Saturday, July 20, 2019

50 Years After that Giant Leap

Today is the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.  The first time a person stepped onto the surface of a heavenly body other than Earth.  An event that, like most things dealing with astronauts and space travel, makes me kind of want to cry. 

I can't even watch a video of a NASA launch without getting a lump in my throat, and I'm not sure why.  I think it has to do with the people in the shuttle or space ship or whatever is getting launched, and how hard they've worked to get there.  How brave they are, the giant risks they're taking, and how brave their families on the ground are being.  How many people have worked so long and so precisely to make space travel possible.

Just the idea that we can leave our own atmosphere and travel beyond our planet sort of gathers up all my love of exploration and those who explore, people living inside tiny and confined spaces, and people doing seemingly impossible things.  As a kid, I wanted to be an astronaut, at least until I found out how good they all had to be at math.  Even after seeing Apollo 13 (1995) and all the things that can go wrong in a space mission, I still had that desire, though I was 15 by then and coming to terms with the fact that I would not be an astronaut, nor would I get to go to astronaut camp.

So today, I'm remembering and honoring all the brave and daring and intelligent men and women who made that first moon landing happen.  Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins and alllllllll the people on the ground who carried them up to the moon with their collective hopes, dreams, ideas, and knowledge.  I hope you're remembering them too.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

"Dark Phoenix" (2019) -- Initial Thoughts

Michael Fassbender is absolutely the best part of this movie.  The directions they go with his character Erik/Magneto delighted me in ways I wasn't expecting.  His character arc has been the real joy of the three "young X-men" movies.  (I don't count Days of Future Past in that because it's got both the young and mature versions of the characters.)

The rest of the movie?  Was okay.

I mean, I liked that they had Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) confront his habit of meddling with people's minds and realize that he's become convinced of his own infallibility.  I liked that Hank/Beast (Nicholas Hoult) got some very juicy interior conflict, plus a nice chunk of screen time.

And I liked the ending a lot more than I expected.  I can't tell if this is supposed to be the capstone on the series, but I kind of hope it is, because it ended in a really good place and I liked it.  I've read that now that Disney bought Fox, this is the last film from Fox with these characters, and I think that would make me happy.  Start over fresh in a few years, add them to the MCU, whatever.

Things I disliked?  I still don't dig Sophie Turner.  And I didn't like how it kind of copied/mirrored parts of Captain Marvel.  And there was an effect they used that looked an awful lot like the way people crumbled when "snapped" in the MCU.  Like, seriously?  Couldn't come up with a fresh image, like exploding into little stars or something?  And the villains... were flat.

I didn't love this, but it was ultimately satisfying, and I know I will enjoy watching this again on DVD.  If you love the series, or are a Fassbender fan, this is worth seeing in the theater.  Especially since it looks like it's the last time we'll see these versions of these characters.

But the absence of Wolverine was keenly felt.  By me, anyway.

Friday, July 05, 2019

Hugh Jackman: The Man, the Music, the Show


Mega, ultra, massive swoonage.

People, Hugh Jackman is my favorite living actor.  My #3 favorite actor of all time.  He's very dear to my heart for the roles he chooses, the way he behaves in real life, just his laid-back intensity and evident kindness.  And on Monday, I spent two hours in the same room with him.  And like a million other people, but hey.  We breathed the same air.  His words left his mouth and entered my ears without passing through a screen.  He made me laugh and cry in real-time.

And he sang my favorite song.


Which is not a song from any movie or any musical he was in.  A song I have never connected in any way with him in my mind.  A song I had no even vague thought of, "Maybe he'll sing that tonight" because there was no reason he would.  No way that would ever happen.

He sang "Mack the Knife."  And he sang it the way Bobby Darin sings it.  Like, the whole setting, it was so very much Bobby's swingy, sassy, big-band version.  He even snapped his fingers.  He even did the "Look out, ol' Mackheath is back!" line at the end that is 100% pure Bobby Darin.

I cried.  And bounced.  And reveled.

That was Bobby Darin's signature song.  Hugh Jackman not only knows that song, he clearly knows Bobby Darin's version, and he chose to sing it that way in his concert.

Yup, I'm tearing up all over again.

Someone with a better camera than I am has kindly recorded him singing it and posted it to YouTube, so I can relive my memories of it a little bit, and share with you:

So, um, yeah.  Magical evening.  Especially because I was there with MY BEST FRIEND!!!

 She flew all the way out here to see this show with me, and we had the best time possible.

We had nice seats, not quite centered, but being aslant a little like this let us see eeeeeverything, which was awesome.

I didn't take a ton of photos, which is kind of rare for me, but I knew my phone's camera was too crummy to get any really good pictures, so I chose to just enjoy the moments as they came and not worry too much about trying to capture them.  But I did grab one fairly good shot of him singing "Luck be a Lady," which is from my absolute favorite musical, Guys and Dolls.

