Monday, October 13, 2014

The Walking Dead: Season 5, Episode 1 - "No Sanctuary"

I'm not going to do a full-fledged review here because it would be impossible to do so without killing you guys with spoilers, but let's just say that this premiere really tied off a lot of plot lines that were set in motion last year.  Not only that, but the payoffs were delivered in style.  We saw things looking as bad as they possibly could, then we saw a lot of ass-kicking, and finally things got nice and tender in a conclusion that probably had most everyone who follows the show reaching for their Kleenex.  And it was all good.  Sometimes the show falls flat when it's time to deliver a killer action scene, sometimes the gore has looked a bit cheesy in recent seasons, and they've frequently bungled emotional payoffs, but that was never the case with "No Sanctuary."  The tension was incredible, the action was well-choreographed and sufficiently bloody, the gore was impressive, and the heartstring-plucking we were served up this time out was probably the best hearstring-plucking we've seen on the show.
Honestly, I think I'm in love again.  I thought the first two seasons of the show really elevated the material.  I was seriously stoked when they moved toward the prison storyline, which is my favorite arc from the comics to date, and unfortunately seasons three and four left me feeling a little empty deep down inside.  With the onset of season five, AMC has once again elevated the source material, and for the first time since Rick killed his best friend (who was probably the best thing about the show in some strange, twisted way), I am once again fully invested in the television show.  So, yeah, "No Sanctuary" was everything we were hoping for.  If you're a fan and you haven't seen it yet, avoid shit like this.  I'm probably the only person who is going to say much about that premiere without spoiling the whole thing.  I've probably said too much, but it was so awesome that I know many reviewers are going to lay all the cards on the table, face-up, and I assure you that you would rather see it for yourself.

It was grand, it was epic--it was one hell of a premiere.  The Walking Dead is back in a big way, and I'm hoping they can keep things rolling. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Raw Meat (1973)

 I had been meaning to watch this one for a while.  I bought it last year with every intention of watching it somewhere around Halloween, but I fell behind on my horror movie viewing during the wicked season and Raw Meat dipped beneath my radar.  Anyway, I was in the mood for something gruesome this weekend, so I finally sat down to scope this 70s oddity out.  Was it any good?   It was.  It was also pretty damn disgusting, but it was definitely a quality film.

Equal parts repulsive, suspenseful, and comical, Raw Meat concerns a couple (David Ladd and Sharon Gurney) who find themselves drawn into a sinister web of murder and terror after a strange encounter in a subway station.  They turn to Donald Pleasence as Inspector Calhoun for help, and he takes the case very seriously--while mocking everyone in sight, be they friend or foe.  Pleasence was the best thing about the picture, eagerly gobbling up the scenery and taking his role to such extremes that his efforts here make his work as Loomis in the Halloween series seem positively tame.  In particular, I found the scene where he and his second-in-command get positively smashed at a local bar to be an absolute riot.  This was a welcome distraction, as neither  of our leads--Ladd or Gurney--is ever half as interesting as the zany 70s clothes that they sport throughout the movie.

The direction comes courtesy of Gary Sherman, who is also responsible for the unforgettable cult classic Vice Squad.  His work here, on this earlier venture, is more leisurely and also a bit more precise.  One gratuitous tracking shot that lovingly explores all the corpses in various stages of decay that litter our bad guy's lair is perfectly smooth, incredibly vivid, and seems to go on forever.  This utterly gross and entirely masterful display of prowess proves that a classical approach can yield results that are just as disgusting as unhinged gore maestro Lucio Fulci's most depraved work.  Sherman's pacing here is also spot-on, and there's definitely one major scare in the picture that should have anyone with a pulse jumping out of their seat.  The director also gets some serious credit for crafting a picture that feels very, very British despite the fact that he's an American.  Speaking of which, I recommend turning on the subtitles.  The accents are so thick, and some of Pleasence's best bits are delivered with such ferocity, that much of the dialogue will be all but indecipherable otherwise. 

The score by Wil Malone and Jeremy Rose was perfect for this grim vessel, a subdued ode to doom with a sinister electronic vibe that somehow meshed perfectly with the dank and decrepit undergound setting.  The subways and the various tunnels and stations that appear throughout Raw Meat were used to great effect, giving the picture a potent atmosphere.  The make-up was thoroughly convincing and will surely turn your stomach at several key points.  All the necessary components were in place and everyone hit their marks; the only qualms I could offer up would pertain to the gore and the downer vibe, but that should be par for the course for a horror film about cannibalism beneath the streets of London.  Raw Meat was revolting, it was creepy, and it wisely put Donald Pleasence on center stage with a meaty part to devour.  Despite the disgusting nature of the movie and the downtrodden atmosphere, Pleasence made me laugh repeatedly, and I have to say that I enjoyed Raw Meat.

