardest types of movie to make is one adapted from a book. Not only do you have to try and make a good movie for everyone, you have to try extra hard to please a built in and sometimes rabid fan base, which many books that get made into films have. Or you could just not try at all, which is what I feel happened in the case of One For the Money.

Here's some back story. One For the Money is the first book in a long-running series by Janet Evanovich centered around a New Jersey woman named Stephanie Plum. After she gets divorced and fired, she ends up working for her cousin as a bounty hunter, and then, hijinks ensue. I know that doesn't sound like much, but, honestly, I've read the books, and they're good. They're really fun and funny, and you get some action and thrills and romance in there, which, in the hands of a bad writer, probably wouldn't work out. But Janet Evanovich is a good writer, especially for books like this. Like I said, they're just books you read to have a really good time. So what the heck happened with the movie?

Before I get to the major problems, which somehow every viewer has managed to agree on, let me give you a quick synopsis of the plot. So, as I said, Stephanie gets a job working for her cousin as a bounty hunter, a job that is really out of her league. Her first assignment is to bring in a guy named Joe Morelli, a cop wanted for murder who skipped bail and also the guy who was her "first" at age seventeen. And, then, when he didn't call her back, she kind of hit him with her car. Water under the bridge, right? Anyway, if she brings him in, she gets fifty grand. A lot of crazy stuff happens, like witnesses turning up dead and explosions and whatnot, and even with the help Stephanie gets from some friendly hookers and a mysterious guy named Ranger, she still has a hard time of things while hoping to get her man. And that's basically it. I actually won't spoil the ending, but more so because I want you to read the book. Oh, and about that.

It's been a long, long while since I read the book, so, whilst I remember the main plot, some of the more detailed parts aren't as clear anymore. Still, I'd have to say that the movie was pretty close to what happened in the book. Normally, that's a good thing, but not here. When I say that movie events and book events were close, I mean that it's as though someone made a numbered list of what happened in the book and then checked things off while they were writing the script. You can't do that. Well, you can't do ONLY that. It is, of course, important to get things as close as possible, but it's more than that. The thing that makes the Plum book series so appealing is less the events of the story and more the way that the events are presented. These books have so much humor, the characters are so full of personality and that is really what people love about them. Whomever put this film together seemed to completely leave that out. They left out the joy of it all. As I watched it, I was thinking, "Okay, I remember this thing happening in the book, but only funnier and more entertaining." And that was how I felt about the whole movie. Now let's get to the major, MAJOR problem that most people have with this film - the casting.

So, Stephanie Plum has been this beloved character for nearly twenty years. People seriously love her. And why not? She's feisty and fun, and she has some edge, but also some vulnerabilities. She's kind of an every woman, who you totally want to be your best friend but who can also kick some butt for people in need if it's necessary. The bottom line is that she is an extremely likable character. So who would be the worst choice of an actress to play her? How about one of the most unlikable people in Hollywood? Not good. Well, that's what they did. I was so excited when I heard they were making this film, as were a lot of fans, and then we were shattered at the news that Katherine Heigl would be playing our protagonist. I hate to be mean, but, for real, no. Forget that a lot of people don't like her, forget that a lot of people think she is %100 overrated as an actress. She just does not fit the part. At all. Ever since that casting was announced, people were sounding off on who would have been better, and the consensus was...anybody. Seriously, though, the top choice seemed to be Sandra Bullock. Or perhaps, Marisa Tomei. Of course, some said they were too old for the part. Maybe, but that's just another reason why it sucks this thing had been in development for nearly a decade and a half! Also, if they would have started getting it seriously going seven years ago or so, my pick for the role would have been Brittany Murphy. I mean, she had the likability and talent, the edge and vulnerability. I just think she would have been perfect, and it probably would have out her back on the map as an A-list actress, perhaps, leading her life in a different direction. Sorry to be a downer, but it's how I feel. Anyway, all things considered, I would have enjoyed someone like Zooey Deschanel in the part. I think she could have pulled it off really well, and, though she may have a hater or two, it's nowhere near as bad as some other actresses.

Besides Stephanie, people tended to have issues with two other main parts in this. That of Joe Morelli and Ranger, played by Jason O'Mara and Daniel Sunjata, respectively. Whist I do like these guys and I think they've done some good acting otherwise, I've read the book. I know what Morelli and Ranger are supposed to look like. I know how they are supposed to be. These actors, again, just did not fit the roles. Honestly, if you were to read only the passages that describe their appearance, you might agree. Frankly, I would have gone with Joe Manganiello and Edgar Ramirez, but that's just me.

