Sunday, January 31, 2010

Elvis & Joe in Audiobook: The Monkey's Raincoat

If The Naughties (2000-2009) were not that much fun, and had few positives for that span of time, there were at least two highlights for me during this period. The first, my discovery and appreciation of the audiobook format. And second, finding the Elvis Cole and Joe Pike novel series by Robert Crais. When television writer/producer Crais turned away from Hollywood in the 80's to do what he always wanted, be a novelist, he originated and began to write about a quirky, tough but tender, private detective with the unlikely name of Elvis Cole. And though it was developed as a standalone novel, its success and uniqueness in portraying the genre with the author's mix of humor and pathos meant a continuing tale in a line of novels (which very much included Cole's laconic and lethal partner, Joe Pike) for the author and his publishers. The audiobooks for the series began years later only after its success in print, and the audio publishers deployed a fair number of narrators for the line over the years. So, in appreciation of this month's release of the 13th book in the series, The First Rule, I decided to re-task a piece I wrote a couple of years back and turn it into a small series that will briefly discuss each novel and its subsequent audio versions (at least, those I've heard).

The Monkey's Raincoat



Robert Crais' first novel, The Monkey's Raincoat (published in 1987 and pictured above), was the first in the now long-running Elvis Cole / Joe Pike series (the author has stated very clearly that he considers them of the same series and universe, no matter how they are labeled by publishers). It introduced the L.A.-based private eye with the case of finding the husband and son of his new client, Ellen Lang. Most of the elements of how the early books were structured were set here. The story is told in the first person by our protagonist--like many detective stories are often told. And, though the hardcover and paperback came out in the late-80's/early-90's, the U.S. rights audiobook publisher, Brilliance Audio, Inc., didn't produce an audiobook of the author's first book until 2001.



Brilliance is the largest independent audio book publisher in the United States, founded in 1984. It's also important to note, the first five books in this series all started out as abridged versions, like they were rushed to do it. The first Monkey's Raincoat audio version featured the smooth voice of David Stuart as the reader. I personally liked listening to Stuart, and his youthful delivery works well for the wise-cracking, sensitive side of the character. However, that liquid voice doesn't exactly cut it for the harder, edgier aspects of Elvis, and certainly the vocal characterization of his partner Joe Pike didn't seem quite right (though some with the bad streets cast of Los Angeles were performed well). Judge for yourself with this audio sample of Mr. Stuart. The other aspect listeners should be aware of is although Crais initially outlined Pike's death in this book, he grew to love the guy (as did the author's fans) as he wrote the novel. So much so, he changed the ending, and with that, greatly impacted the series. Overall, this book and the abridged audiobook whetted the appetite for this very appealing character and cast.



Brilliance did not produce an unabridged The Monkey's Raincoat version until early in 2008. For that production, studio managers brought back the narrator who first did the fifth abridged audiobook in the series, Voodoo River, for this full edition, Patrick G. Lawlor. Lawlor is a solid audiobook reader (I've heard and enjoyed him in other books). However, his delivery and range in characterization is limited when compared to the other professional narrators who've were enlisted in this series. But, there's no way around it. Given the timbre and rasp of his voice, he's an awkward fit as the reader for this now beloved series cast.  Here's his sample. See, I told you ;-). And now you know why he's my least favorite of all of them.



However, if we just stayed within the United States, that would be it. But, I'm nothing if not a pain in the ass persistent when it comes to audiobooks, and the series I most enjoy. As near as I could tell, the BBC/Chivers line of books in audio began distributing their production versions of this set in 2001, and only in the United Kingdom (they are obtainable from British resellers that ship internationally). Additionally, years before Brilliance rectified the abridgment of the first five audiobooks, Chivers produced nothing but unabridged versions for Elvis and Joe's audio fans from the start. The respected actor/audiobook narrator (and U.S. born) William Roberts, has read all in this series (with one exception) for the BBC/Chivers audiobook line in the U.K. As you'll will see, this makes him the one narrator who has read the most titles in the series, U.S. or U.K. He's also become my favorite because of his vocal and performance skill in the medium, and with these characters. Check out Mr. Roberts' voice work from this audiobook.

