Thursday, December 30, 2010

Popcorn Fiction

I've talked before about Mulholland Books. Recently, Mulholland has joined forces with Derek Haas and started to cross-promote stories on Haas's Popcorn Fiction site. There are some great stories from people like Scott Frank (The Lookout, screenplays for Get Shorty and Out of Sight) and Charlie Huston.

There are two stories noir-ish I want to call attention to.  Former Bond author Raymond Benson tells a tale of a broken down piano player in "After the Gig".  Early on, I was able to guess what the twist ending would be, but it's fun to watch how Benson piles up the layers and creates a fully fleshed-out character in such a short space.

The other story is a more recent posting called "Impulse Kill" by John Patrick Nelson.  It's a darkly comic tale of a small town sheriff trying to dispose of a body, only to find all the good dumping spots in town have already been taken.  I hadn't heard of Nelson before, but after this story, I'm going to keep my ear out for more from him.

There are a lot of other stories in Popcorn Fiction's archive that I haven't read yet, so head over and take a look.  If you have a favorite, leave it in the comments and I'll be sure to give it a read.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Books of 2010

The year 2010 is almost over and judging by my tally, I've read 18 books. Not too shabby, but not on pace with what I did when I worked in New York. Here's the complete list:

Mind-blowingly Awesome:
A Drink Before the War, by Dennis Lehane
The Dawn Patrol, by Don Winslow

Good Reads:
Drama City, by George Pelecanos
Stalking the Angel, by Robert Crais
Darkness, Take My Hand, by Dennis Lehane
Expiration Date, by Duane Swierczynski
Secret Dead Men, by Duane Swierczynski
The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway
The Friends of Eddie Coyle, by George V. Higgins
Mortal Stakes, by Robert Parker
Trigger City, by Sean Chercover
A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, by Don Miller
The Complete Western Stories of Elmore Leonard

Could've been Better:
Road Dogs (It's Elmore Leonard, so it's still enjoyable).
Faceless Killers, by Henning Mankell
Firewall, by Henning Mankell
Thank You for Smoking, by Christopher Buckley

Not Recommended
The Cleaner, by Brett Battles

Looking over the list, there are 14 different authors represented; 10 of whom I'd never read before this year. I think that's a very good ratio.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Christmas Experience

Before the Christmas season is over, I thought I post this. I heard it on one of the New York radio stations (Q104.3?) and thought it was cool.

Did you know Jimi Hendrix recorded a Christmas tune?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Friday, December 17, 2010

MST3K Friday: Mitchell

"This makes Driving Miss Daisy look like Bullitt."
"Buzz off, kid!"

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Darkness, Take My Hand by, Dennis Lehane

The issue, he wrote, is pain.

Lehane's second book in the Kenzie/Gennaro PI series takes place roughly a year after the events of A Drink Before the War.  Patrick is introduced to his new client by a friend who is a college professor.  Diandra Warren was visited by a young woman calling herself Moira Kenzie who said her boyfriend threatened violence against her.  Shortly after the visit, Diandra received a photograph of her son in the mail, implicitly threatening his life if she did anything to help Moira.  As always, things aren't always what they seem and Kenzie finds himself toe-to-toe with psychopaths and serial killers.

One thing you can say about Lehane is he certainly has a way with words.  His descriptions are crisp and clear and his dialogue rings very true to life.  I'm not a fan of serial killer books/movies, but Lehane was able to keep my interest with the language and the interesting hook as to why the killer is taunting Kenzie.

I like the interplay between our series characters. It is enjoyable to watch he relationship between Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro grow.  Even Phil, Angie's abusive ex-husband, is rehabilitated in the novel.

In many thrillers, the writers either leave a lot off the page until after the climax or tell us everything and we get frustrated with the characters for not putting the pieces together sooner.  Lehane is able to balance it well so we are only a handful of paragraphs ahead of the characters.

I mentioned earlier I don't care for serial killers.  Since they tend to kill for seemingly no reason (could be "cleansing" those who disagree with them or to get some kind of sexual thrill), the type doesn't appeal to me.  Give me villains who kill for jealousy or to keep secrets or for revenge.  Lehane was able to keep my interest by tying the killer's current spree (though not his one from 20 years ago) to Kenzie's past.  He also had his characters get into a philosophical discussion about how long you can deal with violence and muck before it becomes part of you.

Recommended for fans of the series and serial killers.  Not recommended as an entry point for Lehane's work.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmastime is Here

For me, no two (musical) things herald the beginning of Christmas than hearing Nat King Cole and Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops.  Of course, everyone knows Nat Cole and "The Christmas Song".  The entire album is great and worth a pickup if you don't have it.  My personal favorites are "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen", "I Saw Three Ships", and "A Cradle in Bethlehem".

From the Amazon bio:  "Arthur Fiedler (December 17, 1894 - July 10, 1979) was the long-time conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra, a symphony orchestra that specializes in popular and light classical music. With a combination of musicianship and showmanship, he made the Pops one of the best-known orchestras in the country." Nothing puts a smile on my face like the opening track of the Pops' "A Christmas Festival", which can be purchased from Amazon here.  For your listening pleasure, I've embedded it below.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Terriers: Pushing Up the Daisies

The news hit around lunchtime Monday that FX had canceled Terriers.  It was not too much of a shock.  I was both sad and disappointed, but like I said last week, I'm at peace with the decision.  As much as I'd like the further adventures of Hank and Britt, the season wrapped up so perfectly that you can watch these 13 episodes over and over as a great self-contained story.

In an almost unprecedented move, FX president John Landgraf held a conference call on Monday to discuss the cancellation.  Yes, the show was great.  Yes, the network wanted it to succeed.  But the numbers were so bad (how bad were they?)..they were so bad that the show had a life expectancy somewhere between a fly and a fly with a heart condition.  Sepinwall has a nice recap of the call here.

Sepinwall also has a chat with creator/executive producer Ted Griffin here.  I like the Griffin chat because he talks about the show and the actors and plans they had for season two (and three!).

As much as I'm going to miss the show, I look forward to watching it again (and again) on DVD.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Happy Birthday, Dave Brubeck

Today is the 90th birthday of jazz legend Dave Brubeck.  Born in Concord, CA, Brubeck grew up on his father's ranch.  He often attributed his ability to juggle multiple rhythms in the same piece to a childhood spent watching the rhythm of horses trotting across the field while thinking of another in his head and pounding another on his leg.  You can really hear the rhythm of a ranch in his his 1961 composition "Unsquare Dance" (which is where I got the title of this blog).

There are a number of tributes across the web in honor of Brubeck's 90th birthday.  I like this one at the Wall Street Journal. Jamie Cullum wrote a brief essay for BBC.  And Turner Classic Movies is debuting a documentary called "In His Own Sweet Way" today at 5pm.  The title of the documentary is a riff on a Brubeck composition called "In Your Own Sweet Way".