A very British horror flick directed by an American,
Raw Meat is known as Death Line overseas.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Philm - Fire from the Evening Sun

As many of you know, Dave Lombardo is no longer drumming for the metal juggernaut that is Slayer.  Of course, that doesn’t mean that he’s retired.  He’s currently gearing up for the first Fantomas show since 2009 alongside Mike Patton, Buzz Osborne, and Trevor Dunn, and yesterday Philm released their second album, Fire from the Evening Sun

I greatly enjoyed the first album (Harmonic) from this trio consisting of Gary Nestler (Civil Defiance) on vocals and guitar, Pancho Tomaselli (War) on bass, and the godfather of double-bass himself on drums.  However, this second effort represents a tremendous upgrade.  The charged vibe that permeated so many of the heavier efforts on their debut recording is still present, but the space and exploration that defined the stranger outings has been minimalized.  The end result is a leaner and more aggressive recording, yet enough of the avant-garde approach remains to separate it from the pack.

It’s a bit difficult to classify this group.  The strangest among us will surely find their efforts a bit restrained, while their sound will be far too innovative for the status quo.  Yet those who can respect something that is equal parts heavy and different will be entranced by Philm’s quixotic sound.  There are an abundance of dizzying sequences when the band seems to be letting off steam, layering Nestler’s furious vocals amid intricate riffs, a pounding bass line, and thunderous drumming courtesy of Lombardo.  There are also charged sequences that simmer without boiling over, and all of these powerful bits are interwoven with gentle and melodic moments that display the band’s finesse and depth.  It’s hard to find another band to compare these guys to—Filter comes to mind, but they were never this heavy or creative and they got softer and more mundane as time wore on.  That’s okay, because being unique is cool.  Being unique and heavy is even cooler.  Bonus points: being unique and heavy with Dave Lombard on drums is fucking awesome. 
 If you dig this kind of stuff and you’re unfamiliar with Philm, you need to check them out, and I highly recommend both of their albums.  Having said that, I feel the need to repeat myself: Harmonic was really cool, but Fire from the Evening Sun positively burns. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Approaching the Finish Line

Sorry I've been neglecting the blog, good people.  I try, but I'm currently in the home stretch with a new book and it's been hard for me to step away.  I'll keep you posted on the new book and I'll be sure to generate more content for the Land of Way as I'm able to.


Monday, September 15, 2014

Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King

It's not often that King writes a straight up thriller, but like everything else, it's something that he excels at.  Mr. Mercedes is a nifty ride with a nice mix of intriguing characters, startling violence, and mystery, and it all comes together in a satisfying climax.  Often, when King offers up such a book, it's a little darker than most similar offerings.  While there are some gruesome bits and some explicit material in Mr. Mercedes, I thought it was gentler than much of King's work.  Having said that, it still has bite, and anyone who picks it up will be turning pages in a frenzy as they get closer and closer to the finale. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Fantasy Football

This weekend it's time for my fantasy football draft, and I'm pretty stoked.  I've been running a league I call the FFFL (Fantasy Football Fanatics League) for 14 years now and it's always a joy to see everyone and get the machinery up and running again.  We're holding our draft at a local pizzeria this weekend, so it's time to really dig in and get ready for the season.  We're going to have 14 members in our league this year, and we're doing some neat things with flex positions on our rosters to allow for a variety of line-ups. 

Playing fantasy football generally means that every game holds weight, not just those contests that your favorite team is playing in.  It takes NFL fandom to a whole new level.  It's also a nice social activity--my wife and my father are also members of my league, to include a number of friends, some of whom I probably would have lost contact with over the years if not for this silly game we take so seriously.  If you're a fan of football and you haven't tried it yet, I highly recommend it.  We use ESPN's website to run our league, but there are a number of options out there.

I just want to know where I'm picking and get this thing rolling--football season is upon us, peeps. Long live fantasy football and the NFL!

Oh, and one last thing: Go Hawks!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

What I'm Working On Now: Baller

I'm currently putting the finishing touches on a novel called Baller.  When I'm done, I'm sending it to Andrew Necci, my trusted editor, and my dear friend Mal Rorrer will dream up a cover.  It's exciting to be at this stage of the game with another project, and this represents another cross-genre yarn, something I'm growing rather fond of.   

Baller is essentially my take on an Agatha Christie mystery, though the end result is (of course) something entirely different.  The protagonists are a basketball player named Luke Wilson and a porn star who calls himself Devil Wood.  Luke is currently serving a suspension, and he has invited his old friend to join him at a private party his former agent is hosting.  The party is set at WinterCrest, a quaint resort in the mountains.  A snowstorm keeps many on the guest list from attending, and those who arrive find themselves snowed in.  Still, it's a beautiful place, and things are going well right up until the host gets murdered.

At this point, our basketball player and porn star have made the acquaintance of Vincent Sanchez, a fearless detective who is also on the guest list.  In fact, they are seated together when the murder takes place.  Vincent looks to Luke and Devil for help and they quickly find themselves swept up in a sinister plot that will become a nightmare for all involved, bringing a frenzy of mayhem and death to WinterCrest.  Can these unlikely heroes survive a number of cold and calculated attacks and uncover the killer's identity before it is too late?  Who is the savage predator at work?  Why is this lunatic preying on the guests stranded at WinterCrest?   

