Thursday, July 23, 2009

"A website to the detriment of good film"

It's not always that I actually promote bad movies (heaven knows there are enough of them). But, in this case it's for entertainment value. The BadMovies.org web site goes out of their way to make sure bad movies and entertainment are synonymous. Their reviews are just this side of priceless (or at least for a chuckle or two). What other site would give the time of day to the unintentionally hilarious bit of celluloid masquerading as a 50's monster movie?

I actually remember The Giant Claw with similar fondness from my youth. I watched it on a black & white television at my grandmother's house one Saturday afternoon (sitting sideways on her living room arm chair, IIRC). And the BadMovies.org's review brought it all back (including my bad posture)--thank goodness I wasn't sucking one of those kid-size milk containers through a paper straw at the time or I would have really embarrassed myself!!! As each of them is, the review is sectional:
  • a Character list with all sorts of keen individual insights: "Pierre - A Canadian redneck! He is amusing, what with his jug of moonshine and irrational fear of giant birds. Of course, his phobia is not so irrational in a b-movie. The Giant Claw eats the poor, screaming, partially pickled fool."
  • a Plot description chock full of fine detail and note: "any movie bold enough to feature a GIANT ANTIMATTER SPACE BUZZARD is a movie worth watching."
  • Things I Learned From This Movie section: "The French Canadians are deathly afraid of Mexican food."
  • Stuff To Watch For: "59 mins (mark) - So Ford did try to design a flying car. Too bad that they based it on the Pinto."
  • Quotes: "That bird is extraterrestrial. It comes from outer space. From some godforsaken antimatter galaxy millions and millions of light years from the Earth. No other explanation is possible."

Add to this eager information audio clips, images, and sometimes video clips from the film itself. See, I told you their reviews have it all, and a bad movie! Come to think about it, I need to show this movie to my kids! I've since bookmarked this into my browser.

p.s., I found this site while visiting Mr. Peel's review of the movie PROPHECY.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

This Looks Nuts!



Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland trailer. And how many do you suppose, when it's released, will attend in an altered state?

[Thanks to Pop Culture Nerd to notifying me that the previous YouTube video had been pulled by Disney, and for offering the alternative site. You're the best PCN!]

Update: Disney has killed the teaser trailer. Sorry about that. The trailer is back up.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Robert Crais' First Rule Sneak Peak

(photo © pop culture nerd)

If you're into Robert Crais, you have to check out Pop Culture Nerd's sneak peak into the new Joe Pike novel (coming in early 2010). Great stuff!!!:




Thursday, July 16, 2009

Chasing Darkness Redux

Sometimes, when your anticipation is so high for a particular author's new work, finally reading it (though very enjoyable) does not necessarily equal savoring it. Last year at the start of July, Robert Crais released the latest in his Elvis Cole - Joe Pike series of books. And when it came out, I got my hardback copy soon after its release, early on RC's then book tour (along with Brilliance Audio's MP3 audiobook of the same work). Even had the man autograph my hardcover on his Mystery Book Store stop (I know... all of this really sounds needy to me, too). But Crais can simply write well, entertain and enthrall you with his characters, and pull you into a universe of his own making that you actually give a damn about.

