The dangers of success…

Way back in 1999 a quiet, eerie little movie -albeit one that featured a very big name actor- was released and became a huge hit.  It was on everyone’s mind and made a star of its writer/director…

The writer/director of The Sixth Sense is, of course, M. Night Shyamalan and his follow-up film, Unbreakable, is considered by many another great work.  When his follow up to that, the film Signs, was about to be released in 2002, Newsweek featured the following article concerning the very hot writer/director…

Image result for m. night shyamalan newsweek cover

Most of you know the rest of the story.

While Signs has its fans, almost everyone agrees the alien invasion film featured some really silly elements.  The biggest one being: How do technologically advanced aliens choose to invade a planet which is filled with water, something which is highly poisonous to them?!

Unfortunately, that story -let’s be kind here- peculiarity turned out to be a sign of bad things to come.  Mr. Shyamalan was pegged as the writer/director whose films had to have a shocking end-twist but this reputation may have become more a burden to him than he would admit and his follow-ups to Signs proved a case of diminishing returns.

In short order he re;eased The Village (2004) and Lady in the Water (2006).  In 2008 he reached one of several creative nadir’s with the ridiculous The Happening, which featured this much yucked about scene…

By this time, audiences had turned on the writer/director and his reputation, so sterling at the time of that Newsweek article, was in the gutter.  Fans of The Last Airbender animated series were outraged by the live action movie version he wrote and directed and which was released in 2010.

By then, Mr. Shyamalan’s reputation was so damaged that the 2013 film After Earth made it a point to avoid mentioning the writer/director’s role in the film.

Things, however, started to work for Mr. Shyamalan after that point.  The movie Devil, which he wrote and produced but did not direct, was a cult hit.  The TV show Wayward Pines, which he directed the first episode and executive produced, was also a modest success, at least for its first season.

Was a come-back in the works?

Signs (pun intended?!) point to that possibility as Mr. Shyamalan’s latest writing/directing feature, Split, is getting very good early word and the studios behind it appear bullish on it…

The reason I point all this out is because as good as the film’s early reviews are, Mr. Shyamalan’s reputation once again, to me, threatens this movie’s release as it has already been revealed that the film features, you guessed it, a final act “twist”.

Considering we’re dealing with a man with multiple personalities who kidnaps three young women, one instantly thinks: Are the young women he kidnaps part of his psychosis?  Do they exist?  Or perhaps one of the young women is the psychotic one and everyone around her is a delusion?

I don’t know but if anything, this shows the dangers of succeeding too well with something and then riding that particular success perhaps more than one should.

Will this film give Mr. Shyamalan a much needed boost after years of at best indifference and at worst ridicule?

We’ll have to wait and see.

Blast from the (apparently still usable) past…

Ran across this article, written by Leslie Katz for, wherein we discover…

This Commodore 64 bad boy helps drive an Auto Shop in 2016

I well remember (*hack*wheeze*) the Commodore 64.  To the young ‘uns out there that don’t, this is it:

Image result for commodore 64

That was then.  This is now:

Absolutely fascinating stuff.  Makes me want to dig out my Atari 800, the first computer I ever had, and see if it still works.

Image result for atari 800

…somehow, I don’t think it will.

Ancient Roman Coins found buried…

…under ruins of Japanese castle?!

Weird but true.  From the Independent…

The embedded video is playing kinda wonky so you can check the original source at this link:

The article’s headline essentially tells you everything you need to know: Ancient Roman coins, thought to be from around 300-400 A.D., were discovered under the ruins of Katsuren Castle in Japan.  Ottoman Empire coins, from the late 1600s, were also found on the site.

The question, of course, becomes: How did these ancient coins find their way there?

Watch the video or read the full article in the link above.

Its fascinating!

Corrosive Knights, a 9/27/16 Update

Quick update here: I’m done with draft 11a of book #6 in the Corrosive Knights series (I still want to keep its name hidden)…

Corrosive Knights Covers

The journey’s been long and hard but I truly believe this book is tantalizingly close to being done.  It’s also, if I do say so myself, an amazing novel.

Corrosive Knights Book #6

I labeled the current revision 11a because I didn’t feel the need to revise the entire novel, focusing instead on roughly half of it (mostly the second half) that I felt needed cleaning up.

After doing this, what’s left to be done is even less.  I’m going to look over exactly what I’ve done today and print out what I feel still needs further scrutiny.  I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m down to needing to clean up only about 1/4 of the book for revision 11b.

I’m really hopeful after this revision I’ll just need to give the entire novel one last, quick read-through, mostly for grammatical/spelling issues, and be done with it.

It won’t be long now, and I couldn’t be any more excited.

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London Has Fallen (2016) a (mildly) belated review

Back in 2013 a curious thing happened, though certainly not for the first time:  Two movies were released within a three month period of time that were, from a plot standpoint, essentially the same.

I’m referring to Olympus Has Fallen, which appeared in theaters in late March of 2013…

…and White House Down, which showed up in June of 2013…

As can be seen in the trailers, the plots of these films was essentially the same: The President is targeted by terrorists and attacked while in the White House.  A “renegade” Secret Service agent, in both cases, is there to try to save the President and mow down the villains.

