Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Movie Review: Ghostland (2018)

Ghostland (2018) starts hard and fast. By the time it gets to the opening credits, a whole horror movie has gone by in fast forward. It left Jay asking, "Where the hell can this go now?"

Where the hell, indeed.

The movie starts with Beth (Emilia Jones) and her sister, Vera (Taylor Hickson), travelling with their mother on their way to a house interhited from a deceased aunt. You know something isn't quite right when a candy van pulls up alongside their car -- then seem to follow them to the convenience store they stop at. Cut to a newspaper reporting a spat of murders and you get a pretty good idea of what's going to happen.

Yup, the creepy pair from the candy van follow the family to their new home, try to kill the mother, then try to abuse the girls. Surprisinlgy, the mother kills the attackers and rescues her daughters.

That's when the movie really starts.

When the action picks up again, Beth (now Crystal Reed) is a successful author of horror stories, is married, and has a child of her own. Seems like everything worked out. Until she gets a frantic call from her sister (now Anastasia Phillips) in the middle of the night, begging her to come home.

We learn that Vera hasn't coped with the trauma as well as Beth. She keeps herself locked in the basement (strangely, in the house where they were attacked as kids) and is prone to self-harm -- or so you think.

You even think, for a moment or two, that the house just might be haunted by the ghosts of the thwarted killers.

But that would be too simple for this movie.

Ghostland takes many twists and turns, back and forth through time, but keeps you engaged through it all. And, just when you think it's a tale of hopelessness, it gives you the happy (well, ish) ending you've been hoping for.

Sisterhood is at the heart of the movie. Vera can't be civil to her horror-obsessed sister when the movie starts but, later, does everything she can to protect Beth from harm. It's also a movie about resilience, and the fight buried deep within us all. Mostly, though, Ghostland is about action.

Throughout most of the film, Beth is paralysed by an inability to act. Considering the world we live in, I think we can all understand that. If I stand up, will I be singled out? If I fight back, will I make it worse for myself? Well, if Ghostland is anything to go by... maybe. But, if you're willing to try, you might just find your freedom.

Ghostland is classified as a horror and I can see why; it is a classic home invasion story. But it's not that spooky. There was one big scare, though, and if you're a big scaredy cat (like me) you might want to look away when that creepy mirror swings open. *shudder*

If you've seen Ghostland and you want to chat about it, get it touch. If you want to recommend a film to review, drop a comment below and we'll have a look at it.

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Movie Review: Friend Request (2016)

Friend Request (2016) has to be one of the spookiest movies I've seen in a good while. I'll be completely honest with you, I watched a good part of it while using my blanket as a shield. I even *cough* dove beneath the blanket once or twice. Shit freaked me the hell out. (Which, of course, amused Jay. Lol.)

The imagery in this film is just fantastic, especially in the clips you see on the Facebook account for "Ma Rina". We're talking creepypasta stuff, here. When I saw her profile, the first thing I said to Jay was, "I'd hit 'friend' in a heartbeat. That's my kind of freak." Though that might say more about me than the movie. 🤣

Friend Request also cleverly overlays social media boxes and info over the film. It's a great way to do it. Sometimes, movies with a heavy social media influence get lazy and just focus on the messages or whatnot for ages, which slows the action and leads to the movie just being boring. Not the case with Friend Request. By using overlay for the friends number, messages, etc., it keeps the plot going while still giving viewers vital information.

Let's talk plot. Alycia Debnam-Carey's Laura is a college student and an honestly nice person -- which makes the horror even better because you don't want anything bad to happen to her. (No one cares what happens to the douche in a horror movie, right?) All Laura wants to do is be nice to loner, Marina (Liesl Ahlers). She doesn't do anything wrong. She doesn't deserve what happens to her. It's some of the scariest horror there is, when karma takes a vacation.

Laura's horror over not being able to delete her social media account is one I think a lot of us share, even if we don't realize it. Anything can go viral these days -- from that video your friend snuck of you picking your nose to the one you captured of that dude barfing in an alley. No experience belongs to just us anymore.

In that way, social media in Friend Request could be seen as an allegory for identity. Who we are can be twisted and blown out of proportion (not often by a killer witch, though, to be fair) and there's nothing we can do about it. That's what makes Friend Request such an effective horror film.

I'm pretty sure the meaning of Friend Request is supposed to be something along the lines of "Social media is bad!" but, honestly... I picked up on two other, more prominent themes. One, don't talk to strangers. That's some pretty solid advice, right there. Don't our parents teach us that as soon as we learn to talk?

The other theme is much more toxic, and one I take issue with. It suggests that the weirdos of the world are evil and dangerous. Speaking as one of the world's weirdos, I'd like to say, "Nuh uh!" Movies like Fiend Request need to stop making the outcasts evil murderers because that teaches the people watching them to treat the outcasts (even more) poorly. What is it Albie says? "Treat people like scum, they start ACTING like scum."

Okay, one more grumble before I move on. I am more than a little tired of rape being used as a plot device. Of the last four movies I've seen, three of them had women (and, worse, young girls) being raped... well, just because.

Fuck off with that shit. Rape is not a plot tool!

Yes, sometimes it's absoutely necessary to explain and develop a person's character. On the other hand, not every pissed off woman has been a victim of rape. The patriarchy gives us so many other reasons to be pissed off.

Oh, and not every woman who has been rapd becomes a psycho killer.

This mini-rant isn't directed at Friend Request; it's directed at the film industry as a whole. I wanted to make that clear because, sometimes, the hubs assumes my indignation reflects dislike of a film -- and it doesn't always. Certainly not in this case. I loved Friend Request.

The acting is good, the plot is solid, and the jumps are scary as shit. You can't really ask for more from a horror movie. (And, honestly, a lot of horror movies fail to nail even one.) Friend Request scared the crap out of me when I watched it and, after, I had to sleep with the lights on. Yeah... let's say I slept. 😳

If you've seen Friend Request and want to discuss it, I'd love to hear from you. If you have a suggestion for similar movies that I might enjoy, get in touch. Until next time, thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Movie Review: Evilspeak (1981)

Evilspeak is a forgotten horror movie from 1981. It stars Clint Howard as Cadet Stanley Coopersmith, who summons Satan through a computer after finding a . If you think Clint Howard is an unlikely lead, you're right -- but Coopersmith is an unlikely Satanist, so the role is perfect for him.

While clearly influenced by movies like The Omen and Damien: Omen II, Evilspeak is just as clearly a product of the Digital Age. It reminded me a little of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode where they scan an old text and accidentally release a demon into the network.

But with more pigs.

I may or may not have been incapable of watching the first five minutes of the movie because of a laughing fit triggered by mishearing "Sacrifice!" as "Suck an ass!" 🤣

Such a child!

I wasn't expecting anything when we sat down to watch Evilspeak. We've been through so many modern horror films that we decided to just start picking random old movies to see how bad they are. I'm worried that Evilspeak may have set the bar too high for movies to come...

Yes, there are bad wigs and tits in the first five minutes of the film. ("Suck an ass!") I promise it gets better from there, though.

I was actually impressed with Evilspeak's diversity. (I know, I don't say that much in reviews.) You'd forgive it for being a little whitewashed, being set in a military academy, but it's not. Not only are there people of colour in perfectly respectable roles, Coopersmith is a total dweeb (I can say that, being a dweeb myself.) and there are chubby people about, too. There is a gay slur, which is disappointing, but considering the time Evilspeak was made, it could have been a lot worse.

The computer graphics are exactly as clunky as you'd expect from a 1981 movie. They get pretty trippy as Richard Moll's evil Father Esteban gains control of Coopersmith's er... borrowed? computer. Honestly, though? Yeah, it's funky as shit, but it works. Maybe it's because it's so Eighties, or maybe it's just a perfect blend of evil and technology (I'm not going to ask if such a thing exists 'cause, you know, Facebook.) but the graphics fit the movie perfectly.

This is one of those "video nasties" that Britain went nuts over in the Eighties. It is a little gory, but nothing compared to what we're used to these days. Still, the combination of devil-worship and intestines was just too much for Britain's nanny state.

