Saturday, December 24, 2022

Book Reviews: Gangland

by Chuck Hogan
Historically New York City had five separate Italian-American criminal organizations, or "Families" that were arguably the nation's most powerful Mafia collective. The only Mafia organization that could match or rival the NYC Families was the Capone descended Chicago Outfit. 

Anthony Accardo, a Capone protege, driver, bodyguard, and business associate, was the Outfit's longest serving overlord. Capone called Accardo "Joe Batters" because of his prowess with a baseball bat. Accardo rose quickly to leadership, combining brainy business acumen with violence. 

Accardo and his older but equally homicidal buddy Paul Ricca shared power as the Outfit's effective CEO and Chairman. No one called Accardo "Joe Batters" to his face. Close friends could call him "Joe". Everyone else called him "Mr. Accardo" or "The Man".

Later in life, Ricca and Accardo ceded authority over daily operations to other gangsters. Despite their "semi-retired" status, no hoodlum who liked living ever challenged or defied Accardo or Ricca. Outfit Boss Sam Giancana, himself a brutal killer, learned this the hard way in 1975, when he was murdered in his home. The slaying was unsolved.

Gangland starts with the Giancana murder. A low level Outfit hoodlum, Nicholas "Nicky Pins" Passero, (so-called because of his bowling alley ownership) killed Giancana on Accardo's orders. Accardo likes and seemingly trusts Nicky. Accardo gives Nicky special off the record jobs.

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Movie Reviews: The Crow

The Crow
directed by Alex Proyas

This 1994 goth action/horror/romance film was the actor Brandon Lee's breakthrough film. It would have made him a household name and likely raised his profile for many more lead action roles and who knows what else. Unfortunately it became Lee's epitaph. People could only wonder what might have been. 

Another actor shot and killed Lee while the two were filming a dramatic sequence. The actor used a weapon that should have had blanks but via negligence had been loaded and misfired with a dummy round that still had primer. Lee had completed most of his scenes before his death so the director and producer finished the film, using other stand-ins and creative editing for work or dialogue that required Lee.

These events gave The Crow more somberness but it was already a dreary movie. The film was based on a comic book /graphic novel written by a man who was processing his emotions around the sudden random death of his fiancee. Combine that with some real life criminal events in Detroit and you have The Crow.

Michigan Woman Cyberbullies Daughter

There is a BB King song/lyric titled "Nobody loves me but my mother/And she could be jiving too!". It's funny because if there's one person that most people think will be in their corner when times get tough, it's usually their mother, the person who brought them into the world. 

I thought of this lyric when I ran across the below story about a Mt. Pleasant, Michigan woman. Sometimes you can't even trust your mother.

A Mt. Pleasant woman accused of engaging in a sophisticated catfishing campaign of harassment that targeted two teens — one her daughter — was charged with five crimes, including one that accused her of attempting to frame another student.

Kendra Gail Licari, 42, was charged Monday afternoon with two counts of stalking a minor, two counts of using a computer to commit a crime and one count of obstruction of justice. The obstruction charge alleges that Licari attempted to frame another minor for her actions during the investigation. Licari and the mother of the other student worked with school officials to figure out the source of the harassment, David Barberi, Isabella County Prosecutor, said Monday.

Saturday, December 10, 2022

Movie Reviews: Violent Saturday

Violent Saturday
directed by Richard Fleischer

I have seen this movie characterized as a film noir. I'm not sure I would categorize it as such. It has some noir elements. Many characters are sympathetic or disturbing mixes of good and evil. 

I think this is a good crime drama that doesn't try to convince the viewer that the bad guys aren't so bad or like some later films show things from the bad guys' point of view. 

Nonetheless in style and interlocking story lines this film must have had an influence on later crime or drama directors, especially people like Quentin Tarantino and David Lynch. I seem to remember reading someplace that Tarantino cited this movie approvingly. 

Don't worry. This film is not that explicit in terms of violence despite the title. It does play up the idea that no one is safe, even women and children. I suppose that was a little unusual in the mid fifties when this film was released. This film didn't have much in the way of cynicism, pessimism, or "good guys" losing, all of which I think are important to a greater or lesser extent for something to be a true film noir.

