Friday, March 25, 2022

Movie Music: Fernando Velasquez's "Hercules" (2014)

I almost didn't go see Hercules (2014) in the theater.  I tend to enjoy Dwayne Johnson's movies, but I don't know a lot about the Greek gods and goddesses, and the trailers for this didn't really grab me. But I'm glad I did go see it, because it turned out to be a truly fun movie -- not serious, but not too cheesy, either. In fact, I went to see it twice, and ended up buying the DVD too! 

You can read my review of Hercules here, and I wrote a Femnista article about it, which you can read here.

Fernando Velasquez's music fits the movie incredibly well, with lots of gutsy action stuff, bold and epic. Hands-down, my favorite track is "Arrival at Lord Cotys' City." It's full of swagger and bravado, and makes me want to hop in a chariot and do a victory lap around the city.

But I also really like "The Lion's Tooth" because it's a complete change of pace from most of the other tracks. It's soft and tender, a quiet moment in the middle of all the mayhem. I like soundtracks that don't sound all the same all the time -- variety is important! Even a big, brawny action movie needs some quiet time, and I like the soundtrack to reflect that too.

Have you seen Hercules?  If so, did you also get the biggest kick of how they made his mythical labors believable?  I find it so, so clever.

(This review originally appeared here at J and J Productions on May 21, 2015.)

Sunday, March 20, 2022

"Good Old Reliable Me" (Five Mile Creek) 1984

If you're not familiar with Five Mile Creek, I wrote a series overview here a few years ago.  In a nutshell, it's about some Americans who travel to Australia, where they join with some Aussies to start a stage coach line (the Australian Express) and its waystation at Five Mile Creek.  I grew up watching this series on VHS over and over and over again, and this is the episode I've seen more than any other because it's my dad's favorite.  

Conveniently, it's also my favorite, though for rather different reasons than his.  Dad likes it because it's funny.  I like it because it showcases Kate Wallace, a character I have strongly identified with since childhood.  It's definitely funny, but it's also really serious and dramatic, and I like that about it.  (And, yes, I sometimes felt taken for granted as a kid.  I've always been a bit weird.)

(This review spoils pretty much everything in the episode.  Sorry, not sorry.)

The ep begins when Con Madigan (Jay Kerr) drives the stagecoach into the Five Mile Creek waystation, only to discover there's no one around except Kate Wallace (Liz Burch).  Where is everyone else?  Off playing with a new steam engine Jack Taylor (Rod Mullinar) just acquired, leaving Kate alone.  As she puts it, "As a special treat, I'm allowed to do all their work as well."  She doesn't say that bitterly -- Kate's an innately cheerful person, and she's in a particularly good mood that day, possibly because she knows everything is getting done properly for once, since she's doing it all herself.

Con brought a passenger on the stage, a gent he describes as "very clean."  Con's not easy to disconcert, but you can tell something about this passenger has unsettled him.

Out steps the passenger, Simon Galt (Garry McDonald), the sort of character my husband would refer to as "an odd duck."  He calls Kate "Katie" and "luv," he wears gloves and a fancy suit with a bow tie, and he strolls around Five Mile Creek as if he owns the place.  Which, we quickly learn, he does.

Ahh yes, the penny drops.  Simon Galt has won the deed to Five Mile Creek from Kate's ne'er-do-well brother Eddie in a poker game.  This is why he's been going around kicking porch pillars and poking his nose into the pantry.

With this revelation, Kate's whole world crumbles.  She has poured herself into not just maintaining this way station for the Australia Express coach line, but making it thrive and grow.  She runs it; she cherishes it.  Eddie's name was on the deed, but Kate's heart was in the property.  And now, this weird stranger is in a position to do whatever he wants with the way station, with no say from Kate at all.

Kate calls a meeting in the kitchen and tells everyone she's pretty well fed up with how blasé they've all been to this news.  Her livelihood and their home is in jeopardy, not to mention the coach line's base of operations, and they are acting like it's no big deal.  In fact, they've all been more interested in Jack's new steam engine than in the new owner.