(I'm thinking we need to have some kind of video nasty marathon, with introductions from Beast-man himself... what'd'ya think?)

There's a touch of Carrie White in Stanley Coopersmith. Like Carrie, you're with him when he decides to get his revenge. I think all us dweebs can agree that the Bubba Caldwells (Don Stark) of the world get away douchebaggery far too often. If you could call down an army of ravenous pigs to gnaw on your tormentors, then burn the place down, wouldn't you?

Just me? Hmm. I might need to rethink my morals. I mean... my favourite part of the film is when a nail flies out of Jesus's palm to kill the priest so... yeah.

Evilspeak is a bloody fun movie (and I mean that in both senses of the word.) It kept my attention -- minus a few minutes when I had to look away because I can't handle animals being injured -- and I would watch it again. And, honestly, I'd summon all kinds of evil, too, if someone did something to my dog.

If you've seen Evilspeak -- or, if you're interested in a video nasty marathon -- let me know. Also, get in touch if you've got a different opinion of this movie (or any movie we review). Until next time, thanks for stopping by.

The Great Courses Plus -- A Great Way to Learn?

I recently took part in a month's free trial of "Unlimited Video Learning with the World's Greatest Professors" via The Great Courses Plus. Sadly, I only had time to complete three courses. I wish I could have done three times that!

The first course I took during my trial month of The Great Courses Plus was The Apocalypse: Controversies and Meaning in Western History taught by Professor Craig R. Koester. Koester has an easy, smooth style that makes listening to him a pleasure. I could listen to that voice all day!

This course consists of 24 Lectures, each roughly thirty minutes in length:
1. Revelation and the Apocalyptic Tradition
2. Apocalyptic Worldview in Judaism
3. Apocalyptic Dimension of Early Christianity
4. Origins of the Book of Revelation
5. Issues Facing Revelation's First Readers
6. God, the Lamb, and the Seven Seals
7. Seven Trumpets, Temple and Celebration
8. The Dragon and the Problem of Evil
9. The Beasts and Evil in the Political Sphere
10. The Harlot and the Imperial Economy
11. The Battle, the Kingdom, and Last Judgement
12. New Creation and New Jerusalem
13. Antichrist and the Millennium
14. Revelation's Place in the Christian Bible
15. The Apocalypse and Spiritual Life
16. The Key to the Meaning of History
17. Apocalyptic Fervor in the Late Middle Ages
18. Luther, Raedicals, and Roman Catholics
19. Revelation Takes Musical Form
20. Revelation in African American Culture
21. The Apocalypse and Social Progress
22. Awaiting the End in 1844 and Beyond
23. Rapture, Tribulation, and Armageddon
24. The Modern Apocalyptic Renaissance
I chose The Apocalypse: Controversies and Meaning in Western History because, in a few stories I'm working on, the apocalypse plays a big part. Honestly, I didn't see how there could be twelve hours worth of lectures about The Apocalypse -- and I certainly didn't think I'd still be interested at the very end! But, it remained interesting and I actually found myself wanting more. (I also worked out the details of those stories and even sketched out a couple more so... score!)

The second course I chose to take was Why Evil Exists, with Professor Charles Mathewes, Ph.D. This one was slightly longer, with a total of thirty-six (approximately) thirty minute lectures:
1. The Nature and Origins of Evil
2. Enuma Elish -- Evil as Cosmic Battle
3. Greece -- Tragedy and The Peloponnesian War
4. Greek Philosophy -- Human Evil and Malice
5. The Hebrew Bible -- Human Rivalry with God
6. The Hebrew Bible -- Wisdom and the Fear of God
7. Christian Scripture -- Acopcalypse and Original Sin
8. The Inevitability of Evil --Irenaeus
9. Creation, Evil, and the Fall -- Augustine
10. Rabbinic Judaism -- The Evil Impulse
11. Islam -- Iblis the Failed, Once-Glorius Being
12. On Self-Deception in Evil -- Scholasticism
13. Dante -- Hell and the Abandonment of Hope
14. The Reformation -- The Power of Evil Within
15. Dark Politics -- Machiavelli on How to Be Bad
16. Hobbes -- Evil as a Social Construct
17. Montaigne and Pascal -- Evil and the Self
18. Milton -- Epic Evil
19. The Enlightenment and Its Discontents
20. Kant -- Evil at the Root of Human Agency
21. Hegel -- The Slaughter Block of History
22. Marx -- Materialism and Evil
23. The American North and South -- Holy War
24. Nietzsche -- Considering the Language of Evil
25. Dostoevsky -- The Demonic in Modernity
26. Conrad -- Incomprehensible Terror
27. Freud -- The Death Drive and the Inexplicable
28. Camus -- The Challenge to Take Evil Seriously
29. Post-WWII Protestant Theology on Evil
30. Post-WWII Roman Catholic Theology on Evil
31. Post-WWII Jewish Thought on Evil
32. Arendt -- The Banality of Evil
33. Life in Truth -- 20th Century Poets on Evil
34. Science and the Epircal Study of Evil
35. The "Unnaming" of Evil
36. Where Can Hope Be Found?
Mathewes's delivery wasn't as flawless as Koester's, maybe, but his enthusiasm for the subject matter was infectious. The Post-WWII lectures were the most interesting for me. I definitely recommend taking these two courses together, by the way. They fit well together, complimenting and completing one another.

My favourite of the courses I took, though, was Heroes and Legends: The Most Influential Characters of Literature, which was taught by Professor Thomas A. Shippey, Ph.D. The thirty minute (ish) lectures include twenty-four captivating characters:
1. Frodo Baggins -- A Reluctant Hero
2. Odysseus -- The Trickster Hero
3. Aeneas -- The Straight Arrow
4. Guinevere -- A Heroine with Many Faces
5. The Wife of Bath -- An Independent Woman
6. Cressida -- A Love Betrayed
7. Beowulf -- A Hero with Hidden Depths
8. Thor -- A Very Human God
9. Robin Hood -- The Outlaw Hero
10. Don Quixote -- The First of the Wannabes
11. Robinson Crusoe -- A Lone Survivor
12. Elizabeth Bennet -- A Proper Pride
13. Natty Bumppo and Woodrow Call -- Frontier Heroes
14. Uncle Tom -- The Hero as Martyr
15. Huckleberry Finn -- Free Spirit of America
16. Sherlock Holmes -- The First Great Detective
17. Dracula -- The Allure of the Monster
18. Mowgli -- The Wolf Child
19. Celie -- A Woman Who Wins Through
20. Winston Smith -- The Hero We Never Want to Be
21. James Bond -- A Dangerous Protector
22. Fairy-Tale Heroines -- New-Style Princesses
23. Lisbeth Salander -- Avenging Female Fury
24. Harry Potter -- Whistle-Blower Hero
This is the type of course I would have loved to have taken in university. My favourite lectures were the ones on The Wife of Bath and The Color Purple's Celie. I wonder if Shippey ever considered doing a course on feminism through literature? If these lectures were anything to go by, it would be fascinating.

I chose courses relevant to my interests but there are no shortages of topics to pick from. The Great Courses Plus offers everything from Dog Training 101 to Mysteries of the Microscopic World. It's a cliche, but there's something for everyone here.

The Great Courses Plus website is user friendly. It's well-organized and clean, which makes it easy on the eyes. "My Watchlist" keeps track of your courses, allowing you to reorder them as necessary. Each course remembers where you left off and automatically starts the next lecture, proceeding seamlessly. You can also sync the site to your other devices, making it easy to carry on with your courses on the go.

There are a few things I thought would have improved the site, mind. While the lectures were interesting, I would have liked to have followed them up with a quick quiz to check understanding. It would have been good to have a forum as well, to discuss the courses with other users. The lack of these options doesn't detract, though. They would just improve the overall experience. 

You're wondering about the important stuff, right? You've been reading all this thinking, 'Oh, just shut up and tell me how much it's going to cost me!' Well, if you were expecting brevity, you came to the wrong place! (Lol.) But, seriously, The Great Courses Plus is fairly priced. Extremely so, in fact. You can choose to pay for your subscription to The Great Courses Plus either monthly (less than £20) or yearly (less than £200.) You really can't go wrong.

