S.M. Douglas

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Category: Action / Adventure (page 1 of 3)

Does Gal Gadot’s Attractiveness Represent a “Step Back” For Strong Female Characters in Film?

James Cameron has been making waves because of his claims (most recently in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter) that Gal Gadot was a poor choice to play Wonder Woman. He stated that she can’t be considered a feminist icon because of the way she was physically portrayed as “an objectified icon, and it’s just male Hollywood doing the same old thing…I’m not saying I didn’t like the movie but, to me, it’s a step backwards.” From there, Cameron further shoved his foot into his mouth; “She was Miss Israel, and she was wearing a kind of bustier costume that was very form-fitting. She’s absolutely drop-dead gorgeous. To me, that’s not breaking ground,” Cameron said. “They had Raquel Welch doing stuff like that in the ’60s.”

Really? By putting Gal Gadot in the outfit she is famous for we haven’t advanced in our portrayal of Wonder Woman? Hmmm…I beg to differ:

Wonder Woman 1

Cameron then put his other foot into said mouth by offering Linda Hamilton’s portrayal of Terminator hero Sarah Connor as an example of a real feminist hero. Cameron singled out Hamilton because she “was not a beauty icon” and the character Sarah Connor as being “strong, she was troubled, she was a terrible mother, and she earned the respect of the audience through pure grit.”

Both the director of Wonder Woman, Patty Jenkins, and Lynda Carter (who previously played Wonder Woman in the 1975-1979 TV series) hit back. Jenkins stated Cameron’s “inability to understand what Wonder Woman is, or stands for, to woman all over the world is unsurprising as, though he is a great filmmaker, he is not a woman.” Carter piled on, “To James Cameron -STOP dissing WW: You poor soul,” Carter wrote. “Perhaps you do not understand the character. I most certainly do. Like all women–we are more than the sum of our parts.”

Now, my readers know that the co-protagonist of my werewolf book “Apex Predator” is, and I quote myself here, “an irredeemably wicked hot woman by the name of Tanya”. However, they also know that in spite of Tanya’s beauty the influences that went into creating her as a character include Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor, Elisabeth Brooks portrayal of Marsha Quist/Marcia Lura from “The Howling”, Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley in four “Alien” movies to date, Jennette Goldstein (who played Vasquez in “Aliens”), and other equally strong but attractive women. The example of my Tanya is one reason, among many, why I believe Cameron should probably shut up. But, it’s not the only reason. Let’s take another look at Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor. Not only is she hot:

Linda Hamilton_Sarah Connor_Terminator

But, unlike Gal Gadot in Wonder Woman, Hamilton shed her clothes for a fairly steamy sex scene (in the original Terminator film). Moreover, and unlike Linda Hamilton, Gal Gadot served two years in the military (the IDF), and as a combat trainer! None of which is to imply that Gal Gadot is somehow superior to Linda Hamilton. The point being that Gal Gadot is anything but a poorly considered choice to portray Wonder Woman.

For that matter, take a look at the male superheroes – like Superman. I mean the guy’s a stud. Furthermore, he has long since been portrayed as a sex symbol. Take a look at the picture here of the iconic Christopher Reeve version. Please note the skintight clothes showcasing the “super package”:

Superman 1

 

I’ll leave this with Jenkins, who perhaps best stated in response to Cameron that: “There is no right and wrong kind of powerful woman.”

Jaws on the Big Screen

I’m still working my way through this year’s edition of shark week. Other than the Phelps fiasco (why must you start each season of Shark Week with such schlock, Discovery Channel), most of the episodes are quite good. I loved the early attention given to the Great Hammerhead, Mako, and Porbeagle Sharks. As I have commented before, recent seasons of Shark Week overall have been trending toward educational over sensationalism. That’s good – keep it up.

From there, and with sharks on the brain, I had no problem saying ‘yes’ when one of my friends asked me if I wanted to see Jaws at the local small-town theater. Of course I loved it (my all time favorite movie) but I also loved the experience. This fifty-plus-year old theater not only put actual butter on the popcorn but the ticket cost only three bucks – you can’t beat that! It was heartening to see quite a few teenagers and millennials in the packed theater. It’s great to know there’s a new generation of fans. Needless to say, Jaws was a huge influence on my life and my writing (with a certain police chief providing much of the inspiration for one of the leading characters from my werewolf book Apex Predator).

ARD DER WEISSE HAI (jaws), USA 1974, Regie Steven Spielberg, am Samstag (02.12.06) um 23:10 Uhr im Ersten. Brody (Roy Scheider) ist der Polizeichef des Badeortes Amity. © ARD Degeto - honorarfrei, Verwendung nur im Zusammenhang mit o. g. Sendung bei Nennung Bild: "ARD Degeto" (S2), Programmplanung und Presse (069) 1509-334 oder -335

What’s amazing is that even though I’ve seen the movie probably a hundred times on TV – it makes such a huge difference seeing it on the big screen. For instance, I just noticed that it was Old Spice Brody was dabbing on his handkerchief when he was chumming off the stern of the Orca. Or that Charlie’s ferry charges extra if you use it between 7pm and midnight – according to the sign in the background you can’t really read on TV and as seen in the film (when Brody is asking Charlie to take him over to the boy scouts and get them out of the water).

