Monday, December 24, 2012

Ramblings On Xmas Eve 2012...

I've been enjoying a few days of doing absolutely no writing. When I go through these (intentionally) fallow times, I always remember Harlan Ellison's conviction that real writers HAVE to write.  I guess he's on to something, since I'm taking a break from sorting my music collection to bang out this blog entry... does that count?

It's probably just a mental thing, but I love the sense of peace that sinks in over the holidays.  I took a drive down the Pacific Coast Highway last week, just doing some errands, and it was an absolutely perfect day.  Sunny.  Not much traffic.  I stopped for a cup of coffee and the folks at the shop seemed smiley-er than usual.  As I left, a lady wearing a Santa cap looked over at me and smiled.  Dropped by a magazine stand, picked up the new issue of "Mojo" and thought to myself, well, isn't this grand?  I can bitch and moan and whine up a storm when the gloomy feelings hit, so it seems only fair to acknowledge and appreciate the world when things are actually okay.

Of course, after my drive, I made the mistake of watching the NRA's unctuous spokesman pontificate on "Meet The Press." There went all those good feelings.  This guy's idea of dealing with the ridiculous proliferation of guns and high capacity ammo magazines remains to a), put an armed officer in every school in America and b), create a national database of "the mentally ill" (whom he generously refers to as "lunatics" and "monsters") which will allow the always unidentified someone to do the always unspecified something which will theoretically end these shooting sprees.  If this medieval list ever does come to pass, I look forward to the squeals when the clinical paranoids who think more guns are the solution to our nation's gun problem find themselves classified among the "lunatics." 

Nothing more to do after that than to thread up director William Friedkin and writer Tracy Letts' "Killer Joe", a fine picture that I'm sure fits onto the NRA guy's third to-do list, which is to clean up all the violent movies and video games.  I've said my piece on that particular subject in an earlier blog post, and anyway I rather doubt "Killer Joe" will send anyone out on a murder spree.  Rated NC-17 for reasons I don't quite understand, "Killer" tells the sad story of a family of Texas cretins who hatch a plan to kill "Mom" for the insurance money.  They make the mistake of recruiting "Killer Joe", a Texas cop who moonlights as a hit-man, played by Matthew McConaughey.  Joe takes the family's sweet little daughter as down payment for the murder and things go downhill from there.  If you get the feeling this entire clan would wind up on Mr. NRA's "Mentally Ill" list, you'd be right.  But despite the description, "Killer" is an extremely black comedy that actually generates some genuine laughs from the grotesque situation(s).  If you ever wondered what it would look like to be bashed in the face repeatedly with canned pumpkin, this movie is for you!

Now back to doing nothing... except enjoying the holidays!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

On Violence In The Media...

Another horrible mass shooting, another round of pundits raising the specter of "violent video games and movies" and suggesting curbs, restrictions and limitations.  On games, of course, not on guns, because we've got to have our guns. 

Not to be too simplistic about it, but unless you smash an X-Box over someone's head, video games will never kill anyone.  An "accidental discharge" of Grand Theft Auto will never blow someone's head off.  No one will ever be cut down by a Matrix blu-ray disc with a 100 round magazine.  Does violent media contribute to the coarsening of society?  Probably, but then so does cutting funding for public schools, eliminating mental health programs, making it difficult-to-impossible for people to maintain medical coverage and a host of other societal factors.  The mother of the shooter in the Connecticut massacre was evidently stock-piling weapons out of fear of a coming financial/societal collapse.  I doubt she got those ideas from watching The Transporter. 

So can we please call this for what it is?  That it's a lot easier for these pious hand-wringers to pick on "Hollywood" and/or video games than it is for them to buck the N.R.A.?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Fear Record VS Fear The Record

THE FEAR RECORD:  Singer Lee Ving has re-recorded the truly amazing first album by his band Fear and now the updated 2012 results are now available from the fine folks at "The End" records.  I was lucky enough to catch Fear back in the day (late *cof* 70's), when for some reason punk crowds showed their appreciation for a band by spitting on them.  My own Fear experience was memorable less for the endless expectorations, and more because my pal and I arrived so early for the show that we found ourselves sitting next to Lee at the bar.  Where we proceeded to "have a beer with Fear" (also the title of their second excellent album).  Lee seemed like a good guy... good show, too.

A little A/B comparison between old and new recordings make it clear that the 2012 version is true to the spirit of the original, but has a much fatter sound.  The ever-critical reviewers over at Amazon hate this release with a passion, but what the heck.  The glorious thing about our media-savvy world is, you can still have both versions.  Now if Lee would only release a few more live shows...

Sunday, December 09, 2012

What th -- ? Mark's Back!

This "posting every week or so" thing has got to end.  Well, it doesn't HAVE to end... but you get the drift.  I continue to be busy with the ever exciting HEMLOCK GROVE (from Netflix, probably next Spring, keep watching the skies!) and various other entrepreneurial enterprises, but between that, there's always time for some NEW MUSIC and MOVIES...

ARGO: Finally caught this the other night (thank you, WGA screeners!) and count me among the film's many admirers.  Exceptionally well made, great cast, great script -- just a blast.  Even though considerable liberties were taken with the actual historical story, when a movie's this good I don't really care.  (It's only when the movie blows AND totally misrepresents history that I get testy.)  I also very much enjoyed the fact that besides being an edge of the seat thriller, it also offers a very funny peek "inside Hollywood" riff via the (fictional) producer played by Alan Arkin and the (non-fictional) John Chambers make-up artist played by John Goodman. The droll way Arkin's character makes a deal to option the Argo script is hilarious and, sadly, probably not that far from thousands of similar exchanges.  Not sure the "Warren Beatty" power broker gambit would work every time, but it was still funny.  Anyhow, the Hollywood side of the story (which I have to imagine was probably a smaller part of the overall rescue effort than the film suggests) gives Argo some bonus fun points.

FLIGHT: I'm halfway through, but wow, that's some flying, Denzel!

KILLING THEM SOFTLY: I don't publish bad reviews very often... I know what goes into making movies and TV shows, and even a misfire represents a whole lot of hard work by everyone involved.  But this Brad Pitt vehicle just doesn't come together, and that's too bad, because everyone here has done excellent work in the past. SOFTLY aims (I think) to be a examination of how the criminal world has become as regimented and dysfunctional as politics, but in fact it's a rather tedious series of conversational interludes punctuated by (admittedly well staged) extreme violence.  Adding up to... well, not much. Oh well.  Looking forward to the next one!

INFINITE CRISIS OMNIBUS: Diving into the world of comics, I picked this monster of a book up because I heard one of my Superman stories was reprinted therein.  Sure enough, a Superman/Wonder Woman crossover I did -- which evidently kicked off some massive DC-wide storyline -- is featured inside. It's a very well produced book, but I hope it's not a sign of early-onset Alzheimer's that I literally can't remember writing this story.  I remember the CIRCUMSTANCES of the crossover, but that's about it.  Anyway, if you have an extra $99 lying around and a very sturdy bookshelf, this is one big helpin' o' superhero action.

SPACEHAWK: I love Basil Wolverton, actually spoke with the man back in the early 70's (as recounted in an earlier blog post, my Uncle knew Mr. Wolverton through some long forgotten connection) and so any new collection is on my "must buy" list. Fantagraphics has done BW proud with this over-sized volume, full color with excellent reproduction. I've heard Wolverton compared to Fletcher Hanks, which, I'm sorry, is like comparing Orson Welles to Ed Wood.  Both had idiosyncratic styles and their work could be enjoyed in various ways, but Orson was a genius and Ed was just out there sluggin'.  Wolverton was a true genius and deserves every ounce of acclaim being heaped his way.  We live in a golden age of exquisite reprint volumes and YOU NEED THIS.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Hemlock Grove: First Image!

Here you go -- the first authorized image from HEMLOCK GROVE, my on-going Toronto adventure!  No spoilers, but I was there the night this photo was taken, and moments after this shot the sky opened up with an incredible rain/lightning storm.  Was it the Gods telling us something?  Or mere meteorological coincidence?  Only time will tell...

Sunday, November 25, 2012

More New Ditko!

"#17" (I can't find any other title) is the latest from the amazingly prolific pen of Steve Ditko, who at age 85 continues to write, draw and semi-self-publish (with publisher Robin Snyder) his own on-going comic book series.

This ish opens with a written editorial from the man himself.  He tells of the time he met a couple of fans in the DC Comics office.  The (apparently very considerate) fans apologized to Ditko for intruding on him, because they had heard that he doesn't like to talk to fans.  Apparently this irritated Mr. Ditko, because the rumor he doesn't like talking to fans was something these folks had uncritically picked up from the fan press, hence "...they turned their minds, their integrity, over to some outsider, a non-factual, non-objective source."  The fans were also "pre-programmed like parrots."  Reading this editorial, I have to agree with Ditko -- how could these fans have ever have gotten the idea that he was not open and generous with his admirers?

Stand out stories: Another adventure of Ditko's female crimefighter "Miss Eerie" in a story set in the 1930's.  A sad Grandma believes she's being robbed by her grandchildren Fred and Sally.  Miss Eerie goes into action, employing her power, which appears to be contorting her face into a weird Mr. Hyde snarl while jamming a big gun in the face of whoever she's interrogating.  No spoilers here... you'll have to read the book to learn if Fred or Sally were responsible.

One of the quirkier stories stars "The Distorter."  We begin with three industrialist types engaged in a seemingly innocent conversation.  "Hash out our differences." "Come to a consensus." "We all agreed on one industry." "Agreed so far." "A good choice!"   But after a night's sleep, fissures erupt between the three over who should run the non-specific enterprise.  The Distorter (I think) shows up and punches all three to bring them to their senses, but it doesn't work.  The end!

I will say there seems to be a running theme against the idea that "might makes right", but stories frequently end with a guy (or distorted-face lady) socking everybody.  But so what?  As I've said every time I've reviewed Mr. Ditko's latest, these feverish story explosions are fascinating, quirky, unexpected and totally individual.  Chances are you won't find these are your local comic shop, but you can mail-order them from the website below.  And good news!  #18 is right around the corner!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Marvel The Untold Story

I've been gradually working my way through Sean Howe's "Marvel Comics, The Untold Story", a very readable but ultimately somewhat sad historical take on "The House Of Ideas."  Like a lot of kids of my generation, I grew up reading Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four and came to regard the creators of my favorite books almost as pals.  "Stan's Soapbox" had us all imagining that the Marvel bullpen was filled with a feisty bunch of cut-ups with nicknames like "Jolly" and "Rascally" trying to produce the best darn comics they could.  Of course, I was 10 at the time.  With age comes a bit of unfortunate wisdom, and in truth the folks at Marvel were indeed wildly talented, but also had mortgages, bad marriages, problems with alcohol, shitty bosses and all the other plagues of adult life.   Because Marvel was always a business first... a very cool business at times, but still a business. 

And that's the sad part.  Because a lot of creators invested a lot of themselves to make Marvel's characters as cool and interesting and iconic as they are.  And when business conditions changed, or editorial positions shifted, or the business went through a down turn, or some outsider bought the company and started making demands, some of those creators had their hearts broken when it became clear they were ultimately expendable.  It's one of the odder conundrums of writing comics (or movies or TV) -- to do a good job, you have to invest emotionally in the project.  But if you invest too deeply and something goes wrong -- i.e., you're off the project -- it can be crushing.  Learning to deal with that rejection is one of the many skill sets required to make a living without going insane in these crazy rackets.

I never did much work at Marvel -- basically one book (Stalkers) for the Epic line way back when.  But over the years I met several of the players mentioned here, and had several fun meetings with Stan the Man Lee himself regarding various projects. Maybe this history concentrates more on the troubles than the good times, but the ten year old still in me wants to hold on to my earlier, fun view of Marvel.  So I think I'll put this book down for now.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Latest From Toronto

It's a sunny and cold Saturday, perfect weather for sitting back with a cup of Folgers and staring at the Sean Connery print in my hotel room's living room.  Production continues at lightning speed on Hemlock Grove as we near the production finish line.  Episodes are being cut, scored, mulled, discussed while otherwise rocketing toward completion.  I visited yet another lovely graveyard yesterday (seems like a running theme!) where scenes were shot and actors acted.  They happened to be performing an episode written by yours truly, and I hope I never ever ever get over the thrill of seeing really great performers speak "my" words. 

Anyway, I'm sure you will be hearing much more about all this very soon...

While most of my time has been spent on the show, I've been winding down in the evenings reading some kindle-ized books.  Most recently, a new biography on Mr. Bruce Springsteen (another surprise!) that digs deeper than some of the earlier attempts I've perused.  I'm actually loathe to read biographies of folks who do work that I appreciate, because sometimes you discover they aren't always the nicest folks.  That can color my appreciation of their material going forward.  This new Springsteen bio presents a few warts, but overall it's the story of a talented and extremely driven guy who focused on his dream and achieved incredible success.  People who only know the politically astute multi-millionaire who flies to concerts on his own private jet may be intrigued by the younger,  apolitical Bruce who played hundreds of shows for $35 a week.   

But as life lessons go, what you learn from this bio is that making a living in the arts is mostly hard work, with no guarantee of financial success regardless of talent.  But the rewards, even if a private jet isn't in the cards, always outweigh the negative...

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Election Update!

I was going to open with some semi-witty "so I hear there was an election last week" quip, but in fact I was sitting in a Toronto bar with BSG star Aaron "The Chief" Douglas glued to the TV, so why even pretend? From my perspective, President Obama's election produced these three happy results.  A), the affordable health care act will be implemented, b), if there are replacements needed on the Supreme Court, B.O. will make them and c), the billionaires throwing huge money at massive ad campaigns didn't get much (any?) bang for their buck.  Yay. 

Now, for 2016...

Saturday, November 03, 2012

I'm Voting For Obama

I don't imagine this will come as a surprise to anyone who has read this blog for long, but I might as well put it on the table as we careen toward election day.  Actually, the headline is wrong, I've already voted for Obama via an absentee ballot.  So sorry, Mr. Romney, even if you could conjure up an ad that impressed me (essentially reversing virtually ever one of your major policy planks) it's too late.

I am not a blind advocate of President Obama and his policies.  For every policy that I cheer (the Health Care bill) there's one I don't (detention without trial).  But the choice between Obama and Romney is as stark a one as I've seen since Nixon/McGovern.  Romney represents a massive leap backward, rolling back women's rights, gay rights, turning Medicare into a voucher system, and imposing tax hikes disguised as "closing loopholes" on the middle class to pay for tax breaks for the rich.  For all his faults, President Obama doesn't do all that.

I often scratch my head at the Romney supporters on medicare, or with kids under 26 still on their health insurance, or who have depended on some form of Government aide in the past.  These folks who seem hell-bent on voting against their own interests because... well, because they don't like paying taxes.  Or have some vague (absurd) feeling that Obama is a "socialist." 

But then I realize that by their thinking, I'm voting against MY interests.  Under Obama's plan, my taxes would go up.  But wild-eyed liberal that I am, I am willing to cough up the bucks to provide a basic safety net for folks who run out of luck or suffer some calamity not of their making (disease, storms, earthquakes, floods, etc.). Selfishly, I want a vast swath of people doing well because then some might watch my little teevee shows and I can keep making a living... 

And that's how I see it.  Nov. 6 oughta be interesting...

Friday, November 02, 2012

I Like These...

Famous comic book covers COME ALIVE.  Check it out --

Saturday, October 27, 2012


* Stirring around on a Saturday morning in lovely Toronto, where the Winter chill is careening in on us at meteorological speed.  At the same time, something called "Frankenstorm" is barreling down on the East Coast.  But the on-going production of a little thing called "Hemlock Grove" continues nonetheless.  Because neither rain nor sleet nor... well, actually, we're not the U.S. Postal Service, so nevermind.  Actually, one of the more exciting nights production-wise) on "Hemlock" was spent at a remote graveyard location where the skies opened up around 1AM with torrential rain and one of the most impressive (some would say scary) lightning storms I've ever experienced.  And yes, we did pack it up...

* AMC is running a "Fest Fest" this weekend in honor of Halloween and this morning featured the George Pal "War of the Worlds" from the early 1950's.  This was one of the seminal movies that fried your author's youthful brain pan in adolescence (in a good way) and damn if it still doesn't work.  Ruthless, more or less faceless invaders, check!  Ineffectual military, check!  Determined pastor trying to win over the aliens with a message of peace getting blasted, check!  Earnest scientists trying to find a defense being beaten by enraged mobs, check!  Why, over at Falling Skies, I/we even doffed our chapeau to the scene in W of the W where a hapless gent with a briefcase full of cash laments that he can't buy a ride "for the love of money." On Falling Skies, we had our hero Tom Mason warm himself over a bonfire of now useless bank notes.

But besides all that, the Martian death machines are among the most iconic "space invasion" designs ever, and that crazy sound they make when blasting away at pathetic humans remains unnerving.

* Some noisy person named Ann Coulter called President Obama a "retard" in a tweet.  When she received a bit of push-back, she disingenuously said that everyone knows "retard" means "loser."  I guess that makes her a miserable hose-bag, which, according to my own alternate world dictionary, means "lovely, lovely lady."

* Some harsh looking fellow named John Sununu went on the teevee after African American General Colin Powell announced his endorsement of African American Barack Obama and asserted that Powell was not actually backing Barack's policies (though during his announcement, Powell ran down those policies at length and why he supported them), but was simply backing up a brother.  I suspect someone is the Romney campaign is thanking God or their lucky stars and/or the on-going and utterly ignored issue of global warming for the upcoming Frankenstorm, which will hopefully distract attention from some of the outright racism being spewed by his campaign surrogates...     

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Head, Consider Yourself Scratched

I am not an advertising executive nor do I proclaim any special insight into the collective mind of the American/Canadian consumer, but I don't understand how an ad featuring a bunch of 15th Century warrior goths running an amusement park ("Whack A Goth!") translates into someone seeking out a specific company's credit card.  In fact, I would be less likely to get that card, just as I would be less likely to buy auto insurance from a company that spends more time producing amusing anecdotes involving a cartoon gecko than explaining why their insurance is better than company #2...

But that's just me...

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Mickey, Monkees, Soundalikes...

Back for the weekend, gathering up mail and goodies before heading back for the final two month stretch on Hemlock Grove.  A pile of goodies awaited, including:

Sugar, da da DAH da da da, ahh honey honey... yes, "Sugar Sugar" by the Archies managed to impress itself on my cerebrum from the moment I cut the single off the back of a Corn Flakes box (!) and slapped it on my semi-toy record player (pennies taped to the needle!) back in the day.  And today I'm listening to Mickey Dolenz of The Monkees do a rocked up version on his new CD "Remember."  Mr. Dolenz has released several solo records since the demise of the Monkees, and on his latest he covers songs ranging from The Beatles' "Good Morning Good Morning" to Bread's "Diary" (what a weeper!) to, yes, a rocked up version of "Sugar Sugar."  He also redoes a few Monkees hits, like "I'm A Believer."  What can I say.  I loved the Monkees when I was a wee lad and the Mick managed to hit my sweet spot with a bunch of these covers.  In other words, I like it...

On the other hand, in head scratching fashion, I was wandering through Amazon the other day looking at varied and sundry, and noticed there are a lot of generic "tribute" albums for sale, usually as Mp3 downloads.  These kind of baffle me.  For instance, there are at least a half dozen "Tribute to Bruce Springsteen" selections that, when sampled, prove to be mostly bland recreations of the original tracks.  Now, going WAY back, there was a market for cheap soundalike recordings of the hits... these recreations would be packaged on (vinyl) albums like "15 Top Hits By Today's Superstars!" and sell for half the price of regular albums at discount stores.  But are there really a lot of folks out there who would rather pay $8.99 for a soundalike album as opposed to say $9.99 for the real deal?  Or maybe I'm missing something entirely... maybe there are enough uninformed consumers who just click and buy before reading the fine print to make these "tributes" profitable.  Or collectors insane enough to want every possible permutation of tune from their fave artist?

It's still a baffler...

Monday, October 08, 2012

The Latest!

Not to descend into broken record land (a "record", for you young people, was a sound delivery system made of black vinyl which, if bent, could break) but it's been awhile since I dropped into FMVOF.  And I take full responsibility for this lapse.  Whatever that means.

As for the reason, well, I've been clawing my way through scripts on HEMLOCK GROVE (for Netflix, out next year, more to come soon!) along with the usual production hoo-hah. I have been allowed a very pleasant room in Toronto (where we're shooting HEMLOCK) and when not on set I find myself spending quite a bit of time at the keyboard.  Interestingly (sort of), from what I can tell, every room in this hotel has the same wall art prints of Sean Connery as James Bond and Marilyn Monroe as, well, Marilyn Monroe.  Deciding which icon to face while writing has become one of the bigger management decisions of the day.  (For what it's worth, it's Sean at the moment.)

But in those brief moments away from the keys, I've watched a little tube and seen a couple DVDs.  AMC just ran another "all Westerns" weekend and I caught dribs and drabs of OPEN RANGE, TOMBSTONE and JOE KIDD.  As as western fan, I've seen each of these more times than I should admit... in fact I find myself quoting JOE KIDD on occasion ("I should have knocked your damn head off!"), while rather enjoying the sheer cold-bloodedness of Clint's character.  At least twice in the movie he sends some unfortunate to his maker and punctuates the demise with a flicker of a smile.  Damn, Clint, that's a man's life you're tittering about!  But Joe Kidd doesn't care.  When Kidd and a gaggle of guys he doesn't like (long story) ride into a town that is festooned with riflemen ready to take them down, Kidd asks one of the riders he REALLY doesn't like to "ride ahead."  The poor dope rides out a hundred feet and gets shot off his horse.  Kidd shrugs.  "Thought we were gettin' too close."  Then the smile.

OPEN RANGE I like because it has a great performances by Robert Duvall and Kevin Costner, and a quirky story rhythm that doesn't fit the usual cowboy movie mold.  Aside from that, there are odd cutaways, fade outs and transitions that are either trying for a different mood, or covering some sort of editorial mistake that I can't figure out.   My only tiny critique is that the movie seems to end about four times, but the really great shootout at the end more than makes up for that.

And TOMBSTONE?  Well, that's just sheer pleasure.  Kurt Russell is dandy, but Val Kilmer is amazing as Doc Holiday. Again, the story sort of peters out toward the end, but the ride is great and I could watch this ten more times.

There were several other Westerns during Western weekend, including a couple of astonishingly sexist John Wayne movies. I may not have the details exactly right, but it appears that McLINTOCK ends with Wayne chasing Maureen O'Hara (in her underwear) around town, paddling her butt in front of the entire (laughing) populace, then SHE chases HIM as he leaves town, and the movie ends a minute later with the two of them silhouetted in a bedroom turning the lights out.  No sir, they just don't make 'em like that anymore.

BTW, there was another recurring motif that arose from my paralytic viewings during Western weekend.  Which is: badly injuring/maiming someone (especially if they're a significant cast member) but leaving them alive because "ahh, he can't hurt anybody now" or "if I see you again, I'll finish ya" is a big mistake.  Actually, my favorite scene in this category was from the otherwise forgettable movie WARLOCK, where a bad guy smashed Richard Widmark's hand but allows him to scuttle away because "that hand's not good for anything."  Yeah, buddy, but he's got two, and you don't need a lot of hand/eye coordination to toss a stick of dynamite or shove a shotgun (as opposed to a Colt 45) into somebody's face.  When I write my villain's handbook (right after I finish my collection of limericks involving guys named "Peter"), rule #1 is going to be, "if you've got a chance to finish off your deadliest opponent, do it, dumbshit!" Actually, maybe I should call that the Joe Kidd rule...

Besides the westerns, I spent a moment checking out the recent blu-ray release of TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2.  We're talking the 1987 Tobe Hooper film with Dennis Hopper, not the more recent remake(s).  This movie was more or less trashed at the time, but I think time has been kind and it has survived to be regarded as a truly creepy, unsettling and quite funny masterpiece.  And (*gasp*, prepare for the heresy) far more entertaining than the original.  The opening bridge chase scene between some gun toting college brats and a saw wielding Leatherface (hidden behind a mummified corpse) is jaw droppingly weird. Leatherface's brother "Chop-Top" is a supremely bizarre and totally original character, with his "Sonny Bono" wig, crappy teeth and a predilection for heating the tip of a coat hanger so he can scratch pieces of raw flesh (!) from around the plate in his skull (!!) and then nibble on the pieces (!!!). And then finally there's Dennis Hopper as "Lefty", the Texas lawman determined to bring the "Sawyer family" to justice, strapping two chainsaw holsters to his belt as he prepares to deliver righteousness.  This is about as deranged as it gets, and I doff my chapeau (sans coat hanger) to the old Cannon crew for financing this freak-show.

And now, play time is over!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

40 Worst By 40 Best

The SF Gate lists the 40 worst albums by 40 (usually) great bands/performers.  I'm not super-fan enough to have an opinion on many of these, but pul-ease!  I happen to like REM's "Monster", the Beatles "Yellow Submarine", Springsteen's "Working On A Dream",  Elvis Costello's "Brutal Youth" and Wings "Back To The Egg."  Yes, they were looking for the worst album by great acts, so it's a skewed situation, but Costello's released more forgettable music than "Brutal" and I'd castigate Springsteen's "Lucky Town" before "Working On A Dream."

Or, in other words, it's all just individual taste...

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


If there's anything in the recent tumult over Mitt Romney's "unguarded comments to zillionaires" flap that raised my shaggy eyebrows, it was his assertion that he didn't inherit anything, that he made his fortune on his own.  There seems to be a stubborn blind spot in some wealthy folks when it comes to admitting that, yeah, they may have had a leg up on the average joe.  In Romney's case, he was born to a fellow who was the head of a major American automobile company and eventually became the Governor of Michigan.  Romney himself attended private school and Harvard on his Dad's dime.  Yes, later, Romney the Mitt gave his family inheritance to charity, but that was after he had used the stepping stones (excellent education, political and financial contacts, seed capital in the form of a trust) provided by Dad to start a business and get rich.

Nothing wrong with any of that, of course.  Some folks are lucky and still fail.  I am sure Romney worked very hard at Bain.  But this personal myth-making is a little absurd.  Hey, I grew up in a middle class household, went to public school and attended a State college (go, go, Portland State University!) while working at McDonalds, tending bar, driving a truck and other odd jobs. Yes, I've worked hard, but I never forget how fortunate I was to have had a stable home-life, supportive parents and enough money to buy 53 cent quarts of beer and other basic necessities.  That Romney doesn't want to accept that he had plenty of help becoming a multi-millionaire strikes me as a tragic character flaw and an almost frightening empathy negative zone...  

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Another Week Goes By...

Or is it two?  Developments: the weather is changing in lovely Toronto, cooling off finally after a very warm Summer.  I spent the Fall/Winter in Toronto working on Falling Skies back in 2010 so I am well versed in just how cold it can get, but right now, ahhh.  Nice.

Details are still under wraps, but we're well into filming Hemlock Grove and it's great to see how it's all coming together.  Great cast and crew, and that really fun sense of doing something outside the cookie-cutter.  It's one of those shows where the crew is eager for the next script because they really want to know what's coming next.  That wow-factor is actually pretty rare in my experience, and it's a good feeling when it happens.  Anyhow, "coming soon." 

Gearing up this morning by watching an episode of Hell On Wheels on AMC... this episode featuring BSG and Falling Skies alum Ryan Robbins.  I haven't managed to keep up with this show so I'm a little unclear on who's who.  But I did learn that frontier life was tough, crime doesn't pay and I would not want to be shot and then operated on without anesthetic.  Last night I caught yet another showing of Casino, also on AMC, with some of the best euphemisms ever inserted to replace naughty words.  "You told my friend to stuff himself?  You stuffin' greaseball!"  I'd like to say that the message of Casino is that crime doesn't pay, but actually, for the main characters anyway, it paid pretty well for quite some time.

And now back to it!

Friday, September 07, 2012

No One Does Run-On Sentences Better...

...than former Gov. Sarah Palin.  Here she is on Fox News, responding to John Kerry's jab during this week's Democratic National Convention...

"How does he even know my name? I mean aren't these guys supposed to be these bigwig elites who don't waste their time on the little people like me, me representing the average American who yeah I did say in Alaska you can see Russia from our land base and I was making the point that we are strategically located on the globe and when it comes to transportation corridors and resources that are shared and fought over, Alaska and I as the governor, had known what I was doing in dealing with some international issues that had to do with our resources that could help secure the nation," Palin said. "So it's funny that he would take a little pot shot like that, but it's funny he even knows my name. "

Sometimes punctuation really IS our friend...

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

For Pete's Sake, Think Of The Production Value!

Bemused woman reads newspaper and bemoans Obama supporting gay marriage for no objective reason except "marriage is between a man and a woman."  Dullard Husband agrees, music rises, and they're all votin' for Romney.  

Okay, whatever, but would it kill these guys to at least give their political ads a little style?  I've seen Sham-wow ads with more panache...

Monday, September 03, 2012

A Nice Review...

I didn't have access to the channel showing Falling Skies in Toronto so missed the eps as they aired, but finally caught up with a few recently, including my own final burst o' creative writing fun.  The review below allows me to re-visit the tired Sally Field "you like me, you really like me" Academy Award meme once again...

A Moment In Time...

Popped back from Toronto to L.A. for the long Labor Day weekend... if a 5 1/2 hour flight can be considered "popping." Things continue to roll right along on the Hemlock Grove front, about which I can guarantee you will be hearing more about as the year continues.  Came back to mail-ordered stacks of books, CDs, blu-rays, movie posters and other ephemera... to be sorted out on the NEXT trip back.  I do like my stuff...

On the flight out, I chatted with the young fellow in the next seat and learned once more that while people in the entertainment business like to THINK their shows are permeating the national consciousness, it's not always quite that way.  This fellow had never heard of Battlestar Galactica, Smallville or Falling Skies.  Thank God for my two seasons on Heroes or I would have batted a zero in this fellow's pop culture department.  Though he'd never actually seen an episode of Heroes. I believe his exact words were, "yeah, that was a big deal, right?" With all the enthusiasm that sentence suggests.  Then the flight attendant brought out cookies and we both fell asleep...

I would offer pithy commentary on the rest of the trip, but I need to pack.  Lock the doors, Toronto casinos, I'm coming back...

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Something Wrong With This Picture

Some gray haired guy named Taylor Hicks, in a suit, is singing a Doobie (Doobie, as in "doobie") Brothers song called "Taking It To The Streets"(really? That's where you're taking it?  To the streets?) to the folks at the Republican National Convention.  

Perhaps he'll follow up with a rollicking country version of Ice-T's "Cop Killer."...

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

I'm So Impressed

From tonight's speech during the Republican National Convention: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie "took on the teacher's unions" and won. 

Wow.  What a hero. 

WTF? Todd Akin edition

"Legitimate rape" was despicable, but this new claim by happy go lucky Republican Rep Todd Akin is just friggin' weird...

Remind yourself that this fine fellow is on a House Science committee...

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Oops.  This was satire.  Excellent satire, in that I was totally fooled. Damn you Daily Currant!  I would apologize to Rep. Akin but he really DID say the nonsense about legitimate rape, so... correction, yes. Apology, nahhh....

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Springsteen Under The Tower

Okay, it doesn't get much better than this.  A pre-show meet and greet with Little Steven courtesy of my friends at Netflix (Lilyhammer, Netflix, Hemlock Grove, Netflix -- thanks again Peter!).  A great time talking with a couple of new/old biz friends (hi Karen and Lucia!).  And finally enjoying a 3hr 45min. Bruce Springsteen concert with my pal Aaron Douglas in an outdoor stadium under the stars, with Toronto's CN Tower looming overhead.

Bruce was in good spirits and the show was, no surprise, incredible.  Highlights for me included a rare acoustic piano version of Incident on 57th St., a killer version of Murder Incorporated, and a fiery Badlands than ripped the joint apart.  But that's like pulling slightly larger nuggets of gold out of a sack full of the yellow stuff.

There is of course the obligatory "how the hell does he do it at 62!?" remark, but frankly the stamina of the entire band is pretty astounding.  Watching drummer Max Weinberg pound away for nearly four hours made ME tired, and I was just standing there.

This really isn't much of a review... sometimes its just about acknowledging that this guy is a treasure.  And keeping my fingers crossed he keeps hitting the stair-master and returns to the stage for years to come...  

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Expendables 2, The Raid: Redemption! (Minor Spoilers)

Caught EXPENDABLES 2 and THE RAID: REDEMPTION and the sound of grunts and gunfire are still echoing in my brain...

Squint your eyes and you could almost mistake EXPENDABLES 2 for one of Charlie Sheen's HOT SHOT movies.  But you'd have to squint pretty hard, since between the absurdist macho posturing and out-sized action sequences, EXPENDABLES (unlike HOT SHOT) features an copious amount of (often CG) blood and flying body parts.

But that's okay.  You have to be in the right mood for this kind of movie, and I sometimes I'm in that mood.  Enough apologies -- it is what it is.  Truly brainless action sequences and gunfight scenes interspersed with cocky jokes and a story so paper-thin (Jean-Claude Van Damme is stealing plutonium!  Yikes!) you could write it on a napkin and have room left for a lengthy grocery list.   

But you've got be ready to suspend your disbelief.  Big time.  Our heroes are rescued from certain death three times (three!) by other heroes who just happen to be in the right place at the right time.  Equipped with insane amounts of weaponry.  One of the White Knights we haven't even met before he comes out of nowhere, in the middle of nowhere, to rescue our guys. These last minute saves are probably the toughest narrative nut to swallow. At one point early on, stars Stallone and Stathem are sliding down a cable to escape various bad guys when the cable is hit by gunfire.  Our heroes drop in the jungle and are surrounded by evil soldiers.  Fortunately they have a sniper positioned right there,  you know, over the spot where our guys couldn't possibly have expected the cable to snap, to shoot all the bad guys.

The coolest guy in the movie is Jean Claude Van-Damme, who is making a bit of a comeback after too many years of too many bad movies (TIMECOP, *ahem*, exempted).  He's not exactly a revelation here, but he does add some dark swagger to his villain character (named Vilain), even if he does a couple of incredibly stupid bad guy things.  Note to future "Vilains": if you're stealing tons of plutonium and killing literally hundreds of civilians in the process, deciding NOT to kill the ridiculously armed mercenaries who've come to lay waste to your plan out of some left-field sense of soldier-honor is probably a mistake.

THE RAID: REDEMPTION has just as thin a story, but done with dead-serious intent.  The set-up is simple: a gang-lord lives on the top floor of a crappy apartment building somewhere in Indonesia. A truck-load of cops are sent in to get him.  But virtually the entire building is occupied by armed, murderous thugs who have an incentive to take the cops down, so -- mayhem ensues.  Copious mayhem, only instead of extended gun violence we get extended martial arts violence, which frankly I find inherently more interesting.  The athleticism of the actors and inventiveness of the fights takes on a brutal balletic quality... so I liked it.

But jeez, it's time for something a little less violent... where's my blu-ray of TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE... 


Today's Useless Political Observation

Note to CNN:  there are few things less funny than watching a comedian no one has never heard of expound "humorously" on the sorry state of political comedy....

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Catching Up...

It is clear I will never be a world class blogger... I allow small things like life and 16 hour workdays to interfere with my blog regimen.  Anyhow, just to catch up on things:

Work continues at a feverish pace on HEMLOCK GROVE, the episodic project I'm currently doing for Netflix, Gaumont Studio and a hopefully eager public.  Details are mostly under wraps for the time being, but I suspect you'll start seeing some peeks and hints soon.   But here's a super-duper spoiler for you: one of our locations has a lot of mosquitoes.   Yes. flying creatures have bitten me repeatedly in the name of art, but THAT'S the sacrifice I'm willing to make to bring you folks some fabulous entertainment.   You're welcome.   

Season two of FALLING SKIES concludes this weekend.  My scribin' swan song was last week with the episode called "The Price Of Greatness" and I can't wait to see the finished version of the finale. Ha ha, I know what happens and you don't (until Sunday night in the U.S. anyhow).  I love Canada and the Canadian people (where I'm currently based for Hemlock) but spit ugly Romanian curses that F.S. isn't available on non-"Super Channel" television here. 

Sad news that comics legend Joe Kubert passed away at age 85.  I've always been a great fan of Kubert's work, most notably his Sgt. Rock stories.  And I have a real affection for his early work, especially golden age Hawkman and some gorgeous love/movie star comics he did for St. Johns in the early 50's.  These feature layouts as bold and inventive as Will Eisner, combined with Kubert's incredibly powerful style.  By the way, a couple of friends felt compelled to inform me that they were never into Kubert's work, but they (hi J. and S.) are hopeless neanderthals. 

The Springsteen channel on Sirius Radio has been playing many concerts from his current 2012 tour, and I think the eventual question is going to be, great tour?  Or greatest tour ever?  Somehow at 62 this guy is at the top of his game, doing 3 1/2 hour to insane 4+ hour shows (!) without intermission.  I couldn't do his intermission without an intermission.  Anyway, I could use a Bruce injection and so I guess it's good timing that he's coming to Toronto Aug. 24 (see you there!), then nearby Hamilton Ontario in October (maybe see you there!).

There you go... all the news that's fit to print...

Monday, August 06, 2012

How To Write Gooder...

I was clearing out backed-up e-mails and came across dozens from various sources offering a wide assortment of screenwriting courses.  There were ads for seminars, classes on how to write outlines, how to write for TV, how to find an exciting career in copy-writing while pursuing screenwriting, on and on.  Anyhow, they got me to thinking (never a good thing)...

I am occasionally asked what classes I took to prepare for my so-called career writing comics, movies and TV shows.  Truth is, my educational CV is rather slim.  I took exactly one creative writing class in college, and my only memory of it remains the student on first day of class who announced that his only concern, in terms of his future as a world class writer, was how he could maintain his vision in the face of untold wealth and fame.  Oh, and he was also worried about the tax liability.  No, I'm not kidding, and boy was that Stephen King prescient!  (Okay, THAT part's a joke.  I have no idea if the actual ultra-confident would-be novelist took the world by storm.)

Pause for an aside.  I recall a lengthy message board conversation, many years ago, with a Midwestern fellow who was convinced he could write better television scripts than anyone in Hollywood.  Being a practical sort, he had worked out a regimen for big money success.  Since he was not only a great writer but really fast, he figured he could churn out one television script a week.  It's only ten-ish pages a day, and that's taking Sunday off!  Allowing himself two weeks vacation a year (to recharge the old batteries), that meant he could write 50 episodes a year and make 50 times whatever the guild minimum was back in those days.  And boy was that Aaron Sorkin right!  (Okay, sorry, THAT part's a joke too -- but the rest is true.)  The best thing about this conversation is what I learned from it: stop wasting time contributing to message boards.  But I digress...

Post-college, I took one screenwriting course at an Oregon art institute, taught by a very nice fellow whose credits were having one screenplay optioned by someone.  From him I basically learned that I could write stuff he liked (he was over the moon after my first short writing project) and I could write stuff he didn't like (my second effort left him believing my first had been a fluke).  Not unlike the yin/yang of an actual writing career! 

I am not anti-education, and I'm sure some of the many courses being offered have some good information.  The best thing about the big seminars, especially if they're L.A. based, is being able to network with like-minded folks and (fingers crossed) actual producers.  But I also can't help thinking that some of these very optimistic advertisements, promising to show struggling writers how to sell that big spec, are more about removing dollars from wallets than educating folks on the very challenging realities of making a living in this crazy racket.

Bottom line, I think some folks are too focused on taking classes, learning the secrets, absorbing the tips and writing in their blogs (oops!), and not spending enough time just writing.  It's difficult to have perspective about your own work, but I've been around long enough to watch other writers grow and mature and it's pretty clear that "practice" really does help.   That, and going through the experience called "life," which for better or worse comes at no additional charge...

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Very Very Sad

Comics writer and lunch friend Roger Slifer was horribly injured in a hit and run in Santa Monica and has been in a medically induced coma for a few weeks now.  Roger's the sweetest guy and because we live in a country where some folks don't necessarily get their medical bills fully covered, he could use some help.  I just gave some $$ to the Hero Initiative, which helps comic book writers and artists going through difficulties.  The url for the H.I is in the article below, along with the unfortunate details of Roger's condition.

Sunday, July 29, 2012


Better late than never, I finally caught up with THE AVENGERS in glorious 3D.  I really liked it and agree with the reviews that suggested this was about as close to capturing a comic book on film as it gets.  But it's also one of those movies that leaves me with some (minor) head-scratching.  Yes, that's me, Mr. Nit-Picky-Never-Satisfied.  (Except I really WAS satisfied -- it's a good movie!)

Still, in this one, I could never quite figure out what exactly it would take to hurt our heroes.  Iron Man, I  have to assume, must have a lot of de-gravitational inertia-absorbing uber-padding in his suit, because the body slams he takes inside the armor should have turned poor Tony Stark into jelly.  Actually jelly would probably have more consistency than what would be left after some of these battles.  In case this doesn't make sense to you, try this handy experiment at home.  Put on a suit of armor, as heavy and thick as you like, and let a bus run you down.  Hell, let a Mini-Cooper hit you at 12 MPH.  Now explain the result to your medical insurance provider, or, more likely, let your puzzled and bereaved family explain what happened to a funeral director.  I smell YouTube video all over this one.

Thor and Loki I guess are protected by Asgardian magic, but a strong enough wallop can still cause momentary dazedness.  When Thor's sent plunging "30,000 feet" inside a specially designed containment unit, there is genuine concern that the impact will kill him.  But (SPOILER!) he busts out at the last second and makes it out okay.  However Loki seems especially tough.  Toward the end of the film the Hulk body-slams the poor guy like a rag-doll, whamming him into cement about a dozen times.  Post-slamming Loki is half-buried in the floor and issues a semi-comic wheeze, but the next time we see him he looks none the worse for wear, save for the obligatory cut lip.  Evidently the lip region doesn't get the same protective shield as the rest of the Loki carcass.  Perhaps there is some Asgardian chapstick that could alleviate this condition.

The Hulk is just... really friggin' tough.  I have to say, this is the first movie that has really got him right.  Of course I only saw the Ang Lee Hulk and not the the other one, so maybe he was right in that one too.  He was not right in the interesting but "what the fuck?!" Ang Lee movie.  But he's super-right in THE AVENGERS.  The Hulk can basically take just about any punishment, though concentrated blue-energy fire from a bunch of aliens appears to at least drop him to his knees. Still, I get the feeling that Earth could be a cinder and the Hulk would still be punchin'. Of course me like Hulk, so he gets the benefit of the doubt. 

Captain America is just really, really tough.  An alien energy bolt finally cuts his tummy (he makes an ow-ie gesture for about a minute), but otherwise he seems able to take an enormous licking and keep ticking. And that shield, wow.  Full bore alien bolts of blue lightning just fly off, with very little reciprocal bounce-back on the part of Cap.  Here's another experiment you can try when you're allowing buses and cars to hit you in your armor.  See how far you fly back upon impact.  There's a scientific law that explains this involving inertia and stuff, but I'm having a couple shots of Gray Goose orange vodka as I write this and can't really get up the energy to do the research.  But you can trust me on this science-ey stuff -- I worked on Battlestar Galactica!  Oh, and yes, you can brace yourself for the impact, but believe me, all that force has to go somewhere.  See reference to Tony Stark and "jelly" above.

Hawkeye and Black Widow are basically just dudes who are really strong and smart enough to not let Loki sneak behind them and spear them.  I'm just sayin', "Phil," you gotta keep your eyes peeled, buddy!  Well, actually (oh shit, SPOILER), not anymore.  Or maybe not.  This IS comics we're talking about!

I don't know what can hurt Thanos (the big blue-ish guy who appears for a moment after the credits), but man does that guy have nice teeth.  I suggest the Hulk go for the guy's choppers, clearly a source of vanity for the otherwise alien, blue-skinned, lizard-textured galaxy-smashing future villain.  Or maybe I'm misreading that scene... I can see it now.  "AVENGERS 2: THANOS BUILDS A PETTING ZOO."  Hey, admit it, nobody'd see THAT coming...

The Sorta Three Stooges

Caught the Farelly Brothers' THREE STOOGES movie last night and I was left feeling... mixed.  On the one hand, I was impressed at just how well the new cast imitated the real Stooges, especially the fellow playing Curly.  And there's a chuckle here and there as they recreate some famous Stooge routines -- they get the timing of the physical action down really well.

But the plot... I dunno.  The Stooges are imbeciles who need to somehow raise money for their failing orphanage.  Yes, I understand this hoary old device harkens back to the plots of the 30's, but boy, it's still pretty tired.  To cement the Stooges' affection for the orphanage, the movie opens with a lengthy sequence featuring 12 year old versions of the Stooges, which is just... strange.  I guess this movie answers the "nature versus nurture" question definitively... the Stooges were born demented because all the other kids in the orphanage are perky little cuties.  Also it appears that movie orphanages humor their charges by allowing them to wear weird clothes, cut their own hair (or in Larry's case, not cut) and engage in wildly inappropriate behavior that often result in painful injury to the nuns in charge.  (One of whom is played by a, sorry, wildly unfunny Larry David.)

Then things take a bizarre turn when the Stooges are approached by a devious woman who offers to pay them if they murder her husband (!).  And the Stooges agree!  I've seen virtually every original Stooges short and maybe I'm forgetting one, but I don't remember any that involved the boys agreeing to become hired killers.  Maybe it's just me, but watching Moe order Curly to grab a pillow, sneak into a hospital room where their injured victim lies and "get to smothering him, quick!" is... disconcerting.  Curly dices onions onto the victim's face, "smothering him with onions nyuk nyuk", before Moe grabs the pillow himself and goes to work. When they're interrupted, they drop a stick of dynamite into the victim's body cast and blow him up.  The guy survives with one of those exploding cigar blackface make-up jobs, but still.

Later in the same sequence, the Stooges hide out in a maternity ward full of babies and have a "pee war" grabbing babies and squirting one another with urine.   I'm guessing this was a high point for some audiences.

Maybe this would have been funnier if seen with an audience... as for me, I give the new Stooges a qualified "hmm."

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Don't Eat Your Shield, Captain America!

Some wiseguy did a pretty good job envisioning 60's Marvel characters if they had been done at DC...

Friday, July 27, 2012

With A Little Luck...

I don't usually post links to Mark Evanier's site since I figure just about anyone who reads my sad blog is probably also checking his... but in case you missed it, he's posted a jaw-dropping clip of Mary Tyler Moore and a dancing David Letterman (!) doing a really messed up version of McCartney's "With A Little Luck."  As Mark E. notes, it does not look like David Letterman can believe he's actually doing this...

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Piling On...

So a slightly tongue-tied newsman on CNN just said he was about to interview someone who tried to protect a friend during the Aurora shooting and died in the effort.  Okay...

You may wonder why I'm calling attention to news gaffes as opposed to offering some insight into how or why I think these awful killings took place.  Truth is, I have none, or at least not any that haven't been expressed by many others many times before.

We live in a country where people have ready access to guns and ammunition.  We also live in a country where people occasionally decide to use those guns in truly awful ways.  I don't think the Batman movie or violent media or the general lack of Godliness (thank you for that, Rep. Louie Gohmert) had anything to do with it.  Obviously I have no idea why the shooter did what he did, but I'm guessing the guy was severely disturbed and this was how his disturbance eventually expressed itself. 

It's a terrible tragedy for the people who were killed or injured, but as for deeper lessons?  I wish there were fewer guns in this world, but that's about I've got... 

Mi Casa Su Casa de mi Padre

CASA DE MI PADRE is a cute, high concept comedy that almost certainly wouldn't have been made on even this modest scale without the involvement of Will Farrell.  Totally in Spanish (with English sub-titles for those who are sans fluency), PADRE sends up a genre of Mexican melodrama with which I frankly do not have much familiarity.  But it's not too hard to keep up, between the cheap backdrops, silly props, and florid acting complete with many tight close-ups of eyeballs.

Farrell plays Armando, one of four sons of a wealthy rancher.  Sadly one of the rancher's sons have become a "narco"/drug dealer, bringing a world of hurt down on the family.  Armando is also a coward who must find his courage to win the love of a beautiful woman.

I think what I like best about PADRE is that most of the humor is silly, as opposed to mean or snarky.  It's not roll on the floor funny, but there are many smiles and Farrell is fun to watch.  If Mel Gibson's Gringo had shown up for a cameo, it could have been the perfect movie...

Saturday, July 21, 2012

You Know They're Desperate To Fill Time...

...when CNN brings in actor Stephen Baldwin to weigh in on the Aurora shooting.

Payback The Gringo!

GET THE GRINGO stars Mel Gibson as "Driver", a thief who, as we meet him, is fleeing down the US/Mexico border after a high stakes robbery.  To escape the U.S. lawmen, Driver crashes the fence into Mexico (literally) and eventually winds up tossed into a staggeringly corrupt Mexican prison.   And that's really where this movie really starts, morphing into a snarling fish-out-of-water story as Driver figures out prison life and starts making moves to save his own neck, retrieve his cash and (as happens in the movies) help a little boy who is being "protected" (or preserved) so his liver can be harvested by a dying prison kingpin (!).

That last bit pushes things just a tad over the top, but otherwise this is the best Mel movie since PAYBACK, which I loved.  It could also be considered a sequel/prequel to PAYBACK, since Gibson is playing virtually the same character.  I love the gritty, 70's feel of this production, and Gibson effectively channels whatever demons I've read about in the papers to create a tough, nasty, hard-boiled heart o'gold guy. 

And the production values are impressive.  They created one nasty-ass Mexican prison for this show, using an actual just-closed facility south-of-the-border.  I'm not sure how accurate this is, but assuming it's close, I have officially decided not to commit crimes in Mexico.

Mel could make one of these a year and my butt would be in the seat/buying the blu-ray/visiting Netflix for the results.  Put down the beaver puppet and pick up the automatic, Mel! 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Today In Canada

Spent the day, as usual these days, dealing with Hemlock Grove business (details soon!).  Returning "home," I turned on CNN to catch up with the latest American news and learned:

Russell Brand is pretty funny. (Oops, not American.)

Somebody puts needles in a turkey sandwich on an airline flight. (Oops, I don't think it was an American flight.)

A snake handling minister got bit and died.  (Definitely U.S.)

Former Senator John Sununu said that President Obama needs to learn how to be an American.  He quickly half apologized, which leads me to note that I believe John Sununu needs to learn how to be an American, and, oh.  "Sorry."

The ever-vigilant Michelle Bachmann claims that the Muslim Brotherhood is infiltrating the American Government (specifically in the form of Hilary Clinton's assistant) and evidently that requires her and like-minded paranoids to, no, not alert the FBI, but take their assertions to right wing radio.  Who I am sure will solve this desperate problem in the nick of time.  Or eventually offer a half-assed "sorry."

Some right wing dude named Erich Erichson has a job on CNN spouting right-wing talking points. I would report on his carefully considered bromides but I automatically leave the viewing area and reach for the nearest liquor whenever this guy appears on my screen.

Even Grover Norquist was offended by Michelle Bachmann's anti-Muslim charges because he's married to a Muslim woman.  I assume, however, that they remain friends on the tax issue, another instance of "it depends on whose ox is being gored."

Because of f'ing Erich Erichson I'm drinking too much Maker's Mark...

That is all...

An actress I don't know is doing ads for Depends...

I'm going to bed...

Friday, July 13, 2012

Me and SDCC

Because of my ongoing (and exciting!) work on the Netflix series Hemlock Grove, it looked like I was going to miss my first San Diego Comic-Con in 28 years.  But then -- BUT THEN -- thanks to the arrival of "the weekend," direct flights from Toronto to San Diego (thank you Air Canada) and my fearless ability to prop up the Canadian airline industry by blowing obscene amounts of money on tickets, I'm coming out for Saturday and Sunday after all.  I have no panels and no specific chores this year, but I'll be the tired looking big guy in the original art/comic book aisles (like THAT narrows it down).

Meanwhile, I hope everyone enjoys/enjoyed (depending on when this is read) the Falling Skies panel, and I send my best to the cast and crew. I realize these are ultimately "jobs," but everyone on F.S. from TNT on-through was a pleasure to work with and I hope for them that the series goes for many years to come.  

Back to work!

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Sad RIPs...

The death earlier this week of Andy Griffith and now today's news that Ernest Borgnine has passed on didn't come as surprises,  exactly, but both men seemed like the old-school type of actor who were always around and would always BE around.  Of course that's not how the world works...

Griffith was amazing on the Andy Griffith show, but I've always been most astonished/impressed by his manic and thoroughly nasty performance in Face In The Crowd.  It's a fantastic script, of course, but Griffith could have easily tried to soften Lonesome Rhodes and draw audience sympathy/empathy -- but he doesn't.  He plays a selfish egomaniac from start to finish, gleefully destroying the people around him until he accidentally destroys himself.  It is a stunning performance.  Let's put it this way: Griffith completely overshadows Walter Matthau in the film.  That ain't easy.

Borgnine always seemed to operate on two levels.  One was subtle, coiled and intense -- think Wild Bunch or Bad Day At Black Rock.  The other was scenery chewing at its best -- think Ice Station Zebra (where he sports a wild Russian accent) or a horror film like The Devil's Rain.   Bottom line, he was always fun to watch, whatever the character.  I only finally saw Marty a few months ago, and it really is a great performance.

I have no personal anecdotes about these actors... I'm just a fan lamenting their passing and happy to remember their best work... 

Seeking JUSTICE dammit! (Spoilers!)

Nicolas Cage has certainly seen some career ups and downs, and he seems to be in a holding pattern with Seeking Justice, a rather routine straight-to-DVD thriller directed by Roger Donaldson.  Cage plays a school teacher whose wife is attacked and raped.  While grieving over his wife's injuries, a close-cropped Guy Pearce approaches and offers to do in the attacker for Cage.  But there's a catch -- if vigilante Pearce's people do Cage this favor, he owes 'em.

Cage agrees, the attacker is murdered, all is well (really?)... until the favor is called in.  Then things start getting really hairy for poor Nick and family.

I think this one falls in the category of asking the audience to accept one "gimme" too many.  That there's a group of vigilantes doing in bad guys, okay.  That the vigilantes may have ulterior motives, okay.  That they need to rope in a reluctant school teacher to help them further their goals -- whoa.  Unfortunately, too much of the plot falls in the "dumb plan, bad guys!" category.  In theory they need a patsy for some unsavory criminal acts, but whatever eventually happens, the patsy running around loose TELLING everyone he was a patsy is inevitably going to be a problem.  The things that are asked of Cage seem like nefarious acts that any one of Guy Pearce's vigilante mokes could have pulled off without a peep.

But Cage remains fun to watch and January Jones (as the wife) is easy on the eyes and so I give this a marginal "catch it on streaming Netflix" thumbs sideways. 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Health Care!

So President Obama's health care plan was upheld by the Supreme Court today.  I of course expected all manner of wailing and gnashing of teeth, but the most bizarre reaction were tweets from folks declaring they were done with the U.S. and moving to Canada to avoid this awful health care plan.

Uhh... I'm in Canada.  They HAVE national health-care here, guys.  Best tweet I saw in response to this proposed Northern flight was "I'm sick of this heat!  I'm moving to Ethiopia!"

Monday, June 25, 2012

Death Penalty

So over the weekend a former football coach named Jerry Sandusky was found guilty of molesting young boys.  I frankly haven't been following the case that closely, but from what I've read it was a terrible, harrowing crime against many innocent kids.  Nobody's going to be taking up a collection for a Sandusky defense fund.

At the same time, there were some disconcerting remarks made in the great desert known as the internet hoping that Sandusky is (there's no gentle way to put this) raped in prison so he can get a taste of his own medicine.

Sandusky in jail for life makes sense.  But a prison system where being raped is widely considered part of the punishment package, not so good.  Years ago I knew someone who was tossed in the clink as a teenager for stealing a car.  He spent a week in jail, where he was sexually assaulted by another inmate.  Needless to say, he shouldn't have stolen the car.  But the punishment in that case certainly didn't fit the crime, and the experience left life long mental scars on someone who has otherwise been on the straight and narrow ever since.. 

I don't believe in the death penalty (too many chances for mistakes) and I also don't believe two wrongs make a right.  Hoping for more crime -- raping a rapist (or anyone behind bars) -- is not the sort of American "justice" we should be cheering...  

Sunday, June 24, 2012

100 Best TV Episodes Of All Time

No, not my list, but blogger Stephen Bowie has compiled his top fifty (leaving room for another fifty as viewing permits) and it's impressive.  Of course all of this is wildly subjective, but what I really like about Steven's list is that it picks and chooses from the entire history of television, 50's to the 2000's.  So there are episodes of  '60's "The Defenders", Richard Boone's "Medic",  as well as (ahem) the 2000's version of "Battlestar Galactica" and "Sopranos."  And all years in between, including dramas and sitcoms.  Much to argue about and discuss, but also it's a cool roadmap to finding some interesting TV that's fallen off the grid.

The rest of Stephen's blog is equally fascinating, with profiles on character actors and lengthy investigative pieces on TV producers/writers/etc  from the past.  Thanks to Mark Evanier for pointing me at this site!

Abraham Lincoln, Axe Spinner


There is something gloriously insane in the idea of Abraham Lincoln taking a silver-coated axe to vampires, and Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter pretty much mines that madness for two hours.  I have not read the book on which the film was based, so I was surprised that the story takes Abe all way to the White House, where he's forced to continue his vampire battles as the Civil War ensues.

As far as the movie goes, I enjoyed much of it, though things sag a bit in the middle when Abe pursues his political career.  The movie LOOKS amazing and I'm left hoping that someone someday mounts an actual Civil War film with the same technical virtuosity employed here. 

A couple of other points.  In this story being a vampire has approximately zero downside.  You get to be immortal, you can walk in daylight, disappear at will, enjoy super-strength -- frankly you can do all sorts of cool stuff.  The downside is you need to feed on humans to survive, but that's really only a downside to the hapless humans.  If these vampires could feed on cows, there would be no reason for "living" humans to attack them.  Cows might get angry, but as our hamburger devouring culture has proven, their resources for effecting revenge are limited.

If the vampires in ALVH have any weakness, it's hubris.  The vampire king in the story allows both Abe and a self-loathing vampire guy to live to fight another day, offering some token reasoning that sounds vaguely dubious even in the moment, and certainly proves to be wrong in the long run.  Perhaps this piece of advice should be page one of the evil vampire overlord's handbook: "When you capture your enemy after he's cut a dozen of your best vampires to pieces with an axe or knife or gun, KILL HIM.  Allowing him to live to potentially service one of your dubious plans is risky!"

Finally, I'm still trying to understand why learning to twirl an axe like a majorette's baton is somehow useful in the war against vampires.  Practicing such a thing seems so dangerous (one false move and this becomes one of those Hong Kong "One Armed Assassin" movies), and for such limited benefit,  I'm not sure I get the point.  The vampires certainly didn't seem dazzled by Abe's axe spinning prowess in this movie.  It does look cool, but we're killing vampires here, not trying to impress the prom queen.

Now excuse me, I'm polishing my draft of Benjamin Harrison: Werewolf Tamer... 

Thursday, June 21, 2012


I've been working away in lovely Toronto Canada on Hemlock Grove and failing to keep up with my blogging duties, so how about a little catch up?

So first, Hemlock Grove, which will be appearing via Netflix sometime early-ish next year.  Starring Famke Janssen, Dougray Scott and a dazzling array of other excellent cast members, we're going for something that is NOT your father's horror show with this project  Scary, sexy, dark and yet occasionally funny -- this one's definitely going to raise some eyebrows.  Eli Roth directs the first episode, then this train is officially on the tracks.

So how about that Falling Skies premiere?  Since Canada doesn't get the show on a regular (non-Super) channel, I haven't seen the show(s) yet but I saw many cuts and hopefully they looked even better all scrubbed and polished.  I also wrote the penultimate episode of F.S. season two, introducing a whole new host of problems for the beleaguered 2nd Mass, and will appear in the "2nd Watch" segment following that episode.  Keep yer eyes peeled.

So how about that Prometheus?  As writer of the first ALIENS comics way back when, I have more than a mild interest in that world, and Prometheus is an interesting prequel... though evidently there has been a lot of argument in fan circles over whether it actually IS a prequel.  Your requisite science majors have been picking apart so-called logic holes, but as a compelling story with some great sequences (I'm looking at you, Noomi Rapace) I got my $17.00 (Canadian) worth.  And what a look they created here... forget the planetscapes and space-ships, the delicate 3-D graphics aboard the ship are dazzling.  

That's all I know today... more soon!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Strange Messages...

So one of the joys of not-so-modern technology is the Caller I.D. feature, which has saved me an inordinate amount of time over the last few weeks avoiding political calls, sales calls (despite being on the no-call list) and who knows what else.  But recently I've been getting calls (that go unanswered) from Pay Day Loans, which have prompted quite a bit of head scratching.  Really?  I'm no gazillionaire but I *am* working at the moment, and given I am currently sans heroin habit and/or the need for pricey home renovations involving car elevators, how the heck did I land on THAT call list?

On the exact opposite side of the scale, I've also been getting direct mail from an outfit that wants me to buy a 1/16th share (or more) of a private jet.  I have about as much need for that service I do for a pay day loan, but it makes me wonder.  If these two outfits are sharing the same calling/mailing list, I'd love to see the schizophrenic algorithm that created one plus one = huh?   

Monday, June 04, 2012

Hatfields And McCoys - Bad Neighbors

I watched the History Channel "Hatfields and McCoys" mini-series along with 14M plus other viewers and mostly enjoyed it.  But then I love Westerns and actors Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton, so I was partial to begin with.  But the dramatic drive of the story was ultimately less interesting than the impressive production.  I feel for the writer(s) on this series, because they were faced with making drama out of what was essentially a running series of tit-for-tat murders between two strikingly unsympathetic families.  Both the Hatfields and the McCoys were, if you believe this telling, a gaggle of dull-witted, gun/knife/hatchet toting inebriates who repeatedly got liquored up in proximity of one another and then did stupid, murderous things.  Again and again and again.  Clearly these folks has never heard the classic definition of insanity, as in, doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different result.   

Oddly enough, what I kind of liked is how the story demonstrates that history is often messy, without good guys or bad guys.  Ultimately I think the mini-series suggests that Randall McCoy's (Paxton's character) unbending, self-righteous religious fanatic-turned-drunk helped fan the flames of the feud more than Costner's Hatfield, but there was clearly plenty of blame to go around.  These guys decided not to get along (the decision fueled by multiple murders), and that, as they say, was that. 

Ultimately, I hope this show's massive success leads to more frontier based adventures.  But maybe something that's a little more uplifting...  


Saturday, June 02, 2012

The Loved Ones - Review

Don 't make the mistake of renting "The Loved One" thinking you're getting this Aussie horror pic.  "The Loved One" (sans "s") is a not particularly funny 60's black comedy.  Only available on U.K. blu-ray, "The Loved Ones" (plural) is a harrowing psychos-doing-awful-things-to-victims from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre school of filmmaking.


Poor High School student Brent is having a tough go of it.  His dad died in a car accident when driver Brent swerved to avoid a bloodied dude standing in the middle of the road.  Six months later, Brent's getting on with life and preparing for a school dance.  Strange girl Lola asks Brent to take her to the dance, but he's already got a date.  Unfortunately, Lola and her equally deranged father don't take "no" for an answer, and pretty soon poor Brent finds himself in a desperate situation.  Actually, desperate situations (plural like the title!  Ha ha ha)...

Reverse the usual sadistic situation (woman tormented by crazy men) and that's basically "The Loved Ones", but done with a bit more style and panache than usual.  Brent struggles through a diabolically bizarre situation involving hammers, power drills and table cutlery while his friends (more loved ones) gradually catch on that something very bad has happened.  The film admirably raises the bar during Brent's travails, while offering winks and nods toward movies like "Evil Dead" and "Chainsaw."

For reasons I don't quite understand, Brent's terrible situation is intercut with a semi-comedic story of his friend taking a messed-up goth chick to the school dance, where subdued, inappropriate hijinks ensue.  There are also moments that suggest older (non-psycho) fathers find it difficult to deal with extremely sexual teenage daughters, which, again, doesn't exactly feel like "the point", but what do I know?

And I was pleased that the movie provides a genuine ending.  No spoilers here, just a grateful acknowledgement, since movies that end with a fade-to-black at some terrible moment are just cheating. 

Another interesting thing, judging by the credits, is that this film appears to have been partially funded by whatever passes for the Australian film board.  I'm trying to imagine the kerfuffle if a similarly gruesome project were partially funded by a U.S. arts organization.   I believe this is going to have a theatrical release in the U.S. this Summer, it's a pretty harrowing experience and I suspect seeing it big screen would augment that...

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

On A Lovely Tuesday A.M.

I really do intend to update this blog more than once every two weeks, but sometimes time just runs away... this Memorial Day weekend was punctuated (punctured? Deflated?) by a hard drive failure and all the resulting tumult trying to get my work life back into order.  Past HD failures have driven me to an almost obsessive system of redundant backups, so I didn't lose anything vital, but it's still a complication and a headache and all that annoying stuff.  Computers have certainly made writing and research infinitely easier, but when they break down, it's like there's a conspiracy to make me insane...

I haven't talked much about Hemlock Grove recently, but work continues at a feverish pace on this very cool 13 episode horror project for Netflix.  We're busy writing scripts, finding locations, finishing casting, bringing in directors, designing creatures... the usual panoply of production "stuff."  And my previous show, Falling Skies, returns June 17th with an two-parter, part one written by yours truly and part two written by my pals David Weddle and Bradley Thompson.  It'll fun to finally see season two on the air! 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Comic Reprintapalooza!

It is really kind of unbelievable, the amount of old comic book material being given the fancy hardcover reprint treatment.  It's way too much to digest, but I'm trying!  Among some of the newer releases:

Mysterious Traveler: Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 3:  This ongoing series has been collecting Ditko's work from the 50's, which was an especially interesting period artistically.  The stories are mostly crummy Charlton mystery junk, but Ditko was still laying in a lot of detail and imagination in this era. Given Charlton's lousy pay ($6.50 a page for finished art, versus $14 at the time at Marvel) it's amazing he spent as much time as he did on this stuff.  But evidently Ditko savored artistic freedom over all else, and at $6.50 a page I'm guessing the Charlton editors were just glad the stuff was coherent.  I still think Ditko's best work was for Marvel (both superhero and in the Atlas mystery anthologies), but this material is a close second. 

Tomb Of Terror Vol. 1: A new series reprinting Harvey's horror line from the 1950's in full color.  I have a number of the original books and was never particularly interested in collecting these titles, because, sadly, the work is mostly awful.  That doesn't mean there aren't guilty pleasures to be had, but tedious "shock endings" that don't shock and bashed-out artwork gets pretty old after awhile.  On the other hand...

Forbidden Worlds Vol. 1: ...this new series, collecting books from the ACG comics group, is definitely a notch above.  Redeemed by a couple stories by the great Al Williamson and a (slightly) more literary tone, this is a series I'll probably keep getting.  If the weight of all these books doesn't smash through the Earth's crust and send me plummeting to the Earth's core...

Really, Arizona? Really?

Just when I think I've become inured to most of this madness, someone cranks it up another notch.  It must give Arizona's citizens a lot of comfort knowing their Secretary of State is dedicating time and resources to this...

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Musings On "The Gray" (SPOILERS!)

First, I really liked the movie.  It's everything a gritty, man-trying-to-survive-against-nature movie should be. Excellent characters, brutal locale, lovely photography, etc.   If you haven't seen the movie yet, briefly it's about a group of oil workers who crash in the remote Alaska wilderness and how the few survivors try to make it out alive.  Unfortunately they run into a pack of predatory wolves who sense dinner on the hoof (and invaders in their territory), leading to "problems."


It's the very very very ending that left me perplexed.  No, not the faux ending before credits that blacks out as our last surviving hero lunges at the (very large!) alpha male in charge of the wolf pack.  It's the two or three second clip at the END of the credits that appears to show the last survivor laying down against the mortally wounded wolf.

Here's my thing.  I totally understand the men defending themselves against the wolves.  But I also understand that the wolves are just doing their thing -- protecting their turf, bringing down food, etc.  Unlike the humans, who imbue the wolves with more complex emotions ("what do they want from us?!"), I don't think the wolves are hating on their prey.  They're just feasting.

So when hero Liam Neeson makes a heroic last stand and kills the head of the pack (if that is indeed what the final tiny scene represents -- it's not wholly clear), it strikes me as a cruel and almost futile gesture.  The movie makes it clear that barring unlikely rescue or a burst of fire from a falling meteor, Neeson's character is going to freeze to death in a matter of hours.  But I guess one last chest-puffing macho battle with some dumb critter in the frozen North gives Neeson's character a few moments of solace before entering the great beyond.  In which case, that's actually kind of sad.  Especially since the dying wolf is probably thinking "ow food pain ow oww" without giving two shits about the meat that jabbed it to death with sharp things.

It's still a good movie.  I guess I would have preferred an even bleaker ending.  

Monday, May 14, 2012

Kodak Had A Nuclear Reactor

I guess if they'd seen where the film business was going they could have used nuclear blackmail to take down digital cameras.  But they didn't.  *Whew*.

Friday, May 11, 2012

New Stuff I Like! Some I Can't Get!

Andy Timmons Band - "Sgt. Pepper."  I'd never heard of Timmons until I read a review of this CD in Goldmine magazine.  As long time readers of this blog know, I am a fan of good covers, so an instrumental album covering Sgt. Pepper instantly hits my sweet spot.  Now some of these Beatles-related cover projects work (Smithereens, Big Daddy, Cheap Trick) and some don't... happily this one is the former.  Timmons' guitar playing is almost hypnotic at times, not drone as much as soaring.  Tasteful, powerful, it's just a great listen.  And now I've got to hear some of Timmons' other stuff!

The King - "Gravelands", "Return to Splendor."  I've been fan of The King (aka Jimmy Brown) since these two CDs came out in the late 90's/early 2000's.  Basically, "King" does an uncanny Elvis Presley impersonation while covering songs Elvis never did.  Stuff like Nirvana's "Come As Your Are" (a hit in the U.K. back in '99), the Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil", the Doors' "L.A.Woman" -- you get the drill.  I figured he had drifted into obscurity after not hearing a peep after album #2, but turns out he's been recording and performing in Europe quite a bit.  Unfortunately, it's almost impossible to get your hands on his newer material.  The one I've been trying to get is called "The American Sound Show" featuring The King plus the Memphis Boys.  As far as I can tell it was a limited 2 CD pressing from the German Elvis Presley fanclub, released in 2007. Part of me is mentioning this on the off chance somewhere out there can share a copy, but also to reveal my sad collecting mania has yet to fade.  (However, while scouring the internet looking for King material, I did find a bunch of CD singles...)

Billy Bremner - "Trouble Boys".  It's the same deal with Billy and his new band.  Bremner was a member of Rockpile, the 70's/80's band featuring Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds, but after Rockpile split up Billy (or Bill now) moved to Sweden, where he's been putting out a record every once in awhile, sometimes colluding with a Swedish rockabilly-ish group called The Refreshments.  Now he's got his own band called "The Trouble Boys" and they released a CD last year that was only available at their shows and is now out of print.  Grrrrr.  Endless searching has turned up nothing, I'm trying to convince someone on the Bremner listserv (yep) to find me one, and I WILL NOT BE DETERRED.  Well, I may well be deterred, but not yet!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Updatin' The Updates

Things have been a little hectic around the ranch so posting has been less than usual, but here are few updates:

HEMLOCK GROVE:  We continue to write and cast and roar toward production in lovely Pittsburgh this Summer.  As I believe I've mentioned before, anyone looking for a sneak preview is inviting to pick up Brian McGreevy's spooky novel from Amazon or any fine book retailer.

FALLING SKIES: Season two returns June 17 with a two hour spectacular, hour one written by yours truly.  So what the heck happened to Tom after he went into the alien space ship?  Did the aliens offer him a deli plate and coffee and apologize for the big misunderstanding?  That would have been a different way to go, but sorry, no.  And what about the 2nd Mass?  Well?  What about them?  Tune in June 17 and find out!  

SPRINGSTEEN: We caught Bruuuuuce on 4/27/12 at the Los Angeles Sports Arena, and an excellent time was had by all. Well, by me, at least. This new tour is heavy with songs from the "Wrecking Ball" album, which is mostly swell, and the usual compliment of great covers, oldies and stadium staples. The possible pall cast by the deaths of band members Clarence Clemons and Danny Federici is dealt with in a lovely and spiritual way during the songs "My City in Ruins" and "Tenth Avenue Freeze-out", as well as by the presence of Clemons' nephew Jake, picking up the sax where Uncle C. left off.

But the show itself is the thing, and it remains a joyful and joyous celebration by a guy who clearly loves what he's doing and does it incredibly well. At 62 Springsteen is still crowd-surfing and belting out 3 hour shows without a break. And early arrivers were treated to Springsteen giving his family a tour of the stage, followed by an impassioned solo performance of "For You." You really need to see this guy to believe it...

STEVEN SEAGAL: I finally managed to catch a couple episodes of "True Justice", the new cop series that Seagal's writing, producing and starring in for the Reelz channel. Wow. If his direct-to-video movies were looking a little threadbare, this is scraping the barrel time.

Seagal's packed on a few lbs. and is rarely shot below the neck and does many scenes behind desks or from inside cars. If you think this could slightly inhibit the action scenes, you're right! He does a few quick-cut type moves now and again, but they're not very impressive. And the stories are... umm... well, why kick a dog when its down. I thought Seagal was funny in Machete!

SQUEEZE: The English band is back on tour and they've just released another live collection, "Live At The Fillmore" via i-tunes. It's from a 2010 show but appears to the representative of the current tour. Either way, it's another fine set and I only wish it were available on actual CD...

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Family On SyFy!

So, you're asking, what besides Hemlock Grove may be in your humble scribe's future?  Well, how about this, announced at today's SyFy Channel upfronts...
The Family – For generations, an alien family has hid amongst humans in plain sight using their advanced intellect to carve out a life for themselves as their family grew. But when the family patriarch that kept peace amongst the factions dies, a war begins to brew with some members believing the time has come to reveal themselves, and their superior power, to the inferior human race. Writer: Dan Harris (Superman Returns, X2). Executive producers: Neal Moritz (21 Jump Street, Total Recall), Mark Verheiden (Falling Skies, Battlestar Galactica). A production of Sony Pictures TV.
Read about SyFy's whole development slate at:
And yes, we're very excited!!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Man Who Hates Billy Joel

I just read a lengthy article in some on-line publication excoriating the musical work of one Mr. Billy Joel.  To the writer Joel wasn't merely a hack, but the hackiest of hacks who had taken his hackitude to new levels of hack-dom.  All of which was a little hard to accept with a Billy Joel CD playing on my home office stereo at the time...

But it led me to wonder why people/critics get so angry at guys like Billy Joel, or Thomas Kinkade, or Meatloaf (both the singer and the mushy food product), or any other critical punching-bag de jour.  I can understand a certain amount of wrath for politicians, whose decisions can directly impact the lives of folks.  But the Billy Joels of the world are easily avoided, especially these days, when you can fine-tune your musical experience(s) to the Nth degree.  Yes, I suppose Billy Joel haters may occasionally be exposed to a random play of "Just The Way You Are" at the supermarket, but that's the price we pay for living in "society."  And it hardly rises to the level of some capital offense..

What intrigues me is that it's not enough for this critic to hate Billy Joel's music -- it's appears to offend him that any sentient being would dare to enjoy a musical experience that he deems unworthy.  Same with the late Mr. Kinkade's work.  I don't have much interest in fairies and magical cabins, but if it floats your float, more power to you.

I guess you could make a case that the public affection for popular but critically disrespected art/TV/film/comic books drives out better material.  But it's a weak case.  It's been my experience that somebody who loves NCIS isn't going to switch to Boardwalk Empire because NCIS is cancelled.  They're going to switch to another procedural, or watch NCIS reruns, or do something else.  Erasing Billy Joel's music from the planet will not send his former fans scurrying in search of jazz-fusion song cycles.  They'll just miss trying to sing along to the acapella parts from "The Longest Time."

What really annoys me is now I have this guy's critical screed in my head.  I mean, I was just sitting here blithely tapping my toe to "An Innocent Man" when this pissed-off critic took a proverbial poo on my musical choices.  Yeah, well, screw you, man.  It's only rock and roll but I like it (oh Jeez, shoot me now)...

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Okay --

So blogger has changed their format and as the post below suggests, suddenly standard paragraph breaks don't happen. Hmm. I don't like this...

Seagalogy Redux

I'm pretty sure I reviewed this book once before, but damned if I'm going to scroll through 1000+ posts to check. Besides, this is a brand new 2012 edition that catches up to the amazing Steven Seagal's most recent work. Writer Vern (that's it, just Vern) has a knack for finding the absurdity in Seagal's movies while simultaneously expressing genuine enthusiasm for the actor's singular appeal. I'm not usually a fan of books with lengthy recaps of movies that can be streamed for next to nothing, but these recaps are genuinely additive to the viewing experience. In fact, having many of the direct-to-video movies that Vern's reviewing, I can report that his reviews are generally infinitely more entertaining than the root source. And so compelling that one actually sent me scurrying to my DVD pile to scan through "Out For Justice", Vern's all time fave Seagal film and one of mine as well. Seagal's erratic trajectory in the movie is a marvel, and the fight scenes are among his best. Vern made me remember and for that, I doff my cap!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

My Arrest Record

Apparently it's on-line, or so I have been led to believe by the multiple spam messages I've been getting. I never cease to be impressed (in a dark, humans-sure-do-creepy-shit way) by the imaginations of spammers trying to collect clicks. I have not explored my on-line arrest record, but I'm guessing it's rather sparse since I've yet to be arrested for anything. However, the day is still young...

I assume if I did click on the link, I would be taken to a site selling Viagra (per my other most frequent spam, "A Powerful Sex Life Is What All Men Need!") or maybe just drop-kicked with a computer virus that would create some other kind of havoc. I'm almost nostalgic for the ol' Nigerian scams, which were at least vaguely creative...

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Paul Chadwick On Thomas Kinkade

My pal Paul remembers his former roommate... plus extra bonus photos of the legendary "Golden Palms" apartment complex, where I lived for almost five glorious years after moving to Los Angeles. Boy did THOSE images bring back memories...

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Snarling Bum On The Cover? It Must Be "A Ditko" #16!

As long as Steve (Spider-Man) Ditko and publisher Robin Snyder keep printing 'em, I'll keep reviewing and recommending! Issue #16 features "The Madman", "The Celebrity", "The Cape," "The Outline" and "Hero."

"Hero" opens with a cigar-chomping hood hiring a fur-clad goon called "The Caveman" to stop other gangs from "poaching on other gang's territory." Caveman finds another gang and says "Your poaching days are over! You'll learn to stay in line!" He proceeds to beat the gang to a pulp, finishing with "You need another lesson, you'll get it. NO MORE POACHING!" Then a costumed hero (whose name I guess is "hero") shows up just when Cavemen decides to take over all the gangs for himself. Hero pounds Caveman. In the last two panels, cops show up off a "tip" and note that "we got a real haul. Bust, broke top gang, crooked politician, enforcer!" "Who did it?" "Guess..." The end!

You can order your own copy from the site below... you know you want it!