Hard to tell in that pic, but he's wearing this snappy black fedora and really selling the song :-)

So, as well as I can remember, these are the songs he sang:

"The Greatest Show" (from The Greatest Showman)
"Come Alive" (from The Greatest Showman)
"Gaston" (from Beauty and the Beast)
"When Somebody Loves You"
"Soliloquy" (from Carousel)
"A Million Dreams" (from The Greatest Showman)
"What Have I Done" (from Les Miserables)
"One Day More" (from Les Miserables)
"I Go to Rio" (from Boy from Oz)
"I Honestly Love You" (from Boy from Oz)
"Don't Cry Out Loud" (from Boy from Oz)
"Quiet, Please, There's a Lady Onstage" (from Boy from Oz)
"Tenterfield Saddler" (from Boy from Oz)
"I Got Rhythm"
"Singin' in the Rain"
"Sing, Sing, Sing"
"Luck be a Lady" (from Guys and Dolls)
"Mack the Knife"
"This is Me" (from The Greatest Showman)
"From Now On" (from The Greatest Showman)
"Once Before I Go" (from Boy from Oz)

I'm not solid on the order of all of those, other than the first three and last two.  Also, someone else sang "I Dreamed a Dream," which is my favorite song from Les Mis, so that was pretty amazing.  And there was a segment with didgeridoos and Aboriginal tribal leaders singing some native Australian such, which was very interesting.  But aside from those two, Hugh sang All The Songs.  So much singing.  So much dancing.  Even a little acting thrown in on songs like "Soliloquy" and "What Have I Done," and he reprised his Peter Allen persona from when he was in Boy from Oz on Broadway years ago.

I came away with this solid bit of knowledge:  Hugh Jackman LOVES to entertain.  Clearly having the time of his life on that stage, holding nothing back, just full-throttle fun times. 

So, um, those are my memories and my pictures and yeah, it was an incredible experience and I'm so glad Cowboy said to me, "You have to go.  We will make this happen."  Thank you, thank you, dear, kind man.

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

"Dodge City" (1939) -- Initial Thoughts

For Dodge City (1939), director Michael Curtiz reteamed with a trio of actors from the previous year's Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) to make a feel-good western with plenty of action and adventure of its own.  Instead of Robin Hood, Errol Flynn here plays Wade Hatton, a Texas cowboy with plenty of cheerful determination.  Instead of Maid Marian, Olivia de Havilland plays Abbie Irving, a sturdy pioneer with a wayward brother.  And instead of Robin Hood's loyal sidekick Little John, Alan Hale plays Wade Hatton's loyal sidekick, Rusty Hart.

This movie is just gobs of fun.  I can't wait to watch it with my kids.  They already love Olivia and Errol in Robin Hood, after all, and they're fond of westerns.

So what happens is, Dodge City, Kansas, is run by a greedy meanie named Jeff Surrett (Bruce Cabot).  He keeps the city wild and woolly and violent because then no one will challenge his right to buy cattle for ridiculously low prices and make gobs of money on them.

Wade Hatton brings a herd of cattle to Dodge.  Along with the cattle, he's bringing a few wagonloads of people.  People like pretty orphan Abbie Irving and her brother Lee (William Lundigan) -- they're on their way to live with their uncle (Henry Travers) in Dodge City.  Lee's a drunken fool who keeps causing trouble, like stampeding the cattle, and one day he tries to kill Wade, so Wade has to kill him.  You can imagine how much that makes Abbie like Wade.

Wade doesn't actually care if she likes him or not, as he's just there to sell cattle.  Only that greedy meanie Surrett doesn't offer him a fair price for them, so he refuses to sell them.  You can also imagine how much that makes Surrett like Wade.

Because Wade stands up to Surrett, the people of Dodge City want him to be their new sheriff.  Wade doesn't want to do it, but after he gets a few tastes of Surrett's villainy, he agrees.  This movie doesn't exactly have a plot aside from "let's get rid of Surrett," but it's so much rollicking fun that it doesn't need more than that.  We get one of the biggest saloon brawls ever filmed, lots of derring-do from Errol, and a grand finale that involves a burning train hurtling down the tracks with our heroes aboard.  Good stuff.

This has been my contribution to the Fourth Annual Olivia de Havilland Blogathon hosted by Phyllis Loves Classic Movies and In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood.  Happy belated birthday to Ms. de Havilland, who turned 103 on Monday!

Is this movie family friendly?  Yes.  Some violence and alcohol consumption, but that's all.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Saw it in the Movies Tag

Movie Critic tagged me with this, and you know I like tags, so here goes :-)

The rules: 
+ Pick at least 3 things that you have done from a movie. It can be any movie, anything you did.
+ Tell how the event worked out.
+ Link back to the tag's creator and the person who tagged you.
+ Have fun.
+ Tag 4 people.
+ Use the header.

