5 Rock Stars You Won’t Believe Are Secretly Musical Geniuses

It’s been a while since I’ve pointed out the wonderful (and often howlingly funny) wesite Cracked.com.  This list, of 5 Rock Stars You Won’t Believe Are Secretly Musical Geniuses, was fascinating:


Of the ones described, #3, Prince, really blew my mind.  Yes, I know his music pretty well (though I’m not as familiar with some of his more recent output).  Yes, I know he is very prolific and has written mountains of music.  I also knew he played various instruments, including the guitar.

However, I didn’t realize until seeing the video below just what a terrific guitar player he is.

The interesting thing is that he’s basically invisible for the first half of this song.  Then, when the solo begins, you just can’t keep your eyes -and ears!- off his performance.  Truly great stuff!

Oh, Clint…

Of all the famous and talented movie stars out there, Clint Eastwood has to be, if not my favorite, certainly way up there on my favorite all time actor’s list.

Sure, some of his films were controversial in their time (the original Dirty Harry, in particular, was viewed by some as a fascist screed) and there is an argument to be made that he tended to play the same character over and over again…though he certainly did try to vary his output and branch out into other genres…including, believe it or not, musicals!

Yesterday, Mr. Eastwood tried his hand at something else…delivering one of the concluding speeches before Mitt Romney delivered his acceptance speech during the finale of the Republican Convention in Tampa.

His performance was…bewildering.

I didn’t see it live…My wife did and what she told me about it, immediately after it occurred, sounded like it just couldn’t be.  “He was talking to a chair!” she said.  Come on…you’re joking, right?  “He didn’t make any sense!” she said.  No sense?  Though I may not agree with all of Mr. Eastwood’s politics, in the interviews I’ve seen him in he’s usually well spoken and intelligent.  Indeed, whenever he strayed into political talk during interviews (he was the Mayor of Carmel-By-The-Sea, California, after all) he always seemed to be well reasoned.

And then, after the fact, I saw it.


I suppose it’s easy to shrug Mr. Eastwood’s convention speech as the work of someone who’s clearly showing his age.  He is, after all, 82 years old and…nah.  That’s just too easy.  Maybe Mr. Eastwood simply got caught up in the moment.  Maybe he (mistakenly) thought he could just “wing it” with his speech and didn’t need to have much preparation.

Regardless, Mr. Romney’s handlers must be pretty livid.  After all, following a (hopefully) successful convention one would like to think that the candidate for the party has been given a push toward election.

Instead, it appears what’s on most people’s lips, for better or worse, is Mr. Eastwood’s very strange performance.


I’ve been giving updates now and again regarding the status of Nox, the latest book in the Corrosive Knights series.  Nox follows the three seemingly stand-alone other novels in the series, Mechanic, The Last Flight of the Argus, and Chameleon.  I say “seemingly” stand-alone because you can read any of the above three books in any order at all without being confused by what’s going on.  Each of the books features a different cast of characters and is set in a different era and, on the surface, one doesn’t necessarily follow what goes on in the other(s).

This all changes with Nox.

Though you certainly don’t have to read all three Corrosive Knights books before reading Nox, I strongly urge those interested in the book to read at least Mechanic and Chameleon.  Trust me, you’ll find Nox a more rewarding experience if you do.  If you don’t, however, I’ve nonetheless tried to make Nox as “newbie” friendly as possible.

When will Nox be available?  I’m hopeful it will be out in the next week or two and not much more than that.  I’m in the process of getting a proof copy of the novel and, after giving that a look over and provided I don’t need to make any changes, it will become available both in trade-paperback format and via Kindle download soon after.

To those who enjoyed the previous Corrosive Knights books, I think you’re in for a treat.  This book should offer plenty of suspense and surprises, plus the return of the character of Nox, one of my favorite “accidental” creations (I’ll write about that one day, I promise).

In the meantime, here is the full cover/backcover of the trade paperback:

As for the future, the next book in the Corrosive Knights series is well underway.  I’m hesitant to give out its title as the one I am currently using will likely be changed (and, to boot, it’s way too spoilery!).  As it stands now, I have a rough draft of the first third or so of that book written and a detailed plot of the rest.  If you’ve been following my releases for a while, you probably know it takes me approximately a year to finish each new book.  Given the jump I have on this one, I wouldn’t be surprised if it appears a little quicker.

Anyway, thanks for your patience.  I hope Nox will prove to be worth the wait!

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) a (mildly) belated review

One of my favorite “slow burn” films is the 1968 Steve McQueen classic Bullitt.  The movie features a dense plot and urges its viewers to pay attention to what’s going on.  Steve McQueen himself, as the title character, appears at times to be almost sleepwalking through the proceedings, ever watching and paying attention to what’s going on around him.  In the end, we realize he knows only too well what’s happening and has played his cards just right, dealing with his superiors and his superior’s superiors while faithfully solving a perplexing case.

