Friday, April 30, 2010

In Tight Places

I don't know at what age I realized it -- nor what spurred or caused it -- but I suffer from the irrational fear of tight spaces. Claustrophobia. That is such a marvelous and terrible (19th century) word. It's made up from the Latin claustrum "a shut in place" and the Greek φόβος, phóbos, "fear". Wikipedia says one study estimates that "from 5–7% of the world population is affected by severe claustrophobia". I'm bad enough, but I hope I don't think I qualify as 'severe'. Ever wonder if you're claustrophobic? There are a couple of easy ways to find out. You'll know it rather quickly if you ever have to go through a MRI of your head, or have to lie flat (with your arms over your head) under a Gamma-ray Camera (by way of experiencing a Thallium Stress Test). Believe me on this... I've experienced both.

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

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

My Favorite Lines From Favorite Movies Part 2

This is my continuation of an arc I started a short while back, containing some of my all-time favorite lines from the movies I never tire of watching. So, for those times when you need something to say...

The Insider
"Fame has a fifteen-minute half-life. Infamy lasts a little longer."
L.A. Confidential
"Don't start tryin' to do the right thing, boy-o. You haven't had the practice."

"Oh, great. You get the girl, I get the coroner."

"I doubt you've ever taken a stupid breath. Don't start now."
Jackie Brown
"AK-47. When you absolutely, positively got to kill every motherf****r in the room. Accept no substitutes."
His Girl Friday
Bruce: "He's got a lot of charm."
Hildy: "Yes, it comes naturally - his grandfather was a snake"
Arsenic and Old Lace
"I don't know if I can explain it to you! It's not only against the law, it's wrong!"

"Look I probably should have told you this before but you see... well... insanity runs in my family... It practically gallops."
The Two Jakes
"What I do for a living may not be very reputable, but I am. In this town, I'm the leper with the most fingers."
Tequila Sunrise
"You've lost half a million dollars, confiscated a ton of useless coke, and been responsible for the murder of a federal informant. And, that's just tonight."

"You son of a bitch! How could you do this? Friendship is the only choice in life you can make that's yours! You can't choose your family! Goddamn it, I've had to face that! No man should be judged for whatever direction his dick goes! That's like blaming a compass for pointing north, for Chrissake! Friendship is all we have. We chose each other. How could you fuck it up? How could you make us look so bad?"
"How extravagant you are, throwing away women like that. Some day they may be scarce."

"As the leader of all illegal activities in Casablanca, I am an influential and respected man."
The Maltese Falcon
"My guess might be excellent or it might be crummy, but Mrs. Spade didn't raise any children dippy enough to make guesses in front of a district attorney, and an assistant district attorney and a stenographer."

"I distrust a man who says 'when.' If he's got to be careful not to drink too much, it's because he's not to be trusted when he does."
Rob Roy
Archibald Cunningham: "Think of yourself a scabbard, Mistress McGregor, and I the sword. And a fine fit you were, too."
Mary MacGregor: "I will think on you dead, until my husband makes you so. And then I will think on you no more."

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

L.A. Times Festival of Books: The Weekend

Yes, our weekend at the L.A. Times Festival of Books blurred by so fast. But, at least I got some snaps of it! Be sure to check out Pop Culture Nerd's slide show (with captions) of the event and Jen's related post on Reed Farrel Coleman (who was all over the place at the fest):

Monday, April 26, 2010

L.A. Times Festival of Books: The Pre-FoB Party

With the L.A. Times Festival of Books now a wonderfully blurred memory, I have say on a personal note, it was the best ever. Having Jen and Christine (as well as the the authors) travel across the country to attend, along with Pop Culture Nerd, made it so. I don't think I've ever been in a room with so many relaxed people enjoying the company than at the festival's prelude. Kudos to The Mystery Bookstore for throwing another of their splendid Pre-Festival Parties last Friday. For more fun insight, I refer you to today's PCN Part 1 post:

Addendum: check out Jen's  MBS PRE-FOB BASH post, too.

From top to bottom: the first three show how many showed up early at The Mystery Bookstore. Author Alafair Burke and Christine. Christine, Jen, Elyse (aka Pop Culture Nerd), and author Brett Battles. Jen and Christine. Christine, author Sophie Littlefield, and Elyse. Elyse wondering where Brett got that t-shirt. Jen and Brett, author Reed Farrel Coleman (who has a great photo of author Christa Faust and Mystery Bookstore's Linda Brown in a post) and Jen. Elyse, Christine, and Jen in their natural smiling state.