Okay, now even though I am on board with everyone who said these main characters were not portrayed accurately, I don't really feel that way about the rest of the cast. Actually, I think the secondary characters were cast quite well. At worst, they were okay. At best, they were nearly perfect. Some of the best were Patrick Fischer as Vinnie, John Leguizamo as Jimmy Alpha, and Sherry Shepherd as Lula. We even got a decent cameo by Fisher Stevens as Morty. They all did a really great job. And I didn't mind Debbie Reynolds as Grandma Mazur either, though most people said they would have preferred Betty White. Agree. Then again, these days, we pretty much prefer Betty White for everything. Kidding aside, even with these standout performances, the film could not be salvaged.

Interestingly enough, Janet Evanovich has given the movie a lot of praise. Now, with some authors, I'd think that would be all about the money. I mean, the more the film makes, the more the author makes. But considering how much of a genuinely nice and kind woman I've always seen Janet Evanovich to be, I couldn't imagine her bad mouthing this thing, no matter how much it deserves it.

So, yeah, I am not at all recommending that you watch this film. I am, however, recommending that you read the book and those that follow. Actually, if there is one good thing this movie has done, it has made us appreciate the books a lot more. And I hope that someday, mostly because Janet Evanovich, her characters, and her readers deserve better, they decide to make another film that can fix this mess. Or even a TV series or something. In the meantime, avoid this film, but enjoy the book.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Blood-Curdlingly Bad Movie Week

Greetings Pups,

Okay, maybe not everything I discuss this week will as bad as "blood-curdling", but I had to throw something in the title to make it not so generic. Anyway, as I've mentioned, I don't really do the whole holiday thing. Except Thanksgiving, because, you know, turkey. So, obviously, I don't do Halloween, and for the most part, I don't do scary movies. It's not that I can't enjoy them. They're just not my cup of tea. I more go for thrillers than horror, but that's just me. However, there is one kind of movie that, even if it's not technically scary, can still be scary. That would be the infamous bad movie.

There are a lot of things that can be the reason why a bad movie is bad. Crappy script or acting or directing or ... everything. And some of them are just downright unwatchable because they are boring and have no entertainment value. Entertainment value, by the way, having nothing to do with quality. Therefore, we get some movies that are technically bad but, somehow, also enjoyable. Then, there are the ones that make us uncomfortable. Yeah, there are a few of those out there. But there are all kinds of bad movies.

So, last year, during this week when people expect horror movie reviews, I covered TV movies, which can be disturbing in their own way. This year, I'm going to do something a bit similar, but still different. Starting tomorrow and for the rest of this week, I will be reviewing nothing but bad movies. Some that everyone hate, some that can go either way with certain people, and some that most people maybe haven't even seen yet but have the potential to be universally known as very bad. I like to keep things interesting.

And so if you like to hear me rip into some crap cinema, which I know I like doing, tune in this week. Or wait til the end of the week and then sit down and read them all with your big bag of candy. Because a bagful of sugar helps the terrible film go down.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Top Ten Weird Al Parodies

Greetings Pups,

Today is the birthday of a man who I've heard called the Court Jester of Rock and Roll. VH1 said it, and if he likes it, I agree. To whom am I referring? None other than Weird Al Yankovic. Still, the only person in the music industry who is a total joke because he means to be.

Weird Al has been around for about my whole life, and I've been a fan for as long as I can remember. Of course, in the beginning, I just found him really funny, and I still do, but as I've gotten older, I've learned to respect him as a true artist and musician. Because that is exactly what he is. And he is just so lovable. How else do you explain tons and tons of music acts, who spend a boat load of time protecting their images, allowing him to have some fun with exactly that? I think it may be because whatever Al has done, he does it because he likes and respects those artists, and it's his special way of paying homage to them. Not me. I've written parodies, Al Style, but I was trying to be straight up mean. 'Cause that's how I roll. But Weird Al is clearly a better person than I am. Still, he is one of the reasons why I wouldn't mind having one of my non-parody songs become something of a hit, just to have him put his magic touch on it. To have such a thing happen to an artist has literally become a badge of honor. As well it should be.

So, in honor of his birthday, I would like to share my top ten favorite Weird Al parodies. Just the parodies today, none of his original songs. They will most likely get their own list someday. Enough stalling. Let's get to it.

Honorable Mention: I just want to give a shout out to all of Al's Polka Medleys, where he takes hit songs and puts them together in one long hilarious polka song. Not exactly parody, but smile inducing enough to get a mention.

#10. "Jurassic Park" - So Al's thing is taking popular music and songs and making them his own through parody. But it's not just popular music that is useful to him. Take this song, where he took the biggest film of the day and made it downright hilarious with this version of "MacArthur Park", a song that was once an inexplicable hit. Yeah, you'd think the lyrics to THAT song were strange enough (Cake? What?!), but Al took it one step beyond. Oh, and apparently, Steven Spielberg approved of the song and video. Of course, he also approved of the ending of AI, which was...whatever. But when it comes to this song, I approve.