I’ve long maintained that the movie’s one “superfluous” sequence is perhaps it’s best:  The justifiably famous car chase sequence through the hilly streets of San Francisco.  This sequence didn’t have to be in the film, yet it was there, a cheery on top of the cake, which for a moment made a “day in a policeman’s life” drama into an exciting action film.

To me, all this works to make an absolutely smashing film.

Fast forward forty four years and last night I popped the 2011 version of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (from now on I’ll refer to it as TTSS to save on typing) into my DVD player and gave it a whirl.  TTSS is an adaptation of the classic John Le Carre Cold War spy drama and, like the book, is set in the early 1970’s.  You wouldn’t think such a work would have all that much in common with Bullitt, a police vs. the mob film from 1968, but you’d be surprised by the elements they do share.

In the case of TTSS, like Bullitt you’re dealing with a thoughtful protagonist who’s called in to solve a sticky situation.  Bullitt’s sticky situation involves the mob and a witness who the higher ups want him to protect so that he will get to testify before a jury.  TTSS involves a semi-retired spy who is called in to find out who among his closest ex-allies is a Russian mole.  The protagonist in both films quietly observes all that goes around him, often realizing more than others realize.  Both films also present the material almost blandly, showing us the routine of each day in a mostly realistic fashion.

But while Bullitt held my attention throughout, TTSS ultimately never really catches fire.  Years before I recall seeing the original TTSS television mini-series with Alec Guiness in the title role, but I recall very few of the details.  What I do remember is that it, unlike this new film, held my attention.

While the acting within this new TTSS movie is uniformly good and the presentation of early 1970’s London is quite spectacular, the direction and pace of the film borders on the outright boring.  I suspect the people behind the film were trying their best to make an “anti”-Bourne type spy film, but one wonders why they decided to present virtually everything in such a sedate way.

And, no, I wasn’t hoping for an exciting -though perhaps superfluous- car chase in the middle of the film.

Might have helped, though!

In the end, I simply cannot recommend the theatrical version of TTSS.  A real shame, given the talents involved.

As an interesting comparison, here’s a sequence from the original TV version of TTSS:

Tony Scott, RIP

There have been quite a few nice tributes written for the late director Tony Scott, who committed suicide last week and was recently laid to rest.

His career was varied and productive, not unlike his (perhaps) better known brother Ridley Scott.  Unlike his brother, however, Tony Scott’s films never quite achieved the higher critical reaction that his brother Ridley received for at least two of his films, Alien and Blade Runner.

Nonetheless, Tony Scott was behind the director’s chair for such commercial -if not always critical- hits like Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop II, Crimson Tide, Enemy of the State, Man on Fire, Spy Game, and, most recently, the remake of The Taking of Pelham 1, 2, 3 and Unstoppable.  The films mentioned above were all, in my opinion, reasonably popular entertainment, but I suspect there are few who would all or even most “classics” that will stand the test of time.

Of these, the two that I find the most intriguing are Enemy of the State and Spy Game.  These two films, along with the Michael Bay directed The Rock, formed a trilogy of “pseudo” sequels to very famous films.  As a great bonus they also featured the same actors playing very similar roles to their more famous original films.  In the case of The Rock, for example, it was clear Sean Connery was playing an older James Bond.  In the film he was described as a top British spy who had run afoul of -and was betrayed by- the people he worked for.  A relic of the Cold War.  Enemy of the State featured Gene Hackman reprising his role from the Francis Ford Coppola classic The Conversation, while Spy Game featured Robert Redford reprising his character from Three Days of the Condor.  While none of these pseudo sequels rose to the level of the originals, I felt it was an intriguing idea and made for some entertaining, if not quite classic, films.

Of the films Tony Scott directed, I personally consider The Hunger and True Romance his two “best” films.  When originally released, The Hunger was way ahead of its time, a romantic/erotic vampire story that was much more influential on what followed than it was successful upon its release.  True Romance, which featured a screenplay by Quentin Tarantino, proved an entertaining and very wild ride, with a large cast of actors doing some great work.

While I don’t consider myself a huge fan of Tony Scott’s overall body of work, there is no denying that for the past several decades his presence has most certainly been felt.  His death comes as a shock and one can’t help but wonder what might have come next.

The other day I picked up a bargain BluRay disc featuring two Bruce WIllis films, Last Man Standing and the Tony Scott directed The Last Boy Scout.  The one and only time I saw The Last Boy Scout was when it was originally released back in 1991.  Back then I didn’t think all that much of it but nonetheless recalled one bit of dialogue between Bruce WIllis’ character and a police detective/ex-friend.  If memory serves (and it certainly might not!) Willis’ character’s wife left him for that now ex-friend and the meeting was salty, painful, yet surprisingly down to earth.

