Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Sneak Peek: ST. VINCENT

Yesterday took a cool little turn in the early evening.  An hour or so before I was to finish work, I got a quick text and managed to net myself a seat at an advance screening of the new Bill Murray film, St. Vincent, with a Q&A afterwards with the director, Theodore Melfi.

The film itself, I liked a lot.  This is the third advance look I've managed to score for a Bill Murray movie (the others being Lost in Translation with Sofia Coppola in attendance and then The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou), which is crazy to me as it happens that I'm a huge Bill Murray fan and have been since I was a child, when Meatballs was released.  I actually just finished reading his book Cinderella Story, which I also enjoyed even though I know precious little about golf.  It's still a fun read.

Anyway, the film was hilarious, naturally, but also dramatic with a great deal of humanity. The plight of the single mom (Melissa McCarthy) was handled well in this way and McCarthy is better here than I've ever seen her.  She seriously nails her part.  Naomi Watts was decent and her character grew as the film went on, though the character seems the most unreal in the story.  Terrence Howard needed more scenes.  He plays the heavy but just gets dropped from the story completely, which was a shame.  As Oliver, the child actor Jaeden Lieberher is a highlight.  He's natural, makes a strong impression and his scenes with Murray are uniformly good.  And Murray's a pro.  You know going in that he'll deliver and he does as expected with humor and humanity.  He, McCarthy and Lieberher are the home run hitters, here.

Like last year's Nebraska, this one's a low-profile story about people on the ropes, emotionally.  These aren't shiny happy people holding hands.  They're not living the life.  They're dealing with stress and disappointment.  The film deals as much with the trials of aging, sickness, loneliness, single parenting and loss as it does with crotchety old man humor.  Every little joke has a darker statement seething just under the surface.  It's not the end all be all of cinematic experience but I teared up a lot during this thing, easily able to identify with the experiences of all three of the main characters; they're that relateable and effective.  Maybe it won't resonate with a lot of people the way it did with me but then again those people can always just sit back and enjoy the pleasures of seeing a decent film devoid of waste or overproduction and maybe get a few laughs while they're at it.

The film's director Theodore Melfi was also gracious and happily related stories about the production (working with Harvey Weinstein, casting Lieberher and McCarthy, tracking down Bill), the real-life inspirations of the story and characters (his daughter, wife, mother and father-in-law) and that one of his primary inspirations for the tone of the film was Disney's Up, another film with a young boy/older man relationship at its core.  The screening and Q&A were fun and the audience was appreciative.

A solid night at the movies for me, and, it seemed, many.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Full Roaming Vapors: The Recent History of GHOSTBUSTERS III

It's the 30th Anniversary of one of my favorite movies.  One of the funniest, most influential and highest grossing comedies of my lifetime and a primer on how absolutely perfectly the combination of well-written character-comedy and big special-effects chaos can be achieved.  We're talking Ivan Retiman's Ghostbusters (1984), of course, and lately it's all over the varied forms of entertainment news these days in ways I couldn't have guessed.

Sadly, just a few months before the much talked about anniversary, actor, co-writer, and comedy genius Harold Ramis passed away.  This sent shock waves through the show business world as Ramis was a warm and loved figure in the community.   Almost immediately, industry talk of a proper Ghostbusters III sequel stopped, despite it having being teased over and over again for the better part of the last decade.  Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II (1989) director Ivan Reitman then stated that he was pretty much completely off any sort of new sequel project, which soon compounded with not only the continual screenplay rejection of the always great Bill Murray but the still-up-for-it exuberance of actor Ernie Hudson and especially the continual marching-on of the franchise holdout and co-creator, Dan Aykroyd, who'd leaked incorrect start-dates in interviews several times before.

Then Paul Feig, director of Bridesmaids (2011), a substantial hit for Universal, was teased online as a top contender for director a new Ghostbusters film, this time with an all-female cast.  Hundreds of articles were written about this possibility and whether it was a much-needed shot in the arm or a total casting stunt meant to test the fan waters and see if anything floated.  Industry insiders guessed immediately that there'd be a place for Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy, two stars of Feig's hit, Bridesmaids, and possibly Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Sarah Silverman among others.  Just recently, celebrating "Bill Murray Day" at the Toronto Film Festival, Bill himself gave his picks as to who he'd like to see cast: Wiig, McCarthy (with whom he'd just filmed the new picture St. Vincent), Emma Stone (Magic in the Moonlight) and Linda Cardellini (Mad Men), going on to say "I would watch it."  I would, too.  I like the idea of a female team of Ghostbusters, especially with Kristen Wiig involved, much more than any of the various Rogen-Franco-McBride-Robinson-Cera-Zuckerberg-Milano-Dukshu-Jack Black-Hader-Sudekis-Samberg combinations being thrown around in the last few years.  In fact, give me a Wiig-Stone-Maria Bamford-Meagan Good team.  I love me some Bamford and Good was great in Anchorman 2.  That's my Ghostbuster Lady dream team, right there.

