Night of the Living DeadI like zombies.  I think they’re cool. There’s not much to them, being that they’re dead and all, and have a mental acuity of a goldfish. They shamble along, wandering aimlessly in any direction, looking for something to eat,  growling. If they spot some likely human prey they head off in that direction, without picking up their pace, or discussing strategy amongst themselves. Your average living person can manage a few zombies without too much trouble, a shot to the head, or a quick detour behind a tree… really, these guys aren’t hard to avoid. Unless there’s a swarm of them, all spread out and coming at you with the determination of ants on their way to a melting popsicle. Then you have to watch yourself, maybe run, or if you brought your car, you can drive away, always a reliable solution to zombie trouble.

Zombie movies can serve many purposes; some are just monster movies, some have more to say.  Night of the Living Dead, George Romero’s classic, was hailed in Europe as an sharp allegory for the American Civil Rights struggle.    The Walking Dead television drama is really about ordinary people who survive an apocalyptic event, not so much the monsters who pursue them. The show’s story lines focus on the challenges of finding and building community, and on the mistrust and savagery that can evolve between humans in bleak and stressful situations.  It’s a character driven drama, and you root for the main cast and try to forgive them for the terrible things they do because, well, zombies.

And speaking of zombies that’s about how I feel on this, the last day of April and the last day of the A-Z Blogging Challenge. It’s been a great event, I’ve learned a lot, and enjoyed checking in with everyone.  Happy May!


X-Men ApocalypseToday, the A-Z Blogging Challenge is brought to us by the letter X.

X is a tough one.

When I was a kid, and we would go on road trips, my mother would try to keep us occupied with alphabet games.  It was the kind of educational entertainment that she favored.  We would run through the letters, thinking of things that started with each one, and we would get to X and someone would say “xylophone” and that was okay and then the next person would say “x-ray” and the judges would have to consider, but it would get through because it was X we were dealing with here, and it was tough to come up with words.

But now I’m thinking, what about X-Men?

My mother wouldn’t go for it, since she had no use for superheroes, but the rest of us might find it hard to ignore the X-Men, because a movie about them comes out every couple of years or so, featuring a Millennial cast of thousands.  Jennifer Lawrence keeps showing up, in spite of all her Oscar nominations, and in this next installment she takes on a leadership role which should be pretty straightforward after all that Hunger Games nonsense.  The bad guy she’s fighting is called Apocalypse, and that’s interesting because we haven’t seen it before, a villain bent on ending the world who has a mission-appropriate nickname.  Oscar Isaac jumps into the Apocalypse role, hopefully reaping a big payday in exchange for saying grand things like, “Everything they’ve built will fall! And from the ashes of their world, we’ll build a better one!” (You know, on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the bad guys would try to end the world just because it seemed like a cool idea.  Those were simpler times, I guess.)

X-Men: Apocalypse hasn’t been screened for anyone, but best I can tell, it’s the sort of movie where everybody battles (almost) to the death, and then the good guys win, and then we all head out to the back yard for a Memorial Day barbecue.

Seems like a fun way to spend an afternoon.  Possibly better than an alphabet game.

Are you an X-Men fan? Do you think Jennifer Lawrence is wasting her talents? Can you think of a lot of words that start with X?

Pajama Game

Pajama GameMy husband doesn’t like musicals. I knew this going in. His logical accountant brain can’t wrap itself around the notion of someone bursting into song because, you know, they walk outside and it’s a Beautiful Morning. Never mind that our youngest daughter does this all the time.  She sings spontaneously on the street and in the house and in the car; in the car she might randomly launch into a song that is entirely different from the one playing on the radio. This doesn’t bother her at all. It is somewhat difficult for the rest of us.

My husband doesn’t like musicals, or he didn’t until our daughters were in a youth theater production of The Pajama Game. Now here was a story he could get behind — it’s about a business, with workers and managers and labor disputes. There’s even a song about adding things up:

Seven and a half cents doesn’t buy a hell of a lot,
Seven and a half cents doesn’t mean a thing!
But give it to me every hour,
Forty hours every week, 
And that’s enough for me to be living like a king!