Con, who is Kate's sorta boyfriend at this point in the series, says precisely the wrong thing:  "Well, we all figured you, of all people, could handle it, Kate."  Maggie (Louise Caire Clark) makes it worse by saying, "Kate, all you have to do is ask."  Kate points out that even that offer is dependent on Kate doing something.  It's always her; she has to ask, she has to find a solution, she has to manage somehow.

Kate stomps out, and Con follows her.  He suggests maybe she's just reacting badly because she's overworked.  He reminds her that she's "good old reliable Kate Wallace," after all.  They all trust her to handle this because she's handled so many hard things before.

But the one thing Kate can't handle is being bossed around in her own home.  She can't take orders from Simon Galt instead of running Five Mile Creek herself.  It's not her home anymore with him there.

So, Kate decides to do one of the hardest and bravest things she's ever done: she leaves.

Kate goes to town and gets herself a new job cleaning at the hotel.  Mr. Withers (Peter Carroll) can't convince her that her leaving Five Mile so abruptly is causing idle gossip.  Kate doesn't care.  She's a free woman and can work where she pleases, and she's found an honest job here in town, so who cares what people say.

Those gossips get a lot more to talk about when Con arrives on the coach.  First, he asks Kate to please come home.  Then he grabs her by the wrist and tries dragging her toward the coach, which escalates to him picking Kate up to try to put her in the coach.  None of which goes over well with Kate, as you can imagine, and it all ends with her staring him down with an expression rather like the one I wore for the majority of my childhood.

Tsk tsk.  Conway Madigan, you should know better than to try to forcibly make a woman do anything she doesn't want to, especially this one.  Although Con ties with Kate for my favorite character in the series, he does not come off well in the first half of this episode.  He definitely has been taking Kate's hard work and dependability for granted and, when charm fails him, he falls back on force awfully quickly.  That's not his usual behavior -- he's a pretty laid-back Texas cowpoke most of the time.  But I think that the possibility of losing Kate for good has him more scared than he knows, and he's panicking at this point.

Meanwhile, Maggie offers to buy Five Mile from Simon outright.  She's inherited a nice bundle recently, and she is willing to pay him cash for the deed.  But Simon has decided he likes Five Mile Creek.  Or, more to the point, he likes having a nice place to live with regular meals, a clean room, and people who bow to his every whim.  

So, Con devises a solution.  He and the other menfolk will play poker with Simon in hopes of winning the deed back for Kate.  He has realized that Kate has built the way station up from nothing "with her own grit and hard work," and she was pushed into leaving by all of them as much as by Simon Galt.  It's up to them to make things right.

Con begins to, well, con Simon.  He talks up the way station, shows him how solid and valuable it is, praises the property and the people and the importance of where it is.  And, in the evenings, he and Ben (Gus Mercurio) teach Jack and Paddy (Michael Caton) how to play poker.  Maggie also butters Simon up, also praising Five Mile Creek and what the future can hold for it.  She points out that the stage line is really what makes Five Mile important, and plants the idea that owning the stage line too would be much better than just owning the way station.

Jack and Paddy are really terrible at poker, and Con and Ben are pretty despairing of their big plan working.  But they can't figure anything else out, so the games must begin.

Simon wins.  And wins.  They lose all their money.  Paddy loses his beloved draft horse William.  Con even convinces Jack to bet his steam engine.  Simon has his sights set on the stage line, and blithely continues beating them in hopes that they'll put that up as stakes eventually.  Instead, Con beats him and wins back all their money, plus Paddy's horse and Jack's steam engine.  In fact, he cleans Simon out.

Simon wants a rematch.  Con says he'll only play if Simon wagers Five Mile Creek.  Simon says he'll only play if they put up the coach line.  So, they play.