#9. "Party In the CIA" - You know how, lately, a lot of people have been doing these hilarious spoofs of the "Wrecking Ball" video by Miley Cyrus, and our responses have been like, "Well, at least, some good things are coming out of that mess!" Take it back a couple years to when Al did this version of Miley's former hit, "Party in the U.S.A". And much like how Betty White is more appealing to see on a wrecking ball than Miley, so is Al more appealing to hear singing this song. He can actually sing it without being sharper than a sword in a Tarentino movie. Congrats!

#8. "TMZ" - If there are two things most of us can't stand, it's famous people who complain about being famous and who have literally no sense of humor. I think Al took those things and totally ran with them on this one. It's like, look, if you want to be a celebrity, you're going to have to deal with some stuff, like people taking your picture. Yes, they have it so rough. And they really need to learn to laugh at themselves, because we already are. And this song just made doing so a lot easier.

#7. "The White Stuff" - This is probably one of the lesser known songs on the list, but I absolutely had to put it on here. Why? Because I love New Kids on the Block, and I love Oreos. Alfred Matthew Yankovic is my hero.

#6. "Amish Paradise" - Oooh, controversy. Yeah, we all know that there was some hoopla with this song. Al thought he had Coolio's permission to do the "Gansta's Paradise" parody, but, because of some miscommunication, he didn't. Funny thing, because it is, in fact, parody protected under fair use, Al didn't really need permission. He never does. Still, he is known for always asking for it from artists before covering their songs. Because that's the kind of guy he is. Anyway, I'm just going to say how much I get a kick out of this song, not mention the video. Oh, hi, Mrs. Brady!

#5. "Headline News" - Some people say that being a 'One Hit Wonder' isn't bad at all. Better than nothing. But what can make that one hit experience even sweeter would be if it becomes immortalized by Weird Al. Such was the case with the song "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm" by the Crash Test Dummies. Yeah, youngsters, this is a thing that actually happened. How perfect that Al took a flash in the pan song by a flash in the pan artist and centered his parody around flash in the pan news stories of the day. Genius.

#4. "White and Nerdy" - This was big. This was huge! This was, believe it or not, the first song of Weird Al's to go Top Ten. Not bad at all for a comedy artist. Now whilst Al has had a fairly steady stream of success since the eighties, this song really put him back on top in a major way. I think a lot of that had to do with the video, which got tons of airplay in a time when people can barely remember what music videos are. And it had Donny Osmond. Seriously, what more could we want? Well, I guess, Marie. Maybe next time.

#3. "Trapped in the Drive Thru" - In 2005, R. Kelly began releasing chapters of what he called a "rap opera" entitled "Trapped in the Closet", and he kept releasing them for seven years. Some people thought it was genius while others thought it was the most pretentious and ridiculous thing they had ever witnessed. SEVEN YEARS!!! What did I think? Well, as soon as I saw it, I thought, "Yep, we are SO getting a Weird Al song out of this!" And we did. Interestingly enough, there are times when I think the original might be even funnier than Al's version, only because it wasn't meant to be funny. And that makes it downright hilarious.

#2. "Gump" - One of my favorite movies of all time is Forrest Gump. So I was overjoyed when I heard that Al had done a song about it. I mean, I have to love any song that makes a reference to a character played by my beloved Gary Sinise. Hey, I wonder if the Lt. Dan Band ever covers this one. If they don't, they should. No, wait! Even better! Weird Al should sit in with the band some time and do it. Seriously, somebody needs to make this happen!

#1. "The Saga Begins" - When I am asked one of the most important questions in life, that being 'Star Wars or Star Trek?', I admittedly have to go with Trek. It's just how I was raised. Not to say I don't respect the whole Star Wars thing. Actually, hearing about all the intricacies of the story and the mythology really impressed me as a writer. So, clearly, this one took a little research. Or not. Maybe Al just had to watch The Phantom Menace again, but really pay attention. That may even be worse than having to do homework style research. And a lot more boring. And agonizing. Need I remind you that it is in this film that Baby Darth Vader uttered the word "Whoopee!" Hate. HAAAATE!! But anyway, as per usual, Al made the world a better place by taking something that a lot of people thought was "Meh" at best, and turned it into one of the most entertaining and singalongable things he has ever composed. Good times, Weird Al. Good times, indeed.

And that concludes my list. So, yeah, I love Weird Al Yankovic. I think he is fun and funny and talented, but it's not just that. I have always believed that Al is just a straight up great person. I don't think I've ever really heard anyone say anything that bad about him, and everyone is at least a little but of a fan of his. He just seems like a nice guy who has been blessed with a great career, loyal friends, a loving family, and he always seems so incredibly grateful for all of it. Well, I am very grateful for him as well. May God continue to bless him with success, and many more songs to take and make even better!