If you're on Twitter, search on hash tag #latfob for all of the related tweets that came from the past weekend's festivities. More tomorrow...

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Friday, April 23, 2010

Friday Forgotten Song: Three for the Weekend

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With an abnormally busy weekend in front of my wife and I (including an overnight school camping trip with my daughter + wedding reception [wife], and a Saturday night birthday party to take my son to at Universal Citywalk [me]), I thought today's forgotten post needed to be a triple-header. Though, the selections proved to be far easier than I'd have expected. First, let me state for the record that I've never have been into the television phenomenon known as American Idol. My wife and daughter are for sure, and sometimes my son. It's not that I haven't seen it (you can't live in the same house with the first two and not be exposed to it). It just doesn't interest me, normally. However, inspired by the great recent review by PCN, for the first selection I chose the great Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions song from 1965, People Get Ready. Covered by a host of singers (including the girl who'll probably win Idol this year, Crystal Bowersox) from Dusty Springfield to Alicia Keys, The Everly Brothers to Bob Marley, a song just doesn't get any better than this:

Next, with TCM scheduling their inaugural Classic Film Festival in Hollywood over this same weekend, I'm really going to be fighting fatigue to make some of the great classic films being presented at this fest. Check out what local film blogger Dennis has on his post for the event. Should I choose the Singing in the Rain tune since that film is on the festival schedule? A Judy Garland song from A Star is Born? How about any of the Bee Gees' tracks that reached #1 from the soundtrack of Saturday Night Fever (How Deep Is Your Love, Stayin' Alive, or Night Fever)? Any of those would be good stabs for the following selection. But if you know me, you know that my all-time favorite film is being shown (twice) during this event. The 1942 Michael Curtiz-directed, Casablanca. With all due respect to the stirring La Marseillaise dueling song sequence in the film, for me the second forgotten song has to be As Time Goes By, sung by the great Dooley Wilson, as Sam:

Of course, with blogging friends Jen and Christine flying in (and Pop Culture Nerd trekking in from the Valley), the majority of my time during Saturday's daylight hours will be spent at the L.A. Times Festival of Books. We'll be getting together (at book panels and/or the book signings) with authors like Robert Crais, Gregg Hurwitz, Sophie Littlefield, and others we know or haven't yet met. And after all of that (plus the birthday event), I don't think I'll get to see my entire immediate family back together until around 10 - 10:30 PM that night. Then come Sunday, we'll get up as a clan and head out to the book fest, once more. Whew... I'm tired already just typing about it. So, for all of this excitement and goings on, there really is only one song that epitomizes all of this (and will be the final forgotten). It is 1983's I Love L.A. by songwriter, arranger, composer/singer, Randy Newman. It remains the unofficial song of this city -- at one time, city officials tried to get Frank Sinatra's version of L.A. is My Lady instituted as such. There is no way I could ever see that song played at a local sporting event. No frakkin' way! That will not ever happen, IMO. There really is only one song for L.A., and this 80's tune still embodies it:

Have a great weekend everyone (I know I will).

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Ready for the FoB: Favorite Movies of L.A.

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The city of Los Angeles has been my home since birth. The same goes for my wife of 21 years, and naturally, my kids. One of the ongoing joys for this Angeleno family of mine is our annual trek out to the neighborhood of Westwood and participating in the annual L.A. Times Festival of Books on the campus of U.C.L.A. Besides all of the festival exhibitions, panels, and indy book store booths available for those who love books, there are all sorts of happenings, references, and information on the history and the ongoing discourse of film at the festival, too. Every year, some of the book panels are dedicated to the movies in our lives, along with the remarkable craft of screenwriting. You even have actors and directors promoting their written work from time-to-time. I found out today that David Lynch will be on hand to sign his latest book, Catching the Big Fish, at Book Soup's booth come Saturday.