What a great movie. What a great experience. And yes, I saw Dunkirk at the IMAX big chain theater the week before (a solid effort with almost no CGI, real WWII aircraft and equipment, and some fantastic dog-fights between Spitfires and Me-109s). However, just like I support local used and new bookstores I also try and support the small town theaters that add so much to a community. I’m sure there’s quite a few of you who would agree.

BTW – if there’s anything in Jaws that didn’t catch your eye until recently please let me know. Otherwise, enjoy the behind the scenes movie pics I included with this post (and if you have any good one’s then please share).

Jaws Behind the Scenes 1 Jaws Behind the Scenes 2

Jaws Behind the Scenes Pic Jaws Cast Jaws_Behind the Scenes Pic

Character Influences, Apex Predator, Werewolves, and Tanya

As my readers know, the co-protagonist in my werewolf novel Apex Predator is an irredeemably wicked hot woman by the name of Tanya. What follows are some of the influences that went into creating what is one of my favorite characters.

At the top of the list would have to be the character Marsha Quist/Marcia Lura – from the book and movie “The Howling” (played in the movie by Elisabeth Brooks as pictured here). Though I generally prefer the movie over the book (minus the outstanding prologue to the book), if I had to pick between the two I lean toward the book’s original rendition of Marsha.

Elizabeth Brooks_Howling

This is by no means meant to be a slight against Elisabeth Brooks. She did a wonderful job as Marsha, both visually and emotionally capturing much of what a reader would have conjured up in their brain as they read author Gary Brandner’s work. However, in terms of being an influence on my own Tanya the book’s Marsha was more sophisticated (though nowhere near as formidable as Tanya). The movie Marsha tended more toward the feral and barely under control. Though my Tanya is not one you would want to provoke, she is more multi-dimensional with greater depth to her character.

Nevertheless, multiple influences were behind the concepts that became my Tanya. For instance, the character Sarah Conner (played by Linda Hamilton) from the now iconic Terminator and Terminator II movies is another of those big influences.

Sarah Connor_Terminator

I loved the way the original Terminator showed Sarah Connor’s evolution from vulnerable victim, to resourceful survivor, to victor. Then sometime between the first and second film, and as happens to most heroic champions, she had her downfall. Ironically this happened in spite of her doing what she believed she must – in becoming a survivalist and warrior – to protect her son and humanity. Yet this self-sacrifice had a huge downside for her and her child. In the second film he had become a teenage malcontent hardly worthy of being humanity’s future savior. Meanwhile Sarah Connor had become radicalized to such an extent that she spent much of the same film acting as a sociopathic terrorist who came across as a paranoid schizophrenic at best – before vindicating herself and rising once more to heroic status.

Similarly, Tanya’s tragic background – forged in the cauldron of war – helps my readers understand how a once innocent peasant girl became a destructive killing machine ranking as perhaps the most cunning and violent of Apex Predator’s major characters. Throughout the book Tanya wrestles against her violent nature. She does the right thing in some instances and in others gives in to the monster within – producing horrific results for the unfortunate targets of her predatory instincts. This leaves the reader wondering whether she will be able to truly become a hero, or revert to the bestial nature that has allowed her to do more than just survive in a harsh and unforgiving world – but to thrive as well. Though my Tanya is different than Sarah Connor, I owe a debt of gratitude to those writers, directors, and actors that gave The Terminator such a complex, interesting, and inspirational woman as its central star.

Now, let’s talk about the ladies of Alien/Aliens; beginning with Ellen Ripley. The character played to brilliant effect by Sigourney Weaver – beginning in 1979 with the now classic “Alien” and continuing for nearly two decades thereafter. Though I could go on and on about Ripley and how much of a strong role model she is for women the world over – I would much rather hone in on something else about the character and the work she appeared in: the 1986 sequel to Alien.

Ripley

James Cameron’s “Aliens” is unquestionably a different movie than Ridley Scott’s “Alien”. Most people remember the sequel for its military style action sequences involving Ripley and Colonial Marines facing off against hordes of xenomorphs. However, in addition to Ripley’s stirring role in besting the xenomorphs, there was something else that made Aliens such a great squel. That being another of the film’s great characters and of them all, who can forget Vasquez. The presence of Vasquez (played by Jennette Goldstein) alongside Ripley makes Aliens not just a great sequel, but perhaps the ground breaking female dominated action/military/science fiction/horror movie of all time.

Vasquez_1

I dare anyone to find such a popular box office smash as Aliens that features a better pair of ass-kicking ladies. They influenced my Tanya in so many ways. Yet, Tanya is a unique personality. However, she in many ways combines the best and worst of each of them; the toughness, intelligence, resourcefulness, sheer will to survive, and strength alongside the stubbornness, disdain for authority, self-destructive, and at times violent impulses that get her into trouble. All of which leaves my readers wondering which tendencies will Tanya give in to next – the good or the bad?