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Thursday, October 17, 2013

15 and Pregnant - TV Movie Review

Greetings Pups,

Guess what show I cannot stand? That's right, Teen Mom. Yeah, I just don't get why people find the show entertaining, and when you think of all the shenanigans and tabloid fodder concerning its "stars" that have followed, I still don't know how anyone ever could. But if you think all of this stuff began with MTV and their so-called reality show, you would be mistaken. We've had accounts of such situations in the media in the past, even some that have called upon some of the greats in Hollywood. I speak, of course, of the 1998 Lifetime Television Movie, 15 and Pregnant.

Ah, yes, Lifetime, the channel that has brought us women the finest moments of female driven entertainment we've ever had. It is, after all, television for women. And women just love their melodrama, apparently. Have no fear. This particular film certainly does not shy away from any of that. I mean, it's got pregnancy, a slightly dysfunctional family, mommy/daughter issues, cheating whatnots. And, again, women love that kind of stuff. So what is this movie about, besides what the title spoils for us? Let's see.

15 and Pregnant is about a girl who gets pregnant at 15. Sorry. We follow a girl named Tina as she, at 14, takes her relationship with her "I'll be with him forever" boyfriend, Ray, to the next level a.k.a the sex, and then, shortly after her 15th birthday discovers she is pregnant. And we go through the journey with her and her mother, Evie, and the rest of her family. Unfortunately, at this time, her family is on shaky ground, what with Evie and her husband, Cal, on the verge of splitting up. Then, there's the younger sister, Rachel, who has always been in Tina's shadow anyway, and the pregnancy just makes things worse. Also, there's a little brother named Adam. He exists. And he's kind of annoying. But he's probably just trying to fit in with a lot of the characters here. More on that later. Outside of the family, Tina has this friend, Laurie, who got pregnant herself, but at seventeen (What a twist!) and she's got a tough relationship with her own mother, Jane. Again, more on that later, as well. This movie, in short, takes us from conception to birth. Hey, why not?

Before I get into the cast, let me discuss all of these allusions I've been making to the fact that maybe the characters in this story aren't particularly likable. They're not. For the most part, anyway. Take Tina, our protagonist(?). She is about %70 of the time, a complete, spoiled, disrespectful brat, and with that percentage I believe I am being kind. I kid you not, you will, at least, AT LEAST, twice want to reach through your TV and smack her. She is just so mean to her mother, so much. I guess we could chalk it up to her having both teenager hormones and pregnancy hormones cranked up to 11, but I fail to see that as an excuse, especially since one of those things was kind of her own fault. And it is heavily implied that she was just as backtalky to her mom before the pregnancy. Oh, yes, the mother, Evie. She is easily my favorite character. Perhaps, it is because of how patient and long-suffering she is considering the state of her family. She struggles to hold everything together whilst her husband is absent and she has to deal with her children. Right, the non-pregnant kids. I already mentioned how annoying the son is, and the younger daughter is what we call a whiner. I mean, I get it. She was twelve or thirteen or something, and at that point in your life, everything is so dramatic and everything must be about "ME!ME!ME!ME!ME!", but, for real, she could have stood to grow up just a little. And speaking of the mother/daughter dynamic, I must mention friend, Laurie, and her mother, Jane. Whilst I can admit that Laurie is slightly more mature than Tina, being about 4 year older and in college, I think, it's really not by much. To prove that, all you have to do is look at how she treats her mother. Not very nicely. You can see how Jane is trying very hard to help her daughter because she loves her, but Laurie pretty much just won't have it. Really? She's got loving parents who want to help her, but she lets her pride or whatever stop her from accepting it. Seriously, if she was also singing and being pretentious, I'd think she was a character in Rent. Enough about the characters and whatnot. Let's talk cast.

To be fair, there are not a boatload of recognizable actors in this. It's pretty much carried by a mere two. We have, first, Kirsten Dunst as Tina, and this TV movie was made well into her big screen career. I know I complained a lot about the character of Tina,, but Kirstan was really good in this. I've actually always liked her as an actress, and the fact that she made me dislike her proves what talent she is. The mother, Evie, is played by Park Overall, best known for her role on Empty Nest. I don't know what it is about her, but I have always just loved Park Overall. She is so enjoyable to watch as an actress, and I can admit that how much I liked her helped a lot with how much I ended up liking her character. She did a fantastic job here. Now despite the face that the rest of the actors weren't overly well-known, it was still a very strong supporting cast, which is what every movie relies on. Oh, and for you fangirls and fanboys of Battlestar Galactica, Katee Sackoff also has a small role here.

Again, I know I had a lot of complaints about some aspects of 15 and Pregnant, but, to be honest, it's still pretty good. Every time it comes on, if I can watch it, I do. It may be a bit melodramatic, but it's still entertaining. It's well acted, and the story is not bad either. And isn't that more than what we can hope for when it comes to television movies? So, if you're channel surfing and see this, I say check it out. Fair warning, though, as I said, be prepared to hold back a slap or two.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Monday, October 14, 2013

The One Seasoner's Club - Now and Again

Greetings Pups,

Let me apologize for this post before I really begin. See, the show I am going to discuss today was cancelled in the year 2000. Thirteen years ago. And I have not seen it for thirteen years. Thus, I can only tell you things based on my weak memories as well as synopses one can find on the internet. I guess you may be wondering why I'm even bothering to do this, but I feel like good things that aren't recognized should be. This is how I do my part. Ladies and gentlemen, Now and Again.