It was clear White House Down was meant to be the more “prestige” feature.  It had the bigger stars and bigger budget and yet, when all was said and done, though both films are hardly considered “classics” of action/adventure, most might give the slight edge to the lower budget, lower star-powered Olympus Has Fallen.

The proof?

White House Down was ridiculed by its star Channing Tatum in 22 Jump Street while, earlier this year, Olympus Has Fallen had itself a sequel, London Has Fallen.

Going into watching this film, I tried to ignore the negative noise critics and audiences heaped upon it.  Several people, more than one would expect, labeled the film loud and, provocatively, racist.  One critic in particular called this the cinematic equivalent of Donald Trump.


So I plopped the film into my player and it started and…

It wasn’t that bad.

Like its predecessor, Gerard Butler is Mike Banning, Secret Service agent/protector to Benjamin Asher, the President of the United States, again played by Aaron Eckhart.  As the movie starts, we witness a party in some distant, Arabian home.  The participants are clearly rich and, based on conversation, the father of the group is a stern, “eye for an eye” type.  It is heavily implied they are a family of terrorists.

Not too surprisingly, we find one of the people in the party text a message that the father is present.  He departs before a drone stike shatters the home and we’re instantly transported to two years later.

Turns out the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom has passed and all the major leaders of all the major countries, including President Asher and Secret Service Agent Banning, head to the funeral.

Bad idea, as can be seen in the trailer below…

Turns out the funeral, though a very real thing, was a creation by the aggrieved terrorist to bring all those world leaders to London and, while they are all there, the terrorist attack mercilessly, killing all the world leaders but one.

Once again Agent Manning is forced to shield his charge while a gang of highly trained and well armed terrorists hunt him down, intent on getting revenge for that drone stike.

The premise is quite simple and the action begins very quickly.  If action is what you crave, London Has Fallen delivers and appeared, at least to my eyes, like a better budgeted throwback to the old Chuck Norris film Invasion U.S.A. (you can read my review of that movie here).

Like Invasion U.S.A., the villains are indeed caricatures and therefore the charge of racism is not a inconsequential one.  In Invasion U.S.A., the evil Russian/Cuban commies were unrepentant heathens who committed heinous acts of violence on decent, God fearin’ ‘Muricans and it was up to good ol’ boy Chuck Norris to send their scum suckin’ asses back to hell.

In London Has Fallen, there is a similar tone deafness regarding Arabs.  All Arab people in this film are presented as evil, unrepentant terrorists and the fact that the U.S. and other world leaders started this carnage with their drone strike -again, it was against a party that likely featured much innocent collateral damage- is quickly swept under the proverbial rug.

Still, if you can get past the distasteful “Murica!” rah-rahing, you have a decent enough action film that features some good effects -along with some that aren’t quite so good- and a decent pace that only flags toward the film’s end.  I really don’t get why these actions films insist on having our hero go “solo” against a vast army of villains, especially when in this film he actually has backup and there’s no reason to do so!

As with Olympus Has Fallen, this film is hardly a watershed new high in action/adventure filmmaking and, quite frankly, falls closer to average than anything else.

For that reason, as well as the tone deaf presentation of Arab characters, I can’t outright recommend the movie yet I’d be lying if I said it was a total bust.  Yeah, its loud and strident and does indeed feel like seeing Donald Trump in film form, yet there’s a retro quality to it that I, as a young man in the 1980’s, found familiar…and strangely -bizarrely- nostalgic.

Take of that what you will.

Time marches on…sadly…

2016 will likely be remembered as the year far too many people in the entertainment business died.

The year started with the shocking news of the passing of David Bowie, though fans of the singer long suspected he suffered from health issues following the abrupt ending of the Reality Tour, due to a heart attack, in 2004, and his subsequent 10 year sabbatical.  He would release two more albums, the second of which, Blackstar, was clearly meant to be a “goodbye” album.

More recently we’ve had the passing of accomplished (and extremely talented) actor Gene Wilder.

There are other things one notices when one gets older.

When I saw the movie Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I was somewhat taken aback by how old both Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford looked in the film but, let’s face it, the last time they were in a Star Wars feature it was Return of the Jedi and that film was released in 1983 (for those counting, thirty three years ago).

Today came this bit of sad news in an article written by Scott Eric Kaufman and presented on

Monty Python founding member Terry Jones diagnosed with dementia

One of the startling things one realizes with the passage of time is that the many people out there you hold in high esteem, be they musicians like David Bowie or actors such as Gene Wilder or comedians like Terry Jones, are all too human.

As high a pedestal as we may place them upon, we all carry the same flesh and blood and are thus just as susceptible to the passage of time.

In my mind, I picture David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust or as The Thin White Duke, or that too-cool Let’s Dance crooner.  I see him older, too, yet holding up remarkable well during his final full tour, The Reality Tour…

Gene Wilder, as well, sticks in my mind for his acting in The Producers, Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, and The Silver Streak…he’s forever frozen in those features.  Forever frozen during those more youthful years.

