Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Vacation Update

I'm enjoying a couple days off from my real job between Christmas and New Year. With that said, I've put down almost 3000 words on two separate projects the past two days. Both are a bit momentous.

One is a short story idea that I think might actually work as a novel. I was going to try and get another story under my belt (and one actually published) before trying my hand at a novel, but I figured what the hell? Here's hoping I don't peter out at 20k words.

The other one is the subject of an announcement I'm going to make on this blog on Friday. Stay tuned for that one.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Heat (1995)

Continuing on the theme of watching movies I should’ve seen years ago comes this week’s offering: Heat (1996). Billed as the first meeting of Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, this movie is typical Michael Mann. I don’t know if it’s his shot composition or his use of colors/soundtrack, but all of Mann’s films evoke the same general feeling.

De Niro is a master criminal whose crew operates like a finely tuned machine. After a brilliant armored car robbery to open the film, Pacino’s LAPD detective starts to track down De Niro and stop him before the next heist. The rest of the movie splits time between the two hard-edged men who are tenacious in going after their goals.

Many people complain that De Niro and Pacino share almost no screen time (save the diner scene and the denouement). While it would’ve been cool to see them together more, the separation made their eventual meeting(s) all the more impactful.

I’m not ga-ga over this movie like a lot of people are, but it was an enjoyable time. The opening armored car robbery and the bank heist are two awesome set pieces. Well worth the price of admission.

I also liked the familiar faces popping up. De Niro’s crew was Val Kilmer, Tom Sizemore, and Danny Trejo. Their opening score was taken from William Fichtner and fenced through John Voight. Pacino’s cops were Ted Levine and Mykelti Williamson (of the late, lamented Boomtown). Not to mention supporting roles played by Amy Brenneman, Ashley Judd, Natalie Portman, Dennis Haysbert, and cameos from Hank Azaria, Tone Loc, and Xander Berkeley.

The movie’s not for everyone, but if you’re a fan of Mann, definitely check it out.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Swingers (1996)

I finally saw Swingers (1996) last night. I know, I know. What red-blooded male my age hasn't seen this movie? I'm a bit late to the party. For the record, I will say that I was underwhelmed by this movie.

The gist of the movie is a bunch of wannabe actors hitting the club scene and talking about women. The only character's name I can remember is Trent (Vince Vaughn). That speaks to how well developed I thought they were. The main character (Jon Favreau) just came across as a whiny little bitch who couldn't understand why his girlfriend hasn't called him since he left her and moved across the country six months ago.

I will say I dug the soundtrack (Big Bad Voodoo Daddy is A+ in my book), there were some good lines, and it's easy to see why Vaughn is the breakout star of this picture.

Some people would say this movie is money, but I say skip it.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Winter Wonderland

The snow is falling.
Too bad that I'm a grown-up.
I want a snow day.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas-time

A friend of mine pointed me to a new (to us at least) site called BeTaMaXMas. They've got some classic (1980's) commercials and some of the cheesy holiday themed episodes that used to sprout up everywhere this time of year. So, come with me and take a trip down memory lane with the folks at BeTaMaXMas!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Friday, November 28, 2008

On The Bright Side

Big Black Friday Deals!
Bad economy means this:
Stocks 50 percent off.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

I Want Pie

Thanksgiving his here.
Time for food, family, and fun.
Pass the turkey, please.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Two Weeks

Two weeks without post.
Are blogging energies gone?
No! More posts to come.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Marvel Movie Madness

I caught up on some summer movies this weekend with Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk. If it wasn't for The Dark Knight, Iron Man would be the best comic book movie of the year. We're introduced early on to the playboy billionaire side of Tony Stark watch him become Iron Man. Robert Downey, Jr. does a tremendous job showing the transformation from vain businessman to hero. You also get the sense of wonder and excitement as Stark takes his first Iron Man steps.

While The Incredible Hulk was enjoyable, it's not in the same league as Iron Man. Bruce Banner starts out in Brazil, working on controlling his temper and communicating with "Mr. Blue" to try to find a cure. General Ross (his former boss) tracks him down and after a great chase, Banner returns to America to continue his quest. Banner manages to fly under the radar for the most part, but ends up in a bare knuckles fist fight with Abomination to save New York City.

I think Hulk fails for exactly the same reason Iron Man succeeds. In IM, we get to know Tony Stark and connect emotionally with him on his journey. The journey in Hulk is to find a cure, but we get the sense that Banner has already resigned himself to being a green monster for the rest of his life. I'm not ragging on Ed Norton (who is one of my favorite actors), but we never seem to get inside Banner's head.

Still, I recommend giving both of them a shot. If you can only see one, I suggest Iron Man first.

Friday, October 31, 2008

War of the Worlds

Everybody knows by now the story of Orson Welles's War of the Worlds broadcast. Last night was the 70th anniversary of the historic event. It was a Halloween tradition of mine (for a few years anyway) to listen to a recording of the broadcast after all the trick-or-treaters had come and gone. I haven't done it recently, but it this may be a good year to start up again.

If you've never heard Welles's WotW broadcast, do yourself a favor and check it out. It still has the power to delight even today's cynical audiences. You can find a copy at Mercury Theatre on the Air - along with most of the other Mercury broadcasts.

Friday, October 10, 2008

He Was Some Kind of a Man



Today is the anniversary of The Great One's death. There's a new 50th Anniversary Edition of Touch of Evil (with the late Charlton Heston), but still no Ambersons DVD, and no release of any kind for The Other Side of the Wind. There's still hope and lots of chatter among other Welles fans that TOSotW will be released.

I remain, as always, your obedient servant.
WellesFan

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Blog About Blogging

Seems like it's just been movie reviews recently. I've been busy with work and a bit of writing. I have three more short stories "finished" and submitted a couple for publication. Already got one rejection. Meanwhile, I'm trying a new (to me) writing method. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Marlowe (1969)

This starring vehicle for James Garner is ostensibly an updated version of Chandler’s The Little Sister. Updated to 1960’s California, Marlowe encounters hippies, drug dealers, and soap opera stars in the twisted search for a young woman’s missing brother. It was an entertaining movie. Everything is played lightly, foreshadowing Garner’s future turn in “The Rockford Files”.

Watch for appearances by William Daniels, Rita Moreno, Carol O’Connor, and Bruce Lee.

IMDB entry: Marlowe
Wiki: Marlowe (film)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Out of the Past (1947)

I finally got a chance to see the classic film noir Out of the Past this weekend (thank you, Turner Classic Movies!). This is another one I’ve been dying to see since Fox and other studios started issuing DVDs of their noir catalogs.

Jeff Bailey (Robert Mitchum) has been living a quiet life as a gas station owner in the small town of Bridgeport, California. One day, a man from his past breezes into town and hints that an old friend of theirs wants to talk to Bailey. Bailey and his new girlfriend, who knows nothing of his past, head to Tahoe to meet the mystery man. During the drive, Bailey tells his girlfriend all about his history. The first half of the movie is a flashback. Bailey was a private investigator in New York City. Smooth gambler Whit Sterling (Kirk Douglas) hires Bailey and his partner to track down Whit’s runaway girlfriend, Kathie Moffat (Jane Greer). Bailey tracks her down to Acapulco and, naturally, falls in love with her. They escape Acapulco together and live happily together for a period of time. I’m not going to spoil much of the plot, but things go awry and they end up going their separate ways.

The movie now comes back to the present. Bailey arrives at the Tahoe house, which is owned by his old client Whit Sterling. Whit tells Bailey he knows all about how he stole Whit’s girlfriend. He’s not going to hold a grudge, but Bailey has to make it up to him. Whit is in a bit of tax trouble with the government, so he wants Bailey to steal his tax records from Whit’s double-crossing accountant. Needless to say, there are double-, triple-, and possibly even quadruple-crosses before the movie ends.

It’s a great film noir. Mitchum is perfect as an unscrupulous private investigator caught in a tangled web of deception. Douglas’s Sterling is simultaneously smooth and sinister – possibly one of his greatest roles. The script is great, the direction by Jacques Tourneur is great, and cinematographer Nicholas Musuraca does a fantastic job with lighting and shooting the picture.

Highly recommended.

Wikipedia entry: Out of the Past (here be spoilers)
Noir of the Week entry: Out of the Past (again...spoilers)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Origin of Superman

Everyone knows who Superman is and who created him. But, I came across this story in USA Today that gives a little backstory on the possible inspiration of Superman. On the night of June 2, 1932, the father of Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel died of an apparent heart attack during a robbery. Gerard Jones, author of Men of Tomorrow, thinks that it was the death of his father that pushed Siegel to come up with the idea of a superhero. The book, published in 2004, is credited as being the first place this story was told. The USA Today article also mentions a possiblity of where the name Lex Luthor came from.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay (2008)

Last weekend I got the opportunity to see the Harold and Kumar sequel. Writers Jon Hurwitz & Hayden Schlossberg do double duty this time and step behind the camera as directors. I enjoyed the first one immensely. It was a perfect blend of stoner comedy and road trip movie with one or two of the now standard gross out scenes. Unfortunately, I enjoyed the sequel a bit less. Gone are the two kind-hearted stoners and the biting (yet funny) satire about racial stereotypes. In their place is a traditional comedy with characters who point at something with outrage and exaggerated redneck stereotypes.

The events take place shortly after the first movie. Harold and Kumar return home after a night of binging on White Castle burgers. They start to follow Harold's crush to Amsterdam, but get kicked off the plane when Kumar tries to light a bong. The boys are then chased through Guantanamo Bay and across The South leading toward a climax in Texas.

Along the way they encounter a bottomless party, an inbred redneck Cyclops, a KKK rally, and have another run-in with the legendary NPH. Instead of a complete story, the movie feels like it’s just running its protagonists through a series of sketches. Still, it’s good for a chuckle or two, but nowhere near as funny as the original.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The X-Files: I Want to Believe (2008)

Got a chance to see the movie this past weekend. It was.....OK. I was/am a huge fan of the series and was eagerly anticipating the second movie. Chris Carter, creator/writer/director, of The X-Files said all along that this movie would be more like the standalone episodes than the mythology episodes. He was right on that point.

Mulder and Scully no longer work for the FBI. In the six years since the season finale, Scully started to practice medicine at a Catholic hospital and Mulder lives as a near recluse on a farm. An FBI agent goes missing and during the search a disgraced priest leads the FBI to a severed arm buried in the snow. The priest claims he was led by a psycic vision - just the kind of stuff that Mulder and Scully investigated for 8 years on the series.

Overall, I enjoyed the movie. The cinematography was great and it was good to see the old gang back together. My big quibble is that Chris Carter was right: it was just like a standalone episode. Some of those episodes were great ("Jose Chung's From Outer Space", "Clyde Bruckman's Last Repose", "Triangle", etc), but a lot of them weren't. The characters that were developed to any stretch of the word were Mulder and Scully. And that could only be because we know all their history from the tv show.

I'm glad I saw it on the big screen and I definitley will be there if they ever make a third movie. But at that point it will probably be only die-hards like me who go see it.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Black Magic (1949)

I got a chance to see the Orson Welles movie Black Magic over the weekend. The movie is basically a revenge film with some historical intrigue thrown in. Joseph Balsamo (Welles) is the son of gypsies traveling through the south of France. His mother is deemed a witch and executed along with his father by the Viscount de Montagne. Young Joseph is forced to watch his parents' hanging while he is whipped by de Montagne's men.

Years later, a grown up Joseph learns the secrets of hypnotism from a French doctor, changes his name to Count Cagliostro, and achieves fame throughout Europe by mixing hypnotism with mysticism and showmanship. As luck would have it, he stumbles across de Montagne who is hatching a plan to discredit Marie Antoinette and become ruler of France.

Cagliostro, of course, wants revenge on de Montagne. He starts of trying to help de Montagne achieve his goal, only to set him up to be captured and tried for treason. The courtroom scene at the end is a great showdown between Cagliostro and those who have influenced his life (both past and present). It shows Cagliostro's growing mania and the lengths he would go to to have the people of France love him. This sequence alone is worth the price of admission.

While Welles only acted in the movie, I could see some of his directorial flourishes in some of the early scenes. I took a quick look at Hello Americans, and Simon Callow mentions that Welles in fact did provide some input to director Gregory Ratoff. Count Cagliostro appears to be a role that Welles would've sunk his teeth into. He gets to play with a funny accent (like in The Lady from Shanghai) and a fake mustache. He also gets to show off a little of his magic skill in a couple scenes while talking to Akim Tamiroff (who later appears in many Welles films). But, he never seems to be fully engaged in the part. As Simon Callow notes in his Hello Americans, Welles was in the middle of editing Macbeth, so this seems to play into the idea.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Consent to Kill, by Vince Flynn

I haven't finished reading this one yet, but had to put out a couple observations. Vince Flynn is very consistent. Consent to Kill is yet another page-turner in the Mitch Rapp series. It's also the first real sequel that I can remember of the series.

A Saudi billionaire puts a price on Rapp's head after Rapp kills his son during the events of Memorial Day. On the home front, Rapp and crew have to deal with the newly created office of Director of National Intelligence, and Anna Riley (Rapp's wife) announces she's pregnant. Lots of the old characters are back: Mitch, Anna, Irene Kennedy, Scott Coleman, the President, etc. And some interesting new ones are added including the team of assassins sent to kill Rapp.

There's one stylistic thing I noticed about Flynn's writing that I hadn't picked up on before (that is if he did it in previous books). In a scene between character A and character B (happens with multiple characters in multiple scenes), he describes what character B is wearing. The next time we see character B, he describes again what the character is wearing. It's kind of the opposite of some writers who only describe characters when absolutely necessary. We always know what Flynn's characters are wearing!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Shadow of a Doubt (1943)

I recently watched this one again since it was on TCM and it was part of Quint's Movie A Day series on AICN. Director Alfred Hitchcock often said this was his favorite film, a sentiment shared by the movie's female lead Teresa Wright. It's a great movie, but not my favorite Hitch.

The story revolves around the Newton family. Charlie Oackley (Joseph Cotten) comes to visit the family and his niece Charlie (Wright). Through the course of the movie, Young Charlie begins to suspect her Uncle Charlie is a serial killer known as "The Merry Widow Murderer". The movie is chocked full of twists and turns and a great deal of suspense by the undisputed master of cinematic suspense.

Keep a close eye out for a young Hume Cronyn as Young Charlie's father's best friend.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Max Payne

Huge fan of the PC games. I'm currently replaying Max Payne 2. Here's the first trailer I've seen from the movie. Doesn't look half bad:


Monday, July 7, 2008

John Adams (2008)

I missed HBO's John Adams miniseries when it was first on, but I made sure to catch it during the mini-marathon on the Fourth of July. I'm glad I did. It's very well done, with great special effects, a great script, and no doubt hours and hours of painstaking research. Paul Giamatti shines in his portrayal of Adams, and Laura Linney proved a perfect foil for him as Abagail Adams.

The first two episodes, which I watched in real time, dealt with Adams's defense of the British soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre, his joining the revolution, and ended with the reading of the Declaration of Independence. I recorded the rest and watched three through five on Saturday, dealing with Adams's ambassadorship to France and Holland, his vice presidency, and ended with his taking the oath of office succeeding George Washington as President. I hope to watch at least one more tonight if not finish the entire series.

On another note, I love the makeup job on David Morse. He looks exactly the way we think Washington really looked.

Do yourself a favor and check the series out if HBO runs it again.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

I Was Afraid This Would Happen

Hossa = gone. Malone = gone. Roberts = gone.

Penguins are leaving in droves. Brooks Orpik and Pascal Dupuis stay, though.

As much as I like Ryan Malone, there's no way in hell that he's worth $7M or $8M a year (since his contract for $31.5M over 7 years is front-loaded).

Next season is going to be interesting unless there's a big free agent signing or trade in the works.

Update 10:47PM: Looks like I spoke too soon! Penguins sign Rusty Fedotenko and Miroslov Satan!!! Not as good as Malone and Hossa, but not to shabby either.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Canceled Shows

Gerald So recently posted a column on Mysterical-E about prematurely canceled TV shows. Included are a couple shows I still pine over (Karen Sisco, Raines), a couple shows I enjoyed but wasn't broken up about their cancellation (Andy Barker, Eyes) and a couple that everyone enjoyed but I never watched (Firefly). No list of my canceled shows would be complete without Brimstone (as mentioned elsewhere on this blog) and Boomtown.

Luckily, the first season of Boomtown was released on DVD shortly after its demise. For those unfamiliar with the show, each week's crime was told from multiple perspectives. We got those of the victims and the criminals as well as two LAPD detectives, two uniformed officers, a paramedic, a reporter, and a district attorney. With strong scripts and top-notch acting, it won a Peabody Award, but never caught on with the viewers. There are two episodes that should have won Best Actor Emmys (Neal McDonough in "Blackout" and Donnie Wahlberg in "Lost Child").

In "Blackout", David McNorris (McDonough) goes on a bender after breaking up with both his wife and his mistress in the same night. He wakes up the next morning with a blood stain and a huge dent in his car, but is unable to remember anything that happened. The detectives start to investigate a hit-and-run in the area where McNorris was. McDonough starts of the episode in the normal brash, confident manner he played McNorris in the entire season. But as the episode progressed, you could see toll that the thought of possibly killing a man eat away at McNorris until he finally decides to get a grip on his alcoholism and get help.

"Lost Child" features Detective Joel Stevens (Wahlberg) under investigation by Internal Affairs after one of the files from his infant daughter's death turns up missing. Joel finds himself finally confronting his wife's suicide attempt (referenced earlier in the season) and the death of their newborn daughter. Again, Wahlberg does a great job capturing all the emotions that one would expect of someone who lost a child at such a young age.

Like I mentioned, season one of Boomtown is available on DVD, so I recommend that you seek out a copy and give it a look.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

My Favorite Spy (1951)

I'm a pretty big fan of Bob Hope, so I was excited when TCM played My Favorite Spy the other week. I had previously seen My Favorite Brunette, but had not seen the other two "My Favorite" movies (the first in the series was My Favorite Blonde). All three follow pretty much the same formula and allow Hope to do three of the things he does best: 1) act better looking than he actually is, 2) act like a coward in the face of danger, and 3) lob one-liners like hand grenades.

The setup is fairly simple. Eric Augustine (Hope) is a super-spy wanted by the American government. After being injured during his capture, the U.S. government enlists Peanuts White (also Hope) to impersonate Augustine and retrieve some damaging microfilm from a foreign agent. What complicates things is people Augustine worked with/betrayed on earlier missions show up in Tangier, including former flame Lily Dalbray (Hedy Lamarr).

Overall a solid film with a funny script.

Some of my favorite quotes:

(While being trained to impersonate Augustine) Peanuts White: When I look into a girl's eyes, I can tell just what she thinks of me. It's pretty discouraging, too.

(While impersonating Augustine) Peanuts White: It's nights like these that drive men like me to women like you for nights like this.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Frankie

A couple notes about the story below. While trying to come up with a story, the thing that popped into my head was an old gas station on an desert road somewhere out west. Then the idea of using the starter line as the closer (I'm surprised I'm the only person to do so). The story had enough time to percolate on my drive home that it only took me about an hour to get it down on paper. I put it aside for a couple days and when I came back to edit, there was something missing. I decided to see how it worked in first person and that really brought out Frankie's voice.

The only problem is he won't shut up now. I lay in bed for over an hour last night talking with him instead of going to sleep. His newfound talkativeness plus the nice things you guys said about the story makes me want to put aside my current WIP for a bit and write another Frankie story.

But the problem I see is venue. Do I put it here where nobody will read it (like the Handsome Rob stories)? Can anybody suggest a good online venue I should target?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Shifting Gears

Here's my entry into the latest Patti Abbot/Gerald So/Mystery Dawg flash fiction event.

***
Cemetery Wind


“I’m sorry, Monica, but you know what Jack is like.”

“I’m not shorting him,” she said. “Business has been slow. It’s probably the economy. I doubt that guys are having a sudden rush of conscience or nobody wants their dick sucked any more.”

“There’s nothing I can do about it. You know the rules. You were short two G’s on the last payment.”

“Come on, Frankie,” she said. “I’m sure we can reach some kind of … compromise.”

She dropped her black silk robe and leaned back across the bed. My eyes wandered, taking in every inch of her flawless body. The hot pink lingerie seemed to glow against her perfectly tanned skin.

She was absolutely stunning.

Except for the bullet hole in the middle of her forehead.


I woke up. My pulse was racing so fast I could see the vein beating in my wrist. I looked out the window of the car and breathed deeply, trying to calm down. The arid landscape was flat as far as the eye could see. Its red-brown color was one I’d never seen before we got west of the Mississippi.

“The nightmares again?” Rita said as she pulled the car into the gas station.

I nodded. “The same as the last one.”

Rita pulled up to the pump, unbuckled her seatbelt, and started to open the door. I grabbed her hand, said “I got it,” and kissed her. She tasted like strawberries. I walked around the car and started to pump the gas.

The “last one” was a replay of my last hit. Monica was one of Jack Lupino’s best pros, and a longtime friend. But she made two late payments. And a third one was short. On the third strike you didn’t get one of Jack’s “collectors”. You got The Angel of Death.

Monica used her unique gifts to get herself out of trouble on more than one occasion. Far be it from me to turn down a free blowjob. She probably believed I was gonna spare her. Until I put a bullet between her eyes.

What I didn’t count on was her six-year-old son in the next room.

I killed dozens of men – maybe even hundreds - for Jack Lupino. Drug dealers. Loan sharks. Prostitutes. Lawyers. Cops. Never someone who didn’t deserve it. And never a kid.

That’s when the nightmares started. Every hit. Every face. Every person I ever killed came to visit. And it wasn’t for a friendly chat.

I told Jack I wanted out. I was done killing. Rita and I were going to retire someplace nice Upstate. But Jack wouldn’t hear it. “I made you what you are,” he said. “I own you,” he said.

I took out half the Lupino Family before I left.

They’d have to be stupid or crazy to follow me now.

The nozzle clicked my hand. I put it back on the pump and screwed the gas cap on. “Thirteen point five six three gallons,” I said. “I’m gonna go pay. You want anything?”

“No,” Rita said. “We’ve got enough snacks in the back.”

I smiled and said, “Be back in a jiff.”

We left New York almost a week ago. We abandoned our cars, bought a junker for cash, stuffed it with as much as we could, and took off. We were on the way to Prescott, Arizona to start a new life.

The plan was to stay off the grid. No credit cards. No cell phones. No crimes. Not so much as a goddam speeding ticket.

What I didn’t have the heart to tell Rita was the cash ran out the day before in Pueblo. I only had $10 on me.

With gas prices rising, our plans had to change.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

World Class Detroiters

I came across a neat series of videos on YouTube the other day: Emery King's World Class Detroiters. This episode is a long interview of Elmore Leonard, going over his biography as well as his thoughts on writing. Check out the end of part 4 to hear Dutch reading from Road Dogs.

Part 1:

Monday, June 9, 2008

Thank You for Smoking (2005)

I recently had the opportunity to see Thank You for Smoking for the second time. It does the rare feat of being a satire that's actually funny. I bet most of the humor in the movie comes from the source novel by Christopher Buckley (which has since been added to my TBR pile).

The story follows Nick Naylor, spokesman for the tobacco lobby. We gain great insight into his world of spin by the voice-over narration as well as the many scenes Nick has with his son. I think other than the source material, the film is made by both the brisk direction from Jason Reitman and the light-hearted yet earnest portrayal of Naylor by Aaron Eckhart.

If you haven't seen it, do yourself a favor and check it out.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Stanley Cup Winner: Detroit Red Wings

Congratulations, Detroit. The Penguins put up a fight until the last second (literally), but the Big Red Machine proved too powerful. Hockeytown has now won its 4th Cup in 11 years. The Penguins didn't come out with the jump you would expect after pulling off the thrilling win Monday night, but played well - especially as the game was winding down. Detroit played the same way they've played all year: not harder, not faster, not anything.

Here's hoping that the impending free agency of many top players doesn't gut the Penguins and the youngsters can make another exciting run in the not too distant future.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Cup Finals: Game 5

What a game! The Penguins pull off a huge win to force the series back to Pittsburgh on Wednesday night. Paced by nearly flawless goaltending from Marc-Andre Fleury, the Penguins were able to win it in triple overtime.

The game started out well in the Penguins favor. They were generating lots of turnovers that led to great scoring chances. Detroit were on their heels for most of the first period. A great shot by Hossa and a fortuitous bounce off a power move from game 3 hero Adam Hall had the Penguins leading 2-0 after the first frame.

Period two saw the Penguins continue winning the battles for loose pucks, but Detroit started to get their game together. Their goal from Darren Helm gave the Wings some life, but the team still trailed 2-1 by the end of the period.

I was never happy with Mike Babcock being nominated for the Jack Adams trophy. There are other guys with less talented teams that had good records this year, dramatic turnarounds from last year (see: Philadelphia Flyers), and coaches that had to deal with losing multiple star players (see: Pittsburgh). The Wings are a talented, experienced bunch of guys that look like they could win a game with a mannequin behind the bench. But Babcock must've said the right things in the locker room because the Wings dominated the 3rd period like they did the first two games of the series. Detroit tied the game up on a nice goal by Datsyuk and went ahead on a goal by Brian Rafalski. The game appeared over until grinder Max Talbot scored for Pittsburgh with 33 seconds left.

This felt to me like a game that could go four overtimes...and I wasn't far off. Detroit continued their strong play into the extra time, but Fleury held his ground and kept the team in it. Multiple rushes and close chances by both teams made this game one for the history books. Peter Sykora, owner of two previous OT winners, scored on a 4-minute double minor assessed to Jiri Hudler to send the series back to Pittsburgh and a game 6.

Will the Penguins have the momentum to push the Finals to a game 7? Will their youth be an advantage in recovering from the nearly two full games played last night? Or will Detroit clamp down again and close the series out?

I know I called Detroit in six. but multiple-OT games seem to swing the momentum greatly in Stanley Cup playoff games. I remember the Penguins/Capitals 4 OT game in 1996 (won by the Pens, who won the series) and the Penguins/Flyers 5 OT game in 2000 (won by the Flyers, who won the series) as great examples this. Last night's Pittsburgh win was certainly a game changer by any definition of the word.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Marilyn Monroe

Another good post over at Sunset Gun. This one about the great movie star Marilyn Monroe. Checking against imdb, I've seen 13 of Monroe's 33 films, including all the "major" ones except Bus Stop. Anybody who hasn't seen (many) of Monroe's films would do well to check her out in the light comedies like Some Like It Hot and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. And she wasn't just a pretty face. Just watch her performance in Don't Bother to Knock, and you'll see that she was a very talented actress as well.

A true movie star.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Cup Finals: Game 3

The Penguins finally played their brand of hockey and captured a 3-2 win last night vs Detroit. Through the first half of the first period, Pittsburgh looked like they did during stretches of games 1 and 2: generating good pressure, but kept from getting good shots off by Detroit's tough D. Then something in the Pens clicked. They controlled play for most of the game until about 10 minutes left in the third period when Detroit went on the attack again. The first two goals by Crosby were what the team needed to get back on track. It not only got Crosby into the series, but I think provided a little push to Malkin to step up his game. And to have the game winning goal scored by grinder Adam Hall was just the icing on the cake.

Hopefully this win will keep the Pens up so they win again in Saturday and head back to Detroit with the series even at two.

Update: I forgot to mention the great play of Brooks Orpik. Just check out the highlights below!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Centennial Bond

Today is the 100th anniversary of Ian Fleming's birth. Sandra Parshall of Poe's Deadly Daughters has a post about Bond's longevity.

CommanderBond.net has lots of good links dealing with the centennial and the new Bond novel "Devil May Care".

Time to sit back and enjoy a Vesper Martini.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Cup Finals: Game 1

Well, Game 1 has come and gone. Detroit wins 4-0. I don't think the game was as out of hand as the score implies. The first period was relatively balanced, with Pittsburgh controlling the play for long periods of time. The score was 0-0 after one. The second period was almost completely dominated by the Red Wings (as evidenced by the 16-4 shot total in favor of Detroit. The Red Wings capitalized on a bad line change and finished the period up 1-0. The third period saw a couple sustained attacks by Pittsburgh, but they were few and far between. Detroit did what they have done all year and capitalized on any mistake by their opponent. A "not too smart" pass by a Penguins player and two passes later, the puck was in the back of the net.

Here's hoping for a better result in tomorrow's Game 2. But I have a feeling Detroit might win the series in six.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Jazzy List

Another cool list I stumbled upon is The New Yorker's list of 100 Essential Jazz Albums. There are other lists of this type (see WBGO), but it's always interesting to see new lists and what is included and what is not. I'm still trying to figure out how The New Yorker's list organized. It's certainly not ranked (given the high numbers next to Brubeck's Time Out, Coltrane's A Love Supreme, and Miles Davis's The Birth of the Cool).

My Amazon wish list just got a bit longer. :)

Monday, May 19, 2008

Movies, Movies, Movies

I stumbled across this post on Thirteen Rule-Breaking Movies the other day. The author states that this is not intended to be a definitive list, but mainly a starting point. As with a lot of these lists, there are a lot of good movies I've seen, and a lot of movies I want to see. The first movie mentioned, Time Code, was one that I remember wanting to see when it first came out, but never tracked it down. And I'm glad to see Kubrick's masterpiece Paths of Glory make the list.

One movie I'd never heard of is 2002's Russian Ark. The sheer planning of creating a single 90-minute take must have been huge. I always like when filmmakers try something audacious. Another example along this line is one of my favorite Hitchcock movies Rope, which was shot in ten takes (ranging from 4 minutes to 10 minutes in length).

I'm going to try to track down copies of Time Code and Russian Ark.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Housekeeping

There's not going to be a new post up tomorrow and I'm not sure about Monday. I'm going out of town for the weekend and coming back late Sunday. Enjoy the weekend!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Killer Year

I recently finished the short story collection Killer Year: Stories to Die For. For the few blog visitors who don't know, Killer Year is a group of crime/suspense authors who had their debut novels published in 2007 and banded together as sort of a cross-promotion deal. As one of the neater things they did (along side the website and blog) was assemble a collection of short stories submitted by each debut novelist.

All the stories have their own charms. Each provides, one would assume, a taste of their own particular writing style. The three stories that really grabbed my attention were "Perfect Gentleman" by Brett Battles, "Bottom Deal" by Robert Gregory Browne, and "Gravity and Need" by Marcus Sakey. After reading just the story's second and third paragraphs (about love at first sight), Sakey's debut novel The Blade Itself jumped all the way to #2 or #3 on my TBR pile.

Another one I'd like to mention is Sean Chercover's "One Serving of Bad Luck". It didn't blow me away like some others in the collection, but I am definitely interested in picking up his novel.

I only singled out a couple stories, but there's lots of good stuff in here. Something for everyone. Let me know your favorites.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Kiss Me Deadly (1955)

This pas weekend I saw Kiss of Death, loosely based on Mickey Spillane's novel of the same title. Mike Hammer rescues a young woman (Cloris Leachman) on a dark road only to have her get killed several hours later. Hammer, naturally, seeks revenge on the villains uncovering a plot about stolen uranium (or atomic energy or something) - a Cold War MacGuffin inserted by the filmmakers. The whole Hammer revenge thing starts of as a standard Spillane plot, but the filmmakers made some changes to the story (expected) and the character along the way.

Instead of being a New York tough guy, he's based in L.A. and wears nice suits and drives a fancy car. They also cut down on the violence and the womanizing (Velda was his girlfriend). The movie Hammer was much more of a film noir PI, getting the crap beat out of him several times, instead of the Spillane PI who beat the crap out of anyone in his way -- even women.

Aside from the sex and violence, the one main theme of Spillane's book his honor. Most stories start off with a friend of Hammer's getting killed and Hammer vowing revenge on the perpetrators. This Hammer seemed more interested in the case because Leachman's character was involved in "something big" rather than his failure to protect her.

That's not to say the movie was bad. It was a fair film noir with a Cold War twist. There's also a bit of controversy about the ending (detailed here by the Noir of the Week guys). I happened to catch the American version of the ending - in case you're wondering.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Playoff Predictions

I usually do these before the first round of the playoffs, but I'm a little late this year. So I decided to do a little something different. Usually I do all the rounds going to the Stanley Cup Finals at once, but now I'm going to do this round and wait for the next round to post those predictions. And away we go.

Pittsburgh vs New York Rangers. Pittsburgh looks like the team to beat. Their superstars Crosby and Malkin are playing great. The deadline deals by Ray Shero to pick up Marion Hossa, Pascal Dupuis, and Hall Gill look like genius moves. Marc-Andre Fleury has been lights-out since coming back from his injury. But we can't count the Rangers out. Jagr has been playing inspired hockey and their veteran leadership of Shannahan, Gomez, and Drury (who I'm a huge fan of) knows how to win when it counts. The Penguins are currently up 2-0, but before the round started I called Penguins in 7. This may be amended to 6, but I'd be surprised if the Rangers rolled over any earlier.

Montreal vs Philadelphia. Before the series started, I would've said Montreal in 5. The Canadiens were the top team in the Eastern Conference, but took seven games to eliminate the Bruins. Philadelphia's goalie Martin Biron has done a good job keeping the Flyers close in every game this playoff season and outright stole Game 2 in Montreal. The Canadiens gave the Flyers fits all season, but Philly has hung tough in both games so far. I'm still picking Montreal in 6 games.

Detroit vs Colorado. Detroit was once again tops in the league, but this time actually look like they can do something in the playoffs. They almost let Game 1 slip away, but manhandled Colorado in Game 2. I haven't seen much of this series, so I'm just basing this on what I know about each team. Detroit in 5.

Dallas vs San Jose. San Jose is another team, like Detroit, that usually has a great season but does nothing come playoff time. They did a little better this year by beating Calgary in 7 games led by veteran Jeremy Roenick. They also have one of the league's top goalies in Evgeni Nabokov and picked up the biggest name defenseman available at the trading deadline in Brian Campbell. Dallas dispatched the defending champ Anaheim Ducks with surprising ease. They've been playing great after slow start to the season and goalie Marty Turco is always dangerous. I think this one will go seven games, but I'm not sure who will come out on top. I'm going to go with San Jose, though.

So, my calls for the conference finals are Pittsburgh vs Montreal in the East and Detroit vs San Jose in the West. Both would be phenomenal match ups.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

PI #3

Got comments back from my personal editor on the third short story featuring my new PI. He feels, like I do, that it's my best yet. I sure hope that's the case because we should get better as writers with the more practice we get, right? He even picked out a couple of the stylistic things I did as things he liked. The two problems he found were the opening paragraph (which I new) and he felt the ending was a bit confusing. Here's to another round of revisions.

Friday, April 25, 2008

So Tired

Between work and playoff hockey, I'm so tired. Haven't had a chance to write up any more reviews. I'm still alive, though.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Se7en (1995)

My last review was Fight Club. Here's another movie by David Fincher that it took me a really long time to see. Just like FC, Se7en features outstanding direction by Fincher and great performances by Pitt and Morgan Freeman. It's amazing how almost every shot in the film gives you a very creepy feeling without resorting to a lot of the tricks that serial killer movies rely on.

I noticed a couple really cool decisions the filmmakers make that I became subconsciously aware of. One thing I noticed while watching was profanity. There is quite a bit of swearing in the movie. But except for one line by Freeman and the interrogation scene at the end, all the profanity was spoken by Brad Pitt's character. Not sure if they were going for some kind of message, but it kept the whole thing a little off-kilter and made Freeman's cursing a lot more powerful.

It was only after a couple days that I noticed something about the violence in the movie. Yes, there's a serial killer going after people based on the seven deadly sins. But except for Wrath and Envy, all of the killing/violence occurs off camera. I think that helped build the eerie atmosphere.

Very good movie. Highly recommended.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Fight Club (1999)

In January, I finally got around to seeing Fight Club. I know, I know...it's a wonder how I made it this long considering how many people absolutely adore it. Luckily, I hadn't heard many spoilers before seeing it. It was well directed by David Fincher (Se7en - which will be reviewed in the future) and features knockout performances by Edward Norton and Brad Pitt.

Since it's almost a ten year old movie, I don't really have to dance around spoilers much. Early on, the movie gave off a certain vibe. That there were going to be big twists coming. For some reason, I kept going back and forth that possibly Marla Singer (Helena Bonham Carter) was just a figment of the narrator's imagination. At a certain point, I decided that she was real. But at pretty much the same moment, I knew Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) was not real. The one twist I didn't see coming was the last ten seconds of the movie. It makes sense in terms of the previous two plus hours, but I didn't think the filmmakers would actually "go there".

I'm not really sure what to say about Fight Club. I'm not in love with it like many people are. It was good, yes. I'd like to see it again. But there are lots of movies out there that I'd like to see for the first time before watching it again.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Hello Americans, by Simon Callow

It seems like I had been waiting a long time for Callow to release his second volume of Welles's biography. Thankfully, I had only read The Road to Xanadu four years ago. Many Welles fans had to wait eleven years for the second volume. I don't remember much of Xanadu, but my few recollections are critiques of Callow's work. He seemed to delight in painting Welles as less involved in the radio and stage productions than other accounts put him. And there were many offhand remarks about people Welles met once that had no bearing on the story of Welles's life or work. Thankfully, both these issues were remedied in Hello Americans.

Picking up here Xanadu left off, the second volume covers Welles's life from the release of “Citizen Kane,” in 1941, to the completion of “Macbeth,” in 1948. At first glance, I was upset that the 500 page volume only covered seven years of his life and worried that I'd have to wait another eleven years until volume 3. Callow, however, does a splendid job filling in Welles's activities to the minutest detail: from his trouble editing films from afar, to being completely immersed into Carnival, to his attempt at a career as political commentator.

One thing that always puzzled me was Welles relationship with Rita Hayworth. The union of the powerful director to one of the most beautiful actresses of the day certainly would be tabloid fodder today. Callow doesn't spend much time on their relationship, but provides even more tantalizing tidbits that I'd not heard before.

While he corrected his earlier issues, there are still a handful of things Callow does that made this book a slow read. He has a penchant for super long paragraphs, some as long as an entire book page. And some chapters were a bit too long. I liked the fact that each chapter had a specific focus and ignored most other aspects of Welles's hectic life during that period. But 60+ pages of densely worded prose are almost too much to read in an entire sitting. There were several times that I picked the book up to only put it down again when I saw that I couldn't finish the next chapter in the 20 minutes I had before I had to go somewhere.

Despite the stylistic flaws, Callow's thorough research makes the second volume another must read for anyone interested in Orson Welles. I just hope we don't have to wait eleven years until the third volume.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Take Me Out To The Ballgame

The crack of the bat. The roar of the crowd. Baseball is back. Today is, of course, Opening Day of the baseball season. Will the Mets climb that last hurdle with Johan Santana? Will the Phillies continue the magic that carried them to the post-season last year? Will the Pirates finally be over .500 for the first time in 15 years? And is it even possible to stop the Detroit Tigers?

For fans of history, check out this nice collection of links from the American Historical Association.

Play Ball!

Happy Birthday, Mr. Hockey

Today is the 80th birthday of Gordie Howe, one of the all-time hockey greats. I didn't even realize that he was turning 80 until I came across this series on TSN. Will definitely check it out when I get home from work. He played during every presidency from Harry Truman to Ronald Reagan. And even came out of retirement for one game in the 1997-98 season. Happy birthday, Gordie!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

It is Finished

I got a bit distracted over the past week, or is it two, but I finally finished PI #3. First draft clocks in at 7400 words. I feel it's one of the best things I've written to date. There is one scene - a very important one - that will probably need some heavy editing, but I was trying something that I normally don't do. I'm going to let it sit until Saturday or Sunday, edit it, do another draft, then send it along to my friend the editor. Depending on his reaction, this might be one I try to submit to Thrilling Detective.

On a blog note, I'm going to try to get the Welles bio review up on Friday. If not, it will certainly be up on Monday or Wednesday of next week.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Lawrence French and Bogdanovich

Lawrence French has posted a recent interview with Peter Bogdanovich over at Wellesnet. The big topic of discussion is Welles's unfinished film The Other Side of the Wind, which I have mentioned before. As with other Welles fans, I've been eagerly anticipating any news of Showtime's efforts in finishing the film. Bogdanovich reiterates his previous statements that it will take about a year to complete once he's given the final go-ahead from Showtime and the other backers. The interview itself is very enlightening, and Wellesnet has included several great pictures and a snippet of the script that are well worth a look.

In other Welles news, I finished volume 2 of Simon Callow's Welles biography. The review should be coming shortly.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

How Not to Play Goalie

Road Dogs

There's a teaser today on Elmore Leonard's official site about his next novel:

Cundo Rey says Jack Foley is the only white guy in prison he can talk to, Foley a celebrity, the most famous low-key bank robber in America. Cundo even pays a hot young female lawyer 30 grand to get Foley’s sentence down from 30 years to 30 months, and Foley is released two weeks ahead of Cundo.


Read on for more...

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Dark Knight (2008) and more

This post is up a bit later than I wanted to for Monday, but I was out of town for most of the weekend. I did stumble across a nice interview with Christopher Nolan about his approach to shooting both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight.

On another note, I haven't talked about it recently, but I'm back at work on the PI series I've mentioned in the past. I started last week with about 1200 words of a story that was started back in October. I start this week with over 4000 words. There's enough floating in this story that someone could probably stretch it into a novel, but I'm probably going to keep it as a short. If I finish early enough this week, I'll go through a couple rounds of edits this weekend before sending it off to a couple editors I know. Maybe this is the one that I can submit for publication.

Friday, March 7, 2008

X-Men: Legacy

Came across an interesting interview with Mike Carey the other day. In it, he discusses the changes to the X-Universe based on the Messiah CompleX and the transformation of X-Men vol 2 into X-Men: Legacy beginning with issue 208. As I've mentioned before, I really dug the Messiah CompleX storyline and I picked up a copy of 208 earlier this week. It's interesting to see the present day attempts to save Xavier juxtaposed with some of the very, very rich backstory of the X-Men franchise. Another thing that's getting me excited is Carey's talk of how the first three arcs of Legacy are going to play out. He does a very good job of teasing some forthcoming things and whetting my own personal appetite by mentioning the returns of Rogue and Gambit (two of my fave X-Men).

On another note, I just read Cable #1 by Duane Swierczynski. Very good stuff. A great start to the new Cable books. The artwork is a bit different than what I'm used to, but it's not annoying like the new X-Force books.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Wheelman, By Duane Swierczynski

I read The Wheelman in the fall and realized I haven't gotten around to reviewing it yet. The review would've been filled with a lot of detail if I'd written it right away, but I can at least give my quick overview.

It's pretty much what everyone else says. The characters are laugh out loud funny. The story is an adrenaline-fueled thrill ride. Lennon, a mute Irishman, is the best getaway driver in the business. We first meet him outside a Wachovia bank in downtown Philadelphia waiting for his partners. The heist goes off as expected, but things go sideways during the getaway. Lennon spends the rest of the book on the run from the cops, the Italian mafia, and the Russian mob. And, like a true noir hero, gets the living crap beat out of him at every turn.

The story builds to the inevitable showdown between Lennon and all the parties who feel he's done them wrong. Herein lies my only quibble with this book. The resolution feels to me like a deus ex machina. I'll forgive Duane this once, but I'm hoping for a more satisfying ending from his next book, The Blonde (which is next on my TBR pile).

Despite my misgivings with the ending, I highly recommend this book.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Song Noir

I was listening to WBGO yesterday, and I heard a song I hadn't heard in a while: Ella Fitzgerald singing Miss Otis Regrets. It's a haunting song, sung beautifully by one of the greatest singers of the 20th Century. The song popped into my head today, so I decided to check out the lyrics (reprinted here).

Miss Otis regrets, she's unable to lunch today, madam,
Miss Otis regrets, she's unable to lunch today.
She is sorry to be delayed,
but last evening down in Lover's Lane she strayed, madam,
Miss Otis regrets, she's unable to lunch today.

When she woke up and found that her dream of love was gone, madam,
She ran to the man who had led her so far astray,
And from under her velvet gown,
She drew a gun and shot her love down, madam,
Miss Otis regrets, she's unable to lunch today.

When the mob came and got her and dragged her from the jail, madam,
They strung her upon the old willow across the way,
And the moment before she died,
She lifted up her lovely head and cried, madam......
Miss Otis regrets, she's unable to lunch today.

Miss Otis regrets, she's unable to lunch today

The song, obviously, is from the point of view of a servant to a polite woman of society. It retells the story of Miss Otis being seduced and abandoned. Miss Otis tracks down and kills her seducer, then gets sentenced to death.

What strikes me about the lyrics is that this is a fairly good example of a noir story. You could almost call this song noir. Does anyone have any other examples of song noir?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

RIP: William F. Buckley

One of the National Review writers said it best: words fail.

The father of modern American conservatism, William F. Buckley, Jr., died this morning at the age of 82. People of all political stripes came to respect his class, wit, and intellectual prowess. Others can give better accountings of his life and work. But I'll just say that he brought intellectual weight to the conservative movement mid-20th Century that made it a viable alternative to the status quo progressivism. His actions help legitimize the goals of the movement and drive out some of the kooks (ex. the John Birch Society).

I never met the man, but I feel that given the chance, I would've felt the same as a number of NR writers: I would be afraid of making a fool of myself in front of such an intellectual giant. I did, however, receive a letter from him congratulating me on an award I won several years back. From public figures, such as he was, you would expect a form letter signed by an auto-pen. This could've been the case, but knowing how National Review is run plus a couple things about the letter itself, I like to believe that it was actually from him.

The image of Buckley in my mind's eye will always be like the one below. A young(ish) Buckley leaning back in a chair with a big grin, probably after making a witty comment.

Buckley
He will be missed.

UPDATE: As could be expected, lots of people are finding this post because they're interested in WFB's funeral. According to K-Lo on The Corner yesterday, "The memorial service for William F. Buckley Jr. will be at 10 A.M. at Saint Patrick's Cathedral on April 4. It will be open to the public."

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The X-Files 2

Just saw the trailer and read the panel discussion on the X-Files sequel. Man, I'm getting excited. I didn't realize it was going to be in July!!!

50 Crime Writers to Read Before You Die

I came across this article from The Telegraph about the 50 crime writers you should read before you die. It seem a fairly good list with some of the classics (Hammett, Chandler, Poe, Christie, etc) and some more recent masters (Ellroy, Leonard, Robert Crais). There are even some pleasant surprises along the way. But, as with all lists of this type, there are some omissions. I know some people will scream that James Crumley was left off. My main issue is the omission of Ross Macdonald. I've only read a couple Macdonald novels (with a couple more on my TBR pile) and others could make more eloquent defenses of why he should be on the list, but any list of top crime writers should include Macdonald. He took the style created and refined by Hammett and Chandler and gave it the depth you only saw in "literary" novels up to that point.

On a personal note, I'm happy Crais and Mickey Spillane were included.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Lady in the Water

I finally saw M. Night Shyamalan's 2006 film Lady in the Water. I immensely enjoyed The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable. Signs was OK and I was able to predict two of the three twists in The Village well before they happened. Overall, I've enjoyed Shyamalan's work and am eagerly anticipating his next film due in June. Lady, from what I remember, got mostly negative reviews. Fan reaction was clearly down on it as well. The best advice I got before watching it was from a friend who said to treat it like a bedtime story or fairy tale.

I'm not sure if it was the story or the direction, but the movie seemed a bit plodding and lifeless. There wasn't much dramatic tension until the party scene at the very end. There was a lot more that could've been done, but overall I neither hated nor loved it.

Extra Note: Even though you only hear a few bars of a song, I was able to pick out that the band performing at the party is Philly area's own Silvertide. Check them out.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

...They Pull Me Back In

Dave had his post earlier this week about his return to comic books, so now it's my turn. As I was stuck at home for most of January, I decided to pick up some of the comics that I had stopped reading almost 10 years ago. The only comic I obsessively collected was X-Men - in all the various flavors. My first book back was X-Men #200...and what a way to kick it off. Excellent artwork by Humberto Ramos and Chris Bachalo, a kick-ass story by Mike Carey, and an amazing twist ending. It also starts setting things in motion for the Messiah CompleX storyline, which is what inspired this post.

The whole Messiah CompleX saga was a roller coaster ride from beginning to end. I don't remember anything on this grand a scale from my previous comic book reading. And with the ending (spoilers withheld), it makes me even more excited for Duane's Cable.

To tie back into Dave's point about long-term planning, the events of Messiah CompleX could never have taken place without 2005's House of M. I'm not sure if that was the plan all along or just a lucky byproduct, but it's made me go back and try to get some of the M issues to see exactly how we got here.

Oh, comic books, why did I ever leave you?

Monday, February 18, 2008

Format War: The Final Countdown

I've always thought that Blu-Ray had a leg up on HD-DVD in the format war mostly because of Sony's use of it for their Playstation 3 gaming system. Then, earlier this year a couple studios dropped HD-DVD support, Best Buy said they would feature Blu-Ray more prominently, and Blockbuster and Netflix said they would be dropping HD-DVDs from their catalogs. Now comes this news that Toshiba might be withdrawing the format. I'm not ready to declare a winner in the war yet, but it looks like it's time to start researching Blu-Ray players.

Friday, February 15, 2008

About Yesterday

I don't think my story yesterday was too shabby for a last-minute effort. It was about the third idea I had, but it was my favorite of the three. I didn't intend for it to be almost completely dialog, but I think it worked out fine this way.

In my haste to finish and post it before Valentine's Day was over I forgot to mention that it was in part inspired by the lyrics from a couple of Theory of a Deadman's songs. This is more evident in the beginning, which I still feel is a little choppy. Probably would've been fixed with another round or two of edits - I say probably because I still don't have that much confidence in my skill as an editor.

If I didn't come up with a story idea, I was thinking of just posting a link to my previous flash love story, Pasta Primadonna.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Day Late

I had no idea until I visited Gerald's blog today that Patti Abbott was having a blog event for Valentine's Day. Ever the latecomer, I wrote the following story while at work today. Let me know what you guys think.