Now and Again was a show that first aired in 1999 on CBS, and I would say it fell into the sci-fi category. Still, it also tried to mix in a heavy dose of humanity with that aspect. Actually, though there is a heavy sci-fi plot at the core with this one, the emotional side of it is more of a driving force due to how the story begins, continues and eventually ends. So what is the story here?

The show is centered around a man named Michael Wiseman, who is your average, everyday guy who works in an office and has a wife and teenage daughter. And he is played by John Goodman. I know you're all thinking "Yay!" on that one, but don't get too attached. The wonderful Mr. Goodman is with us only for the pilot as well as an occasional flashback later in the series. Why? In the first episode, he gets hit by a subway train. Snap. But he's not gone entirely. We've still got his brain. Weird enough for you yet? Well, hold on, we're going to go even further.

Turns out that there is this secret government project (of course there is) wherein they are trying to create the "perfect" human body, which they did, except they needed a brain, as you do. Oh, hey, look we found one. Yes, they put John Goodman's brain into the body of the man who would take over the role for the duration of the series, Eric Close. So, the good news is that he is technically still alive. The bad news is that, since this is a secret project, Michael can never see his wife or daughter again. And, of course, he follows that rule to the letter. Right. No, that, in fact, is where the emotional and human drive of the show lies. Michael knows he must follow the rules to keep himself and those he loves out of danger, but he can't bear to be away from his family. That is the thing that holds the show together throughout, whilst the episodes individually deal with the government using him to deal with issues of terrorism and criminals and other stuff. That is, after all, what he was created to do. But who he really is always lingers. And that is the basic plot of the show. Now let's talk about the characters and actors.

As I already mentioned, our official leading man is Eric Close. I thought he did a really good job of portraying this superhuman...human, but, at the same time, he was always conveying something more grounded in, well, for lack of a word I've overused, humanity. He was almost like a machine with a heart, and those are the best kind, aren't they? Then, we have the family consisting of Michael's wife, Lisa, played by the wonderful Margaret Colin, and his daughter, Heather, played by Heather Matarazzo, who I always thought was kind of an underrated actress in her youth. The story line with their characters is pretty much about this family trying to adjust and move on after losing its husband and father, and I seem to recall a lot of heartbreaking moments where that is concerned. Then, there is Gerrit Graham, who plays Roger Bender, Michael's business partner and good friend, who inadvertently gets mixed up in the whole mess when Michael starts spying on his family. Finally, we have Dennis Haysbert as Dr. Theodore Morris, who is the head of this whole perfect human project. Initially, he and Michael expectantly have issues with each other, but they eventually become close, almost friends. There were also a few good guest stars on the shows, such as Chad Lowe, Kim Chan and Christine Baranski. But even with all of this greatness, the show didn't manage to get a second season, even finishing with the dreaded cliffhanger ending. Why?

Needless to say, the answer to the question of the hour, did the show deserve a second season, is yes. And I am very sure that I am not the only person who would feel that way. Now I seem to remember the show getting a lot of good reviews from both critics and the public. I personally gravitated toward it because it reminded me a lot of my beloved The Pretender. And it was a really good show. The acting was solid and the plots kept you coming back, so I was almost certain it would continue to a second season. But no such luck. The only official reason for the cancellation is that the show was an "unjustifiable expense". Need I remind you that this is the same network that had previously given two seasons to a cartoon based on Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. Priorities, people. Priorities.

So the good news is that, for those of us who got the chance to watch it, Now and Again was a really good and original show. Unfortunately, if you missed it on the first go round, you're out of luck. As far as I know, it hasn't been released on DVD, and it's nowhere in reruns. Strange, since I assumed this show may have had a bit of a cult following. Maybe not to the extent of shows like My So-Called Life or Freaks and Geeks, but still, I can't help to believe that there are some fans out there who might enjoy watching it again. I was a fan, and I certainly wouldn't mind seeing it again. Oh, well. Here's hoping that one of the former stars will use their clout to get this thing to us, be it through DVDs or an occasional run on SyFy. Like I said, I wrote this not so much to recommend this show, since that almost seems pointless under current circumstances, but more to give it the credit that it's due for what a great show it was. So, despite the outcome, I say congrats on a job well done for all those involved.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Happythankyoumoreplease - Movie Review

Greetings Pups,

Earlier this year, I did a review of a great film called Liberal Arts. It starred and was directed and written by Josh Radnor, so I made mention of another really good movie he made, namely Happythankyoumoreplease. Again, not a typo, but kind of a significant part of the plot. Well, 'plot' might be a strong word to attach to this film. To be honest, it strikes me more of a character study type of story. It's something where we follow a group of people through the struggles of their everyday lives, struggles that others most likely deal with, but we see how different people can make similar situations unique.

