Friday Night Videos - All Bill Nighy All The Time (All the time, I say!)

So, one of my side gigs as a freelancer is to write about what movies come out each weekend for a screenwriting website. (I know...what a chore, right? *sarcasm implied since I'm utterly obsessed with movies*)

So I found this movie while writing up the release report for this weekend and I wondered to myself, "Why on EARTH haven't I heard of it before?" It's got one of my all time favorite actors, the incomparable Bill Nighy, the always lovely Emily Blunt, the much beloved and full of potential Rupert Grint, and it's an English comedy, a road pic, and a heist plot. I mean, honestly...if it's an English comedy, you'd might as well just slap an, "Audrey will love this." sticker on it straight away. I always thought Nighy was funny, and he has major geek street cred for his appearance in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. (My first ever favorite novel back in junior high. If you didn't like the movie, read the book and then watch it again. It's a whole different experience...or heck rent some of the old BBC series. Anyway, that's all beside the point.) But I truly fell in love with Nighy in The Girl in the Cafe, a quiet little masterpiece of film that revolves around an unexpected love story but ends with global consequences.

Wild Target, new this weekend, stars the singular Bill Nighy (I can work as many superfluous adjectives into this as I want, it's my blog.) as a wayward hit man in this comedy. Rupert Grint and Emily Blunt also star. This is my personal pick for the weekend, and I would suggest that anyone who has a love of English humor, Bill Nighy or films like Dirty Rotten Scoundrels find the film asap, even if it takes a bit of extra work.


Happy Geekoween

My sisters are like Martha Stewarts with better senses of humor and extensive knowledge bases of pop culture. So it was no surprise that one of them (Heather) sent me a couple of images of their Halloween pumpkins, and they looked like this...

I'm amazed but not surprised, this is the super cool sister that has also done THIS and THIS.

Happy Halloween from Born For Geekdom and my super cool sister, who always provides us with plenty of geek-related holiday crafts. She seriously blows my mind. (And just wait until you read her novel...it's a comedy about old people becoming werewolves. Did you head just explode with admiration? Mine did.)


A Very Fun Thing I'll Do Again Very Soon (an ode to David Foster Wallace)

I just got back from a trip on Monday. A whirlwind would be a better word. Most trips are for Jake and I, because we're on a tight budget when we travel. So we typically have to fly in and out the day of whatever we're doing, get a rental car with Paypal money, save up freelance checks, that sort of thing. But that makes it more fun for me, paying in advance, not having to go into debt. Anyway, that's beside the point.

The point is that I was reading David Foster Wallace before and during this trip. Specifically his book, "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again", and in that book there's an essay of the same title in which he talks about journeying for freelance work. He went on a cruise. We went to some theme parks. (Which we do a lot if you know anything about us or our webisode Park Geeks...it's kind of our "thing".) His opening chapter even talks about flying over the Mid-West, which I was reading while flying over the mid west, totally by accident.

So this will be a blog structured similarly to Wallace's trademark style, because if there's anything I've learned from Don Hahn it's that emulating things you love is good...and I love Wallace's ability to ramble on and on and cover every angle of a memory or a time period. So I'm going to ramble on and on. My only regret is that I don't have the space for footnotes, which Wallace uses sometimes as over 50% of his books.

Most of this trip will end up covered by our webisode series Park Geeks. So for more info you can visit our website and click on all the links at the top of the page to get updates. I'll also be writing a blog about the experience for Orlando Attractions, so there will be more in-depth coverage later.


Milk Jug Storm Trooper Helmet

My brother-in-law Paul passed this on to my husband recently, and it's just too good not to share for the Halloween costume season. If you're little one is without a costume, and they're a Star Wars fan, and for some unknown reason every Wal-Mart and Target is all sold out...never fear! You can make this yourself. (Which I actually think is FAR cooler than most of those flat plastic masks you can buy.)

Read the full article on its home blog, a super cool craft site called FILTH WIZARDRY. Click on the name of the site to go directly to the how-to blog for this mask.

Before this, all I knew how to make out of a milk jug was a crummy sidewalk luminary...


Greg Nicotero's, "United Monster Talent Agency" and other monster-inspired shorts

I remember hearing about this a few months back and getting so excited that I could hardly stand it. This is a short for AMC directed by Nicotero, a special effects artist and up until this point, a second unit director. But if there's any justice in the world, this will become a full feature! Jake and I have shot some purposefully retro looking stuff, and let me tell you, it's not easy at all. So watch this and...

Marvel at the great Lon Chaney Jr. impression!
Thrill to the original Gill Man costume!
Be amazed by the near perfect recreation of Boris Karloff's mummy!