Our youngest daughter was only eight when she was in The Pajama Game so she played a Button Sewer, kind of a mini-cast member. All the eight year olds were Button Sewers; they sat on wooden boxes in front of the stage and pretended to stitch buttons onto pajama bottoms.  During chorus numbers they would join the rest of the cast and sing and spin around each other and take little ballet steps. But they could be short on stamina – one Saturday the director scheduled a matinee and an evening show, and during the prep for the late performance, we found the Button Sewers sprawled out on their boxes, sound asleep. Fortunately, they were able to rally by curtain call.

My husband loved that show.

The Pajama Game was made into a movie in 1957, starring Doris Day.  She was the only actor in the film who was not part of the Broadway cast; it seems Hollywood needed a star.  She was perfect for the role, anyway, and the film did pretty well, just the sort of upbeat, happy movie musical that was popular in the fifties and early sixties.  I caught it on TV once, the colors were a little washed out, and the picture was grainy, but it was still a lot of fun, full of great performances.

But there weren’t any Button Sewers.

(A-Z Challenge: P is for Pajama Game.)

Midnight Special

Midnight SpecialThere’s a cool movie in theaters right now called Midnight Special.  It’s about a boy with mysterious powers, an ability to connect with unseen things that surround him, things buried in radio and sound waves and even in highly encrypted satellite communications.  He also, under the right circumstances, can briefly fix on other people and draw them in with a bright blue light that emanates from his eyes. This experience, this blue light bond, is both comforting and illuminating. People who experience it are profoundly changed.

When the movie starts, the boy and his father, played by Michael Shannon, are on the run. They’re trying to evade both the government, which is unnerved by a kid who can decode highly classified documents right out of cyberspace; and the members of a cult that has grown up around the child and needs his unique inspiration to continue.  There is a deadline looming, and the two need to be somewhere soon, but the details are vague. Everyone assumes that the boy will figure it out in time.

It’s pretty cool.

My husband really wanted to see this movie.  He likes science fiction, and Michael Shannon. We saw it at a packed theater when it was in very limited release, and it was good fun – it’s a mystery and a thriller and Adam Driver is in it, playing some sort of government tech specialist who never had anything interesting to do until this kid showed up.

Midnight Special is playing nationwide but it’s not in that many theaters.  It’s a film that can wait for video, but if you’re looking for a fun night out in the weeks before the summer blockbusters take over the multiplex, this is a great choice.

(A-Z Blogging Challenge: M is for Midnight Special)

Eye in the Sky

Eye in the SkyEye in the Sky is a terrific thriller about a secret military operation to take out three of the western world’s top terrorism suspects. The bad guys are laying low in Kenya, but only a few of the personnel trying to track them down are actually on the ground there – everyone else in this international effort is running the show from a distance, relying on virtual communications systems.

So we have a British Colonel (Helen Mirren) who is controlling the mission from a war room somewhere in the UK. She reports, with some impatience, to a General (Alan Rickman in his final role) who is in London with a handful of high level British diplomats and politicians. Meanwhile, the people who have their fingers on the trigger are a couple of young American soldiers (Aaron Paul and Phoebe Fox) sitting in a trailer in Nevada.

These far flung comrades watch the unfolding events through a video feed coming in from drones in Kenya. The drones are pretty cool – they’re disguised as bugs, and birds, and they sail around giving high definition visuals to decision makers who are thousands of miles away.

As the mission heats up, the two young soldiers in Nevada notice something moving within the potential missile blast range. A tap on the screen, and an inset close up – a sort of picture in picture – pops up and reveals a young girl innocently setting up to sell her mother’s fresh bread.

So, what do these high powered military commanders do now?

This is truly an edge of your seat kind of story – the players have to weigh the moral, political and tactical issues of the mission against the potential collateral damage, which is represented by this charming little girl.

War is hell, people.

The tension is regularly broken up by the sometimes absurd, and occasionally hilarious conversations had by the players trying to make these incredibly hard decisions under extreme time pressure. That includes the folks in Britain and Kenya and Nevada, as well as a few cameo convos with the British Foreign Secretary who is struggling with a bout of food poisoning in Singapore, and an incredulous American Secretary of State who is irritated at being pulled away from a ping pong game in China.

This movie lends itself well to discussions if your plan is to go out to dinner after the film. Or out for a drink. You might need a drink.

If you’ve seen the film, or want to, or if you have opinions on the legitimacy of drone warfare, let me know in the comments. (One last thing, Eye in the Sky movie starts with E, handy if you’re doing the A-Z Blogging Challenge.) Thanks for reading, folks!