As well, there's always something going on in this city, and sometimes they involve both book and film... and they conflict. Case in point, TCM (Turner Classic Movies) chose this same weekend for their inaugural TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood (April 22 - 25). Late last year, my friend Corey encouraged me to go this (he'd been having his own TCM-fest on cable). I didn't realize, at the time, it was going to all occur on this weekend! Arghhh... So, on top of the Festival of Books, some of the all-time great film classics will be on glorious display in theaters by the area of the Cahuenga Pass. I'll still try and make a couple of the films late at night this weekend (if time and energy allow) while spending my daylight hours with my good blogger friends over at the book fest by the Sepulveda Pass. I'll also begin lobbying TCM to move next year's film fest away from the same traditional weekend as the Festival of Books (we'll see how that goes). In the meantime, I will complete the latter segment from yesterday's FoB post which was based upon the recent Jacket Copy blog interview of author T. Jefferson Parker and his annual attendance at the festival. JC's last question for the local  author fit well into this week's forthcoming festivities:
"Do you have a favorite book or movie about Los Angeles?"
TJP's favorite L.A. movie: Chinatown. In keeping with his excellent book choice of yesterday, the author sure knows his movies (my answers are after the jump).

I've moved and updated this post to my current blog, which can be found here.

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Ready for the FoB: Favorite Books of L.A.

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When I think of the month of April, besides the annual bloodletting involved with state and federal income tax preparation, this time of year has a decidedly literary bent for those of us who love reading. I'm referring to the upcoming and annual L.A. Times Festival of Books. It really is a large, one of kind event where books and authors take center stage big time on the campus of U.C.L.A. The collegial setting seems to bring out a huge number of local readers and draws others from across the country. Last year, I got to meet book blogger Jen in her first foray out here to cover this event (and that was a real treat). And because of her, and the nature of the web, last year's event led to further connections with writer/blogger Naomi, who just so happened to recommend a book panel post by the blogger known as Pop Culture Nerd (who was also there and lives in the southland).

Following all these folks on the internet then led to friendships and further connections to a host of others I now read on a regular basis. This now includes the spirited reader and social butterfly, Christine. All of this makes for lively conversations flying through the ether. Jen is soon to be heading to SoCal from Ohio once more to attend this year's FoB, and Christine will be making her first visit (leaving a day later from Nashville) to be present at the book event, as well (though, she's already familiar with L.A.). So, it promises to be a much bigger happening this time around in 2010. The coordination of the when and where's for this group is already in full swing. I'm sure we'll have a brainstorming session during Friday's annual Pre-FoB party at The Mystery Bookstore. We'll be primarily plotting to see how we can 1) covertly abscond Naomi, Novel Whore, and Lesa temporarily away from Ohio, New York, and Arizona (respectively) and into LaLa Land orbit for next year's book occasion, 2) find our missing and dear friend Corey Wilde, and 3) figure out why the publisher continues to hold back Don Winslow's great sequel to The Dawn Patrol, The Gentlemen's Hour, from U.S. readers. In the meantime, Pop Culture Nerd already started the Festival of Books sneaks by linking us to the recent Jacket Copy blog interview of author T. Jefferson Parker and his annual attendance at the festival. I thought JC's last question for the local  author fit well into this week's forthcoming festivities. So, I'll use his response for a couple of posts this week to stay in that celebratory spirit:
"Do you have a favorite book or movie about Los Angeles?"
TJP's favorite L.A. book: True Confessions. And a good choice it is -- one I'd expect from the SoCal native…

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

Friday, April 16, 2010

Friday Forgotten Movie: Sorcerer

Whether some films are doomed to failure because of bad timing on their release, or in combination with a lack of understanding by those (few) that initially see it, it is a continual shame when a great film is left on the trash heap of history. Such was the case for the forgotten gem from 1977, director William Friedkin's Sorcerer. It remains a movie lost to time and notoriety (due of its difficult shoot in a jungle location in the Dominican Republic, and a host of travails in getting it completed), and being the production where its director earned his less-than-affectionate nickname, "Hurricane Billy." Big name stars (or soon to be big names) either wanted the lead role or turned it down. Although I was one of those few who actually saw this film in a darkened theater on its short-lived first run, the film has never really left me. It made that much of an impression. Still, I can't take credit for identifying it for this week's forgotten post.

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

Thursday, April 15, 2010

My Favorite Lines From Favorite Movies Part 1

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There are times, in any number of situations, when the most ideal response you can say to someone or to what's happening around you, is a singular quote from a movie. It makes sense, too. Some of the best writers of dialogue on the planet have written for film throughout the decades. This is particularly true for the very quotable first film I highlight below, and as stated so persuasively by blogger B-Sol in his fine review of said film back in February. Okay, I'll also stipulate for the record that for other times it's best to just keep 'your big yap shut'. But that would effectively kill the rest of the blog post, so we'll just move on with my original intent. The following (in no particular order) is the start of an arc for some of my all-time favorite lines from the movies I never tire of. So, for those times when you need something to say...

Capt. Renault: "What in heaven's name brought you to Casablanca?"
Rick Blaine: "My health. I came to Casablanca for the waters."
Capt. Renault: "The waters? What waters? We're in the desert."
Rick Blaine: "I was misinformed."
"Might as well be frank, monsieur. It would take a miracle to get you out of Casablanca, and the Germans have outlawed miracles."
Rick Blaine: "And remember, this gun is pointed right at your heart."
Capt. Renault: "That is my *least* vulnerable spot."
Pulp Fiction
"No one needs to know about this except you, me and Mr. Soon-To-Be-Living-The-Rest-of-His-Short-Ass-Life-in-Agonizing-Pain Rapist here."
"He knew the risks, he didn't have to be there. It rains... you get wet."
It's A Wonderful Life
"One man's life touches so many others, when he's not there it leaves an awfully big hole."
"Course I'm respectable. I'm old. Politicians, ugly buildings, and whores all get respectable if they last long enough."
Apocalypse Now
"Everyone gets everything he wants. I wanted a mission, and for my sins, they gave me one."
Tequila Sunrise
"What is it, Nick? You need some chapstick or some lip gloss or something, Nick, because your lips keep getting stuck on your teeth. Or is that your idea of a smile?"
The Usual Suspects
"Back when I was picking beans in Guatemala, we used to make fresh coffee, right off the trees I mean. That was good. This is sh*t but, hey, I'm in a police station."
The Maltese Falcon
Brigid O'Shaughnessy: "I haven't lived a good life. I've been bad, worse than you could know."
Sam Spade: "You know, that's good, because if you actually were as innocent as you pretend to be, we'd never get anywhere."
The Silence of the Lambs
"I do wish we could chat longer, but, I'm having an old friend for dinner."

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Elvis & Joe in Audiobook: Recap & Odds 'n Ends

The Elvis Cole and Joe Pike novel series by Robert Crais totals 13 books as of April 2010. Each of my posts in this series arc are linked below:

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

The Narrator Round-Up

For the series of books, there have been 11 narrators who've read the 41 associated English-spoken audiobooks that I could identify. These audio readers include the series author, a former ad agency executive turned voice artist, and the remainder were actors by training and experience (TV, film, stage) who specialized in performing spoken word versions of books (among other things). The audiobook breakdown for each narrator is below (their total number of audiobook versions done in the series are in parentheses). Only 4 narrators total did one audiobook presentation each, 1 did only two, 3 did three, and the remaining 3 covered the lion share for the series with six, nine, eleven audiobook performances between them (26/41).

Robert Crais (3):

The Forgotten Man (abridged), The First Rule (abridged & unabridged)

James Daniels (9):

Lullaby Town (abridged), Free Fall (abridged), The Last Detective (abridged & unabridged), The Forgotten Man (unabridged), The Watchman (abridged & unabridged), Chasing Darkness (abridged & unabridged)

Mel Foster (3):

Lullaby Town (unabridged), Free Fall (unabridged), Voodoo River (unabridged)

William Hootkins (1):

L.A. Requiem (abridged)

Patrick G. Lawlor (3):

The Monkey's Raincoat (unabridged), Stalking the Angel (unabridged), Voodoo River (abridged)

John Bedford Lloyd (1):

L.A. Requiem (abridged)

Ron McLarty (1):

L.A. Requiem (unabridged)

Michael Prichard (2)

Sunset Express (unabridged), Indigo Slam (unabridged)

James Remar (1)

Voodoo River (abridged)

William Roberts (11):

The Monkey's Raincoat (unabridged), Stalking the Angel (unabridged), Lullaby Town (unabridged), Free Fall (unabridged), Voodoo River (unabridged), Sunset Express (unabridged), Indigo Slam (unabridged), The Last Detective (unabridged), The Forgotten Man (unabridged), The Watchman (unabridged), Chasing Darkness (unabridged)