The main character is Sam played by Josh Radnor, who as mentioned is also the writer and director. Sam is also a writer, and one day, he unexpectedly meets a little boy named Rasheen, played by Michaal Algieri, who has been abandoned on the subway. He tries to figure out what to do with the kid, which proves more difficult than one may think once Sam discovers that Rasheen has some special artistic talent. While Sam is the connective thread for the story, we also get a look at the lives of the people he knows and loves. First, there is his best friend Annie, played by Malin Ackerman in arguably the best performance of her career. Annie is a beautiful, spirited woman who also has Alopecia and pretty much just wants to live her life and feel worthy to be loved. And she also gets to say the dialogue from which we get our fantastic title. Speaking of which, I love this character, because she's the type of person you may meet in real life that makes you appreciate everything much more than you probably do. Then, there's Mary Catherine and Charlie, a couple contemplating whether or not to move from New York to Los Angeles. Who would want to do that? Sorry, I love New York. Anyway, these characters are played by Zoe Kazaan, who is so cute that it's almost annoying, but because she's so cute I can't be annoyed, and Pablo Schreiber, who is amazing, as per usual, because that is what he, as an actor, gets hired to do. He's kind of known for it, and I am fairly certain that he is not going to stop doing that any time soon. We also have Sam #2, played by the wonderful Tony Hale, who is one of the suitors for Annie, and he is just a delight. Finally, we get a great performance by another adorable soul, Kate Mara, as Mississippi. That's her name. Stop arguing with me. Yes, it is. Anyway, Mississippi is a waitress and a singer waiting for her big break, and she also serves as the object of affection for Sam. And to add on to her wonderful acting performance, Kate Mara also does her own singing in this. Very good. And I would be remiss not to mention the appearance of Richard Jenkins, who is always incredible, so no surprise there.

As I mentioned, this is not exactly a heavily plot driven film, so there's not a ton I can say about it where that is concerned. It's more about the characters, which is fine with me. Better than fine, actually. I really enjoy movies that are very much about the characters. Maybe it's because I'm a writer, I don't know. Come to think of it, it may be even more difficult to write a story like this and do it well. What we're seeing in films like this is just regular people living there lives and dealing with everyday things. As we all do. But when it is superbly written and acted, it can be something extremely entertaining and moving, even heartbreaking at times. Happythankyoumoreplease is not a movie with some crazy, twisty plot that you have to take notes on to understand. It's an effortless, beautiful story of life in it's simplest form. And life in it's simplest form is all of us struggling, loving, thinking and living through each day. It's just all of us trying to figure things out. That is something for which Josh Radnor has a real talent. He manages to capture the essence of ordinary lives and how people respond when things come into them or go out of them. That is certainly something I appreciate.

So, in case it's not obvious, I highly recommend this movie. I know it might not be to everyone's taste, but it's a really good film with fine acting, writing and directing, I say give it a shot.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Pull of Pushing Daisies

Greetings Pups,

As much as I hate a really good show only getting one season, sometimes it's almost worse when we get only two. I can only speak for myself, of course, but when I come across an amazing show, I often spend the whole first season worried that it might not get picked up. But once I get a second season, I ease into things, because I have been lured into a sense of security. Sometimes it's a false sense of security, because that second season ends up being the last. Such was the case with the wonderful, and much too short-lived show I want to talk about today, Pushing Daisies.

If someone asked me to describe television these days in one word, I'm pretty sure it would be 'unoriginal'. At least, for the most part. In fact, when I first saw Pushing Daisies, I thought, "Wow, this is a very, very good show. How did this make it to television?" Not only was the concept original, but so was the look and the style of it. I would be hard pressed to think of a television show that was more beautiful looking than this one. We'll get more in to those things later, but, first, let's discuss plot and characters and whatnot, particularly that which revolves around the pilot.

Pushing Daisies is all about a guy named Ned played by Lee Pace. Yeah. Can I just say how much I absolutely love this guy? He was, in a word, perfect for this role. So Ned is a pie-maker, and they won't let you forget that...EVER! Seriously, though, there is actually a voice over narration for the show, done by Jim Dale, and, in that, Ned is always called The Pie Maker. Plus, he owns a pie shop called The Pie Hole, and it's shaped like a giant pie. A dream come true, indeed. Now, whilst I personally believe that any man who can make delicious pies is super special, Ned is special for another reason as well. He can bring people back from the dead. No, really, that's the main plot point of the show.

