Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Movies That Rock - The Birds

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Movies That Suck is a feature where I watch a bad movie and share my reactions to it in real time. Sort of like live tweeting without the tweeting. I watch it so you don't have to! This will be spoilery I guess by definition, but since you probably won't want to watch these anyway it probably won't matter? But heads up anyways. So get comfortable, grab a favorite beverage, and let me tell you about a movie. 

This week we're looking at The Birds by Alfred Hitchcock. This is definitely the first classic movie I've watched for this feature, and I have seen it before, but it's been a while. And I have not read the story it's based on, although I'm told it differs considerably. I am a fan of Hitchcock though, and this probably won't be the last of his movies I examine here, but for today- let's watch some bird carnage.   

This one starts with birds squawking and generally going apeshit while the opening credits roll, and I love how it's almost like the credits are being "attacked", with the letters getting shredded a bit. Nice touch. And right off the bat we know the birds are not going to play nice. We then see Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) crossing a street and going into a pet store. And who walks out as she enters? Why, Alfred Hitchcock of course, in a cameo! Melanie is there to pick up a bird she has ordered, and the rather sketchy woman at the counter is a little flummoxed as the bird hasn't arrived yet. In walks a dapper Mitch Brenner (Rod Daniels) who is looking for lovebirds, as a gift, and mistakes Melanie for someone who works there. With a coy smile she plays along but is quickly in over her head as she knows nothing about birds, something Mitch seems to suss out rather quickly. Melanie's a flirty little thing by the way.  

Melanie tries to show Mitch a canary, which gets loose, and he admits he knew who she was at the outset. He is a lawyer and saw her in court- she's apparently quite the practical joker, and one of her jokes went a little too far?- and they spar a bit before he takes his leave. Sexual tension, can we say? Melanie takes his license plate number, so she's clearly interested. And she decides to buy some lovebirds to surprise him, but when she goes to deliver them, he's not home. He goes to Bodega Bay every weekend, apparently, so off she goes. Clearly she's very interested! 

Nice shot of the coastal highway. And she drives kinda fast, squealing her tires around every corner. We're getting the gist that she's a free spirit? So in Bodega Bay she asks around about Mitch and is soon on her way. She meets the local schoolteacher (Suzanne Pleshette) and they have a nice catty conversation about Mitch- he must be quite the catch? She then crosses the bay in an outboard and sneaks into Mitch's house (!) to drop off the birds. He sees her and smiles- clearly he doesn't mind- and races off to town to intercept her as she returns her boat. And then this happens. 

Crazy gulls. So Mitch is fixing her up at the Tides restaurant and they're soon flirting away again. Oh and she lies like a rug! She tells him her and Annie (the schoolteacher) are old friends, to which he smiles- clearly he knows better than that- and Mitch's mom shows up. It's Jessica Tandy! She does not seem too impressed with hotshot Melanie, and is on to her pretty quickly. Between Annie and Lydia Brenner (Tandy), it doesn't appear the other women in this film like Melanie much! Anyway Mitch invites her to dinner, which Lydia doesn't seem to care for, and at dinner we meet his sister Cathy (Veronica Cartwright). She's a trip. I love her line about her big brother's legal work, saying most of the people he knows in San Francisco are hoods. 

"He has a client now who shot his wife in the head six times. Six times! Can you imagine it? I mean, even twice would be overdoing it, don't you think?"

Oh and we find out that Melanie is a wild child! Lydia helpfully informs us that Melanie jumped into a fountain in Rome the previous summer- while naked- so she's a gossip target for sure. No wonder everyone gives her the side-eye. Things get a little heated though at the end of the night, when Mitch mentions the fountain incident- Melanie admits she's been lying to him, and he wants to see her again but now she's pissed- rather sensitive about the gossip stuff. They have a tense relationship so far. But then we have a wonderful scene back at Annie's where we learn (not surprisingly) that Annie had a previous relationship with Mitch. It didn't work out in part due to Lydia. This might be one of my favorite scenes of the movie, especially when Mitch calls and Annie can hear the conversation. Annie and Melanie kinda like each other, I think, in spite of being mixed up with the same guy. Oh, and a gull hits Annie's door, killing itself, I suppose, to remind us this is about the birds and not just Melanie's love life.  

The next day Melanie is at Cathy's birthday party and the gulls attack! About time. Poor kids- way to ruin a good party. And later that night they're at it again, coming into the Brenner house through the fireplace. The local sheriff of course is skeptical, because of course. And the next day Lydia discovers a friend dead in his farmhouse- with his eyes pecked out! Eww. She freaks, understandably, and it looks like Melanie is sticking around a while to help out. Oh, and Mitch kisses her. Say what you want, but a bird apocalypse is one way to bring people together.  

So Melanie and Lydia bond a bit, and Melanie goes to get Cathy because Lydia can't stop worrying. Before long the town is all abuzz and they're debating whether birds can really attack people, when some loony in the restaurant proclaims the end of the world. Mitch is trying to convince one of the fishermen when this happens.  

I love the overhead shot with the gulls. 

One of the women in the restaurant blames the attacks on Melanie, saying it all started when she arrived. Ooh fun angle. And oh shit- Annie's dead. That shocked me! I liked her! But Cathy's alright and they get her out. It's time to fortify the house and hunker down- the birds are massing again- and at night the birds attack. This time they're smashing through windows and the whole nine yards. They're pecking through the door even, and while Mitch is trying to keep them out the power goes out.  

The birds then leave. Everyone falls asleep, exhausted, except Melanie, who hears flapping noises. Uh- huh. She goes to investigate by herself, because of course, and guess what? They've gotten in through the roof, and they go to work on poor Melanie. She can't get out but thankfully Mitch and Lydia get her. These birds are crazy. She needs a hospital, though, so Mitch and Lydia are like we gotta go. Mitch opens the front door, to get the car, and there are birds. Everywhere. They manage to get to the car though and slowly drive away. I'd run a few over myself. And Mitch hears on the radio that the attacks seem centered on Bodega Bay. I wonder why?   

The best thing about The Birds? We never find out what made them go crazy, or what happens next. It's up to the imagination, folks... which is vintage Hitchcock.  

So... this movie rocks. I think Tippi Hedren and Rod Daniels worked off each other very well, and their chemistry makes even the mundane parts of the movie work. I read too that the scene towards the end where Melanie gets attacked took a week to film, and afterwards Hedren was hospitalized for exhaustion, due to the rigors of the shoot.  


Menagerie (Menagerie, #1)

Menagerie by Rachel Vincent is a book I've been wanting to read for a while, and I finally got to it. And I'm glad I finally read it! Chock full of paranormal creatures, and featuring an interesting protagonist who loses everything, only to find hope again after a very brutal story, this is a definite keeper. Not without it's problems, but I still enjoyed it very much. I feel like I'm becoming a bit of a Rachel Vincent fan, as well, after trying her work now across several different series. But here we're talking about Menagerie, so let's dive in.

Delilah Marlow hates the traveling carnival, or menagerie, of cryptids that comes through her small Oklahoma town, but she goes anyway after her fiance gets tickets. Something happens at the carnival though and she discovers, to her horror, that she is more than human as well. Captured and imprisoned, she is soon put on display, and stripped of all rights in the process. She is effectively little more than an animal now, in the eyes of the law, and other than a taciturn handler named Gallagher, she has no friends or allies. This is not a spoiler, by the way, since it's in the blurb, although I still hate to give away even this much information. Suffice to say this is about the journey for her, and how she comes to grips with her role in Metzger's menagerie, as well as the relationships she forges with the other prisoners.

The backdrop of all this is a world where cryptids have been outed and stripped of all rights after something called the Reaping happened. There's a fae element here as a number of human children were taken and replaced with fae children, or cryptid children of some variety, and the government responded by revoking cryptid rights and taking all they could find away to laboratories. So you do not want to be outed as a cryptid! Unfortunately that's exactly what happens to Delilah. In her case though they don't know what kind of cryptid she is, so the menagerie keeps her while they try to figure that out.

This kept me turning the pages, and I was expecting a very dark story as I had seen this referenced in numerous reviews. Maybe it's me but I didn't think it was that bad- I mean clearly life wasn't going to be wine and roses for anyone in that situation, but I can see where this might be a tough read for anyone who has suffered abuse or knows someone who has. As you might expect the imprisoned cryptids, including Delilah, are not treated well, so there is that. Delilah is not one to give up though, and I loved her toughness and perseverance. Don't mess with her! And her relationship with Gallagher and certain others gets very interesting, but not in a romantic way. In fact there really is no romance in this one at all.  

There is, however, a ton of cryptids. I mean the sheer variety here is awesome. There are succubi, fae, gryphons, centaurs, even a minotaur. Seriously, a lot of creatures that are pretty rarely seen even in urban fantasy, even though not all of them show up to do a lot. Just seeing them mentioned was a treat. I mean how often do you run into a lamia, or dolphin shifters? So I was here for that. Oh, and djinn as well, including sub- varieties (ifrit and merid- which I only know from roleplaying game books). So that was a big plus for me.

So I highly recommend this for urban fantasy/ paranormal readers, with the caveat that it can be a tough read in the sense of the abuse, although it wasn't nearly as graphic or bad as I had expected. I enjoyed the variety of characters, the cryptids were amazing, and while I thought the villains of the piece could have been a bit more nuanced, this mostly worked for me. And now I'm chomping at the bit to get to the next one!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Can't Wait #23 / Midweek Stuff

 So here's a midweek round up of what I'm reading watching, etc. Plus Can't Wait Wednesday, hosted by Wishful endings. So sit back, raise a cuppa, and see what's new! And share what you're up to.  

This week my Can't Wait pick is The Opposite Of Here.    

The Opposite of Here

What I'm Reading

Blackfish City

What I'm Watching

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Misc Stuff

 This week Movies That Suck will feature The Birds!!!    

Top Ten Best Character Names


 Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Artsy Reader GirlEach week a new Top Ten list will be posted. Everyone is welcome to join. Link back so everyone can check out other bloggers' lists. It's a fun way to get to know fellow bloggers.

This week is Top Ten Best Character Names. This one's different, and required some serious thinking. I mean, just ten?? I feel like one could get really rolling on this topic if they let themself! So anyway here are the ten I decided on... can't wait to see what everyone came up with.    

The Lord of the Rings (The Lord of the Rings, #1-3)

Aragorn- son of Arathorn, also known as Elessar and Strider

"I am Aragorn son of Arathorn, and am called Elessar, the Elfstone, Dunadan, the heir of Isildur Elendil's son of Gondor." 

A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, #1)

Melisandre. I just like it.  

Warcross (Warcross, #1)

Asher Wing. One of Emika's teammates- it just rolls off the tongue. 

The Cats of Tanglewood Forest

This one's a tossup between the Father of Cats and T.H. Lawrence the fox (T.H. standing for truthful and Handsome- modest he isn't)

Star Wars, Episode VI: Return of the Jedi  (Star Wars: Novelizations #6)

Max Rebo. You can see him at the 12 second mark... 

The Princess Bride


The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Hitchhiker's Guide, #1)


A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, #1)

Alys Karstark. Just has a ring to it, like her brother Harrion Karstark. 

A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, #1)

Hot Pie!!

The Lord of the Rings (The Lord of the Rings, #1-3)


Monday, May 21, 2018

Tuesday Tagline #92

Murder in the Locked Library

Permanently checked out...  

Jonny Quest 01x01 The Mystery of the Lizard Men

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Jonny Quest is a cartoon that originally aired during the 1960's, about the son of a scientist who uses his wits and the occasional gadget to foil evildoers and save the day. I've seen a few episodes over the years but have never watched the show all the way through, so I'm going to be doing a watch party of sorts and sharing my thoughts as I go. I've found this series to be a lot of fun, if somewhat dated, and I have lots of thoughts but will generally save them for individual episode reviews. So join me for a look back at what I think is one of the better cartoons of all time- Jonny Quest.  

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The Mystery of the Lizard Men is the premiere episode and establishes the framework for the series. First of all I love the title sequence, with its mix of futuristic tech and old school adventure elements. There's a bit of an Indiana Jones vibe even though that wasn't a thing yet, but the Quest family spend a lot of time exploring and visiting remote areas during their adventures. So it's kind of like a James Bond/ Tomb Raider mashup? 

Anyway we start with a ship moving through the Sargasso Sea, and the helmsman points out the abundance of seaweed. The captain helpfully points out that some of the shipwrecks in the area are hundreds of years old- I like how they used this area for the premiere, it really sets the tone with its rather dark, mysterious environment. I'm not sure the Sargasso Sea actually looks like this, but for dramatic reasons we'll go with it. And we don't spend a lot of time with the helmsman and captain anyway since they are abruptly killed when a laser blows up their ship. Where did that come from? 

A nearby fishing boat hears the explosion but before they can radio for help two lizard men (really just guys in green suits) climb aboard and take care of them. This show has more of a body count in the first five minutes than most cartoons have in their whole run! We then segue to a search and rescue plane who find... a survivor! The man's delirious, raving in Portuguese about a sea lizard coming onto his boat. And in a neat little effect we "see" the lizard man reflected in his eyes as he's obviously in terror at the recollection. The government agents investigating note that five ships have disappeared in the last month. It's time to bring in file O-37- Dr. Benton Quest! 

We then learn that Jonny is Dr. Quest's son, and Race Bannon is his tutor and bodyguard, assigned by the government to keep Jonny safe. They don't want anyone compromising Dr. Quest by kidnapping his kid, after all. So the introductions are made and we find ourselves on Palm Key, an isolated island off Florida where Dr. Quest has his compound. There's always a compound. There we see Race teaching judo to Jonny (you know that will come into play later) but the government agents arrive, and soon they're talking business. We get a demonstration of a laser from Dr. Quest, who already suspects that is what is blowing up ships in the Sargasso. Who says cartoons can't be educational? So the Quests are on the case- next stop the Sargasso Sea! 

Once they get there Jonny wants to explore an old ship, and Race thinks it's safe enough. Riiiight. Oh and Bandit (he's the dog- I haven't mentioned him yet) sees his reflection in a large mirror onboard and barks at himself. A lot. Seriously this dog is already on my nerves. Why do they have a mirror onboard? I'm sure we're going to find out. 

As Race and Jonny head over to the ship in their hydrofoil we get more educational factoids. Sargasso weed apparently has a bladder that enables it to float, and oh sargasso means grapes in Portuguese? Okay I didn't know that. Bandit, meanwhile, spots three lizard men surfacing in the mucky water and barks a warning, but Jonny and Race don't take it seriously. We then get a glimpse of the lizard men operation, which is pretty slick. They have a futuristic transport tube that leads below one of the wrecked ships to a submarine, where one of the flunkies reports on the intruders, and is instructed to take them prisoner if they board the ship. 

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That's exactly what Jonny and Race are doing, naturally, and Bandit is barking his head off as usual. They are being observed, of course, and while Jonny pokes around Bandit comes face to face with a lizard man! He gets snatched for his trouble and soon Jonny and Race are looking for a missing Bandit. Race finds wet footprints (flipper prints?) and realizes they're not alone, while Jonny is attacked and judo throws two assailants into the sea (see I knew it about the judo). Maybe Jonny doesn't need a bodyguard? 

There are more of them, though, and Race takes out four of them swinging to the rescue on a rope (where did that come from?), but alas the rope breaks and Race falls into a cargo hold. Ouch. That musta hurt. Bandit gets free and saves Jonny from a lizard man about to throw a knife at him, but alas Jonny is eventually captured when he sees Race unconscious in the hold. 

So we're not wasting any time here, the villainous mastermind explains his laser experiment to them and his intention to blow a manned space rocket out of the sky. Why? The rocket is headed for the moon- and keep in mind this was 1964, so no man had been on the moon yet. Race tackles the guy and gets pistol whipped for his trouble, and they're locked up. Race promptly hoists Jonny into an air vent and they're soon free and ready to rumble. Using Bandit as a distraction they start taking out lizard men but it isn't long before everything goes sideways. They manage to escape on their hydrofoil and it's a chase- the lizard men have a speedboat of their own!

"Something must have gone wrong. I hear shouting," says Dr. Quest back on the main boat. That's an understatement. The Quest boat opens fire but the smaller boats are going too fast- it's up to Race to save him and Jonny! Luckily he figures it out and the lizard men get obliterated. I think this is one of the few (or only) early cartoons I've seen where the heroes kill on the regular. In fact the body count is quite impressive. 

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Oh dear the lizard men have turned their laser on the hydrofoil and end up starting a fire in the seaweed. Would seaweed burn? I don't know but it's a hydrofoil so Race just raises the boat up over the flames *sigh* and they escape. So the bad guy decides to just blow up the Quest ship -why didn't he just do that before?- but remember the mirror? Exactly. Wily Dr. Quest has it all going on and they use the mirror to reflect the laser back. Game over for the lizards. 

So time to wrap things up. Back at Palm Key the whole affair is ascribed to foreign powers and the lizard suits were just a device to scare off the curious. Apparently that didn't work. And that's it! Besides the awesome end sequence- seriously the title and end sequences are fun. I watched 'em twice. I'm kind of excited about this show, despite the fact that there were no females in sight. Clearly that needs to be rectified, hopefully they fix that in future episodes. Also Jonny's sidekick Hadji did not make an appearance, he must come along later. Jonny does need someone to work with besides Race, someone his own age, so Hadji will be welcome when he shows up. And Bandit barks too much. 

I give this one four stars. 

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Friday, May 18, 2018

Sunday Post #246

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer
Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga's Reviews
It's Monday! What Are You Reading is hosted by Book Date 
So... Memorial Day is coming up here in the US. Really? A week away. Clearly someone is tampering with the timeflow or something. The East Lansing art festival is this weekend so I may be there on Saturday- not sure yet. Other than that May has been a pretty good reading month so far- I've had several good reads including Menagerie and my review of that will be on Wednesday. Also Movies That Suck this past week was Before I Fall, which was surprisingly good! This week will be The Birds, and I won't be calling it Movies That Suck because that movie is actually pretty awesome.      

Reviews coming include Sky in the Deep and The Lies They Give. Also I'll be continuing my reviews of Star Trek: The Animated Series and Jonny Quest, as well as the occasional discussion post. And another Sexy Lyrics post is on the way.         

Blackfish CityThe Underwater Ballroom SocietyMenagerie (Menagerie, #1)The Lies They TellSky in the DeepStrange New World (Brave New Girl, #2)Artificial Condition (The Murderbot Diaries, #2)

Song of the week