Friday, December 30, 2011

Remembering Eduardo Barreto

A very nice remembrance of a very talented man...

Reason To Change The Channel (next in the series!)

"...we haven't heard much from Sarah Palin recently, but the..." *click!*

Funniest Movie I've Seen In Months...

...and no, it's not Jack and Jill. I just caught "A Town Called Panic" on the Sundance Channel and guffawed my way through this engaging, surreal and very funny adventure. Below is the review from Amazon, which explains the movie fairly well... but to write off the animation as something from an aspiring film student is to really back-hand the amazing effort. The crudeness of the figures is exactly the point, adding to the charm, but there is nothing simple about the animation and set design. And where the reviewer came up with his "Cheech and Chong" reference is totally beyond me, or his snide inference that this is "marginal" filmmaking. Actually, now that I think about it, I think this guy's review is lousy! Oh well...

The story is sheer little-kid madness, and the subtitles are actually funny unto themselves (the film itself is in French). Anyhow, in a world of cynical "designed to the demographic" filmmaking, this is a real find. And yes, I am fully aware that I am finding it a couple years later than the rest of the world. The DVD is available from Amazon and you can probably still track it down on cable.

FROM AMAZON: Writer-directors Stéphane Aubier and Vincent Patar spun this nutty feature off their Belgian TV series A Town Called Panic (Panique au Village, 2000). When Cowboy and Indian decide to build a barbecue as a birthday gift for their friend and roommate Horse, they inadvertently order a zillion bricks, rather than the 50 the project requires. The weight of so much masonry causes the house to collapse, and a string of increasingly absurd complications ensues. The stop-motion animation is much cruder than the work in Coraline or Tim Burton's Corpse Bride. Even the main characters have only a few articulations, and the directors avoid close-ups, so they don't have to animate facial expressions or lip-synch dialogue. The result feels like something an aspiring film student might make using old plastic toys. Many viewers (and critics) embraced the anarchic humor of A Town Called Panic; less sanguine audience members dismissed it as the animated equivalent of an old Cheech and Chong movie: something that's funny if you're stoned, but isn't if you're not. The extras include a making-of documentary, interviews with directors Aubier and Patar, and an assortment of deleted scenes and tests--more material than such a marginal film really warrants. (Unrated, suitable for ages 10 and older: cartoon violence, ethnic stereotypes) --Charles Solomon

Today's News, Today!

Apparently the off-color singing of the national anthem has reached epidemic proportions in Indiana. So an anti-Government Republican wants to pass a law making sure it doesn't happen again! *Whew*.

Watching Movies

Roger Ebert's put up a post articulating his reasons why people aren't going to the movies like they used to. You can read his take at the link:

Some of his complaints include high ticket prices, crummy theaters and noisy crowds. Well, I went to a brand new Imax theater up in Portland during the Christmas break to catch the new Mission Impossible movie. Tickets were $16.50 each, but the projection was perfect (this was digital Imax), the sound was roaring, the seats were new and reasonably comfortable, and you couldn't hear the crowd over the racket if you tried. $16.50 didn't strike me as that crazy a price for all those "pluses."

No, what I think has been hurting movies occurred before Mission Impossible 4 started. I'm talking about the previews, which were a numbing collection of ear-shattering explosions, slo-mo action and the same repetitive low-bass tone "brown note" signaling you're about to see something of devastating import. Usually another explosion. I can't tell you which previews I actually saw because they all seemed the same...

Now, two points before going forward. One, naturally you would attach previews for big action movies to something like Mission Impossible 4. Promoting "The Iron Lady" to this crowd would make about as much sense as promoting a Hostel movie before "We Bought A Zoo." Second, I'm pretty sure the action-packed movies being advertised will all turn out to be vaguely dissimilar from on another. But you'd never know it from the cookie cutter previews, which hit all the same (very low) notes.

Oddly enough, the best action sequence in Mission Impossible 4 featured no CGI blasts, but instead was a visually clever and dynamic sequence set inside a mechanized parking lot (!). So there ARE still ways to change up the formula. Maybe if the previews reflected some of this ingenuity as opposed to making every friggin' movie look like the same ol' same ol', attendance would go up!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

I Like Looking At Original Comic Book Art...

...and if you do too, here's a link to a very cool site that reproduces some amazing original art from the early days of Marvel with stories and anecdotes attached. Includes a scan of the first page of the first Spider-Man story from Amazing Fantasy #15, but lots of other great pieces as well.

(Thanks to Heidi McDonald's excellent site for the heads-up!)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

In Towns That Still Have Presses, They'd Better Stop Because--

Sarah Palin doesn't like President Obama's Christmas card.


If I hear one more political pundit define the current political payroll tax conundrum in terms of the "optics"... I'll keep watching and likely see five more use the same in-vogue word. In the world of horse-race politics, is there a more dismissive, cynical way of approaching the legislation at hand? (I'm sure there is, I'm just asking!) And would it be too much if once in awhile these yakkers actually talked about the stuff IN the competing bills, as opposed to reducing it to the level of two kids shoving one other on a playground?

Nothing Says Christmas Like A Serial Killer!

There are competing "Iceman" movies in development/production, both revolving around the exploits of mobster hitman Richard Kuklinski. Kuklinski, who died none-too-soon in prison in 2006, opened up in the '90's for a couple of creepy documentaries that ran on HBO. He also spilled his guts to various journalist types hoping to get his gruesome exploits down on paper.

Philip Carlo's "Iceman: Confessions Of A Mafia Hitman" is a baroque collection of Kuklinski's ravings, many of which are so outlandish and gruesome that they defy common sense. Kuklinski brags he was part of the crew that took out Jimmy Hoffa, that he offed victims by leaving them bound and gagged in a never-found cave so rats could eat them alive, that he tossed the severed genitals of one still-living victim to sharks (!) then heaved the guy into the bay as dessert, etc., etc., etc. Others with more experience/journalistic knowledge than I have noted that at least SOME of the crazier stories would have made the papers (blowing up a gas station in Los Angeles?) and yet... didn't. Meaning it seems Kuklinski was inventing some of these exploits to pass the time, audition for the Dexter writing staff (just kidding!) or burnish his thug credentials...

"The Iceman: The True Story Of a Cold-Blooded Killer" by Anthony Bruno takes a more analytical approach, spending as much book time with the cops that took Kuklinski down as with the killer himself. Since this one focuses on killings that were pretty much proven to have been Kuklinski's handiwork, there is less of that uncomfortable feeling that we're reading Kuklinski's deranged fantasies. Plus I was intrigued by the police-work aspect, the months and months it took for an undercover cop to finally get Kuklinski's confidence. I always get uncomfortable with straight "serial killer" narratives that eschew the law enforcement angle, because I want to hear about the good guys AND the bad guys. So in the Kuklinski creepy book contest, I give the coveted "no balls to sharks" award to Mr. Bruno...

Monday, December 19, 2011

Battlestar Addiction - Portlandia Edition

It's true, you can't watch just one episode. Maybe it's something about growing up in Portland (like me). When I was getting ready to meet Ron Moore and David Eick to discuss working on BSG starting with season two, I got the discs for season one and figured I'd watch one (yes, I had missed the first season!) and... compulsively watched the entire first season in a weekend. Thank goodness I didn't have to watch all FOUR seasons...

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The "Friends" Mafia?

So if I understand this Huffington Post article correctly -- the problem with network television comedy is that there is a "mafia" of former "Friends" writers who, despite their credits, are actually a sad collection of untalented shlubs who have been given a free pass and millions of dollars by easily swayed network executives while developing one dud show after another. Here's a germane quote from the HuffPo piece:

The setup is stale, the jokes are groan-inducing, there's not a major star anywhere near it, and yet one of America's major broadcast networks has spent millions to bring "Work It" to the air. How did this happen? The answer may lie not in what's on the screen, but in what's off it -- the writers who created "Work It," Andrew Reich and Ted Cohen, also happen to be veterans of a little show called "Friends," long the staple of NBC's once-dominant Thursday-night block of comedies. The last episode of "Friends" aired on May 6, 2004, and since then the members of its famous writers room have brought one new show after another to the market. And one after another, those new shows have fizzled, failing to recapture even a trace of the original comedy's hip, youthful, era-defining essence.

But still the members of the "Friends" Mafia return. "That show gave them a get-out-of-development-hell-free card," says one TV writer, who, like most of the people HuffPost spoke to for this article, declined to be identified for fear of retribution.

Jeepers. So some disgruntled people in the TV business (impossible!) give anonymous quotes bitching about the success of others (unheard of!) and suddenly the reason television comedy blows is because this evidently monolithic group of "Friends" vets got lucky back in the day. But wait. Even the writer of the article acknowledges the negative commentary may not be coming from the most altruistic of places:

In fairness to the members of the "Friends" Mafia, it should be noted that blame for the failure of any given show is notoriously difficult to assign. What with all of the meddling network executives, high-maintenance stars and competing creative visions, it's a wonder anyone ever manages to get the chemistry right. And the vast majority of writers working in the sitcom world have experienced far more failures than successes in the past decades, as network comedies have gone down like cannon fodder. It's also true that Schadenfreude, the official religion of the entertainment industry, accounts for at least some measure of the sniping that writers direct against the "Friends" diaspora. (Hollywood being a place where none dare risk offending, not one of the detractors wished to be quoted for attribution here.)

Isn't that nice?

Look, if you want to be right 95% of the time, predict every new show will fail, because that's just the way things break. Sometimes it's because the show is terrible. Sometimes the show can't find an audience. Sometimes it's the time slot, or the cast, or the gestalt of the times. But to go out of your way to lay all the blame on the specific successful writers from a specific show, like they're all cloned from identical DNA predestined to produce flops, is a little strained. And to do it using anonymous quotes from people I can virtually guarantee have an interest in getting these guys out of the way so they can sell their own almost-certain-to-flop sitcom (not because they're untalented, either, but because that's just how it goes) is unfortunate...

The entire article is available at:

Unbelievably, I Buy More Stuff! (Music Edition)

Lots of folks try to cover Led Zeppelin, some more successfully than others, but Zepparella is one of the best of the bunch. This all-woman band (based in San Francisco) tackles Zep's best with power and passion. You can check them out on YouTube and/or pick up their two concert CDs at the address below. Highly recommended!

I've also fallen in love with a Pink Floyd-ish blues ensemble, Blue Floyd. These guys perform powerful jam versions of (mostly) Floyd faves, and while a 20 minute blues improv of "Another Brick In The Wall" may sound a little hincky to some, we're talking master-class musicians (with pedigrees ranging from Govt Mule to the Allman Brothers) wailing away. Sadly one of BF's mainstays, Allen Woody, has passed away, but three of the bands hottest shows from 2000 are available from Amazon, as well as their studio CD.

Growing up in lovely Oregon I caught a few performances by Portland-based Johnny and the Distractions, a Springsteen-esque group that managed to snag a record deal back in the day (late/70's/early '80s). A remastered/rejiggered version of their first album was released some time ago, but band leader Jon Koonce has finally reissued the original homegrown records on a twofer CD. I much prefer the original sound to the later versions, which is probably just dumb nostalgia but that's okay. I found my copy at Music Millennium in Portland, the best record store on the West Coast (sorry, Amoeba!), but Jon himself is selling copies of the new/old release plus his current solo material at his website.

I also coughed up $206 (!) for Elvis Costello fancy-schmancy "Spinning Songbook" uber-deluxe edition. Costello himself has advised his fans not to buy this version (evidently he was as surprised by the price point as his fans), but I had a few bucks burning a hole in my pocket and attended one of the shows represented in the package, so...

Anyhow, it's a limited edition of 1500, with a signed EC bookplate, book, CD, DVD and 10" vinyl record. I like the music, the book is okay, the signed bookplate is cool and the working Spinning Songbook "spinner" is fun. Is it worth $206? Was dinner last night worth $60? I dunno. It's all relative. But I'm getting $206 worth of pleasure out of the music... I think... even though it appears the same music will be available in cheaper editions sometime next year... *sigh.*

However, as an investment, I appear to have done well. Amazon is sold out and the cheapest "other seller" edition is $260. Retirement, here I come!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Hasn't This Ship Sailed, Boys?

Five stalwart Georgia peaches (i.e., "men") file suit to keep Obama off their state's 2012 Presidential ballot because of their continuing doubts about his citizenship...

Friday, December 16, 2011

Reasons To Change The Channel (fourth in the series)

Bill Bennett, noted obsessive gambler and author of multiple hectoring books about the importance of personal morality, minutes after the death of noted atheist Christopher Hitchens was announced:

“He was left, I was right, but we had great debates, great drinking bouts,” conservative radio host Bill Bennett said on CBS Thursday. “And I hope as the big atheist that he was, he’s in for a big surprise...” *click*

Thursday, December 15, 2011

What th?! Sad edition...

...we lost Christopher Hitchens...and Joe Simon AND Eduardo Barreto? What an awful day!

ADDED 12/16: I posted the above late last night (and accidentally misspelled Mr. Barreto's name), so a little more needs to be added. Eduardo Barreto drew my one full-length issue of Action Comics (#635, featuring Green Lantern and the Blackhawks) and did a wonderful job, as he did on everything that crossed his drawing table. Barreto's work epitomized what drew me to comics in the first place -- excellent story telling, exceptionally well drawn. That he was only 57 when he passed makes this an even sadder loss, because of the work we'll never see.

More Sad - Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens died (age 62) 12/15 of cancer... I can't say I agreed with everything Hitchens said or wrote about, but I admired his talent and his willingness to throw himself out on the stage. Sad thing is he knew his father had died of similar ailments and yet he smoked liked a chimney and drank like a fish... but is it really sad? Would he have been "him" without the chemicals? I guess we'll never know... but it's still a loss.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Something Sad

I won't specify the building or time of day to protect the innocent, but I recently had a sad human encounter that I can't quite get out of my head...

I was alone, riding an elevator down, when it stopped at a lower floor and a clearly distraught woman got on board. These elevators are grossly slow, so we were together for a few seconds when she suddenly said she'd just been fired. She started crying. She was probably in her forties and said she'd never been fired before. Evidently "people" had come in from out of town and told her to leave. Immediately. And from her reaction, it sounded like there had been no warning.

She didn't know who to call first and was considering going to a nearby bar and getting drunk (I counseled against it, though in her shoes, it probably would have been my first stop). Anyhow, we rode down that elevator, then another one to the garage, and I could see she was struggling not to lose it completely. I had no platitudes to offer except to wish her the best, and the last time I saw her she was crying on her way toward her car.

There has been a lot of political grandstanding about "lazy people" on unemployment and why they don't get a job, etc. I've also been gob-smacked by the cajones of a candidate like Mitt Romney vowing to create jobs, the same Mitt who made his fortune at Bain Capital. A financial firm that generated considerable cash by destroying companies and jobs.

I have no idea why my elevator friend was fired just before Christmas, but there is a genuine human toll in all the abstract blather that often seems forgotten. And maybe that's why the encounter is sticking with me. That, and the "there but for the grace of God go I" reality, something else our political leaders with their millions and cranky ideologues seem to have forgotten...

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Falling Skies Trailers - Best and Worst!

From the site Seriable, the worst and then best trailers from 2011, with entries on both ends for Falling Skies. (I had never seen the German trailer and yes, it's very strange...)

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Santorum Argues Nation's Obesity Problem Means Time To Cut Food Stamps

Speaking in Le Mars, Iowa on Monday, Rick Santorum promised to significantly reduce federal funding for food stamps, arguing that the nation’s increasing obesity rates render the program unnecessary:

Santorum told the group he would cut the food stamp program, describing it as one of the fastest growing programs in Washington, D.C.

Forty-eight million people are on food stamps in a country with 300-million people, said Santorum.

“If hunger is a problem in America, then why do we have an obesity problem among the people who we say have a hunger program?” Santorum asked.

Santorum says "People Die In America Because People Die In America"

From a Dec. 6 Iowa town hall meeting with Presidential Candidate and noted theologian Rick Santorum:

Also, current student Ryan Walters also challenged Santorum on health care reform and the idea of Christian charity, saying that he did not think “God appreciates the fact that we have 50 to 100,000 uninsured Americans dying due to a lack of healthcare every year.”

“Dying?” Santorum replied. After a back and forth, he declared: “The answer is not what can we do to prevent deaths because of a lack of health insurance. There’s — I reject that number completely, that people die in America because of lack of health insurance.

“People die in America because people die in America. And people make poor decisions with respect to their health and their healthcare. And they don’t go to the emergency room or they don’t go to the doctor when they need to,” he said. “And it’s not the fault of the government for not providing some sort of universal benefit.”

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Reasons To Change The Channel (third in the series)

"...coming up next, the Romney campaign takes issue with President Obama's holiday vacation plans..." *click*

Monday, December 05, 2011

More Stuff I Like

Have to admit I never got into King Crimson or the League of Crafty Gentleman, but Robert Fripp's "Frippertronics" recordings from the late 70's/early 80's really hit the sweet spot with me. These eerie tape loop compositions, never played the same way twice, should be resurrected for David Lynch's next weirdness. (Actually, for all I know he's used some Fripp music in one of his movies!) Happily, Mr. Fripp has seen fit to make a lot of these recordings (plus his other live work) available via high quality download, all of it available here. Highly recommended!

In other news, I've become fascinated with the jam/blues of Blue Floyd, a band from 2000-ish that "covered" Pink Floyd in very cool arrangements. There is a studio album available and three live shows (so far), all exceptionally well played and recorded. Amazon has the catalog, and of course I now have them all. Very cool stuff...

Now I Have To Go To A Hallmark Store?!

"In stores only."

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Elvis Costello Doesn't Like His Box-Set

Here's the latest Elvis Costello news. A MUCH less expensive CD only version of this Spinning Songbook comp is already for sale at Amazon, and I believe a DVD/CD set at a more standard price point is due soon.

And (*sigh*) yes, I pre-ordered this version... sorry, Elvis! (I think...)

Shock Cinema #41 & Mineshaft #27

With the internet killing small publishers left and right, it's time to treasure the small press we've got left. Especially when we're talking mags as great as Shock Cinema and Mineshaft.

First the movies. Shock Cinema editor Steven Puchalski gathers/writes dozens of reviews of incredibly obscure movies, as well as publishing some great interviews with intriguing people. The latest issue features a long interview with Nancy Allen (of Carrie and Robocop fame), Burton Gilliam (the grinning Deputy from Blazing Saddles and the "New York City?!!" salsa ad guy) and several others. (Gilliam's story is especially great, he was a fireman in Texas when on a lark he auditioned for a small role in Paper Moon and landed it. A few months later, Mel Brooks saw a rough cut of Moon and insisted on getting Gilliam for Blazing Saddles, but Gilliam couldn't get enough vacation time from the fire department and... well, buy the magazine and read the piece!)

Ordering info and other details available at .

Mineshaft is a comics-ish magazine with plenty of new work by Robert Crumb (always welcome) and lots and lots of eclectic artwork by others, as well as text stories. This issue features a lengthy piece on the various styles in which you can draw Emily Dickinson (!) and a selection of Crumb's "Dream Diaries." Limited to 900 copies, $9.00 a pop and highly recommended. Most of the back issues are still available and well worth checking out.

Pertinent info at

Reasons To Change The Channel (second in the series)

"Joining us now to debate the topic, Ron Christie, Republican strategist and a former member of Vice President Dick Cheney's staff..." *click*

Thursday, December 01, 2011

I Like Live Music A Lot

And I really like the performances during the annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremonies. Now the best have been gathered digitally in a ten (!) volume set available through the Hall of Fame and i-tunes. Click the link for a track listings... 200+ songs! From oldies to goodies to newies and everything in between. (And no, I don't get a commission!) (Dammit!)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Washington Post "Journalist" Decries Free Speech

An 18 year old high school girl tweeted something mildly critical/offensive about Gov. Sam Brownback. Brownback's ever vigilant staff reported the tweet and their displeasure to the girl's school principal, who demanded she write an apology. She refused and an internet brouhaha erupted, with most criticizing Brownback's ridiculously thin skin. Brownback actually apologizes -- then a Washington Post columnist weighs in with a "yeah, but free speech has limits" piece. Really? A teenager write "Brownback sucks" and that's where you draw the line?

You really have to read the original Ruth Marcus/Post piece to believe it. Glenn Greenwald takes her to the woodshed below:

*Thanks to Muldfeld for the correction -- I originally attributed this to the New York Times, not the Washington Post. Thank goodness I'm not a journalist!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

New Stuff! Springsteen And Cellos!

I guess there are people out there who do not like Bruce Springsteen. I was reading messages on a blog the other day scoffing that most of the cool folks think he's over the hill, old school, etc. Okay. Everyone's entitled to their opinion, no matter how ridiculous and ignorant. But prepare to read a lot about B.S. here over the next months as he preps another world-wide tour with the E-Street Band in 2012. Best reason ever to welcome in a New Year!

Speaking of Bruce, here's a brand new interview with E-Street guitarist and long time performer Nils Lofgren, who sounds like one of the nicest, most talented guys you could ever meet.

In other news, I've been listening a lot to a CD by the performers 2CELLOS, who are exactly what that moniker implies -- two energetic guys playing the hell out of the cello, covering classics and more modern turns like "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and Michael Jackson's "Smooth Criminal." They opened for Elton John overseas and have been making beautiful noise all over the place (i-tunes has a five track live EP from a London concert in 2011) and they come highly recommended!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Do We Need Record Stores?

Short answer, yes! Longer answer discussing many of the challenges facing record stores in the digital age is available below:

Some of my fondest memories are mulling albums and vinyl singles at various indie record stores in the Portland area back in the 70's. There were a bunch of stores back then with clerks that ranged from sullen to knowledgeable to enthusiastic to bored. You never knew what you'd be getting on any specific day! I remember a punky-new wave fellow named "Thor" at some short-lived hole in the wall selling/hyping the latest Stiff Records singles, everything from E. Costello to Dave Edmunds to Rachel Sweet. There was a short-lived super store called "Crystal Ship" that impressed with sheer abundance... two giant floors of records, records, records. To this day I stop by Music Millennium whenever I'm in Portland; they're still one of the best record stores around. And I get instant college flashbacks when the (pleasant!) patchouli/incense odor hits...

I also spend WAY too much $$$ at the Los Angeles Amoeba store, because for all the convenience of Amazon, I still like the tactile "flipping through CDs" search method. And I'm constantly finding/trying something new. Recent example: 2003's "The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place" by Explosions In The Sky. These guys evidently scored the film "Friday Night Lights" and yet someone never landed on my admittedly narrow radar. I'm not even sure what you would call this (blissful/angry instrumental trance music with a surprising beat?) but I sure like it, and I would never in a million years have found it if an Amoeba employee hadn't given it a listen and stuck a descriptive label extolling the CDs virtues on the shelf.

There's another "Record Store Day" this Friday... if I can fight through the crowds I might try to wrestle my way inside and support my local record store.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Speaking Of Critics... I Love This Guy!!!

I may have linked to this before, but I don't think it's possible to link to it enough!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Rob Liefeld And Careers

Rob Liefeld burst into comics working on some major Marvel projects in the late 80's/early 90's. He then transformed himself into an artist/entrepreneur as a founding member of Image comics, then still later he worked on more mega projects at Marvel like "Heroes Reborn." (As a side note, I remember seeing samples from Liefeld when we were looking for an artist for my first Dark Horse comic, "The American." They were pretty good!) Over the years Liefeld has gathered many fans and just as many haters, and in an interesting column he talks about weathering the storm...

My own personal credo/philosophy re: the ebb and flow of "career" comes from a story I heard about producer Larry Gordon, whose was involved in the Timecop movie and television series (along with a few little movies like Die Hard and Predator). Gordon produced the Olivia Newton John starring movie Xanadu, which turned out to be a gigantic critical and box-office flop. At the time, Gordon would have lunch every day in the 20th Century Fox commissary. The Monday after Xanadu's collapse, at a time when no one would have blamed Gordon if he decided to hunker down in his office for a day or two, he marched into the commissary as usual. When someone asked Gordon for a comment about the Xanadu debacle, he had a one word response: "NEXT!"

Which is really all you can do. If you're lucky enough to have a career writing/producing film and television, you're (fingers-crossed) gonna have some winners and you're probably going to have some losers. Nobody sits down and actively tries to figure out how to write the world's biggest stinker, but sometimes it happens. And when it does, all you can do is try to learn from your mistakes and then forge ahead...

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Atlas Shrugged And Then Was Recalled

Evidently 100,000 title sheets printed up for the DVD and blu-ray release of Atlas Shrugged (The Movie) are being recalled because of an error in the description. The blurb on the back describes the movie as a story of "self-sacrifice", and that will not do. The text is being changed to "Ayn Rand's timeless novel of rational self interest..."

Does anyone else find it curious that this dire descriptive debacle occurred the same week as Veteran's Day? I wonder if this movie would even exist if it weren't for the (apparently) irrational self-sacrifice of so many in wars past...

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Movies! Movies!

The "recuperate while watching" marathon continues...

ATTACK THE BLOCK: A fun and smart alien invasion film that starts with a bang, builds nicely AND spends time developing some interesting characters. When an alien creature smash-lands in a poorer section of (London? I think), a group of teenage street thugs take umbrage, chase down the escaping creature and kill it. Then a whole bunch MORE creatures come down in the same block evidently seeking payback, requiring our sorta-gang-kids to fight back. The alien creatures are basically black blobs with glowing blue eyes and fangs... and boy are they pissed. Nice performances and funny/realistic reactions from the kids toward the alien invasion. (One 10 year old fills his super soaker with gasoline to take them on.) This isn't ET, though, some of the kids don't make it and the creatures are taking no prisoners. I liked it!

THE DEVILS: Ken Russell's 1971 masterpiece remains unavailable except for a murky transfer on a DVD available from Amazon. I saw this film with my father (I think I needed a "parent or guardian" to get in because of the X rating) when it was first released and images from it have remained burned in my brain. Oliver Reed plays Father Grandier, a Priest who ran afoul of the French government in the 1630's and wound up being (falsely) accused of witchcraft. His inquisition-style torture remains really, really hard to watch. (Sledge-hammers and legs... say no more!) Russell's flamboyant visual style gives this an almost surreal feel, and the uncomfortable experimental score adds to the overall feeling of depravity and madness. Also included on the disc are some supplemental pieces on how The Devils was censored back in the day, and the great fervor that ignited over Russell's debauched vision. I managed to make it about halfway through the main documentary before I'd seen one too many snotty British critics sniffing about how they suspect Russell would actually approve of the cuts imposed on the film. Yeah, right, about as much as these stuffy gits would appreciate seeing one of their tedious columns hacked apart by editorial fiat. The clips in the documentary are much sharper and clearer than the film presentation, so here's hoping the Criterion guys get their hands on this soon and put out a definitive, uncut version! (If they can reissue Pasolini's Salo on blu-ray, surely this one can see the light of day!)

CAPTAIN AMERICA: Quite a mixture of genres in this set of comments! I missed this in the theater, finally caught up to it on DVD. Don't have a whole lot to say, it was fun and captured the Kirby-esque "feel" of Cap, though I found the eventual stand off with the Red Skull a bit truncated and unsatisfying. Perhaps the most amazing thing about the movie is how they turned husky Chris Evans into skinny dweeb Steve Rogers, pre-"Vitaray" injections. I think the best thing about the film is that they didn't blow it...

Thursday, November 03, 2011

More Blu Ray Fun!

Those cunning Brits have released a couple of MV faves on blu-ray, and through the miracle of... well, the mail... I have sampled them!

QUATERMASS AND THE PIT (American title, FIVE MILLIONS YEARS TO EARTH) is probably my favorite Hammer film, and it still holds up as a remarkable piece of science fiction. Andrew Keir plays Quatermass, a scientist called in when an alien ship is discovered in an abandoned subway in London. When the darn military persists in poking and prodding the ship, it unleashes a primal alien force that creates much havoc. There's an overload of cool ideas in this movie but it's also a powerful thriller and pretty scary, too. A few moments betray the budget and/or period (late 60's), but overall this is one of the best science fiction movies of the era (and maybe ever). Happily, the blu-ray is really impressive, sharp detail, vivid color, really nice. Well worth seeking out if you have an all-region player.

WITCHFINDER GENERAL (American title, THE CONQUEROR WORM) is another exceptional British horror film, directed by Michael Reeves and starring Vincent Price in one of his best and darkest roles. Witchfinder is an uncompromising examination of witch hunts from the 1600's and it never lets up, right down to the amazingly bleak yet action packed finale. It looks like the source material has taken a bit of a beating, since this blu-ray edition has a lot of speckles, but the daylight scenes are sharp and bright and I suspect this is about as good as this is going to look until someone does a wholesale restoration. Great stuff!

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Why I Don't Like Herman Cain

Mr. Cain has had a rough few days with the drip-drip-drip of sexual harassment allegations, but that's not why I really don't like this guy (though it sure doesn't help!). He's also demonstrated an understanding of foreign policy that makes "Sarah Palin look like Averell Harriman" (Chris Matthews of "Hardball" attributes this quote to MSNBC host Joe Scarborough), but while that's clearly a dis-qualifier, it's also not the reason I really can't stand him. No, it's quotes like this re: "Obamacare" that tick me off:

"My chances of survival when I went through cancer treatment was 30 percent," he said. "Three, zero! Thirty percent! If a bureaucrat had to make a decision on the likelihood of that would work, what do you think the bureaucrat would have said? Don't waste the money!"

I hate that because it's unadulterated bullshit. I hate it because it transfers the truth about the current American insurance system, where care IS often parceled out according to the whims and dictates of mega-insurance companies, to a Government program that (so far) has enabled me to continue to insure my college age son on my current insurance policy and dares to prevent private insurers from discriminating against customers for having prior conditions.

How trying to deliver health care to more people in a fairer way has become a conservative bugaboo worthy of derision is really one of the most tragic turns I've seen in American politics. There are plenty of villains out there, but shame on Herman Cain for lying about it in such a transparent manner, and shame on all the people applauding this fraud for his nonsense.

Boxing Day

It's no secret the music business has been floundering recently, but you wouldn't be able to tell if you looked at my credit card statement. The latest gambit is reissuing baby-boomer favorites in pricey (sometimes EXTREMELY pricey) box sets. Unfortunately for my bank balance, I've fallen prey to a few of these efforts... but what can I say? They really are pretty cool.

NEVERMIND by Nirvana: Celebrating the 20th anniversary of this amazing release, a couple of different packages have been released. The expensive ($149-ish) version features the remastered original album + B-sides, two CDs of demos and studio sessions (most previously unreleased), and a CD and DVD of a previously unreleased concert at the Paramount theater in Seattle. The CDs come packaged in a 12" record sized box with a glossy book of photos and record company ephemera. I'm still wading through the unreleased material, but the demos are very interesting and very listenable. And I'm always sucker for live material. There is also a 2CD version of $20 that has the remastered original plus a "best of" selection of tracks from the big set. And there's a blu-ray of the Paramount concert coming soon. I've seen some complaints about the remastered album's sound, but to these ruined old ears, it all sounds pretty good to me.

ACHTUNG BABY by U2: Loved this CD when it first came out, and now there's so much more! For a mere $125 you too can own the "Super Deluxe 10 disc (six CDs + four DVDs) edition including the original Achtung Baby album, the follow-up album, Zooropa, b-sides and re-workings of previously unheard material recorded during the Achtung Baby sessions. Four DVDs including "From The Sky Down", Zoo TV, all the videos from Achtung Baby plus bonus material. Hardback book and 16 art prints." But the U2 boys don't stop there -- for a mere $450 (!) you get all that plus vinyl sides, Bono's sunglasses (!) and a metallic puzzle box. It's all a little extreme (a little?) but these ARE discretionary purchases...

I see from Amazon that Elvis Costello is releasing a limited edition version of his Singing Songbook concerts from L.A. earlier this year, to be followed next year by less expensive editions for the average listener. The concert I saw was amazing, so this is good news, but $258?! Really? Oh, wait, there's an autograph? SOLD. (Sucker!!!)

Monday, October 31, 2011

Movies Movies MOVIES

For what it's worth, there may be SOME SPOILERS below!

RED STATE: Kevin Smith's latest revolves around a controversial ultra-convervative religious group that has taken their hatred of all things homosexual to a whole new level. Led by a charismatic Michael Parks, the group lures/kidnaps and then murders assorted "sinners" who cross their path. When three teenagers are lured into the woods looking for (straight) sex, they land in the Preacher's clutches. You can kind of see the wheels turning in Smith's story, which starts off like some twisted "Hostel" riff but then suddenly left-turns into a bloody Waco-esque stand-off managed by ATF Agent John Goodman. As the "Waco" reference suggests, things don't go all that well, and then there's a truly weird "twist." Revealing the "twist" is definitely a spoiler, and for a minute I thought Smith was REALLY taking this to a truly unique and jaw-dropping place. Alas, things get (over) explained... all that said, I liked this. There are some genuinely creepy moments, and Parks is pretty convincing as the Preacher.

One thing that surprised me, watching the "Making of" documentary, is that some members of the cast thought the movie was actually quite funny. I'm not sure which cut they saw, but except for some early teenager banter between our future victims, I'm not seeing the humor...

KILL THE IRISHMAN: Any movie with Christopher Walken, Vincent D'Onofrio and Val Kilmer in supporting roles has to have something going for it, but this is really a little gem. Ray Stevenson (who's great) plays Danny Greene, a real life Irish gangster who went to war with the Cleveland-based Italian mob in the 70's. The weapon of choice for these sociopaths was the car bomb, and goon after goon was blown to bits when things reached a boil. I have zero sympathy for gangsters and was grateful that while the movie tries to understand Greene, it doesn't excuse his violence. What I liked best is how this felt like a classic 70's gritty gangster movie, but totally modern too. The blu-ray comes with an interesting documentary on Greene that vividly shows what happens when you detonate bombs next to people; as in, pieces of them fly everywhere. Anyway, I think this is an under-appreciated effort and well worth checking out.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Best Laid Plans

So there I was, planning all sorts of daily updates on the start of shooting for Falling Skies season two... it would have been GLORIOUS! And I can attest that the first day went great. It was great to see so many familiar faces (cast of course and also crew from season one, but also old friends from Battlestar Galactica) and it felt like a year had passed like nothing.

Then... after day one...


For me, not the show. When a tummy ache turned really really nasty, I made the classic 4AM pilgrimage to the nearest E.R. and was in surgery eight hours later. As I write this, I've just been released after seven fun filled days in the G.I. ward. Sporting an incision that makes our creepy skitters look like (find topical reference, Mark, think, man, think!), oh hell, it makes them look pretty.

I could write about the experience, but "day three, it hurts!" and "morphine is my friend!" would be pretty much the sum total of my take away. That, and to remind everyone that if you start feeling really really bad, don't wait or hope it blows over -- get to the Doctor.

I'm just glad it happened in Canada and I can enjoy their free health care... wait? That's just for Canadians?! I have to pay?! NOW it really hurts...

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Off To Watch The Skies Fall...

In a few hours I'll be taking off for Vancouver B.C. and the start of season two production on Falling Skies. Episode #1 was written by yours truly and will be lovingly directed by Mr. Greg Beeman. Episode #2 was written by my Battlestar buddies Bradley Thompson and David Weddle and will also be directed by the self same Mr. Beeman. And so it begins!

Meanwhile, it's been great being back in the writer's room with EP Remi Aubuchon, Brad, David, Joe Weisberg and fresh-faced Falling Skies scribes Bryan Oh and Heather Regnier. The group is hatching all sorts of new bedevilment for the 2nd Mass and the people of Earth. No spoilers, but suffice to say the aliens haven't surrendered to us. Though that WOULD be a different way to start season two!

Oh, and casinos of Vancouver, beware! I may find time to purge you of your looneys and other strange Canadian monies.

More data as it comes available...

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Steve Ditko and Frank Miller Have New Books!

A Ditko #14 (that's the title) is fresh off the presses and offers another collection of brand new stories and meanderings from the co-creator of Spider-Man. These books are almost certainly an acquired taste, but I love all things Ditko and enjoyed this issue more than most. Ditko's artwork seems a bit tighter and more finished, and we get some classic Ditko polemics along with a dose of crime/superhero-ish stories. In fact, here's exactly what you get (from publisher Robin Snyder's web site):

- ditko cover
- inside front cover: "previously" reprints the cover of ACT 8 making lucky 13 thirteen ditko 32s
- inside front cover: "coming attraction" A DITKO #15
- 8-page "miss eerie"
- 10-page HERO story "faith and force"
- 6-page "the cape"
- 4-page "the distorter"
- 4-page "the complainers"
- inside back cover: "have mercy on poor me..."
- back cover: "not my fault"

My two favorites? The "10 page HERO story" is a series of full page pin-ups distilling Ditko's philosophy, mostly via a monster looming over (hell? The Earth?). Sample captioning from page four, over and under a monster clutching clubs marked "Faith!" and "Force": "It's so easy to dominate, rule with so many, so willing to sell out, sacrifice their best for the unearned and undeserved. Ah, Ha! HA! Created by two powerless weapons on their own by self-deceivers and self-destroyers. HA! HA! Ha! Ha!"

This issue also features my new favorite piece of comic book dialogue. In the "Miss Eerie" story, a couple of 30's cops are mulling a criminal's sudden absence, and one of them isn't buying that the crook is gone for good, because "he came back for some CRIME."

Those examples either left you scratching your head in disbelief, or (if you're like me) desperate to order the entire self-published Ditko series. Here's the thing: I don't agree with any of Steve Ditko's Ayn Rand-ian philosophical beliefs. But I love that at (82? 83?) Steve Ditko is still writing and drawing comics. And I love that he's doing exactly what he feels like doing, critics/sales be damned.

For ordering info (I don't think I've seen one of Ditko's books in a comic book shop in years) go to:

Frank Miller's new title has a somewhat higher profile, but there are similarities between Holy Terror and A Ditko #14. Holy Terror started life as a Miller passion project post 9/11 that was basically "Batman VS Osama." Not quite sure what editorial futzing happened after that, but suddenly it's not with DC Comics or featuring Batman. Miller's turned Batman into "The Fixer", the Catwoman character into "Nellie Stack, Cat Burglar," Gotham City into "Empire City", and we're off!

So Batman (sorry, "The Fixer") and Catwoman (sorry, "Nellie") are romping around the city (I think she's stealing diamonds) when terrorists blow up a building. After our heroes tumble around in the blast, The Fixer says "No. Not on my watch." Nellie says "Not on my turf." and they go after the terrorists. There is a very Ditko-esque multi-page wordless spread showing (I think) a terrorist woman with a missile launcher, Michael Moore, George Bush, Dick Cheney, Al Gore, Joe Lieberman, Condi Rice, a suicide-bomber's vest, an Arab woman with a machine gun, a (I think) helicopter crashing, and finally someone holding a silhouetted severed head.

The Fixer exclaims that he is "at war," calls his friends in the police department for clues, muses over how he can never fall in love with Nellie, then goes on a rampage against the generic terrorists while trading some of the lamest superhero quips ever committed to paper, like "let's get some killing done."

The Fixer tortures a terrorist by snapping his spine and threatening to gouge out his eyes. He wades into a handy gathering of terrorists guns blazing, snapping all THEIR necks with brutal kicks (caption: "We engage in postmodern diplomacy."). He takes care of a terrorist yelling "JIHAD!" by kicking him in the gut and sending him flying across the room, etc., etc. It makes Team America looks like a John Le Carre novel... and closely resembles the 80's Missing In Action movie series with Chuck Norris, or the second Rambo movie, where studly American heroes got to kick Vietnamese ass in a little post-war revisionism.

The art-style shifts half way through the story, going from relatively finished to something looser... sort of the way Ditko's art has gone from a more finished style to something much looser. A cynic might think that the looser style is quicker and faster to produce, but thank goodness I am not that cynical!

Anyhow, Holy Terror is less a superhero book than a crazed polemic on terrorism and Miller's visceral reaction to 9/11. I can't tell if it's meant to be taken seriously or as some looney satire (it more or less works on both levels). Like with Ditko, I don't agree with Miller's world view and frankly I think Holy Terror is a mess on all sorts of fronts -- but there's still something glorious about a world where he has a venue to produce his own unvarnished work. This one was a king-sized miss in my book, but I'll buy his next one!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Things I Learned From The Movie "Drive"...

WARNING - minor spoilers ahead.

I really liked Drive -- seriously, it's very well made and exciting and I loved the Euro-silences between the action. I also like movies set in L.A. that take advantage of the less traveled areas. However, as always, I gleaned some valuable information that should be helpful going forward (SECOND WARNING -- minor spoilers ahead) --

Remember that really nasty guy who got mad over an unpaid debt and beat you until you were left permanently handicapped? It's probably not a good idea to get into business with his partner.

Ladies like the strong, silent types.

Those same ladies can react poorly when you stomp someone's head into jelly. But they usually get over it.

It's okay to be a helpful neighbor, but robbery and murder are big BIG favors, way beyond the proverbial "cup of sugar."

Good news, commuters -- there is rarely any traffic on Los Angeles roads and freeways, especially during those critical times when you need to evade police and/or bad guys via a daring high speed car chase.

This is especially true in the vicinity of the Staples Center as a Clippers game ends. (I had no idea attendance was THAT bad!)

When threatened with imminent murder, lingering to pack a (shabby) suitcase in a place where the bad guy can find you probably isn't the best use of your time.

Topless strippers are remarkably composed, even when you're taking a hammer to their boss in the middle of their dressing room.

There's never a laundromat handy when your favorite white leather jacket gets drenched in blood.

Clearly some knife wounds are worse than others.

And finally -- when you threaten someone with certain death and then follow them outside, alone, for further discussion -- buddy, you're just asking for trouble.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Seen, Heard, Read...

LIVE: NICK LOWE, Oct. 8 2011, Largo in Los Angeles: Mr. Lowe did not disappoint, performing 80 minutes of wry solo acoustic gems from his new CD ("The Old Magic") and pulling oldies but goodies from the rest of his lengthy career. Some of his songs seem rather dark on the CD, but in performance, Lowe's almost continuous smile make it clear there is always a wry humor at work. Opener J.D. McPherson was also excellent, and their reggae-esque duet on Bread's "Everything I Own" (!) was a lot of fun. Mr. Lowe is touring with Wilco and doing solo sets along the way so if you get a chance to catch either, take it!

CD: By sheer coincidence, the same day I saw the elder Lowe in concert, I received a new remastered Kippington Lodge CD, "Sky Boy The Complete Recordings 1967-1969." These are some of Mr. Lowe's very earliest recorded efforts (working alongside Brinsley Schwarz and Bob Andrews, both later with The Rumour), and... well, it's interesting. Let's just say I don't believe any of this catalog made it into Saturday's show. I wish I could offer a more rousing appraisal... I like bright and sunny pop as much as the next guy, but this is pretty saccharin stuff. And proves we all gotta start somewhere!

BLU-RAY FUN: Brian DePalma's Scarface has been released on high def blu-ray, and to these sad blurry eyes it is an amazing transfer. Colors are bright and sharp and the movie has never looked better. I don't have earlier editions so I'm not sure if the extended features were available on DVD before, but you get a selection of outtakes, numerous "making of" documentaries, and in the metal box set, a DVD of the original Scarface with Paul Muni and Geo. Raft from 1932. I had never seen the original and sure enough, the Al Pacino version is pretty much a remake in terms of story. Tone, that's a different kettle o' fish. There isn't a single chainsaw in the original Scarface, though there is endless machine gun violence...

DOWNLOAD FUN: One of the Scarface making-of tracks mentioned a documentary on the coke trade in Miami circa the 80's, Cocaine Cowboys, available via Amazon download. Cowboys features extensive interviews with four or five surviving "entrepreneurs" from that era as well as several law enforcement officials. From the crime side, we hear from three folks involved in transporting coke from Colombia to the U.S. (making millions in the process) and a hit man serving consecutive life terms for over a dozen murders. What I drew from the documentary is that Scarface was a bit over-designed in terms of Tony Montana's life-style (most of the houses the actual gangsters lived in looked like middle class tract homes). But the violence in the DePalma Scarface was actually scaled down from reality. Real chopped up dead bodies (and the documentary does not spare the viewer from these ugly realities) are not particularly photogenic. Perhaps most disturbing was learning that the woman mastermind behind hundreds of drug murders got off with a light sentence because of troubles in the Miami prosecutor's office, and she was released in 2004. Actually, I take that back. Most disturbing is a lengthy coda that attributes a huge building boom in Miami back in the 80's/90's to the insane amounts of cash lying around from the coke trade. Miami's skyline wouldn't exist without all that drug money. That's kind of depressing...

OVER ON HBO, Martin Scorsese's 3 1/2 hour documentary on George Harrison ("Living In The Material World") is absolutely worth the time. I'm a fairly well read Beatles fan, so there weren't a lot of surprises per se, but watching the progression of Harrison's professional and personal career, with all the spiritual twists and turns, was involving and ultimately quite emotional. The Beatles material was fun (though the documentary skims over the actual break-up pretty quickly), Harrison's later collaborations with the amazing Ravi Shankar were explored in depth... and Ringo Starr tells some of the best anecdotes. There's a Ringo moment toward the end of the film that drew a tear from even this viewer's jaundiced eye. Highly recommended!

READ IN ACTUAL BOOK FORM: Torpedo Vol. 3, by Sanchez Abuli and Jordi Bernet. IDW's hardcover series, reprinting these insanely hardboiled gangster adventures, continues with Volume Three. Bernet's artwork is superb and the morally corrupt world of "Torpedo" never ceases to offer surprises. I think what I like best about these stories is that the lead character (the reprehensible hitman Torpedo) is screwed over and abused almost as much as the characters he's out to rough up and/or kill. There's a lot of (very dark) humor in these short pieces. These aren't for everyone but I like 'em...

Thursday, October 06, 2011

That Funny Tingle...

We'll be seeing singer/songwriter Nick Lowe in concert this weekend, probably the sixth or seventh time I've seen him perform over the last (gulp) 30+ years... and it got me to thinking about what makes seeing folks live so much fun. For me, it's those "tingle up your spine" moments where you know you're seeing something amazing and totally unique to that singular moment in time. It got me to mulling over past concert experiences, and that tingle feeling... and thought I'd kick it off with two performances 33 years apart

6/24/78 - Bruce Springsteen, Portland, Or. My first Springsteen concert and the one that cemented my infatuation with his music for the next three plus decades. The whole show qualified for "the tingle", but it was the first time I'd seen and heard the extended "Prove It All Night" and... well, wow. Saw him again 12/17/78, heard the full blown "Detroit Medley" for the first time, and the fish, already hooked, was now in the bucket.

5/11/11 - Elvis Costello, Los Angeles. I've seen virtually every Costello tour since 1979, and this show ranks up in the top five of the 25 - 30 concerts I've enjoyed. The tingle moment in this show came mid way, when Costello performed "A Slow Drag With Josephine", a quiet 30's-esque song from his National Ransom album. That was swell enough, but as the song closed, Costello dropped the mic and closed the number with an un-amplified rendering of the first couple lines from "Brother Can You Spare A Dime." Big room, lots of people, and except for the yayhoo who had to yelp, you could have heard the proverbial pin drop. Second place award goes to the piano-only version of "All Grown Up", one of Costello's more beautiful melodies, exquisitely sung on this fine evening.

More tingles to come...

Rick Perry And Michele Bachmann Explain It All

Rick Perry discusses his "Princess In A Mustache" and loaning out his Kwanza CDs...

Meanwhile, Michele Bachmann explains why it's better to bring milk as opposed to backyard meth to her prison party...

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Meager Round-Up Of TV Thoughts...

Episode one/season two of Falling Skies (written by yours truly) is now in pre-production so it's been a busy few weeks, but today the latest drafts are in, the sun is out, the Yayhoos are playing and all is more or less well...

Television-wise, I've managed to keep up with the new season of Boardwalk Empire, which is still enthralling but definitely moving at a slower pace as events (and friends) conspire against Steve Buscemi's Nucky Thompson. It's great to see Dabney Coleman back with a vengeance ("he dyes his hair!!") and Michael Kenneth Williams as "Chalky White" has become a much more complex character with the introduction of his wife and kids. The production design of this show is as much a draw as the story-telling, I continue to be impressed by the amazing attention to detail.

And Showtime's Homeland is off to an intriguing start, an updated Manchurian Candidate riff with great performances by Claire Danes and Damien Lewis. Be curious to see where this goes... it feels somewhat close-ended, but I guess that all depends on what the Manchurian Candidate fellow is planning. There is a wildly uncomfortable moment in the pilot episode between Claire Danes' character and Mandy Patinkin as her older CIA mentor/boss that sold me... Claire is one flawed heroine.

It's not new, but my other fave show at the moment is American Restoration, a Pawn Stars spin-off featuring master restorer Rick Dale and his shop of eccentrics. Basically, customers brings in beat-up old stuff (Coke machines, slot machines, old motorcycles, etc., etc.) and Rick's crew fixes 'em up like new. The "story lines" for each episode are a little silly (Brettly screws up Rick's car wash!) but I am fascinated watching these guys pull apart old, complicated mechanisms and then figure out how to make them work again. The fact that most of the machines ARE fixable is a testament to old school mechanical engineering... the complexity of a pre-electronic slot machine is something else.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tony And Ditko!

My pal Tony Isabella is blogging about a story he wrote "long ago" (well, the 80's -- really, is that "long ago" now?) for illustrator-supreme Steve Ditko. He's got the finished pages, the Isabella scripts and Ditko's pencils, so this is serious business and well worth checking out. If you're as big a Ditko (and Tony!) fan as moi, you'll be careening over to --

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Kind Words From The Boss...

From Radio & TV Talk, 9/17/11...

Q: How did you feel about the first season of “Falling Skies” on TNT? [Spielberg is an executive producer.]

Spielberg: It played great. It even hooked me. I don’t think I missed a week of ‘Falling Skies’ on broadcast. I watched while it was being aired, not on DVD. There’s something thrilling about watching it with millions of people at the same time. I couldn’t have been prouder of the producer and writers and actors. They did a great job. I was really happy for Noah Wyle [the lead.] I helped hire him on ‘E.R.’ years ago with John Wells and director Ron Holcomb. I was really proud to have Noah deliver this kind of success to all of us.

See the whole interview at:

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Compassionate Conservatism

Must see TV: Televangelist Pat Robertson makes his TV co-host gulp when his advice to a man who's wife has developed severe Alzheimers is "divorce her and start over."

Monday, September 12, 2011

My Anthony Perkins Story

Actor Anthony Perkins, best known for playing Norman Bates in Psycho, died this day in 1992. He was a fine actor, rather unfairly typecast after Psycho, but better to be known for something than nothing...

I literally bumped into Perkins once, sometime in the mid-80's outside the Golden Apple comic book shop (back when it was on Melrose Blvd. near the old Aron's Records). Perkins was coming out of the store as I was heading in. I of course recognized him, but not as violently as another guy coming down the street, who did a double take and walked head first into a light post. There was a modest "clang" from his noggin making contact. Perkins looked at him a moment, then shrugged at me and carried on. I'm guessing this wasn't the first time he'd experienced this sort of reaction, nor would it be the last...

I didn't say it was a particularly INTERESTING story...

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Politics - You've Got To Be Kidding But I Know You're Not Dept.

I don't go political on this blog very often (I could fill pages, believe me!), but sometimes I read/see pieces that simply leave my jaw hanging. This is a recent example:

I Buy, They Reprint

It has become a curious fact that when I "discover" a new comics passion and throw myself into finding/buying the old books, it inevitably means someone is about to reprint those books in a much cheaper and easily accessible format.

A few years ago I discovered the insanity of artist Fletcher Hanks and haunted eBay and conventions until I managed to find every single one of his stories. Turns out author Paul Karasik was equally obsessed, actually even more so, since he managed to get every one of the stories back in full-color print from Fantagraphics. (Many of the pages taken from my scans!)

I never figured Marvel would get around to reprinting the golden age Captain America series past Jack Kirby's run (1 - 10), so I've been collecting the later issues for years. Whoops. Here comes the Marvel Masterworks reprints of the later issues (which are fantastic, by the way!)

Most recently (like the last three years) I've been gathering up issues of Venus, an obscure Marvel/Atlas title from the early 50's that is notable, in the later issues, for some amazing stories and artwork by Sub-Mariner creator Bill Everett. Guess what Marvel's just released in super-swank hardcover? Yep, the collected Venus. Issues # 1-9 just came out, and they aren't even the good ones! Everett's run starts later, in issues 10 through 19, which will be the next volume in the series.

I'm "this close" to completing a run of DC's Rex The Wonder Dog series from the 50's, so I anticipate these will be next up. (For those not in the know, the Rex stories aren't all that great, but many issues also feature Detective Chimp back-ups with amazing artwork by Carmine Infantino...)

Just so I can save some money and buy the reprint(s) later, if anyone is planning to reprint artist Al Feldstein's amazingly sexual "teenage" comics -- Junior, Sunny and Corliss Archer, all from Fox Comics in the late 40's/early 50's -- please tell me! If you haven't seen these, you're in for a treat... truth is, these Archie-esque teenage books were always mostly an excuse to draw pretty young ladies in occasionally daring attire, but Feldstein takes it to the Nth degree. His ladies don't just have bosums, they have breasts, straining against their sweaters and swimsuits like a boxer's fists. And Feldstein lovingly delineates every fold, crease and curve. But that's not what really makes these amazing. Feldstein draws EVERY woman in these stories with the same eye-popping detail. Elderly spinster school-marms, chubby matrons, it doesn't matter who, they're all sporting chests desperately straining to escape the custody of their clothing. Of course the characters are mostly oblivious to this hyper-sexualization, which makes it even more surreal.

Anyhow, publishers, start your engines and get these back on the stands and in the prurient hands of readers everywhere!

Saturday, September 03, 2011


Steve Bissette regularly posts cool newspaper clippings from the glory days of drive-ins, world of "25 cents a carload!" and delirious triple bills that often make no thematic sense. Steve rightly notes that obscura fans like to remember driving fifty miles to see an Andy Milligan triple bill (I took a girl to "The Rats Are Coming, The Werewolves Are Here" at a drive-in and actually watched the movie -- idiot!!) or lowbrow junk like "I Spit On Your Grave." But the vast majority of drive-in double bills were standard studio fare starring Doris Day, Sinatra, Jerry Lewis, and evidently many, many movies with Ernest Borgnine.

I just love the chintzy way the ads are thrown together, and the little taglines/filler. Under an ad for "Atom Age Vampire", "Vampire And The Ballerina" and "The Vampire" there's a tiny 10 point blurb: "Get more out of life... go to a movie!" Feels almost apologetic.

The rest of Steve's site is equally glorious, with plenty of comics and movie stuff. Well worth checking out!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Not Lame Was Not Lame, Kool Kat Is Cool

Long time readers of this august blog will have noticed that your humble scribe has an affinity for power pop music, said obsession often accompanied by a bizarre slide into an affected writing style. *Ahem*. Anyhow, yes, I do like power pop, but figuring out what's new and what's good in a world jam packed with "stuff" is definitely a chore.

Until a year or so ago I got much of my new release info from Not Lame, a retail site/record label that offered an incredible array of interesting stuff. Not Lame finally fell prey to downloading and the other ills of the music business and no longer exists, but owner Bruce Brodeen is still sounding the power pop charge with a series of books collecting the many thousands of reviews he wrote over the years. Book 7 (!) in the series (the first to be released) is out and may still be available from

I've already rediscovered several artists reading the compilation of reviews and look forward to the entire multi-volume series! Bruce is also still involved in the annual much-anticipated "International Pop Overthrow" series, massive and cheap 3 CD compilations of great NEW pop songs from a wild and diverse group of artists. Vol. 14 of the series is just out. 67 songs (!) available from

But others continue to scour the globe for the best power pop, and I've been getting a lot of recent "fun" from Ray over at Kool-Kat ( Ray explains the new releases in a weekly e-mail and also often tosses in cool extras from the bands, like demos, unreleased tracks, live shows, etc. He's also a fast shipper and very friendly, so worth checking out!

It's great that folks are out there combing the country-side so lazy no-goods like yours truly can sit back and savor the fruits of their efforts. Or something like that...

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Killing (Kubrick Edition)

Criterion's just released Stanley Kubrick's "The Killing" along with the earlier "Killer's Kiss" on a single blu-ray disc. The high-def transfer is spectacular and the movie's never looked better. The detail is amazing, and sometimes a little bizarre... at one point Sterling Hayden's character checks into a seedy hotel, and the inside of the door has chalk-marked dimensions scrawled across a panel. I can't tell if this was a mistake or meant to show how REALLY seedy the hotel was...

Always loved Sterling Hayden in this film, and he's tough as nails, but the picture has a slightly curious tone for a hardcore caper film. The gang of thieves are (mostly) surprisingly smiley and good-natured. One is joining the gang to help his sick wife. Even the one-scene loan-shark who "threatens" a guy at the beginning is soft-spoken. We're talking one polite crew of vicious robbers.

But what a cast. Elisha Cook is fantastic as the sad sack in love with hardcore floozie Marie Windsor, and it's fun to see a pre-Dr. Kildare Vince Edwards playing a real slimy bastard. Finally, Timothy Carey. Holy smokes. He's either channeling a bad impression of Burt Lancaster or recovering from a recent broken jaw, but his tooth-grinding performance is something else!

The disc includes a nice featurette on writer Jim Thompson, who was furious to discover his credit on the movie was "dialogue by" under Kubrick's "screenplay by." Despite that, he went on to work with Kubrick on several other projects, including Paths of Glory. I was impressed to learn that Thompson wrote and sold over a dozen novels in a 19 month period in the 50's, and surprised to discover that Martin Goodman, who also published Marvel Comics, created havoc for Thompson when he shut down the book line that was releasing his work. Small world...

I believe that with the exception of "Fear and Desire", this means all of Kubrick's films are now available in high def. That's a good thing!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Cobra! The Blu-Ray Review!

COBRA (blu-ray): I think what I enjoy most about many of Cannon's 80's films is how they unabashedly live in surreal, alternate dimensions. At least one of the later Death Wish movies was actually shot in England, doubling for a New York where roving gangs were destroying neighborhoods at will and elderly victims kept bazookas, surplus machine guns and boxes of ammo in the front closet "just in case."

In Cobra, Sylvester Stallone plays Marion Cobretti, a tough cop on the "zombie squad" assigned to protect a sexy model (Brigitte Neilsen). Brig has run afoul of a gang of motorcycle-riding murdering psychopaths who are nonetheless social enough to gather en masse in abandoned warehouses, clank together their axes and knives and spout generalities about tearing down society. There is literally no reason for the gang to risk their lives chasing down the model (someone vaguely says "she's a witness!"), but chase they do, rolling into the cross-hairs of Stallone's big machine gun and dying by the dozens. During the cross-country chase no other police bother to check out Sly's miles-long massacre, allowing him to eventually face off with the lead killer and exchange sweaty threats in an automated steel foundry.

It's a movie where Stallone's character repeatedly manhandles/abuses his weasley cop boss (played by Andrew Robinson, the giggling killer in Dirty Harry) without any real consequences besides stern looks. Where "Cobra" gets permission to roll his witness out of town because at least then the killers will be chasing him and not causing trouble in the city (!). Where the destruction of Cobra's cool black Mercury carries more emotional weight than the wanton slaughter of innocent hostages. Remember when DC Comics would to tell a story out of continuity ("What if Bruce Wayne's parents never died?") and called them "imaginary stories?" That more or less describes the world of Cobra to a tee...

PS: Maybe it's just me, but blu-ray doesn't really enhance this thing much... it still feels fuzzy and murky. And the image quality isn't much, either.

Monday, August 15, 2011

First Steve Buscemi, Now This!

Ever wonder what celebrities would look like if they had Michelle Bachmann's eyes? Wonder no longer!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sarah Palin Says...

Sarah Palin says she can support "anyone except Obama." Is this the opening that Barney Frank's been waiting for?!

Monday, August 01, 2011

Buzz Aldrin Punches A Guy

I've never been big on violence to solve problems, but boy was this guy asking for it.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Days Of Heaven

I was lucky enough to see Terence Malick's "Days Of Heaven" in 70mm while visiting Hollywood way back in the '70's. One of the most beautiful movies ever made, it's on Criterion blu-ray and looks amazing. But the incredible soundtrack by Ennio Morricone hasn't been afforded the same respect until now. It was released on vinyl back in the day, then a truncated version was released on an Italian two-fer CD, pairing "Days" with Morricone's "Two Mules For Sister Sara" music (!). I like the Two Mules soundtrack, but the transition from cool Morricone Western music to the lyrical, delicate music for "Days" is, well, jarring. To say the lease.

But no more! The fine folks at Screen Archives have just released a super-swank double CD edition of the soundtrack. One disc is the original release, the second is additional movie done for the movie. I'm no expert but it seems remastered to me, and the sound is impeccable.

Here's their info on the release:

Days of Heaven (1978)
Music Composed and Conducted by Ennio Morricone
With Contributions by Leo Kottke & Doug Kershaw

1978 Soundtrack Album

Aquarium [Le Carnaval des Animaux] (Camille Saint-Saëns) 2:05
We Used to Do Things (Linda Manz) 0:49
Enderlin (Written & Performed by Leo Kottke) 3:14
Harvest 2:59
Threshing 2:05
Happiness 2:13
The Honeymoon 1:26
Swamp Dance (Performed by Doug Kershaw. Words & Music by Doug Kershaw.) 3:32
The Return 2:31
The Chase 2:00
The Fire 7:48
Ashes & Dust 2:17
Days of Heaven 3:26

Total Time: 36:52

Ennio Morricone Cues Used in Picture

Main Theme (7M1 tk 8) 1:02
The Farmer and the Girl (Theme 18—piano version) 1:53
In the Field (Theme 5 long version, cf. Harvest) 2:59
Bad News (3M1 tk 3) 2:35
Non-Stop Work (2M1 2nd part) 0:36
Main Theme (2M1 1st part) 1:18
Bad News (4M3) 0:36
After Wedding (5M2 2nd part) 0:56
Empty House (5M3, cf. The Honeymoon) 1:24
On the Road (1M2 for 5M4) 1:41
They Should Leave (6M1, cf. Ashes & Dust) 2:16
On the Road (8M1 long version, cf. Happiness) 2:13
Bill Returns (8M2, cf. The Return) 2:30
The Locusts and Fire (9M1, cf. The Fire) 7:29
The Farmer and the Girl (11M3 2nd version) 2:26
His Death (5M2 1st part) 1:27
The Farmer and the Girl (10M3, cf. Days of Heaven) 2:46

Total Time: 36:34
Total Disc Time: 73:33

Extended Score Program

1M1 (Main Title) 2:00
1M2 (Train Ride) 1:44
1M3 (Main Theme) 1:47
Theme 18 (Love Theme, long version) 1:22
2M1 1st part (Main Theme, alternate take) 1:20
2M2 (Main Theme) 0:53
2M3 (Threshing, alternate mix) 2:05
3M1 (Bad News, longer version) 2:42
3M2 (Work Theme) 1:46
3M3 (Love Theme) 1:00
4M1 (Intro to Love Theme, 2 versions) 0:39
5M1 (Love Theme) 1:17
5M2 (Insect Noises With Main Theme) 1:45
5M3 (The Honeymoon, with piano) 1:26
6M1 (Intro to Love Theme/Ashes to Dust) 2:42
6M2/7M2/7M3 (Suspense Theme/Main Theme, 2 versions/Suspense Theme) 2:27
8M1 long version (Happiness) 2:16
8M2 (The Return, piano version) 2:33
Ghost Voices 2:33
9M1 (The Fire) 7:31
10M1 (Pursuit Theme) 1:26
10M2 (The Killing) 1:06
10M3 (Days of Heaven) 2:47
11M1 version 1 (The Chase) 2:01
11M1 version 2 (Love Theme) 2:06
11M2 (Main Theme) 1:03
11M3 version 2 (Main Theme) 2:36
11M3 version 1 (Love Theme) 2:29

Total Time: 57:35

Bonus Tracks

4M2 (Intro to Love Theme) 0:22
5M2 1st track (Insect Noises With Main Theme, alternate) 1:51
5M2 2nd track (Main Theme, 1st mix) 1:23
5M2 2nd track (Main Theme, 2nd mix) 1:22
Theme 18 (Love Theme, short version) 0:49

Time: 5:43
Total Disc Time: 63:26

Needless to say, this is as complete a release as we're probably ever going to see! Ordering info is available at:

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

San Diego, Falling Skies, Etc.

I've been swamped with varied and sundry since returning from this year's San Diego ComicCon, but I had the usual great albeit exhausting time. It actually seemed a little less crowded this year, but probably because I didn't even attempt to make any of the mega panels in the larger halls. Our Falling Skies panel was well received by 2000+ fans and it was great seeing the cast and fellow producers once more.

I did try to get into the Battlestar panel (I was late) but security gave me the heave ho. I guess they were just doing their jobs, but security did seem especially tight this year. I had less trouble touring the classified Nevada Test Site (near area 51!). Oops. Maybe I shouldn't have mentioned that.

Finally, this week's Falling Skies was written by yours truly and explores the enigma that is Will Patton's character, Cap. Dan Weaver. Oh, and there are also skitters, mechs, and a creepy reveal that I will discuss post-airing. 10PM Sunday night on TNT!

Hot Coffee

I love McDonalds coffee, and I guess I'm not alone. Consumer Reports has rated it highly and evidently the Scotsman is giving Starbucks a run for their money. That said, I was always leery at the jokes directed toward the elderly woman who was scalded by a cup of molten Macs joe, sued and won a $2.7 million dollar judgement. Maybe it was the experience of finally serving on a jury myself last year, but there simply had to be more to the story.

And there was. A new documentary called Hot Coffee goes into the case and explains exactly what happened, which evidently isn't quite as funny as the imaginary version invented by comedians and pundits. I haven't see the doc yet but if this review is any indication, it's on my list!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

On Writing and Breaking In...

Had a great time last night at the Paley Television museum discussing Falling Skies along friends from DreamWorks and the members of the cast. After the session, a couple of folks pulled me aside and asked for advice on breaking into the writing business. I'm always happy to offer suggestions and encouragement, but everyone breaks in their own unique way.

That said, here's my short/sweet "breaking in" story.

I knew that I wanted to write stories since I was five years old, and I've always loved science fiction and comics. With that goal in mind, I tried to find venues for my writing work. I was editor of my high school newspaper, created an comics-related apa (amateur press alliance) when I was 14, took every film class I could in college and was always writing scripts. During that time I also made friends with other folks (in my home of Oregon and elsewhere) who were just as determined to make a living in this nutty racket as moi.

I moved to L.A. years ago determined to write and sell screenplays. Instead I spent five years selling classified ads at the Los Angeles Times, but during that time I managed to network my way into writing several feature scripts for very minimal money (like $500), one of which was actually produced. (I was rewritten and the movie sucks -- welcome to Hollywood.)

Some of those friends I made when I was younger continued their own efforts to break in, and two of them formed Dark Horse Comics. They asked me if I would write a book for them and I said yes, and that was my first published comic book (The American, buy the trade reprint!).

Side note: you might think that any writer eager to work in comics would take advantage of an offer like that, but Dark Horse was just an idea back then and a lot of small comics companies came and went without a whimper. I know several writers and artists who refused to work with Dark Horse in the early days, which was great, because it opened the door for new mugs like me.

ANYHOW, the relative success of The American led to other comics work, including spinoffs of the Aliens and Predator movies. My Predator comics led to a fateful meeting with Joel Silver, who intended to use my Predator story as the basis for a Predator 2 movie. During that meeting I was asked if I had anything else and I mentioned The American. Silver and Warner Bros. optioned the book, offering more for the option if I would back off and let someone else write it. I refused (which was high stakes gambling at the time, I was broke!), but fortunately those $500 screenplays I'd written were enough to convince them I could put i before e, and I was hired (for scale) to write the movie.

Then came a very critical moment. I learned later, from someone who has since become a good friend, that Silver's company already had another writer lined up to take my place when I inevitably tanked the script. But when I turned in the first 40 pages or so, they were surprised to discover it was actually pretty good. Getting that first job is one thing, executing is another.

The American never got made, or the next two feature projects I wrote for Silver's company, but the momentum led to selling Timecop and getting the rewrite job on The Mask... and I had officially broken in.

Anyone who cares to emulate that path, be my guest!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


There's a lot I could be posting about, I suppose, but this rises to the top of the heap immediately. I just received my DVD copy of SKIDOO, the truly astounding Otto Preminger movie starring Jackie Gleason, Carol Channing, Groucho Marx and a host o' others. If you haven't seen this, I don't really know how to prepare you. It's sort of flat-affect surrealism, done so ham-handedly it's difficult to know what anyone -- actors, director, writer -- were trying to achieve in any particular moment. I'm no expert on DVD prints, but this does seem sharper and more colorful than the Skidoo that ran on TCM a year or so ago. I eagerly await the blu-ray.

I just watched the scene where Jackie Gleason, in jail, drops acid and sees Groucho Marx's head float by, attached to a metal screw. If you're not tearing a twenty out of your wallet right now for your own copy, you obviously don't understand great cinema...

Monday, July 18, 2011

I Like Zombies As Much As The Next Guy, But...


From Deadline Hollywood:

Ben Silverman's Electus has teamed with BOOM! Studios to publish Fanboys vs. Zombies, a comic book set at Comic-Con, which becomes zombie ground zero and has to be saved by the geeks descending on the city for the convention. The plan is to try and spin off the property into TV series or a movie.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Falling Skies, Carmageddon, Etc.

This week on Falling Skies, "Sanctuary Part 1." Written by Joel Thompson, directed by Sergio Mimica Gezzan, the 2nd Mass finds itself embroiled in conflict when Weaver refuses to raise the camp's debt limit and... wait, sorry, I was momentarily confused. The camp is embroiled in conflict when word arrives that the aliens are coming their way. *Whew*. THAT'S Falling Skies. Guest starring Henry (Mission Impossible!) Czerny. Instead of braving the madness of caramageddon this weekend, all residents of Los Angeles should instead be glued to their TVs at 10PM Sunday night on TNT!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

George C. Scott and Adam Sandler

This trailer is all the internet rage... and one of the funniest things I've seen in awhile. I miss George C. Scott...

Carmageddon Descends... and SHREK!

All sorts of dire predictions are floating about as a result of an impending freeway closure here in lovely Southern California. One of Westside L.A. main traffic arteries, the 405, is going to close between the I-10 and 101 freeways beginning early Saturday AM and theoretically finishing at 5:00 AM on Monday morning. Seems an old bridge needs to be torn down, and now's the time to do (some of) the tearing.

Usually I would be fine hunkering down and watching my backed-up TiVo recordings (just re-watched Seven Days In May and Fail-Safe, both great paranoid 60's political thrillers), but we've got tickets to see the touring version of the musical Shrek, which stars my college/movie making buddy Matt's step-daughter Haven Burton.

Did I digress? Anyhow, I was in Los Angeles for the 1984 Olympics, when similar predictions of traffic hell were bandied about. However, to everyone's surprise (especially mine), traffic was actually better than ever during the games. After employers changed around schedules and lots of people just decided to leave, it was clear sailing on most roads. I was lucky enough to see several Olympic events, but the best part of that event was the de-logjammed roads.

So I wonder what will happen this time. Massive gridlock, causing a Shrek-missing disappointment, traffic bliss, or something in between? I will check in post-Carmageddon with my on-the-spot reporting...

Friday, July 08, 2011

More Falling Skies!

Falling Skies will be the subject of a panel at San Diego Con this year, Friday afternoon at 3:15. Check the convention site for all the details, but I will be there and I was try not to be square. I will also be joining composer Noah Sorota for a composer's panel on Thursday. After those events, I'll be on the floor trying to buy old comic books and check out a few panels myself!

In other news, I chatter up a storm about the show at the WGA's blogsite:

And finally, this Sunday on Falling Skies, "Silent Kill." Written by Joe Weisberg, directed by Fred Toye, the intrepid members of the 2nd Mass learn more about the alien methods and Hal gets up-close and personal with the skitters. Hint: they don't like it. 10PM Sunday night on TNT!

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Falling Skies And Other Aliens

Some odds and ends:

This week on FALLING SKIES: "Grace." Written by Melinda Hsu Taylor and directed by Fred Toye, the aliens up the ante on the 2nd Mass! And the quest to find out how the skitters tick continues. 10PM Sunday on TNT!

Just watched the blu-ray version of James Cameron's Aliens. I must have watched this film a couple dozen times when I was writing the Dark Horse Aliens comics, so it's been awhile since I had a fresh viewing. And wow. The high def version is glorious and I had forgotten just how darn well this movie plays. There isn't a misstep in the entire picture, and even more humor than I recalled. Bill Paxton's whiny Marine is fantastic, and even little Carrie Henn (Newt) gets in a couple of good wisecracks. And then there are the firefights. I'm not all that impressed with pyrotechnics these days, but Aliens gets it exactly right.

Also been watching episodes of All In The Family on TVLand. Some topical sitcoms don't travel so well, but this show is still really, really good. And (like with Aliens) I'd forgotten just how great Carroll O'Connor and Jean Stapleton are as the two leads. I've been watching later post-Meathead episodes, and the balance between humor and humanity is really impressive.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Falling Skies - Skitters Taste Like Chicken?

I've actually been asked by two different writers if there are any plans for the hearty members of the 2nd Mass to, well, eat the alien skitters. Food is scarce in their post-invasion world and what the hell, right? I hate to give any advance "spoiler" type info, but in this instance I think it's okay. NO. There are no yum-yum roast skitter feasts in season one. I doubt even the Pope character could make those grisly looking things appetizing, though maybe with some chili and a little salsa...

(Evidently there is already a blog post up that suggests they "taste like chicken." If you say so!)

Also I understand there is going to be a Falling Skies panel at the San Diego ComicCon this year, with previews of some surprises to come. I haven't missed an SD Con since 1983 and this won't be the first, barring disaster, so I hope to see you there! And no, TNT will NOT be serving skitter!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

My Peter Falk Parking Stories

I thought Peter Falk was one of the great performers of the 60's, 70's and 80's. He was funny as hell in Mad Mad Mad Mad World and The Great Race, absolutely perfect as Columbo (one of my all time favorite television series, ever) and fascinating in his John Cassavetes performances.

I had an office on the Universal lot for several years, overlooking the parking lot where Mr. Falk, well, parked. So I saw him and his Range Rover on many occasions, and he was a familiar presence at the studio. One day I was having lunch in the studio dining room with an executive, who asked me what I liked best about being at Universal. I told her that truthfully, I loved that I had actually seen Peter Falk in person. She blanched and made a "over your shoulder" gesture. I turned and Peter Falk was sitting about three feet away. He had clearly overheard the conversation and he smiled. That was it, no chat, just the smile. But that was enough!

Second anecdote: I was in my office staring into space (a frequent habit!) when I noticed a messenger parking in Peter Falk's space. Moments after the messenger left to make his delivery, Peter Falk arrived in his big ol' Range Rover. Seeing someone in his spot, Falk simply parked behind him, blocking him in. The messenger ran out and was flummoxed to see the car behind his. He was trapped! Someone in the same office had noticed what happened and I asked if Falk would eventually move. "After two or three hours", said my office pal. "He really doesn't like people parking in his spot." Sure enough, after a couple frantic hours, someone finally came from Falk's office and moved the Rover.

Third anecdote: I was giving my friend John (check out his Beatles blog, listed to the right!) a tour of Universal and as we were pulling into my parking spot, I saw Peter Falk pulling out of his. I told John, "hey, look, there's Peter Falk!" We watched Falk pull out, out, out, until BAM! He hit the car parked behind him and broke out the tail-light! While glass was still tinkling to the pavement, Falk gunned it and tore out of the parking lot. I parked as a woman ran outside and asked if I'd seen the guy who just smashed into her car. "It was Peter Falk", I said. She withered, realizing there probably wasn't anything she could do about it.

Fantastic performer, but probably someone to avoid on the highway. RIP, sir!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Ruining My Hearing With...

In between being sick this week and, well, being sick, I've been catching up with a stack of "new musical arrivals." Among them:

THE SHAGGS/Philosophy Of The World: I ordered the 2011 remastered CD from the folks currently staging the Shaggs musical and I can report: it's definitely as good as the Shaggs are gonna get. Which is pretty darn good, for those with, umm, "adventurous" tastes. I hesitate to make this a wholehearted recommendation until folks actually sample a song or two, but i-tunes makes that easy. Give the samples a listen, then if you're converted, rush to and buy the cool new remaster. $16 and worth every foot-footin' (as in their biggest "hit", "My Pal Foot-Foot") penny.

CHICAGO/Live In '75: What can I say, Chicago was my second concert ever (after Linda Ronstadt!) and I've always enjoyed their 70's music. The fine folks at Rhino Handmade have released a limited edition, 2 CD set of a concert culled from their 6/24-25 1975 shows in Largo Maryland. If you have any interest whatsoever in early live Chicago, eschew the crappy PD stuff that's flooding the market and get this set. Amazing sound, all the hits, booklets, liner notes, the whole Handmade deal.

DON DIXON & MARTI JONES/Living Stereo: Their latest 2011 release, a set of duets from these extremely talented and tasteful musicians. Self-released on the D.A.R. label (Dixon Archival Remnants), music like this needs to be supported with $$ so there will be MORE music like this. Dixon produced REM and the Smithereens (their first album and their most recent) and has released a whole bunch of great Southern pop over the years. Don's better-half Marti Jones sings real good and has her own catalog of classics. Samples can be heard at Amazon, but don't get a lossy Mp3 of this, buy the CD. has them!

MICHAEL CARPENTER/SOOP#3: Carpenter has been putting out great power-pop-ish music for years, but the SOOP (Songs Of Other People) has been especially fun for moi. Great covers of great songs, ranging from Nick Lowe to the Beatles to the Brady Bunch (!). His stuff's available at i-tunes and some on Amazon, but Carpenter is also soliciting subscribers/benefactors to help him put out five CDs worth of material this year. If fans don't support these artists, nobody will, so I coughed up -- check out his site at and maybe you will too.

ROBERT JOHNSON/"The Complete Recordings": Yes, "the" Robert Johnson, bluesman and inspiration for Clapton, Zeppelin and who knows how many others. All of Johnson's catalog has been long available, but this new 2 CD release is a digital remaster and something of a revelation. Basically, this material has never sounded so good. Much of the 78RPM hiss has been eliminated without peeling away at the essentially high end, leaving the clearest sound yet. I've probably bought ten different versions of this material over the years, but this one is a distinct improvement.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Falling Skies Fun Facts!

It was a real thrill to see the reaction (both reviews and ratings) to the big two hour premiere of Falling Skies. In pursuing some of the comments, a few things seemed to come up over and over, so in no particular order:

WILL THE SHOW EVER FLASHBACK TO THE INVASION? The short answer is no, at least not in season one. The decision was made early on not to use flashbacks at all, meaning character development and info about the aliens has to come from forward story momentum. (Not that I have anything against flashbacks, mind you! We just didn't do them here.)


WILL WE KNOW EVERYTHING BY THE END OF SEASON ONE? Since that would more or less defeat the idea of a season two, no. But major hints? You betcha.



Incidentally, it's been fun watching the various teaser trailers put together by TNT and trying to spot where they pulled footage. For what it's worth, numerous scenes are from the big season finale... but YOU have to guess which ones!

Finally, how about some writing/directing credits?

LIVE AND LEARN (hour one premiere): Written by Robert Rodat, directed by Carl Franklin
THE ARMORY (hour two premiere): Written by Graham Yost, directed by Greg Beeman.
PRISONER OF WAR (ep 2): Written by Fred Golin, directed by Greg Beeman.
GRACE (ep 3): Written by Melinda Hsu Taylor, directed by Fred Toye
SILENT KILL (ep 4): Written by Joe Weisberg, directed by Fred Toye
SANCTUARY PART 1 (ep 5): Written by Joel Thompson, directed by Sergio Mimica Gezzan
SANCTUARY PART 2 (ep 6): Written by Melinda Hsu Taylor, directed by Sergio Mimica Gezzan
WHAT HIDES BENEATH (ep 7): Written by Mark Verheiden, directed by Anthony Hemingway
MUTINY (ep 8): Written by Joe Weisberg, directed by Holly Dale
EIGHT HOURS (ep 9): Written by Mark Verheiden, directed by Greg Beeman

More info as the season progresses!