David Stuart (6):

The Monkey's Raincoat (abridged), Stalking the Angel (abridged), Sunset Express (abridged & unabridged), Indigo Slam (abridged & unabridged)

Odds 'n Ends Audio Clips

The Monkey's Raincoat: "Ellen was still in the door..."
Stalking the Angel: "... could be hotter."
Lullaby Town: "Being a stranger in a small town is like..."
Free Fall: "I'm known as the king of rockin' detectives..."
Voodoo River: "... conversation is not his forte."
Sunset Express: "Hell, yes. What an ending!"
Indigo Slam: "... snubbed by my cat."
L.A. Requiem: 1) "How come you ain’t sayin’ nothin..."   2) "Who?"
The Last Detective: "The Los Angeles River is small, but mean..."
The Forgotten Man: "It was good to be home."
The Watchman: "... and sailed by men who lived by their belief in monsters."
Chasing Darkness: "It is a small house on the lip of a canyon..."
The First Rule: 1) "You good?"  2) "I'm his people."

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Friday, April 9, 2010

Friday Forgotten Movie: A Man Could Get Killed

This being April and all, some Spring-strangeness seems to be at work around me (or maybe it's just my allergies). One of my all-time favorite stars is James Garner, and I've been thinking of him as of late. I firmly believe he's been one of the most underrated (though well known) TV and film actors. Like many my age, my first introduction to the man came as a kid via his starring role in the Maverick TV series. IMO, Garner has been such a versatile performer over the decades that he's been taken for granted in many of his roles (and forgotten somewhat for his earlier work). His acting chops allowed him to appear in all sorts of westerns, war films, private detective TV/movies, comedies, and dramas. You name it, he's done it. Just about all of his work has been so consistently top notch (even if the some of the movies were not). He played the only character I know of who figured a way to dispose of Bruce Lee in a film. His performances in whatever TV show or movie always seems to be accomplished with such relaxed ease, too (though, it's well known that this Oklahoma born actor has been one of the hardest working people in Hollywood). If I catch one of his films on cable, I'll stop whatever I'm doing and watch. If a repeat of an old Rockford Files episode shows up on syndicated TV, I've got to see which one it is and squeeze some time with the vaunted character he crafted (and I'll go on record to say it is the height of arrogance by a studio to think Dermot Mulroney can fill Garner's shoes in a new Rockford Files series).

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

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Elvis & Joe in Audiobook: The First Rule

With 2010's release of the 13th book (a lucky number for me) in the Elvis Cole and Joe Pike novel series by Robert Crais, this is the my final review in the arc that examines each novel and the audiobook versions that came out of them. All of this traces back to when television writer/producer Crais turned away from Hollywood more than 20 years ago to do what he always wanted, be a novelist. He originated a quirky but distinctive private detective with the unlikely name of Elvis Cole, and his memorable laconic partner, Joe Pike. That first book's success, The Monkey's Raincoat, brought the P.I. genre something extraordinary byway of the author's writing style and remarkable characterizations. The humor that epitomizes Robert Crais, along with the rich relationships and poignancy of his stories, brought the soon-to-be popular series to the fore of the mystery crime class. While the series works on its third decade with publishers and admirers, Elvis and Joe still continue to earn new fans with each new book release.

The First Rule

Robert Crais' thirteenth novel, The First Rule (print published in January 2010 for the U.S. market and pictured above - in sharp contrast of U.K. release, this cover art reaches back to previously established L.A. cityscape views of earlier books) returns Joe Pike to the forefront with the second book with this fan favorite in the lead. I could attempt my own synopsis of this novel, but I'll highlight the one done by Corey Wilde last November, instead:
"When Frank Meyers, ex-mercenary turned husband-father-businessman-upstanding citizen, is murdered along with his wife and children in a home invasion, Joe Pike takes strong exception. The dead man had been one of Pike's men during his professional soldier days. And Meyer wasn't just another soldier; he was the one man all the other soldiers thought had a real chance at a normal life. And Frank was succeeding - or was he? Pike will do whatever he must to find and bring down the killers, and learn the truth about his friend."
Whereas the author in the previous Joe Pike novel (The Watchman) had the taciturn one immediately trading gunshots this side of the prologue, here our protagonist is confronted with the brutal loss of a friend from his past. Essentially, what Robert Crais sets up from the start is a story of friendships and family, with L.A.'s Serbian mob serving as the counterpoint to Joe Pike. The thieves code, referred to by the novel's title, follows the Russian mobster's principle that nothing is more important than the gang they belong to (and family and children do not matter). Here, they'll be pitted against the one person where friendship means just about everything (including the guiding morality he's crafted). Because of this, Pike is placed again in a role that is preferred by his base of fans - that of the lethal hunter. Still, as he's done many times before, Crais manages to surprise readers with the depth of his two lead characters in this chain of novels. As Corey wrote,
"... as a result, instead of a generic action-thriller with a cardboard superman, the story carries an emotional wallop that resonates long after the last gun is fired."
As has been his inclination in the series, the author brings back and expands on a character seen in previous books (namely The Last Detective and The Watchman), that of Jon Stone. The former-mercenary and current Professional Military Contractor broker brings an added level of passion to these proceedings. Though the reader can spot elements of both Joe and Elvis in his personality, he is an altogether unique persona (and one you want to read more of). As fans have come to expect, he's a marvelous addition to the carefully built character universe by this novelist. However, everything still orbits around Elvis and Joe. It's stated best by Robert Crais himself:
"... I could no more write a Joe Pike novel without Elvis than I could write an Elvis Cole novel without Joe. These guys are more than partners. They are friends. They are two underdogs who have turned themselves into heroes."

Brilliance Audio, no surprise, used the same artwork as that of the U.S. hardcover. What was surprising, however, was their answer to the retirement of their most experienced U.S. audiobook narrator of the series, James Daniels (who now practices law). This time, the publisher sought out the author to read both the audio unabridged and abridged versions for the new release. As I covered previously, Crais has had experience in doing the abridged audiobooks for The Forgotten Man and his standalone novel Hostage, for this publisher. As the author told book tour audiences this year, Brilliance asked him if he'd take over reader duties for this novel. In the past, such a job would have taken him away from his L.A. home/writing routine and required him to travel to the publisher's home base in Michigan. Nevertheless, they wanted him enough for this novel's audio form they brought out a studio crew to Los Angeles for this stint. All in all, he spent 6 days recording both versions. For this novel, author Robert Crais performed his first unabridged reading (8:12 run-time), along with its abridged (4:36) double-duty.

Normally, given my audiobook experience I'm very much against authors reading their own books, with the exception of those reading their non-fiction bio work (Jake Adelstein narrating his Tokyo Vice book being an excellent example of this). Many authors tend to be out of their depth, and lack the vocal, linguistic, and/or acting skills to pull it off (cough... Mark Bowden... cough). So, I was apprehensive when BA announced my favorite author as the The First Rule's narrator prior to its release. I have to admit, though, I was pleasantly surprised when I began reviewing the author's earlier abridged audio work during this series. Plus, his unabridged TFR reading was also his best work in the entire line (IMO). Although, I noted Brilliance sound engineers did not enhance the recording with their hallmark phone modulation touches as they've done with other works (this was likely due to working away from their home studio). Crais is at his best voicing and bringing to life Joe, Elvis, and Jon Stone in the audiobook, but weaker where I'd expect (foreign accents and women character vocalizations). Still, his reading easily involved the listener, and that's all that really matters for audio and series fans. His voice work took nothing away from the story, and added wonderfully to it at key moments. The unabridged sample passage is below (the download link is here):

I really wanted to contrast the passage on the shorter version, but that same portion of the conversation doesn't exist on this abridgement. Take that as you will. Given the recent track record, the UK BBC version (with their narrator William Roberts) probably isn't expected till sometime next year (I will re-visit this when it is released).

