Posted in Freedom Friday, Other Things

Name That Tune

The kids and I have a game we play soon after finishing dinner. We don’t always play it, otherwise it would be boring and lose its beauty. Yet, occasionally, all of a sudden we’re into the game and it lasts a good long time thereafter.

Musical Staff
Musical Staff

The name of the game is Name That Tune, and for today’s Freedom Friday I thought I’d share the rules. Who knows, maybe it’ll start a new tradition in your house with those around you.

My family and I have many traditions. Some are meaningful, like the new ornaments we purchase annually for each of us to place around the house. And some are silly, like the fact we purchase new pajamas to unwrap every Christmas Eve in order to sit and look at each other in a weird and fulfilling way while the lights twinkle in the background. Okay, so maybe that’s not so weird, but you’ve got to admit, it’s fun.

I’ll add one more tradition for this time of year. We don’t get rid of the decorations until way past mid-January, including the model town we have sitting on the bay window. That doesn’t leave our sight until the snow melts.

I told you we were tradition-happy.

Jurassic World
Jurassic World

Nonetheless, another one of our traditions, mainly the kids and I have, we play at the kitchen table soon after dinner. It doesn’t happen often, but it happens enough for it to merit the moniker of tradition.

We play a round of Name That Tune. For those unfamiliar with the game, it used to be a hit TV show back a couple of decades ago when TV was less reality and more fun. In the show, the host would give contestants a clue then ask how many notes they needed to name the tune. It really was a battle of wits between participants.

In my family’s version, I play a theme song on my phone and the kids try to guess what it is. From there the song tends to spur conversation about our knowledge of the film, its actors, the production and anything else that comes to mind.

The other night we played the game and the theme to the new Godzilla movie made an appearance. The typical response was that of recognition but none of the kids could name the tune. Once they knew, though, they would soon never forget the song.

That same evening, I played the theme to Fast Fiveby the way, what a great theme—and my older child threw the guesses out there in quick succession while I refereed the game. “Is it a comic book movie? Is it an adventure? Action? Steve Jablonsky? Hans Zimmer? Michael Giacchino? Jurassic World? Transformers? The Fast and the Furious? 2 Fast 2 Furious? The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift? Fast & Furious?” By the time it was over, they went through every combination of the words fast and furious that we then realized how silly it was when filmmakers didn’t have a standard way of numbering their movies.

Overall, the whole idea of the game is to bring closeness to the family without making the game a burden. We have fun and, at the same time, we draw closer to one another while watching each other fail miserably, naming a tune we can’t recognize, but know the movie like it is one of our body parts.

Get the Ranger Martin trilogy now!

What traditions do you have in your family? Are they annual traditions or event-based?

Posted in Wednesday Warriors

Sam Witwicky

What would you do if you found out your car wasn’t what you thought it was? You’d take it to where you had bought it and either ask for your money back, or sue the car company of course. But let’s say your car is not what you thought it was because it’s not of this world? You could very well take it to its manufacturer, but that would mean you’d have to travel a few million miles to get there.

Megan Fox as Mikaela and Shia LeBeouf as Sam Witwicky
Megan Fox as Mikaela and Shia LeBeouf as Sam Witwicky

Joining my Wednesday Warriors series is Sam Witwicky, the high school motormouth who happens to come upon one of the greatest discoveries to ever hit earth.

Transformers opened to become one of the biggest box office draws of 2007. It spawned three sequels (Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Transformers: Age of Extinction) and secured Hasbro‘s franchise as a guaranteed money cow for Paramount Pictures.

Based on the toy by the same name, Transformers introduced the world to Shia LeBeouf as Sam, the stress-induced teen, and Megan Fox as Mikaela, his love interest. The film is an assault on the senses. From the very first frame to the last, the plot revolves around explosions, more explosions and lots of explosions. The never-ending barrage of pyrotechnics is simply an amazing thing to watch.