Not to be outdone, in the last 24 hours, Dan Aykroyd has come back into the picture and made two interesting and wild statements.

The first: he thinks the Ghostbusters world could/should be blown up and writ large, as Marvel has done with it's extended cinematic universe, a la Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, The Avengers and so on.

"It’s beyond just another sequel, a prequel, another TV show. I'm thinking what does the whole brand mean to Sony? What does Pixar and Star Wars mean to Disney? What does Marvel mean to Fox? That’s what we have to do. The whole vehicle of Ghostbusters has to be rebuilt. That’s the ambitious thinking that’s going on now. Taking on the model of Marvel where we take all of the elements that are in this movie and we put them out there as different ideas.”  -- Comicbook.com

Now here's the thing.  I'm a die-hard Ghostbusters fan.  With the exception of Dan himself, you're rarely likely to bump into a someone more into the movie on the street.  And while there would be a certain interest for me, personally, to see something kooky like this happen (sequels/prequels/spin-offs, etc), I think for the general populace Dan comes very close in this thinking to diluting the brand to such an extent that it all comes crashing down around him.  As far as it goes, Ghostbusters II, Caddyshack II and Blues Brothers 2000 show that sequels aren't exactly Aykroyd's best friends.

Thirty years later, people still love the original Ghostbusters.  Twenty-five years later, Ghostbusters II can't even get a properly packed special edition blu-ray.  (No commentary track and minus several deleted scenes that are said to still exist.)  People who dress up as Ghostbusters for charity Halloween parades are typically greeted with huge love and applause, especially if their suits and props are screen-accurate.  And yeah, if I had the where-with-all, I'd have one too and be marching along right there with them.  But the die-hards are always gonna love the Ghostbusters, while sub-par franchise expansions could really hurt the general public love.  Then again, The Clone Wars cartoon, video games and novels kept the love for Star Wars alive for the last ten-plus years, despite the successful but now-reappraised Second Trilogy.  So, I don't know.  As long as the stories work, I guess it could be fine.  There's a possibility.  I liked 88MPH's Ghostbusters comic series much more than the longer-lasting IDW ones, as the writing and art were so much stronger in the former than the latter. The novel Ghostbusters: The Return was solid and true to the original films, and the 2009 videogame just flat out rocked.

I'm torn between two other movie-based schools of thought on this.  "I want to believe," and "I've got a bad feeling about this."

And just a few short hours ago, this little nugget popped up on the internet from theactionelite.com...


Dan Aykroyd has said he is “100% assured” that a new Ghostbusters movie will be released in the next two years, and has backed British action movie star Jason Statham to star in the sequel. Discussing the possibility of moving location to London for the new film, he said: “I think that that’s a big part of what we would think about in the future, that it’s an international thing. It would be rich to do something here in the UK because there’re so many possibilities.  “There are so many great locations here and… in fact true spirits here that are living right now amongst us. There is so much talent coming out of the UK but I would love to see Jason Statham as a Ghostbuster in some capacity. He’s a lot of fun,” said Aykroyd.

Jason Statham.  As a Ghostbuster,  Would I see that movie?   Hell yeah.  Do I think it will ever happen?  Hell no.  In a way I kind of hope it does.  Sometimes crazy can work.  Just look at this year's highest grossing adventure flick, the one with the raccoon and the smiling tree man.  Anything can happen and nobody knows nothing.  Still, still...  Mentioning both this crazy casting and that there might be "true spirits here that are living right now amongst us" might not be the best way to deliver your messages and hopes of sane, bankable corporate filmmaking creativity to the masses.

So, okay.  If this is the kind of thing that's going on his mind, let's get really crazy.  No idea is too much, apparently.  Nothing is impossible.  So yeah, okay, let's open up that Ghostbusters Cinematic Universe and really expand it.  How about a war movie?  A romcom?  Let's get nuts, blaze some trails and put the Busters in some whole new cinematic realities.

- Combine the new film with Ivan Reitman's long-gestating, not-really-wanted Twins sequel and make Arnold Schwarzenegger, Danny DeVito and Eddie Murphy into Ghostbusters.

- A Fistful of Ghostbusters.  Old-tech in the Old West.  Like the Doc Brown steam science designs in Back to the Future Part III.

- Ghostbusters VS. Army of Darkness.  Deadites in New York.  The New Venkman meets The New Ash.  Pseudo-hilarity ensues.  In fact, fuck it, throw some Gremlins in there too. why don'tcha?

- Ghostballs.  Ghostbusters meets Meatballs.  Summer Camp flick.  Teens getting laid and trapping vapors.  And not just the ones that come from the Fat Kid's ass.

- Ghostly Instinct.  An NC-17 sexual-thriller about a tormented Ghostbuster having a scandalous affair with a particularly sexy spectre and vowing to help find her killer from beyond the grave. With Emma Stone and Jason Statham.  Box office gold.

- The Grudgebusters.  They go over to Japan to kick that little meowing kid's ass once and for all.

