Friday, December 31, 2010

Year of Bests '10

Wally Skalij, Los Angeles Times
"You mustn't be afraid to dream bigger, darling." ~ Eames [Inception]
I was thinking that I would come up with something keenly philosophical about this year in review, but I think I left all of that in whatever posts I published on the blog this year. I guess I should be happy with that.


Anyway, the following are what I consider to have been the best posts and events in the blogs I follow and the interconnections they generated for this year:

The class act that is Jen Forbus (look up the term and you'll see her smiling and warm face right there). Plus, she keeps coming up with great reading series like Audiobook Thursdays. to make the rest of us jealous :-). Plus, I have her to thank for my Walt Longmire addiction, as well as sharing her wonderful company at another L.A. Times Festival of Books.

J.D. over at RADIATOR HEAVEN really knows his films and how to write a review that involves his readers. He brought a smile to my face this year with these posts/events on his blog for 2010: Heat, John Carpenter Blogathon, Midnight Run, Tombstone, Miami Vice

Author John Kenneth Muir's work is one that I continually discover through his Reflections on Film/TV blog. His penetrating and keen understanding regarding the context of where specific shows and film fit in our culture always offers up a thought-provoking ride. His recent list of his top visited posts is its own best category, and his look back at 1979's The Warriors remains one of my high-water marks. Still, I know for fact that I drew particular inspiration from two individualized reviews his this year: Cult Review: The Road and Cult TV Flashback # 111: The X-Files: "Sein Und Zeit"/"Closure". He is a smart and generous man, and I'm proud to call him friend.

I have nothing but praise for John D's (of Nobody MoveGreatest Sci-Fi Movies list (along with his overall taste in film).

Ed from Edward Copeland on Film... and more: brought more joy with his anniversary looks at RAN (25th) and The Grifters (20th).

If you enjoy horror, then you shouldn't have missed B-Sol's Vault of  Horror series, The Lucky 13. Time to catch up.

Jeff's Stuff Running 'Round My Head blog happily draws me to his thoughts on film, family, and song [even though he is a San Francisco Giants fan ;-)], but his look at one of my favorite books, The Use of Flashbacks In "L.A. Requiem", made my year.

The one who lives in Los Feliz and is a writer continues to put out simply wonderful reviews of films (both old and new) at this blog, Mr. Peel's Sardine Liqueur. Far too many of his movie appraisals would have to be placed here for a bests list and just wouldn't fit (he does so many great ones). So, I'll direct you to one particular and exemplary review to prove my point. His piece on Walter Hill's Wild Bill was great, but it was the last section of the review that affected and pierced me with its words and acuity. And I still consider it the best paragraph I read all year.

Sci-Fi Franatic's movie examination of David Cronenberg's underrated adaptation of Stephen King's The Dead Zone, God's Been a Real Sport to Me post, is the best example of why I'm so glad to have discovered his blog, and in doing so, made another friend.

Jeremy Ritchie's splendid critic defense of director Paul. W.S. Anderson, as well as his Paul Thomas Anderson Blogathon, at Moon in the Gutter shouldn't be missed.

Colonel Mortimer's (of his ... Will Have His Revenge blog) splendid 1980's Project which included favorites The Long Riders and John Carpenter's The Fog was another highlight and finding.

All hail Patricia Abbott's continuing blog and book series, Friday's Forgotten Books. It remains a joy to read, and sometimes to add to.

Naomi Johnson's determination and prowess in bringing off the second annual Watery Grave Invitational cannot be underestimated. If there's any one reason why I continue to enjoy short stories (and her book reviews), it was she and this.

Blogger christian over at Technicolor Dreams never fails at writing something interesting about culture, music, politics and film. For me, the best example of this was his Sci-Fi Dystopia Theatre: Rollerball (1975) post.

Tanya over at Dog Eared Copy weighs in two things near and dear to me. Audiobooks and film. Her recent looks at The Ice Harvest and I Am Legend are not to be missed. But it was her first audiobook review, Matterhorn: A Novel of Vietnam, that caught my eye and put her on the follow list.

I cannot forget to mention the splendid piece for the classic, The Big Country, written by the fine western/noir film blogger who goes by the non de plume of Livius over at Riding the High Country. If you enjoy the genre, don't miss this one.

Will's Secure Immaturity blog was another blue-chip uncovering. That he allowed a less than worthy DS9 fan like myself to join in on his superb Deep Space Nine celebration this year shows he's more than a nice guy. He's also a fine and engaging writer... even though John Kenneth Muir, Sci-Fi Frantic, and I harangue him over his Star Trek: The Next Generation allegiance ;-).

Bryce Wilson (Things That Don't Suck) is another choice find. His review for one of the most startling films of this or any year, Black Swan, left me pointing it out to others to take in. His own review of the year in film is also worth reading.

Chris Voss of Celluloid Moon would be my third on a match, very definitely not unluckily, for new (to me) blog revelation. His review contribution to J.D.'s John Carpenter tribute week, Prince of Darkness, was a thorough blast and stood out to me. His post for the 15 Directors meme was also a great one.

I give full credit and thanks to Rachel of Scientist Gone Wordy for coming up and following up with the idea of doing duo reviews of books and their film adaptations. I'm just happy to ride her coattails with these: The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin, The Princess Bride by William Goldman, A Scanner Darkly by Phlip K. Dick, The Children of Men by P. D. James, and The Minority Report by Philip K. Dick. Note: I also praise Naomi Johnson for pointing her out to me in blogosphere and noting her thoughts on Elvis Cole and Joe Pike and review of Stalking the Angel. And hell, she even appreciates a great sci-fi classic like Dune.