Overwhelmed - Writing Your Life Can Be "Too Much Birthday"

I'm doing THIS again.

I'm spending way too much time inner-monologuing about how it's totally fine that I'm spending my Thanksgiving weekend at a Star Trek convention and jetting off to spend three days filming a webisode series based on theme parks and playing about an hour a day of Arkham Asylum, even though I definitely don't have the time to do any of those things.

I'm getting defensive and grumpy. With myself. This happens when I get really stressed out, and stress is just a natural part of every day life, but it becomes overbearing sometimes in graduate school. I'm in the home stretch with my thesis...I have five months to polish my book, lots of reviews to put it through, criticism to take, editing to do, and it's just really really hard right now for some reason. Maybe because I'm a Nonfiction writer, so I'm sifting through these really emotional life memories every day. They say that if you are a writer, that you should write the book you need to write first, the one you are just burning to tell...and there's some reason why I need to write this. I think I need to sort through my own childhood before I have children of my own, but that's all beside the point. (Writers sure can whine, can't we?)

True story...that's me.
When I was a kid, I was notorious for shutting down. I would zip myself into a closed sleeping bag and just lay in the middle of the living room floor in broad daylight and just try to disappear when I was worried or nervous. This happened often around holidays, when the suspense of knowing that soon it was going to be candy heaven or that Christmas would finally arrive simply became too much to bear. Yes, I can even get myself stressed out about the good things in life. I was notorious for weeping uncontrollably as a child on happy occasions and holidays, too overcome with emotion to function.  I spent my entire third birthday with my head in my hands at Chuck E. Cheese, crying over my vanilla cake and ice cream, scared of the animatronic gorilla and feeling a general combination of that Berenstein Bears, "Too Much Birthday" stress and twinges of guilt over everyone having to come together to celebrate my existence.

I was the Woody Allen of 1980's childhood.

Who am I kidding, I'm the Woody Allen of my late twenties. My point is, I worry. A lot. If worrying were a public service, I'd be a saint by now. But worrying is also terrible for my creativity. It sucks the life out of me. Stops me in my tracks during the re-drafting process of my book. I worry, am I getting it right? Will anyone be mad at me for what I'm writing? Whose feelings will I hurt? These are all terrible pitfalls of writing memoir.


Disney's Diamond Edition "Beauty and the Beast" Blu-Ray Shows that Creative Work is Still Work

My husband and I been haggling for weeks over what our first Blu-Ray purchase would be. I thought, "Jaws". Jake thought, "Spaceballs". We argued and argued. I love Spaceballs, so it's not that I was against it...but for our first ever purchase? This is a milestone we're talking about.

I thought we needed something with a little more ceremony. Little did I know, he was bluffing, getting a kick out of my baffled facial expressions every time I asked, "Really? Spaceballs?"

We wanted to be able to recall, with fondness, that our first Blu-Ray was a meaningful one. Especially because I make NO plans to replace any of my DVDs in the near future. I plan to keep them for decades upon decades, no matter what leaps in technology are made. People might be watching movies via injection before I give up my DVDs.


Conan Returns...

You're welcome.

The countdown has been on since last July, but now I'm REALLY getting excited.


My Hogwarts, His Haunted Mansion

Hogwart's Enchanted Ceiling makes it's way to my subconscious.
So, I have this reoccurring dream. In it, Jake and I are living in a condo. (One that looks suspiciously like my grandmother's Nashville, Indiana condo that she lived in before she passed away.) It has vaulted ceilings, it's on the second floor, all white walls, and plenty of space.

In this dream, we are having some friends over for a holiday. We are taking Adam and Heidi's coats as they come in the door for a Halloween party. They are the first to arrive. I run off and throw the coats on a bed in our bedroom, and when I come back, Jake is flicking off a lightswitch to show them an illusion we've created in our vaulted ceilings. It is a projection of moving clouds and a full moon, it looks like the enchanted ceiling at Hogwart's Castle, and our friends laugh at us because we've gone to such trouble for such a nerdy cause. (They know us so well in real life, they wouldn't be surprised if this became a reality.)

The Burrow Living Area
In the dream, the condo at that moment starts to fill up with atmospheric objects, but not in a claustrophobic way. It begins to start looking like my grandparent's house in the woods, Frogpatch, a place my grandfather built with his own two hands. A place where they lived together before Grandpa passed away. It was heated by a wood stove, it had floor to ceiling bookcases, murals, dark wood, a grandfather clock, the Henderson family crest on the walls, and plenty of nooks and crannies. It essentially looked like the Weasely's Burrow, but nicer. My grandparents were both artists, and to them, it was natural to live in such organized clutter and inspiration. Their home was filled with purposeful props and it was an enchanting place.