In spite of his advanced age and pacemaker surgery in October, Brubeck is still writing and touring more than people a third his age.  He recently played a sold out three night set at The Blue Note in New York City.  I got the chance to see him in Morristown, NJ a few years back and he was amazing.  I'd definitely see him again next time he plays nearby.

Happy birthday, Dave!  Here's hoping for many more.

Unsquare Dance:

In Your Own Sweet Way:

My tribute from 2 years ago (with two more clips) is here.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Terriers: Hail Mary

That was a pitch-perfect ending to a nearly perfect season of television.

The writers (this episode credited to Ted and Nicholas Griffin) weaved in a lot of the elements from earlier this season while adding one new one in the Big Bad.

Throughout the first half of the episode, Hank is saying goodbye to everyone he loves.  In the pre-credit sequence, he tells Britt to clean up and go to his court appearance.  Hank than says "Take care of yourself, partner."  He visits his ex-wife and hands her his will.  Unlike everyone else, he doesn't tell her to call him if she needs anything (following Jason's murder).  Hank then visits Gustafson and fills him in on what he knows about the airport, the land grab, Jason's murder, and Laura's disappearance.

Hank is nearly ready to hop on Zeitlin's boat and shoot the bastard when Mark shows up.  Laura posted a new article online about the airport and includes a veiled reference to Hank's sister.  (Yay for Stephanie!)  Hank goes to the home and finds Laura hiding out.  He and Mark take Laura down to the police station to get her set up with protective custody, but Hank is placed under arrest.  Turns out two thugs confessed to Jason's murder and said Hank hired them to do it. (oh shit!)  Hank was seen stalking Jason, accusing him of being a child molester, and using his credit cards - all things he did throughout the season.  Hank is allowed one visitor and he chooses his ex-wife.  In a great scene, Gretchen says Hank is screwed up, but she knows he would never kill Jason and he should fight whoever is setting him up.

Great, great twist there.  Never saw it coming, but all the pieces fit perfectly.  Of course, Mark springs Hank and allows him to continue his investigation.  They find out from the Zeitlin employee Britt seduced last week that Mickey Gosney's daughter was at a meeting with Zeitlin, Lindus, and their boss, and could identify the guy.  Elanor Gosney tells them she doesn't know the guy's name, but he was an old drinking buddy of her father's and he had some blackmail material on the rich guy.  He probably kept it in his old army jacket - which is in a box of Mickey's stuff at Hank's place.

Hank retrieves the stuff (killing Zeitlin's tan-suited lackey in self-defense) and our duo force Zeitlin to give up his boss - a man named Tom Ketchaw (Neal McDonough).  How great is Neal McDonough?  I've been a fan of his since his Emmy worthy appearance as DA David McNorris in the short-lived series Boomtown.  He only has one scene, but he fits perfectly.  In order to keep the blackmail stuff from going public, he agrees to stop the airport and feeds Zeitlin to the wolves.

We never find out what exactly Mickey Gosney had on Ketchaw.  Sepinwall seems to think that it shows Ketchaw is a pedophile (could be considering an earlier photo of him surrounded by children).  Others seem to think it could be a love child from a long ago Mexican fling.  At one point, I thought it might be proof that Ketchaw could be involved in an accidental death south of the border.  Whatever it was, it was powerful enough to stop his plans cold.

With all the other pieces of the puzzle now in place, we see a fuller picture of what's been going on.  Mickey's murder (the event that started Hank's crusade) wasn't about the land grab.  It was about preventing blackmail.  Hank and Britt just happened to stumble upon a much larger mystery.  Something that happens quite a bit in PI novels.

Hank is in a better place at the end.  He avenged his friend's death and stopped the airport.  He's healed the wounds between him and Gretchen.  Britt has reconciled with Katie and has come to terms with going to prison.  The episode ends like the series began, with Hank and Britt in the truck.  While stopped at a long red light, Hank says he can go straight and take Britt to prison, or he can turn left and they take off to Mexico.  They banter about the pros and cons and feel comfortable with each other again.  The light turns green and Hank says "What do you say, partner? Which way will it be?"  Fade out.  The end.

I hope there's a second season.  There are so many stories to tell with Hank and Britt and I know they'll be great considering the writers and actors involved.  If the show gets canceled, I'll be sad, but I'll be OK with it.  I'll buy the DVD and watch it again and again as a flawless 13 hour movie. To ask for more seems almost greedy.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Lie to Me

Anyone else out there watch Lie to Me?  I started watching during the first season because the concept was interesting, stayed during the second, but I've mostly bailed on this third season.

The show revolves around world-renowned deception expert Cal Lightman.  His firm is hired by various companies, law enforcement agencies, and private citizens to find the truth about some event/crime.  He has a crack team of experts to analyze body language and micro-expressions to determine if someone is lying or not.

The first season was a bit uneven, but overall very good.  In an early episode, Lightman hires an airport security officer, Ria Torres, a natural expression reader who just needs a little training.  She is the audience surrogate who usually gets the explanation of the emerging science of micro-expressions.  Another one of Lightman's proteges is Eli Loker, a young man who practices what he calls "radical honesty" (telling the truth all the time).

Shawn Ryan (The Shield, Terriers) came in as show runner for the second season.  Under his guidance, the science aspects were downplayed a bit, but the characters got more depth and the stories were more cohesive.  We see more of the interaction between Lightman and his daughter.  His relationship with his business partner Gillian Foster is explored more.  One thing I missed during the second season was Loker's radical honesty subplot was dropped completely.

After the second season, Ryan left to oversee Terriers and his new Fox show The Chicago Code.  The new show runners have taken the show in another different direction.  Torres and Loker have been almost completely marginalized and Lightman's micro-expressions are treated as an afterthought.  Mostly, he badgers his targets until they get pissed off at his antics.  Many of the episodes I've seen end up with Lightman in a life-or-death situation with the villain who confesses everything and gets hauled away by the police.  I can see that on any number of television programs across my TV dial.

Each of the three seasons of Lie to Me have been almost completely different shows.  I may watch a couple more episodes in case the show's just in a funk, but without the micro-expression hook, the show is nothing more than another procedural with a cantankerous lead.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Terriers: Quid Pro Quo

On this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for TERRIERS.

I am thankful for creators Shawn Ryan and Ted Griffin.

I am thankful for Donal Logue, Michael Raymond-James, and Laura Allen.

I am thankful for F/X airing this awesome show (and hopeful that won't make me take this item back).

I really don't have much to say about last night's episode.  It was such a gut punch...again.

Zeitlin bails Britt out of jail and asks him to retrieve the disc Hank has of Zeitlin threatening reporter Laura.  Throughout the episode we don't know if Britt is on our side or on the side of the villains.  Hank enlists the help of a councilman to take down Zeiltin, but it turns out the councilman was in Zeitlin's pocket.  He turns to Jason, Gretchen's new husband, for expert advice on what the Montague group's endgame might tragic results.  The episode ends with Hank standing in front of a trunk full of guns.