- Freddy Vs. Jason Vs. Ghostbusters.  Probably the dumbest idea and the one that actually makes some kind of sense. 

- Ghostbusters of Mars.  'Cause why not let John Carpenter get in on this, right?  In fact...

- Big Ghostbusters in Little China.  Venkman, Stantz, Spengler and Zeddemore meet Jack Burton.  Lo Pan and The Three Storms don't stand a chance.   

Call me, Dan...  At the very least, you can stay in our guestroom here Boston while you try to set up a meeting with Damon and Affleck about location scouting for Good Will Busting.


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Adventures in Cinema: ROBOCOP 2

In cinema circles right now, one of the main topics of nerdly discussion is the relative non-necessity of a remake of Paul Verhoeven's ROBOCOP.  

Released in 1987, this sci-fi action satire drama chunk of awesomeness looked like a terrible good-guy clone of THE TERMINATOR going by the advance poster art and at the time I paid it little mind.  When I saw it though, I was as bowled over by how much fun it was as everyone else.  

Sweet action, crazy gallows humor, hugely quotable, insane comic violence and gleeful debauchery, all surrounding the heart and soul of a good guy out to get the bad guys.  There were sequels, TV shows, comic books, and videogames to follow.  And, it now seems, the inevitable Hollywood product remake with reduced violence and toothless satire.  As far as the sequels to the original film go, I've never seen ROBOCOP 3... ("A pg-13 RoboCop movie? Who the hell would want to see that?"


But the also-nutty ROBOCOP 2 (1990) will always have a place in my ridiculous heart.  

Aside from the now-classic sequence where all the new models are trotted out and shown going crazy, the meta-dialogue about bad follow-ups to superior originals, the swearing little kid drug dealer and Tom Freakin' Noonan... there is one event I can't help but recall whenever I think of ROBOCOP 2.

The night it the film came out in the summer of 1990, my friends and I all worked in a suburban multiplex cinema off the highway between Boston and Providence.  My crazy friend Chris (we all have that one crazy friend) and I were going to see it at the 7:00pm Friday night first show at the theater where we worked.  We'd been playing Nintendo games for far too long, though, and lost track of time.  He lived about ten miles from the cinema and we realized we had less than fifteen minutes till showtime. We hurriedly finished playing "Duck Hunt" or whatever we were so engrossed in and ran down to my car downstairs.

Now, at the time Chris lived across from an expansive car park in a sort of burnt out industrialized area at the end of town (not unlike Delta City, actually) and we would routinely engage in some loud, obnoxious behavior because it amused us and because, as two crazy-looking weirdos, we could.  One example was a game we'd invented called LETHAL WEAPON PARKING LOT.  I'd get in my car and drive backwards, he'd chase after the car on foot like Martin Riggs... and I'd swerve left and right, going backwards at high speeds, trying to lose him. What can I tell you?  It was like being a stunt man filming an action scene.  We were stupid and easily-amused kids.

This time, though, I got to the car far ahead of him, which was unusual as he was always the faster runner of the two of us, started it up, and when he was about fifty yards away from my legendary 1978 Oldsmobile Royale "Uncle Buck" battletank, I hit the gas and went tearing across the pavement backwards, which was the universal symbol for "GAME ON."  

Chris came running.  But since I knew we didn't have time for this if we were going to make the start of ROBOCOP 2, I slowed down again almost immediately.  He didn't, though.  He was running at the car full speed before I knew it and when I suddenly slowed down, he flew up the front of the car over the hood and BAM.  Rolled onto his shoulder and went right through my windshield, ripping a hole in it where it looked like his head bounced off it.

Now imagine this.  The car is now stopped.  I hear an "UGH!" and he rolls back off the car onto the ground.  There's a moment of silence.  I'm freaked.  He's on the ground where I can't see him.  There's no sound but the rumbling of my idling engine.  A few seconds pass and then...

HYUH HYUH HYUUUHHH.....    

Chris is on the ground laughing his ass off and after a moment he gets up to survey the damage.  "Holy shit, are you okay?" I ask him.  

He was totally fine, as his jacket was thick enough to take the hit and cushion him from any glass or bodily harm.  His head didn't actually hit the windshield or the roof or anything, he had no whiplash and there was no blood anywhere. He got the wind knocked out of him for a brief moment, came up laughing and was absolutely none the worse for wear.  We both broke out laughing in relief then, as this was probably one of the more scary and more stupid things we'd done in a while.  But then the true shock and seriousness of the situation hit us...

"We're totally gonna miss the start of ROBOCOP 2 if we don't hurry up!"

So we jumped back in the car and drove as fast as we could with a broken windshield to the movie theater.

Finding a front row parking spot, we dashed though the lobby past our friends, some of which couldn't help but notice the giant hole in the windshield.  "What the fuck?!" our friend Shawn asked.  "Not now, we'll talk later!" we yelled as we grabbed two free sodas and a bunch of popcorn and briskly cut ahead of the two-hundred person line to the about-to-begin 7:00pm showing.  The movie started and we were still laughing like idiots from the adrenaline.  We sat back and settled into some Robo glory.