Next up: recap & odd 'n ends

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

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Thursday, April 1, 2010

Dueling Concepts

As we leave behind the winter doldrums, pre-summer movies are making their way to the surface. During the coldest season of the year, the studios typically release films they have little in the way of expectation. The lightweights are called out early when hardly anyone's in the seats during the bleakest parts of the season. I'm not saying the films that come out right after the New Year's holiday are poor quality (some are far from it). But, I doubt the movie execs care much about the films since they flung them out so early in the year. So, as the spring begins to thaw the country out, those films with higher hopes hit the theaters to wet the appetites of the public for the box office bruisers to come during the annual summer movie season. This is why April is loaded with those the studios deem more worthy at generating ticket sales: Clash of the Titans, Date Night, Kick Ass, Death at a Funeral, and a movie I'll cite below. By this time, we're not suppose to realize the summer now begins with the start of May, for christssakes. It's all too predictable (although, that won't stop my son and I from getting into line for Iron Man 2).

What's also unsurprising are the movies, or pairs of very similar movies, that show up from time-to-time. Competing studios will come up with a corresponding idea, or the concept of one, that they think will be HOT. They'll plan and rush to produce them in time to put them out on the schedule before the other guy. Usually, they'll appear within almost a year of each other in hopes their film will be the one that sticks with the audience (or at least their wallets). April 2010 is no different and will have the first of these:

Which, as you can see, seems entirely in response to this film that'll come out during the summer:

Who knows how this year's duel will turn out. Both are expected to be pure escapist fare, but The Losers does come off as A-Team lite since the latter is better known because of its Stephen J. Cannell TV pedigree. We shall see. However, I do know which ones I picked in the past regarding such concept film face-offs (along with my favorite reviews for those choices):

No, I'm Wyatt Earp: Tombstone (1993) vs. Wyatt Earp (1994) - This one is no contest. Tombstone is one of my all-time favorite westerns. Kasdan's Wyatt Earp may be the most true biopic-like of the two, but it forgot how to be enjoyable. George Cosmatos knew how to direct a western, but Kasdan's attempts at the genre (the other being Silverado) simply don't cut it, IMO. Plus as a pair, Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer were head and shoulders over the dour Kevin Costner and Dennis Quaid for the leads (you actually liked Kurt and Val). Highlight review by film blogger Livius.


Killer Asteroids Come A Kallin': Armageddon (1998) vs. Deep Impact (1998) - Yes, I'll admit both films are soppy disaster flicks. But, at least Deep Impact makes attempts at being a bit more cerebral and not so over-the-top (plus it has the great Morgan Freeman as the U.S. President). Michael Bay's film is... a Michael Bay film. How Armageddon ever got a Criterion Collection DVD release still baffles the hell out of me (plus, it's not my preferred role for Die Hard-favorite Bruce Willis). Highlight review by the Great White Snark.


It's Truman Capote: Capote (2005) vs. Infamous (2006) - This one I can't pick between these. Capote came out first, and I thought Hoffman's portrayal is one of the greats (the large man Phillip making you forget he is that as he evokes the diminutive Truman really was something to behold). But, the I prefer Infamous' storyline better (along with its supporting cast). Highlight review by blogger Snooker in Berlin.


The 80's Overnight: Into the Night (1985) vs. After Hours (1985) - Both films seem to rejoice in each of their city locales and auras (L.A. vs. New York), but I thought director John Landis realized the concept better in his nocturnal adventure (and with a richer cast) than Martin Scorsese did with his overnight-mare for that particular decade. Full disclosure, Into the Night is one of my dearest 'L.A.' films (so, I'm biased). Highlight review by film blogger Mr. Peel.


Get Out of the Garden: A Bug's Life (1998) vs. Antz (1998) - As much as Dreamworks as tried to mount a charge against whatever Pixar Animation has put out, to me it failed the most miserably when they put out Antz in response to A Bug's Life. You can't pay me enough to watch this again with my kids. God, I hate this movie. While A Bug's Life is probably my lowest appraised Pixar film, it miles ahead of this early Dreamworks animation entry. Highlight review by famed L.A. Times movie critic Kenneth Turan.


French Vanity Campaigns: Dangerous Liaisons (1988) vs. Valmont (1989) - I may be in the minority regarding this one (I know a few female colleagues who've expressed their undying devotion to Mr. Firth), but I prefer Stephen Frears take of the French novel (Les Liaisons Dangereuses) and stage play rather than Milos Forman's. I guess I like the leads better (Close, Malkovich, and Pfeiffer vs. Bening, Firth, and Tilly). As well, Glenn Close's final close-up in Dangerous Liaisons gets me every time. Highlight review by Hal Hinson (Washington Post).


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