Next up: Stalking the Angel

The Series:
The Monkey's Raincoat
Stalking the Angel
Lullaby Town
Free Fall
Voodoo River
Sunset Express
Indigo Slam
L.A. Requiem
The Last Detective
The Forgotten Man
The Watchman
Chasing Darkness
The First Rule

Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday's Forgotten Children


If you recall the old children's nursery rhyme, Monday's Child, you may or may not be aware that it's gone through some changes since it was written down in the 1800's (and likely, it's way older than that). Today's prevailing version of this verse is as follows:
Monday's child is fair of face,
Tuesday's child is full of grace;
Wednesday's child is full of woe,
Thursday's child has far to go;
Friday's child is loving and giving,
Saturday's child works hard for its living;
But the child that is born on the Sabbath day
Is bonny and blithe, and good and gay.
However did you know, initially, it was Friday's child that was full of woe in the rhyme? It was only later that Wednesday and Friday flip-flopped their day fortunes (the fate's of Thursday and Saturday were also exchanged, but that takes us away from where I wish to go with the post). If you were born on a Wednesday, you have to feel a bit ripped off by this (BTW, if you don't know what day of the week you were born on, you can find out here). Wikipedia reports that the original fortune telling (by day of birth) for Friday likely reflected old traditional superstitions associated with back luck pertaining to Friday the 13th. At least for me, that explains the reason for the title of one of the better original Star Trek series episodes.  I wonder if my mother knew about this (its meaning, not the sci-fi TV show), or what she'd have felt about it, since both of her surviving children were born on Friday. As a kid, I recall her telling me that my father warned her in no uncertain terms, on Thursday the 12th, that she better NOT have his child the very next day. I like to think that my mother took that admonition as a dare. As one would have expected, things didn't quite work out with my dad's talking-to, now didn't it?. With 13 as my lucky number... and Friday being my favorite day of the week, I look at it as Mom winning that challenge.

I do prefer the current version of this poem with its loving and giving aspect for my fortune, though. With that in mind, I also get a kick from the themes that have come to be associated with the conventional last day of the work week within the blogosphere. One such distinction are the posts and series by various bloggers that promote Friday's Forgotten Books (Lesa's contributions and pattinase's series are prime example of this, and some of the best things I discovered last year). Some great books have come back to the forefront via this, so I look at the endeavor as heady and very good material for the mind. Literary works and the day named after the German word Freitag aren't the only thrust on the web, however. If reading is for the mind (warning: cliche alert!), music has to be that which touches one soul. Notwithstanding my poor attempt at grand meaning, music is well represented with the Old School Friday inter-tube thread (great examples can be found with Nordette and others). And variations on the theme can be found, if you look hard enough. So I thought for this day, the last Friday of January Twenty-Ten, I'd hope, in a small way, to resurrect one book, a film of course, and a couple more forgotten songs that have crept onto someone's known tech device (and lightened his pocket somewhat... shhh, don't tell my wife), with this post.

For some strange reason, the year 1970 has pulled at me recently, and my choices here will reflect that. For the book, I'll select James Dickey's first (and best known) novel, Deliverance. Though I read it only after seeing John Boorman's excellent film adaptation of the novel, it still managed to surprise and grip me with its poetic violence and power. Its tale of a outdoor weekend going down a doomed (and soon to be dammed) river, and how it goes harrowingly wrong for four city men in the wilderness, remains the stuff of adventure and nightmare. Although the film was beautifully and hauntingly lensed by cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond for the film, the author's descriptions and elegiac prose within his novel will linger, I think, in the reader's mind perhaps a bit longer than the pictures.



Kelly's Heroes is an absolutely wonderful oddity of a film. How many World War II movies do you know that are also a crime caper? I dare say there are not many of them. This one is Clint Eastwood's second go around (and war picture) with director Brian G. Hutton (the fine and fun Where Eagle Dare being the first). The movie is pure entertainment (as is WED), with a dash of old hippie cool running through it because of Donald Sutherland's surfer mellow-like performance. Besides the hijinks plotting that's central to its story, the other unconventional facet that makes this film so engaging is how the film begins. It audaciously drops the audience right into the middle of a night time German armored convoy while our hero (Eastwood, of course, as Kelly) attempts to drive his jeep (along with his captive, kidnapped German colonel) out from among them. And all of this as the movie's theme song plays (and as the credits roll by). It is the curious but fitting, Burning Bridges, sung by the Mike Curb Congregation along with music by the famed Lalo Schifrin. As well, one could count it as one of the forgotten songs (it's on my iPod due to this movie). This brazen and totally unexpected beginning to a movie is one reason I (and my Monday teen) love to watch it:


Finally, although 1970 was the year many significant groups broke up (Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, Dave Clark Five and others), a lot of great music was still being released (happily, disco had yet to arrive). Among them, were this pair of forgotten tunes. The first one might quality as a one-hit wonder in the U.S., but Indiana Wants Me proved to be a big best seller that year, and it was Motown Record's first crossover hit performed by a white artist (R. Dean Taylor). The second, Turn Back The Hands of Time, showcased Tyrone Davis' outstanding voice and the heartfelt delivery that he was known for by fans (unfortunately, he left this world far too soon, for many of us). Anyway, I hope you enjoy... and happy Friday.






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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Mann's Night of "Fates Intertwined"

Since it was announced this month that Michael Mann's 2004 film, Collateral, was coming out in Blu-ray Disc on March 30th, I thought that I'd resurrect (and update) an old review of it I wrote 5 years ago. It also seemed nice timing since the events in the film occur over one January night in L.A. BTW, I happen to really hate Paramount's bad Photoshop re-do for the BD's cover art (see below after the break). What were they thinking!.


When a master of any particular genre returns to it, it's usually to the satisfaction of the fans of that maestro or the genre. Thankfully, such is the case here with the 2004 film, Collateral. With director Michael Mann returning to Los Angeles with another crime thriller, using a fine script by writer Stuart Beattie, it's the fans of both the director and the genre who reap the benefits. As well, Mann-aficionados will appreciate him coming back to this familiar tuft without attempting what is now the movie studios' brain dead pastime: re-making successful original work. Luckily, this is not a regurgitation of his great 1995 ensemble saga, Heat. Collateral brings a more intimate, confrontational drama to bare, played out across the nocturnal expanse of ethnically diverse L.A. Whereas Heat had two groups, the criminals and the police, directly facing off. Here, law enforcement is on the sidelines... always a step behind and waiting to pick up the pieces of this two man conflict. And when one sharp street detective starts putting the puzzle together, the director unleashes one surprising masterstroke scene that quickly tells the audience he's not going to repeat himself.

The rest of this post has been updated and moved over to my current blog, found here.Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Creative Writing

Last Friday, I was doubly honored by a fine pair bloggers for the exact same award: Lesa Holstine and Kaye Barley. I can assure you that things don't get much better than that, and I'm pretty humbled by it all. [wife: "You're kidding, right?"] Plus, the fact that I'm among the select few getting an inaugural Creative Writer Blogger Award, at that, makes it special threefold in my eyes. My thanks to the both of you, ladies. Here are the rules for this prize:

  1. Thank the person who gave this to you. [√]
  2. Copy the logo and place it on your blog. [√]
  3. Link to the person who nominated you. [√]
  4. Tell us up to six outrageous lies about yourself, and at least one outrageous truth. [:O]
  5. Allow your readers to guess which one or more are true.
  6. Nominate seven "Creative Writers" who might have fun coming up with outrageous lies.
  7. Post links to the seven blogs you nominate.
  8. Leave a comment on each of the blogs letting them know you nominated them.

First, here's my list of worthy bloggers (and some of them appreciate the greatness of L.A. Requiem, too) that I wish to pass this fine award on to:

Now, let's mention a few things about myself:
  1. I once competed in the L.A. City high school gymnastic championship
  2. I almost ran over actor Kurt Russell's toes with a wheelchair
  3. I'm related to a former L.A. City councilman
  4. I married one of a set of triplets
  5. I read a script that was eventually produced as a independent film
  6. I once chauffeured singer Tina Turner to an awards show
  7. I once met author Tom Clancy when he autographed my copy of The Hunt for Red October

Time to find the
lie
er... the truth, my friends.



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Friday, January 22, 2010

A Friday of Forgotten Movies, Books, and Music

As the southland looks forward to a rain-free weekend after the deluge of this week, that dry hope does lift the spirit when all you've seen since last Sunday is dark clouds and inundated roads. I know we here will not get much sympathy because our weather is relatively mild compared to most parts of the country during winter. Heck, even the sunny and tropical city of Miami, Florida turned frigid last week when the temperature went down into the high 20's (degrees you can only find around here in our local mountains). Nope, we're not even close to that cold. Just wet.