Popeyes Chicken And Roaches

Do you like Popeyes Chicken? If so you will be excited to know that a Popeyes Chicken location on Detroit's east side was giving its customers bonus protein in their order in the form of grease fed sustainably sourced humanely raised roaches. For some strange reason an unnamed Doordash employee blew the whistle. 

The restaurant location has closed down for cleaning and extermination. Still my bet is that it won't be much longer before the location has re-opened. Then customers will once again be able to get some wriggling insect treats to go along with their greasy poultry, all free of charge! Yum, yum eat em up!!

Saturday, December 3, 2022

Movie Reviews: I, Madman

I, Madman
directed by Tibor Takacs

This horror movie is visually and thematically a homage to old noir films and pulp detective/adventure stories that usually had an endangered pretty woman, a protective two-fisted hero, and some creepy psycho villain. 

Although this 1989 movie was made when standards on horror film depictions of sex and violence were relaxing, this film remained faithful to its influences in that more is implied than is shown. 

I didn't think anything shown or implied was gratuitous. I like horror movies; it takes a lot for me to think that something is gratuitous. Anyhow I never thought that the director was trying to hide a bad story with cleavage shots or buckets of blood.

Movie Reviews: A Christmas Story

A Christmas Story
directed by Bob Clark

It's nearing the time of year when this movie will be playing all day every day somewhere on a cable or streaming service. If you are under 40 or so you may wonder what the big deal is. Older people such as myself may remember watching the movie and experience a wave of nostalgia. 

I still think the movie is funny. My good feelings about the film are not because the film is always laugh out loud hilarious but because I remember watching this movie with departed family members. So I associate this movie with better times.

Yes, many of the film's activities and attitudes are now dated. Most mothers work outside the home. Most kids would rather have the latest video game than a BB gun. A lamp of a female leg clad in fishnet stockings would be tame today. And there would be some sort of adult intervention if a child bully and his evil henchman chased other children home from school every day.

But some things are timeless. Adults and children live in different worlds with different rules. People often have outdated perceptions of younger relatives. Most parents love their children unconditionally.

Labrador and Bearded Dragon Share Salad

Labrador and Bearded Dragon share salad. Or rather the Labrador eats all the good stuff while the lizard eats the lettuce. But sometimes that's what friends do isn't it, take all the good parts and leave you with wilted lettuce.

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Movie Reviews: Fuzz

directed by Richard Colla

This 1972 movie was based on the novel of the same name written by Evan Hunter, born Salvatore Lombino, who is best known by his pen name of Ed McBain. Hunter also wrote the film's screenplay. 
Many of "McBain's" novels were set in NYC's 87th precinct but this movie was set in Boston. Fuzz had two big stars in Burt Reynolds and Raquel Welch but they didn't click together for at least two reasons.

(1) The film was conceived and executed as an ensemble "dramedy". 
(2) According to Reynolds, Welch was not happy, to put it mildly, that Reynolds had higher billing and the associated higher pay. Welch refused to work with Reynolds. 

Their two characters were rarely in the same scene together and again according to Reynolds when they were Welch insisted on using body doubles for dialogue so that she wouldn't be there. Welch was also annoyed with what she thought was excessive attention to her beauty/body; she made the director tone down a scene she thought was needlessly revealing. 

Rhino Wakes Up Dog

Don't you hate when people wake you up from a deep sleep? Maybe you react just like this dog did when a friendly and curious rhino interrupted the canine's beauty rest.

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Movie Reviews: Odds Against Tomorrow

Odds Against Tomorrow
directed by Robert Wise

Too many modern movies seek to ensure that their political or social message is sent and received regardless of whether the story is any good. Screenwriters, directors, and actors  may even deliberately damage the story to put the message front and center. In some films this has become ridiculous, rendering the end product almost unwatchable. 

It's one thing to say that a film's heroine is competent or a bada$$. It's something else to make the character perfect from the beginning in everything and thus eliminate challenges, growth and development. It's something else to make every male character incompetent, weak, malicious, or sexist. 

It's one thing to say that racism is bad. It's something else to make a racist character so ridiculous that he becomes a live action cartoon who is easily dismissed by real life racists.