So... do I think it's worth it? Absolutely. The Great Courses Plus is ideal for lifelong learners. As soon as I can figure out how to fit the monthly subscription fee into my budget, I'm coming back! Try out The Great Courses Plus for yourself and let me know how you go on.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Movie Review: Forbidden Planet (1956)

It's hard to watch Forbidden Planet (1956) as both a feminist and a nerd so I'm going to put my issues with the film's treatment of women (well, woman) to the side for now and focus on the sci-fi aspect of this one. You ready?


I don't know exactly what I was expecting when we put Forbidden Planet on, but it definitely wasn't a clean, sharp sci-fi masterpiece with surprisingly good graphics. If I was expecting a hokey, hard-to-watch cringe-fest, I got schooled.

Forbidden Planet follows the plight of a starship crew, headed by Leslie Nielsen' Commander Adams, as they investigate a colony they lost communication with. When they arrive, they find only Dr. Morbius (Walter Pidgeon) and his daughter, Altaira (Anne Francis), still alive.

Well, Dr. Morbius, Altaira, and one big honkin' secret.

I won't lie. I wasn't exactly hopeful when the movie started. It just pulpy enough to make me think, 'This is one of those sci-fi films mama warned me about, isn't it?' Then, it pulled back to show the starship -- a flying saucer! -- and I was certain of it. But then the movie started in earnest and all I could do was stare, open-mouthed, at the awesomeness of Forbidden Planet while Jay laughed at me.

When the crew members walk over to what was obviously a transporter -- a freaking transporter! -- I had to pause the film to wail, "Everything I know is a lie!" Because... because... transporters started with Star Trek, right? Right?!

So, so wrong.

Are you laughing at me as hard as Jay did? Like I said, this film schooled my ass.

As if the transporter incident wasn't enough, the ship's crew (as far as I know, the ship is a C-57D Cruiser but I don't think they actually give it a name) examine the planet and say that there are no signs of civilisation. No signs of civilisation, not no signs of life. I didn't think a movie from the Fifties would make such a distinction.

The crew's uniforms are also remarkably practical (and sparkle-free) for a sci-fi movie. Oh, and the crewmen refer to the organisation they work for as the United Planets. What? No... the United Federation of Planets was completely original and groundbreaking!

...wasn't it?

And, let's not forget that the crewmen have freaking communicators!

Okay, I think I have to say now that you can't call yourself a sci-fi nerd until you've seen Forbidden Planet.

I'm going get back to the film because I've been dying to talk about Robby the Robot!

Can we stop and take a moment for the poor schmuck stuck inside Robby the Robot? That could not have been an easy job! (Robby could be controlled offstage, too, but still.) Marvin Miller gave voice to Robby the Robot but, as far as I know, the operator inside the robot was unnamed.

Robby is the perfect embodiment of Isaac Asimov's Laws of Robotics. If you're not familiar with them, they go like this:

1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

2. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

As advanced as he is (he can speak 188 languages and manufacture just about anything, including bourbon), Dr. Morbius makes it quite clear that Robby is just a tool. Whn he orders Robby to attack him, it nearly fries the robot's circuits.

I adore Robby the Robot (and not just because he made a guest appearance in Columbo's "Mind Over Mayhem") He's clunky and awkward (like me) with lots of moving bits and inadvertent sarcasm. Did I mention he can make bourbon? Get me a Robby!

It's interesting that, while they are clearly capable of space travel, the crew are surprised by Robby. They even say, "You are a robot, aren't you?" I find it amazing that the crew didn't know exactly what they were seeing, that robots were such a new concept. Hard to believe, isn't it?

I'll go on about Robby all day if I'm not careful, so let's move on to his creator, Dr. Morbius. You know, in typical B-movie fashion, that Morbius is bad news because of the way he looks. He's dressed in black and also has a goatee and a window's peak. That's the B-movie equivalent of a siren screaming, "Bad guy! Bad guy!"

In Dr. Morbius's defence, though, he doesn't know he's the baddie until the end. There's a very good manifestation of what they think is the monster when it attacks the ship one night. They try, unsuccessfully, to electrocute it. Although it doesn't work, it does light the monster up in a remarkably effective way.

The monster, which Jay warned me would seem hokey, was freaking cool. It was like the lovechild of Night of the Demon and Fantasia. Part of its effectiveness lies in the fact that it's the one and only time you actually see it. For the most part, the threat is invisible.

Viewers eventually learn the planet's original inhabitants accidentally annihilated themselves by bringing their inner monsters to life. Whoops. They left behind a massive (and somehow still functional after two thousand centuries,) wildly geometric, underground lair Dr. Morbius uses to boost his already enormous IQ.

Don't be too impressed; they all have enormous IQs.

You've probably noticed that I've avoided Morbius's daughter, Altaira up to now. That's because I can't talk about Altaira without igniting just a little feminist rage and I hesitate to do that because I don't want you to think I'm hating on the film. I loved Forbidden Planet. Sexism was just, sadly, part of the time the film was made in.

I'm going to try to skim over a few of the things that bothered me, without condemning Forbidden Planet for something it couldn't help. Here we go:
1. There are no women among the starship's crew, although we have to assume that there were women among the scientists who colonised the planet.

2. Altaira changes her outfit a dozen times or more. The outfits are skimpy and glittery, of course. Also, she's always barefoot.

3. And... she is either just dumb (despite having a solid education) or a hopeless flirt. She's just so happy to see young men for the first time and is easily tricked into kissing them.

4. Did I mention she can't be any older than nineteen -- if that? Yeah.

5. The wolf-whistling when the crewmen see Altaira. Adams even uses the phrase, "space wolf." Sheesh.

6. Adams blames Altaira for the men chasing after her. He orders her to cover up, then blatantly oggles her when he walks in on her swimming nude. 
It could be said, from a modern, feminist point-of-view, that Forbidden Planet is a movie about eighteen guys trying to get laid (and one guy trying to get drunk.) But that really doesn't do this classic justice. Even a whopping dose of the sexism endemic of the time can't touch the epicness that is Forbidden Planet.

This one's the grandfather of all the sci-fi we love so much. It really is a must-watch for fans of the genre. I'd go so far as to say you can't call yourself a real fan of sci-fi until you've seen Forbidden Planet.

What are your thoughts on this one? I'd love to know what you thought. Also, I'm wondering what other sci-fi movies I've missed out on. If there's a sci-fi movie I should see, let me know and I'll it to my list.

Cover Reveal: Locked In

Time for a cover reveal!

Here's the cover for 'Locked In', an anthology coming soon from Thirteen O'Clock Press.

My short, "Her Daughter's Demon", will be part of this creepy collection.

I'll keep you updated on the release date, when I've got it!

Monday, 11 June 2018

Thirteen O'Clock Press Call for Submissions: CHAINS

A new call from Thirteen O'Clock Press!

Submission guidelines:
Please submit your manuscript as a *.rtf, *.doc or *.docx file.
The email subject line must read: “SUBMISSION – Chains – ‘your story title’”
No headers, footers or page numbers.
Reprints are OK as long as all rights have been reverted back to you.
Up to 5000 words preferred, no minimum. 
No extra lines between paragraphs and all new paragraphs and dialogue indented using the TAB key.

Rie Sheridan Rose will be presiding over this anthology.
Submit to:
Deadline: until full
Payment: Exposure and Royalties
60% of profits received
50% off RP paperback contributor copies (cost)

Thirteen O'Clock Press is an imprint of Horrified Press.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Guest Spot: Meagan's Jammin' Summer Party Playlist

Today, I'm going to hand the blog over to Meagan so she can tell us about her Jammin' Summer Party Playlist

Let's see what she has to say...