While I'll always read her fun and sharp-witted movie and book reviews, and especially pieces like Pop Culture Nerd's take on female action heroes, the posts that really tug at me are those when she opens up about herself. Cases in point, My First Halloween and What Memorial Day Means to Me.

Dennis Cozzalio did his readers a great favor with his fascinating, intellectual discourse on seeing (or choosing not to see) Irreversible (a film I still won't touch). And of course who can forget this year's fabulous and legendary film quizzes from Spring Break, Labor Day and Year-End Holiday time.

Lastly, I must spotlight my dear friend Corey Wilde's last latest book review of Print the Legend. This was the post placed into the ether before he handed The Drowning Machine blog's reins over to the very capable hands of Naomi Johnson. It was published on February 15, 2010 and was typical for the quality of his book examinations and the judgment for the works he deemed essential reading. Besides Jen, who got me started scrawling my thoughts down in a weblog, I also have him to thank for where it is now. Without Corey's encouragement, comments and feedback to nurture it in 2008, I think the recording of my thoughts would have petered out a long time ago. I continue to hope and watch out for the man's return to the surface.

Books (includes Audiobooks)

My books of the year in each category are in bold.
Most enjoyed in fiction
Shutter Island, Elsewhere, The Gentlemen's Hour, A Bad Day for Sorry, The Sentry (ARC), The Lock Artist, The Guards, Death Without Company, Toros and Torsos, California Fire and Life,  Kindness Goes Unpunished, The First Rule, The Mystic Art of Erasing All Signs of Death, The Rainy City, The Shawshank Redemption (re-read), Strip, Print the Legend, So Cold the River, Savages, A Red Death (re-read), Echo Burning, The Killing of the Tinkers, Metzger's Dog, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Another Man's Moccassins, Salem's Lot (re-read), The Butcher's Boy, Envy the Night, The Magdalen Martyrs
Most enjoyed in non-fiction
The Last Three Miles: Politics, Murder and the Construction of America's First Superhighway, The Films of John Carpenter, 13 Bankers: The Wall Street Takeover and the Next Financial Meltdown, Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Most enjoyed audiobook narrators
I can't imagine anybody other than Gerry O'Brien as the voice of Jack Taylor (The Guards, The Killing of the Tinkers, Magdalen Martyrs), or someone else's tones for Walt Longmire (Death Without Company, Kindness Goes Unpunished, Another Man's Moccasins) instead of George Guidall, and Tom Stechschulte simply is Hector Lassiter (Toros and Torsos, Print the Legend). Not surprisingly, more kudos for Ron McLarty (California Fire and Life, Salem's Lot), Dick Hill (Echo Burning), Frank Muller (The Shawshank Redemption), and Simon Vance (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo). For me, 2010 brought great audio introductions with the likes of MacLeod Andrews (The Lock Artist), Paul Michael Garcia (The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death), Cassandra Campbell & Bahni Turpin (The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks), and Michael Kramer (Strip, Savages, Metzger's Dog, The Butcher's Boy).


Films on the big screen I got a kick out of in 2010
  • Inception
  • Toy Story 3
  • Black Swan
  • True Grit
  • Kiss Ass
  • 127 Hours
  • The Tillman Story
  • The Dirty Dozen
  • Chinatown
  • Harry Brown
  • The Uninvited (1944)
  • Inside Job
  • Shutter Island
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
  • Heat
  • TRON: Legacy
  • Machete
  • RED
  • The Expendables
  • The Other Guys
  • The Crazies
  • Hot Tub Time Machine
  • The American
  • Salt
  • Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
  • Knight and Day
  • Back to the Future (25th Anniversary)
  • Ghostbusters
  • Unstoppable
  • Resident Evil: Afterlife
  • Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World
But I'm still kicking myself for missing Winter's Bone, The Social Network, Hereafter, The Town, Waiting for Superman, Buried, Let Me In, and The King's Speech on the big screen. But, that why Netflix is around.
The list for those that did the same but were on disc or streamed
  • Ip Man
  • Despicable Me
  • Centurion
  • Red Cliff
  • Doomsday
  • The Last Voyage
  • Dante's Peak
  • Volcano
  • Good Hair
  • The Missing Person
  • Food, Inc.
  • The Lathe of Heaven
  • Children of Men
  • The Princess Bride
  • Minority Report
  • A Scanner Darkly
  • Freebie and the Bean
  • Red Sun
  • Last Train from Gun Hill
  • Helvetica
  • Hard Target (Director's Cut)
  • Nightmares in Red, White and Blue
  • The Pacific
  • TRON
  • The Third Man
Happy New Year!

John W. Adkisson, Los Angeles Times

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (Audiobook)

In general, I've come to believe that as great as some notable novels written through the decades by talented authors are (and I've only read a small bit of them), often fiction can pale next to real-life accounts of little examined historic events. Sure, there are numerous volumes dedicated to the grand stage that are monumental wars and epic political struggles throughout millennia for readers and history buffs like me to sample. But sometimes it is the intimate story of one important individual, and the people and effects surrounding her, that continue to ripple through time in unexpected ways and have an ongoing impact in the lives of many. Such is the case for author Rebecca Skloot's close chronicle of an African-American woman who died young in 1951, but who will outlive those of us breathing today.

This post has been updated and moved to my current blog, which can be found here.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Friday Forgotten Song: Cherry, Cherry by Neil Diamond

In the wake of Neil Diamond finally making it into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame this week (along with a great and worthy set of inductees for 2011), I had to put something together for the occasion. But what was I going to spotlight here? I mean the man had so many friggin' hits in his career, many of them marshaling me through my teen years and the caldron that was high school, how could I pick just one and be representative? Who cares that many dismissed his work for so long because they thought it only epitomized the 'soft' side of rock and regulated it to the 'pop' for the era. They miss the point entirely by not acknowledging how superb his discography (and talent) is in point of fact, or how far-reaching its influence. Besides that, many of my relatives simply worshipped the singer/songwriter/performer. For good reason, too. So I had pressure to make this count. In the end, it came down to what I've played the most of recent. And it's a song I only re-discovered a short time back.