Artists who want to entertain and educate the audience could do worse than to watch films created by Robert Wise, who was best known for The Day The Earth Stood Still, The Sound of Music, and West Side Story

2022 Midterms

I don't know who was the first person to say "Don't get high on your own supply". Younger people may recall a version of this maxim from rapper Biggie Smalls 1997 song "Ten Crack Commandments". I'm not young so my reference point for the line is from the 1983 movie Scarface

There are older sayings with similar meanings. H.P. Lovecraft in his 1927 horror novel The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward wrote the warning "Do not call up that which you cannot put down". Shakespeare's "Hamlet, written between 1599 and 1601, has the line "hoist by one's own petard" which warns of destruction by forces that the person has invoked. 

Republicans should have remembered these warnings before the recent midterms. At this time there are a few races yet to be called. But there was no red wave. Democrats will keep control of the Senate. Republicans will likely take control of the House by a small margin. 

With a few exceptions high profile Trump supported election denier Republicans lost. In Michigan, Republicans were shut out entirely. Michigan Democrats retained the offices of Governor, Secretary of State, and Attorney General, while taking the State House and State Senate.

Saturday, November 12, 2022

Movie Reviews: Phone Call From A Stranger

Phone Call From A Stranger
directed by Jean Negulesco

Although some might consider this movie a noir film because of its sassy dames, snappy dialogue, tough customers,  and frank examination and depiction of human vice, I think ultimately it's too didactic and even too optimistic to be a noir. It has the noir look though. 

Watching this film I was reminded of things I have learned over the years about relatives who have passed on or who have entered their golden years. Sometimes this information wasn't always positive. As a child there's stuff that people just won't tell you. 

And even when I became an adult many older relatives or family friends weren't willing to discuss their foibles or mistakes with members of the younger generation. Stay out of grown folks' business was a family maxim.

But ultimately it doesn't matter because all of us are trying to do the best we can in our allotted time. Nobody is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. That's very much the message that Phone Call From A Stranger conveys. 

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Movie Reviews: Death Note

Death Note
directed by Adam Wingard

Two recurring messages in many Western speculative fiction and horror stories are that humans are not meant to know certain things or to have certain powers. 

Some argue that these themes are baked in to Western philosophy and culture because of the Biblical story of Adam and Eve and their breaking of God's ban of eating of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. 

I don't want to get too much into those arguments. I only bring them up because they are important to this movie's story. Although this movie's story originated in a non-Western environment (it's an adaptation of a Japanese manga) , it still features the questions I mentioned above. 

Because I am unfamiliar with the original manga, it's not always clear watching this film what was taken from the original story and what was added/changed/deleted by the American director and producers. I have a sneaking suspicion that the interpretation wasn't very good. 

Saturday, October 22, 2022

Movie Reviews: The Hoodlum

The Hoodlum
directed by Max Nosseck

This 1951 crime film noir starred Lawrence Tierneywho as previously discussed, had a reputation for anti-social behavior, as an unrepentant thug. I don't think the role was difficult. This movie was only an hour long. It lacked character development. 

But I didn't miss character growth. This movie was a response to the age old question of whether we are more defined by nature or nurture. Are we naturally bad or good, or are we influenced by our surroundings, experiences, peers, relatives, and mentors. 

We still don't know how much of each is involved in our makeup. If people do bad things because of biology are they responsible. Or if it's mostly the environment (bad parenting, lack of wealth, incorrect ideologies or other belief systems) must the state then correct that bad environment?

The Shoebill Is A Strange Bird

These birds are actually not threatening to humans but they certainly look as if they would like to be. What a majestic intimidating looking bird. I had never heard of them before. Learn something new every day. It's good for you.

Was The Moon Formed In A Day?

What if the Moon was created in a day? A new NASA/Durham University simulation provides an argument that such an event was possible.

Billions of years ago, a version of our Earth that looks very different than the one we live on today was hit by an object about the size of Mars, called Theia – and out of that collision the Moon was formed. How exactly that formation occurred is a scientific puzzle researchers have studied for decades, without a conclusive answer.

