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Night Moves (1975) A (very) Belated Review

I first saw the Gene Hackman starring, Arthur Penn (Bonnie and Clyde) directed film Night Moves many years ago, perhaps somewhere in the 1980’s. I thought it was ok and presented an interesting take on the classic pulp private detective, which I will get into in a moment, but not all that much else lingered in my mind.

Over on a bulletin board I got into a discussion about the film and, as I was flying (It seems that’s about the only time I have the ”free” time to actually watch something), I decided to give the movie another go.

I’m glad I did.

Here’s the movie’s trailer:

What I remembered about Night Moves was that Gene Hackman’s detective character, Harry Moseby, was something of a failure as a detective. I recalled that, while he was a very decent man and he tried very hard to do what was right, he missed clues, both subtle and obvious. He wasn’t in the class of a, say, Inspector Clouseau and the film does not ridicule his faults, but this winds up being an interesting reversal of one of the more standard cliches of the pulp detective fiction genre.

If you’ve followed these classic detective works, there are certain things many of the detectives in the works have. Women are attracted to them and they know how to use their fists and/or weapons. They are often very sardonic/sarcastic but insightful. Regarding the later, they often see through situations and other characters with an almost god-like understanding.

Harry Moseby is an intelligent man who tries his best to do what’s right but, in the course of the movie, we find he’s misses things that us regular mere mortals would likely also miss. This is the central theme of Night Moves, though its presentation is done in sometimes very subtle ways. I suppose I’m spoiling things a bit by saying the case he’s involved in does eventually get ”solved”, but if one thinks about it Moseby’s presence may have made things far worse for everyone concerned rather than any better.

Moseby’s lack of awareness is presented early on when (MILD SPOILERS) Moseby quite by accident (again, showing his general lack of awareness) find out his wife is cheating on him. The trailer above gives this away but its only the first instance where Moseby is unaware of what goes on around him. Later in the film and with another character, Moseby shows off a chess moves (it too is shown briefly in the trailer above) involving a ”knight” that was played in a professional match back in the 1920’s (Knight moves, so to speak!). Moseby notes how the chess player missed a certain move and how he likely regretted it his whole life.

That, in a nutshell, is the movie’s way of telling you Moseby is in for a similar circumstance.

Having said all the above, what delighted me about the film was the realization -something I didn’t known way back when- was that the plot of Night Moves hews very closely to both Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep and, especially in the movie’s wrap up, to Dashiel Hammet’s The Maltese Falcon.

Now normally I wouldn’t be too happy about a movie taking so much from other works, but in this case they did it in mostly clever ways. Moseby is hired, as in The Big Sleep, by wealthy Arelene Iverson (as opposed to wealthy General Sternwood), an older woman who was once a minor figure in Hollywood’s golden age, who says her very wild step daughter, Delly Grastner (a very young an alluring Melanie Griffin) is missing (In The Big Sleep, Detective Phillip Marlowe is hired to check in on the very wild Carmen Sternwood). Arlene is the embodiment of the golden age of film’s darker side, a bitter alcoholic who is all too wise to the way women are used and abused in this ”magic” town.

Moseby gets to work and, in short order, figures out where Delly is hiding and eventually goes across the country and to Key West (another homage, I suppose, to a film like Key Largo) to get and retrieve her. There he meets Paula (Jennifer Warren, who is simply fantastic), another world weary woman who’s seen too much and done too much. There is an attraction between the still hurt Moseby, who has yet to deal with his wife’s infidelity. In Paula we have a good approximation to The Big Sleep’s more world weary Vivan Rutledge, Carmen Sternwood’s big sister, who was played so fantastically by Lauren Bacall in the movie version of The Big Sleep.

After a shocking find (I won’t go into more spoilers), Moseby takes Delly home and to her -we find- hellish life.

While his case is resolved, the story is only beginning at this point and to reveal much more would be criminal (pun intended).

Suffice to say that things aren’t entirely what they seem and Moseby’s just starting to realize how entangled many of the characters are, and how this leads to multiple murders.

Just as this movie presented characters who were close approximation to The Big Sleep’s General Sternwood, Carmen Sternwood, and Vivan Rutledge, we have James Woods (in a very early role) playing Quentin, a surly mechanic, who is clearly meant to echo The Big Sleep’s Owen Taylor, the Sternwood’s chauffeur. Further to that, we also have a close approximation to the character of Rusty Regan from The Big Sleep as well. And when the movie reaches its climax, we have certain fascinating elements of The Maltese Falcon appear in the movie’s climax.