Perhaps I’ll revisit it when I get a chance.

Rest in Peace, Mr. Scott.  While not all your films were my cup of tea, considering all the works you were involved in, you nonetheless provided me with hours of entertainment.

In the end, what more could anyone ask?

100 Year-Old Mystery Package Set To Be Opened…

I’m a complete sucker for these type of stories:


Basically, in Norway a man by the name of Johan Nygard left a package for the mayor of his town with the written instructions on the front to not open it until today, August 24th 2012.  He claimed that the contents of the package would “benefit and delight future generations.”

Will they?  Or will they find assorted junk?

If you’re curious, you can check it out for yourself:



Here’s an article from Forbes online that details what was discovered inside the package.


Perhaps the most surprising thing is that it wasn’t actually wrapped up in 1912 as originally thought.  It appears items were added to the package before it was turned in around 1920.  Regardless, though the contents might not be “earth-shattering”, they are nonetheless interesting and do give a window on events occurring in that corner of the world roughly one hundred years ago.

A fun, interesting story!

The Raid: Redemption (2011) a (mildly) belated review

Heard plenty of good things about The Raid: Redemption, and being a fan of action films, I just had to give it a try.

Filmed in Jakarta, Indonesia, The Raid: Redemption starts out really, really well.  In fact, the opening of the film reminded me in a very pleasant way to what I consider one of director John Carpenter’s very best films, Assault on Precinct 13 (the original 1976 version, not the pretty lame 2005 remake).

The plot of The Raid is simple yet very effective:  A group of young SWAT officers is tasked to silently enter a fortified building within the Jakarta slums.  Their mission is seek out and apprehend the crime lord that runs that building and bring him to justice.  However, halfway up the building the hunters become the hunted when the many criminals residing within the building target the SWAT team.

There are a few other plot flourishes I won’t get into but suffice to say the film is a lean, mean action adventure that should satisfy most fans of this type of genre.

If there are any quibbles I have with the film, it is that there are several martial arts-type fights that, frankly, took me out of the nitty gritty nature of the film.  Allow me to elaborate.  In the movie’s early going, the sense of claustrophobia and the real fear of sudden death lurking behind any corner were very effective.  You had a sense that the SWAT members were trapped in a hell where they would have to claw their way to freedom.

However, by the time the remaining SWAT members were down to using their fists and knives against the many villains they faced, the protracted fight scenes unfortunately resembled more typical martial art films and removed me from the more noir elements present up until that point.

Please note, though, that this is a relatively small quibble.  There is word that producers in the United States are working on a remake of the film.  I’m not terribly surprised.  This is the type of feature that should be easily translated for American audiences.  There is very little that need be changed.

So if you’re in the mood for a solid action film, you could do far worse than spend some time watching The Raid.


Lockout (2012) a (mildly) belated review

I still have pretty vivid memories of first seeing the poster for a then upcoming film that was scheduled to be released in 1981 called Escape From New York.

Perhaps you’ve heard of it?

Back then in the stone age of 1981, there was a great possibility movies you never heard of at all would suddenly “appear” before you either as posters (as was the case with that film) or via movie trailers.  Nowadays, of course, we hear about, and sometimes even see clips of films as they’re being made.  The element of surprise is, for the most part, gone.

When I finally saw Escape From New York, I had a curiously paradoxical reaction to it.  I absolutely LOVED parts of it, from the clever storyline to actor Kurt Russell’s bizarre Clint Eastwood-talking Snake Plissken.  But the film seemed to lose steam as it went along and I felt that as good as certain elements of it were, overall the film didn’t thrill me as much as I hoped it would.

Over the years, my opinion of it has changed, albeit slightly.  I’ve grown to appreciate more of the film and realized, in retrospect, that much of my disappointment might well have been due to the film’s very low budget.  The fact is that most of the special effects are presented at the start of the film while the rest of it features our characters running around dark streets that might well have been anywhere and, as it turned out, most of the city scenes were indeed not filmed in New York!

However, the good stuff stuck with me and when rumors came out that director John Carpenter envisioned making more Snake Plissken films, even one he wistfully (or perhaps jokingly?) called Escape From Earth, I was certainly all in favor of seeing that.

In the end Escape From New York proved something of a box office dud.  Given its budget, it certainly made its money back and then some, but it took many more years -fifteen in fact- before Escape From L.A. was released in 1996.  Sporting a far greater budget and the same lead and director, Escape From L.A. nonetheless proved a box office flop, earning less than its cost.

And that, it appeared, was that.