Add to it a good helping of fast cars, stunts and tense moments, the film pulls off a brilliant show for anyone wondering what a big budget summer flick ought to look like.

Mikaela and Sam
Mikaela and Sam

In the midst of the damage is a teenage boy stuck in an alien car that has a mind of its own. Sam’s frantic nature propels the story forward by making every scene a snapshot into impending doom. The heightened energy he expels from his rogue dealings with the Autobots makes him a prime target of the Decepticons.

To boot, the geeky savior hooks up with his dream girl, Mikaela, who takes it upon herself to instill courage in her otherwise tormented friend. While he attempts to outrun and outfox the Decepticons, she acts as his sounding board for all his crazy ideas.

As neurotic as Sam appears, there’s a side of the young teen only Mikaela and the Autobots know. He would give his life for those he believed deserved saving. Through the mayhem of artillery fire and bombs blasting, Sam devotes his loyalties to a cause that would eventually save the world at the cost of almost losing his life.

Ultimately, Sam Witwicky is a hero thrown into a cause greater than himself. In the end, he’s an ordinary kid who turns around and saves Earth.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale now.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale now.

Have you seen any of the Transformer movies? What do you like best about these sci-fi action flicks?

Posted in Monday Mayhem

Top 10 Alien Invasion Movies

It never fails. Every summer there’s an alien invasion movie that hits the box office to steamroll critics and become a ginormous success. Does anyone remember Independence Day? This summer, the mega-film Transformers: Age of Extinction may be on approach to becoming 2014’s first billion-dollar movie.

Independence Day
Independence Day

Since it’s summer, and since everyone wants to read something quick while doing other things. I thought for Monday Mayhem I’d give you a list of my most favorite alien invasion movies ever. This list is not complete, but these alien films stick out in my mind as the ones that made summer awesome for me.

Here they are. My Top 10 alien summer flicks from least to most favorite:

10. Mars Attacks!—Released December 13, 1996, this Tim Burton film makes it feel like summer. The aliens are horrible critters bent of the destruction of humanity. What makes this film special is the hilarity that ensues once the humans finally meet the visitors.

9. Cloverfield—Released January 18, 2008, aliens couldn’t be more frightening. Bugs are not fun when they’re human-sized pests that only a shotgun can take out. Yes, another winter title, but it wouldn’t be right not to include Cloverfield in this list.

8. Alien—Released May 25, 1979, Ridley Scott created a creature so vicious, it was a wonder anyone survived. It’s not an invasion of earth, but brilliant nonetheless.

7. The Thing—Released June 25, 1982, this John Carpenter classic is sure to make you think twice before heading to a remote place in the arctic for a vacation. Make sure you know who your friends are before heading there.

6. Predator—Released June 12, 1987, the film poses a question: who would win a battle to dominate the world, Arnold Schwarzenegger or an alien schooled in the fine art of warfare? Governator jokes aside, Arnie puts the smack dab on anything remotely alien.

5. Signs—Released August 2, 2002, M. Night Shyamalan presents his version of an alien invasion based on hints and Hitchcockian deception. A worthy film to enjoy that illustrates what it would be like if aliens tried to take over an ordinary Joe’s farm.

Independence Day dogfight
Independence Day dogfight

4. Men in Black—Released, July 2, 1997, this film has it all . Aliens. Government conspiracy. Secret agencies. Not taking itself seriously, the movie provides a great escape from the ordinary hustle and bustle of ordinary life. Excellent special effects.

3. Transformers movies (all of them)—Released 2007-2014, Michael Bay’s view of an alien invasion consists of explosions, more explosions and tons of explosions. This true-to-the-genre flick blows away anything standing in its way and decimates whatever’s left.

2. War of the Worlds—Released June 29, 2005, Steven Spielberg throws his hat in the ring to present his version of malevolent beings wanting to take over the earth. Making this movie special is the survival story of one family led by Tom Cruise.