And, if you look closely enough, Harry Moseby’s character in Night Moves seems to be something of an approximation and expansion of Sam Spade’s doomed partner, Miles Archer, from The Maltese Falcon. In that novel, Archer’s wife has an affair with Spade and winds up losing his life in the case that Spade eventually takes up. Was Archer, like Moseby, someone who didn’t see all the angles? Regardless, its fun to see Sam Spade’s name evoked in the above trailer.

Moving on from the echoes to other works, I have to especially note the terrific acting by Gene Hackman. There’s a reason he’s a legend in the movie industry and I have to say this may be one of his all time great roles. Having said that I would also reiterate Jennifer Warren was also terrific and its a shame she doesn’t seem to be very well known today.

Night Moves is an easy recommendation, especially to fans of the pulpy detective novels of yesteryear. The movie cleverly uses many plot details and ideas and presents something new and fresh yet which delightfully echoes the best of what came before.

So I highly recommend the film.

…however…

There is something that needs to be brought up, something that probably relates more to the era in which this film was made and which, IMHO, is something that detracts from the overall work.

Night Moves is a movie that, I felt, fell under the ”male gaze” problem other works have. The three main female characters presented in the film all have nude scenes and, frankly, it felt like director Arthur Penn was doing this to spice things up when it wasn’t really needed (there’s plenty of steam between Bogart’s Phillip Marlowe and Bacall’s Vivian Rutledge without the need to show her nude!).

Worse, Melanie Griffith’s Delly Grastner is presented in the film as under age (I’m not certain what the actress’ age was when filming, but my understanding is that she too was …gulp… underage at the time). She’s a wild child, a girl (not a woman yet) who sleeps around and does try to seduce Moseby as she seems to think this is her function in life. At one point in the film, a character talking to him notes about Delly that ”there ought to be a law” and Moseby says ”There is.”

That’s all good and well but why then present several scenes where Ms. Griffith is nude? It seems like the movie wants to eat their cake and have it to and, truthfully, that sort of stuff should make today’s viewers very uncomfortable.

Regardless, that’s perhaps the only blemish on an otherwise very well done film.

Runaway Brain…

Does the above title, for a Disney animated short, seem familiar to you?

Don’t feel bad if it isn’t… Until today I certainly hadn’t heard of it.

Runaway Brain was a short created way back in 1995 which featured, for the first time in decades a “new” story involving Disney’s principle character creation: Mickey Mouse. I could get into the details of the making and subsequent release of the short and its legacy (which seems to be none), but rather than do so, let me point out this article by Drew Taylor and presented on polygon.com which goes in depth into…

Why Disney buried Runaway Brain, the monstrous Mickey Mouse short

Again, the article does a very good job explaining why this short, which began as an attempt to triumphantly bring back Mickey Mouse, is now essentially buried, and the bottom line is one which has occurred in plenty of different occasions:

One “boss” green lights a project, they go over it and agree with what will be done, and when said project nears its end/conclusion, a new “boss” comes in an decides what was ok for the previous regimen isn’t good for them.

Changes were made, professionals involved were angered and frustrated, and ultimately a watered down version of the product is released and subsequently -because Disney is big enough to do so- the final product is purposely buried.

The fact that the product involves what is arguably Disney’s “biggest” character, Mickey Mouse, makes the story all the more intriguing. That and the fact that, unlike Song of the South, the short doesn’t involve racial stereotypes or outmoded/offensive ways of thinking about races, the main reason Disney refuses to release any formal version of Song of the South to the public.

It’s a fascinating story but, truthfully, if you follow the history of any major studio, you’ll find similar stories just like this, of projects that have gone off the rails and movies/TV shows/what-have-you that eventually limped out into general or limited release, then essentially being forgotten or allowed to be forgotten.

Still, a fascinating story, if you’re interested in reading about it!

Taylor Swift and artistic redux

Over on Slate.com Carl Wilson offers the following fascinating review/examination of Taylor Swift’s reworking of her album Fearless, titled Fearless (Taylor’s Version)

Taylor Swift’s Fearless Redux is both business stunt and conceptual art

Let me say right up front: I’m not a Taylor Swift fan. If someone were to play a trio of songs for me by modern female artists, there is probably a 99% plus chance I couldn’t identify any of the songs or artists who sing them, much less which song is by Taylor Swift.

Sad but true: I’m not really that into the modern music scene. Been a while since I was.