Um, yeah, so I do a lot of stuff because of movies.  Mostly I just say particular words and phrases in specific ways because of movies or because of actors.  Like I tend to say the word "horrible" like Gene Kelly does -- more like "harrible."  Just because.  Or instead of saying "something like that" to reply to someone, I always say, "Something like this, yes," like Illya (Armie Hammer) in Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015).

But sometimes I DO things because of movies too.  Like these:

I spent countless minutes as a child practicing my fast draw.  Because all my cowboy heroes had a fast draw.  I learned two important lessons:  1. If your gun doesn't fit in your holster, it's not going to work very well, and 2. I'd better not get in any gunfights where the speed of my draw is going to matter.  I'm a pretty good shot with a rifle and an okay shot with a pistol, but I do not have anything you could even pretend was a fast draw.  At least not with plastic pistols that don't really fit in my fake-leather gunbelt.

I got super excited when I was a newlywed because my husband bought liverwurst at the grocery store one day.  See, there's a little scene in White Christmas (1954) where Bing Crosby tells Rosemary Clooney that if you eat liverwurst before bed, you'll dream about liverwurst, and I spent a lot of my adolescence wondering if that was true.  And wondering what liverwurst tasted like.  My mom hates all things liver, so she never bought us liverwurst.  Well, I'm here to tell you that I really enjoy liverwurst sandwiches, especially if they have thinly sliced onions on them, but I've never actually dreamed about liverwurst after eating one.  Maybe I need to eat them closer to bedtime.

I once ran down my parents' driveway yelling, "I'm going on an adventure!" like Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012).  I was like 35 at the time.  My mom thought I'd gone mad.  Again.

I used to spend a lot of time trying to learn how to roll a coin between my fingers like Val Kilmer does as Doc Holliday in Tombstone (1993).  So much time.  Never did figure it out.  My brother did, though.  I think the trick might be to use a bigger coin than a quarter.

Okay, that's four things.  Good enough.  I hereby tag:

Anna & Irene at Horseback to Byzantium
Eva at Coffee, Classics, and Craziness
Grace and Katherine at Maidens of Green Gables
Kate Gabrielle at The Films in My Life

Play if you want to!

Monday, June 24, 2019

Legends of Western Cinema Week RETURNS!!!

It's true!  Olivia of Meanwhile, in Rivendell..., Heidi of Along the Brandywine, and I are reviving the Legends of Western Cinema Week blog celebration!  We're holding it July 21-27, and you are hereby invited.

Do you love western movies?  Do you like western movies?  Do you kind of fondly tolerate western movies?  This blog celebration is for you!  We welcome you whether you adore the genre, enjoy just a few cowboy films, or fall somewhere in the middle of that spectrum.

What will this week entail?  I'm so glad you asked.  Heidi, Olivia, and I have some splendid things in the works.  Like what?  Multiple giveaways.  Blog games.  A tag.  Top ten lists.  Movie reviews.

Buuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuut... the truth is, we don't want to celebrate with only each other.  We want to celebrate with YOU too!  You can sign up in the comments on any of the announcement posts of the three host blogs with your ideas for what you'd like to add to this shindig.

How can you contribute?  Any way you can dream up!  Movie reviews, character sketches, a list of your favorite western films, a long rhapsody about celluloid cowboys... it's really up to you.

Multiple posts from the same blogger?  Totally welcome.  More than one person reviewing the same movie?  Why not?  This isn't a blogathon, it's a party.

If you can't think of anything to post, fear not!  We're working on a splendid tag with 9 questions you can answer on your own blog.  That totally counts as partying.

Olivia made us these fabulous buttons, so please scatter them all over the internet like confetti share one or two on your own blogs and social media accounts to spread the news about all the fun we're going to have.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

"Five Mile Creek" (1983-85)

When I was growing up in the late ‘80s, my family would rent a VCR and a VHS tape from the local video store once in a while. Yes, we had to rent the VCR too – we couldn’t afford to buy one, but renting one cost about the same as renting the video, so we could manage that now and then. At that tiny video store in the thumb of Michigan, my parents discovered the TV show Five Mile Creek.

At first, our store only had the first season, two episodes to a tape, but later they acquired the second and third seasons too – maybe my family rented the first season tapes so often, getting the rest seemed like a good business decision for the video store Powers That Be.

Anyway, we almost never rented anything but the next tape of Five Mile Creek, whatever came after the one we got at the last visit. Mom would make frozen pizzas for us, another treat, and we’d have a fun couple of hours joining our celluloid friends on their adventures in Australia’s version of the Wild West.