Maybe by next week's season finale I will have caught my breath.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Firewall, by Henning Mankell

An IT super genius dies from a heart attack near an ATM outside his apartment. Two teenagers are charged with the brutal killing of a taxi driver. As Inspector Kurt Wallander investigates these two seemingly unrelated crimes, he stumbles across a sinister conspiracy that threatens the world's financial system.

This is the second Wallander book I've read (after Faceless Killers earlier this summer) and it's based on one of my favorite of the BBC adaptations. Wallander himself in an interesting, yet flawed character. But the Wallander novels are more police procedurals than thrillers (like anything by Crais or Lehane), so we get more detail on the investigation and putting the puzzle together than learning about characters outside our hero.

I don't know if it was the nature of the story or the fact that the translator was different, but I didn't find Firewall as gripping as Faceless Killers.  It took a good 80-90 pages to kick in, but then it chugged along.

It was good and I'd read a Wallander novel in the future, but there are a lot more authors I want to read before I come back to Mankell.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Terriers: Sins of the Past

"It's in the past.  Maybe that's where you should let it be."

Last night's Terriers had two main threads running through it. First was the case that ruined Hank's career, partnership with Gustafson, and marriage. The second was a continuation Britt's downward spiral which started last week with his breakup with Katie.

Laura Ross, the reporter Hank rescued last week, shows up at Hank's house as he's helping Britt move in. She tells them that she solved the case that got Hank fired. We flash back three years earlier to Hank interviewing a suspect in a serial rape case: Britt. Early on he's convinced that Britt is innocent and Billy Whitman (the rich guy whose car Britt tried to steal) is the actual rapist. He mentions Whitman's name to Gretchen who tells him she dated Whitman in college and to back off. Hank, fueled by booze, becomes convinced Whitman raped Gretchen and goes way overboard pushing it. We can see now why Gretchen was so pissed when Hank brought her the information on Jason's past.

As the investigation continues, Hank goes further and further off the deep end - mostly because of his drinking. As a present-day parallel, Britt finds a picture of Katie and a classmate and is convinced he's the one Katie slept with. He tracks the classmate down, beats him up, and gets arrested. Past-Hank gets dragged into interrogation by Gustafson because Mark wants to know if he planted evidence in Whitman's trunk to frame him as the serial rapist.

At the end, Hank and Mark close the rapist case and Hank visits a still drunk Britt in the holding cell. Britt boasts to Hank that he found the guy Katie slept with and laid quite a beating on him. Hank says he's not the guy, he knew Katie screwed up and told her not to tell Britt. Britt tells Hank to get lost.

I talk a lot about Donal Logue's performance as Hank (which is stellar again tonight0, but Michael Raymond-James was superb tonight. You felt all of Britt's highs and lows and commiserated with his devastation after finding out Hank knew of Katie's infidelity. This show has some great writing, but it's also a great actors' showcase.

A lot of reviews call this a "buddy detective" show.  Considering how strong the Hank/Britt chemistry is, the description is apt if misleading.  Normally anything with "buddy" in the title is jokey and fluffy.  No other "buddy" show delivers the heartbreaking pathos week in and week out that this show does.

In next week's previews, it looks like sinister lawyer Zeitlin approaches Britt with a way out of his troubles. Does he accept the help and permanently rip apart his relationship with Hank? Or do the two of them join forces to take Zeitlin down? I can't wait to find out.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Terriers Day at Spinetingler

The folks over at Spinetingler mag are having a Terriers day. They've asked a bunch of people to provide short articles to pimp the best show you're not watching (a phrase I have used myself on numerous occasions).

First up is Dave White with "The Lies and Mistakes of Hank Dolworth". We have pieces promised from the prodigiously profane Nerd of Noir, author Sandra Ruttan, and several others for later today.

Go.  Read.  If I haven't been able to convince you to watch the show, maybe one of them will.

MST3K Friday: The She Creature

"Guess the stain and win a prize."

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Terriers: Asunder

"I need a drink, more than ever in my life." -Britt
"I don't." -Hank

Like the last two installments, Hank and Britt are apart for the majority of the episode. But, like last week's "Pimp Daddy", this worked. Last week, Hank got himself disinvited to Gretchen's wedding, but Britt and Katie still went. There's tension between the two of them because Britt found a pregnancy test, but Katie hasn't said anything about it because she's not sure it's his kid. She eventually admits it and tells Britt why she didn't tell him sooner. Britt is obviously devastated and breaks up with Katie on the spot. I can only imagine what his reaction will be once he finds out that Hank knew.

Speaking of Hank, he's having a hard time keeping it together on Gretchen's wedding day. He's super tempted to break his 543 days of sobriety (which is something I was worried about at the close of last week's ep). He goes as far as ordering a scotch in the hotel bar where Gretchen's wedding is being held. Before he indulges, he goes to the bathroom to splash some water on his face (a suggestion from his sponsor). While in the can, he overhears Ben Zeitlin plotting a new nefarious deed. Spurred to action, Hank forgets his drink, bugs Zeitlin's suite, and rescues a reporter in the process. His actions, however, have put him back on Zeitlin's radar.

Turns out the Montague project wasn't part of a Max Bialystock scam (I didn't think that was likely, but it would've been fun), but more of a Chinatown-style land grab. Zeitlin had one of his clerks file paperwork to form a corporation that's bought up a lot of Ocean Beach land. Faking contaminated soil at the Montague site was nothing more than a way to drop the sale price and get the acreage for a song.

Terriers continues to bring it week in and week out. We've seamlessly hooked back into the larger story arc which will probably continue to the end of the season. Great performances all around. You really felt Britt's heartbreak when Katie came clean about her odd behavior. Katie was clearly in a lot of pain and wanted to do anything to take her actions back. Hank's need for a drink was palpable, and I was certainly relieved when he found a case to distract him on the day he needed it most.

I heard that the numbers ticked up a bit last week. It might not be enough to save it, but we'll keep trying. Keep Hulu-ing, DVR-ing, and talking about the show. Every little bit helps!

Update:  I almost forgot.  There was a nice write-up of Terriers on yesterday by Matt Roush.  Check it out here:  link.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Sons of Anarchy: Season Three So Far

 "The true outlaw finds the balance between the passion in his heart and the reason in his mind. The solution is always an equal mix of might and right."  -John Teller

I've only talked once before about Sons of Anarchy, and thought this might be a good time to mention it again.  I used to say it was the best show on TV (that was before Terriers), and now I still think it's one of the best.  To be completely honest, I'm not 100% thrilled with this season.

At the end of season 2, Jax's son Abel was kidnapped by their IRA gun supplier.  This season, Able gets taken to Ireland and the Sons follow.  Jax and Clay put aside their differences (much like they did to avenge Gemma's assault) and work together to get the baby back.  In Charming, Deputy Hale's brother is simultaneously running for mayor and leading a group of businessmen to buy up parts of town and bring Charming into the 21st Century.

**Here we get into slight spoiler territory, so be warned***

A lot of people aren't thrilled with this season.  Some think it's because there's not as much violence and it's a lot quieter.  For me, I think it's because for the majority of the season, the motivations of the Irish characters was mostly unknown.  After last night's episode, things got a bit clearer.  Why was the priest holding back Abel?  Turns out he made a promise to John Teller that he wouldn't let Jax grow up in the club.  He couldn't keep his promise to JT, so he's going to try with the grandson.

One thing I liked about the first two seasons was the struggle between Jax and the club.  Was SAMCRO a criminal organization involved in gun running and murder-for-hire?  Or was it an extended family that allows its members to live off the grid for the most part?  To feel the freedom of the open road and experience life as a unfettered spirit?  And after Father Ashley's talk with Jax last night, those themes seem to be back in play.

I understand how avenging Gemma's assault and finding Able would force Jax and Clay to put aside their differences.  I get that.  I would expect nothing less.  But the tension between stepfather and stepson has been almost entirely absent.  You would expect some of the animosity to still bubble below the surface even as they work together.

Kurt Sutter obviously has a story he wants to tell.  He doesn't want to keep going over the same story in the same kind of arcs.  That's great because even great shows can grow stagnant if they don't take chances.

Even though I'm not as rabidly in love with this season as I was the first two, there have been some great moments (Hale's death, Gemma and her Dad, Jax and Stahl).  I'm willing to go along with whatever ride Sutter wants to take us on.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Terriers: Pimp Daddy

Terriers knocked it out of the park again this week.  It didn't have huge moments like some of the earlier eps, but it was a nice, quiet episode with lots of "real" moments.

Like last week, Hank and Britt spend most of the episode apart, sharing only two scenes that I can remember.  Unlike last week, the show had more of its standard pacing instead of the breakneck speed we saw with the Britt in Mexico storyline.  This show seems to be at its best when moving at a slower pace.

With Hank still on the DL (that's disabled list, for you non sports fans), Britt takes up a case on his own. the nephew of Hank's physical therapist was robbed and Britt offers to look into it.  Turns out the kid hired a hooker who took his money and split before "completing her end of the transaction".  Michaela, the hooker, explains to Britt a very good reason why she ran away.  Later on, Michaela tracks down Britt and hires him to help find the killer of a friend of hers.

Hank is supposed to be resting, but he gets a call from their lawyer, Maggie, telling him she got a hit on the name he was running a background check on.  Turns out Gretchen's fiance changed his name about 20 years ago.  When he was a teenager, his parents were accused of molesting children at a daycare center they ran.  While Jason, the fiance, was never implicated, there were always rumors and suggestions.  Hank confronts Jason, who offers no explanation, then goes to Gretchen.  Jason had already told her of his past and she is resentful of Hank butting his nose in and disinvites him to the wedding.

The script is credited to Shawn Ryan and Kelly Wheeler, and it's a good one.  The standalone story is compelling and very nicely done (especially loved the resolution with Britt and Michaela going to see the murdered friend's parents).  We see Britt finally getting up the nerve to propose to Katie.  We see Hank still struggling with Gretchen's remarriage.

And once again, Terriers is not afraid to show our heroes performing less than heroic acts.  Earlier in the season, Hank forges a signature on his mortgage application about 30 seconds after his client commits suicide.   Hank is hurt that Gretchen doesn't see his heart was in the right place telling her about the molestation charges against Jason and lashes out with "I'm glad we weren't able to have kids."  Ouch.

There are four episodes left and it looks like we're getting Gretchen's wedding and a return of the Montague story next week.  I'm still hopeful to get a second season, but the show's ratings haven't improved.  Watch it and tell your friends, your family, and your pets to do the same.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Trick or Treat

Growing up, there were all sorts of good holiday specials on TV.  Especially around Halloween with the Garfield special (one of my favorites) and "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown".  But does anyone out there remember this little gem from Disney?

Friday, October 29, 2010

MST3K Friday: Prince of Space

"What a powerful beam he must have! Look at that modulation!"
"I am the lemon zester of destruction."
"I have no powers, but I can skip reasonably well."

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Novel Story

I haven't posted any book reviews in a while.  Not because I haven't been reading, but because it took me a while to get through the last book.  I'm not going to mention the book by title, but I'd like to talk about it a bit.

I'd read a short story or two by the author, listened to some of his podcasts, and thought I'd give the book a read.  There was nothing "wrong" with it per se.  The writing was fine.  The plot wasn't overly cliched.  When I sat down to read it, I could tear through 40-50 pages in no time flat.  But I rarely wanted to sit down and read.  It just didn't grab me.

The hero is tasked by his agency to clean up a crime scene; removing all evidence they were ever there.  Roughly 60 pages later "someone" comes after our hero - the first time he's actually in danger himself.  The blurbs promised lots of spy action, but he spends the majority of his time hopping trains and cabs trying to shake a tail that may or may not be there.  The main villain of the story is unmasked 50 pages from the end, and the motivation for his actions seem a bit far-fetched.

Like I said, the writing was fine.  There weren't any clunky sentences or bad grammar.  But there wasn't anything particularly memorable either.  The spycraft was accurate, but in thrillers, the writer needs to take some liberties to make things more exciting.

There are just too many good books out there to read, so I probably won't be reading another from this author.  Hopefully my next book will be a more satisfying read.

Friday, October 22, 2010

MST3K Friday: Future War

"Dustbuster Galactica."
"I have a past that I'm not proud of." "That's why I keep a scrapbook."

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Terriers: Missing Persons

Another week, another solid episode.  This week, Hank and Britt get involved with an amnesiac college student and a missing person case.

The boys show up at their diner for breakfast and it turns out a kid freaked out and has locked himself in the restroom.  They make a deal with the owner:  if they can get the kid out, they get free breakfast for a week.  Turns out, the kid can't remember who he is or where he is.  Hank and Britt takes him to the police station and the kid freaks out and disappears after seeing a poster about a missing college student. 
Of course, Hank starts to investigate the missing student in hopes that it will shed some light on who the kid is and what happened to him.

On our serialized end, nothing more on the Montague story, but we see more of Steph slipping away.  By the end of the episode, she decides to have Hank commit her to an assisted living facility.  Just like last week, our standalone provides a parallel story to this.  In the final confrontation with our amnesiac, the kid blubbers on and on about how he can't believe he did something wrong and that's not him and he shouldn't be allowed to live anymore.  Hank tells the kid to suck it up because there are folks out there with bigger problems that will never get fixed and they have to live one day at a time.

Some more fun moments.  Early on, Britt is worried that Katie will find the engagement ring he has stashed in her place.  He thinks Katie can sense its presence.  Hank makes a "Tell-tale Heart" reference about this.  And another one at the end where our heroes bicker about who in the partnership is Batman and who is Robin (Britt:  "I'm no sidekick.")

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Terriers: Ring-A-Ding-Ding

Seriously. Why aren't you watching this show?  It just keeps getting better with each week.

Like I guessed from the previews, this was mostly a standalone episode.  No mention of Montague storyline, but we got the recurring elements of Hank's ex-wife (Gretchen)'s upcoming second marriage and the Britt/Katie relationship.

Hank and Britt are introduced by their lawyer Maggie to their clients this week.  A man whose wife is dieing from cancer who needs them to track down a ring that is a family heirloom.  Of course, things aren't as straightforward as they seem.

There's the standard humor this show displays. Hank's sister makes some funny comments at Gretchen's engagement party.  When Britt and Hank meet their lawyer (who gave birth two episodes ago), Britt can't stop staring at her breasts and actually says, "Your boobs are huge."  To which Maggie replies, "Stop staring at my son's lunch."

Then the show breaks your heart.  Hank is still coming to terms with Gretchen's new marriage, and everything keeps reminding him of the fact that he's about to lose her forever.  Britt is thinking of getting serious with Katie.  Their clients are keeping secrets from each other and the wife will probably file for divorce so her husband doesn't screw up their son's inheritance.

Katie makes a stupid, drunken mistake that could seriously damage her relationship with Britt.  She goes to Hank for advice and he tells her to lie her ass off.  It's a sign that you really care about these characters when you want to scream at the TV and say lying is a really, really bad idea.  You just know their lie to Britt is going to bite them later on.

This week had a tight story and great acting by all involved.  It is one of the best shows on TV right now.  If you're not watching it, you're dead to me.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Greatest Game Ever Played

Fifty years ago today,Bill Mazeroski hit the only bottom of the ninth, Game 7, World Series clinching home run in baseball history.  Back in those days, they actually played World Series games in the afternoon instead of at 9:00 at night.  Every year, Pittsburghers and baseball fans country wide travel to the spot in Oakland (a section of Pittsburgh) where Forbes Field once stood and listen to the radio replay of the game.

ESPN has a good writeup of the game and the two teams involved (Pirates and Yankees).  And the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has a good deal of special coverage.

Here's a video of the home run. A full copy of the game was recently found in the archives of Bing Crosby. Boy, would I like to see that.

(Baseball historians will note the timestamp on this blog post).

Friday, October 8, 2010

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Terriers: Manifest Destiny

Are you watching F/X’s “Terriers”? If not, then double shame on you. It’s one of the best new shows of the fall.

Last night’s episode, “Manifest Destiny”, continues a strong string of episodes dealing with the Lindus arc which began in the pilot. After springing client/nemesis Robert Lindus from jail last week and subsequently getting him killed (accidently, of course), our heroes, Hank Dolworth and Britt Pollack, are once again neck deep in the muck. Turns out Lindus was carrying around a soil report that showed his construction site is contaminated with a whole heapload of carcinogens. Lindus’s backers, including a lawyer named Zeitland, approach Hank to say they don’t care where Lindus is, they just want the soil report back. Hank and Britt put the report in Lindus’s pocket and leave the body where it would obviously be found. The report is found. The building project is stopped. All is right in the world.

Or is it? Hank’s sister Steph says the soil report was faked. That Zeitland and the Montague crew were probably dumping hazardous materials onsite to goose the report.

Judging by next week’s previews, it looks like we’re going to get a standalone ep or two before returning to the Lindus/Montague storyline. And that’s fine.

I’m curious as to what the Montague endgame is. It looks like they may have wanted the report to get out and their project shut down. But for what reason? A scam to pocket money from the government for environmental cleanup? (if the numbers are too high, they’ll probably get some sort of Superfund cash) Did Zeitland find something more valuable underground and wanted his partners to back out? I even had the idea that it could be some sort of crazy Max Bialystock-style scam where they sold more shares for the building project than were available and want to cash out before the project is complete and abscond with the dough.

Whatever it is, I’m hooked.

Friday, October 1, 2010

MST3K Friday: Star Trek Generations

A little changeup this week. Since I have a bit of Star Trek on the brain, here's the boys from RiffTrax doing Generations. In case you're unfamiliar with RiffTrax, it's an audio-only offshoot of MST3K by Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett.

" excited we all are to have a group of living legends with us for our maiden voyage." "Except for Chekov."
"Why do I take these cheesy roles? I'm a better actor than this!"

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Maltin's Movies: The Incredibles (2004)

In THE INCREDIBLES - another dynamic computer-animated family film from Pixar - a family of superheros must suppress their powers in a witness-protection program...until a mysterious source calls on Mr. Incredible for help.  What starts as a sharp comedy morphs into a comic-book-style action movie (shifting the tone and lengthening the story), bit it all comes together.

Maltin's last sentence makes me think he's not as bullish on this movie as I am.  This movie is near flawless.  Both the comedy and the action are handled deftly.  The voice acting is superb and the soundtrack is awesome. Michael Giacchino's score is big and brassy and reminds me of the early James Bond scores by the late John Barry.

And, like all Pixar films, there's a good message to it.  The "supers" are driven into hiding at the beginning of the movie by a bunch of frivolous lawsuits filed by people the supers saved.  They are forced to give up what sets them apart from everyone else in order to get along in the world.

This little exchange between Helen Parr and her son is a good example of the theme (as well as a nice social commentary on how children are being raised today):

Dash: But Dad always said our powers were nothing to be ashamed of, our powers made us special.
Helen: Everyone's special, Dash.
Dash: [muttering] Which is another way of saying no one is.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The New TV Season

In the past week, most of the broadcast networks started their 2010-11 television seasons.  Frankly, there aren't a whole lot of new shows that grabbed my attention.  Here are some quick thoughts about the ones I watched.

Hawaii Five-0: I enjoyed the pilot.  Lots of big, fun action.  The relationship between the two leads was fun.  Scott Caan deserves all the praise he's getting.  I'll keep recording this to watch later in the week, but I'm going to say with Castle on Mondays at 10pm.

Mike & Molly: Ended up watching this little comedy to kill 30 minutes before Castle came on.  It wasn't bad.  I laughed out loud a couple times.  If they focus on the love story angle, this could be a nice show.  If they just make it a string of fat jokes, it's not worth your time.  Pittsburgh native Billy Gardell does a good job as the male lead.  If you haven't seen any of his standup, you should.

Terriers: OK, this premiered a few weeks ago, but I haven't mentioned it yet.  Good show.  New spin on the PI genre.  Lots of people mention Rockford when talking about this show.  I haven't seen Rockford, but I've been meaning to.  The chemistry between the two leads is great.  The stories are great and the characters seem more fleshed out that most tv shows.  Unfortunately, ratings don't seem to be too good.  I urge everyone to give it a shot and tell their friends about it if you like it.

Blue Bloods: I like the cast (Tom Selleck, Donnie Wahlberg, Bridget Moynahan) and they treat the New York setting differently than most other shows I've seen.  The story of a family who has devoted several generations to service in the NYPD.  Wahlberg was great as Detective Joel Stevens in the canceled-too-soon Boomtown, so it's good to see him put on a badge again.  The pilot was a little to quick.  They didn't spend too much time with any one character and the plot of the week (a kidnapped girl) was too throwaway.  I can see some potential, though.  I'll watch another episode or two before making my decision, but I wasn't wowed by it.

No Ordinary Family: premieres tomorrow night on ABC.  I'll probably record this and watch later in the week.  The premise is an ordinary family goes on vacation, has an accident, and they all gain super powers.  This has potential to be good and potential to suck.  I wasn't wowed by the promos I saw, but since I'm a comic book nerd and Michael Chiklis is in it, it's worth a shot.

Anybody care to share their thoughts? Any new shows you liked that I didn't mention?

Friday, September 24, 2010

MST3K Friday: Space Mutiny

"I think it's very nice of you to give that dead woman another chance."

The various names for the hero always get me:

Friday, September 17, 2010

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Stalking the Angel by, Robert Crais

Bradley Warren had lost something very valuable, something that belonged to someone else: a rare thirteenth century Japanese manuscript called the Hagakure. Everything PI Elvis Cole knew about Japanese culture he’d learned from reading Shogun, but he knew a lot of crooks and what he didn’t know, his sidekick Joe Pike did. Together their search begins in LA’s Little Tokyo at the nest of the notorious Japanese mafia, and leads to a white knuckled adventure filled with madness, murder and sexual obsession just another day’s work for Elvis Cole.

The second book in Crais's Elvis Cole series is a fairly standard PI novel.  Cole is hired by a wealthy businessman, gets obsessed with the case, gets fired, and goes on to solve everything for himself.  He wisecracks his way through things, annoying his employers and the cops.  As this is an early book in the series, you can see Crais knows how to put Cole through the paces, but hasn't begun to dig deeper yet.

Not as fun as The Monkey's Raincoat (the first Cole) nor as good as LA Requiem (the first Cole I read).  If you're a fan of Crais or a completest like me, go ahead and read it.  If you haven't read any Crais yet, don't make this your first read of his.

Friday, September 10, 2010

MST3K Friday: Agent for HARM

"It was worth killing to find the perfect picnic spot."
"Time to go back to the judo range." "Judo range?"

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Sons of Anarchy: Season Three

Last winter, I started to watch FX's "Sons of Anarchy". Mostly because I needed a new show and I was feeling withdrawal from "The Shield". Since I'd heard good things about it and it was created by "Shield" writer Kurt Sutter, I thought I'd give it a shot.

It! Rocks!


Very quickly I was hooked. It's an adrenaline-fueled rush of pure awesomeness.

It focuses on a biker gang in a fictional California town. But it's about much more than crime and guns and loose women. It's about place, community, and family. Some call it Hamlet on wheels, and that's not far off.

Sutter's thoughts on season three here.

And it has an awesome theme song:

Watch it.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Thank You for Smoking, by Christopher Buckley

Nick Naylor is the young, handsome, smooth-talking spokesman for The Academy of Tobacco Studies, a Washington group that takes on anti-smoking groups by trying spin all the damaging heath reports about cigarette smoking in their favor.  After high profile appearances on Oprah and Nightline, Nick's star is on the rise.  One day, he is kidnapped, covered head-to-toe in nicotine patches and left for dead.  This gives Nick and the ATS a lot of public sympathy and extra ammunition to fight back.  At the same time, a senator from Vermont proposes a bill to prominently display a skull and crossbones on every pack of cigarettes sold in the US.

Entertaining and often hilarious, Christopher Buckley's novel is a biting satire on both Big Tobacco and the "Neo-Puritan" (his phrase) elements in our society that want to outlaw such things as smoking, drinking, and firearms.

Having seen the 2005 movie adaptation, I couldn't help comparing the novel to the movie.  The movie version adds the character of Nick's son (mentioned, but off-screen in the novel), which does a good deal to humanize Nick. The endings are completely different and offer a different take on the whole proceedings.  I normally don't deal in spoilers, but since the book came out in 1994 and the movie in 2005, I should be safe.

In the novel, the kidnapping and nicotine patch attack on Nick was perpetrated by his boss, BR, and a rival VP named Janette.  They're jealous of Nick's popularity and want him out of the way.  Nick uncovers their deception and turns their hired goons against them.  After a two and a half year prison sentence, Nick becomes an anti-smoking advocate.

In the movie, the kidnapping takes place later in the story and actually fits better in the story.  The conspiracy against Nick is non-existent and the character of Janette doesn't appear at all.  Nick still has his change of heart and turns against his former employer, but it is done more because of the growing relationship with his son.  While the book makes it look like Nick turns against tobacco to "pay his mortgage" and to spite those who wronged him, the movie shows it as a progression of the emotional growth of Nick.

I think the overall differences between versions is one of tone.  While often hilarious, the novel carries a darker tone overall while the movie plays up the more humorous elements.  They are two different beasts and should be judged each on its own merits.

I can give the movie a big thumbs up, but I'm a little hesitant to do so with the novel.  It was entertaining and funny, but nothing too special.  If you're a fan of Christopher Buckley or the movie, I'd say pick it up.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Until Gwen, by Dennis Lehane

Late last week I read a couple of the "Conversations with the Bookless" series at BSC Review.  One of the authors (I forget which one, sorry) mentioned that a favorite short story of his was "Until Gwen" by Dennis Lehane.  Since I enjoyed A Drink Before the War and was looking for a timewaster, I set about to track down this story. It appeared in The Atlantic a couple years ago and also in a couple fiction anthologies.

Luckily, one if the anthologies is available for preview over at Google Books and the entire story is included in the preview.  Do yourself a favor and go read the story.  It's a good one.

Then head over and read an interview The Atlantic did with Lehane. It's very insightful and extremely engaging.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Stevie Ray Vaughan (1954-1990)

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the passing of Stevie Ray Vaughan.  One of the great blues guitarists of the 20th century, Vaughan's life was tragically cut short in a helicopter crash just hours after his final performance at Alpine Valley in East Troy, Wisconsin.  The concert ended with an all-star jam featuring Vaughan, brother Jimmie Vaughan, Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, and Robert Cray.  Initially, Clapton was also scheduled to be on the helicopter, but he gave his seat up to a member of Buddy Guy's band.