Having said that, I’m not here to knock Taylor Swift fans for making Fearless (Taylor’s Version) a HUGE hit.

The original version of Fearless, released when Ms. Swift was 18 years old (she’s 31 now), and a number of her older albums, have been the source of considerable consternation for Ms. Swift. She, like many other artists, released her early albums (six of them, to be exact) and a gentleman by the name of Scooter Braun has control over those master recordings… but not the rights to the songs themselves.

So its like this: Ms. Swift, while having the copyright to the songs, does not have the rights to those original recordings of them. Over the years and as she’s become a bigger and bigger star, she’s tried to regain control over them but, given that those albums sell extremely well, Mr. Braun has not been terribly inclined to release control over those original recordings and give them back to Ms. Swift.

To get around this, Ms. Swift decided to re-record the entire album and released this new recording, along with several bonus songs, in an attempt to supplant the original version of her album. This is a totally legitimate way of gaining back control of this album and its songs. While Mr. Braun keeps the original recordings, Ms. Swift has essentially offered fans a way of still enjoying that album without any of the proceeds going to Mr. Braun.

Given the loyalty her fans have to Ms. Swift and the tremendous success of this album’s release, looks like Ms. Swift has managed to stick it to Mr. Braun… and good.

Given the success of this re-recording/release, she now can go back and redo the other albums Mr. Braun owns the original masters to as well. If this continues to be a success, those original recordings may wind up being worthless… if indeed fans prefer the new versions over the old.

As far as I’m concerned, good for Ms. Swift!

Anyway, indulge me for a moment while I paste a paragraph from the article I linked to above. I know its a long paragraph, but it totally fascinates me. I’ve put in bold a part I particularly liked:

The reasons to rerecord always involve dry intellectual-property distinctions, like publishing versus mechanical rights, as well as larger principles of artistic autonomy. But they also invoke questions about authenticity and originality within a creative economy of mass reproduction, questions that aesthetic philosophers have wrestled with for going on a century. The ambiguous status of the remake long predates mass media itself; consider that there are multiple “originals” of works like Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, Munch’s The Scream, Duchamp’s urinal, and arguably even the Mona Lisa, likely due to a mixture of artistic and avaricious motives. Just like Swift, these artists had to deal with the frustration that once you’ve sold something you’ve made, you can’t sell it again unless you find a way to repossess or remake it. (Hell, you could say the same about all of our time and labor under capitalism.) That’s partly why artists from Warhol to Koons to Banksy, whose works dart back-and-forth across the borders of perceptual object and commodity, have been so influential. Every art market perpetually wrestles with the implicit postures and falsehoods of how it generates value. If the Swift vs. Braun feud were just starting now, might they have been able to split the difference on the album masters by rendering unto one side or the other a nice shiny non-fungible token?

As an artist, the part I put in bold really hits home.

I’ve written several novels and, to date, have tried to make each and every one of them, even my 8 part (to date) Corrosive Knights books be original to each other.

Yet I’m keenly aware that if one of those books did better -let’s say incredibly better- than the others and fans truly loved that book above all the rest, as someone who needs to make money to pay for food and rent, this might prove a big temptation to emulate the book(s) that did better.

After all, we want to be rewarded for our hard work, don’t we?

But that’s the conundrum mentioned above. As artists, you are often paid for a work and that’s that.

When I was younger, I worked in the comic book field and the work I did was “work for hire”. What that meant was that the publisher of the company paid me to do my work (usually inking work) and once I was paid, that was that.

Let’s say a book I inked proved to be incredibly popular. Let’s say it sold in the millions of copies and did so because people liked my inking.

The publisher could continue to print the book ad nauseum, and what would I be entitled to?

Nothing.

Oh, I grant you, if a book was that popular, the publisher would come back to me for any future work and, yes, I could demand a bigger pay.

But let’s say this particular story I inked was the one people were interested in, and no other works of mine merited even a tenth of the interest.

Again, what would I get from reprints of the work?

Nothing.

Because I was paid for the original work and that, folks, was that.

Which is why I realized that if I was ever going to make it in the entertainment field the way I wanted to make it, I needed to have some control over my work. This made sense to me financially and, frankly, mentally. I couldn’t stand the idea of others having control over my creative works.

The only way to do this was to move away from work for hire situations, though they might pay well, and focus on releasing things on my own but which I alone controlled.

So all the novels, one graphic novel, and one short story collection are all mine. All publication rights and any future publications will be under my control.