Set in the 1870s and loosely inspired by Louis L’Amour’s The Cherokee Trail, this Disney Channel original show stoked my love of all things Australia. A handful of years earlier, I’d seen The Man from Snowy River (1982) in the theater as a toddler, and that movie bestowed upon me a love for horses, cowboys, Australia, and the names “Jim” and “Jessica,” a love that lasted for my whole childhood and beyond.

Five Mile Creek chronicles the adventures of a motley assortment of characters on Australia’s frontier. Conway Madigan (Jay Kerr) comes all the way from America with a Concord stagecoach and a dream of building and running his own stageline.

He’s met in Australia by Jack Taylor (Rod Mullinar), a wheeler and dealer with endless plans for getting rich.  Together, they set up a stage line between Port Nelson and Wilga that they call the Australian Express.

Together, they borrow money from Mr. Charles Withers (Peter Carroll), a shrewd banker who doubts their ability to succeed but thinks their stagecoach and horses are excellent collateral.

Jack made arrangements with a local fellow to run their stage line’s way station to provide meals and “washing facilities” and a place to change horses. But that fellow has a fondness for drinking and gambling, and the task of running the way station falls on the shoulders of his capable sister, Kate Wallace (Liz Burch).

Jack insists Kate can’t handle the responsibility alone, but it turns out she doesn’t have to. An American woman, Maggie Scott (Louise Caire Clark), arrived on the same ship as Con and his coach.

Maggie and her daughter Hannah (Priscilla Weems) are searching for Maggie’s husband Adam, who came to Australia some time earlier in search of gold. Adam left a letter telling them to wait at Five Mile Creek, which happens to be where Kate's way station is situated.  Maggie offers to help Kate with the stage line work until Adam comes for her.

Kate employs an Irish ex-convict named Paddy Mallone (Michael Caton) to help care for the stage line’s horses.

Paddy provides most of the comic relief for the series, especially when he bickers with Ben Jones (Gus Mercurio), Con Madigan’s friend who comes over from America to help wrangle their horses.

And Kate takes in an orphan called Sam (Martin Lewis).  As a kid, I always preferred Sam to Hannah, as she was all prim and proper, sometimes a goody-two-shoes, and Sam had more adventures.

But Con Madigan was always my favorite, being a tall Texan with a fast draw and ready smile.  Not to mention a fringed buckskin jacket -- I've been extreeemely fond of jackets like that ever since this show.

Doesn't hurt that he looks pretty good without the jacket too.  Though I appreciated that fact more when I hit my teen years.

Also, the man kisses horses.  How could he NOT be my favorite???


Together, this diverse mix of characters gradually form one of my favorite things:  a "found family."  In fact, this show was probably my introduction to that concept!  Because we watched the whole series several times during my childhood and adolescence, I came to feel like they were my imaginary family as well.  I used to make up long stories about how I ended up at the way station and joined them in new adventures -- some of the earliest "fan fiction" I ever imagined up in my head!

Over the course of three seasons, Con and Kate fall in love.  The series actually ends with them getting married and deciding to adopt Sam as their son.

Maggie's husband Adam (Jonathan Frakes) shows up briefly, but is pretty much a loser, and I don't actually remember if we later find out he died, or if he just goes his merry way.

Still, it's really fun that Frakes was in an episode.  When I got my picture taken with him at the Star Trek convention a few years ago, I told him I'd liked him ever since Five Mile Creek, and he said, "Wow!  That takes me way back!" or something to that effect.  The truth is, I really have seen him in this more often than on Star Trek: The Next Generation because I've seen this show so many times, but only a few TNG episodes.

And he looks good in a cowboy hat.

Like, I could make up a whole book based on this image alone:

Anyway, the characters have lots and lots of adventures.  They have run-ins with bush rangers (outlaws) and corrupt soldiers, survive fires and cave-ins, and bid good-bye to a couple characters in a couple different ways.

Partway through the series, they all move away from the coast to New South Wales, where we meet up with some new characters.  I especially loved fiercely independent Annie (Nicole Kidman), a tomboyish sheepherdess with a wild mop of hair.  She's been a favorite actress of mine ever since.


Sadly, Disney has only released the first season of Five Mile Creek to DVD.  I keep waiting and hoping for the other two seasons, but so far, nothing.  Still, my kids are old enough now that I think I'll be introducing them to the show soon -- I do own all the eps on either DVD or VHS, and my VCR hasn't died yet!

This has been my contribution to the Blizzard of Oz Blogathon hosted by Quiggy at The Midnite Drive-In this weekend!  Check out his master post for links to all the other entries, and check out my Upcoming Blog Events page here to see what kinds of cool things are coming up!  You might find something you want to join yourself.

Also, come back tomorrow for an announcement about a blog event I'll be co-hosting that you won't want to miss!