After a little while for some odd reason -- lack of sleep or too many videogames earlier that day -- my eyes started getting itchy.  I was rubbing them when Chris asks me what's up.  I whisper that my eyes are itchy and this kid decides to go PsyOp on me and mess with my head, another favorite pasttime of ours.  

"You know why that is, don't you?" Chris whispered as we watched the film.  "It's probably microscopic shards of broken windshield glass, and every blink you blink is probably bringing you one step closer to blindness."  

"You... You think?"  I felt the fear coming on.

"Yep.  Don't worry, though.  I'll drive you to the hospital after the movie there, Ray Charles."

"FUCK YOU!" I yelled and spastically leaped to my feet, crushing people in the seats next to us and knocking others out of the way, running at full speed to the bathroom and flushing my eyes with water from the sink like a total freak show madman.

The itchiness went away after a moment and fortunately I can still see just fine, thank you, almost twenty-five years later.  I went back to the movie, sat back down, was fine again and just laughed like an idiot a little more. 

"Did I miss anything?" I asked.  

"Yeah, RoboCop shot somebody for smoking a cigarette."

Just another day with my crazy friend, Chris.  And I always think of it whenever someone brings up ROBOCOP 2. Good times.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Martial Art: Wong Kar-wai's THE GRANDMASTER

In fighting, as in storytelling, one of one’s greatest allies is the element of surprise.  A well-placed strike, an unexpected kick. When I walked into the local cineplex this afternoon, I felt I knew what was coming as I sat down for Wong Kar-wai’s THE GRANDMASTER. And at the risk of sounding hyperbolic, I found it to be the most unexpectedly terrific film I’ve seen in more than a year and possibly the best martial arts picture since Zhang Yimou’s Hero and Takeshi Kitano’s Zatoichi.

What makes it so great?  Intention and detail.  When I first saw the Grandmaster trailers I thought, “Wow, Wong Kar-wai’s doing a genre film again?”  He hadn’t really done one since Ashes of Time in 1994 (and the cine-revisionist Ashes of Time Redux in 2008). In the between years, the man perfected the slow-burn romance drama with In the Mood For Love, 2046 and The Hand – his contribution to the omnibus film, Eros – and brought his sensibilities stateside with the noble Norah Jones and Jude Law-led My Blueberry Nights which wasn’t perfect but grew on and blossomed for me very quickly. So when I saw Tony Leung fighting ten or fifteen random people at night in the rain as the renowned Wing Chun master Ip Man — more recently played with general action flick acclaim by Donnie Yen — I thought it was an unusual step for WKW to make something so popularist, so apparently standard-looking. Like Edward Hopper penciling an issue of a Spider-Man comic. Not a bad move, just… Well, unexpected.

I should have known better.

The Grandmaster is about fighting, both one’s physical opponent and one’s own desires. Part biopic, part action flick… but all art film, and even more so than it appears. A beautiful bait and switch, things start out as you might expect but in the latter half the film’s real strengths are revealed. Lovingly filmed, edited, photographed and performed, it’s not so concerned with badassness, sweeping vistas and operatic theatricality, though there is quite a bit of that in the first half and specific moments in the second and those scenes are still very well done and rank among the best anyone has ever done them. Then the visceral thrill of battle and excitement gives way to a more serene, heartfelt and contemplative second half that fits squarely into WKW’s more recent oeuvre. You realize that you’re watching something different, something that will tug at your emotions as much as it fulfills your need for fight choreography. You feel the fights more when you care about the characters this much, when they’re this well-drawn.

No slap to Donnie Yen’s Ip Man films is intended here.  They’re a lot of fun and remain well-made and well-performed action adventures. WKW’s Grandmaster is just a different take with different artistic concerns.  Steven Spielberg and Tobe Hooper’s Poltergeist and Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining are both haunted house films. One’s a fun, sweet thrill ride and one’s a strange and shattering artistic wonder. The Grandmaster, just as The Shining does with Kubrick, also serves as a reminder about the sure-handed skill of it’s director, Wong Kar-wai..

The guy couldn’t make an average movie if he tried.

(See this thing in a theater, if at all possible. This deserves to make a ton of money. And stay a moment after the credits start. There’s an unexpected midway “gotcha” there that gets a real smile.)

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Note to Self: Do Try To Get Out of the House More Often.



Not much news to report, for now.  Some drama, some highs and lows, some biking, reading and writing. And of course, some movie watching...

Theatrical Reviews
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)  ****
The Blues Brothers (1981)  ****
Jurassic Park 3D  ***1/2
The World's End  ***1/2
Europa Report  ***1/2
The Wolverine  ***1/2
Iron Man 3  ***1/2
Only God Forgives  ***
Blue Jasmine  ***
On the Road  ***
Pacific Rim  ***
Stoker  ***
Man of Steel  **1/2
Room 237  **1/2

DVD/Home Video
Streetwise (Documentary, 1984)  ****
Comedian (Doc, 2002)  ****
The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (2006, Japan)  ***1/2
Elevator to the Gallows (France, 1953)  ***1/2
What The @#*! Is Astron-6 (2011, DVD) ***1/2
The Lost Skelton of Cadavera (2001)  ***1/2
Straight to Hell Returns (2011)  ***1/2
In the Heat of the Night (1967)  ***1/2
The Spanish Prisoner (1996)  ***1/2
Experiment in Terror (1962)  ***1/2
State of Grace (1990)  ***1/2
Alive (2002, Japan)  ***1/2
Texasville (1990)  ***1/2
Trespass (1990)  ***1/2
American: The Bill Hicks Story (2009, Doc)  ***
Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning (2012)  ***
Tom Waits: Burma Shave (1978/2006)  ***
Miami Connection (1987)  ***
The Public Eye (1994)  ***
The Split (1968)  ***
Marlowe (1969)  ***
Metro (1997)  ***
4:44: Last Day On Earth (2011)  **1/2
Doctor Who: The Movie (1996)  **1/2
Meet Monica Velour (2010)  **1/2
The Terrorist (1998, India)  **1/2
Just Imagine (1930)  **1/2
Navajo Joe (1966)  **1/2
Cat Chaser (1989)  **1/2
Parker (2013)  **1/2
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2012)  **
Brainsmasher: A Love Story (1993)  **
Daft Punk: Electroma (2006)  **
Searchers 2.0 (2007)  **
Freaky Deaky (2013)  **
Trespass (2011)  **
Stolen (2012)  **
Crash (1996)  **
Safe (2012)  **
The Blob (1958)  *1/2
A Great Jungle Adventure (Germany, 1982)  *
Cruel Jaws (1995)  *
Zaat (1971)  *

The Films of Brian De Palma
Greetings (1968)  **1/2
Hi, Mom! (1970)  ***
Sisters (1973)  ***
Obsession (1976)  **
Carrie (1976)  ***
The Fury (1978)  **1/2
Dressed to Kill (1980)  ***
Blow Out (1981)  ***
Scarface (1983)  **1/2
Body Double (1984)  ***
Wise Guys (1986)  ***1/2
The Untouchables (1987)  ****
Casualties of War (1989)  ***1/2
The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990)  ***
Raising Cain (1992)  ***
Carlito's Way (1993)  ****
Mission: Impossible (1996)  ***1/2
Snake Eyes (1998)  ***1/2
Mission to Mars (2000)  **
Femme Fatale (2002)  ***
The Black Dahlia (2006)  **

The Films of Dolph Lundgren
Masters of the Universe  ***
Red Scorpion  ***
The Punisher  ***
I Come In Peace  ***
Showdown in Little Tokyo  **1/2
Universal Soldier  **1/2
Army of One / Joshua Tree  **
Johnny Mnemonic  **1/2
Silent Trigger   *1/2
Blackjack   **1/2
The Defender  *1/2
UNISOL: Day of Reckoning  ***
The Expendables  ***
Expendables 2  **1/2

The Films of the 1970s
Serpico (1973)  ****
Two-Lane Blacktop (1971)  ***1/2
Vanishing Point (1971)  ***1/2
Black Sunday (1977)  ***1/2
Little Murders (1971)  ***1/2
Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1975)  ***
The Last American Hero (1973)  ***
Mother, Jugs & Speed (1976)  ***
Lady Sings the Blues (1972)  ***
The Carey Treatment (1972)  ***
American Hot Wax (1978)  ***
The Onion Field (1979)  ***
Rolling Thunder (1977)  ***
The Seven-Ups (1973)  ***
Charley Varrick (1973)  ***
Coonskin (1975)  ***
The Deep (1977)  ***
Joe (1975)  ***
The Silent Partner (1978)  **1/2
The Organization (1971)  **1/2
Heavy Traffic (1973)  **1/2
Jonathan Livingston Seagull (1973)  **
Aloha, Bobby & Rose (1975)  **
Badge 373 (1973)  **
Hustle (1975)  **
Fuzz (1972)  **
Driller Killer (1979)  *