The good thing about this is that if (and its a BIG if) the work hits, I stand to make more from it versus doing a “work for hire” story/novel. I also decide how the works will continue. No company will make any decisions about any of the characters I spent considerable time and effort working on.

On the minus side, its solely up to me to succeed. I don’t have any big pocketed company promoting my work(s). I don’t have a big pocketed company and the goodwill it has created with readers to get them looking at me and my works.

But I want it that way.

For better or worse and unless something really big changes, that’s the only way I want to be.

Not to brag…

For the past few years and if you know me personally, the subject of electric vehicles has come up.

Around these parts I’ve made my feeling known about the so-called “ICE” vehicles -those which have “internal combustion engines”- and my feelings they are a technology society should have done away with many years ago.

ICE vehicles pollute the air and are incredibly inefficient. There are those that argue electric vehicles and the batteries they use are also “dirty”, but few argue they are dirtier than the use of gasoline. Regardless, to my mind still using ICE vehicles is akin to buying a computer and settling for some 1980’s/90’s tech instead of the latest tech.

Over the past few years I’ve been reading up with great curiosity about the rise of Elon Musk’s Tesla. The reviews of their vehicles, in general, have been incredibly positive and, its fair to say, this has gotten the attention of the big car companies. Today and as I write this, almost all of major car manufacturers are now working on or have released their versions of an electric vehicle.

As fascinated as I was about electric vehicles, as much as I salivated for the opportunity to drive one, it wasn’t until just shy of two weeks ago I finally did.

That’s when things really changed.

Intrigued as I was about EV vehicles and Tesla in particular, I was unsure when/if I’d get it. That test drive, along with the fact that Tesla was having a sorta/kinda end of the quarter sale, sealed the proverbial deal.

Now I know there are those who are suspicious/weary of Tesla and, especially, CEO Elon Musk. He’s gone off the wall at times with some oddball tweets. And yeah it is scary to spend a bunch of money on a car that uses a whole new technology versus the tried and true gasoline.

But I’ll tell you this: If the driving population of not only the United States but the world itself goes to a Tesla dealership and asks to test drive the car, I suspect a good 80+ percent of them that give it a fair shot will come away sold on the idea that the Tesla vehicles are very much worthy of all the attention they’ve gotten.

So impressed was I with the test drive -along with the previous research I did on the vehicle- that I took the plunge. I paid the $2500 deposit and ordered my Tesla 3. Yesterday, I got her…


Driving home was my first extended trip in the Model 3 and it was as delightful as the test drive. When we got there, my wife had her first drive and she was every bit as impressed with it as I was.

Again, I do not intend to brag. I am extremely fortunate to have the means to pick up this vehicle, though in all fairness the version I bought was hardly the most expensive model I could have gotten (I wouldn’t have been able to afford the very top end options, anyway!). Having said that, I strongly urge everyone out there to give the Tesla a try.

Perhaps you won’t come away from the experience as impressed as I. Perhaps you won’t feel it is truly the next generation vehicle I believe it is.

But if you do give it a shot, it might clear much of the haze surrounding Musk and Tesla and the fanboy mentality of many out there while allowing you to focus on the vehicle itself.

A vehicle which deserves, IMHO, many of its kudos.

Corrosive Knights, a 12/7/18 update… Mechanic!

A couple of days ago I noted I’d be revising Mechanic, the first book in my Corrosive Knights series…

The last time I did any sort of revision on the book, I found, was way back in 2011, so its been roughly seven years since I’ve re-read the book.

I wanted to revise it because it has been so long since I worked on it and figured if I was going to revise the covers to the series (already done), I might as well make sure the first book of the series is as good as I can possibly make it, given that for many this will be their jumping in point in this series.  If the first book doesn’t work for a potential new reader, chances are they won’t bother with the other books.

Added to that is the fact that I feel as a writer I’ve improved.  Hell, if I haven’t improved my skills in the seven plus years and six new novels made since Mechanic, then I don’t deserve to continue in this field.

But I’d be lying if there wasn’t a hesitancy to doing this.

In my previous post I noted I didn’t want to pull a “George Lucas” with Mechanic.  I wanted to “revise” the book and make sure there are no grammatical/spelling errors and ensure the reading experience is a smooth one.  What I absolutely DID NOT want to do is “re-do” the book and make it something all new and very different.  After all, there are many people out there who read the novel as it originally was (and, for the time being, is) and may react negatively to the author “meddling” with what they liked to begin with.