To me, summer is really a time of parties, fun, friends, drinking, cruising around, freedom, recklessness, truly living, and of course, summer love. But this summer I am also consumed with nostalgia, as well as pain, fear, and sadness, so my list reflects all of those mixed emotions - but still makes a jammin' party playlist!
1. "Summer in the City - The Lovin' Spoonful
2. "Smooth - Santana ft. Rob Thomas
3. "Summer Sunshine - The Corrs
Lose Yourself to Dance - Daft Punk ft. Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers
5. "Hot in Here - Nelly
6. "Till the World Ends - Britney Spears
7. "Summertime Sadness - Lana Del Ray (Cedric Gervaise Remix)
8. "The Original High - Adam Lambert
9. "Blow" - Kesha
10. "Cool for the Summer" - Demi Lovato
11. "Summer Breeze" - Type O Negative (Cover Version)
12. "Cruel Summer" - Bananarama
13. "Summer Wine" - The Corrs and Bono (of U2)
14. "Pump It" - Black Eyed Peas
15. "Mambo #5" - Lou Bega
16. "Let's Get Loud" - Jennifer Lopez
17. "Azul" - Cristian Castro
18. "The Boys of Summer" - Don Henley
19. "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" - Backstreet Boys
20. "Dancing" - Kylie Minogue
What a great list! "Hot in Here" is one of my favourite summer tunes!

This was insanely hard!

I have a whole list of "honorable mentions" as well that didn't quite make the top 20: "Under the Boardwalk" - The Drifters, "Heat Wave" - Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, "Summer Girls" - LFO, "Miami" - Will Smith, "Summer of 69" - Bryan Adams, "Everything's Gonna Be Alright" - Bob Marley, "Summertime Blues," - Eddie Cochran, "This is How We Do it," - Montell Jordan, "Drop it like it's Hot," - Snoop Dogg ft. Pharrell, "Summer Daze," - Nick Holder, "This is How a Heart Breaks," -Rob Thomas, "Whenever, Wherever" - Shakira, "Stop Me From Falling" - Kylie Minogue ft. Gente de Zona, "Wipe Out," -The Surfers, and MORE!

That's our very last playlist! What did you think of it? 

Thanks for sharing, Meagan!

Saturday, 9 June 2018

Guest Spot: Nicole's Chilled Indie Summer Playlist

Today's guest spot belongs to Nicole who has a Chill Indie Summer Playlist for us. Let's see what Nicole has to say about it. 

This is a mixture of chill indie songs, some fit the tone of summer with tone and some with lyrical content. I tried to keep it mostly newer stuff in the past couple of years.

Let's check out that list: 
1. "Saltwater" - Geowulf 
2. "Edge of the Ocean" - Ivy 

3. "California" - The Lagoons 

4. "Sedona" - Houndmouth 

5. "Some Sunsick Day" - Morgan Delt 

6. "T-Shirt Weather" - Circa Waves 

7. "Drove Me Wild" - Tegan and Sara 

8. "Lemon Glow" - Beach House 

9. "Waiting on the Summer" - VHS Collection 

10. "Pictures of Girls" - Wallows 

11. "Rollercoaster" - Bleachers 

12. "Dreaming" - Small Pools 

13. "What's That Perfume You Wear?" - Jens Lekman 

14. "Every Day's The Weekend" - Alex Lahey 

15. "Call off the Dogs" - Foreign Air 

16. "French Press" - Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever

17. "J-Boy" - Phoenix 

18. "North Star" - Future Islands

19. "Howling At The Moon" - Phantogram 

20. "Buzzcut Season" - Lorde
This playlist was an education for me. I only knew a couple of the bands here and none of the songs. I think "Pictures of Girls" is my favourite. Listen here and choose your own favourite: 

I'm glad Nicole decided to share her playlist with us because I might never have heard these songs if she hadn't. Thanks, Nicole!

10 Reasons to Love Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

The Jurassic franchise has some of the best sequels in film history. What I mean is that it consistently provides great sequels, which happens so rarely in large franchises. Often, the first one or two will be amazing but, by the time you get to five, it's not even worth watching. There are exceptions, of course, in franchises like Star Wars and Harry Potter.

Notice that we're talking about the world-changers, here -- franchises that become so entrenched in our cultural literacy that they've become part of what our world now is. I think it's safe to say that the Jurassic films fit into this category.

Fallen Kingdom is, in my opinion, the best, the strongest, of the Jurassic sequels. It took me on a roller coaster ride but, instead of leaving me drained at the end, I was pumped. I wanted to walk right up to the ticket counter, get another ticket, and head right back in to ride it all over again.

(Yeah, the hubs vetoed that one, even though he agreed with the sentiment.)

If you're asking yourself why I was so excited about this film, stop. I've got 10 Reasons to Love Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom for you, right here.

(FYI: I don't think there are any massive spoilers in here but if you're worried, don't risk it. Go see the movie now and come back to see if you agree with me when you're done.)
1. Jeff Goldblum
If you don't love Jeff Goldblum you can fuck off now, thanks. As Franklin says, "We're not compatible." Aside from being gorgeous and well-dressed (or, as Jay would say, "dapper as fuck",) Goldblum has a way of speaking that I find mesmerising.

There's also the fact that Goldblum's Ian Malcolm is there as a representative of the franchise's first two films and we all love a cameo. It's no coincidence that Malcolm was the one arguing against the dinosaur park in Jurassic Park and Lost World. He's not just here for the yumminess or the OMG-remember-that-guy, he's there as the reminder that "Life finds a way," which is why it's perfect that Fallen Kingdom essentially starts and ends with Malcolm.

2. Fuck Trump
Ted Levine's Ken Wheatley (aka: The Great White Hunter) embodies everything that's wrong with Trump and his supporters. He's the gun-totting jackass who thinks he can do whatever he wants without reprocution and who only cares about when he's getting paid. He's the trophy hunter who sees nothing wrong with yanking out a few teeth before he delivers the goods.

Don't worry, though. He gets his. (Let's just hope Trump and his supporters do, too.)

My favourite bit with Wheatley is when he's giving Daniella Pineda's Zia Rodriguez shit, trying to bully her into submission. Uh... nope. She's not interested and quickly puts him in his place (earning a loud "Yes!" from at least one feminist in the audience -- and, yeah, I do mean me.) As Wheatley walks away, he calls Rodriguez a "nasty woman" in a direct reference to Trump. Well, Rodriquez not only makes it to the end but kicks ass along the way so, you know... nasty women getting shit done.

3. Romance
Like Jurassic Park, its fifth sequel has just enough romance to make you care about the lead couple without being overly sentimental. The relationship between Chris Pratt's Owen Grady and Bryce Dallas Howard's Claire Dearing is just too freaking cute for words. They clicked so well in Jurassic World that it's nice that they didn't just abandon the relationship (like they did with Grant and Ellie in Jurassic Park 3.)

Owen and Claire bicker good-naturedly over who dumped who but you can feel the undercurrent of emotion running beneath the laughter. You can hear the unspoken words beneath every meaningful glance they share through the film. My favourite bit with these two, though, is when Owen wakes up in the back of a truck with Claire cwtched up to him -- and immediately pretends not to be awake when she stirs. It's been done hundreds of times in other films and on television but something about the combination of Pratt's cheeky grin and Howard's bashful look make it feel new.

4. The Feels
I don't think I'm in the realms of spoiler here because you know from the trailer that a massive volcano on Isla Nublar is exploding and the dinosaurs are running from their lives. I mean... you know, but...
Whoof. I can't even.

There's no way to express just how heartbreaking it is. You completely forget that they're just CGI. I think this bit is extra painful for two reasons. One, you know that (maybe not in this exact way but) it actually happened. These magnificent creatures did actually die horribly. Secondly, modern animals are dying in their droves every day. If you're an animal lover, I challenge you to watch Fallen Kingdom without getting emotional.

Honestly, if you tell me that you watched the last Brontosaurus lose its battle with the lava without bursting into tears, I'mm'a call you a lying bastard. 'Cause you are.

5. Light, Shadow, and Reflection
Some of the most powerful moments of the film come thanks to cunning manipulation of light, shadow, and reflection. The folks in charge of putting this movie together knew their shit. We're talking true masters of cinematography, here. Every bit of light is utilised to the best of its ability in Fallen Kingdom.