Most theories claim the Moon formed out of the debris of this collision, coalescing in orbit over months or years. A new simulation puts forth a different theory – the Moon may have formed immediately, in a matter of hours, when material from the Earth and Theia was launched directly into orbit after the impact.

Movie Reviews: Day Shift

Day Shift
directed by J.J. Perry

There are more than a few books that feature mercenary minded heroes who make their living by hunting, trapping, and killing supernatural creatures. The authors A. Lee Martinez, Mike Carey, and Larry Correia are the first people to come to mind but if I gave it some thought I know could think of many more. 

There have also been movies with such themes. Some have worked. Some have not. I think It's difficult to mix horror, action, comedy and a world weary cynical point of view in which destroying the supernatural is just another day at the office. Shaun of the Dead and The Dead Don't Die were two such films that blended humor and real fear successfully.

I think such stories tend to work better as novels than as movies. Day Shift's problem was that it underplayed the horror in favor of the humor even though the humor was at best hit or miss. Mostly miss actually.

Saturday, October 15, 2022

Movie Reviews: The Initiation Of Sarah

The Initiation of Sarah
directed by Robert Day

This 1978 made for television movie was similar to the 1976 movie Carrie, based on the Stephen King novel. It's so close that I wonder why the director and producers even bothered but money talks. 

There were a number of talented actors/actresses in this movie, including multiple Academy Award and Emmy winners and then young actors who would go on to roles in iconic films or shows such as Dallas, Airplane, and Mad Men. I don't remember seeing this film but I do remember some of the commercials.

Because this film was made for television the depictions of violence and sex were toned down (although the director apparently couldn't resist a few cleavage and wet t-shirt shots which were risque for the times) while the special effects were meh.

Like Carrie, the movie's theme revolves around the bullying that women and girls inflict upon each other and how a young shy girl with supernatural powers responds. 

Saturday, October 1, 2022

Movie Reviews: Avenging Force

Avenging Force
directed by Sam Firstenberg
I saw this movie eons ago shortly after it was released, when dinosaurs walked the earth. I had fond memories of it. I recently re-watched this film.

The Golan-Globus/Cannon Group produced Avenging Force. Golan-Globus/Cannon Group is an Israeli-American film production group/studio notable for making many profitable but derivative low budget action movies. 

The company either launched or more often boosted the careers of such then novice actors as Jean-Claude Van Damme and Michael Dudikoff and veterans such as Chuck Norris and Charles Bronson. 

The small budgets weren't necessarily evidenced in the special effects or settings but were usually apparent in the writing and supporting actor quality. 

People didn't watch a Golan-Globus movie for the writing or lush period settings or top line actors. People watched to see good guys and bad guys throw down. Golan and Globus produced and financed simple movies for people who wanted simple storylines. 

Movie Reviews: Destination Murder

Destination Murder
directed by Edward Cahn

This is a 1950 crime movie with some noir elements. The film has underdeveloped plotting and writing though the acting isn't bad. Like many movies from back then it has an intelligent motivated female lead who is neither stupid nor only an appendage to men. 

The heroine gets in over her head and makes some mistakes but she's no dummy. And that's more that can be said for some of the gangsters and molls she encounters.

Laura Mansfield (Joyce MacKenzie) is an attractive coed who is home for spring break. One night as Laura and her father Arthur Mansfield (Franklyn Farnum) relax the doorbell rings. Arthur goes to answer it and is immediately shot dead by the taxi driver/moonlighting hitman Jackie Wales (Stanley Clements-former Bowery Boys star and former husband of noir queen Gloria Grahame).

Apparently this possibility was what my older male relatives had in mind when they insisted that I be the one to answer the door at family gatherings though several female relatives could have been closer to the door. Snicker. 

Friday, September 30, 2022

Music Reviews: It's So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday

The  song "It's So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday" was specifically written for the Motown movie Cooley High and presumably for the funeral scene in which it was used.

Although the world does not look kindly upon men crying I have always felt/joked that any man who bawls upon hearing this song gets a pass. 

The husband-wife songwriting duo of Freddie Perren and Christine Yarian Perren wrote this song. Plenty of people have recorded the song, most famously Boyz II Men, but I still think the film version, sung by G.C. Cameron, is the absolute definitive version, bar none. 

