Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Happy Birthday to The Duke

Today marks the 108th birthday of Marion Robert Morrison, better known as American icon John Wayne.

Wayne was a product of his times, and maybe not much of a philosopher, and most certainly held views that fell out of favor since his passing (but seem to get people elected in 2015, so what do I know?).  Still, he's in a whole bunch of movies that I'm partial to, most of which also don't reflect my personal beliefs, but they do have their charm. goddamit.

Pictured above is Hondo, a movie I have seen no less than three times, and I could not begin to tell you what the hell it is about other than a man and his dog in the west.  And that it was originally released in 3D for some reason.

If you want to see Wayne in a great movie but don't like Westerns (which, really, you should, but whatever) I recommend The Quiet Man.  If you are a right-thinking American and enjoy a good oater, may I suggest:

The Searchers
Stage Coach
The Sons of Katie Elder
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
and McClintock!, if you'd like a little comedy in your Western

And probably a dozen more I didn't mention here.  Here's to The Duke.  You were a complicated fellow.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Carpenter Watch: They Live (1988)

I saw this movie twice in the theater.  Apparently seeing cult John Carpenter movies in the theater without knowing they were John Carpenter movies at the time is one of my claims to fame.

I wasn't a huge pro-wrestling fan growing up or at any other point afterward, but it's not like I didn't know who Roddy Piper was, and seeing he was in a movie with lots of guns and some over the top dialog was, shall we say, a big sell when I was 13.  And then, what do you know?  The movie pushed a lot of my buttons at the time, and so I saw it twice.

It hasn't been in high rotation for me since.  It doesn't quite bear repeat viewings in the manner of many of my other favorite Carpenter movies, but it had been well over a decade since I'd seen the movie, and the El Rey network LOVES a good John Carpenter movie, and so I set the 'ol DVR.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

RoboCop Watch: RoboCop

Sometimes between viewings of RoboCop (1987) I think to myself, "Self, maybe you talk too much about RoboCop.  Maybe you should stop pestering people with RoboCop and maybe take a step back and realize that maybe all RoboCop really is is a mid-80's studio sci-fi action flick that may be pretty good, but it's not really as good as you tend to think."

And then I watch RoboCop again, and I say to myself, "Self, that was stupid and you should stop questioning RoboCop.  That movie is the absolute best."

Also, it completely and totally accurately predicted the future.  So if you ever need to know what I think the world looks like through my beady little eyes...  RoboCop.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Disney Watch: Big Hero 6

Well, wasn't this a very nice superhero story?

We missed this for whatever reason when it hit theaters.  Kind of wish I hadn't because it looks like they were really thinking in terms of 3D projection that my very 2D television did not replicate.

Well, c'est la vie.

Big Hero 6 is maybe the flipped opposite of what DC has been doing with their heroes, and while I am aware the movie did okay ($222 million domestic is impressive, and a total of $652 million internationally is great) I don't think it slipped into the zeitgeist in quite the way it might have.  But I also don't hang around little kids all that much.  So, parents, correct me.

But this is superheroing for the all-ages set in a very good way.

Friday, May 22, 2015

"Old Green World" by Walter Basho - now available on Amazon

A former co-worker & co-blogger, current pal, and all around great guy, Walter Basho, has released his first novel today to the Amazon Kindle.

If you've got $3, I highly recommend picking up his debut book, a sci-fi novel set in THE FUTURE.

Here's the description as per Amazon:

The apocalypse happened 4000 years ago. A forest now covers the world. In its shadow, Albert, an immigrant military prodigy, falls in love with Thomas, a boy he can never marry.  
Their island nation flourishes, led by strange monks called the Adepts—who have power over matter and the mind—and their holy figures, the mysterious Old People. The Adepts are building an army to storm the wild continent of Terra Baixa. They plan to tame the forest and rebuild civilization.  
The forest doesn't care. It is patient and vast. This is what happens. 
Walter Basho's first novel is a science fantasy adventure, a coming-of-age story, a romance, and a meditation on what it means for the world to end.

Everyone give Walter $3.  He deserves it.

Order the book here.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Signal Watch Reads: Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (audiobook - read by Stephen Fry)

First of all, don't panic.

I'll start by saying - I enjoyed this reading experience, and you can all go about your business, secure in the knowledge that I will not be disrupting your very fond memories of what is now considered a modern classic.

Like all of you, I read the book when I was in middle school, and I believe I got through three of the four books before I forgot to buy the fourth, and here we are, 27 years later.  Oddly, I do think I read this one more than once, but I couldn't reconstruct the plot in my head at all.  Just details.  42.  Something about a sperm whale.  Mice.  Zaphod.  Laying in front of bulldozers.  Babel fish.  Earth as a computer.  Improbability.