This post has been updated and moved to my current, which can be found here.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

It's the Little Things in Wyler's The Big Country

My recent (and likely umpteenth) viewing of one of my all-time favorite westerns on Turner Classic Movies, William Wyler's The Big Country, had the whole family involved some weekends back. It was the first time for both of my children (an experience which they loved, btw). My wife, too, sat through and enjoyed it -- a rare event for only a small number of films, it seems. Not surprisingly, it's considered the thinking man's western. Succinctly, it is a film that makes grand use of the adjective in its title by virtue of the expansive landscape it captured (delivered in glorious widescreen via the Technirama film process) and the subject matter the director successfully portrayed in its storytelling.
"What raises The Big Country above a trite critique of contemporary politics and lends it a timeless relevance is the fact that it’s also an examination of man (or should I say men) and what he’s made of." ~ Livius
The rest of this post has been updated and moved to my current blog, found here.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Let me take you down, 'cause I'm going to Strawberry Fields

John Lennon: Where were you when?

BBC News asked this question yesterday in their piece for the 30th anniversary of this sad event:
John Lennon's death 30 years ago was one of those shocking, poignant "where were you when" moments that fashion collective memories out of historic events.
I look at my children today, who are both now ardent Beatles fans (to the chagrin of their mother, no doubt), and can't really find the words to express the depth of that moment, or express what it meant to fans (and non-fans) alike when it played out. Perhaps, it's still a little too painful. I have explained to them that John died a long time ago, but it comes off flat. Certainly, Elvis fans should be able to relate since their moment had arrived three years in advance. Even though I was less passionate toward Presley, I can still recall that instant as well. I was driving eastbound on the 10 freeway, just passing downtown L.A., when I heard the news of Elvis' death on FM radio.

It's not a matter for someone to be nostalgic. Shocks to the system of this sort make an indelible impression on human software. So it was for millions when it was announced that Mark David Chapman shot John Winston Ono Lennon in the back when he returned home to The Dakota apartments on this date 30 years ago today. Forlornly, and forever, sealing those two, and place, in time. The passing of the decades since has only increased my appreciation for the artist, and lessened any time I dwell on Lennon's murderer. But, when I do think of him (like today), it is this quote from Michael Mann's The Insider that always comes to mind:
"Fame has a fifteen minute half-life, infamy lasts a little longer."
So where was I? You would have found me sitting alone in an L.A. apartment (a girlfriend's at the time who was away at an evening college course) watching a now ancient 19" cathode ray tube television set. Ironically, that location is less than 2 miles from where I live now. I was viewing the Monday Night Football game, Patriots vs. Dolphins, when Howard Cosell made the sad announcement (a bulletin he did not want to do):

Since my mother had died two years previous in 1978, I thought I had no more tears for anything. I was mistaken.

Friday, December 3, 2010

But I'd Heard There's No Crying in Baseball

A few years back had as its lead piece, Top 10 list of films that make grown men cry (the original web page has since disappeared). I don’t believe it ever became aofficial‘ meme, but I’ve seen similar reported on various newscasts over the years, as well as other online pieces on the subject. Including some blog posts, just like this one, where someone adds their 2¢. Let’s not forget this UK site is an online retailer in the business of selling movie DVDs and Blu-rays. Takes no great leap that the site looked to spur film sales than make a point.

The rest of the post has been updated and moved over to my current blog, found here.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

My Fierce One Turns 11

My beautiful daughter's birthday was today. For the event, those of us who could cook created a fine meal with tacos, guacamole, and other great accompaniments. Instead of cake, we had cupcakes decorated in various custom designs by the eleven year old of the hour and those who came together to honor her. BTW, if I ever want to get a giggle out of folk who know her, I refer to my youngest as "my quiet and demure daughter." For my mind, I think she gets her keen and fierce personality from the one who shares the same birthday (and who influenced her old man growing up). Had he lived, Bruce Lee would have turned 70 today. To celebrate them both, there's only one theme song that fits.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Song for the Holiday: Get Here

With the Thanksgiving Day holiday almost upon us, and being the busiest travel day of the year, it always reminds me of those trying to get home. When I think about my family and the holiday, being home for it means a great deal to me. As it does for others who have to travel to make it happen. Whenever my wife and I roam anywhere, it is my mate who the kids and I follow to our destination. She is the sightseeing one between the two of us, and loves getting us there. Me? While I have a fondness for journeying with the gang, it's my role for getting us home, together.

This post has been updated and moved to my current blog, which can be found here.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Lathe of Heaven Film Review

Be careful what you wish for, you may receive it.
Back in September of this year, I put together a post for My Picks for The Greatest... Sci-Fi Film Edition. In it, I placed a little PBS film high up on that loftiest of lists for this genre. There it drew the attention of my NoCal blogging compadre, Rachel (from Scientist Gone Wordy). So, per her suggestion for our next 'parallel post', The Lathe of Heaven novel and film, by fantasy/sci-fi author Ursula K. Le Guin, will have our mutual focus for this the November edition of our little book/film series. As usual, the wordy one will examine the text of the 1972 Locus SF Award novel winner, while I get to go back and relive my 1980 youth by reviewing that now famous broadcast of Thirteen/WNET's adaptation of the sci-fi classic. Rachel's book review can be found here:

The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin

This post has been updated and moved to my current blog, which can be found here.

Monday, November 15, 2010

I'm Waiting for This

A western, and one that has marauding alien invaders? Sign. Me. Up (says the Firefly fan).

