In search of the real McCoy

UK blogger Natalie Rowe, who gave Peak Season four stars, thinks Mila Kunis should play CW McCoy . . . if Candace and her crew ever make it to the big screen.

Natalie writes, “The thing that is most memorable to me about CW is her quick wit. To me, there is no other person that could give CW this unique sarcasm like Mila Kunis can in her roles. She can play the bad-ass independent lady but also add in a little sass and seductiveness.”

Sassy and seductive. . . . Is that how you see the young former detective who faces down kidnappers, assassins and tourists on a daily basis? And here I was thinking Scarlett Johansson on a motorcycle. Or Six Feet Under’s Rachel Anne Griffiths, or is that over the top?

Who do you think should play CW? Leave your comments here and we’ll revisit the question, with photos, in another post.

 

Mila Kunis

 

Scarlett Johansson

 

Rachel Griffiths

The Pause that Refreshes

My uncle and I were visiting the restroom during a showing at the old Eric Theater in Allentown, Pennsylvania. I didn’t want to miss the good parts of the movie but Uncle Max had other priorities. Leaning into the urinal, he heaved a huge sigh and exclaimed, “Ah, the pause that refreshes.”

As a kid I didn’t get the reference to the Coca-Cola slogan but I could tell he felt relieved. His point has become all the more poignant as age has inflated everything in our lives, from prices to prostates. Sometimes it makes liquids and films incompatible.

That’s why I was intrigued to discover RunPee.com, a website and app that suggest the optimum time to pause for a bio break during a movie. Take the most recent James Bond film, “Skyfall.” At minute 63 Bond raises his drink in a salute to the bodyguards. Here’s what RunPee advises: “You will have five minutes to pee while . . . cut to Bond and the three bodyguards fighting. It’s a really poor fight scene. Bond and one of the bodyguards end up in the Komodo Dragon pit.”

There’s more plot summary so you don’t feel left out of Monday morning water cooler conversation, after visiting the pit, slit trench, latrine or (if you’re Canadian) kaibo of your choice.

Here’s how it works. Download the app to your smartphone. Select the movie you are about to watch. After the credits end, start the timer. Your phone will vibrate before each suggested break in the movie. You can then run to the bathroom while reading what’s happening back in the theater.

The app is available for Android, Apple and Windows 7 operating systems. Or you can see runtimes and read reviews on the website.

Here’s why the app was invented. Dan Florio was watching the remake of “King Kong” around Christmas of 2005. The movie was about 3 hours long. “By the end of the movie I desperately needed to pee,” he said. “Like so badly I couldn’t enjoy the movie. But I wasn’t about to leave the theater before it was over.”

Those of you who’ve seen the movie know Dan could have sneaked out for dinner and another film and not missed much. But diligent movie buff that he is, he devised a cutting-edge solution with low-tech research. His family views each “wide release” movie on opening day. They watch for 3-5-minute spans where “nothing really exciting, or funny, or important happens” and leak the plot results.

You’re now free to roam about the water closet. Just don’t drop the phone.

The fascination with all things Victorian

Maybe it’s the wedding of Price William and Kate Middleton that brings it to mind but it seems as if Victorian England is all the rage in fiction. What might have started with Sherlock Holmes in 1887 has morphed into young adult books, mysteries and a branch of science fiction called steampunk that together deliver an apocalyptic message finely tuned for our times.

Ruby-in-the-SmokePhilip Pullman’s Sally Lockhart quartet heads the list of YA books that bring London of the late 1800s to life. The lead figure in The Ruby in the Smoke and the novels that follow is a brave 16-year-old who surmounts her fears to discover the fate of her father, and her own strength.

Pullman populates his London of 1872 with finery and fops, dirt and decay. For every noble move by the Baker Street Irregulars who support Sally the underworld launches a counter offensive that would discourage all but the most resourceful. The author’s voice rings of an authentic England, from descriptions to slang to the narrator’s comforting address to the reader.

Pullman (The Golden Compass) has written other novels with resolute female characters but the Lockhart books stand as some of his best, a series that adults as well as teens will find refreshingly current.

SomeDangerInvolvedWill Thomas could have been channeling Pullman in the first of his Barker and Llewelyn mysteries, Some Danger Involved, set 12 years later. Thomas’ characters, a private detective who calls himself an enquiry agent and his assistant, investigate the source of anti-Semitic activities and in the process provide readers with a swift course in forgotten history. As with Pullman’s work, the interest lies in a fast romp by sympathetic characters through a dark and secret world, an alternate reality that seems as real as our own.

Then there’s the wildly successful Anne Perry, who has penned two Victorian series, one featuring Charlotte and Thomas Pitt and a second starring investigator William Monk. Both evoke the class distinctions as well as the crimes of the era.

Steampunk pushes reality in an alternate direction. A subgenre of science fiction steampunk evokes an era where steam power, dirigibles and analog devices rule. One of the earliest examples is the 1990 novel The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling. If you saw the 2009 movie version of Sherlock Holmes starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law, you have an idea of the visuals common to steampunk literature.

Much as its cousin cyberpunk mashes the exotic with the familiar to jolt readers out of time and place, steampunk creates an alternate history that can be both intriguing and chilling. As do many of the writers who set their stories in that era. They contrast the veneer of civility with its morally corrosive underside to create a dystopia that any post-9/11 reader can appreciate.

Let’s hope that’s not the case with the newest royal couple.

‘Ghost Waters’ captures spirit of river

More than 35 years ago the federal government threatened to dam the Delaware River and create a 37-mile-long lake and park. The Tocks Island Dam would provide flood control, electricity, recreation and drinking water to New York City.

The reasons for the project might have made sense but the tactics used to acquire the land didn’t. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers bought homes at bargain prices and began bulldozing them. They rented others. Squatters soon took over the buildings, until they were forcibly evicted by armed U.S. Marshals in 1972. Residents whose families had lived near the river for generations were outraged. Environmentalists joined the protests, arguing the project would destroy the last free-flowing river in the East. They also questioned whether the soil beneath the river could withstand the weight of the earthen dam.

Ghost WatersThere, on a unpopulated island between Pennsylvania and New Jersey, the environmental movement got its start. Decades later, the dam was finally deauthorized and the land transformed into the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. But homeowners had lost something they could never replace.

New Jersey cinematographer Nick Patrick considered that a crime and set out to tell the homeowners’ story in a full-length documentary. With the creation of an abbreviated version of “Ghost Waters,” he’s almost there. Judging by the version he sent to me, the project is worth the wait.

The story is compelling, how David went up against Goliath and won. The structure is spare and matches the material, a series of interviews without narration. In one scene we see a photo of one of the dam’s fiercest opponents, Mina Haefele, now Mina Hamilton, sitting in an overstuffed chair in her farmhouse by the river. When interviewing Hamilton for the film, Patrick places her in the same armchair, this time in a house that is dark with decay. It’s a brilliant move.

So is the use of archival images ala Ken Burns, an important element in helping place the struggle in historical context. The cinematography is striking as Patrick contrasts the rich color of fall with the barren landscape of winter. My only suggestion would be to interview Nancy Shukaitis, a former Monroe County, Pennsylvania, commissioner and one of the original and most credible opponents of the dam. Nick says he’d like to include her in the final cut.

You can view the trailer and make tax-deductible contributions to the International Documentary Association online, or by mailing them to: Nick Patrick, Ghost Waters, 8 Rubin Hill Rd., Montague, NJ 07827. You can also view the trailer and outtakes at YouTube.

— Jeff Widmer