My favourite bit isn't with the shadow of the Indoraptor (shudder), though that is good. No, my favourite is when Isabella Sermon's Maisie Lockwood finds herself face-to-face with the Indoraptor through a pane of glass. The lights reflect the Indoraptor's face over hers, creating the image of a human/dino monstrosity which, for reasons you'll understand when you watch it, is particularly apropos, as well as downright freaky looking.

6. John Hammond
More than one tear was shed at Castle Vanian when Richard (Dickie) Attenborough passed away. Fallen Kingdom's homage to Richard Attenborough's Hammond in the form of a beautiful painting is especially poignant, knowing that we lost the actor just a few short years ago.

7. Symbolism
James Cromwell's Benjamin Lockwood (who we learn is Hamond's ex-business partner and friend) carries a cane topped with a mosquito encased in amber. Sound familiar? Well, in addition to being a nod to Hammond and a reminder of the original films in the franchise, the cane becomes a powerful symbolic tool.

The park has fallen (several times.) The walls that protected us from the living fossils we created no longer stand. At a pivotal moment in the movie, this point is driven home when the cane falls. The amber smashes, along with the past and our expectations. The world we thought we knew is no more.

8. Action
The one thing you can count on when you watch any Jurassic film is action. Come on... you can't make a dinosaur movie without action, right? It isn't just running and jumping and explosions, though. (Don't worry. There's plenty of running and jumping and explosions.) Fallen Kingdom is face-paced and exciting. You're at the end before you even remember to breathe.

I love the fact that Fallen Kingdom has so much dinosaur-based action but it's not just same old, same old. How many different ways can you run from a T-Rex? As it happens, more than you would expect! The action is still dramatic, still original, and still fun.

9. Humour
For a movie that kept me on the edge of my seat with anticipation and had me openly bawling moments later, it also made me laugh out loud. I don't know if you've ever watched a movie with me, but I have a pretty loud laugh. It can be embarrassing if I'm the only one laughing my head off during a movie, let me tell you. Luckily, Fallen Kingdom kept most of the audience chuckling.

While Chris Pratt always delivers the cocky jokes, we have to thank Justice Smith's Franklin for the best bits of humour in Fallen Kingdom. Maybe it's just because I'm a geek myself, but something about Franklin's "Why am I even here?" attitude resonates with me. He has several FML moments and is clearly out of his depth in every situation (even though he manages just fine, thanks very much.) I don't know if this geek will inherit the Earth, but he certainly stole the comic spotlight.
(And Hollywood's scream queens can just move the hell over because Farnklin beats them all.)

10. A New Road
The trailer doesn't even begin to hint at the direction the Jurassic franchise heads at the end of Fallen Kingom. If you think Fallen Kingdom is just more running from dinosaurs and stupid decisions by humans, you're wrong. It gets deeper and darker than you'd imagine.

Foreshadowing is used well enough to give you an idea of where it's all going before you get there so it isn't a what-the-fuck-just-happened moment but it's still unexpected for a Jurassic film. It gives the franchise scope, though, and I can't wait to see where they take it.

I've listed ten reasons to love Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, but I can't wrap this up without at least an honourable mention to the dinosaurs themselves. They're more and more realistic every time we see them and, now, we get to see them as individuals. Before we walked into the cinema, the hubs and I agreed that if Blue died, we'd riot because she's such a lovable character. Surprisingly, though, Blue wasn't my favourite dino of the day. That honour goes to the Stygimoloch.

I pretty much squee-ed every time Stiggy was on screen. She's the inadvertent hero none of us expected and she's just freaking hilarious. There's a moment when, after doing her head-bashing trick once too often, Stiggy stops and shakes her head that reminded of something our Sweepy (RIP) once did when he accidentally ran into a brick wall while chasing a ball. 

I really can't recommend Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom enough. It brings the franchise right up to date and gives it a new lease. If I've accidentally given away spoilers in my excitement, I apologise (but you were warned.) I'd love to hear what you thought of the film. Get in touch. Until next time, thanks for reading and get your butts to the cinema to see this movie!

Friday, 8 June 2018

Guest Spot: Lee's High-Octane Summer Playlist

Are you sitting down? Well, get your butts up and get ready to move because Lee's here to share his High-Octane Summer Playlist.

I started writing this post quite early in the morning (yay, insomnia) and I had to turn my speakers way down when I listened to this list or risk waking all my (elderly) neighbours. 😁

Ready for this one?
1. Ghost B.C., "Monstrance Clock"
2. Type O Negative, "Black No.1"
3. Danzig, "I'm the One"
4. Motörhead, "God Was Never on Your Side"
5. The Headcat, "Big River"
6. Nashville Pussy, "High as Hell"
7. Supersuckers, "Evil Powers of Rock and Roll"
8. Volbeat, "Doc Holiday"
9. Body Count, "Momma's Gotta Die Tonight"
10. Suicidal Tendencies, "I Saw Your Mommy"
11. Ramones, "Beat on the Brat"
12. Slipknot, "Left Behind"
13. Cranberries, "Zombie"
14. Smashing, Pumpkins, "Bullet with Butterfly Wings"
15. The Damned, "Dead Beat Dance"
16. Lordi, "Would You Love a Monsterman"
17. Death, "The Philosopher"
18. The Beatles, "Maxwell's Silver Hammer"
19. Chuck Berry, "No Particular Place to Go"
20. Louis Armstrong, "What a Wonderful World"
Here's what Lee has to say about his list: This is my list of high-octane metal, mixed with some slow-burn (otherwise you would burn out,) ending with a cool down song.

I was surprised to see bands like The Cranberries alongside bands like Slipknot -- but, knowing Lee, I really shouldn't have been! 🤣 I was also happy to see The Damned on this list because, well, you know we love The Damned here at Castle Vanian. 

This playlist has great pacing! It builds up hot, then eases it right down as it reaches the end. There's a little something for everyone here, too. Seriously. This is a widely varied playlist. Let us know what you think and thanks to Lee for sharing it with us!

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Guest Spot: Rachel's Family Fun Summer Playlist

I'm excited about today's guest spot for two reasons. One, it's family-friendly post, which (let's face it) you don't get a lot of around here. And two, it just happens to be from  one of my favourite families ever. I'm going to hand the rest of the post over to Rachel and let her explain her Family Fun Summer Playlist now.

It's summertime and that means the kids are home from school on break. If you're anything like me, you cringe at the thought of blasting kid songs in your car all summer long. Here is a list of fun grown-up songs my kids love that I like too (in alphabetical order by song title since I'm terrible at ranking things).
1) Bicycle Race by Queen
2) Demons by Imagine Dragons
3) Godzilla by Blue Oyster Cult
4) HandClap by Fitz and the Tantrums
5) Heartbeat Song by Kelly Clarkson
6) Intergalactic by Beastie Boys
7) Magic by Mystery Skulls
8) Pompeii by Bastille
9) Radioactive by Imagine Dragons
10) She Wants Me Dead by Cazzette
11) Yellow Submarine by The Beatles
(I have to butt in here. I'm having too much fun picturing those kiddos rocking out to Beastie Boys. <3 Also, "Radioactive" is one of my all-time favs.)

And since the kids don't get to pick all the music, check out these songs by many of the same artists.
12) Bad Blood by Bastille
13) Burn It Down by Fitz and the Tantrums
14) Butterflies & Hurricanes by Muse
15) Gold by Imagine Dragons
16) Money by Mystery Skulls
17) Nothing Left to Say by Imagine Dragons
18) Out of My League by Fitz and the Tantrums
19) Piece By Piece by Kelly Clarkson
20) Undisclosed Desires by Muse
Enjoy the music and have a great summer!

I legit love this playlist. There are so many songs I listen to all the time but I've also discovered a few that will be added to my iTunes library. Thanks, Rachel!

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Guest Spot: Jay's Memories of Summer Playlist

Hello from Jay. I'm taking over the blog today and my playlist is made of songs I remember from the summers through my life.