As a man of a certain age I am at the point where many of my older relatives have passed on. To me this song expresses the loss of loved ones while acknowledging that no matter what, life continues. 

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Movie Reviews: This Woman Is Dangerous

This Woman Is Dangerous
directed by Felix Feist

This Warners Bros. film wasn't that good. But it wasn't designed to be. It was the last film that Joan Crawford owed the studio under her contract. Supposedly the studio offered Crawford this role hoping that if she took it the film would hurt her box office appeal and if she didn't take it (the studio's preference) then the studio executives could suspend her, further damage her reputation, and prevent her from moving on to different film productions. 

Well nobody ever accused Crawford of being dumb or not being keenly attuned to her own best interests. Surprising the studio, Crawford accepted the film's lead role and gave it the old college try. Crawford would later claim that this was among her worst films, if not the absolute worst.

Crawford was miscast. Although Crawford was something of a babe in her youth, by this point in her career, the only reminder of fading beauty was her large (almost oversized) expressive eyes. Crawford's face and persona had become very hard, almost masculine. It's this version of Crawford that was later (cruelly??) parodied by Faye Dunaway in Mommie Dearest and which is likely best known by movie fans. 

Detroit Police Officer Suspended For OnlyFans Account--Resigns From Force

There are some jobs, schoolteacher immediately comes to mind, where the person so employed is responsible not just for doing his or her job for the agreed upon time and salary but also must avoid conflicts of interest and appearances of less than classy or responsible behavior off the clock. The Detroit Police Department suspended one of its rookie officers for having an OnlyFans account. The officer resigned.

DETROIT (FOX 2) - A Detroit police officer is off the force after a racy OnlyFans page she was running was found by the department. "One of our officers through her Instagram account had a paywall set up and was posting pornographic videos on the other side of the paywall," said Chris Graveline, the director of the Detroit Police Department's Professional Standards section.

Chief James White learned about the page with porn Tuesday morning, launched an investigation, and suspended Janelle Zielinski, only to find out she resigned a day earlier. She graduated from the police academy and started her career with DPD in March. Her resignation letter was effective Sept. 23, but since she was suspended, she will no longer be working.

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Movie Reviews: Killer's Kiss

Killer's Kiss
directed by Stanley Kubrick

Killer's Kiss
was Kubrick's second film. 
A taxi dancer was an entertainer-usually female-who would dance in clubs with a customer-usually male-for a set time which depended on the ticket(s) that the customer purchased. Taxi dancing wasn't prostitution, but it wasn't necessarily NOT prostitution either. 

In both professions a woman would provide a man some paid physical and emotional intimacy. The dancer received a commission from the customer's tickets. Dancers could get/solicit tips from satisfied customers. In both taxi dancing and prostitution providers and clients could sometimes cross the lines of appropriate "business" behavior. 

Taxi dancers were exploited or harassed by dance hall owners, police, or moral busybodies who were convinced that dancing led to more sinful behavior. 

Saturday, September 10, 2022

Book Reviews: 24/7 Demon Mart: The Graveyard Shift

24/7 Demon Mart: The Graveyard Shift
by D.M. Guay
This book is the first in a series. It's similar to books like Monster or Monster Hunter International

Imagine yourself thrown into a world where things go bump in the night, the supernatural is real, and what's surreal for anyone else is just a normal day at the office for those in the know. 

The story includes absurdist and gross out humor for which YMMV. The book reminded me of 80s era straight to video B horror movies that are best watched late night or on Saturday afternoons. 

This is an acquired taste. I liked it but I won't claim that this was deep reading. It's not. I never thought that the author was aiming for that. The story is written in first person from the viewpoint of a young male slacker/loser. 

The author is a female (Denise Marie Guay) non-loser who also writes young adult paranormal romance books. It was interesting to see how well the author wrote men. With some notable exceptions the male characters' motivations and emotions were believable.

Saturday, September 3, 2022

Movie Reviews: They Live By Night

They Live By Night
directed by Nicholas Ray

Countless movies feature lovers on the run, two against the world, a man and woman who as the song goes "have been up and down this highway and haven't seen a goddamn thing." These stories often conclude with one or both of the lovers dying, usually going out in a blaze of glory. The archetype predates film. My earliest exposure to it was in the poem, "The Highwayman". But this stuff is older than dirt.