Let me explain that in more specific detail. Ned has this gift wherein he can bring someone or something dead back to life with a single touch. He learns this as a child when he brings back his dog, Digby, after he's hit by a truck. Later, when his mother dies of an aneurysm, he brings her back to life, too. But, of course, there is a catch to this. A couple of them, actually. First thing, when he touches someone, they do come to life, but if he touches them again, they stay dead forever. Ned figures this out when, after he revives his mother, she kisses him goodnight, and then drops dead. The other thing is that, if someone he brings back to life stays that way for more than a minute, someone else must die in their place. It's a balance of the universe thing, I wager. Ned doesn't know this when he brings back his mother, thus, causing the death of the father of his childhood sweetheart, Charlotte "Chuck" Charles. Oh, the irony. After these tragic events, Ned is sent off to boarding school, Chuck gets sent off to live with her aunts, and that is the last time he sees her alive...traditionally speaking. Some of you can probably see where this is going. Come to think of it, I should tell you to get used to seeing them, especially Ned, as children, since every episode begins with that.

As it happens, decades later, Chuck, now played by Anna Friel, is murdered and Ned revives her, but he can't bring himself to put her back to sleep, despite knowing it will cost someone else their life. Calm down, though, it was a criminal who died. So it's all good. And this is basically the running thing for Ned and Chuck throughout the series. They are very much in love, but they can never touch. It's that aspect that makes it all sweet, yet heartbreaking. Still, even with this slightly morbid theme and almost tragic love story, this show is pretty much a comedy. And that part is greatly helped by the supporting cast.

Let's start with Chi McBride who plays Emerson Cod, a private investigator who discovers Ned's secret and talks him into working with him. Basically, he wants Ned to bring back murdered people so he can solve the cases and collect the reward money. Is it wrong that there's a tiny part of me that finds no problem with this? Actually, their working together on cases like this is what leads Ned to finding Chuck. Anyway, I guess we could call Emerson the downer of the group. He's never in an especially good mood, and he gets easily annoyed at, well, everybody. He really has issues with Chuck in the beginning, even nicknaming her Dead Girl, and to be fair, she was a bit annoying at times. Seriously, Chuck, we're trying to find out who the killer is, not find out if the victim has any last words for his goldfish. But speaking of those Emerson finds annoying, enter Olive Snook played by Kristin Chenowith. Olive plays a waitress at the Pie Hole who is in love with Ned, which causes tension, obviously, when Chuck shows up. And she breaks into song a lot for some reason. All I can say is the character they created was very well suited to a show like this.

And just so we don't forget how eccentric every last molecule in this world is, let's talk about Chuck's aunts, Vivian and Lily, played brilliantly by Ellen Greene and Swoosie Kurtz. Yeah, these two were something else. They are both agoraphobic and understandably very distraught by the death of their niece, which they don't know has been negated. They are also a former synchronized swimming duo. Of course, they are.

Besides the core cast, we also were entertained by a slew of fantastic guests stars. We got Missi Pyle, Wendie Malick, Fred Willard and Joel McHale, just to name a few. And they all dove right in to the craziness of this world, which made for some memorable performances.

So there you have the characters and basic plot, which made this all very appealing. But there was one more thing, as I mentioned, that contributed to the success. That would be the look. I wasn't kidding when I said this show looked beautiful, and if you've seen it, you'll know exactly what I mean. It's very stylized, which can be a not good thing if it's not done well, but it is done extremely well here. The colors are bright and gorgeous, it's lit wonderfully. The best way to put it is that this looks like moving artwork. It's a feast for the eyes. Hey, that goes really well with the pie thing! Clever.

So you may be wondering why, if this show was so overwhelmingly good, was it cancelled? Well, as we all know, the quality of a series often has little to do with its success. Still, it's not as if Pushing Daisies was strictly a fan favorite. It did get a lot of critical acclaim, getting nominated for seventeen Emmys and winning seven. Not that I always trust the judgement of such, but they got it right here. But there were a few specific reasons why this show didn't make it too far. First and foremost, it was the Writer's Strike. A lot of show suffered due to that, and Pushing Daisies happened to be one of them. Also, some people felt as though the premise of the show could, or did, get old after a while. I don't get that mentality. I mean, were they trying to say the show was formulaic? Because it wasn't. Even if it was, so what? A show can be formulaic at the root, but it can still be very good. Look at Law and Order. And the whole "they can't touch" thing was brought up a lot, but that was rarely the center plot of any episode. The episode plots, most of the time, were the group trying to catch criminals and/or killers, and that was different every time. Very creatively different, if I might add. So, yeah, I just don't get it. I'm holding fast to my theory that it was just too wonderful to survive.

Now Pushing Daisies is a series that, to this day, has a very loyal fan base, myself included. And, even over four years after cancellation, there is still hope for some kind of way to revive it. I've heard talk of books, graphic novels, a film, a miniseries or the ever popular Broadway musical. Despite the infuriating way that Broadway will turn ANYTHING into a musical, having a show based on Pushing Daisies would actually make sense, especially when you think about how much music played a major role in the series. Frankly, we hardcore fans will take anything we can get at this point.