Here it is:
1. Boney M., "Brown Girl in the Ring"
2. David Soul, "Don't Give Up on Us"
3. Grease soundtrack, "Summer Nights" and "You're the One that I Want"
4. The Police, "Message in a Bottle"
5. Blondie, "Call Me"
6. Adam & the Ants, "Ant Music"
7. Madness, "Baggy Trousers"
8. Kim Wilde, "View From a Bridge"
9. Men at Work, "Down Under"
10. Soft Cell, "Tainted Love"
11. Frankie Goes to Hollywood, "Relax" and "Two Tribes"
12. Duran Duran, "The Reflex"
13. Michael Jackson, "Thriller"
14. The Damned, "Grimly Fiendish"
15. Bauhaus, "Bela Lugosi's Dead"
16. Falco, "Rock Me Amadeus" and Modern Talking, "Brother Louie"
17. Guns N' Roses, "Welcome to the Jungle"
18. Mouse T, "Horny"
19. Duran Duran, "(Reach Up For The) Sunrise"
20. The Damned, "I Don't Care"
In school, my earliest musical memories are of Boney M. "Brown Girl in the Ring". I remember listening to this and picking blackberries. It was one of those songs you heard everywhere at the time. It's still one of the top 10 sellers in the UK of all tim, I believe.

Then, it was David Soul's "Don't Give Up on Us." My mum was a massive David Soul fan so I heard this one a lot. My mum had just passed her driving test and "Don't Give Up on Us" was on the obligatory car tape. There were also things like David Essex's "Oh, What a Circus" from Evita as well as a lot of Beatles, etc.

In junior school, I remember "Summer Days" and "You're the One that I Want" from Grease  being all the rage during the summer. Although I hated the music (it's really not my thing,) it was all you'd hear because the girls brought in tape recorders with the Grease soundtracks on them. If one girl wasn't playing it, another was. I loved the parody, though, by Arthur Mullard and Hylda Baker.

Next would be "Message in a Bottle" by The Police and then Blondie's "Call Me", which take me up to the late Eighties. "Call Me" makes it to the list because I remember we were coming back from Ogmore on a camping trip with the school and it was playing on the bus. It was my last year in that school and it was the very end of term. "Message in a Bottle" was just catchy. I really liked that one. I didn't have a musical identity at the time so I was more open to different types of music.

I think the next song I would go with is "Ant Music" by Adam & the Ants because it was the first time in my life I actually wanted to be like somebody -- even though I was too young and scared to try. The first time I saw the video, I was like, "Wow! Who the fuck is this?" I loved the tribal beat. I'd never heard that double drum sound before.

"Baggy Trousers" by Madness is next. One of my friend's fathers, Len was his name, used to give us a lift to school and he'd have the radio on. Instead of a tape, like in my mum's car, we'd hear what was on the charts. There were so many good Madness songs but "Baggy Trousers" is the one that reminds of being that age. They always had a distinct sound and no one has really managed to match it, even after all this time.

Kim Wylde's "View From a Bridge" is next. It's one of those songs that I associate with summer but I couldn't give you an exact reason. It just does.

Men at Work and "Land Down Under". I remember it playing at the school discos, along with "Tainted Love" by Soft Cell. "Tainted Love" is a song that keeps coming back. It feels like it's just always been. I heard these songs so many times at the end of term discos and at the youth clubs. School discos in Britain aren't like prom or anything, they were just dances held in July because that was the end of term.

I suppose the next two have to be from Frankie Goes to Hollywood. "Relax" and "Two Tribes" were absolutely everywhere. I went to Majorca that summer and everywhere you went, all you heard was Frankie. People everywhere were wearing Frankie Says Relax shirts and Frankie played on every radio.

The next song is "The Reflex" by Duran Duran. It started my love affair with Duran Duran. I'd been aware of them a long time but "The Reflex" was the first song that made me go out and buy one of their albums.

"Thriller" by Michael Jackson has to make this list, too. It was massive. The reason that it makes this list, even though it wasn't really a summer song, is because I went to see Jackson four years later in Cardiff. It was one of my biggest musical memories of that summer.

The Damned's "Grimly Fiendish" is next. Most people would say that's not summery at all but it is for me. That summer, there were two albums I listened to constantly. One was Black Celebration by Depeche Mode and Phantasmagoria by The Damned. I had just started to dress in black, even though I wasn't a proper goth yet. Damn, I would sweat my tits off in that baking sun! It was the year school finished for me and my life was changing. I was getting more into the goth scene and finding my musical identity.

The following summer, the goth anthem was "Bela Lugosi's Dead" by Bauhaus. I heard "Bela Lugosi's Dead" that summer at an all-night picture show and shortly after that was when I started going to the local goth club. I started going in about June and for the next year and a half that was my life. Having your hair spiked and backcombed on a hot summer day is definitely something you remember.

Another song that reminds me of summer is- wait, two songs that remind me of summer are "Rock me Amadeus" by Falco and "Brother Louie" by Modern Talking. Both were very European sounds. I remember them because they came out when I was on holiday and they were just huge, a couple of months before they ever hit the UK.

I remember being in college and listening to Guns N' Roses's "Welcome to the Jungle". I heard it first in Sudden Impact, the Dirty Harry film. Then there was an explosion of bands like Poison, Guns N' Roses, Bon Jovi, and Def Leppard. Rock sort of took over. It was good fun, college. You didn't have debts and worry. It was an easier time -- then you do something stupid like get a job...

You know we went to Greece on holiday several times after that. We had what we called a "very mellow tape" -- things like Mansun, Dandy Warhols, etc. I can't include all of those but I can include the songs that were everywhere at the same time like "I'm so Horny" and "I'm too sexy". I'm going to pick just one from holidays and that would be "I'm so horny" by um... Mouse T, I think. where ever we went in Kavos that year, that song was playing.

Next, "(Reach Up For The) Sunrise by Duran Duran because its a modern song for summer. I hadn't bothered with Duran Duran for so long and then I found something that reminded me of why I liked them. It's a perfect song for the summer, too.

Right. If I have one more (I think I have one more), I would go with "I Don't Care" by The Damned because it reminds me of this summer. It's been a hot summer but a good one. Evil Spirits was the first Damned album in a long time and it's hard to chose a song because it's such a good album. It's like when Pete Murphy brought out "Eliza, a return to the things I loved when I was younger.

That's it, my Memories of Summer Playlist. You might not think these songs are summery but they're my memories of summer. I could probably add another hundred -- and it's hard not to -- but these are the main ones. Thanks to Wondra for letting me take over today.

Movie Review: Meteor (1979)

Meteor is a 1979 action movie starring Sean Connery (Paul Bradley) and Natalie wood (Tatiana Donskaya.) As Jay says, the best way to describe it is “Think Armageddon.” You will, too. Meteor will remind you several times that it was the forerunner to blockbusters Armageddon. (With, sadly, less Steve Buscemi riding nuclear weapons.)

This is one of those movies that let you know they're sci-fi the moment they start. It's funny because the sci-fit bits feel very Eighties while the fashions and buildings, etc. feel very Seventies. You can definitely tell that Meteor is a movie on the cusp of two decades. You can also tell that it was made at a time of social change, but I'll come back to that later.

Okay, I have to ask... Did Sean Connery ever age? That slick bastard looked exactly the same for about... oh, forever. And, as Jay pointed out, "when this was made, Connery still had many years ahead of him before he retired." It's just not fair to look that good for that long.

But, anyway.

I won't lie and say that Meteor isn't just a little bit hokey. It is. (Come on, it was the Seventies. The world was a hokier place. Lol.) There are some special effects that will  undoubtedly make some modern viewers cringe. At one point, there's a snow effect that's just... just... I can't even. And I laughed way harder at the deadly avalanche than I should have. (Someone reserve my seat in Hell.)

Even though the graphics can be a bit dodgy in places, the writing is solid. There are some humour and/or powerful lines in Meteor and it has a solid story. The only problems I had with the film were entirely down to its age. If they remade Meteor today (aside from, ironically, being blasted as an Armageddon rip-off,) it would work very well. 

In addition to Connery, there are lots of actors you'll recognize in Meteor. Karl Malden (Harry Sherwood), with those big eyes and bigger nose, hams it up beautifully in true disaster movie form. Then, there's Martin Landau as General Adlon. I was excited to see Landau because I'm a big fan. That lasted until, oh, about the time he spoke.