Friday, November 12, 2010

Never Die Young

As close as a personal motto as there is in song for me:

We were ring-around-the-rosy children
They were circles around the sun
Never give up, never slow down
Never grow old, never ever die young

Synchronized with the rising moon
Even with the evening star
They were true love written in stone
They were never alone, they were never that far apart

And we who couldn't bear to believe they might make it
We got to close our eyes
Cut up our losses into doable doses
Ration our tears and sighs

You could see them on the street on a saturday night
Everyone used to run them down
They're a little too sweet, they're a little too tight
Not enough tough for this town

We couldn't touch them with a ten-foot pole
No, it didn't seem to rattle at all
They were glued together body and soul
That much more with their backs up against the wall

Oh, hold them up, hold them up
Never do let them fall
Prey to the dust and the rust and the ruin
That names us and claims us and shames us all

I guess it had to happen someday soon
Wasn't nothing to hold them down
They would rise from among us like a big baloon
Take the sky, forsake the ground

Oh, yes, other hearts were broken
Yeah, other dreams ran dry
But our golden ones sail on, sail on
To another land beneath another sky
Have a great weekend, folks.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Music & Art: Tatooine

Just so readers don't get the idea that I'm all about the old and forgotten music, I submit the following:

Not only being a deceptively catchy tune by Minnesotan Jeremy Messersmith (the self-described "Musician, nerd. Not in that order."), the paper animation by Eric Power in the music video is mesmerizing to watch. Being the old Star Wars fan that I am, the animator/filmmaker's ability to distill and render the original trilogy in 2:40 minutes can't be understated. My kids loved this video, and have been asking me to play the tune over and over again in the car via my iPod. I can't say I ever get tired of watching the glints in their eyes whenever we share a music and art connection of this sort.

Twin suns of Tatooine
Taught me everything I know
Twin suns of Tatooine
Taught me everything I know

There's room up there for second chances
Singles are fine but doubles are fantastic
I'd like to think that there's a star for me and you
Spinning round, falling for one another

Twin suns of Tatooine
Taught me everything I know
Twin suns of Tatooine
Taught me everything I know

Solos are fine but duets are romantic
A pair is grand but a trio'd be disastrous
I'd like to think that there's a star for me and you
Spinning round, falling for one another

Friday, November 5, 2010

Friday Forgotten Song: Everyone's Gone To The Moon

There are songs, if I happen to catch them on radio or the web, that can instantly transport me back to another time. Place doesn't much matter since the time machine remains all in my head to begin with. Random access memory via grey matter, all byway of music and lyrics. For instance, I can find myself back in the 90s whenever I come across Santana's Smooth (or other tracks from that album) -- all of this care of my wife because she brought the CD home one day. Sci-fi Fanatic has been sending me back to the 80s recently with his thoughtful music posts (Cutting Crew's Been In Love Before will do that to me). Just so I don't forget surviving the 70s, Macca and Wings' Band on the Run (along with How Long by Ace) will not let me leave behind that troublesome span. And if pressed, I will say it is Coldplay's Viva La Vida that does it for the 00s.

This post has been moved and updated to my current blog, which can be found here.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Scene & Song: An American Werewolf in London and Bad Moon Rising

Looking back at things as I'm wont to do (my daughter and I inherited my mother's nostalgia gene, so I have an excuse), I noted it is almost two years ago today that I published my very first Halloween-dedicated blog post. Hard to believe I've been writing this blog for that long. Among the films noted within the piece, I celebrated one of my all-time favorite werewolf films:
"The 1981 An American Werewolf in London is first on the list. At only 97 minutes, director John Landis created one of the best werewolf films, ever. Effectively moody, and with great bits of American and British humor thrown about, it still holds up well in story, even after a good many years. The one thing about this particular horror genre, that goes back to the original, The Werewolf, is its tragic, sad nature. And, Landis, though remembered for a lot of excesses in his films, recognized this fact when he brought this to the screen. If you saw this in the theater (as I once did), many were more than a little stunned by its final outcome (especially since it's so easy to care for those plucky Yanks). The other wonderful thing about this film is its great soundtrack. Using many of the older, moon-themed songs, this really connected with the pop culture in a way seldom done before. If you've seen this movie, you know what I write about when you recall the use of CCR's Bad Moon Rising as the pre-cursor to Rick Baker's now famous transformation sequence of actor David Naughton. The year 1981 had another solid entertaining werewolf movie, The Howling. But, it is this one that I remember more dearly."
The rest of this post has been updated and moved to my current blog, found here.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Stephen, Carrie, and Sissy

Having become hooked on horror and Stephen King back in the 70s after reading The Shining, Night Shift and Salem's Lot, I sought out his books every chance I got back then. Plus, when I saw what the auteur Brian De Palma did with the film adaptation of King's first published novel, I had to locate a copy of it from the local library. Carrie was actually the author's fourth novel, but the first one published (in 1974). And, it dealt with a subject that continues to haunt our headlines and landscape.

Critic-Filmmaker-Factotum Bryce Wilson (of the Things That Don't Suck blog), recently wrote a wonderful and insightful review of the 1976 feature film (as part of his grand 31 Days of Horror series this year) and nailed that age-old can of worms with this passage:
"It’s a story that I think, has the best chance out of King’s canon to be damn near eternal. Because as long as there are high schools there are going to know what that furnace of rage that can grow in your belly can feel like. And those who imagine what it would be like if they just let it explode (Or implode. Am I the only one to notice that the only difference between the rash of teen suicides that swept the country recently and the rash of school shootings that happened about twelve years ago is that this time the kids are turning their guns on themselves rather then others? I don’t know what this generational shift means. Or if it can even be termed as a generational shift. I just know that either way it saddens and disturbs the hell out of me.)"
The post has been updated and moved to my current blog, which can be found here.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Friday Forgotten Song: Riders on the Storm by The Doors

Two things drove me to write this. The first started the idea fermenting in my sub-conscious (something my wife thinks happens way too often and too much below the surface for her comfort). The second simply inspired it to emerge via my fingers on the keyboard. I'll start with the latter since it deserves the shout-out. My good friend (and the only person I know) from one of those tiny northeastern states published a wonderful music post recently. SFF (from the Musings of a Sci-Fi Fanatic blog) wrote eloquently about the 80's group Cutting Crew and their important Broadcast album from 1986. It's a recommended read. While his primary focus remains all things science fiction, I really enjoy his insights and ruminations on music.