The Films of the 1980s
Phil Collins: Live at Perkins Palace (1983, TV)  ****
Running Scared (1986)  ****
Miracle Mile (1988)  ****
Videodrome (1983)  ****
Tootsie (1982)  ****
Thief (1981)  ****
Richard Pryor: Live on the Sunset Strip (1982)  ***1/2
Richard Pryor: Here and Now (1983)  ***1/2
Dead Bang (1989)  ***1/2
Wise Guys (1986)  ***1/2
The Company of Wolves (1984)  ***
Grandview, U.S.A. (1984)  ***
Candy Mountain (1988)  ***
Streets of Fire (1985)  ***
The Entity (1981)  ***
Robot Jox (1989)  ***
The Wizard of Speed and Time (1989)  **1/2
Riptide: Pilot Episode (1984, TV)  **1/2
King of the Mountain (1981)  **1/2
Patlabor: The Movie (1989)  **1/2
The Park Is Mine (1986)  **1/2
Heavenly Bodies (1984)  **1/2
Zone Troopers (1985)  **1/2
Little Darlings (1980)  **1/2
Cutter's Way (1981)  **1/2
The Wild Life (1984) **1/2
Eliminators (1986)  **1/2
Stir Crazy (1980)  **1/2
Malone (1987)  **1/2
Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn (1983)  **
Richard Pryor: Live in Concert (1979)  **
Fast Lane Fever (Austrailain, 1982)  **
Remote Control (1987)  **
The Ice Pirates (1984)  **
Battletruck (1982)  **
Get Crazy (1983) **
Arena (1986)  **
Bulletproof (1988)  *1/2
Crash & Burn (1989)  *

Books/Comics
Black Coffee Blues (Henry Rollins)  ***1/2
Gonzo: A Graphic Biography of Hunter S. Thompson (Will Bingley & Anthony Hope-Smith)  ***
The Superior Spider-Man #1-7 (Marvel)  ***
Pronto (Elmore Leonard)  ***
All-New X-Men #1-4 (Marvel)  **1/2
The Big-Screen Drive In Theater (Donald Davis)  **

Music/Spoken Word
Escape From New York (score by Alan Howarth) 2013 Vinyl Reissue  ****
Blade Runner (score by Vangelis) 2013 Vinyl Reissue  ***1/2
Drive (score by Cliff Martinez) 2013 Vinyl Reissue  ***1/2
The Wolverine (score by Marco Beltrami)  ***1/2
Daft Punk: Random Access Memories  ***1/2
John Coltrane: Live at the Half Note  ***1/2
Edward Hopper and the Music of New York (jazz standards)  ***
David Bowie: The Next Day  ***
Eric Clapton: Old Sock  ***
mc chris: Friends (EP)  ***
mc chris: Kicks Tape (EP)  **1/2
Hunter S. Thompson's "The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved" Audio Dramatization  **1/2
Man of Steel (score by Hans Zimmer)  **1/2

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Boston Marathon - 4/15/13


It was a beautiful blue-skied morning as I walked to work with a roommate on her way downtown to the Boston Marathon.  I've had a love/hate relationship with the Marathon for years in that I've often given it a bit of attitude (for the shutdown of local bus service and not being able to cross the street during the race, for example)... but eventually I always fall in line and get swept up in the joy of the occasion and the festivity of the crowds.  The place where I work is located in a well-traveled shopping area neighborhood about two miles from the finish line and is on the actual route of the race itself, so we get to see all the runners and hear all the hoots and hollers of all the supportive people-watchers nearby.  Online for a moment between work moments, I saw that a friend who'd gone down to the finish line had Facebooked something alone the lines of "I just heard explosions in Copley at the Marathon, WTF?"  And my first thought when reading that was that it must've been fireworks or celebration cannons or something and didn't immediately think anything much of it.  (The city sounds-off heavy guns at the Fourth of July on the Esplanade of the Charles River, so it didn't seem a huge stretch at the time.)  Not three minutes later, the Facebook status updates of my local friends began coming in fast and furious.  Then the links to news reports.  And finally one of my co-workers came to my workspace and reported the official word about the bombs going off at the finish line. 

The next moments and hours were sad and surreal.  We all pretty much stopped working for a while as the emergency vehicles of the surrounding areas tore through our area, headed downtown.  I called my Mom and Facebooked friends and family to let them know I was fine.  A longtime friend stopped in from watching the race to see check in and see if we were all present and accounted for.  She and I walked out around the neighborhood to grab a coffee and talk about what was going on.  We saw an oblivious race runner nearly get hit by a speeding squad car.  We saw elderly women at the coffee shop at the exact moment that they learned what was happening.  Hundreds more runners were just jogging along doing their thing, apparently not in possession of cell phones and most likely not knowing a thing about what was happening just two or three miles up the road.  National Guard people climbed into their heavy vehicle and headed off toward the scene.  And most everyone was on their cells or smartphones trying to learn more about the causes and/or casualties.  Eventually the street was closed and emptied, the trains were shut down and the local neighborhood looked as deserted as it does on an early Sunday morning.  Later, I finally heard from my roommate who let us here at the house know that she made it home safe & sound and that she'd fortunately never actually made it downtown to the event, which was a major relief...

At work, we spent most of the rest of the day doing our jobs as usual, checking in on live-streams of local news and chatting with customers about the tragedy.  We watched and listened through all the chaos of the multiple bomb reports, facts and falsehoods, the local law enforcement press conferences, the live shots from Copley Square and the city hospitals, the injury and casualty reports, the pop theories and national news chatter.  They're still piecing everything together as I write this.  There are reports of surveillance pictures of an individual dropping a backpack or backpacks into a trash car or cans as well as news videos and GIFs of the two confirmed blasts at the finish line area and the deep fear and terror of the scared and injured on the scene.