Here's just a quick sample of Stevie Ray Vaughan's work:

One of my favorite tunes:

Jimmie Vaughan, a blues guitarist in his own right, spent a lot of time struggling with the death of his brother. He collaborated with Art Neville on the tribute song "Six Strings Down" which is also worth a listen. The song is introduced by a clip of Jimmie talking about how the song came to be:

MST3K Friday: The Space Children

"These monorail designers have a one track mind."
"Anything I can do to help? I have my bike."

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Mulholland Books

A couple months ago, Little, Brown and Company announced a new imprint dedicated to suspense fiction called Mulholland Books. (Read their mission statement here). Some of the authors signed to the imprint are Mark Billingham, Lawrence Block, Marcia Clark, and Duane Swierczynski.

Recently, they put up a great new website featuring some cool articles by their authors and other "names" in the crime/suspense genre.  They recently posted an interview and a live chat with Don Winslow, author of The Dawn Patrol and other novels.

Check out what Hard Case Crime's Charles Ardai has to say about noir.

The website is a great start and I look forward to reading the books they publish.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Faceless Killers, by Henning Mankell

An elderly farmer and his wife are brutally murdered in the Swedish countryside. The wife’s last word “foreign” touches off a wave of anti-immigrant furor. Inspector Kurt Wallander must solve the murders before things get too far out of hand.

After being introduced to the Wallander character by the fantastic PBS Series starring Kenneth Branagh (if you haven’t watched them, you must), I decided to read the books on which they were based. Thankfully, the translation of Henning Mankell’s novel doesn’t suffer from some of the odd sentence constructions I’ve seen excerpted from the “Girl with the…” series (see here and here for some). With straightforward, almost reporter-like, prose we follow Wallander and his team on their investigation.

Like with most crime novels, the initial crime is only part of the whole story. Wallander must unravel a tale of secret lives, payoffs, and love children all while dealing with his own issues (recent divorce and a father developing dementia). The best crime stories also have a bit of social commentary in them. Mankell uses the story as a backdrop to explore the inefficiencies of Swedish immigration bureaucracy and the underground world of race hate.

The book didn't grip me as some of my more recent reads have, but I did enjoy it. I have another Wallander book in the TBR pile and I'll make my decision to continue with the series after I read that. I will, however, continue to watch the excellent PBS series without hesitation.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Lie to The Shield

In case anyone out there hasn't been watching FOX's excellent Lie to Me, tonight looks like a good one to watch.  As I mentioned before, this is the episode where executive producer Shawn Ryan brings back several former cast members of The Shield for guest spots.  It should be a hoot and a half.

Here's a TVGuide story on it:

Maltin's Movies: The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

The granddaddy of all political paranoia thrillers, THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE is just as chilling as it was in 1962; it's also smarter (and better crafted) than most recent films.  Frank Sinatra stars as a Korean war vet who's trying to get tot he bottom of a mystery involving Laurence Harvey and his venal mother, Angela Lansbury.

I can't recommend this movie enough.  It grabs you from the opening scene and won't let go until after the movie is long over.  One thing Maltin doesn't mention is the terrific directing job by John Frankenheimer.  Never flashy or showy, Frankenheimer knows how to build tension by using the right shots from the right angles and doesn't let the camera get in the way of the actors' performances.  Just steer clear of the remake.  As much as I love Denzel Washington and Liev Schreiber, it doesn't hold a candle to the original.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday, July 30, 2010

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Batman: Under the Red Hood (2010)

I got the chance to see the latest DC Animated Universe release Batman:  Under the Red Hood last night.  It was one of the best entries in the series.  I loved the first couple, but the last two or three releases I haven’t been too keen on.

Red Hood retells the story of the death and return of the second Robin, Jason Todd.  Anyone familiar with the comic knows the story.  I haven’t read much of the Batman series, but I picked up most of the story here and there.  Especially with the whole “Battle for the Cowl” series last year.

Bruce Greenwood (Thirteen Days, Star Trek) does a good job as Batman.  Any animated Joker will always be compared to Mark Hamill, but John DiMaggio (Futurama’s Bender) has a different take.  I wasn’t blown away by his performance, but he did have the laugh down.

The animation was great.  The story is top-notch.  Lots of great little scenes and some real character development.  The two emotional lynch-pins of the story are how Jason’s death affected Batman and Jason struggling to convince Batman his moral code has caused more suffering than good by letting people like the Joker live.

Can’t recommend this one highly enough.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Road Dogs, by Elmore Leonard

Jack Foley is looking at 30 years for his exploits from Out of Sight. In prison, he becomes friends with Cundo Rey, who introduces him to a hot-shot lawyer. Said lawyer gets Foley off with not much more than time served. Cundo lets Foley stay at one of his houses until Cundo’s release, provided Foley keeps an eye on Cundo’s common law wife Dawn Navarro. Foley can’t help feel that a larger hook is attached to Cundo’s generosity.

I’ll start right off the bat and say I was disappointed in Road Dogs. I read it before I read The Dawn Patrol and have only gotten around to writing about it now (a month later). Elmore Leonard is one of the great American writers without a doubt. His books are known more for their cool characters and snappy dialogue than their tight plotting, and that’s OK. But some of his books could use a bit more plotting.

Road Dogs has all the elements of a great book. Jack Foley is back in action. Cundo Rey is back from the dead. Even is-she-or-isn’t-she psychic Dawn Navarro is back. Foley thinks Cundo wants him to rob a bank to repay his kindness. He’s also pursued by an obsessed FBI man who is adamant about catching Foley in the act and sending him to jail for the 200 banks he’s robbed. Lots of tension. Lots of irons in the fire. The first 50-70 pages are classic EL. Then….I felt the book lost some steam. Foley sleeps with Dawn and is recruited into one of her scams. Is Cundo pissed that Foley slept with her? Not as much as you’d think.

It was hard to get a read on Cundo. I was never sure if he expected something of Foley or if he was just helping out a friend. After his prison release, the book turns into The Dawn Show. She turns to Cundo’s friends to try to scam him out of his money and his houses. Why did she wait all the time Cundo was in prison? Why now?

There are some fun moments with Lou Adams (the FBI man hounding Foley), but I felt his storyline never went anywhere.

I’m still a fan of Elmore’s, but I’d take Swag or City Primeval any day of the week over Road Dogs.

Friday, July 23, 2010

MST3K Friday: Hobgoblins

"In the future can we make it a law that films have to be made by filmmakers?"
"It's the '80's, do a lot of coke and vote for Ronald Reagan."

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Playing Catch

I went to a picnic at my friend's yesterday.  And for the first time in I don't know how many years, we played catch.

That's something you lose when you be come an adult.  Unless you have kids and you are teaching them how to play, when's the last time you grabbed your glove and just went out there?