The star crossed lovers die because fictional or not, the establishment wants to demonstrate the dangers of actual outlawry or socially transgressive actions. I think this story's best modern example is Arthur Penn's Bonnie and Clyde

Although the titular outlaws weren't as intelligent or decent as the film portrayal, they really did die together in a hail of bullets. Oliver Stone (with an assist from Quentin Tarantino) took the opposite tack in Natural Born Killers, in which the killers are shown to be awful--but somehow cool--people who survive.

Saturday, August 27, 2022

Movie Reviews: The Unsuspected

The Unsuspected
directed by Michael Curtiz

This 1947 film straddles that line between noir and murder mystery. It's entertaining though there isn't that much mystery about the murderer's identity. Back then, some people still accepted Freud's/Jung's theories of a child's initial subconscious sexual attraction to his or her opposite sex parent. 

My non-expert understanding of these theories is that many have been discredited and disproven or are out of favor for other reasons. Even so this film references them, suitably repressed and hidden for the mores of 1947 America. But they're hard to miss. 

Even though the story is not original the film's shadow, smoke, and fog cinematography is simply too cool for words. And the dialogue, written largely by Bess Meredyth, Curtiz's wife, again gives the lie to the idea that successful women characters were only to be found in our modern day and/or only talk like or act like men.

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Book Reviews: 2034-A Novel Of The Next World War

2034-A Novel Of The Next World War
by Elliot Ackerman and Admiral James Stavridis
Speaker of the House, Representative Nancy Pelosi, recently led a delegation of US politicians to Taiwan. China, which views Taiwan as a rebel province in need of forcible reunification, lost its collective s***. 

China issued many poorly worded ridiculous sounding threats (that I must assume sounded more menacing in Mandarin instead of the bad Bond movie villain speak that the English translations invoked) against Representative Pelosi in particular and the US in general. 

One official government Chinese paper (not that the Chinese have independent media) suggested that China should shoot down Pelosi's flight. 

When Pelosi completed her trip the Chinese threw a more dangerous temper tantrum, putting in a near blockade of Taiwan and holding multiple days of live fire exercises that involved lobbing missiles over Taiwan and into Japanese territorial waters.

China also reduced communications with the US, sanctioned Pelosi and her associates, and issued ominous statements about how upset they were and that real soon people (read the US) would regret messing with them. 

Officer Brooks and Angel Guice

I am not overly fond of police officers. Some percentage are just not very nice people, whether they are being rude and officious, enforcing laws differently depending on race, or using unnecessary force simply because they felt like humiliating, hurting, or killing someone--often African-American. 
Obviously there are also many decent officers who do their job. 

Unless an officer's request is obviously unlawful and/or you are ready to throw down, I would advise most people to use the courts to battle a police officer they believe is wrong.

Recently an Atlanta police officer stopped the actress Angel Guice and her male companion for being in a park after hours. I thought a warning was sufficient. However, the police officer chose to issue the couple tickets. In Georgia, you are apparently required to sign a ticket. The man signed his ticket. Ms. Guice refused to sign hers.

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Movie Reviews: Firestarter (2022)

Firestarter (2022)
directed by Keith Thomas

This is a remake of the 1984 movie Firestarter which was in turn based on the 1980 Stephen King novel. It has the updated special effects and gender/race switched characters common today. Firestarter's weakness is that the creators pandered to fans of the modern anti-hero (anti-heroine) character for whom morality is far less important than action, winning, and being a "bada$$". 

In HBO's Game of Thrones this tendency led people to cheer Daenerys Targaryen, a woman who wasn't a feminist avenger but a budding tyrant who saw her caprice as the only valid law. 

Daenerys' female identity immunized her to almost all criticism so even today some fans can't reconcile the casually murderous dragonlady with their fantasy of girl power. 

Like GRRM, King has written some downer endings and antihero protagonists, but the Firestarter novel lacked those. This film dramatically changed King's ending along with some major character motivations.