Landau's General Adlon made me want to bitch slap his face right off. That guy was everything wrong with the American military. Good thing he's not real -- he'd probably have been part of Trump's cabinet! You've got to a few assholes to make a movie work but I found myself wanting a little more from Adlon. (His character, not his life. I was screaming at the movie to kill that effer off.) I wanted to know more about why he was so horrible -- and why his character changed so drastically later -- but I get more hung up on character development than most viewers.

Meteor is a big movie. You feel it straight off, when the narrator begins in an awed tone over sweeping shots of space. Because it's a disaster movie, it takes you all across the globe and, of course, into deep space. Jay reminded me that, following the Star Wars boom, “every other movie was set in space” during that time.

I'm surprised, actually, that I hadn't heard of Meteor until Jay convinced me to add it to my list of 100 Classic Must-See Movies (That I've Somehow Never Seen). How does a movie that's basically the Armageddon of the Seventies just disappear? Despite its hokiness, Meteor deserves more than anonymity. I have to wonder if the movie's political undercurrents are to blame for its lack of recognition.

Meteor isn't just an action film; it's a movie that's deeply concerned with political issues. I was born just a few years after this one came out and I still didn't get it at first. Jay had to remind me that Meteor was set during the Cold War. (You know, the first one, not the one Trump's getting us into now.) It was definitely a facepalm moment!

The Cold War plays a massive part in Meteor. There's a helluva lot of tension between America and Russia. Even when it's 100% clear that the only way the planet will survive is if they work together, they still can't put their shit to the side and get on with it. Gah! That's so freaking typical of politicians! We can't save the world -- think of how it will look if we team up with Russia!

Bitch slaps, all around.

This is where I point out that Meteor is older than I am and THIS CRAP HASN'T CHANGED. Will it ever? Okay, before I spiral into a massive political rant (think of what poor Jay has to live with), let's get back to the review.

I mentioned at the beginning of this review that Meteor is set during a period of social change. You see it in the way that neither women nor black men are present in the shots at NASA or in the Oval Office. Not one. To make it worse, they take a very Old Boys' Club approach to disaster. The world is ending -- fancy a scotch? I'm not going to come down on Meteor for sexism or racism, though, because it's a product of its time. I doubt there's a movie that came out of the Seventies that didn't include at least a little of one or the other.

Actually, I kind of want to applaud Meteor for the way these issues are handled. Although there were no women or black men at NASA or in the Oval Office, when you cut to the super-high-tech secret bunker... whoop, there they are. Whether it was intended or not, that sends a powerful message. The old fogies in charge are more concerned with appearances than getting the job done while the ones who weren't invited to the party are just, you know, saving the world.

That doesn't mean it's not just a little annoying that Connery's Bradley is all over Wood's Donskaya until shit hits the fan, then doesn't even stop to see if she's, like, alive or anything -- but, hey. If you took all the sexism out of every movie from the Seventies, there wouldn't be enough to watch!

I enjoyed Meteor partly because I dig disaster movies anyway, and partly because of the political issues it raised. (Did I mention there was some good use of symbolism with the use of red filters?) I enjoyed it most of all, though, because its hokiness made me laugh out loud. (I won't say what the rockets reminded me of but I did expect them to come with a buzzing sound effect...)

Have you seen Meteor? Care to weigh in? Drop a comment below!

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Guest Spot: John's Summer Rock Mix Playlist

I always know, when it comes to music, I can count on John to come up with some great tunes -- even if there's usually some big ass hair involved. 😉 I challenged him to come up with a summer playlist and he didn't disappoint. There's definitely some big ass hair here!

Let's have a look at what he came up with.

John's Summer Rock Mix
1. Y&T - Sumertime Girls
2. Avantasia - Alone I Remember
3. David Lee Roth - Just Like Paradise
4. RANSOM - Long Hot Days
5. Van Halen - Summer Nights
6. Don Henley - Boys Of Summer
7. Robert Plant - Big Log
8. INXS - New Sensation
9. Dare - Raindance
10. Europe - Prisoners In Paradise
11. Halestorm -  Here's To Us
12. Scorpions - Arizona
13. Lou Gramm - Midnight Blue
14. The Cult - Lil Devil
15. AC/DC - Ride On
16. Gary Moore - Still Got The Blues
17. ZZ TOP - Gimme All Your Lovin'
18. Survivor - Desperate Dreams
19. Night Ranger - New York Time
20. THE GASLIGHT ANTHEM - 1000 Years
I think my favourite here is The Cult's "Lil' Devil". You really can't go wrong with a little Cult. Check out John's playlist on YouTube and listen for yourself:

When I asked John about his summer playlist, he said, "My car USB has 3 times that many in it!" He's really not joking. Here are a few more songs John recommended: "If You Only Knew" (Shinedown), "Burning My Heart Down" (FM), "I Love You More Than Rock N Roll" (Thunder), "Heart And Soul" (NO SWEAT), "Do You Like It" (Kingdom Come), "Paradise City" (Guns N' Roses), "Gunrunning" (Ten), and "Promises" (DEF LEPPARD).

What do you think of John's list? Is the high-energy rock a little too much for your summer or does it make you want to get your sweat on? Leave a comment and let us know!

Monday, 4 June 2018

Wondra's Vintage Gold Summer Playlist

My Hot Summer Playlist is great for those days when the season's got you all feisty and you wanna dance. Not so great for those hazy, oppressive days when you barely want to exist. What does that mean? Another playlist!

The new Vintage Gold Summer Playlist takes it down a notch -- and back a good few years. (For the most part. There are one or two more modern ones in there because they fit so well.) Check it out:

Here's what you're listening to:
1. Mungo Jerry, "In the Summertime"
2. Fred Parris and the Satins, "In the Still of the Night"
3. Violent Femmes, "Blister in the Sun"
4. Terry Jacks, "Seasons in the Sun"
5. Don McLean, "American Pie"
6. Ritchie Valens, "La Bamba"
7. Turtles, "Happy Together"
8. Bryan Adams, "Summer of '69"
9. The Lovin' Spoonful, "Summer in the City"
10. The Mamas & The Papas, "California Dreamin'"
11. The Beach Boys, "Surfin' Safari"
12. The Monkees, "Pleasant Valley Sunday
13. Jerry Keller, "Here Comes Summer"
14. The Tempos, "See You in September"
15. Drian Hyland, "Sealed wth a Kiss"
16. Surfaris, "Wipe Out"
17. The Kinks, "Sunny Afternoon"
18. Weezer, "Island in the Sun"
19. The Drifters, "Under the Boardwalk"
20. Jan & Dean, "Surf City"
What do you think? Which of the playlists do you prefer? Have a summer playlist of your own to share? Get in touch!

Sunday, 3 June 2018

Wondra's Hot Summer Playlist

It's no secret that I hate summer. I know, I know. I'm posting a lot about summer right now. I'm just trying to at least seem like I'm not a miserable bitch.

The one thing that summer doesn't mess up (unlike my hair, skin, wardrobe, and health) is music. Summer is a time for bumping music and I can totally get behind that. The best summer tunes are cheeky, sexy, fun, and make you want to move.

With that in mind, I give you my Hot Summer Playlist.
1. Rita Ora ft. DJ Fresh, "Hot Right Now"
2. LMFAO, "Sexy and I Know It"
3. Kid Rock, "All Summer Long"
4. Miley Cyrus, "Party in the USA"
5. Sheryl Crow, "Soak up the Sun"
6. Katy Perry ft. Snoop Dogg, "California Gurls"
7. Len, "Steal My Sunshine"
8. Nelly, "Hot in Here"
9. Sisqo, "Thong Song"
10. American Authors, "Best Day of My Life"
11. The Black Eyed Peas, "I Gotta Feeling"
12. Travie McCoy, "We'll be Alright"
13. 3OH!3 ft. Katy Perry, "Starstrukk"
14. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, "And We Danced"
15. Ellie Goulding, "Burn"
16. Ricky Martin, "Livin' La Vida Loca"
17. Ke$sha, "Tik Tok"
18. Jessie J, Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj, "Bang, Bang"
19. Bruno Mars ft. Mark Ronson, "Uptown Funk"
20. Pharrell Williams, "Happy"
Have a listen to the whole thing:

I'm kind of dying to do a more chilled out vintage summer playlist, too. Should we give it a go?

