Monday, January 27, 2014

The Best Movie Never Made: Great White Zombie Alien Sharktopus-nado ... with Chainsaws

Last night I was noodling about on Amazon, that great home of bad film. Like Sharktopus. And the beloved classic, Sharknado. Now I know these are horrible movies. Sharknado, for the five people who haven't seen it, is about a storm that lifts sharks into the sky and dumps them all over LA, where they start eating any human they can get hold of. Most (who am I kidding? I mean all) of the people on screen are Too Stupid to Live, as is shown by their horrible acting and willingness to stay in LA during a massive attack of sky-sharks. The last big scene involves a guy - get this - jumping into a shark's mouth with a chainsaw.  Just so you can see it yourself:

Now on Netflix: Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries

Every once in a while I come across a rant that says "There's nothing on Netflix." The complaint is usually how Netflix isn't as good at keeping up with new movies as it used to be, and has a lot of B-material. That's all true. But, what this view ignores is that for many of us, Netflix has opened up an entire world beyond American movie and television making. Case in point: the delightful Australian-made Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries.

I must admit that I came across this show by mistake. I was looking through the programs recommended for me because I'm a fan of British police mysteries such as Inspector Lynley and the usual suspects from PBS/BBC-land. I also happen to be a sucker for shows that have strongly drawn women lead characters. So when this show appeared on my list, I decided to take a look.

As it happens, Miss Phryne (pronounced 'fry-knee') Fisher is the heroine of a series of novels set in 1920s and 30s Australia by Kerry Greenwood (who also writes for the series). Phryne (played by Essie Davis, who is apparently a big name in Australia) came from an impoverished background but through a series of deaths in the family, ended up inheriting her noble family's fortune. It seems that before that happened, she had quite a series of adventures, including being an artist's model and driving ambulances during World War One. During the series we find out that she knows what cocaine tastes like, owns a diaphragm, and is a qualified pilot. She also ends up having quite a string of lovers. Out of a desire to have something to do other than wear fabulous clothes and dance the tango, she becomes a 'lady detective' and solves murders in and around Melbourne while flirting with the local police detective, John 'Jack' Robinson.

Is the show good? Yes. The clothing is proper to the period, the cars are fabulous and the stares are way entertaining. I also enjoyed the acting and the 'modern' situations, which include everything from abortion to interracial marriage to child slavery. Phryne's friends and helpers are wonderful fun, as well as seeing a female lead who is able to save herself and other women without a man coming to her rescue every five minutes.  I would definitely put this on the recommended list. It's a perfect show to binge-watch on a rainy or snowy weekend.

Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives: a Review

I just finished Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives: Stories from the Trailblazers of Domestic Suspense, edited by Sarah Weinman. What a good read! This collection of mostly mid-century short stores by mostly (unfortunately) forgotten women writers included some tales that would still be disturbing now. Take for instance the first story, 'The Heroine', by Patricia Highsmith. Essentially it's about every parent's nightmare - the nanny who loves her work a little too much. Suffice it to say no nanny-cam would have stopped this woman from destroying a family. Likewise Celia Fremlin's 'A Case of Maximum Need,' which will make you wonder who you're really talking to on the Internet.