With that in mind, I began in earnest yesterday to re-read and do the revisions on Mechanic and, in that first full day, nearly made it to the book’s half-way point.

What fascinates me about reading the book after all these years, and after finishing the series, is that there were a few things right off the bat I needed to add/change.  Small details, mind you, and not BIG things.  As I worked deeper and deeper into the series, for example, I came up with certain names for things that I didn’t bother with back then.  But apart from those minor changes meant to make the book fit more snug into this series, for the most part I’ve kept to my word and cleaned up grammatical/clarity issues.  The dialogue remains the same, the story absolutely remains the same.

And you know what?  Despite the fact that I feel I’m a better author today than I was back then, the story and the way I originally wrote remains, IMHO, very strong.

Mechanic is the shortest, length-wise, of the Corrosive Knights novels.  When I presented it to a friend of mine, I told him the book was like a “shark” in water, a novel that doesn’t waste the reader’s time and moves along from scene to scene with minimal “fat”.

Curiously, most of the revisions I’ve done to date tend to involve eliminating lines or words here and there and making the novel even more like that shark in water.  I suppose I’m doing the exact opposite of what Mr. Lucas did with his original Star Wars trilogy*.

In the next couple of days I should finish the read-through and, following that, I’ll put the revisions into the document.  I’ll let you know when the new -and hopefully improved!- version is ready and released.

*****

*Regarding the Star Wars trilogy and Mr. Lucas’ revisions of it: I have ABSOLUTELY NO PROBLEM with Mr. Lucas going back into those films and adding things he wanted to add but wasn’t able to way back when or decided, afterwards, was worth revising.  Hell, I have no problem at all with him making the films something far different than what they originally were.  They’re his films and he has every right to do what he wants with them.

My problem with Mr. Lucas is his stubborn insistence on not releasing the original theatrical cuts.  Do with your films what you want, but give audiences the ability to see the versions they originally saw way back when as well.  Hell, its a win/win situation for him, as far as I can see, to release his “new” version along with the original.

Yet he steadfastly refuses to release the original films in their original form and that, to me, is a crying shame.

Ash vs Evil Dead (2015-18) Third Season review

I’ve noted before I’m a fan of the original three Evil Dead films.  The first one, released in 1981, was a low budget horror film that, for its time, was eerie and quite scary.  The character of “Ash” Williams, played by the irrepressible Bruce Campbell, first appeared in the original Evil Dead.  His character, as presented in this film, is very different from what it would become…

As presented in this film, Ash was just a nondescript “other” guy in the group of doomed youth who headed out to a cabin and stumbled upon the Evil that was there.  Unlike the others in his party, Ash manages to survive to the end of the film but those closing minutes strongly imply he’s toast, too.

A few years later and in 1987 Evil Dead 2, the remake cum sequel to that original film -and in my opinion the best of the Evil Dead works- came out…

In its opening minutes Evil Dead 2 essentially “remade” the original film, then went off on its glorious own, having Bruce Campbell’s Ash Williams go mano-a-mano against the supernatural forces haunting the cabin he was trapped in.  The thing that made this movie work so gloriously was that the makers/stars realized there’s a thin line between humor and horror and they pushed both to their limits, making the character of Ash Williams a weird goofball who acted at times like one of the lost Stooge brothers… only with a lot more blood and gore.

In 1992 came the third Evil Dead film, this one titled Army of Darkness, and it further evolved the character of Ash Williams, this time making him more of a smart ass/know-it-all and the biggest joke, of course, was that he was a total idiot… though one with an affinity to battle evil…

This film is my second favorite Evil Dead work, though it does lose a little steam in its second half (curiously, in the commentaries provided on the BluRay, director Sam Raimi noted the same, saying at one point that he lamented the fact that the film became a Ray Harryhausen-like film and lost, to a degree, Ash Williams).  Despite this, the opening and closing acts are an absolute hoot.

The movie, alas, was a flop.  It didn’t do well at all in theaters and the property appeared all but dead (pun intended?!).  However, the Evil Dead films did extremely well in the home video market and, many years later and in 2013 (yup, twenty years later), a new theatrical remake of Evil Dead was released to theaters and, though Bruce Campbell’s Ash Williams didn’t show up but for a few seconds at the very tail end of the film and after the credits, it did reasonably well and seeing Ash Williams once again seemed to kick start an interest in bringing more of him.

Which led to Starz! taking up a new series, titled Ash vs Evil Dead, to premiere in 2015.