1. Independence Day—Released July 3, 1996, summer alien invasion movies haven’t been the same since. With a good helping of dogfights, sarcastic one-liners and skin-slicing thrills, this movie delivers on the promise that aliens are insidious beings with no redeeming qualities other than to become mantelpiece trophies for the survivors. Lots of action makes this the go-to film for popcorn munching viewers with a few hours to kill.

I know I’ve missed many fine titles like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Day the Earth Stood Still, and It Came From Outer Space. Thing is, I wasn’t around when they released, so I can’t really say they made my summer. But wouldn’t it have been cool to live during the days when B-movies reigned supreme?

I know I would have loved it.

[Notable mentions go to Pacific Rim and Battleship. Nothing quite beats films produced to celebrate the human spirit than those featuring humanity fighting against all odds and winning.]

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale October 21.

What are your favorites? Why do you like them?

Posted in Monday Mayhem

Zombies & Aliens?

It’s all about a contagion nowadays. Zombies sprout from a fatal plague released on an unsuspecting nation bent on its own destruction. A cough, a sneeze, a scratch and everyone runs for cover. But what if the zombie virus doesn’t come from a genetic mutation of the common cold?

Cloverfield
Cloverfield

Just sayin’.

Monday Mayhem has featured many end-of-days scenarios.What if the plague everyone’s waiting for is not the catalyst that jumpstarts the zombie apocalypse? What if it’s something else?

Legend has it that Haitian voodoo doctors had the ability to raise the dead. In some cases, raise the dead and make the undead their slaves. Cases exist indicating supposed resurrections took place soon after death, which in turn caused residents to question the veracity of such claims. It wasn’t until sometime had passed that authorities had discovered witch doctors had used psychoactive drugs to render victims unconscious to the point where they appeared dead. Village medical doctors could not detect a pulse therefore their declaration on the death certificate rang true. However, soon after burial, the witch doctors would order exhumations so as to use the dead for working on sugar plantations.

A hundred years ago, everyone thought the zombie apocalypse would happen from voodoo doctors gone wild, hypnotizing a whole generation of folks into believing they would become the undead. My, how times have changed.

Night of the Living Dead
Night of the Living Dead

Then came George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, the director’s 1968 anthem to the zombie apocalypse. The premise is an easy one. A radioactive space probe from Venus explodes in Earth’s atmosphere rendering those caught in the debris, zombies. No plague here. The zombies go on a rampage to secure food for which they can feast. Unfortunately, the only food they have in mind is ingesting human. Romero’s film singlehandedly created the zombie genre we know today. However, the one factor separating Romero’s zombie apocalypse with today’s undead story makers is in Romero’s zombie origins—they came from space.

Seems quite a great deal comes from space nowadays. Transformers, Independence Day aliens, Predator, E.T., Cloverfield aliens, Close Encounters of the Third Kind aliens, Invasion of the Body Snatcher aliens, Super 8 aliens.

See a pattern here?

Who’s to say zombies will not come from space?

Just sayin’.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, now on sale.

Do you still believe a plague will cause the zombie apocalypse?

Posted in Women Who Wow Wednesday

Mikaela

She’s the chick every guy in high school has his eye on. She’s hotter than a rally yellow Chevrolet Camaro. And she’s the girl who ends up with the biggest prize of all—being part of the team that ultimately saves the world from annihilation. I am thrilled to present Mikaela Banes of the Transformers series for this week’s Women Who Wow Wednesday.

Mikaela Banes and Soldiers
Mikaela Banes and Soldiers

As a little girl, Mikaela (Megan Fox) learned about cars from her jail-prone car thief dad. She’d never admit her mechanical talents to her boyfriends though, why ruin a good relationship with their inferiority complex. But when she meets Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf), who incidentally drives around in a piece-of-crap, broken down, 1977 Camaro his dad had purchased for him on his birthday, she feels compelled to help the kid out with his ride:

Mikaela: You got a high rise double-pump carburetor. That’s… that’s pretty impressive, Sam.
Sam Witwicky: Double-pump?
Mikaela: It squirts the fuel in so you can go faster.
Sam Witwicky: Oh… I like to go faster.