Here's the good news, though. Despite the fact that we only got two short seasons of Pushing Daisies, you can get them all on DVD. And more good news for those of who have never seen it but may be interested, the people who made this show were kind enough to give us a decent, 'wrapping things up' ending. We got good closure for the characters, though it was the kind that let you know they were moving on to a new chapter in their lives, but no ridiculous cliffhanger that will never be resolved. This is why something like this could lend itself well to comics or novelizations or something. Whilst they didn't leave any severely loose ends, you can easily see how more stories can be told with these characters. And I welcome that. So I say check it out if you can. I'm not saying it's for everybody, but it's worth everybody at least giving it a chance.

And P.S. If the people who own this whole concept do intend to do a musical, and if they're reading this, may I just say that I am open to getting a job where I can share my lyrical gifts.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Flaming Pie / Paul McCartney - Album Review

Greetings Pups,

So 1997 was an interesting and important year in music, at least, it seemed that way to me. A lot of albums were released, as per usual, but it also seemed like there were a lot of albums being released by more seasoned artists that ended up being either commercially successful or critically acclaimed or both. We had Hourglass from James Taylor, the Bee Gees released one of my favorite albums, Still Waters, Fleetwood Mac reunited for The Dance, and, of course, we got the brilliant Time Out of Mind by Bob Dylan. But there was one more, and it is the album I will be discussing today, Paul McCartney's Flaming Pie.

I can easily admit that I have heartily enjoyed Paul McCartney's post-Beatles, post-Wings solo career. I did, after all, give a major thumbs up to his 1993 album, Off the Ground, and whilst I did like that one better as a whole, this one certainly didn't disappoint. If anything, it enabled me to prove just what a devoted fan of The Beatles I am and how knowledgeable I am when it comes to their lore. And it all begins with the title.

Needless to say, a lot of people were curious as to how he came up with this title. He explained that it relates to a story about how The Beatles supposedly got their name, specifically a dream that John claims to have had about a man on a flaming pie. And I already knew this, so it mad me feel really special. I suppose I can use this as a segue into talking about the title track. It's an upbeat little tune with some interesting, or possible bizarre, lyrics and a great piano riff in the middle and end. I seriously think Paul just straight up wanted to have fun with this one, and he succeeded.

Now the first single released was "Young Boy", which, musically, sounds like classic McCartney and lyrically sounds like a father talking to his son. I may have, now that I think about it, heard that that was indeed the case. If that's true, then it is made all the more sentimental by his own son, James, being a musician on the album. The second single was called "The World Tonight". It was actually the first song I heard from the album when I saw the video. It's start off with some really great guitar work, and that continues throughout. Also, Paul does a fantastic job at showing off some rock vocals, even after all his years in the business.

Next up is "Calico Skies", and it has an interesting origin story. Paul wrote it whilst in Long Island in 1991, and that also happened to be when Hurricane Bob hit. The power was out, candles were lit, they were cooking on a fire and he decided to start playing some melodies on the guitar. This was one of them, and it's beautiful. Another lovely song is "Little Willow". It's also pretty sentimental, since Paul wrote this after the passing of Ringo's first wife, Maureen. It's a touching tribute to a longtime friend, and considering how Paul lost his own wife the year after this album was released, it makes it all the more moving.

Hands down, though, my favorite song here is "Beautiful Night". Actually, this has, over time, become my favorite song by Paul McCartney, end of sentence. If you've ever heard it, you'll probably know why. And it's not just because I am really good at harmonizing with it. No, this is an amazing, piano-heavy ballad with some of the best lyrics I've ever heard from him. They manage to be simple yet exquisite at the same time, and I love when a writer can do that. Not as easy as you'd think, trust me. And I know I said this was a ballad, slow and graceful, but when we get the end, the drums kick in and there's a brilliant tempo change. Who's playing the drums you may ask? Who else? Ringo! And he sings, too. Not even my birthday, and this! Yeah, I don't know what else to say about this one, other than ... wow.

A lot of things go into making an album great, and having Paul McCartney at the helm sure doesn't hurt, but he had a lot of help here, which no doubt played a part as well. I already mentioned Ringo and Paul's son, James, as taking part in this, and of course, Linda did, as well. But we also got some Steve Miller, Jeff Lynne and the legendary George Martin doing the orchestral arrangement. Yeah, Paul would have had to screw up pretty bad for this album to not turn out good. Thankfully, all went extremely well, and we got this.

So if you're a fan of Paul or The Beatles or not, I'd say give Flaming Pie a listen. I think it may go over better with fans more than others, as it usually happens, but I'm certain even some music lovers who might not be into his work will find some things to really enjoy here. Easily, this is one of the best things he's ever done.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer