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.