4/29/11

Falling Skies - Sneak a Peek at the Show Via the Press Kit

The contents of the press kit came
wrapped in this eerie newspaper page.
(Don't panic! It's fake.) Though I guess
this also gives you quite the sneak peek at
how I decorate my office walls...
Hi Everyone, hope you are enjoying your Royal Wedding morning. I myself was a bit too busy to watch the actual wedding, but I'm enjoying the recaps over morning internet errands. I feel inspired to write a new list, "Ten Gentlemen of the Movies". Wouldn't it be awesome if we had another run on British culture here in America? It would be lovely to have class be cool here in the states, we need an antidote to the Jersey Shore culture.

Now that I've had my "Clearly I'm turning into an old curmudgeon" moment, let's get back to the matter at hand. The skies are falling. Spielberg has deemed it so. His new alien invasion show "Falling Skies" premieres June 19th on TNT.

 If there's one thing Spielberg does well, though there's obviously more than one,  it's that any material he's associated with includes in-depth character development. Yes, he deals in genre, but his films and shows always dig deeper into the human condition and how it's affected by aliens or ghosts or dinosaurs or war. Ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances is just one of the topics he tackles so well. To say I'm looking forward to the show is an understatement. So needless to say I was happy when I arrived home last Wednesday to a surprise propped up against my door...

 (Preview for FALLING SKIES at the end of blog.)


4/28/11

The Fall of Sam Axe - The Joy of Bruce Campbell

This will be a biased review. I think it's fair that you know that going in. (I may or may not have used Bruce Campbell as material for several grad school assignments in creative writing classes. I'm just sayin'.) Naturally, this tiny little fact informs my opinion of the Burn Notice movie that premiered on USA recently. I was running around EPCOT when it premiered, otherwise I would've been glued to the television like every other Campbell/Burn Notice follower out there. For a summary review, click READ MORE and scroll down to "Get to the Point". For the whole rambling mess, continue on. (That's you Deadites.)

When I finally had the chance to watch Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe today as a re-run (at 10:00 a.m. no less) I was pleasantly surprised. Jeffrey Donovan, the actor who plays Michael Weston (That would be the lead character in Burn Notice for those of you that don't know.) directed this prequel that gives us the back story of everybody's favorite margarita-guzzling retired Navy Seal, Sam Axe.

Not only did Donovan succeed in putting together a coherent story with plenty of action in the typical fun spirit of the show, but he also succeeded in using Campbell's unique talents where so many others have fallen short. Watching this I wanted to scream, "I told you so!" at casting directors across the country. Campbell is funny, a personality in his own right and a master of irony, but this movie should remind people that he can also do this little thing called acting...

4/24/11

Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files - Beware the Shark

You are awfully close to jumping it. And far too soon!

Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files is a SyFy Channel original show that offers viewers a refreshing premise. Instead of so many other paranormal shows, this one aims to immediately debunk popular internet videos of ghostly encounters, mysteries or UFOs. (Think Scooby Doo meets the Ghostbusters) Instead of jumping in head first like any of those ubiquitous ghost hunting shows, running off to investigate with enough night vision cameras to make Jurassic Park jealous (Look at me and my twenty year old jokes! Hi-Oh!) this group of experts instead attempts to recreate videos to get closer to the actual truth behind their origins. Hooray for countering mass online hysteria!

The first season was a blast. I latched on to it quickly, mostly because I think I'm SyFy's ideal demographic. A skeptic with a heart of gold. Raised on Godzilla, Indiana Jones Star Trek, Spielberg movies and Ghostbusters, I tend to gravitate toward "cheesy on purpose"/sci-fi and fantasy. I don't believe in ghosts or aliens, but I love the movies that make them famous pop culture fascinations. (I also watch Destination Truth, Face Off and Brad Meltzer's Decoded for similar reasons. I'm an adventure genre junkie.)

But like other shows that catch on quickly, it seems like Fact or Faked has changed some of what made it so initially engaging. This current season seems more rehearsed. Right off the bat, I want to be clear, I don't blame the cast for this. There's something wonky about the production. Here are five potential misfires that could bring the show down before it ever really gets off the ground...

4/20/11

Audrey and Lindsay's EPCOT Adventure - Snacking Around the World Showcase

As a graduation present, Jake sent me to the Disney World park of my choice for the day with my best friend Lindsay. Granted, I was down in Orlando doing some business anyway, so it's more practical than it sounds. EPCOT just so happened to be the winner this time because I haven't been there just for fun since 2007. (Every other visit was for filming on "Theme Parks with Audrey and Jake", which Lindsay has run camera for previously.)

Also, I'm kind of obsessed with the retro-educational vibe of the park. 1970's architecture, 1980's Michael Jackson (Captain Eo is back!) and a space program oriented thrill ride? Yes please. (Though I did miss the premiere of the Sam Axe Burn Notice movie for this trip...which is a really major loss. Nobody say anything about it until I've seen it...not a word.)

Lindsay had never been to EPCOT, so when I explained the "drink around the world" game some people play at EPCOT's World Showcase, Lindsay had another idea. Since we're not big drinkers, we chose to "snack around the world". As you can guess, hijinks ensued as we snacked through Norway, China, Germany, Italy, America, Japan, Morocco, France, the United Kingdom, Canada and Mexico.

(For a photo editorial with more straightforward coverage of the festival instead, CLICK HERE.)

4/14/11

The Hobbit Start of Production Video: Ready to Cry Big Fat Hobbit Tears?

I'm crying big fat tears right now. Like a huge nerd sitting in front of my computer. I took a quick break while editing an IPR story I'm working on and this video (at the end of blog) showed up in my facebook feed. As soon as I clicked "play", Niagara Falls. (Thank you "Scrooged".)

If you think I'm a geek for movies, you should know that any kind of behind-the-scenes material gets me in even worse shape. I don't understand it myself, this emotional tie to film. Just yesterday, in my last workshop of graduate school, I had an entire class discussing one of my thesis essays about the death of my sister. And I didn't even come close to crying. Nary a chin quiver. In fact, I made sure to joke the whole way through so nobody else felt uncomfortable. I hate making people feed bad. But five seconds of a Peter Jackson behind-the-scenes video for The Hobbit and I'm weeping like a freshly crowned Miss America. Go figure.

Maybe it's because to me, the magic of what happens on a film set (And yes, I know it's not all roses. I've been on my fair share of sets and they mostly involve standing around doing nothing for hours while you wait for lighting and technical.) is the closest thing I see as heaven on Earth. My heaven on Earth anyway. It's a cooperative of people coming together to make a piece of art that supports the artists financially. It's compromise. Creativity for the greater good. Well, not always. There are a slew of grade B slasher movies that would kill that point. Pun intended.

So maybe it's just that darned Peter Jackson. With his old school films that feel all at once ancient and brand-new, full of homage yet visually standing out above all other films. The man who singlehandedly brought the film industry to his hometown. The man who makes movies that make people want to READ! Maybe it's the huge war and massive obstacles this production had to overcome to even begin...Peter Jackson's health suffered big time to get this wagon train a'rolling.

Maybe it's my happy memories of the Lord of the Rings series in theaters. Maybe it's my childhood love of the books. And oh who am I kidding...it's the fact that I still haven't let go of that pesky need to someday make my own movies. If you're anything like me, sappy and sentimental in a big way for WETA Studios or Peter Jackson or Tolkien. If you have a repressed desire to be a filmmaker. If you grew up lurking behind-the-scenes of a community theater and you miss the feeling of being in a big family of dysfunctional artists...pull out your hanky now.

If you're a normal geek...then just enjoy the beginning of all the magic. Here come your New Zealand inspired goosenumps.


4/12/11

Why "Monsters" May Be the Perfect Screenplay (Spoiler-Free)

My husband and I rented the independent film "Monsters" a few weeks ago off of Netflix Instant. It was just one of those lazy Sunday afternoons where there wasn't much to do but watch the dust drift in the light streaming through the windows. And anyway, all poetry aside...I'll watch just about anything with "monster" in the title. What I thought might be a fun escapist flick turned out to be a lot more. So much more in fact that I ended up teaching it in my "Introduction to Creative Writing" class. So much more that I found myself shedding more than a few tears at the surprisingly touching and meaningful ending.

I think "Monsters" might be the perfect screenplay, a prime example of literary (meaning character-driven) storytelling. One of those movies that film-lovers can use to justify their dollars spent at the multiplex, their hours wiled away in front of the television searching for that kind of internal emotional movement/morality fable that only a really great movie can provide.

I like to call them "message" movies. Their intent is usually obvious, but not so much so that it's banging you over the head with a frying pan. The message of "Monsters" is really a question. Any truly great book, essay or film should leave the reader or viewer thinking. Great stories should expand or open something in our minds and "Monsters" leaves you asking, who are the real monsters? The film says more about humanity (on the whole and with the individual characters) than it does about the fictional and fantastic squid-like extraterrestrials that plague the planet the way that kudzu takes over streetlamps and sidewalks during the summer.

Little Girl Joins the Dark Side (Star Wars Jedi Training Academy)

I bet the folks who write the live shows over at Walt Disney World didn't count on a kid wanting to participate who would join the dark side...she even kneels before Vader. Priceless.



4/6/11

Ellen at Universal Studios

Ellen is in the middle of her annual tapings at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida. There are always a slew of funny videos to come out of these visits, this one is my favorite so far this year. But I'm sure there's more to come...


4/5/11

Padme Eats a Pear with a Fork (and So Does Audrey)

I was eating a pear with a fork and knife tonight, when...no seriously, I eat pears with a fork and a knife. I'll tell you why. Because pears have inconsistent textures and little hard spots where you least expect them. Cutting them with a fork saves you some unexpected gum pain now and then. The fact that I dreamed up this entire justification for eating a pear with a fork while thinking of Padme Amidala grabbing a levitated pear out of the air during dinner with Anakin in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones? Well, I'd say that qualifies as a geek moment. Wouldn't you?

4/4/11

First Look: New Haunted Mansion Special Effects

As many of you know, lots of big changes have been made to The Haunted Mansion in Walt Disney World lately. There is a new interactive queue and the video below shows an impressive slew of new hitchhiking ghosts special effects.

What used to just be a ghost appearing in your Doombuggy has now turned into a much more interactive experience. You'll notice that in one instance, the ghost takes off his beard and puts it on a guest and as the guest moves his head around, the illusion of the beard stays on his face. So Disney World is using some pretty major motion tracking technology. (Makes me want to watch Jurassic Park again...spare no expense.) Watch the video below from www.InsidetheMagic.net






I can't help but think of author Cory Doctorow's book, "Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom". The story is set in a distant Utopian-like future where a battle is waged over the wiping out of traditional Disney rides in favor of just having the experience of the ride flash-baked into your brain. (Kind of like "the box" from Batman Forever. Yeah...I just referenced Batman Forever.)

While I usually enjoy ride updates, I admit that it does make me a little squeamish seeing The Haunted Mansion messed with. The ride has stood for so long without any major changes and then wham...a lot of big changes all at once.

Bye Bye GoDaddy - Warning, Disturbing Content

I've been hosting all my domain names with them for years, but after the disgusting and disturbing news of GoDaddy's CEO mercilessly slaughtering an elephant for "fun", you can bet they'll NEVER get my business again. He's not going out to prove his manhood by killing innocent animals on my dime.

Sorry for all the crazy activist-type postings lately...it's just, once you start paying attention to this stuff, the world looks a lot different. Not only am I switching, but I'm going to a company that is taking advantage of this situation and donating proceeds to all domain transfers from GoDaddy to Save The Elephants. I'll always back a company that is willing to capitalize on animal philanthropy and I'll always jump ship on a company when I discover intentional animal cruelty.

For the full story CLICK HERE. (WARNING: VERY DISTURBING IMAGES AFTER THE LINK.)

If you are the type of person who wants to make some changes to prevent animal cruelty, but you feel too overwhelmed to know where to begin, start small. Look on the back of the bottles of your shampoo, conditioner, lotion and soap. If it doesn't say "Not Tested on Animals", then it IS tested on animals. Start with a cruelty free shower every day and educate yourself about what the farms are like that produce your food and dairy products. (Dairy cows are not happy cows, despite the cute advertisements. I'll put it this way, milk cows have to be pregnant to produce milk. Guess what they do with the male calves? Veal! They take the calves away at birth and female cows low for their calves for days and days in distress and confusion. Even if you don't eat it, if you buy from a farm that sells it as Veal, you might as well be...and that's not even the half of it...)

Even though PETA has a lot of flaws, they provide a lot of free and helpful information for those wanting to know where to get started.  They provide a free starter kit with information on how to begin.


And don't even get me started on the circus....

If you have even the slightest care for animals, unload your GoDaddy domain names, stop drinking milk, and for the love of God, DO NOT GO TO THE CIRCUS.

Other than that, have a pleasant day.

What the Wind Can Conjure...

Jake sent me a text this morning saying it was "might windy" outside. This was the automatic soundtrack that my brain dusted off and started to spin without my permission. (Also, I left my umbrella in the car, meaning I had to walk to work with a scarf a la Linda Kozlowski of "Crocodile Dundee". She rocked that scarf way before Kylie Minogue or Lady Gaga. I'm just saying...but then again, so did Thelma and Louise and Romy and Michelle. But still, a scarf to me is immediately associated with Mick's special lady friend.)



4/3/11

Save the Puppies!

I occasionally post for charities that I think my readers may be interested in. In this case, this is a very local issue. But you can rest assured, you don't have to look very hard to discover incidents just like this in your own community. That's not to mention my recent posting about Humane Society International and the Red Cross in Japan. Entertainment, pop culture and charity often go hand in hand. That may be a weak argument, but I'm going out on a limb to use it because a blog is a public forum and this is something I'd like to draw attention to. This is a posting about charity, you've been warned, skip it if you want to.  

In Muncie, a puppy hoarding case was brought to light just a couple of days ago. Animal hoarding cases are sad. They often involve well-intentioned people who don't have the resources or can't get the help they need to care for their animals. Of course, this particular case also involved a house full of animals that weren't spayed or neutered, which eventually created the problem of too many puppies. So while I'm glad they are animal lovers, I also don't have too much sympathy for their situation that could've easily been avoided by a few trips to the low-cost spay and neuter clinic nearby.

At any rate, there are puppies in trouble. If you feel so inclined, please visit the following link to donate to ACTION FOR ANIMALS the charity that is responding to this hoarding case. You can also check out IRON UNDERDAWGS if you're a dog person and you want to make a difference. So many of the animal-related non profits are suffering in the economy right now. So every little bit helps. If you're interested in more details, click the "READ MORE" link to get the whole story.

4/2/11

Retro Orlando - Wherefore Art Thou Dreamfinder?

My column this month on Dreamfinder from the half lost/original version of EPCOT's ride "Journey into Imagination" has stirred some fun and sweet responses. In one of those great journalistic moments of connection, I was even able to get in touch with the actor who originally portrayed Dreamfinder via writer Jeff Heimbuch of Disney Dispatch and I'll be interviewing him soon. If you want to know what all the hullabaloo is about, read on...


4/1/11

I Can Officially Start Sentences with, "Back In My Day..."

This week, a fellow English teacher asked me to visit her undergraduate class to talk about comic books. To which I promptly replied, "Name the time and I'll be there." I didn't really have a big plan. I can talk comics all day, I knew they were discussing "ICON" and I had plenty to say about that book. So I showed up, introduced myself as the woman who enraged a thousand Slave Leias and started talking to them about my niche specialty, feminism and it's intersection (and occasional lack thereof) within the comic book world. Where comic books where when I was a kid and where they are now and why.

I taught them about context and why it matters. Where did Wonder Woman's outfit originate? Sidebar: I theorize that the famous WWII pin-up Betty Grable influenced the design of Wonder Woman's costume. When Wonder Woman first appeared in 1940, she was wearing a skirt. After Betty's famous pin-up pic a couple of years later, the skirt vanished giving Wonder Woman that much coveted "bathing beauty patriot" look. Essentially making her a hero for revealing that much skin. Betty Grable did it for America! And now all of the sudden, here's a woman dressed like a pin-up kicking rear and taking names. This is what made her outfit revolutionary. But in our modern context without that vast bank of collective knowledge in the public, what does her outfit mean to most people? Why do all action heroines look about the same? Does that "look" of spandex and boots still signify anything, stand for anything? But this is all beside the point...I guess I'm stewing about it while I form my opinion of the just released pictures of the new Wonder Woman.

I talked with them about how Rocket from ICON broke the mold. Why did we need a character like Rocket? (Who is black, fifteen, pregnant, and from the wrong side of the tracks...and she absolutely rules on the page with panels in which she punches out racist cops saying things like, "And I ain't no Rodney King either!" Which made me shed a tear of pride.) I had us make lists on the board of all the female comic book characters we could think of, then think about what they had in common, what they wore, etc. It was like an archaeological dig into the images of female superheroes.

I passed around a dozen or so of my first edition action heroine comics. The first Mystique, the first Batgirl, the first solo Catwoman run, the first Harley Quinn, etcetera, etcetera. None of which any of them had ever seen. This has less to do with age probably and more to do with obsession. What are the odds that I would walk into a classroom full of undergraduates who just happened to be as obsessed with comics as I am? But anyway...