The rest of this post has been updated and moved over to my current blog, found here.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Princess Bride Film (and Disc) Review

Though my blogging friend Rachel (from Scientist Gone Wordy) and I have done a small number of what I've termed 'parallel posts' (separate reviews of a specific book and its accompanying film adaptation -- not to be confused with this 'parallel' post) this year, they've been solely from the science-fiction category. That'll change with this one, however. I'll review the 1987 film, The Princess Bride, directed by Rob Reiner. My northern California colleague will set her hand (and mind) to William Goldman's source 1973 fantasy adventure novel of the same name. Coincidentally, I happened to pick up the Blu-ray Disc version of the film just before Rachel suggested it as parallel material. You see... great minds do think alike ;-). Her book review can be found here:

The Princess Bride by William Goldman

A brief synopsis of the film: the motion picture opens to a school-age kid, the coughing bedridden variety, playing a vintage video game while he's home sick. All of this to the worry of his mother, and to the lament of his loving grandfather, who's shown up to read a chosen tale to his cherished grandson. The book is entitled The Princess Bride, and tells the classic and adventurous love story of Buttercup and her steadfast beau from childhood, Westley. How true love prevails, through some fantastic perils and danger, is the main story-line of the film.

[spoiler warning: some key elements of the film are revealed in this review]

The rest of the film review has been updated and moved to my current blog, located here.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Happy Birthday To A Beautiful Boy

Today my oldest turned 15. For me, nothing is more divinely sobering than that sentence. Since I'm prohibited (by she-who-must-be-obeyed) from posting any likeness of said beautiful boy (no matter his age, he'll forever be that to his old man) on the internet, I'll celebrate it with this:

Since John Lennon would also have turned 70 today, I couldn't think of anything more appropriate.
"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."

Friday, October 8, 2010

Works of Art - John Carpenter Film Posters

During my friend J.D.'s extraordinary John Carpenter Week @ RADIATOR HEAVEN, there have been remarkable contributions by a number of gifted writers and bloggers from all around for this event. Included among their outstanding words, opinions, and insights that have examined the work of this singular director, contributors have amassed some beautiful and often striking stills and screenshots that span Carpenter's filmography. Though studios and producers have a lot of say in selecting the artwork for distribution and publicity, John Carpenter's films have received some stunning graphics to help promote his work through the decades. Here, then, are some of my favorites among the various poster artwork developed (by talented graphic designers) for the man's films.

This post has been updated and moved to my current blog, which can be found here.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Celebrating the Escape Artist - John Carpenter

Note: this is my contribution to movie blogger (and good friend) J.D.'s John Carpenter Week @ RADIATOR HEAVEN. If you are a John Carpenter fan, or simply an admirer of cinema, don't miss the great content J.D. will have on hand this week.

Last month, the good folks at American Cinematheque Los Angeles paid tribute to one of my absolute favorite directors with a three-day celebration of his films. Obviously, they must have known about the upcoming John Carpenter Week my good friend J.D. was landing this week over at his brilliant movie blog, RADIATOR HEAVEN.  Here's how that viewer supported, non-profit moving picture organization describes this director:
"For the past four decades, director John Carpenter has created some of the most consistently entertaining and brilliantly crafted films in American cinema, from his savage urban western ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13, through his chiller HALLOWEEN and his adrenaline-fueled action epic ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK. Carpenter’s films have shown an amazing consistency, creating wickedly modern twists on traditional genres (THE THING) without losing playfulness or individuality. As his career has progressed, Carpenter has shown the range of a classical studio director, helming not only action and horror films but love stories (STARMAN) and even a philosophical comedy (MEMOIRS OF AN INVISIBLE MAN). Yet for all his old-school craftsmanship, Carpenter is first and foremost a maverick with a fiercely independent sensibility and a willingness to confront contemporary America's most troubling social and political issues. In addition to his work as a director, Carpenter has written the screenplays and composed the soundtrack music for almost all of his movies."
The September 17-19th weekend celebration (American Cinematheque's second such observance for the director; the first occurred in 2008) included a rich and wide collection of Carpenter films at their renovated flagship location, The Egyptian Theatre. That Saturday bill of Big Trouble in Little China and They Live surely entertained the faithful, and the director's seminal pair of The Thing and Halloween must have closed out Sunday's showing in high style. As much as I wanted to attend each session of the tribute, family obligations would allow only one night at this. That meant only one option for me. I was going to Friday's Escape From New York and Escape From L.A. double feature because J.C. himself was going to be there for the discussion. Here are the highlights from that special evening.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Personal Review - The Visitor

Blogger's Note: this post originally appeared at Will's Secure Immaturity blog as part of his most excellent DS9 Week, a tribute to the greatness that is Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. If you haven't gotten a chance to check out the series, please do so. Whether you are into Sci-Fi or Star Trek (or not), it is well worth the time.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Episode Title: The Visitor
Episode #: 74
Season: Four
Star Date: 49011.4
Original Airdate: October 9, 1995
Written by: Michael Taylor
Directed by: David Livingston

It may sound cryptic, but this one will be hard. Please bear with me. Having been someone who started watching Star Trek (the original series) as a kid, a lot of my memories got tied up with what I've seen on TV. Especially those that intrigued my imagination. When they disturb upon other memories, though, they begin to make an impression on my psyche. Moving from one series to another (whether it's sci-fi related or not) caused not so much disconnects, but cross circuits in my remembrances. When Star Trek: The Next Generation came to an end in May 1994, Paramount had its replacement already in play. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was introduced on January 3, 1993, and was one of the last things conceived before (ST originator) Gene Roddenberry's death.