Sometimes my dream ends with my sister and I finding a secret passageway in the apartment that leads to an outdoor courtyard area with stone gargoyles and shingled rooftops and wrought iron weather vanes.  I'm no genius at interpreting dreams, but even I can tell you that this is an allusion to the fact that she and I are discovering the creative life together, sharing tales of our writing work and aspirations...figuring out the "magic" (A combination of my mother's epic creativity, my grandparents art, the animated Disney renaissance and the whimsical eighties, with it's rise of fantasy in pop culture.) that we were raised with and how to make it real. (The theme of my thesis, by the way...)

I know what this dream is about. It's about Jake and I and our quest to build what feels like an authentic life to us, a life that artists live. A home where we can be inspired. A home where Halloweens and Christmases take on the flavor of Harry Potter movies and Haunted Mansion trips.

We're working on it, and so far so good. Our office walls are covered with Indiana Jones posters, our collective college degrees, Star Fleet insignia, nerdy autographs, and framed pictures from all of our theme park visits. We have a Haunted Mansion inspired hallway, a Sherlock Holmes-esque living room, and an Adventureland-themed bedroom (All dark wood, lanterns, photography of Adventureland at night, and anything that matches that aesthetic.) There are song lyrics and bible verses ("Despise Not Small Beginnings") and artist quotes throughout our house. To a lot of people, it's kind of weird. Kind of immature. Kind of ugly.

But to us, it's home. Doombuggies.com shared a link to a website today that made me realize we're not alone in the world with our action figure collections and shelves full of books and DVDs and all manner of geek paraphernalia.  Visit this website and you'll see...some people, people like us, (People like my sisters and mother and aunt.) just have to surround themselves with inspiration. Maybe someday we'll have that enchanted ceiling after all...



Halloween: 5 Ways to Avoid the Gore and Enjoy the Holiday

I love you Gillman! 
I've already waxed philosophical this year about the Halloween holiday. But I always have more to say about one of America's best celebrations. Personally, I'm just about as big of a baby as you'll ever find when it comes to gore.

But I have a strange filter. I can handle Quentin Tarantino's blood spurting sword fights, but the assassination scenes in the Godfather movies make me want to vomit. I know that's hypocritical, but the difference is always in the atmosphere and intention. Naturally, Halloween provides a lot of material for this duplicitous side of my personality.

For one thing, I hate true gore, especially when it's done in a realistic style. It's one reason why I almost never go to haunted houses anymore. It seems like every house has a scene of torture and mutilation, almost always against women. Well, I just can't enjoy things like that, because unfortunately, those kinds of things really happen to people in real life. So spare me the scenes of torture horror. They set my feminist radar off like crazy.

On the other hand, the Haunted Mansion may be the most popular haunted house ever created, and it's one of my greatest and most consistent obsessions. But the Haunted Mansion is kid-friendly, gore-free, and once again, all about the atmosphere. This year, Jake and I are doing some Haunted Mansion-inspired Halloween costumes. I'll just give you an image and let you figure it out...and no, I'm not dressing as a chandelier.

So what's to do if you love Halloween, playing dress-up, and spooky ghost stories, but you hate gore and violence? Consider the following...

1. AVOID SLASHER MOVIES and stick with cartoons and kids movies. Every year, ABC Family does something called 13 Nights of Halloween. It features fun atmospheric features that capture the creative spirit of Halloween without the violence and gore. Of course, there are always innocent Halloween classics like Looney Tunes cartoons, Hocus Pocus, and the classic monster movies. But there's plenty to watch if you don't want to be traumatized or go to bed feeling disturbed.

2. EMPHASIZE PLAYING DRESS UP when it comes to costumes. Emphasize with your children, or yourself, that the fun of dress up is not the idea of getting attention for being sexy (Get schooled on Halloween Mean Girls style.) or taking the opportunity to be scary, but it's all about playing pretend! Take cues from the folks at Comic Con and seize the opportunity to become your favorite superheroine or comic book character.

3. REVEL IN THE ATMOSPHERE of the season. This weekend, I played a few hours of Arkham Asylum on PS3, a truly creepy game, and listened to some classic Halloween favorites. This is a great time of year for Pumpkin Patches and Flashlight Tag and cookie-baking! Don't miss out on any fall festive fun just because you're feeling blue about the gory state of what used to be a children's holiday. Just reclaim it! Even if you're Halloween-free for religious reasons, there are still corn mazes and fall festivals and countless autumn activities and classic Disney movies to enjoy. (Blackbeard's Ghost, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, etc. Heck, even Mary Poppins is about magic and shenanigans! Find a way to make the month your own somehow.)