So when I planned on taking a road trip down to San Diego to a attend the author's event at the Mysterious Galaxy book store (see below), I planned on re-listening to Chasing Darkness once more in audiobook. Though, this time it was going to be with my favorite narrator for this series. William Roberts has read the entire Cole/Pike books, with one exception: the great L.A. Requiem. However, he performs this for the BBC Chivers audiobook publisher in the U.K. (so only a few U.S. audiobook fans have heard him performing RC's characters) And Chivers only released CD in May 2009. Luckily, I received it in time to incorporate the experience into my L.A. to S.D. round-trip drive time. And it was well worth it.
Book bloggers Jen and Corey have also experienced this narrator distinct style, and I think they are somewhat taken by him (at least I think so). Although, it's interesting to note that the narrator for the U.S. audiobook publisher (Brilliance Audio) for this series, James Daniels, actually quit recording audiobooks after earning his law degree. But, he returned to the craft to record the newest in the Cole-Pike line. That should tell you something about how this series affects its fans (inside and outside the publishing business). As well, those who re-read (or re-listen) the books (like me) actually enjoy them more the next time around. Perhaps, it's due to the fact the subsequent take is not being pushed by the reader's anticipation. Let's call it the Heinz Ketchup effect. One can get into and through a book too fast, and miss or minimize the author's words.
Politics is like Oz, only you never see the magician behind the curtain.
Both Jen and Corey produced excellent reviews of the twelfth novel last year. Note: even Robert Crais does not differentiate the Joe Pike novel from the Elvis Cole novels--it's all part of the same universe. And when the new Joe Pike rolls out early next year, it'll be the thirteenth (my lucky number, BTW). However, I only left one comment to either in response to the reviews of the novel, Corey's, and mentioned that I found this book to be a very Chandleresque take on this series novel. Suffice it to say, his reply was wide-ranging and worth reading--and I should have put down a comment on Jen's equally wonderful review, too. Compounding this, I blew it by not subscribing to the post comments, so I missed Corey's reply and his query, "How about you?" D'oh! So, though I'm months late for either, here it goes for both of you: I look at the corrupting aspects that are so wonderfully woven into RC's latest tale. And here I'd can't say it better than how Jen put it:
From page one, Crais starts building up a theme of corruption in reality. There are evils destroying the world around Elvis. First the fires are burning his city. Then he receives news that his exterminator has found termites at his house, corrupting the foundation. A ransacking break-in even results in Elvis' Mickey Mouse phone being broken. Crais has to glue him back together, but you can still see the cracks...the damage. And the corruption continues to build up to the ultimate level of law enforcement and the government.
To me, that harkens back to Raymond Chandler's L.A.--the old power elite operating above those that give a damn (like those still hanging on to a code), and spreading their corruption downward. And I agree with you that "Crais is... more subtle than Chandler", but no less talented. Reading some of its reviews on Amazon, I equally agree that that subtlety is what many (not all) miss, especially in this instance. As well, RC's writing exhibits a maturity in the elegance of his wordsmithing. Crais doesn't need to dazzle the readers with his character's toughness and martial skills when he can intrigue us with his story's complexity, contrasts, and potent observations. His last paragraph proves the point, IMO. With a delightful coincidence (and the fun of listening to Roberts read it, which drove me to write this post), I finished this audiobook as I was about to cross back into Los Angeles County line while driving north on Interstate 405:
The darkness frightens me, but what it does to us frightens me even more. Maybe this is why I do what I do. I chase the darkness to make room for the light.
2010 can't come fast enough, now (oh, here I go again).
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Monday, July 13, 2009

Six for my Wife

Well, I just knew she-who-must-be-obeyed would bring this up, and my nostalgia gene was going to be the culprit. After reading my recent song post, she brought up the fact that I seem to be stuck in a decades-ago mindset. I guess I can't argue too hard on that one. The military geostrategist, Thomas P.M. Barnett, has said:

Morris Massey, an expert on conflict between generations, pioneered the argument. "what you are is where you were when ," meaning all of us reach a point in life where we discover a world larger than ourselves. At that point, we become cognizant of the morals we've developed across our early years, and those morals - or worldview - tend to persist across our adult years.

For most people, that fateful transition occurs in the teenage years, which explains our tendency to stick with the popular music of those years throughout adulthood.

Admit it - you stayed cool enough across your 20s, and maybe you faked it deep into your 30s, but then you woke up in your 40s and realized you absolutely hate your kids' music!

Don't worry. It happens to everyone.

So busted am I. I know I'm not alone in this. I'm sure there are countless number of (somber) males out there who've faced the same realization of when the female in their life proves their point (to their downfall). She even challenged me to post another six, this time for the last two years. Well, that's not going to happen because, for me, the song (whether old or new) and the moment have to percolate for at least that long for any of the engrams to form. Ooh... how's that for justification?!? So, I'll reach back a little further, dear, and grab some of the more recent music and memory commemoration--and yes, I can tie in old music with just over the hill events (I can do this because it is my blog, after all ;-P)

So, without further a do:

Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman? (1996), after the birth of my daughter in '99 I could relate with this Bryan Adams song--especially since I came to realize I was under the dual effect of two of the most important females in my later life (and under the same roof!)

The Year of the Cat (1976), this old Al Stewart hit played on the radio during a particularly beautiful stretch of California coast as I wound my way in a car to Pebble Beach in 2005 (for what was a turning-50-gift from my wonderful wife)

The Sweet Escape (2006), who haven't really heard this song till you've heard it being co-sung from the backseat backup singers that are my children (in school carpool); wooohooo yyyeeehhoooo!!!!!