A spin-off of ST:TNG, DS9 was centered around a space station (a leftover of the former Cardassian Occupation) rather than another Federation starship galavanting its way around the galaxy. Having a wormhole nearby, through which a new and unknown section of the galaxy (the Gamma Quadrant) came within reach, there were plenty of story opportunities for science fiction exploration. Both the personal and the political varieties (including opportunities for commenting on current conflicts) opened up right along with the new series (byway of its new blank slate).

What I found fascinating with this new series (back then in the 90's), besides the ensemble nature of how it used its cast, was that the command chair was now manned by a father. This was a first for the head in a Star Trek series. In this case, he was someone who not only had to lead and attempt to solve the issues of close-quarter politics, religion, and the clashing of multiple cultures (along with their hatreds and schisms) on a frontier outpost, but serve as a guide and lone parent to his son on his journey to adulthood. The backstory was both the father and the son lost the wife/mother unit to The Borg at The Battle of Wolf 359. This dynamic made Benjamin Sisko (and his son, Jake) quite memorable. And one episode in particular really brought that home. When I wrote my earlier, personal blogpost which reviewed the Remember Me episode on Star Trek: TNG, my sub-conscious knew that I'd have to approach the flip-side of that parental memory in exploring another episode in the Star Trek anthology. Secure Immaturity's DS9 Week made me face up to this latency. This was a good thing. In some ways, though, it is just as painful.

This post has been moved and updated to my current blog, which can be found here.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

I’m right behind you, win or lose

I thought about this 1988 song by Rod Stewart when I awoke this morning. Perhaps, it has something to do with mi compadre Will (over at Secure Immaturity) and his DS9 Week tribute. Hmm...

May the good lord be with you
Down every road you roam
And may sunshine and happiness
Surround you when you’re far from home
And may you grow to be proud
Dignified and true
And do unto others
As you’d have done to you
Be courageous and be brave
And in my heart you’ll always stay
Forever young, forever young
Forever young, forever young

May good fortune be with you
May your guiding light be strong
Build a stairway to heaven
With a prince or a vagabond

And may you never love in vain
And in my heart you will remain
Forever young, forever young
Forever young, forever young
Forever young
Forever young

And when you finally fly away
I’ll be hoping that I served you well
For all the wisdom of a lifetime
No one can ever tell

But whatever road you choose
I’m right behind you, win or lose
Forever young, forever young
Forever young ,forever young
Forever young, forever young
For, forever young, forever young

Monday, September 27, 2010

Miscellany (and Hot) Monday

Now that we're officially into Fall, and before we hit The Slide, I thought I'd mention a few things.

Every year, seemingly since I began reading in earnest, I've taken on historical and non-fiction works on a regular basis right along with my thriller, sci-fi, and crime/mystery novels. And annually I encounter at least one or two books which are so sobering that it makes you sit up straight while it weighs on your mind for some time after. Two years ago it was Jane Mayer's The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals. Last year, it was Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman and Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan. This year it is 13 Bankers: The Wall Street Takeover and the Next Financial Meltdown by Simon Johnson and James Kwak. While it may have a bias (and you'll have defenders and opponents of Wall Street taking sides here), the book's strength is its straightforward history of banking and its influence over the years on government and federal policy that brought about a ruinous recession (likely the deepest downturn since The Great Depression) and gave cover to those who caused this calamity. The same group who are likely teeing up another of these since they're fighting tooth and nail (with taxpayers money) to defeat the needed changes to the current freewheeling structure now in place. Whether you agree with it or not, it is well worth reading.

Author John Kenneth Muir has in his examination sights the most universally cherished Trekker film in the canon - Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Whether you're a fan of this series (or not), or someone who is familiar with such literary classics like A Tale of Two Cities, Paradise Lost, or Moby Dick (and want to discover what the parallels are here), don't miss this one.

Keeping to that science-fiction tendency of mine, this is DS9 Week over at Secure Immaturity. Of course, I'm referring to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. A show that was criminally ignored by much of the Trekker and sci-fi faithful during its initial run. It is finally getting its due, as many in the blogosphere can now attest. Site owner, blogger and writer, Will, said it best in his opening essay:
"Now let’s not get all down in the dumps here. While DS9 did deal with many dark concepts, it’s realism on the war/politics front also translated well in it’s descriptions of family, friendship, love, and, oddly, business (see Ferengi, but that’s another post). To start, unlike the much more beloved TNG, family wasn’t simply an idea that was seen in the background with extras or in brief visits to Earth: family was a central piece to the development and goings on in the universe. Sisko and his son Jake: love between a father and son. Quark and his brother Rom: love between siblings. Odo and his people, the Founders: love in absentia, Keiko and O’Brien: married love, Worf and Dax, Bashir and Ezri, Sisko and Kasidy, the list could go on. Picard, Riker, etc. . . sure, they’d have a random romantic encounter, but what happened on DS9 stayed on DS9: relationships couldn’t be forgotten once someone left the port of call."
I'm so looking forward to this week specifically because of this blogathon (and it has nothing to do with the fact that I contributed something to it... really). And then there's my friend J.D.'s John Carpenter  Week at RADIATOR HEAVEN next week! These are going to be great.