Saturday, August 6, 2022

Movie Reviews: Wicked Woman

Wicked Woman
directed by Russell Rouse

This is a 1953 B-Movie that is somewhere between film noir and seedy crime drama. At seventy-seven minutes, Wicked Woman is a fast moving short film without deep character dives and long exposition. You will recognize the characters from other movies but more importantly from real life. Life is full of people for whom things didn't quite work out as planned. 

Sometimes even successful people learn that they are missing other important facets of life. So depending on how you view this, you may find the characters underdeveloped or as I did, reminders of people I've known or otherwise encountered through life.

The film has a realistic appreciation of the motivations of certain men and women and how both genders seek advantages. I was surprised at the film's sexual frankness and its occasional nods to the supposed unfairness of gender roles, here voiced by a wife who sees herself as a martyr, though she might be just as big of a jerk as everyone else.

Music Reviews: Debra Devi: Jamification Station Volume 1

Debra Devi
Jamification Station Volume 1
Decades ago I used to agree with some classical or jazz musical snobs (critics and musicians) that live performances without any overdubs were the "real" measure of talent because after all as everyone knew, overdubs were only used to show off unnecessarily or fix mistakes. If you really were about your business you would bring it live. 

This was of course bulls***!  
Any talented musician, composer, or performer will make you recognize his or her skill regardless of the tools or environment that he or she uses. However I do enjoy listening to live music. There's still something special to me about hearing musicians perform in real time with no net.

With the onset of the Covid Pandemic the singer and musician Debra Devi wasn't as able to perform live at concerts as she had previously. Undeterred, she and her band created a number of weekly livestream concerts, some of which Devi recently produced and released as the EP Jamification Station Volume 1. No overdubs, no retakes-what you hear is how it was.

Movie Reviews: The Satanic Rites Of Dracula

The Satanic Rites Of Dracula
directed by Alan Gibson

This movie is a sequel to the oft unintentionally hilarious Dracula AD 1972, which imagined a Dracula transported to the London of the eponymous year, surrounded by swinging mods and hippies. Dracula AD 1972 tried and horribly failed to update the Dracula story for a contemporary audience. On the other hand Hammer's standards by then had relaxed enough to include a truly tremendous amount of cleavage, which was probably the movie's only redeeming feature for those who appreciate such things. 

Probably the film's biggest problem, besides the bad acting, derivative soundtrack, and inadvertent humor was that Dracula was still restricted to Gothic settings inside the movie. So it felt as if Dracula AD 1972 were really two movies spliced together, and not in a good way.

The Satanic Rites of Dracula, though a sequel, imagines a very different England (and London) than the previous movie. Here, everything is gray, lifeless, and somber instead of bright and musical. The people doing stupid short sighted things are not callow youths looking for excitement but rather some of England's most important politicians and businessmen.

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Movie Reviews: Dracula, Prince of Darkness

Dracula, Prince of Darkness
directed by Terence Fisher

This sixties Hammer film was a direct sequel to Hammer's initial Dracula film though there had been a Dracula film before this one that actually didn't have the titular character included. Although this film was made in 1966 it was still very much of a piece with Hammer's more sedate fifties gothic movies. There wasn't much cleavage (actually one of the lead actresses was famous for always refusing to show much flesh on camera) or any nudity. 

By the standards of today and even the standards of what Hammer would permit in just five years or so there wasn't even that much violence. Christopher Lee, who played the eponymous villain, was allegedly already starting to lose interest in the character and supposedly refused to say any of the dialogue written. The director and writer disputed Lee's assertion, saying that no dialogue had been written for Dracula anyway.

The special effects were minimal, being limited to fangs, contact lenses, and a vampire being brought back from Hell. Still, although by today's standards this film would be rated a mild PG at worst, it still managed to be scary through judicious use of lighting, anticipation, music, quiet, space and settings.

Friday, July 29, 2022

Movie Reviews: The Irishman

The Irishman
directed by Martin Scorsese

Although the director Martin Scorsese has directed and created a wide variety of films (twenty five fictional films and almost as many documentaries), he's probably best known for many entertaining and provoking movies depicting Mafia life. Arguably, Scorsese has created a Mafia themed film tetralogy with the movies Mean Streets, Goodfellas, Casino, and The Irishman

The Irishman came out a few years ago. For whatever reason I only recently watched it. It's not Scorsese's best film but it might be one of his most moral and thoughtful. It should be Scorsese's Mafia cycle denouement. Scorsese's other Mafia films are fire, with dangerous hotheads and sudden eruptions of lust or violence.