Until, that is, this year when producer/writer/director Luc Besson released Lockout.  Produced and co-written by Mr. Besson, Lockout is, essentially, Escape From Earth as envisioned by him.  Guy Pearce stars as Snow, a somewhat more gregarious version of Snake Plissken while Maggie Grace stars as Emile Warnock, the daughter of the President of the United States.  The plot is a mild variation of both John Carpenter Escape films:  The daughter of the President goes to an orbiting penal colony, the prisoners manage to escape and take over, and Snake…er…Snow goes in to find and free her.  Oh, and the clock is ticking.

When I first saw the trailer for Lockout I was intrigued.  My younger, more strident self (as opposed to the more mellow person I’ve since become) might have been furious that Mr. Besson (who is also listed in the credits as having the “original idea” of this film!!!!) would so cavalierly rip off another person’s concept.

Then again, the John Carpenter Escape property is, let’s face it, dead.  Kurt Russell isn’t as young as he was before and I suspect he can’t pull off the character of Snake Plissken anymore (there was talk, by the way, of a remake of Escape From New York with new actors in the central roles, so obviously the studios already feel that Mr. Russell may be too old for the part).  And John Carpenter, as big a cult movie director as he is, hasn’t made a “big” feature in a very, very long time…and I suspect studios aren’t exactly lining up to front him big money to do another Escape movie.

So when Mr. Besson and his “original” story idea for the film Lockout appeared, I couldn’t be too terribly upset.  In fact, I was hoping that Mr. Besson and company captured some of the Escape magic -the good stuff versus the bad- and made some mindless piece of entertainment that I could sit back to and enjoy.

However, early reviews of the film were not very positive.  In fact, most of the reviews I read were quite negative (the film scored an unimpressive 37% positive among critics and an almost equal 40% positive among audiences at Rottentomatoes.com).

Still, I wanted to see it.  Yesterday, I finally got the chance.

Long story short (if that’s possible at this point): Lockout is a mediocre film.  If you’re curious to see someone else’s take on the Escape films, you won’t come away impressed with what’s here, but neither do I think you’ll be begging for the pain to go away.

Guy Pearce is mostly good in the role of Snow, but I felt at times he wasn’t terribly invested in his role.  He appeared to be…and I could be guilty of mind reading here…uninterested in most of what was happening.  His delivery of lines was one-note and it appeared he was doing the bare minimum required.  It’s a tough thing to say of an actor’s work, especially one I happen to like quite a bit (he was absolutely terrific in both Memento and L.A. Confidential, among other films).  Maggie Grace, on the other hand, seems to realize the nature of this film and, for the most part, delivers in her role.  That’s not to say she saves the film, only that at the very least she stands toe to toe (and sometimes ahead!) of the movie’s actual protagonist.

Unfortunately, where the film mostly fails is in its all too busy plot.  Lockout starts with a strange bust gone bad.  The action sequences here aren’t quite as terrible as some have stated, yet not enough explanation and context is ever offered to what exactly our hero was doing here…or what it was he was hoping to get his hands on.  Even by the end of the film, we’re still not sure what exactly was so terribly important to his character in those early sequences.

When the movie moves to the prison colony satellite, the jail break sequence proves way, way too easy.  MILD SPOILERS:  Essentially one man gets his hands on one gun and manages to free the nearly 500 homicidal prisoners in minutes.  Did the people behind this penal colony not have any decent security designs?  And did they really have to put the “Get the prisoners out of stasis” button only a few feet away from an interview room he escapes from?

Very silly stuff.

Once those opening sections of the film are over, however, it does manage to move along decently.  It’s a silly affair, but I’m glad I was able to satisfy my curiosity without feeling the need to fling my remote control at the TV set.

Still, it could -it should– have been so much better.

Joe Kubert, RIP

Yesterday news got out that legendary comic book artist Joe Kubert had passed away.  I never met the man even during my convention years, but I always admired the hell out of his work.

Most fans today may know him for either his work on Hawkman or Sgt. Rock, both for DC Comics.  But he did plenty more.  His career started at a very young age (10 or 13 years old!) back in the “Golden Age” of comics in and around 1938.

I first encountered Mr. Kubert’s artwork in the early 1970’s and was absolutely blown away by the many war book covers he made.  I can’t tell you how often I’d see one of his incredible covers on a book and grab it, only to be disappointed that Mr. Kubert’s work on the book proved to be just the cover illustration.

Still, his sequential art, of which there are mountains of such work, was every bit as good as his cover work.  Perhaps my favorite all time work he illustrated was 1961’s first silver age Hawkman story, which featured space police officer Katar Hol and his wife Shayera and their pursuit of the shape shifting Byth.  There were so many classic panels in that twenty five page story, and one had the sense Mr. Kubert was having a ball depicting the many shapes Byth made of himself, from the monstrous to the very small.

Rest in peace, Mr. Kubert, and my condolences to his friends and family.