Last year, mainly due to blogging friends Corey, Pop Culture Nerd, and Jen convincing me (after awhile), I discovered the entry of one new and exciting writer. Sophie Littlefield and her A Bad Day for Sorry debut were something special to be introduced to. This year, that role is to be assumed by one Hilary Davidson. Her debut novel (which comes out tomorrow), The Damage Done, is already gathering high praise. Today, Pop Culture Nerd had another of her fine interviews (and giveaways) with the author. Jen, of Jen's Book Thoughts, also offered a praise-worthy review of the novel, recently. Since Hilary won the initial Watery Grave Invitational short story contest, at least I won't be late to this party.

If you don't know it, it is Banned Books Week, too! Flickr is presenting a gallery of display pictures from various bookstores. Yesterday's OIF Blog had a great one from Fulton High School in Knoxville, TN:

All rights reserved by ala_oif

"Banned Books Week (BBW) is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment. Held during the last week of September, Banned Books Week highlights the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books across the United States."

"... Los Angeles is a desert community."
"In the middle of a drought and the water commissioner drowns! Only in L.A."

We're only 24 degrees above our average normal temperature for this date. That's all.

Blogger's Note: strike that last part. L.A.'s normal average for September 27th is 82º F. With today's record high of 113º F in the basin, we were officially 31º above that.

Friday, September 24, 2010

My Picks for The Greatest... Sci-Fi Film Edition

My good friend over at Musings of a Sci-Fi Fanatic had a very relevant post on SciFiNow. Issue #44 explored what its readers came up with as The Greatest Sci-Fi Film. Since Gordon opened this up to his readers, I decided I'd post my list choices here since the genre has long been a favorite of mine.

Right off the bat, it was a hell of a lot more difficult than I'd imagined it would be just to select 10 films, let alone trying to put them into some semblance of priority. To help me with that, I had to decide what would qualify as science-fiction. So I fell back to my favorite reference. The dictionary:

Still, not easy. What about the films that seemed more action-oriented (like T2: Judgment Day) or more horror-like (Alien)? How would those films jibe (in my head) with that traditional sci-fi definition? Did it really matter? In the end, another blogger friend (J.D.) cut to the crux of the matter with his comment (and his list):
"With these kinds of lists I'm always wrestling with do I pick the film based on importance or on personal preference and figured I'll just go for a mix of both."
So, I figure I'd do similar with mine. Here goes:
  1. Planet of the Apes (1968) - I'm with author John Kenneth Muir on this one.
  2. Blade Runner - Ridley Scott's masterpiece -- although Alfonso Cuarón's Children of Men made the biggest leap for me this year in the genre (thanks to Rachel).
  3. The Lathe of Heaven (1980) - this television film has haunted me since I first saw it (and I avoid the remake like the plague).
  4. WALL●E - how can I not since I made an argument for it?
  5. 2001: A Space Odyssey - 1968 was a hell of a year for sci-fi.
  6. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) - yes, I'm one of those who adore this film by Robert Wise.
  7. Forbidden Planet (1956) - there's a reason it's been spotlighted by fans and other directors through the decades (like John Carpenter did in Halloween).
  8. Contact - no disrespect toward his marvelous Back to the Future trilogy, but this Carl Sagan adapted story was a more thoughtful film by Robert Zemeckis.
  9. Ghost in the Shell (original title Kōkaku Kidōtai) - I'll go with the Mamoru Oshii's anime film that helped to inspire the Wachowski Brothers' The Matrix. I'll admit I have an admiration for a similar low-budget copy, Albert Pyun's Nemesis, too.
  10. Stargate - this is the one I wrestled with the most on this list. I had to get a Kurt Russell film in here, and the story (and his anguished Jack O'Neil portrayal) swayed me.
With thanks to Gordon.

Friday, September 17, 2010

A Movie Meme Worth Repeating - Films I Can Happily Watch Over and Over Again!

My good friend from across the pond, Steve Langdon at THE LAST PICTURE SHOW, has graciously bestowed an honor and a meme tag upon moi (along with Nigel Maskell and Keith). As best as I can ascertain, the purpose of this meme to identify and list the films that I'll watch repeatedly. I don't believe it is meant to show folks that I've seen a bunch of films (though my wife would argue), or that I have in my possession any keen or great cinema expertise (my wife just laughed at that one). Still, these do typify the movies that I've seen more than once and that I know (and she-who-must-be-obeyed knows) I will come back to again... and again. I'm sure there'll be some people that will either agree with or argue over these selections. Or, ask:
"Really? That one?!?"
Steve himself put together a marvelous list, and I couldn't help myself by taking sneak peaks at those before me. Steve was tagged by Ian Smith, who was tagged by Brian Sibley (via Good Dog), byway of Stephen Gallagher. These skilled British writers (and bloggers) definitely show how wonderfully varied the watch over and over lists can be (and that I have my work cut out to put together anything near as good). The rules for this meme are as follows:
  1. Provide a non-exhaustive list of films you’ll happily watch again and again.
  2. There is no rule 2.
  3. Reprint the rules.
  4. Tag three others and ask them to do the same.
So before the jump, I'll tag and nominate:

Friday, September 10, 2010

Friday Forgotten Film: Red Sun

It's funny how fish-out-of-water story concepts make their way on to films. Specifically, when characters and cultures find themselves literally on foreign soil. For instance, East meets West tales have been almost a staple in television and film through the decades. One manner deployed in such tales can have a lone protagonist struggle their way through a foreign culture as a method of discovery or exposition in the yarn (and for the audience). This was effectively done in the Kung Fu TV series (1972-75), and the 1990 film Quigley Down Under. You'll note that my examples purposely looked at the western ilk. I know it's not a genre with universal appeal, but it remains a favorite of mine through the years.