It reminds me of 9/11, of course.  Of getting off that underground commuter rail train that morning, coming up to the street and looking up into the sky, watching for low flying planes and building fires, not knowing anything about what was happening except for the cold facts of the destruction and the dead.

It's only been a little over eight hours.  So far nobody's claimed responsibility and noone seems to know who or why this happened, just yet.  There are no answers just yet and there's actually very little to say.  The local emotional vibe is sorrow, confusion and desire for more information, for a name and a face to put to this terrible event.  Hopefully we'll get them as the night goes on and the time passes.  Tomorrow's a new day and it seems it will be a partly sunny and warm one for this time of year.  It will be one in which the departed will be mourned and survivors will hold each other in tearful relief and thanks.  I, among others I'm sure, am thankful that this attack wasn't as large as it could've been, all things considered, and am also looking forward to the moment when those who did this are identified and brought to justice.  I'm thankful that none of my friends or family were caught in the terror of this afternoon first-hand and am also very sad for the victims that were.  There will be joy and sadness tomorrow.  But we'll rise in the morning and go on with what we do, as they have in New York and London and Paris and everywhere else that suffers the evil work of cowards.  And we'll get through it.  As Patton Oswalt said this morning of the violent and hateful and ignorant,  "The good outnumber you, and we always will."

I have no such quotes for the ages, no answers and not much in the way of spiritual or even helpful advice.  All I have is hope that you are safe and warm with those you love.  And a hope that good is stronger than evil.  Especially in moments like these, when it seems most difficult to believe.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Etymology and John McClane


In doing a personal research project regarding the classic (and now over-sequelized) 1988 action film DIE HARD directed by John McTiernan and starring Bruce Willis, I picked up on something kind of interesting...

The expression "yippee-ki-yay," attributed to Roy Rogers by John McClane (Bruce Willis), may or may not have actually been coined by Roy Rogers.  In trying to find the actual very first use of the term, I found some intriguing clips on YouTube.


First were a couple of versions of the song "The Ballad of Pecos Bill" by Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers. In both the following version (date unknown) and the 1948 version below from the Disney feature film, Pecos Bill, the line is "yippee-i-yay, yippee-i-oh"...



A little closer is the next song, written by Johnny Mercer and performed by Bing Crosby, "I'm An Old Cowhand" from 1936.  It features the expression "yippee-i-oh-ki-yay."


And in this Roy Rogers version of "Git Along Little Dogies" from 1940, he uses the expression "whoopy-ti-yi-oh."


So, did Roy Rogers ever actually say yippee-ki-yay?  Maybe as dialogue in a particular film?  Or on the radio?  Or in a different version of a different song?  I'm not sure. If so, I still haven't found it.  My research continues...  

Also, I'm throwing this last clip in, 'cause it's pretty cute.


And with that, I think I may have done more actual, proper, Die Hard related research than the makers of A Good Day to Die Hard did.


Theatrical Reviews
On the Waterfront (1954)  ****
Ghostbusters (1984)  ****
Evil Dead 2 (1987)  ****
Manhattan (1979)  ****
Chinatown (1974)  ****
Jaws (1975)  ****
Mad Max (1979)  ****
Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981)  ****
Django Unchained  ***1/2
The Fifth Element (1997)  ***1/2
Bronson (2008)  ***1/2
Jack Reacher  ***1/2
Samsara  ***1/2
The Dark Knight Rises  ***
The 'Burbs (1989)  ***
Looper  ***
The Expendables 2  **1/2
The Master  **1/2
To Rome With Love  **
A Good Day to Die Hard  *1/2