Like many, I love the Monty Python troupe and their absurdist humor.  The original show was great (well, except for the final John Cleese-less season).  I loved the first two Monty Python films, Monty Python and the Holy Grail and The Life of Brian.  Life of Brian, in particular, is along with Airplane! one of my all time favorite comedies ever.  Not only was Terry Jones a writer and actor in both films, he was also the co-director of one, The Holy Grail (Terry Gilliam co-directed) and sole director of the other.

According to the article, the Terry Jones’ disease is such that…

(It) affects his ability to communicate and he is no longer able to give interviews.

Incredibly, incredibly sad to read.

When news like this hits I can’t help but think we should take a moment to appreciate what time we have on this planet and, further, appreciate the works of others who entertain us with their hard work.

Not to end the week on such a down note, but there will inevitably come a day when we cannot do so anymore.

David Bowie: The Leon Suites (1994) a (very belated) musical review

A week or so back I wrote about David Bowie’s The Leon Suites, three roughly 20 minute long musical -what?  Plays?  Musical stories?  I’m truly not certain how to categorize them- which Mr. Bowie created along with collaborator Brian Eno back in 1994 and presented to record companies for consideration as a formal release.  (Read about that here)

The music companies rejected the material and Mr. Bowie reworked it for the 1995 album 1. Outside.  SInce Mr. Bowie’s passing earlier this year and now that all his “official” albums are out there, I’m of the opinion that 1. Outside is the very best album Mr. Bowie produced in the later parts of his career.

Having said that, I was always curious about the album and what went into its making.  I’d heard rumors that there were some 20+ hours of recordings in vaults which were the genesis of the work.  Along with the rumors of a wealth of recordings created for 1. Outside, there were rumors Mr. Bowie intended to release more albums in the world he presented there.

Of course, Mr. Bowie never did.

The critics weren’t kind to 1. Outside.  While I loved the album upon its release, I was dumbfounded to read review after review savaging the album as being too much (Ironically, over time the sentiment has turned and I suspect most people now consider the album a high point of his later career).  Even worse for Mr. Bowie, when he toured in support of the album with NIN, there was word the audience cheered and demanded NIN but had little to no interest in Bowie…

Whether true or not, after the tour Mr. Bowie abandoned the 1. Outside project and instead released several albums -none concept albums- before his passing.  Along with the justifiably famous The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, it appears 1. Outside is the only other full “concept” album he released in his lifetime.

(ASIDE: I suspect people might argue both Aladdin Sane and Diamond Dogs were also concept albums.  I don’t believe they were.  Not entirely, anyway.  While Diamond Dogs originally started as a musical version of George Orwell’s 1984 and parts of that original idea remain in the album, to me there isn’t enough of a coherent “story” for it to be considered a proper concept album.  Likewise, Aladdin Sane offers something of a loose story and has been labeled, -justifiably!- “Ziggy Stardust goes to America” but like Diamond Dogs I just don’t think there’s enough there to consider it a proper concept album.  All this, of course, is IMHO)

Last week I learned the three Leon Suites, the genesis of the 1. Outside album, were released to the internet a short time before Mr. Bowie’s passing and it is suspected by many the person who released this was Mr. Bowie himself…

At the time I wrote about this, I just learned of the three “Suites” and therefore hadn’t heard them.  Now I have and wished to offer some comments.

The first comment is going to be the cruelest: I agree with the record companies in their rejection of this material.  Whether you consider the material great or good or terrible, one thing is clear: It is not very commercial.  At all.

Having said that, the three Leon Suites offer a fascinating early look/rough draft of what became 1. Outside.  In having the original Suites rejected, Mr. Bowie turned his creativety on high and took bits and pieces from these Suites and used them in 1. Outside.  Out of a decent -but very artsy- work he created something even better -IMHO!- in 1. Outside.

Now that the Suites are available, they serve as a fascinating bookend to the 1. Outside album.  If you haven’t listened to it and are a fan of David Bowie and 1. Outside, do yourself a favor and give it a listen.

It’s most certainly worth your time.

A quick recommendation…

Are you watching this show?

Have to say, when I first heard about the show (I never bought the comic books it is based -loosely, I understand- on) I wasn’t all that interested.

Over time I caught an episode here and there of the first season and soon enough, I was hooked.

For a show that deals with the devil quitting his job of running hell and walking the earth (quite literally), and then goes into the all too-cliched direction of his becoming an odd-ball partner with a police officer and solving crimes (essentially a supernatural version of Castle!), Lucifer winds up nonetheless being an absolute hoot.

The show benefits from the fact that despite the potentially “heavy” and “horror” possibilities, it zigs when it could have zagged and has an incredible sense of humor about itself.  The stars of the show, pretty much all of them, shine and come together as quite the ensemble.

When the second season began this past Monday, I told my wife she needed to see it.  She figured a show about Satan on Earth had to be some kind of grim horror show but I told her she’d be surprised.

She was.  Pleasantly so.

If you’re looking for something worth killing time on, you’d do far worse than check out Lucifer.