Now, I liked the first two seasons of the series though I didn’t like either season’s endings.  The first one was too damn open ended for my taste while the second season, it was revealed later on, was hastily assembled at the very last minute because of friction between one of the series’ producers and head writer/showrunner.  The later would leave the show after the second season and I worried as to how the third season would turn out without him.

Welp, I’ve just finished seeing the rest of the episodes in the third season and… its OK.  Not the best, but there are enough really good things to make it worth pursuing.

This season, unlike the two others, to me lacked much of the near constant wicked humor that made the first two seasons so damn good.  Further, there is a helter-skelter quality to the story presented, a sense of throwing things in but not resolving them or resolving them lamely, storywise.  It almost felt like the writers were more killing time with little bits and pieces here and there before getting to the end and those bits and pieces wind up not mattering all that much.

For example (mild spoilers) toward the very end of the third season we get an extended sequence involving Ash’s daughter Brandy (Arielle Carver-O’Neill) that plays out like a remake of one of the better sequences in Evil Dead 2 (I’ll not give everything away, but that sequence has an Ernest Hemingway Farewell to Arms punchline).. yet 1) its not as good as the original and 2) when its over the story moves forward and what Brandy went through is all but forgotten.

Characters such as Lucy Lawless’ Ruby Knowby are reduced to a somewhat ordinary “bad guy” status and is scheming and looking eeeevvvvvilll at the camera but otherwise isn’t given much of a chance to strut her stuff, especially against Ash directly.  Given how important she was supposed to be as the main antagonist in this season, it was weird how she was ultimately dispatched (SPOILER AGAIN!) without Ash doing much of anything to get rid of her.  We also have a situation where for the first half of the season the main characters are curiously on their own, Ash over here, Pablo over there, Kelly doing her thing, and Brandy (a new character) taking up a lot of time with little result.

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against Arielle Carver-O’Neill.  For a young woman she’s already got a good resume and I assume she’s a good actress but as presented here, she never seemed to work well in the Evil Dead mileu.  It might have been better to have Dana DeLorenzo’s Kelly turn out to be Ash’s daughter -as was originally intended- and not have to introduce a new character so late in the game.

But perhaps the biggest disappointment of the season is the fact that the wicked humor which was so prevalent in all Evil Dead works since the second film, the general tone of season three of the show feels more focused on gore and horror which, I suppose, was one of the reasons there was friction between the producer and ex-showrunner.

I like horror, but Evil Dead worked as well as it did because it balanced horror with humor.

Still, there are moments here and there where the show works, including the welcome return of Lee Majors as Brock Williams, Ash’s father and a climax and conclusion that, frankly, was pretty damn cool… though given the fact that the show wasn’t renewed -and the fact that Bruce Campbell has announced in no uncertain terms he would not return to the role of Ash Williams again- we’ll never see what happens after those closing minutes.

Ah well.

Look, if you’re a fan of the series, seeing the third season is a no-brainer.  If you’re not a fan or if you’ve never seen Evil Dead before, you may want to check out Evil Dead 2 or Army of Darkness first before checking out Seasons 1 and 2 of the series before going to Season 3.

Otherwise, if the idea of mixing gory horror and humor isn’t your cup of tea, you may want to stay away.

If this is indeed the last we’ll ever see of Ash Williams, let me say here and now: Thanks Bruce Campbell and company.  You created a unique character in Ash Williams, one that evolved and changed but was almost always fun to watch.

You’ll be missed.

Thoughts on the Avengers movie…

A quick warning…

Yeah, yeah… I’m feeling like a real old fuddy daddy here, but…

For much of my life I’ve understood and followed the philosophy that opinions regarding works of art are just that: Opinions.  What turns me on may well be crap to you and vice versa.  I won’t hold it against others just as I hope they don’t hold it against me.

So here’s the thing: Marvel’s latest “huge” movie, Avengers: Infinity War was just released to generally good reviews and will likely make a ton of money at the box office…

…and I really, really don’t care to see it.

What’s so peculiar is that I’ve enjoyed many previous Marvel movies.  I liked the first Iron Man film.  I felt Captain America: Winter Soldier was one of the very best superhero films ever made, right up there with the original Richard Donner directed/Christopher Reeve Superman.

But after the release of Winter Soldier, something happened.  Something I can’t quite explain.  The subsequent Marvel films, to me, simply haven’t been as exciting or engaging and I’m tiring of one film seeming to try to be another “chapter” in a never ending story.