And... it is Paddy who wins the game.  It's Paddy who wins back the deed to Five Mile Creek for Kate.  The same Paddy who has been consistently terrible at even remembering the rules of poker, and kept losing hand after hand until then.  

Having Paddy be the one to bet everything against the deed makes for some good tension and suspense, but I think it's also the perfect choice because of Paddy's history with Kate.  Paddy is a paroled convict who is not trusted or liked by a lot of people when the show begins, except for Kate.  Kate gave him a job and a home when most people wouldn't, and he's always been grateful to her for that.  The others only accept and trust Paddy because Kate does so first.  Now, at last, he has a chance to do something wonderful for her in return.  And he does!

Con brings the good news -- and Simon, bearing the deed -- to town, where Simon turns the deed over to Kate, and all is well again.  

Very well indeed :-)  Kate even gets to drive the stagecoach home in celebration!

This has been my contribution to the 8th Annual Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon, hosted by A Shroud of Thoughts.  Check out this post for the roster of participants.

This year's event is dedicated to the memory of Paddy Lee, who blogged so delightfuly at Caftan Woman.  Sadly, Paddy Lee has passed away very recently -- she left behind one final blog post, written for this event, which I'm going to cry all through when I read it.  Paddy was the sweetest, jolliest movie lover, and we all miss her.

Sunday, March 06, 2022

To-Do List for Spring of 2022

Here are the things I would like to accomplish this spring.  So, by the end of May, basically.  I've got some pretty busy weeks coming up, so this might be a little shorter than my usual lists, but these are what I think I can realistically do, anyway.

~ Finish the major revisions of My Rock and My Refuge

~ Start a street team for my Once Upon a Western series 

(All photos are mine from visiting Colonial Williamsburg last spring.)

~ Read 3 books for my latest Classics Club list

~ Read 10 books off my TBR shelves 

~ Watch 4 movies off my TBW shelves 

~ Go see Fantastic Beasts: Secrets of Dumbledore

~ Go see The Quiet Man on the big screen thanks to TCM and Fathom Events

~ Make a hobbit-themed wreath

~ Make a fairy garden outside

~ Visit Disney World and Legoland for the first time!

That ought to keep me busy, don't you think?

Thursday, March 03, 2022

The End of My Winter 2021/22 To-Do List

It was sunny and 56° here today.  While it's always possible we could get another snowstorm or two before the end of March, winter is clearly on the wane.  So, I am ending my Winter 2021/22 To-Do List!  Let's see how I did...

(Book and movie titles linked to my reviews when applicable.)

~ Finish the major revisions of my Beauty and the Beast retelling Fail.  I am probably about half done?  Definitely making forward progress!

~ Find that book a title Check!  It's officially named My Rock and My Refuge, and I love it.

~ Start a "street team" for my book series Fail.  But I am getting close to making this a reality!  Just taking me longer than I expected to get all my ducks in a row before I can announce it.

~ Read 3 Christmas books Check! In fact, I read... eight!

(All photos are mine from my Instagram acount.)

~ Read 3 books for my latest Classics Club list Check! I read four:

~ Read 12 books off my TBR shelves Check!  I read fifteen:

~ Watch 6 movies off my TBW shelves Fail.  I only watched three from those stacks:

  • Footsteps in the Dark (1941)
  • Since You Went Away (1944)
  • Pale Rider (1985)

~ Watch 3 Christmas movies Check!  I watched six!

~ Go see Death on the Nile Check!  Here's what I thought of it.

~ Have friends over for a Ukrainian Christmas celebration Check!  It was delightful.  We're praying hard for Ukraine right now, and supporting Ukrainians however we can.  Because my husband's family lived in Ukraine for many years, we have a lot of love for the Ukrainian people, and it is so heartbreaking to see them attacked this way.

~ Host a mystery-themed blog party in February Check!  It was lots of fun :-)

And, there you have it!  Some fails, many checks.  Onward and upward!  Farther up and farther in!