The next time we meet Mikaela is on her back, after Sam runs into her moped on the street.

You see, Sam’s not some ordinary kid. He’s what you call special. Not special in a weird way, but special in the sense his great-great-grandfather in 1935 had made one of the most awesome discoveries in the history of the world. He discovered frozen in ice, Megatron, the leader of the Decepticons, a race of robots sent to deplete the earth of its resources. This is a big deal ‘cause by the time the remnant of the Decepticons catch up with Sam, eBay username ladiesman217, in the middle of the street with Mikaela, Bumblebee, the piece-of-crap Camaro Sam owns, rides in to save the day.

Mikaela Banes
Mikaela Banes

The chase is on. They hit the street leaving smoke behind. After several cat-and-mouse games, Bumblebee throws the kids on the ground behind him and transforms into an Autobot, a good guy from the planet Cybertron. A battle ensues, but the more interesting battle happens when a smaller, meaner Decepticon chases after Sam.

Mikaela darts to a tool shed to find her choice instrument of pain. She revs it up and goes after the puny, insignificant weasel that dares attack her friend, Sam. Brandishing the chainsaw, she makes meat out of the Decepticon.

When Bumblebee vanquishes the larger Decepticon, he confesses his identity to Sam, transforms back to a Camaro. Then Sam utters the words that I think makes the whole movie worth the cost of admission and then some:

Sam Witwicky: He wants us to get in the car.
Mikaela: [laughing nervously] And go where?
Sam Witwicky: Fifty years from now, when you’re looking back at your life, don’t you want to be able to say you had the guts to get in the car?

And right there is a lifetime of journeys.

I can tell you more about Mikaela, the glasses, of how she uses a tow truck to defeat the Decepticons with Bumblebee in tow, but I think I’ll end it here—with the decision of a lifetime. Mikaela had to make that decision, and at one point in our lives, we too have to make some major decision somewhere. We may have already made it. We may not know what it is, but at least we had guts enough to make it.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale October 22.

Fifty years from now, when you’re looking back at your life, don’t you want to be able to say you had the guts to get in the car?

Posted in Freedom Friday

Going to the Movies

Today is the day. Today is World War Z day. If you don’t know by now, this weekend will either make or break the zombie genre with the film’s take at the box office. I haven’t been this excited for a film premier since the first Transformers came out. When I think about it, I’ve had some interesting movie going experiences in my life. I might as well share them with you for my Freedom Friday series.

Jurassic Park
Jurassic Park

Jurassic Park—I wrote about Dr. Ellie Sattler for my Women Who Wow Wednesday this week, and I think it fitting if you knew what it took to see this movie in the theater. Mind you, 1993 was not that long ago, and we were pretty modern back then. We had the big 70mm screens with THX certified sound systems. Toronto, especially, had a handful of awesome theaters this size to fit capacity crowds. It was at this time my wife and I wanted to see it. Well, I wanted to see it bad and she tagged along, although ultimately she enjoyed it too.

Opening weekend, we decided on the theater we wanted to go, you know, big screen, big sound, and it sold out. Also, during those days, there was no such thing as advanced ticket buying, at least not for that theater. Second week, sold out again. Unbelievable. Everyone was talking about this movie and I couldn’t even get in to see it. Third week, you got it, sold out. And when I say sold out, I mean all shows for that day, gone. Forth week, I decided to be aggressive and went in on my lunch hour to see if I could get tickets for a late evening show. The woman said she couldn’t do it. No advance sales. I pleaded with her almost to the point of getting on my knees. Nope, couldn’t do it. I was about to leave sporting downtrodden shoulders. Well, I guess I was tenacious enough. She gave in. Two tickets for the five o’clock showing. I took them without so much as a quibble. A question gnawed at my brain. I asked her what the big deal was with the movie. She simply said, “Once you see it, you’ll have your answer.”