Infinity War, for those who don’t know, will be followed next year by Infinity War Part 2 (actually, the title of the second film is a secret because it supposedly spoils things).  Speaking of spoilers, they’re already all over the internet and, because I happen to read a lot of things here and there, I’ve already learned more about the film than I probably should have and certainly enough to wonder just what the filmmakers expected with some of the… uh… stuff that happens at the tail end of this film.

I mean, is anyone in suspense about the things that happened?

Unfortunately, given the way the internet is filled with gossip and knowledge of which actor is going to appear or reappear as a certain character in which film, it is obvious some of the “big” stuff that happens at the end of this film is temporary at best.

Which brings up something that’s bothered me about long, continuous storytelling: There can never be an end.

Superman can be killed off in the comics but he will return.  Batman can be crippled but he will somehow come back.  Bucky Barnes, for so many years a victim in WWII, returned to Captain America’s side in both the comics and films.

Stories are fun for a while but there does come a point when they lose their luster and a sense of “been there, done that” starts to come over the whole thing and one loses interest.

I pointed out in a recent entry that this seems to be happening with me with Ash vs. Evil Dead, a series/show that I thought I’d never tire of.  Just a couple of hours ago my wife and I started to watch the first new episode of Archer, a cartoon series I absolutely love, but after watching about half the episode I found not a damn thing humorous about it.  We had to stop it at the halfway point to do some stuff, but I intend to watch the rest of the episode yet fear this too may be something that has overstayed its welcome.

To me.

Again, this is all my opinion and most certainly doesn’t have to be yours.

This newfound sense of… impatience?… within me is surprising.  Perhaps it is due to my age.  While I’m not ready for the retirement home, I’ve spent many years seeing/hearing/reading so many things and I find myself of late looking for something new and interesting, a fresher take on things, and simply don’t have the patience to see/hear/read the latest chapter of That-Story-That-Doesn’t-End.

I also wonder if maybe this is something unique to me because I happen to be on the tail end of my own book series, and am eager to get it finished.  Perhaps because I’m approaching closure on this individual work its somehow made me search for closure in other things in my life and made me less patient to circle back on past things and more eager to explore the unknown or new.

Either that or I’m becoming a grumpy old man.

Hey you… are you still on my f$#%&g lawn?!  😉

Sketchin’ 63

Cesar Romero played the Joker on the 1966-68 Batman TV show.

The show was a huge hit in its debut season but the (groan) joke lost its luster and the show was cancelled after two more seasons. Still, to this day the Batman TV show casts a long shadow over all superhero works, for better or worse, and Cesar Romero’s very manic Joker was certainly a highlight.

This ‘n that (Beware…some politics!)

Couple of bits of news got my attention yesterday, one decidedly less “earth shattering”, I suppose, than the other.

First up, this article by Chloe Melas and found on CNN.com:

Lindsey Buckingham departs Fleetwood Mac

If there was ever a band that created great music (and that’s an understatement!) amidst equally great turmoil since the mid 1970’s in their up to now current incarnation, its Fleetwood Mac.

Their best known, best selling album, Rumours, had among its many famous songs this one, sung by Mr. Buckingham and, allegedly, a song about his breakup with fellow band mate Stevie Nicks:

So here the band, which is about to embark on what is purported to be their last tour, decides perhaps mutually, perhaps not, to cut ties with Lindsey Buckingham and… it seems so silly and such a wasted opportunity.

Not to brag, but I happened to catch Fleetwood Mac with their “classic” lineup in a concert that, if the one about to happen is their last was their second to last tour, and they were freaking great.

Lindsey Buckingham, in particular, blew me away with not only his singing on many of the classic songs he created for the band but also his absolutely sizzling guitar playing, which until I saw them live -this was the first time!- I didn’t realize was that damn good.

He’s a very underrated guitarist!

At some point in the concert and between songs Mr. Buckingham told the crowd to expect new Fleetwood Mac music.  Based on this article, that will likely never be, though fellow band mate Christie McVie and he did release a collaborative album very shortly afterwards and in 2017.

Lindsey Buckingham Christine McVie

I suppose Mr. Buckingham couldn’t get the rest of the band interested in working on a new album but at least got fellow band mate Ms. McVie.

Anyway, at this point in time, Lindsey Buckingham is 69 years old.  Stevie Nicks is about to turn 70.  Christie McVie is approaching 75 years of age.  Mick Fleetwood is reaching 71.  John McVie will be 73 this year.