Of course when we turn soggy, things tend to get exciting, locally. Our drivers routinely forget how to drive in this weather (no kidding... many have the penchant to actually speed up in a downpour). I remember long ago, one of our local radio DJ's was quoted as saying 'that it rains psychedelic drugs' in our basin due to our proclivity for horrible driving in wet weather. Approximately 300 rain-related accidents were reported Wednesday... and 500 more only a day later. Plus, try driving through flooded streets like those in the low lying sections of L.A. County that will flood when the precipitation turns heavy (Carson and Long Beach are notorious for this). You'll know pretty quickly how water tight your car really is. And all of that doesn't include the sliding ground, that has a tendency to move anyway (earthquakes), when the mudslides start happening in our hills. This is especially true for the areas left bare when they suffered major brush-fires this past summer (our other annual event). Many areas are still under mandatory evacuations.

So, I look for a little cheer on this Friday. And, I find it in the sky that is trying to peek a little blue (now and then), and in the blogosphere.



Book blogger Jen alerted me this morning that our favorite Robert Crais novel, the great L.A. Requiem, was gathering attention once more. Author Ken Bruen cited it in his novel, The Dramatist (along with the Jolie Blonde Bounce by James Lee Burke). Additionally, author David White did the same with a Friday Forgotten Book post of his today:
And then came Crais. For a while I didn't notice anything different about him. He had the same thing... a witty PI, a crazy sidekick, some good characters. And then came REQUIEM.

Crais blew the whole genre up.

I don't say that lightly.

He blew it up.
If you haven't read the book, it is well worth your time. You can read as a standalone, but I (along with book blogger Corey and the nerdy one, Elyse) believe it is savored better once you have the first seven in the Cole - Pike series under your belt. The payoff is that much more sweeter when the reader crosses that boundary with a familiarity of Elvis and Joe to that point (and the maturity of Crais as an author).




Movie blogger J.D. gave out some well deserved kudos to some of the great film bloggers from that community with yesterday's My Favorite Posts/Blogs from 2009. From Midnight Run to Point Blank, Nightbreed to White Hunter, Black Heart, and from Che to Birth, there are some great (and forgotten) films reviewed and examined by a select group. All are listed here by an equally gracious and talented blogger who makes a habit of doing worthy film appraisals himself. I'm still working my way through the cited posts, but they are all worth the read (maybe even by that one guy who touched on an 80's film about a high school football game).




Author Tom Schreck put out one fun post this morning with his FRIDAY HAPPY HOUR: Greatest Album Cover EVER! The fact that he named my all-time favorite album cover surely had nothing to do with it ;-).




Christian highlighted Ridley Scott's forgotten film gem, Legend, with his Friday Song post with a music video by Roxy Music maestro Bryan Ferry. Some of the film's background is discussed and makes the trip over there well worth it.



Lastly, in keeping with this post's theme of forgotten, here are a couple of musical gems from the 70's that recently made it into my iPod library. These long overlooked tunes seem fitting for this week with their beautiful and moving laments (especially since it's started raining, again).







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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Kan I Be Kreativ?

With many thanks to fellow blogger from across the pond, Steve over at The Last Picture Show, I've been awarded a Kreativ Blogger Award. I'm very honored to be included in my friend's nominated group of web journalers (all of whom I consider very imaginative and worthy bloggers). But before I thank The Academy, my parents, etc., I have some housekeeping duties and need to lay out the rules for the award:

  1. Thank the person who gave this to you.
  2. Copy the logo and place it on your blog.
  3. Link the person who nominated you.
  4. Name seven things about yourself that no one would really know.
  5. Nominate seven "Kreativ Bloggers."
  6. Post links to the seven blogs you nominate.
  7. Leave a comment on each of the blogs letting them know you nominated them.

Okay, the first three have been accomplished. That means I have to name some aspects about myself that I've yet to mention. Hmm...