Speaking of bad I would be remiss if I didn’t mention another horror movie icon who influenced my Tanya. The one and only Sybil Danning.

Sybill Danning Set of Hercules

That’s right, Stirba the werewolf queen from Howling II; Eva and Gretchen Krupp (The She-Devils of Belzac) from Grindhouse’s Werewolf Women of the SS; vampiress Frau von Hess; and co-star to Lou Ferrigno in Hercules (she’s seen here back in 1983 with her sword) – as well as so many accolades I can’t even begin to list them all.


Like Dee Wallace (who follows me on twitter) she is a true scream queen and star. Plus, she is hot! I would kill to have a body like hers, and I’m a quarter century younger. She was always hot and is still hot (see the recent picture of her at age 60). This leads me to wonder – maybe she’s not just acting in all those movies. Maybe she really is a werewolf, or perhaps a vampire?
2012-Headshot-Sybil_Danning

Either way, she’s an inspiration. I likely couldn’t have crafted my voluptuous, strong, athletic, and bad-ass Tanya (albeit Tanya is a brunette) without such strong female influences as Sybil. If you haven’t seen any of her films, then by all means pull up the Netflix, grab some popcorn, and get watching! Or, pick up a copy of Apex Predator and see if you can spot the influence of these fantastic characters and actresses on my Tanya.

 

 

Horror, Science-Fiction, and Action: Doing it Right in the ’80s

I have previously discussed just how good the early ’80s were in terms of horror films. In addition, I have discussed why the best horror film of all-time was a pioneer in terms of effectively blending the horror/adventure genres. Let’s build upon those discussions and look at several 1980s films that successfully brought together three of my favorite genres: horror, science-fiction, and action.

The year 1984 produced a bevy of entertaining films that rank it as one of the great years in movie-making history.  No list of 1984’s best would be complete without The Terminator.

terminator-poster

We all know the plot and particulars of The Terminator. What really made the movie resonate was the way in which a classic science fiction trope of time travel was layered onto an early ’80s slasher style unstoppable villain. From there, the film’s centerpiece was arguably not the final confrontation between the Terminator and Sarah Connor, a good action sequence in and of itself. Instead, the Terminator’s mid-film assault on the police station harboring Sarah Connor has since become one of the iconic 80’s action sequences. This in a film filled with above average action scenes that include the gunfight at the disco Tech Noir and a car chase featuring a dueling shotgun battle. James Cameron wrote and directed Terminator and perhaps it is no surprise that he also crafted Aliens.

aliens-poster

Released in 1986, Aliens accomplishes the tricky feat of being a sequel that is ranked by many the near equal of its predecessor.  1979’s Alien was a horror movie grounded in science fiction. However, Aliens can best be described as an action movie with strong horror and science fiction elements. Though the action and violence are stunningly done it is in the in-between or “down time” scenes where Aliens really shows it’s teeth, leaving the viewer with an almost constant feeling of dread. Put simply, there is an unrelenting intensity to Aliens that few movies can achieve.

If heavy action is a central element of Aliens it’s taken one step further in our third and final movie in this list: 1987’s Predator.

predator-poster

Is the testosterone too high at times?  Sure. Can the dialogue be somewhat stilted or even schlocky? Of course. Nevertheless, what is perhaps the quintessential Schwarzenegger film is still fun and entertaining nearly thirty years later. So much so it is almost impossible to pull your eyes away given the film’s rapid pace, solid special effects, and the way the viewer is immersed in the jungle where the action takes place.  This last point is important. Director John McTiernan does a wonderful job of using the jungle as a secondary monster to the titular Predator stalking his prey.

I have staked my upcoming novel Apex Predator (to be published early next month) on the concept that blending genres is a great way to produce an entertaining experience for readers or viewers alike. Few decades can match the 1980s in terms of producing multiple films that stand the test of time and combine horror, science-fiction, and action so well. This list could have easily been expanded if for no other reason than 1982’s The Thing. Nevertheless, I’ll leave that one for another day. In the meantime, can anyone guess the only two actors to have played characters killed by the Terminator, Alien, and Predator?

The Scariest Shark Attack You’ve Never Seen

In addition to being obsessed by all things werewolf astute readers will note that I also have a strong interest in sharks. Movies, TV shows, you name it, mention the word shark and I’m hooked. All of which as a horror fan (and nature-horror fan in particular) makes sense; since arguably the greatest horror movie ever made was about a killer shark.

This month I want to clue my like minded readers into a movie they might not have seen, but one that contains perhaps one of the more frightening shark attacks you will ever see. Starring Burt Reynolds, Sam Fuller’s 1969 film “Shark” is far from a classic (including when compared to Fuller’s other works). And this is for a number of reasons. Continue reading

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