Cool (2005), "Dad! You're not playing this song, again, are you?!?" - my kids; I guess my children don't really understand that I appreciate the direction and editing of this piece (and both the track and music video are on my iPod)

Just Dance (2008), okay, I lied. Musical memories don't take years to formulate--I watched this music video on Virgin America's seat entertainment system on our way to NYC (and the song kept playing in my head whenever we were in Times Square)

Tears In Heaven (1992), around the turn of the century, while looking at my sleeping children, I realized this Eric Clapton song and its lyrics would never again be just another tune

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Bob Peck Back on the Edge

There are a handful of made-for-television miniseries that I'll watch repeatedly (if they would show up again on TV, or on DVD). And there are still some I've yet to view. Some on the missing list comprise John Adams, Taken, and Tales of the City (and I hope to whittle it down). On the other side, there are some that I've seen and consider truly great (Roots, Jesus of Nazareth, Thorn Birds), but for whatever reason the repeat factor isn't there for me. So what does make that small repeat viewing list? Especially since they're on DVD, I include I, Claudius, Lonesome Dove, Band of Brothers, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Captains and the Kings, and documentaries The World at War and The Civil War.

However, there is one that's been missing from that list for too long (at least of the DVD afficionados). And it has been rarely seen at all on U.S. screens since its initial release because it is a British miniseries. Luckily for the good many of us who have seen (and treasure) it, that'll be rectified (digitally) later this year. Edge of Darkness was a BBC serial drama that was released in 1985 (and later shown on American PBS television--though I saw it on the local independent (at the time), KCOP). It is really a quite remarkable and unique tale that is part drama, who-dunnit-mystery, detective narrative, ghost story, and political espionage thriller. Add a little Environmental-Nuclear Power tension and this series had it all.

Bob Peck as Ronald Craven in the 1985 eco-thri...Image via Wikipedia


Additionally it had an ideal British cast, with a couple of them to go on to larger fame because of it--and one very American character actor who'd dominate any of the scenes he was in. The late-Bob Peck is forever tied to this work, and for good reason. His ability to be both "tragic and intelligent simultaneously" in this six-part series raised him up from a stage and minor TV actor to one famous enough (due to the role of Ronald Craven) for Steven Spielberg to cast him as the game warden in Jurassic Park. The other characters of note play his dead daughter, Emma (Joanne Whalley in her debut), and the mysterious and not to be forgotten Darius Jedburgh (Joe Don Baker). And though it's been available in VHS and on Region 2 disc, it'll make its US DVD release on November 3, 2009.

Needless to say, since it was such a successful original work it seems another studio exec has green-lighted a movie remake of it. Spare me. Given that fans of another critically acclaimed BBC serial drama, State of Play, thought the 2009 U.S. film remake (changed and condensed dramatically to fit a 2 hour format) was such a travesty, I'm not looking forward to what they'll do here. But, I'm soooo looking forward to finally getting EoD on disc.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

My Six

A Hard Day's Night designImage by 嘉莉-咖哩 via Flickr

I discovered a wonderful post today, titled "Six Songs", by Moondancer on her blog, Just.....a wee bit. It is a sublime and eloquent piece speaking to the power of music upon memory, and one's emotions. I'm in wholehearted agreement with her on this, and I very much recommend her post. Outside of the potent sense of smell, music/song has always been a memory trigger for me, as well.

If you gave it some thought, what would your six songs be.....

And since she graciously asked, at this moment, the list of six that I'd put together would be:

It's All in the Game (1958), my mother's favorite song; and when I hear it even now after all of these years later, I cannot help but think of the wonderful woman who bore me...

A Hard Day's Night (1964), I still can recollect fondly sitting in a darkened theater taking the Beatles in as a 10 yr. old. Although I'd heard songs on the radio by the Fab Four, it was this movie and song that first struck and mesmerized me. And I'm still within its impact.

It's Too Late (1971), my junior year of high school and it was this song that marked a shift in my heart's outlook (and the girl that was a H.S. senior at the time shall remain nameless, here--as my wife eventually reads all of my posts).

Dust in the Wind (1977), this song played on the radio as I left drove home from St. Francis Medical Center in March '78 after I learned my mother wouldn't be with us for much longer... Though I wanted desperately to change or turn off the radio, somehow I couldn't.

Silhouette (1988), the same year I courted my future bride, this song always seemed to pop up on the radio. The CD eventually found its way into our music collection before our engagement, and it was played at our wedding reception.

Don't Fear the Reaper (1976), this song introduced the concept of the air guitar to my first born when he was a barely a toddler some 20 years after it was released. Our living room jam sessions right before bedtime, with the volume up, had my wife giving us the weirdest of looks, too!