  1. When I was born, I didn't cry (and the doctor didn't bother to spank me). Since she thought she'd had another stillborn delivery, I scared the hell out of my mother right off the bat!
  2. The Monday morning my wife went into labor with our first, I had an almost empty gas tank when it came time to drive her to the hospital (and she still never let's me forget that).
  3. Being a Leo (astrological sign), I find it a strange coincidence that actor Bert Lahr (the actor who played the Cowardly Lion from The Wizard of Oz) and I share the same birth date.
  4. I absolutely love the smell of ground coffee, but I've never enjoyed drinking it (I'm a long-time tea drinker).
  5. I'm right-handed, but when I give applauds, I clap like a southpaw (left hitting into the right hand instead of the other way around).
  6. In the 11th grade, I suffered a fractured jaw (the result of my '63 Ford Falcon suddenly meeting a 1935 Pontiac after a gymnastic meet).
  7. In the past 20 years of playing, I've met my share of people who've achieved a hole-in-one (some with more than one, and many of them just starting the game of golf)--and I still don't have one!

These are the Kreativ Bloggers I wish to nominate because I really enjoy reading their content and am happy to make them a daily habit:

pattinase - Patti's blog description say's it all, "Looks at writing, books, movies, politics, life, music".

Lesa's Book Critiques - She-Who-Reads-Unbelievable-Amounts is always worth a read (Lesa is in fact, a librarian).

Technicolor Dreams - Christian Devine's wonderful and colorful look at culture, film, music, politics, and skidoo.

Novel Whore's Blog - I recently discovered this delightful blogger, and way happy I did.

Elogios - he may be a distant relative, but I would have selected Poncho anyway because he's someone I like to read.

Jen's Book Thoughts - this blogger continues to inspire for the joy she takes in the author and book thoughts she writes down.

The Drowning Machine
- how could I not include Corey since he's a fan of crime fiction, old movies, football and good whiskey.


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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Donation for Haiti Earthquake Victims

Support Doctors Without Borders in Haiti

Doctors Without Borders is who my family donated through to help those in Haiti (you can click the image to go directly to their donation page). If you can, please consider donating to those organizations that can bring help to the victims of this week's devastating earthquake:

At this time, I think it's important to show that we're part of the solution, instead of being part of the problem (my thanks to blogger MsLadyDeborah for clearly stating this in her post today, and for getting me off my butt regarding this).

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Being Bad, and Good, At The Same Time

Cover of "Road House (+ Widescreen DVD) [...Cover of Road House (+ Widescreen DVD) [Blu-ray]

Mr. Peel's wonderful look back at the Sylvester Stallone and Sharon Stone howler, The Specialist, had me in stitches this morning. Moreover, it had me reminiscing about what films would constitute my list of bad movies. Specifically, we're talking about the ones that are both defective and (when we admit it) supremely guilty pleasures to watch whenever we catch them on cable (or tee them up in the disc player because we happen to own a copy). The so-called, They're So Bad They're Good (and Fun) category of movies. So, off the top of my head, I've come up with these masterpieces of mixed blessings:

  1. The Specialist - Mr. Peel covered it all in his review (especially, actor James Woods' contributions to it).
  2. Anaconda - a comment by Arbogast on Film quickly added that this film he guessed was his The Specialist. Can't say that I blame him. It has the same director, Luis Llosa. But, at least you have Ms. Lopez (looking pretty good in the Amazon) and a near re-creation of the old B-movie creature pictures of the 50's. Remember the Beginning of the End with its giant grasshoppers?. This one is almost as good.
  3. Commando - I think Arnold kills the most people ever in this one movie of his. It is a prime example of the old school Schwarzenegger (before he married a Kennedy). Most of the plot is strictly scripted to achieve the highest of body counts, along with some of the dialogue. But, in between the one-liners and over-the-top stunts, it does manage to entertain (those of us with X-Y chromosomes, that is).
  4. Clash of the Titans (1981) - there are quite a few great actors (foreign and domestic) slumming in this one; and I'm going out of my way to not include Harry Hamlin from L.A. Law in that group (there's your 6 Degrees of Robert Crais clue right there). But, even in its mash-up of Greek mythology, there are some genuinely fun sequences within (and make use of the marvelous effects by the great Ray Harryhausen, in his last contributions in a feature film). [let's see if this year's remake is as memorable]
  5. The Punisher (1989) - this was the very first movie for this Marvel comic hero (and one that Marvel quickly dis-owned). However, Dolph Lundgren didn't make a bad Frank Castle, and the action wasn't badly staged either. It certainly is more faithful than the 2004 version (with Thomas Jane), and not as dour and carnage-soaked as the 2008 War Zone version. And besides, any movie that has Kim Miyori (Dr. Wendy Armstrong of St. Elsewhere fame) as the villain is aces by me.
  6. Showgirls - how could I not include this camp classic; the gratuitous nudity not withstanding, of course. Plus, if you're a fan of the old Save By The Bell TV series, after checking this out you'll never look at those re-runs the same way again... ever. And ladies, if a guy ever tells you he's a fan of Gina Gershon because of her brief role as the corporate lawyer in Michael Mann's The Insider, he lying. It's really because of this movie.
  7. Queen of Outer Space - and if we're mentioning bad and camp in the same sentence, I've got to include this gem from my childhood. There's a reason Zsa Zsa Gabor never earned acting accolades (and this movie is evidence exhibit A). However, I have a warm place in my heart for her stilted interplay with Eric Fleming (of Rawhide fame) on the planet Venus... and no one in film history can utter dialogue like, "I hate zat qveen!", like her.
  8. Road House - few films can attain a level of entertaining and knuckle-bruising hammiest like this one--with all due respect to the late Patrick Swayze (at the height of his good looking movie mystique, here). And it's so earnest in its attempt at telling the simple story of a philosophy major just trying to make a living as a professional bouncer. Like Showgirls, it's moved beyond being just a bad movie, and has achieved high cult status.
  9. Deep Blue Sea - yes, director Renny Harlin has a lot to live down (Die Hard 2, Cutthroat Island, and Adventures Of Ford Fairlane among others in his filmography). I don't count The Long Kiss Goodnight because it's a Christmas and underrated action classic (thank you writer/director Shane Black). But, he attained a so bad it's good mention here for this film, and especially for this one quintessential scene with Samuel L. Jackson.
  10. The Giant Claw - I would have included this on the list for just the jaw-dropping special effects alone, but what other movie in film history could get away with this kind of dialogue:
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.



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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

It's Here!



copyright 2010 by Robert Crais



Today is the day! I've read it, and The Man has written a great one! And as good as the first Joe Pike novel was, The Watchman, this one's better. Read Corey Wilde's review, or Jen Forbus' take, if you don't believe me. 'Nuff said.

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Saturday, January 9, 2010

Death List Part 3

Continuation of the Death List series:
  1. Part 1 - Self Sacrifice
  2. Part 2 - Villain Comeuppance
I will think on you dead, until my husband makes you so. And then I will think on you no more. ~ Mary MacGregor (Rob Roy)
Everyone makes mistakes. It's likely the one tendency that makes all of us human. Some of these slip ups are more serious than others, too. And since this is another of my death lists, you can probably guess where I'm going with this. I'm sure some folk will point to those who chronicle the mistakes of some that result in their leaving this world, permanently. The Darwin Awards track what many deem as enterprising demises:

Honoring those who improve the species... by accidentally removing themselves from it!

Auric GoldfingerImage via Wikipedia
There doesn't seem to be a shortage of creative ways a portion of the mortal population can employ to thin the herd. And while some of these can be funny in a truly perverse way, I cannot say I've been a fan of these awards (like a certain friend of mine). This is probably due to my becoming older (and hopefully a little wiser), and the knowledge that the stories are true... and the consequences are genuine. In real-life, I wouldn't wish those mistakes on anyone. However, movies and their characters are fiction. So when they make a mistake, and it's a bad guy, I do find a certain enjoyment for those twists in the film's story-line (as do screenwriters). D'oh! So, I will list My Favorite Villain "Oops" Moments That Bring About Their Demise, below.

[Spoiler Alert: some plot points are revealed below]

Monday, January 4, 2010

That's a quite a playlist, and actor.

When I started this blog, over 18 months ago now, I never really had an idea of what subjects I'd write about. Hence, that's how the word lazy got into the title for this archive. And at first, I struggled to come up with something to put into it. The more I tried, the less that got in. So when I got frustrated enough, I swallowed my pride and went to the wife and asked her what should I scribble about. She took about 10 or 20... milliseconds, before answering with a simple question in response. "What do you like?" Damnit! How does she come up with this! Honestly, I think there must be some sort of double secret, double-X chromosome, married woman by-law which states:
When asked by your lesser-half about something he clearly doesn't conceive of, or understand, always respond with the answer that is, a) straight to the point; b) obvious to everyone, but him; and c) is an answer that makes him feel like a menso.