I tossed for a bit with my buddy, then he jumped in the pool.  Another guy at the picnic grabbed my friend's glove and we played catch for a while.  Never met the guy before that day.  We just tossed the ball back and forth and swapped stories about going to ballgames and how we knew the host.

If it's a nice day where you are, call up a friend, grab your mitt and head to the nearest grassy spot.  Play some catch.  You won't regret it.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Friday, July 9, 2010

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Dawn Patrol, by Don Winslow

Boone Daniels would like nothing better than just to surf for the rest of his life.  Like everyone else he needs cash, so he works (as little as possible) as a PI.  He's hired by a San Diego law firm to search for a missing witness in an arson investigation.  He takes the case reluctantly because it comes on the eve of the biggest set of waves to hit the California shores in a generation.  Naturally, the case turns out to be more complicated than initially thought, and Boone gets dragged into a web of strip clubs, drug dealers, and human trafficers.

Why didn't I read this book sooner?  Boone and his surfing buddies "The Dawn Patrol" are all fascinating characters who I want to spend more time with.  Don Winslow created a fun world with tons of San Diego history and told it with a voice that most writers would kill for.  It hits most of the well-worn points of a PI novel, but the characters and voice are so great, it feels fresh and new.

I finished the novel in three days.  It grabbed me like a strong undertow, sucked me under the waves, and battered me against a submerged reef.  Go and read this book, stat.

More gushing from:
Dave White
January Magazine

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Maltin's Movies: Dr. Strangelove

In DR. STRANGELOVE OR: HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB, the U.S. President must contend with the Russians - and his own military and political leaders - when a fanatical general launches a nuclear strike on the U.S.S.R. Sellers memorably plays the president, a British captain, and a mad inventor.

This calendar has had a good string of movies starting with Road to Utopia on Saturday, followed by 1776, Awakenings, and now Dr. Strangelove.  The blackest of black comedies, director Stanley Kubrick - who cowrote the screenplay with Terry Southern - effectively captures the paranoia of the early Cold War while poking fun at the theory of MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction).  This is without a doubt, another must see.

Theatrical trailer:

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy Independence Day!

One of the more radical ideas in human history was put into motion 234 years ago today. In the Declaration (and enunciated more clearly in the U.S. Constitution), that America, the last, best hope of mankind is a people that have a government, not a government that has a people. Something too many people and far too many politicians have lost sight of these days.

Happy Fourth to all!

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world. [...]

(continue reading)

Friday, July 2, 2010

Friday, June 25, 2010

MST3K Friday: Poopie! (part 1)

A while back, the folks at Best Brains put together a blooper reel from MST3K appropriately titled "Poopie!". Here's part 1:

"I don't fink on soul brother."
"Pancakes! Oh, I blew it."

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Maltin's Movies: Paths of Glory (1975)

Kirk Douglas produced PATHS OF GLORY, and hired young Stanley Kubrick to direct.  It remains one of the most haunting - and uncompromising - antiwar films ever made, a powerful illustration of both the folly, and the hypocrisy, of war and politics.

Awesome, awesome movie.  I first rented it a couple years ago when I was going through all the Kubrick movies.  Kirk Douglas gives a great performance.  As always, you can't take your eyes off Kubrick's splendid cinematography.  Watch for the future Mrs. Kubrick as a singer late in the film.

An example of Douglas in action:

Friday, June 18, 2010

MST3K Friday: The Touch of Satan

"You're lucky." "Your death will be quick."

"This is where the fish lives."

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

2010 Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks

I've been a little deficient this year in blogging the Stanley Cup playoffs.  I blame that on lots of travel and work stresses.  But I'm happy to congratulate Jonathan Towes, Patrick Kane (right), and the rest of the Chicago Blackhawks on their victory over the Philadelphia Flyers in 6 games.

Not only am I excited that these fantastic young players won The Cup, but I WAS THERE!

A friend of mine has season tickets to the Flyers.  So when he called me the Monday before Game 6 and asked if I wanted to go, I didn't even wait 2 seconds before I gave him a "hell yeah!"

It was a great time.  I've been to several Flyers playoff games before and recommend anyone who has the opportunity to take advantage of if.  Even if you're not a fan of either team, the atmosphere is second to none.  The game itself was outstanding too.  The Blackhawks were firing on all cylinders, dominating many facets of the game.  But the ever scrappy Flyers managed to hang in there and Scott Hartnell scored a goal with just under four minutes to go in regulation to send the game into overtime.

The Flyers missed several opportunities early in the extra period to force a game seven in Chicago.  Unfortunately for them, Patrick Kane scored at 4:06 of overtime to give the Blackhawks a 4-3 win and their first Cup in 49 years.  As with many people in the stands, I didn't even realize the puck was in until Kane threw his gloves into the air and sprinted toward goalie Anti Niemi.

My buddy was obviously heartbroken, but we stayed through the presentation of the Conn Smythe Trophy and most of the Stanley Cup celebration.  For the rest of my life, I will always be able to say that I've been to a Finals game and have seen the Cup awarded.

Congratulations Blackhawks!

Friday, June 11, 2010

MST3K Friday: The Incredibly Strange Creatures

Clips from Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became-Mixed Up Zombies.

"You know what I'm looking at right now? That exit sign."

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Justified: Bulletville

Last night brought the close to season one of “Justified”. It was a great finale, but didn’t feel too much like a finale. I guess that goes along with the understated tone of Elmore Leonard’s work.

Let’s go through the main plot points of the episode. Bo gets mad at Boyd for destroying his ephedrine shipment. Bo kills Boyd’s flock. Boyd starts to question his newfound faith. Wynonna and her husband have split up. Miami is mad at Bo for losing the shipment. Bo convinces Arlo to kill Raylan in order to appease Miami. Raylan thwarts Arlo’s attempt. Raylan almost single-handedly wipes out Bo’s entire crew. Boyd aligns himself with Raylan.

Lots of stuff. Lots of good stuff. One of the big questions about Boyd this season was about his jailhouse conversion. Walton Goggins did a good job of playing it down the middle where you didn’t know if the conversion was real or Boyd was just using it as an angle (much like his white-supremacist angle in the pilot). This episode shows that it in fact was real, but in losing his flock, Boyd may have lost his way.

Raylan was back to his badass form from the first couple episodes. He gets the drop on just about everyone and proves that his father is the most despicable piece of trash of all time. There was a great moment after the confrontation where Arlo calls him “son” (like he did all season) and Raylan says “don’t call me that.” Timothy Olyphant’s delivery of that line was just perfect.

There were conclusions to a lot of the ongoing threads, but stuff was left open for next year. Will Boyd and Raylan stay on the same side? Will Raylan and Wynonna get back together? What about Raylan and Ava? And you know Miami can’t be too happy with Raylan a) being alive and b) taking out even more of their crew.