Oh, and by the way...do you know who does the voice of the Joker and has been doing it for years? None other than Mark Hamill! Seriously, watch this...it's like a pop culture explosion.

4. FIND GORE-FREE HAUNTED HOUSES. They do exist. There's one I discovered just this morning called, The Asylum House. It's an Indianapolis-based haunted house that prides itself on featuring classic movie monsters without any scenes of torture. The Wolfman may have some blood on his chops, but you won't see any ladies getting sawed in half in here. I almost fell out of my chair this morning as I sipped my coffee and saw that they had an authentic Gillman suit, a Mummy, a Werewolf, and more classic masks and monsters. I hear the house isn't for the faint of heart and is still truly terrifying, but if you're looking for something that's a bit more high-end, this may be the haunt for you.

By the way, I have no affiliation nor have I ever spoken with anyone from The Asylum House, I'm just happy to see someone doing Halloween justice, not just renting an empty warehouse and filling it with scenes of violence and murder. Give me monsters and mayhem dangit! Fake blood and guts is just too easy. For those of us that grew up with the classic monsters, we know that it's about suspense, romance, drama, and say it with me now...atmosphere! Give us foggy castles and a dark and stormy night!

5. ENJOY SOME MURDER MYSTERIES. This is the perfect time of year to indulge in some classic stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie. They're the masters of suspense and atmosphere, and they provide you with a literary angle to the holiday. The gore is usually limited to the discovery of a body that usually sets off the first act, but after that, it's all secrets, intrigue, and large roomy manor houses with secret passageways. You stay classy San Diego..I mean, Halloween.

My point is, you don't have to draw the battle lines against Halloween, even if, like me, you loathe all the gore and violence. Just find ways to steer clear of the things that make you uncomfortable and then embrace fully whatever it is that you love most about the holiday. In my case, it's all things old-timey, classic horror, and of course, The Haunted Mansion.

What's your favorite part of Halloween?

P.S. Another fun thing about the season? Special themed episodes of our favorite TV shows. There's the Simpsons' Treehouse of Horror and tonight, there's even what looks to be a special Steampunk episode of Nathan Fillion's, "Castle". 


Need to Make Travel Plans for Your Star Wars Geek?

Why not visit some planets from the Star Wars universe? Jake and I have long pined over the travel posters hung in the halls of Star Tours: The Ride at Walt Disney World and Disneyland, but they're tough to find. (And expensive...) But Zazzle is offering some super nifty retro Star Wars logos that would make wonderful gifts. (Here's a link to the Star Wars Zazzle shop.) Of course, the better course of action would be to book a trip to Hoth, but I think that might present some rather interesting challenges...what with it not being a real place and all. But still, a girl can dream...

Empire is the movie we always watch to decorate the Christmas tree.
If you dig stuff like this, you may enjoy this book. A friend of ours got this for us as a Christmas gift last year, and we look through it often, especially when we long for some artistic inspiration. It's a book of art done by famous concept artist and matte painter Ralph McQuarrie and it's plum full of the art that went on to create the definitive "look" of Star Wars.

Due to copyright issues, the book had to be published overseas.
Here one last loving look at the travel posters as they hung at Star Tours. Who knows what changes will come with the ride revamp, currently underway?

Travel posters for Bespin, Tattoine, and Endor, homes respectively to Cloud City, Jabba's Palace, and Yoda's Shack.


My Kind of Town...Chicago Was or Take Heart Young Artists

The Auditorium Theater
So, Jake and I were sort of whisked away to Chicago last weekend. He's been doing commercials and video material for a live musical for the last three months, "The Merchants of Bollywood".

When it made it's North American Debut in Chicago last weekend, as a reward for all his hard work, we got to attend the show.

His boss put us up in a nice downtown hotel, got us box seats, and even treated us to some real deep dish Chicago pizza. The drive only took us four hours and the directions were easy to follow. The show was incredible, and more than anything else, we just had a great time walking the city, taking goofy pictures, and enjoying the very first day of truly chilly weather in America's third largest city.

But more than that, this weekend, and other life events that keep happening are just serving to reaffirm us that it's good to be creative. Good to follow your dreams. Good to go with your instincts. With the sad news of all the kids taking their own lives out of sheer hopelessness, I feel like it's more important than ever to simply share the simple truths about why life is worth living, and worth living to the fullest.