Out of Sight Movie Poster
So, that's what I've been doing ever since. If I like it, it's in--as long as it's greater than 140 characters in length. That, and I learned to stop whatever I'm doing at the moment to write about a subject whenever synchronicity came into play. That's why actor, producer, and author Don Cheadle is pictured and the subject for this post. Jung's concept arose again when, first, blogger J.D. final post of 2009 mentioned 15 of his favorite soundtracks/scores from the past decade. And two of them, Ocean's Eleven and Swordfish, have one thing in common (besides the great music scores)--Cheadle stars in both. Next, I got into a discussion with a friend about last month's post from Mr. Peel highlighting Steven Soderbergh's The Limey in a movie review. My friend asked, "If The Limey is almost your favorite Soderbergh film, then what is?" I said, Out of Sight, for so many reasons. Its Elmore Leonard story and adaptation, the David Holmes soundtrack, cinematography, and an absolutely fantastic cast doing splendid work. None more chilling in the supporting role than Mr. Cheadle as Maurice Miller. And finally, as I was stumbling around the iTunes Music Store today, I found the man's own Celebrity Playlist from September 2008 (recreated below). So here I am again, typing away.

Cover of "The Rat Pack"Cover of The Rat Pack

I guess I'm like many that discovered this great talent of an actor with his work in film and cable TV in the mid-90's. His turn as the scary Mouse Alexander from the 1995 adaptation of Walter Mosley's Devil in a Blue Dress was nothing less than stunning (for which he was justly nominated for supporting actor by The Academy). And as good as Denzel was in the film, I found Cheadle's portrayal closer to Mosley's sadistic and trigger-happy character from that Los Angeles-based P.I. book series than Washington's turn as Easy Rawlings (he was still good, though). And from that, I recalled his small roles in Hamburger Hill and Colors from the late-80's. The HBO original movie, Rebound: The Legend of Earl "The Goat" Manigault, was another of his I couldn't help but notice. His Buck Swope, for me, was the most sympathetic character from Anderson's Boogie Nights. The man is just a human chameleon with his ability to become whatever character on whatever medium he appears on. But when he followed Out of Sight with another HBO movie, The Rat Pack, I was very much blown away. I really wondered if the guy could pull off the Sammy Davis, Jr. role. Would it be caricature or parity? Needless to say, I should have known better by this time to have doubted the man. IMO, he was easily the most believable of all of the actors taking on the rat pack parts, and he deservedly won the Global Globe for his performance (and I reckon that dance number sealed the decision).

Save DarfurImage by marrngtn (Manuel) via Flickr

Nothing this actor does surprises me anymore. I expect nothing but excellence whenever he's on the screen. Even if he's in a bad movie, like After the Sunset, he's remains at the least very good. He never looks like he's 'mailing it in'. I don't think the guy knows how to coast. Crash and Hotel Rwanda in 2004, and Talk To Me in '07... 'nuff said. And for being one of the best things in 2008 for the too little seen, Traitor, the man is already a legend by my thinking. And while I'm already looking forward to his Col. James 'Rhodey' Rhodes/War Machine action movie role in the upcoming Iron Man 2, I have to ask: why doesn't he have an Oscar as yet? Add to all his actor/producer work, Cheadle has done philanthropic and writing work for those in Darfur. Amazing. The man's acting repertoire can have me be inspired by or sympathizing with his character, love or hate him in a role, or be scared as hell by the guy. How the heck does he do that?!? To me he's one of kind. But, if I was forced to name a comparable, outstanding great actor, he is this generation's Robert Duvall. And when you take into account his all-embracing music tastes in his iPod's playlist, in his own words, I think I've discovered another facet of this man worth exploring [note: iTunes still carries no Beatles tracks, as yet]. What do you think?
Don Cheadle's iTunes Celebrity Playlist:
  1. Black Cow - "'On the counter, by your keys, was a book of numbers and your remedies...' Donald Fagan and Walter Becker proved you can have jazz, rock, funk and cool. Love the arrangements, the lyrics, the vibe..."
  2. Can't Hide Love - "The all time Junior High School grind jam, second only to 'Always and Forever'. Walk off the dance floor and drape your jacket over your lap. How do you pick up one EWF song? Damn you, iTunes."
  3. I Want to Spend the Night - "All love. What a pure soul. He sounds like he really means every word he's singing. That's pretty rare."
  4. Spectacular - "The name of the tune says it all. When I got pseudo-serious about my sax, before I got into Charlie Parker, I would spend hours after school transcribing this Cannonball solo to figure out what he was doing. One of my all time favorite musicians."
  5. Continuum - "A master. He created a style and sound on the bass that changed the game forever. All bass players who followed have been judge against the standard set. A one man paradigm shifter."
  6. Giant Steps - "The Heavyweight Champion playing one of my favorite solos ever recorded. Sublime, rich, passionate, complete, incomplete, jagged, raw like his un-cut soul is being piped directly form his solar-plexus."
  7. Misty Mountain Hop - "Like any of the artists I've selected, I could have picked 10 songs for this band alone. Greatest Rock Band ever? Damn close. I especially love the way Robert Plant slides all over this one: 'And baby, baby, bady, do you like it...?'"
  8. You Got It Bad Girl - "So cool, so smooth, so right. The only person that had me tongue-tied just from being in his general proximity. Always my go to 'desert island' answer. Super-naturally prolific. His music gets into my marrow."
  9. A Little Priest - "Come on, I had to put a show tune on there. But this one is twisted fun. Great lyrics, music (Stephen Sondheim) and two perfect performances."
  10. I Will Not Apologize - "This title could be the theme for my (thought I'd better include a song from this decade, though). I love this group, and this beat. Especially how Black's cadence lays behind the track. It's good to nod your head and rattle some thoughts around in there while you're doing it too."