The Dark Knight's Joker
The Dark Knight’s Joker

The Dark Knight—When Heath Ledger passed away five years ago last January, an aura of solemnity and secrecy surrounded the final preparations of this film’s release. In the months following, seeing the first images of The Joker on the posters and trailers made the film’s anticipated premier eerie. I know I had all I could do but wonder what happened. My wife had made it clear, she did not want any part of it. I understood. It was somewhat creepy seeing Ledger on the big screen knowing he wasn’t with us anymore.

Opening weekend, I hopped into my car, headed to the theater, parked and headed inside. Our town’s theater is one of those big twelve-theater complexes with the latest and greatest technology. We currently have this UltraAVX addition with reserved seating, giant wall-to-wall screen, immersive sound, digital projection, rocker chairs, you know, the works. Five years ago, although we had the big screen, it was hard getting in to see these juggernaut movies. So, unless I got there real early, and bought a ticket in advance, I would have to rely on God’s good graces to finding a seat in the theater. It didn’t help that I arrived late. Anyway, I end up at the ticket booth, and I asked for a seat for the seven o’clock showing of The Dark Knight. I remember this because I still have the stub. The woman looked at me, looked at her computer screen and said, “Honey, there are only two seats available. You’ll be lucky if you find one right at the very front.” I told her I’d take my chances.

By this time, I’m having all this stuff go through my head of being stuck in the front, which will later result in a neck injury ‘cause I wanted to see a popular movie I didn’t adequately plan for. Whatever happens, I thought, I’ll take it like a man. I walk in. Packed. Oh, gosh, now what? The ticket agent said there were two seats available. I begin my search in the front rows, to the evil stares of those who got there early. I know, I know. I should I have gotten here earlier. Relax already. I’ll be out of your way in a minute. I then scan the entire theater from the side. I can’t believe I can’t find the seats. I felt like an idiot. The trailers were about to start and I can hear the thoughts of the audience saying, goof, standing in the aisle, you’re outta luck.

The first trailer started and there, right in the center of the audience, right in the middle of the theater, the seat appeared. Is that free? Really? I walk to the aisle where the seat rested and motioned to those next to it if it was really free. I don’t quite remember how I did it. All I remember is a lady nodding at me. I made my way through the crowded aisle and took my seat. If the woman next to me didn’t know better, my grin from one ear to ear almost freakishly made me look like The Joker. And there I sat, the best seat in the house, smack-dab in the heart of the theater watching The Joker get into the van, and that eerie single note hanging there, introducing the film.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen—Still with me? I’ll make this story short. I had wanted to see this movie for a while in the theater, but didn’t feel like paying full price for it. Yeah, I caught some of the reviews indicating it lacked a little something the original had. So the most I’d pay is for a matinee performance, which I did catch. The funny part about this story is what happened during the movie while it played. As a preamble to this recounting, the skies were dark and it was just right for a good ol’ fashioned thunderstorm.

Well, here I sat in the theater enjoying the movie when all of a sudden, in between the explosions on the screen, a massive rumbling rattled all of us from our seats. That did not come from the screen. Then another rumbling accompanied by a crack from up high startled us. We were only a few, but during some of the screen’s massive explosions, a low murmur went through the audience. Right then, the film stopped and the auxiliary emergency lights turned on. Another earthquake-like tremor echoed just above my ears. We all looked at each other. The rain started. It pounded hard on the roof. We heard the whole thing as if it were THX audio. The whole thing lasted fifteen minutes, but it was entertaining talking with the folks in the theater while all this chaos happened outside. It felt like a camaraderie had come of the event.

Once the storm settled, the emergency lights turned off, and the movie whirred back into existence.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale October 22.

Have you had any weird things happen to you when you were in the theater?