Saturday, 2 June 2018

10 Summer Self-Care Tips

Summer can be a lot of fun but it can also be a tricky time for physical and mental health. Don't let the heat and sun get you down! Follow these ten simple steps to Summer Self-Care to keep yourself looking and feeling great this summer:

1. Don't skimp on the sun block.
We all ought to be wearing sun block every day, really, but it's especially important during the summer months. One, melanoma is a serious threat. Two, no one wants to look like a leather football that's been left out in the sun too long when they get older.

2. Stay hydrated. 
You simply cannot live without water. If you don't get enough, you're going to start feeling it in no time at all. Your mouth will get dry, you'll be sleepy, your skin will dry out, and you'll get a headache. That's gonna ruin your fun. It's easy to dehydrate when it's this hot and sunny out so remember to drink plenty of water!

3. Keep cool.
I don't know about you but I get downright miserable when I get too hot. (Not to mention those heat-triggered migraines. Groan.) Being too hot isn't just uncomfortable, though, it's also unhealthy. If your body loses the ability to regulate its temperature, you could face risks like cramps, edema, exhaustion, or even heat stroke.

I know it can feel impossible to stay cool during the summer (Believe me, I know.) -- especially when you're on a tight budget. Have a look at a DIY air conditioner that might help. (There are so many different ways to make them!) If you have your own tips & tricks for staying cool this summer, be sure to share them!

4. Slow down.
Life just seems to get faster and faster, doesn't it? We all rush around, trying to squeeze as much as possible into every second of the day. I get it. Life's too short. There's not enough time. Here's the thing, though: the faster you go, the more you miss. The quality of time you have will increase when you slow down a little. You'll feel better, too, because slowing down will help you focus on the moment, which will improve the state of your mental health.

5. Get coastal.
I can't recommend this enough. If, like me, you struggle with overwhelming feelings and poor mental health, well... to the sea, ye mystics! There's a reason doctors used to send people to the coast to improve their health. Sea air is easy on the lungs and great for the skin, while the sound of the waves are incredibly relaxing. I've never felt worse after a day at the beach.

6. Have a DIY spa day.
Most of us just don't treat ourselves well enough. Society tells us that we have to put other people first and that means looking after ourselves last. That shit needs to stop! You can't look after other people if you're not 100%. Start by treating yourself to a home spa day. How you do it is up to you (I'm a facial mask, manicure, homemade scrub kinda person) but Bustle has some tips for making your spa day the best it can be. I'd love to hear your tips for an awesome DIY spa day, if you have any.

7. Learn to say no.
Remember what I said about society telling us that everyone else has to come first? Remember what I said? Stop that shit! You have to look after yourself! That starts with learning when to say no -- and accepting that it's okay to say no. It's. Okay. To. Say. No. You're not at everyone's beck and call. You're no one's slave. You have needs, too, but you'll never be able to fulfil them if you're overwhelmed with everyone else's.

8. Wear the damn swimsuit.
I don't think there's a person alive who doesn't have some kind of hangup about their body. We're all worrying about how we look in a swimsuit. Know what? We all look a lot better than we think we do! The human body, in all its shapes and sizes, is freaking amazing. Stop putting yourself down. Instead, put that swimsuit on, get out there, and strut your stuff. It sounds scary, I know, but I promise you'll feel (and look!) awesome.

9. Get out of the house.
I won't lie to you. This is hard for me. Summer kicks my mental health's ass. The worse it gets, the more I want to say hidden away in the safety of my own home. The more I stay at home, the worse my mental health gets. It's a nasty cycle. I'm lucky enough to have a carer (the hubs) who drags my sorry ass out of the house, even when I don't want to. (Especially when I don't want to.) If you struggle, like I do, to get out of the house during the summer, ask a friend or family member to help. You might not thank them when they show up on your doorstep, but you will thank them when the fresh air clears your head.

10. Make time to read.
Reading is a great way to slow down. It can take you away from the crazy hustle and bustle of modern life and let you travel to worlds of magic and wonder. (I'm obviously a bibliophile but my obsession doesn't mean reading isn't important.) Grab a book and sit in the shade while you read. Not only are you expanding your mind, de-stressing, and improving your concentration, you're also staying cool. Reading is a great summer activity and can be done just about anywhere. Have any suggestions for good books to read this summer? Share them here!

I guess the most important message I'm trying to get across here is look after yourselves. You might not hear it enough but you are so important!

Do you have any suggestions I've missed? Have I forgotten anything? Get in touch!

Movie Review: Mackenna's Gold (1969)

If you're watching along with my 100 Classic Must-See Movies (That I've Somehow Never Seen), I have a suggestion for you before you start Mackenna's Gold (1969). Did I say suggestion? I meant drinking game.
You see a buzzard: take a shot
You see more than one buzzard: down your pint
You hear someone singing about a buzzard: chug the bottle
I'll admit now that I'm not a fan of Westerns. That's why there are so many of them on this list. (And almost no horror, since I've seen so much.) I mean... horses, to start. Plus, all that dust. Even as the movie started with sweeping shots of desert landscapes, I found myself thinking, 'Damn. That's a whole lotta nope.'

Nope! The West is not for me! But, I promised to give Mackenna's Gold a chance, so let's do this. First, the plot.

Mackenna's Gold is about a panhandler turned sheriff, Gregory Peck's Mackenna, who gets dragged into a hunt for a mystical Apache valley of gold by a gangster called Colorado (Omar Sharif.) The valley is a sacred place no one is supposed to know of or visit, lest it upset the gods -- when you see what becomes of the valley, you can decide if the gods are upset.

There's some romance, action, betrayal, and jealousy in there, too, but that's the gist of it. Not a bad plot, really.

I have to go back to the fact that I dislike Westerns. One of the reasons I struggle to watch them is the inevitibility of seeing someone "browned up". Gah. It's painful to see. Are there any Westerns from the 60s/70s that actually hired Native/Mexican actors when they were needed?

Since I'm already having a grumble, I'm going to point out a few cinematography techniques Mackenna's Gold utilizes that annoyed the hell out of me. Firstly, any time a gunshot ricocheted, it lasted forever and came with a ridiculous sound effect. Secondly, the camera swung wildly at some points (like when Mackenna was hanging off the back of a horse) in a way that made me feel ill. Finally, the film could have been a lot shorter if the camera hadn't lingered over inconsequential shots. Yes, yes, we know there's a gold vein there. You don't have to focus on it twenty times for us to get the point.

Aside from many instances of "BUZZARD!" written in my notes for Mackenna's Gold, there's also a question: "Does every Western use a cliche checklist?!" I wrote that when the group of Apaches and gangsters reached a rope bridge. (And, yes, it did break when Mackenna was halfway across because... cliche.) I came back to it later, when they cut to an "Indian" chugging booze. *cringe*

I also couldn't help but notice the casual sexism in Mackenna's Gold. The men are absolutely stinking dirty (aside from Colorado's teeth which were whiter than... well, most of the "Apache" actors were under their makeup) but the women were always immaculate and beautifully made-up. *eyeroll* And, of course, they were treated like property. Totally expected, of course, but always annoying.

The cast got large pretty quickly because "You can't keep gold a secret. It travels in the air." By the end, though, it was down to just a handful -- including the gorgeous, swaggering Telly Savalas as Sergeant Tibbs. Mackenna's Gold has a happy ending for those who deserve it and a fitting ending for those who don't. That's really the best thing I can say about it.

I won't say that Mackenna's Gold is a bad film because that's unfair. The story is good enough -- everything else is just my own pet peeves. (Julie Newmar's Hesh-Ke is crazy obsessed with killing Mackenna's love interest but you don't know why and she barely speaks a word. WTF is that about?) But, I won't lie and say I recommend it, either.

If you're a Western buff and have a different opinion about this one, please let me know. I'd like to get a take on it from someone who actually likes this kind of movie.