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Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year

Y2K: Citizen's Action GuideImage by designwallah via Flickr

As I came to write this, I really wondered what I would say. Or, what graphic would or could say it all for me (and save me from having to write something). Of late, many assessments from bloggers, pundits, and various talking heads on cable have come in for these last 10 years. Some counting and coining The Naughties as a decade, '00 - '09, with its shades and inferences counting all the way back to Y2K (remember that one?), while others insist it can only encompass the years '01 to '10 to be a true decade. I'm happy with the former, but I don't begrudge the latter. And most appraisals seem only too happy for this period to be over. I can't say I blame them. Perhaps, the start of this span should have been a warning to us (or me). Exactly ten years ago, I had to drop everything (including those things I thought I'd enjoy on my evening at home on December 31, 1999) and rush back to my office just after 8 PM. Needless to say, she-who-must-be-obeyed was none too happy about that return, at all. And, she had a good reason to be that way.

My wife was only into her first month of sleep deprivation and motherly exhaustion due to the brand new, 4 weeks off the lot, baby girl in our midst. Add a 4 year-old older brother none too happy about the new situation (and addition) and her dismay at my news was understandable. The fact of the matter was, she was looking forward to a little spousal help going into the New Year's holiday. Having 'the help' come home (looking like a perfectly normal human being, too, didn't assist matters with my postpartum wife), take exactly one diaper change and eat a little dinner (not anywhere near the same time, mind you), before telling her I had to go back to work didn't engender much wifely pity. The Y2K scare, at its height with worry and over reaction (let alone over-spending) even had her job a little miffed she wasn't actually at work that very same day, to boot. But, no one there had the guts to tell that to this second-time mother. I would have paid $$$ to have seen someone attempt that one.

Regardless, having our file server pick that moment in time to have an issue was one right out of the Murphy's Law book. The entire Medical Center (where both of us worked) was already on high alert due to the fear of a technological meltdown attributable to the rollover of internal clocks from x99 to x00 across computer and clinical engineering systems. I had already completed my remediation and testing on our clients and that lone server. I was set to monitor it remotely from home, clink bubbly glasses with my wonderful wife at midnight, and call in with a thumbs-up report. Or, so I thought. Scurrying back in like a rat going the wrong way on a sinking ship, to fix a failing mirrored drive, definitely seemed like the wrong way to start a new year, or decade, or century no matter how you counted or cut it. Still, I did what I had to in record time and arrived home before midnight to share the crossover with my family. So, conceivably, there was still something to look forward to.

Of late, it seems people are coming out of the woodwork to list all sorts of bad things about this period of time. And no matter how notorious the last ten years were, it's been my wife and kids that have gotten me through that chapter. I'm so grateful for them, and I remain hopeful. I look at my family (especially my children) and can envision all sorts of great things with this set of people. And knowing that that thought extends to others, I found this:

Jof's Your Existence Give Me Hope imageImage by the jof via Flickr

Happy New Year everyone.

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