My thanks goes to Moondancer for giving me a chance to the flex the nostalgia gene once again (as my wife groans about this somewhere out in the ether), and for her heartfelt post.

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Thursday, July 9, 2009

Trailers From Hell

Even a bad movie can have a great trailer.

I stumbled upon this fun web site via Mr. Peel's Sardine Liqueur blog's links of interest. Trailers From Hell offers a wonderful revival and nostalgic look back at old movie trailers. With commentary done by real film folk (John Landis, Rod Lurie, Joe Dante, David DeCoteau, Larry Karaszewski, and others), it's a tribute to film of all kinds (well... from the good to camp to Grindhouse variety, that is). And they present new content (a new old trailer) every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I think this site has it all, except an RSS or Atom feed for those of us who use aggregators the site feed is labeled The TFH RSS Feed (under Coming Soon...) [thanks, Tom Edgar]. Anyway, take a look:









Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Response to The Mist

Earlier today, one of my favorite bloggers, Nordette Adams, posted a very good, fun and insightful piece that examines spoilers (and the need of warning of their existence) for those who write about books or movies on the web. And I agree with many things she has to say concerning the storylines/expectations of genres and series. Plus, it has a very funny Buffy meets Twilight vid that's worth seeing. However, she brought up an item that caused me to react on a written work:
Remember Stephen King's movie/story The Mist? Despite it being horror, despite it being King, people were still pissed because they wanted a more pleasant, hopeful ending, a Hollywood ending.
This article has been updated and moved to my current blog, which can be found here.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

"Yeah, it's about four hundred grand."

Though I had noted it awhile back, I hadn't viewed the very underrated 1972 neo noir film, Hickey & Boggs, in a few years. Even though I have both the VHS and the horrid DVD versions of this Bill Cosby and Robert Culp movie (in nowhere near their I Spy modes), I hadn't played either in awhile. But luckily, Corey at The Drowning Machine spotted (paraphrasing) 'the paean Duane Swierczynski penned to the film at Secret Dead Blog'--I highly recommend their insights on this film. And that led to the free Fancast link for the film from a post commenter (which Corey cited, as well). So yesterday, I finally had a couple of hours to myself to watch this on my laptop via the site stream. The film, with Culp directing a Walter Hill screenplay (both excellent), gets better with each viewing. No kidding. I also pick up new items of note each time I watch it. If I can piggyback onto Duane's and Corey's stream of consciousness, I'd like to mention some of these here (spoiler warning for those of you who haven't seen this gem):
  • when the two P.I.'s get to take in a hot dog meal together, it's at the world famous (at least for us Angelenos) Pink's - and I'm pretty sure the last time I was there with the kids I did note Bill Cosby's picture up on their wall of fame (and look what I found on their web site)
  • the pint of liquor Boggs takes a periodic swig from is Dewar's White Label Scotch blend (not that I was ever a drinker of any note, but I use to be a stock person at a liquor store a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away)
  • the parking section for the setup and shoot-out at Dodger Stadium was number 32--which is an athlete number of note, especially for L.A. sports fans: Koufax, Magic, Bill Walton (UCLA), Marcus Allen (as a L.A. Raider), and the pre-notorious O.J. But, that was long ago and that parking lot has changed some--that section # no longer exists
  • the early 60's cars for each of our antihero P.I.'s are a perfect symbol for their down-on-their-luck and out-of-fashion status within the story and this genre in the 70's: Hickey's white Chevy II and Boggs' blue T-Bird (both in beat-to-hell vintage condition)
  • when Boggs seeks a replacement vehicle (and it's the exact same car), the used sales lot he buys it at is not a actual one: the filmmakers used the same Inglewood Oil Field that's been used in many a movie shoot (i.e., the Victory Motel for L.A. Confidential); even author Robert Crais used the location for the climatic shoot-out in his book, Sunset Express
  • lastly, the closing title sequence is a perfect one for this film (in the contrastingly somber tradition of film noir): after Boggs (smartly) picks up the fence's untraceable money and trudges after his partner, the camera beautifully tracks right as it follows the survivors into the background of the setting sun--while in the foreground the lens gathers in the juxtaposed deadly wreckage of the story's other principle characters, who are now strewn about the beach

I really hope one day the legal tangle that's keeping this great film from a proper DVD release gets straightened out. Film and noir fans should see it on a disc with a remastered picture and the extras it deserves. The free stream of this movie, though it has commercial breaks, is the full theatrical release and is a pretty pristine print. Playing it on full screen mode softened it only a mild bit. What's interesting is Amazon is now offering H & B on their Video on Demand service for rent or purchase. So maybe this film is starting to get the attention it warrants. Either way, I'd like to send a big thank you to Corey for sending me Duane's post and to Terrill Lee Lankford for listing the Fancast link in his keen comment.

