Monday, May 30, 2011

Friday, May 27, 2011

MST3K Friday: The Beginning of the End

This week is the schlock of Bert I. Gordon!

"Something happened off screen here."
"She's got her radio tuned to the marching band station."
"Lee Marvin in The Bridges of Madison County."

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Spade and Archer, by Joe Gores

I finally got around to reading Joe Gores's Maltese Falcon prequel Spade and Archer. It tells the story of a younger Sam Spade, fresh out of the army and setting up his own private detective agency in San Fransisco. The story is told in three sections, spanning seven or eight years in total, all with a common thread. This gives the book an episodic feel, but it also prevents the book from hanging together nicely.

In the first section, Spade moves to San Fransisco and is hired by a banker to find the banker's son. While searching the docks, Spade uncovers the theft of a large number of gold coins. In the second section (my favorite of the three), Spade is hired to protect a friend of his secretary, Effie Perrine. In the third, Spade is drawn into a case of illegal Chinese immigration and international intrigue.

My criticism of the book falls mainly in line with that of the New York Times review. Gores does a good job aping Hammett's style, but there are moments of exposition that are extremely clunky. And the characters' "business" was so repetitive that it drew me out of the novel on more than one occasion. Nearly every two or three pages, Gores describes someone rolling his/her own cigarette (down to wetting the paper, etc) or "hooking a hip" over someone else's desk.

If you're a fan of Hammett, you might enjoy it.  Otherwise, I can't really recommend it.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Song of the Week: Unable to Get Free

Blues Traveler. They kick so much butt. Of course, everyone knows how much Four rocks, but there are so many great songs on Truth Be Told. Here's the opening track, "Unable to Get Free".

Friday, May 20, 2011

MST3K Friday: Secret Agent Super Dragon

"I honey, I'm smooth."
"Quick! Get it under cold water!"
"Nobody in this movie knows how to stop decorating."

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Place in the Sun (1951)

As I usually do with recently departed stars, I watched this Elizabeth Taylor movie this weekend.

A Place in the Sun, tells the story of George Eastman (Montgomery Clift), an honest, hard-working young man.  At the request of his uncle, George hitchhikes into town to get a job at Uncle Estman's factory.  There, he gets a menial job, starts working his way up the ladder, and begins a secret romance with coworker Alice Tripp (Shelley Winters).

George and Alice were going to spend a quiet evening together for his birthday, but George gets invited to a lavish party at his uncle's house.  There he meets Angela Vickers (Elizabeth Taylor), and the two fall madly in love.  The chemistry is palpable between the two stars.

George clearly loves (or at least loved) Alice, but he is completely blown away by Angela.  Alice is everything George is, and Angela is everything George wants.

The next couple paragraphs deal with spoilers, so if you don't want to know anything, skip ahead.

George spends a little bit leading a dual life, but he is clearly getting closer to Angela and farther away from Alice.  One day, Angela invites George up to her family's lake house to spend his vacation and meet his family.  Unfortunately for him, Alice also calls and tells him she's pregnant.  He lies to Alice and goes to the lake house with Angela.

In a stroke of bad luck, Alice sees George's picture in the paper and goes up to the lake to confront him.  The two end up on a boat together and Alice falls overboard and drowns.  It appears to be an accident, but could George have possibly saved her?

The movie starts out as a fairly straightforward drama that gets more complex as George falls further and further in love with Angela.  I'd call the last half of the film quite noir; even if the term is slightly overused these days.  There are parts of it that made me think of Cornell Woolrich.

Taylor doesn't get too much screen time, but when she's on the screen, you can't keep your eyes off her.  She is clearly the engine that runs the show; the driving force behind Clift's actions.


Monday, May 16, 2011

Song of the Week: Never A Time

I listened to Genesis's 1991 album We Can't Dance two weeks ago for the first time in a couple years. I'd forgotten how great an album that is. From the radio friendly "No Son of Mine", "Jesus He Knows Me", and "We Can't Dance", to the almost symphonic numbers "Driving The Last Spike" (a fave) and the closing track "Fading Lights", there really isn't a bad track on the entire disc.

Here's track 5: "Never A Time"

Saturday, May 14, 2011

2011 Stanley Cup: Conference Finals

There are four teams left. A couple surprises in the last round. Yes, I picked Tampa and Boston to come out of the East, but sweeps? Nobody saw that coming. As for the West, I had a feeling San Jose might have the goods this year, but it's so hard to bet against Detroit. Even though they're aging, they're still a force to be reckoned with.

Eastern Conference Finals
Boston (3) vs Tampa Bay (5): Tampa has impressed me in the first two rounds. They played great against the Penguins (especially of Eric Brewer, Sean Bergenheim, and Dwayne Roloson), and won some games where they were totally outplayed. They exposed all of Washington's weaknesses and steamrolled their way into the Conference Finals.

Boston, on the other hand, looked shaky against Montreal and dominant against Philadelphia. The only game that wasn't a blowout was Game 2, where the Flyers threw everything they had against Boston and still came up short. How much will the injury to Patrice Bergeron hurt Buston? Only time will tell. In the last round, guys like Nathan Horton and Brad Marchand really stepped up their games. And it looks like Milan Lucic is turning things around.

Both teams had a long layoff. Will it cause anyone to cool off? Or will it allow wounds to heal and mental fatigue to ease? Tampa is young and hungry and lots of people are saying this team is similar to the 2004 squad that captured the Cup. I've been singing Boston's praises for the past couple months and I still feel they're one of the strongest teams left. Boston in 6.

Western Conference Finals
Vancouver (1) vs San Jose (2): When was the last time the top two seeds in a conference met in the finals? I don't know, but I'm betting it's pretty rare. I didn't get to watch as much of the Vancouver series as I wanted to, but I watched a good portion of the San Jose/Detroit series. Sharks goalie Anti Niemi looked great. He was stopping nearly everything that came his way and kept his team in each and every game. He is not the reason Detroit was able to come back from 3-0. Joe Thornton is finally living up to the name "Jumbo Joe" this year. He's typically been dominant in the regular season, but not a difference maker in the playoffs.

Ryan Kesler has looked great for Vancouver. Even with the Sedin twins not scoring at their usual pace, Kesler has been phenomenal this year. If the Canucks make the finals, he's a good candidate for Conn Smythe. Roberto Luongo looked better against Nashville than he did against Chicago, but Nashville doesn't have much in the way of snipers. San Jose does. Can he stand up under the pressure of a Conference Final?

While I like the Sharks, there are too many question marks (except in goal). Vancouver has been rolling and look poised to reach the Cup Finals for the first time since 1994. Vancouver in 6.

Friday, May 13, 2011

MST3K Friday: The Human Duplicators

Now that Blogger's issues are taken care of, here's this week's MST3K Friday starring Richard Keil (Jaws from Bond, Eeegah!).

"The blind leading the bland."
"Well if you don't know what it is, don't put your finger on it."

Monday, May 9, 2011

Song of the Week: Billy Joel

As it happens, this week's Song of the Week lands on the birthday of Billy Joel (May 9, 1949). I'm a huge Billy fan and have seen him in concert on many occasions. In honor of his birthday, here are three songs:

"Summer, Highland Falls"


"Prelude/Angry Young Man"

Friday, May 6, 2011

MST3K Friday: The Violent Years

This week's movie is from the great Ed Wood!

"They never should've used a Manual Fransisco in this movie."
"Well, I tried to jump start him. That didn't work."
"There is an audible thud every time he tells a joke."

Monday, May 2, 2011