The Irishman is the polar opposite. It's ice. Most characters are understated, quiet, and unemotional. People make such oblique threats that the viewer may be unaware that someone's life or wellbeing is in grave danger. 

Movie Reviews: Detroit 9000

Detroit 9000
directed by Arthur Marks

This is an early seventies film noir that was masquerading as a blaxploitation film that was masquerading as a cop buddy film. It had a lot in common with Across 110th  Street. The film was unusual because not only was it set in Detroit, it also was shot in Detroit. 

Often filmmakers then and now use Cleveland or Toronto as stand-ins for Detroit. I hate that. So I enjoyed watching this movie and recognizing so many buildings and areas. Sacred Heart Seminary, which was just down the street from my childhood home, has an brief appearance.

Obviously many buildings from 1973 Detroit no longer exist in 2022 but there are some left. People don't realize it but Detroit had (and still has) many beautiful buildings and homes in a variety of architectural styles, including but not limited to Baroque, neo-Gothic, Romanesque, Art Deco, Victorian, and Art-Moderne. There's a glory, majesty, and beauty to these older buildings. 

Movie Reviews: Primal Fear

Primal Fear
directed by Gregory Hoblit

This is an entertaining older (1996) legal thriller/noir murder mystery that has a number of twists, some of which were immediately apparent, others of which were not. 

Watching it you might say that many of the seven deadly sins (Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy, and Pride) drove the characters and situations described. 

Primal Fear was also actor Edward Norton's debut. Norton held his own against more experienced actors. I thought Norton was probably a few years too old to be 100% believable in his role as an altar boy but there are different customs on this.

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Movie Reviews: The Las Vegas Story

The Las Vegas Story
directed by Robert Stevenson

This movie starred Jane Russell in a dramatic role which still featured her most famous assets. I hadn't seen many of Russell's movies. I mostly remembered Russell from when I was a child and saw her end of career commercials where she was hawking underwear allegedly specifically designed for busty women.  

This was long before "full-figured" had become a polite euphemism for overweight or morbidly obese. Russell's heyday was in the 40s and 50s. Jane Russell was known during her time at the top for her feminine curves, not necessarily her acting skills. 

This rep was a little unfair as Russell rarely was afforded the opportunity to do too much drama. Anyhow Russell got her chance here though her role was limited to lip curls, raised eyebrows, and snarky quips. 

Saturday, July 16, 2022

Corion Evans Saves Three Girls and Police Officer From Drowning

You don't need superpowers to be a superhero. You just must be willing to help others, even if it means putting yourself in danger.

A Mississippi teen received a commendation Tuesday night for his heroic efforts in helping to save three teenage girls who crashed into a river and a responding police officer from drowning over the weekend.

Corion Evans, 16, jumped into the Pascagoula River in Moss Point around 2:30 a.m. Sunday after he witnessed a car drive off the I-10 boat launch, the Moss Point Police Department said in a press release Wednesday.

The teen driver of the vehicle told police that she was following her GPS and didn’t realize she was heading toward the water. 

After crashing into the river, the vehicle floated about 20 feet and began to sink. The three teen girls escaped to the roof of the sinking vehicle. Evans was already in the water helping when Officer Garry Mercer arrived at the scene and swam to the vehicle, according to police. Mercer said he was helping one of the victims to shore when she began to panic and caused him to go under and swallow some water. Evans helped safely bring Mercer and the teen victim to shore.

He ran downhill toward the water as fast as he could.
“I just seen the car in the water, then just seen them in the water saying ‘help.’ So I just took my shirt off, took my shoes off and threw my phone and I jumped in the water,” Evans said.

Undeterred by the dark water, Evans headed straight into the river. Later, he learned, alligators live in the river and its bayous. “I was scared, but I just focused on keeping everybody calm,” he said. He went on to save all three women in the car and a police officer who responded to the scen
Everyone was fortunate that Evans was on the scene and ready to assist.