But, again... no idea what the book actually did.

On the Reading of Text and Your Own Interpretation - Mad Men's Final Scene

Most often we're able to write a post, say our piece, do some interpretation if needed, hit publish and then wonder, once again, what exactly it is we're doing with our life.

But every once in a while, something occurs that puts a new spin on something we wrote about, and it seems worth it to revisit the scene with the new evidence in hand.  With my readership of upward of five humans, I feel it's only fair to try to keep up and adjust to new information.  If I did not adjust as new info came to light, I'd still be wearing diapers and needing to be put in a very large stroller.

In the final scene of the show, the hard drinking, mid-20th Century picture of a man, Don Draper, has utterly broken down.  In his wanderings between New York and LA, he has somewhat accidentally come to a hippie meditation retreat in California, and is subsequently abandoned there by his ride, but - vulnerable and shattered, he seems to open up in a way he has not previously in 7 seasons.  In his final shot, he sits cross-legged with a group on a coastal bluff, comfortable in a meditative position.  The scene cuts to the 1971 "Hilltop" ad from Coca-Cola, and the series ends.

The ad is very real, and ran in various iterations even during my very early youth which began in 1975 (I have memories of it appearing on TV when I was very little, at least the Christmas spot).

Capra Watch: Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)

A wartime Frank Capra movie, Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) was a popular Broadway show, and that's about all I know about it.  Except that the original play starred Boris Karloff as a guy who looks a whole lot like Boris Karloff (no, really), and I had to do a scene from it at high school drama camp (oh, really), which we did a little heavy handed, I guess, because no one got it was a comedy scene and on the last day of camp, one of the girls told me she was surprised to find out I wasn't a creepy stabby guy the way she felt I'd been in that scene.  So go figure.

The movie is more or less the play.  And the movie is about a drama critic (Cary Grant) who has fallen in love with the girl next door (Priscilla Lane, cute as a button) and gotten married at the local courthouse.  He's from an old-money New York family, who, apparently have a strain of insanity running in the veins.  An uncle who thinks he's Theodore Roosevelt, and two sweet old aunts (one played by Josephine Hull who was in everything during the 40's), he pops in on to tell he's off to Niagara Falls, only to learn they seem to have killed someone and put him in the window seat.  And that corpse isn't the only one.

Wacky hi-jinks ensue.  A sadistic older brother returns mysteriously after decades away - and he seems to have racked up a body count himself, and accidentally gotten the face of Boris Karloff during some quick plastic surgery to hide his identity.

The material is definitely of its time, and its a curiosity that they couldn't get Karloff for the movie and had to put someone else in Karloff make-up.  But, apparently, Karloff was still in the play at the time and was busy.  Who knew?

It's not my favorite screwballish comedy from the era.  There's something off in the pacing, and it feels oddly clumsy to me.  I'd only seen the movie once or twice before, the last time being at least fifteen years ago.  I'd wondered if I'd like it better now, and I guess I kind of did, but...  yeah.  There you are.  It has all the components of something I think I'd like better, but somehow it just never quite clicks for me.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Movie Watch: Mad Max - Fury Road

Firstly, apologies to my brother, who asked I take him to see this movie at some point.  And I will!  And I am sorry I went to see it without on my first viewing, but Raylan texted me and said I should just go and when you make time, I'll go again.

Secondly, holy shit.

Monday, May 18, 2015

And so, "Mad Men" ends

There were a lot of crazy stories going around as fans speculated how Mad Men might end.   I will never understand why Mad Men was one of the most curiously misunderstood television programs to ever air, but at least the folks watching it for all the wrong reasons provided enough eyes on the show that it lasted longer than it might have, otherwise, and without becoming one of those shows that seems to live on, shuffling about, no longer certain when it should have ended, but certainly positive it no longer needs to be on the air.

My pal Matt came over to watch with us (he, his ladyfriend Nicole, and the illustrious JuanD have been Team Mad Men at our place for years now), and said "here are the two endings I heard people saying were possible".  One was that DB Cooper thing that circulated the past couple of years and which I think Mad Men was well aware of as it went into the final episodes.   The other, curiously, was exactly what happened.

I had no preference, and as I don't particularly enjoy coming up with my own ideas for how things should play out, one thing I've always enjoyed about Mad Men was that I rarely guessed anything ahead of time about the program.*   Some shows like Parks n' Rec can make a gag out of ending the show and give everyone saccharine endings, but I think if you were going into the final season of Mad Men expecting everyone to wind up just fine, you haven't really been watching that show very closely.   Nor was the show Breaking Bad, where there was only ever one real conclusion from the the half-way point of the first season.