***************************
A Day Late
by, WellesFan

I sat in the coffee shop trying to read her note. Halfway through I had to stop. I’d never gotten a Dear John letter before. I said, “How could she do this to me?”

“I don’t know, man,” said Evan. “I remember when you two started going out. You were just like Lucy and Desi. Always talking about getting married one day and having a bunch of kids running around.”

“Why didn’t she believe me? Taking their words over mine? I’ve never been anything other than 100% truthful with her.”

“There’s nothing you could’ve done. She’s just a whore like every other woman. What you need now is a nice meaningless fling. Find yourself a girl who’s nothing to you other than a blouse full of goodies.”

“Maybe,” I said. “Maybe if I just accept half the consequences for what happened, she’ll accept my apology.”

“You don’t need her,” said Evan. “That relationship went south quickly. All this time you’ve been sleeping with the enemy. I’ve seen that look on your face. Instead of kissing her lips you want to staple them shut.”

“I’m going to call her.”

“Put the phone down.” He slapped the cell phone out of my hand. “Forget her. You and I are going to hit the town tonight.”

“I think I should call her. We can patch things up before it’s too late. I never realized how much I loved her until now.”

“You may love her,” said Evan, “but do you know how much she loves you? All those times you’re going over to her place. Hanging out even when she’s talking to her friends down the hall. She’s always talking about herself and her day. Does she ever ask about your day? Has she ever come over to your place?”

“At her place we can be alone. If she comes over to my place we have to…”

“Stop making excuses! She’s leading you around by your balls. She may have loved you at first, but now you’re just a nuisance to her.”

“Shut up,” I said. “You don’t know what you’re talking about. If you won’t let me call her, I’m going over to her place right now.”

“You won’t,” said Evan.

“I am.”

“You can’t.”

“Try and stop me.” I started to stand up.

“She’s dead, Chris.”

I felt the air rush out of the room. I felt like my heart had been ripped out of my chest. I felt a million different things.

“Wh-what? How? How do you know?”

Evan said, “Because I killed her.”

“You what?” I said. “You bastard. How could you kill the woman I love?”

“Keep your voice down. I killed her for you. I killed her for us. You and I have been through so much. We’ve known each other for so long. We’re almost brothers, man. Being with her changed you. And not for the better.”

“Maybe it’s not too late,” I said. “When did you kill her? Maybe she’s not dead. Maybe she just passed out or something.”

“No, she’s really most sincerely dead,” said Evan, with an evil grin on his face. “Since you had that last minute meeting last night, I went over to her place you tell her. See, that’s how good a friend I am. When I got there, she told me she was dumping you. She had already sent you that note, so I couldn’t talk her out of it. I had to protect you somehow. So I hit her. Again and again I hit her. Then, I wrapped my hands around her scrawny little neck and squeezed. You should have seen the look in her eyes at the end. It was like a candle had been snuffed out. And then she looked so peaceful.”

“You sick ---. I’m going to tell the cops.” I stood again.

“If I go down, you’re going with me.”

“Go to hell!”

“Sir, is everything all right?” A waitress had come over at the sound of our yelling.

I looked back at the table and Evan was gone. “Did you see where that man went?”

“What man?” she asked.

“That guy,” I said. “The guy I’ve been talking to for the last ten minutes.”

“Sir, there’s no one there. You came in alone. Is everything OK?”

“Oh, my God. I just killed my girlfriend.”

Thursday, February 7, 2008

In a Lonely Place (1950)

I mentioned this Nicholas Ray film a couple months ago while plugging the site Noir of the Week. I recently had the opportunity to see it, and I was not disappointed. Tight story, good direction, and an outstanding performance by Humphrey Bogart. Bogart stars as screenwriter Dixon Steele, a talented screenwriter whose last few pictures haven't done very well. At the beginning of the film, he's hired to adapt a bestselling novel into a screenplay. Rather than read the book, he has a hat-check girl tell him the story. The next day, the girl is found dead, and Steele is the main suspect. Steele's neighbor Laurel Grey, played by Gloria Grahame, provides him an alibi. A relationship blooms between the two of them, but the cloud of suspicion over Steele's possible involvement with the murder threatens to ruin it.

I bring the film up again because a stumbled upon a great post by Kim Morgan at Sunset Gun about it. It too me a while to track down a DVD copy (most of my local Blockbusters did not carry it), but it was worth the effort.

Highly Recommended.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Stop Me If You've Heard This One...

Okay, so this Polish guy walks into a brothel and finds his wife working as a call girl. According to the Reuters news agency, that actually happened recently, and Poland’s gag writers must be on strike too, because the shocked husband could come up with no better punch line than, “What are you doing here?” It is unclear whether the prurient Pole employed his wife in her professional capacity, but if so he is a true supply-sider, since every capitalist knows that paid employees work harder than volunteers. In a romantic comedy the couple would reconcile, but in real life, sad to say, they are divorcing. We leave it to Oprah and Dr. Phil to determine which is the aggrieved party.

Courtesy: National Review

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Tony DeSare

A friend of mine recommended that I check out Tony DeSare. Awesome piano. Great voice. Here are a couple YouTube clips:


If you like what you hear, check Tony out tomorrow night on Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz series on your local radio station. Or steam it live at WBGO.org tomorrow night at 6:30pm Eastern.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Pulp Fiction Murdered Long Sentences

The helpful posters over on Elmore Leonard's message board pointed me to this cool interview with Otto Penzler about the pulps. It's worth your 8 minutes to listen to it. I still have to make a run to Borders to pick up The Big Book of Pulps.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Munich (2005)

This is another move I wanted to see in the theater, but ended up watching at home. As with a lot of Spielberg movies, it is visually arresting and has a feeling of depth, but I couldn't help but be disappointed in it. As I knew going in, instead of being a movie about the murder of Israeli athletes by Palestinian terrorists during the 1972 Munich Olympics, the film deals with the supposed Mossad mission to track down and execute the terrorists one by one. The story has only been unofficially acknowledged, and the screenplay was based on two widely doubted books.

One of the themes of Munich is that vengeance begets vengeance in an endless cycle. The movie doesn't take into account the various motivations of such violence. Then as now, terrorists target innocent civilians. Their aim is to cause fear and arrest the attention of the world. Israelis (and Americans) go out of their way to prevent harm to innocents. The screenwriters put both sides on the same moral plane and plant the insidious message that to be righteous is to be passive and weak.

Despite my qualms over the message of the film, you should watch the movie and make your own judgment.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Why So Serious?

Not that I want to look at this picture any more than I have to, but doesn't Hillary look a bit like The Joker?

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Lookout (2007)

I just finished watching The Lookout, written and directed by Scott Frank. I remember seeing a trailer or two for this movie, and thought it looked interesting. It was also Frank's directorial debut, and I've been a fan of his writing for a while (Get Shorty, Out of Sight, Karen Sisco, Minority Report, etc).

The story follows Chris Pratt, a talented high school hockey player, who survives a tragic accident that left him with a mental disability (and lots of guilt) that he must deal with. We meet him as he lives a simple life with his blind friend Lewis, but Chris soon gets involved in the planning of a bank robbery. As with most crime films, there are twists and turns.

It's a bit slower that most "thrillers" or "crime dramas" out there, but it's an interesting character study.

Recommended.