DVD/Home Video
The Silence of the Lambs: Criterion Collection (1991)  ****
The Killing: Criterion Collection (1956)  ****
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)  ****
Dark Days (Documentary)  ****
Zero Effect (1998)  ****
The Thing (1982)  ****
Heist (2001)  ****
Johnny Carson: King of Late Night (PBS)  ***1/2
Looking For Mr. Goodbar (1977)  ***1/2
Maria Bamford: Plan B (2010)  ***1/2
Escape From Alcatraz (1975)  ***1/2
The Eiger Sanction (1975)  ***1/2
The Long Goodbye (1973) ***1/2
The Brink's Job (1978)  ***1/2
The Rocketeer (1991)  ***1/2
Sid and Nancy (1986)  ***1/2
Futurama: Volume 7  ***1/2
Withnail & I (1987)  ***1/2
Meanwhile (2012)  ***1/2
Mona Lisa (1986)  ***1/2
Real Life (1978)  ***1/2
Haywire (2012)  ***1/2
Hit! (1973)  ***1/2
Check It Out with Dr. Steve Brule: Seasons 1 & 2  ***
80 Blocks From Tiffany's (Documentary)  ***
NY77: The Coolest Year In Hell (Doc)  ***
Resident Evil: Degeneration (anime)  ***
Where the Buffalo Roam (1980)  ***
Tom Waits: Big Time (1988)  ***
Night Fishing (South Korea)  ***
The Cannonball Run (1981)  ***
Private Eye (South Korea)  ***
Rough Cut (South Korea)  ***
The Nickel Ride (1974)  ***
The Quiet Earth (1985)  ***
White Lightning (1973)  ***
The Howling (1981)  ***
Valley Girl (1984)  ***
Class (1983)  ***
Flying Swords of Dragon Tiger Gate (HK)  **1/2
The Sorcerer and the Green Snake (HK)  **1/2
2019: After The Fall of New York (1983)  **1/2
Edge City / Sleep Is For Sissies (1980)  **1/2
Showdown in Little Tokyo (1991)  **1/2
Drive A Crooked Road (1957)  **1/2
Endangered Species (1982)  **1/2
Cannonball Run II (1984)  **1/2
American Flyers (1985)  **1/2
Lady in Cement (1968)  **1/2
The Choirboys (1977)  **1/2
Tony Rome (1967)  **1/2
High-Ballin' (1978)  **1/2
Saturn 3 (1980)  **1/2
Machete (2011)  **1/2
Bad Ass (2012)  **1/2
Busting (1973)  **1/2
Walker (1987)  **1/2
Jaws 2 (1975)  **1/2
Gator (1976)  **1/2
Sliver (1994)  **1/2
Jade (1995)  **1/2
They're Playing with Fire (1984)  **
Return to Boggy Creek (1977)  **
American Anthem (1985)  **
Dawn of the Dead (1978)  **
Diary of a Hitman (1991)  **
Live From Tokyo (Doc)  **
Pink Panther 2 (2009)  **
Thunder Run (1986)  **
Sadako 3D (Japan)  **
Raw Force (1982)  **
Destroyer (1988)  **
Moon 44 (1990)  **
Air Doll (Japan)  **
Zardoz (1974)  **
Wacko (1982)  **
Claws (1977)  **
Howling II: Your Sister Is A Werewolf  *1/2
Casa De Mi Padre (2012)  *1/2
Repo Chick (2009)  *1/2
Terrorvision (1986)  *1/2
R.O.T.O.R. (1989)  *1/2
Grizzly (1976)  *1/2
Grizzly 2: The Predator (Workprint Edition, 1983)  1/2 *
Robbers of the Sacred Mountain (1982)  1/2*

The Films of Humphrey Bogart
San Quentin (1937)  **1/2
Dead End (1937)  ***1/2
You Can't Get Away With Murder (1939)  **1/2
King of the Underworld (1939)  ***
The Return of Doctor X (1939)  **1/2
They Drive By Night (1940)  ***1/2
All Through The Night (1941)  ***1/2
Across the Pacific (1942)  ***
Sahara (1943)  ****
Action in the North Atlantic (1943)  ***
Passage to Marseille (1944)  ***
Dead Reckoning (1947)  ***
Chain Lightning (1949)  ***
Tokyo Joe (1949)  ***
The Enforcer (1951)  ***1/2
Battle Circus (1953)  **1/2

The Films of Wim Wenders
The Scarlet Letter (1973)  **
The American Friend (1977)  ***
Hammett (1982)  ***
Paris, Texas (1984)  ****
Wings of Desire (1987)  ****
Until The End of the World (1991)  ****
Faraway, So Close! (1993)  **1/2
The End of Violence (1997)  ***1/2
Buena Vista Social Club (1999)  ****
The Million Dollar Hotel (2000)  ***
Land of Plenty (2004)  ***
Don't Come Knocking (2005)  **1/2

SeagalFest 2012
Steven Seagal Vs Justin Lee Collins (2011, UK)  ***
Maximum Conviction (2012)  **1/2
The Path Beyond Thought (2001, Doc)  **
The Voice Vs Steven Seagal  (2012, TV)  **

Music/Spoken Word
Maria Bamford: Unwanted Thoughts Syndrome  ****
Com Truise: In Decay  ***1/2
The Dark Knight Rises (score by Hans Zimmer)  ***
The 'Burbs (score by Jerry Goldsmith)  ***
Moon 44 (score by Joel Goldsmith)  **1/2
Mitch Murder: Mars (EP)  ***
Bronson (soundtrack)  ***
The Amazing Spider-Man (score by James Horner)  **1/2
Close Encounters of the Third Kind - Official Dramatized Recording  *

Internet
Ricky Gervais XFM Podcast Seasons 1-4  (YouTube)  ****
The Ricky Gervais Show (HBO/YouTube)  ****
Maria Bamford: The Special Special Special!  (Chill.com)  ***1/2

Literature
Hotel Chronicles (Wim Wenders)  ***1/2
The Old Neighborhood (David Mamet)  ***
Kiss Your Ass Goodbye (Charles Willeford)  **1/2
Gas Station (Joseph Torra)  *