While I've wandered into crime/mystery literature of late, I guess I feel that style of writing has a kinship with the western. Like the venerable oater, crime fiction shares similar core motifs of "love, danger, and death". Honor and a code of ethics can also be attributed to both. Each genre has a tremendous versatility in their morality plays to express a point of view and comment on history, injustice, and the commonality among societies and peoples. For me, those parallels make another very effective reason why Joss Whedon's short-lived 'space' western series, Firefly, was so damn good (and why the Fox Network canceling it seems so dimwitted years later). In fact, some of the great fiction writers of recent time have penned great stories in both the crime and western sets (Elmore Leonard and Robert B. Parker would be two of the very best).

The rest of this post has been updated and moved over to my current blog, found here.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Friday Forgotten Song: Theme From "St. Elsewhere"

I know some friends that are pretty damn fervid (a great word by the way... so rarely have an opportunity to use it in a sentence.) about the Grey's Anatomy TV series. I can understand that. Besides cop and court room dramas, nothing else has been a television staple like the medical series. It's proven to contain ample character and story fodder for writers and producers to mine for people's musing and entertainment. And I'm no different when it comes down to my favorites (I come from a long line of folk who've gotten sucked down into the vortex of diagnosis drama for their viewing pleasure). My grandmother never missed a Ben Casey or Dr. Kildare episode in her day (I sat right there with her, too... mind you, I didn't have a choice). Probably, this is where medical comedy/drama shows (like Medical Center, MASH, City of Angels) became ingrained in my psyche. I still fondly remember ER (before all the original cast left) and Chicago Hope (before the show lost its mind).

The rest of this post has been updated and moved over to my current blog, found here.
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Thursday, August 26, 2010

In Prep for John Carpenter Week

Besides having my son turn 15 that month, the other event I'm looking forward to in October is the blogathon for a favorite director of mine. My good friend J.D. over at RADIATOR HEAVEN will be celebrating John Carpenter Week October 3 - 9, 2010.
So, feeling pretty inspired by all of this I acquired two films by Carpenter I've been looking forward to. The first is a copy of the film which initially started my appreciation for the talents of one of the most underrated actors I know. The performer is Kurt Russell, and the film is the 1979 TV movie by John Carpenter, Elvis (finally out this year in DVD):
The second film, at first, you'd suspect would already be in my library of discs... and it is. Starman came out in 1984 and starred Jeff Bridges and Karen Allen (another pair of favorites). However, for the U.S. market, each and every disc released (including last year's version in Blu-ray Disc) has basically sucked when it came to extras and special features. In other words, they're pretty barebones (and sometimes badly cropped). So, I recently picked up the Region 2 disc from the U.K. for the upcoming occasion:
It offers the proper widescreen aspect ratio (2.35:1), the trailer, music video, a featurette, and a commentary track that includes John Carpenter and Jeff Bridges discussing the film. Take that, Sony U.S.! I swear, it pays to have a region-free disc player ;-).
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Friday, August 20, 2010

A Scanner Darkly Film Review

Once again, dear readers, my esteemed blogger companion (Rachel of a Scientist Gone Wordy) and I have ventured into another of our parallel posts where we review and discuss a book at hand, and its film adaptation. She (with the speed reading ability) covers the literary material, and I tackle the celluloid version (since I have no such super-human powers). In this case (like in our first undertaking), it is another of the famed American writer/novelist Philip K. Dick's science fiction stories, A Scanner Darkly (adapted to the screen in 2006). Rachel's review of the 1977 science fiction novel can be found here:

A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick

A brief synopsis of the film: In the not too distant future (this one a mere seven years from now... and counting), the ongoing and decades old War on Drugs (which was started way back during Nixon's presidency) has dragged the country down to a new level. The populace is in the midst of an epidemic involving the illegal and addictive narcotic known as Substance D, while government law enforcement has gone the totalitarian (surveillance-heavy) society route in an effort to eradicate the latest drug scourge. The story follows an undercover narcotics cop, Bob Arctor (code named Fred), who is living with a pair of addicts in an attempt to obtain fresh intel on the dealers higher up the supply chain. However, the cop (now thoroughly addicted to Substance D) has begun to lose his hold on his own identity, who he can trust, and the task at hand.

[spoiler warning: some key elements of the film are revealed in this review]

This movie review has been moved and updated to my current blog, which can be found here.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Book in Life as Meme

Almost a year ago, I participated in my dear friend's (and fellow Angeleno, Pop Culture Nerd) continuation of a book title meme. Mine definitely were not as clever as PCN's, though. As we are coming up on that meme's anniversary, she's at it again. As usual, she's got more than 50 books in her bank of titles to use. While I can't compete with that (hey, there's a reason the word Lazy is in my blog's title), I will again offer a response by answering this year's questions using only the book titles I've read this year. Anyone wishing to join in is more than welcome. Now if she only used movies, I'd might have a chance...

In high school I was: The Lock Artist (Steve Hamilton)
People might be surprised I’m: Elsewhere (William Peter Blatty)
I will never be: The Cleaner (Brett Battles)
My fantasy job is: The Mystic Art of Erasing All Signs of Death (Charlie Huston)
At the end of a long day I need: California Fire and Life (Don Winslow)
I hate it when: Kindness Goes Unpunished (Craig Johnson)
Wish I had: The Shawshank Redemption (Stephen King)
My family reunions are: Why We Suck (Denis Leary)
At a party you’d find me with: The Guards (Ken Bruen)
I’ve never been to: The Rainy City (Earl W. Emerson)
A happy day includes: The Gentlemen's Hour (Don Winslow)
Motto I live by: Print the Legend (Craig McDonald)
On my bucket list: K2 (Ed Viesturs)
In my next life, I want to beRoad Dogs (Elmore Leonard)