The point is that these five people, who have been together since late 1974 in this band’s incarnation -though there have been years when individual members have left the band for some period of time- got back together and, despite their age, created some magnificent concert music together.

I do believe their current concert tour will be their last.  You can only go on so long with this kind of high energy grind and, as I mentioned above, these individuals are getting up there in age.  Regardless, its a damn shame -for audiences who will go to these final shows- that when they go they won’t see or hear Mr. Buckingham and his terrific singing and guitar playing.

Such a shame.

*****

For those into politics, yesterday was one hell of a day.  I’m referring, of course, the fact that the FBI raided Donald Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen’s residence and business.  If the reports are accurate, they actually busted down a door or two to get into one or more of these places.

Stephen Collison over at CNN.com (again!), wrote the following article regarding what happened next…

Trump lashes out as Cohen raid fuses Russia probe and Stormy case

There are so many incredible -stunning, shocking– things that have happened since the inauguration of Donald Trump, but I truly didn’t think we’d be talking about non-disclosure agreements with porn stars and a raid on his personal attorney’s office.

And this isn’t to mention the fact that Trump was, up to that moment, focused on possible repercussions to a gas attack in Syria.

What’ll happen next?

I suppose we’ll have to stay tuned.

It’ll be an interesting week.

Violent Cop (1989) a (very) belated review

Takeshi Kitano, also known as Beat Takeshi, was primarily known as a comedian but, over time, became even better known as an action/adventure star.

Mr. Kitano has appeared in many works, including many films he’s directed, acted, and written.  He’s also appeared in American films, including Ghost In The Shell and Johnny Mnemonic.  He even appeared opposite David Bowie in the 1983 film Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence.

But for Mr. Kitano, one could say it was his first directorial work, Violent Cop, which really put him on the map.  Here’s the movie’s trailer.  Mr. Kitano not only directed, he stars in the film as Azuma, the proverbial Violent Cop…

I have to admit, I bought the film on a whim and because it was on sale.  While watching it, I found it intriguing and entertaining but the reviews that stated it was a Japanese “Dirty Harry” seemed a little exaggerated.

For most of the film first couple of acts, we don’t see so much as a single gun!

This turned out to be a coldly calculated storytelling technique, because while the first forty or so minutes of the film allow you to enter Azuma’s world and all seems edgy but otherwise not out of this world, there are many dark edges peeking out, one of which is presented in the movie’s opening minutes…

The movie begins (MILD SPOILERS) with a truly perplexing -in a good way!- sequence where a homeless man is enjoying a meal before he’s attacked and beaten up by a bunch of youths.  Given the way the man is left, the viewer wonders if he is still alive.

The young boys head home and one of them leaves the group to go to his house, which turns out to be in a nice neighborhood.  Shortly after he arrives at the house, Detective Azuma shows up.  He flashes his badge to the youth’s mother after she answers his knock, then heads up to the boy’s room where he proceeds to beat him up.  He then tells the youth that he and his friends better turn themselves in the next day at the police station for what they did to the homeless man.

Questions are raised: If Azuma saw what the young boys were doing to the homeless man and followed at least one of them home, why didn’t he stop them while they were beating the poor guy up?  Why did he wait for them to finish and go home before coming after one of them?

The answer, in a way, is revealed through the course of this movie, and the answer isn’t pleasant…at least with regard to Detective Azuma’s character.

The movie goes on, showing us what Azuma does.  He’s assigned a rookie (a classic police drama cliche) to tag along with him and we also find he has a sister who he cares for but who has mental issues.

He also skirts the law and isn’t above beating up a potential snitch.

But I’ll repeat: The first forty or so minutes of the film lure you into a sense of false security, a sense that things are rough but not that rough.

Which makes the film’s conclusion all the more shocking, difficult to watch, and, yes, nihilistic as hell.

While watching the film to its end, I felt -wrongly as it turned out!- that this movie was influenced by the violence present in Quentin Tarantino’s early movies.  While I’m aware Mr. Tarantino has cribbed from many works, including those released in Hong Kong and Japan, Violent Cop was released in 1989, three full years before Mr. Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs was released.

I could go into more and more of the film but I feel that would be counterproductive and involve way too many spoilers.

Suffice to say Violent Cop is a film that will shake you up and surprise you by how much it pushes the envelope.  This is ultimately not a pleasant film but that’s what makes it work so exceedingly well.  Having said that, it is also quite clearly not for everyone.

If what I’ve said above intrigues you, give Violent Cop a look-see.  For everyone else, best you stay away.