Note: a great looking print of Hickey & Boggs is now on

Hickey & Boggs

(click to go to it)

BTW, the title of this post is a portion of dialogue - Boggs' earlier answer to his partner Hickey's lament:
It's not about anything.
Oh, yes it is, Hickey. Yes it is.
video
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Too Funny...

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Varying Degrees of Tastiness

After viewing some of what's out there in Summer Movies during the past week, I feel the need to mention what actually worth consuming, IMO:

I'd Spit It Back, If I Could

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen - this has to be my most despised movie of the summer (so far). Having sat through the first movie two years ago with my son, and being too old for this Hasbro toy line to really care, it was just okay (in that Michael Bay, actiony kinda of way). However, that first movie now seems like classic cinema compared to this monstrosity (I'm actually checking for signs of the Apocalypse since it's making money hand over fist). Where do we begin? Loud, long, chaotic, offensive (especially for the adults taking their kids to this for the inappropriate language and its promotion of the worst of racial stereotypes for two new autobot characters), and for having Steven Spielberg totaling forgetting his responsibilities as an Executive Producer to deliver something he could be proud of and have his name associated with it. And I really hate it that my son absolutely loved this--where did I go wrong as a parent!!!

Tasteless: As In It Has Almost No Flavor

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs - I'm beginning to think if it has a colon anywhere in the title, you should be suspicious. Ever since Pixar began its long line of quality animation films, others have tried to get in on the genre with movies of their own. 20th Century Fox has to be third in line (behind Dreamworks) in regards to what they put out. The first Ice Age was cute, not great (I mean, who could have imagined Dennis Leary doing safe voice work in a kid's movie). But, its subsequent sequels have been going down in quality and concept. I'm with critic A.O. Scott on this one:
But the idea that a hot, verdant land, populated by giant lizards and carnivorous plants, might have lain hidden beneath the glacial, prehistoric ice — I’m sorry, but that’s just idiotic.
It has its moments, namely anytime the swashbuckling Buck is on screen (voiced by Simon Pegg), but it definitely is not worth getting excited over.

Tasty

The Proposal - right up front, I'm a Sandra Bullock fan. Most of the time, her smart and sexy persona and timing in a romantic comedy are impecable. And here, she returns to what she does best. I'll just point you over to Pop Culture Nerd's review of it since she's already said it, and said it well. I'll just add that the wife of Jesse James is mighty impressive in an hysterical nude scene in this film, and worth seeing just for that alone.


The Hurt Locker - Kathyn Bigelow always makes the most interesting of action films (whether they are great or not, they are never boring). From Near Dark to Point Break to K19, The Widowmaker, the woman is a hell of a director. And this one is one hell of a film. Intense, gut twisting suspenseful, and evocative--THL is memorable. I think it is likely to go down as the first film of the Iraqi War that's worth experiencing. But, I warn you now. The director makes use of hand held camera techniques in the film, and its inherent motion. Not since Peter Berg's The Kingdom have I gotten motion sick like I did with this one. Now if someone could only have her teach Michael Bay how its done, the nausea would be worth it.

Tastiest

Public Enemies - out of this partial list of Summer Movies, this film was it for me. Michael Mann is a master of the crime genre, and he breaks new digital ground here with his film centered upon John Dillinger and the rise of Hoover's FBI. Johnny Depp gives a subtle but great performance as the Depression-era outlaw. But, this is still Mann's film and he details with his usual care an adaptation of Bryan Burrough's non-fiction book Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933–34. And though past gangster crime films have been the territory of B pictures, this is one A level film. I can't say it better than L.A. Times critic Kenneth Turan does:
"Public Enemies' " title, though taken from Bryan Burrough’s history of Depression era crime, offers uncanny -- and deceptive -- echoes of one of the iconic gangster films of the period, William Wellman's "The Public Enemy," which starred an incandescent James Cagney as a hooligan so hard-boiled he shocked American by squeezing a grapefruit into girlfriend Mae Clarke's face.

But if Cagney is all exuberant, anarchic energy, Johnny Depp’s Dillinger is just the opposite. There is a formal, almost existential quality about his fatalistic portrayal of the scourge of the Midwest, more "Le Samourai" than "White Heat," more Alain Delon cool than Cagney hot.
Something tells me that I'll be adding another Mann film to annual viewing list...



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