Baller is equal parts mystery, thriller, comedy, and it also has a potent dose of horror in the mix.  I've gone from cross-pollinating horror and comedy or suspense and comedy to birthing a four-headed monster.  The book is surely my most entertaining offering yet, and my revisions are going well.  It isn't often that I speak about my work until I'm finished, but I'm close enough to dish out some details in this case--the first draft is complete--and I wanted you to know what I've been doing when I haven't been writing for RVA or working on movie stuff.  I do my best to share those things with you and I figured now was the time to tell you a little about Baller.  I think the book is hilarious and I don't feel that the comedy is in any way negating the impact of the other genres that it toys with.   It will be interesting to see what you guys think when it is released.  It is very possible that we'll see it in print before the year draws to a close.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Male-Bonding Trailer

Male-Bonding was shot in 2004.  I think it was 2004.  Maybe it was 2003.  It was a long time ago, and bringing this particular project to fruition has been quite an adventure.  The short was nearly completed mere months after being shot, yet a tragic twist of fate (or human error, maybe that's a better description) rendered the movie and the footage lost for ages.  Years, anyway.  Then the footage was located just in time to be lost again.  True story.  Finally, the footage was found, and (drum roll, please) assembled.  It was like the making of Apocalypse Now, only far less significant and dramatic. 

So, here's the Male-Bonding Trailer.  Scope it out, share your thoughts, and I'll keep you posted on this twisted little jolt of black humor. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Expendables 3

I reviewed The Expendables 3 for RVA Magazine yesterday.  Do scope it out.  It appears the critics are being rather hard on it (imagine that) and the box office numbers aren't dazzling anyone, but I gave it a good review.  Why wouldn't I?  I enjoyed the hell out of it.  I'm a big fan of the series thus far and I hope the gang keeps on rocking.  Anyway, enjoy the review.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Top 5 Mel Gibsons Movies

RVA Magazine has posted my Top 5 Mel Gibson Movies as we continue to count down the days until The Expendables 3 hits theaters.  Scope it out and share your thoughts on the man Barney Ross and company will be looking to gun down this weekend.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Robin Williams

Like many, I'm saddened by the loss of the immense talent who went by the name of Robin Williams.  Yesterday, Williams passed away at the age of 63.  When RVA Magazine reached out and asked me to do a Top 5 in memory of this comedic genius who had acting chops like Daniel Day-Lewis, I readily agreed.  It was an emotional experience to say the least; I'm not sure that I truly realized just how much I treasured Robin and his work until I sat down to write the story.  I've grown up with this man's art and I will most certainly remember him fondly. 

Here's my Top 5 Robin Williams Movies for those of you who are also experiencing some feels as we ponder his death.  My hope is that we can shift our focus to his work and all the joy he delivered to the world, for I'm pretty sure that's what he would want.  He lived to entertain and he was a master of his craft--therefore, even in death, he will provoke laughter and tears with his delirious comedy and his tremendous acting.  There will never be another like him, no one will argue that.

Yes, Robin Williams will be sorely missed, but his legacy lives on.  Let us celebrate him even as we mourn his departure.  

Monday, August 11, 2014

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Top 5 Mel Gibson Movies in the Works!

So, I'm not going anywhere near any of the controversy.  Honestly, I feel like everyone is entitled to a bad moment or two and these are fun pieces about movies.  Currently, I am working on a Top 5 Mel Gibson Movies piece for the good people over at RVA Magazine to follow up my Top 5 Schwarzenegger Movies piece they already posted this week.  We're doing these as a countdown to the release of The Expendables 3, which I'll also be reviewing for them upon release. 

With Mel, picking the #1 movie on that list is a true no-brainer, but after that, there are no easy calls.  Your suggestions are welcome, and I'll let you know when the piece is posted.


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Top 5 Schwarzenegger Movies c/o RVA Magazine is Up!

You can check out My Top 5 Schwarzenegger Movies piece for RVA Magazine here.  I had a lot of fun with this one as the big dude's work is near and dear to my heart.  Please scope it out and I would love it if you were to share your thoughts--everybody loves Arnold!

Whatever Happened to David Banner?

In this day and age, seeing comic book characters come to life in movies or television shows has become rather old hat.  It’s probably difficult for the youth of today to understand that for those of us who were children of the 80s it was rare to see one of our heroes from the funny books taking part in a film or a television broadcast aside from the cartoons we so treasured.  Yes, there were reruns of Adam West’s Batman, an absurd chapter in that character’s legacy that I still treasure, and sometimes Spider-Man made a guest appearance on The Electric Company, but what else was there?  I would like to forget Reb Brown’s Captain America, but that lame take on the character seemed like a masterpiece in comparison to Nicholas Hammond’s Spider-Man.  Both of those efforts aired sporadically, so sporadically in fact that many of my peers thought I was lying about the existence of both ill-advised ventures.  For the purpose of this argument I’m giving Wonder Woman a pass because Lynda Carter was nice to look at no matter how bad that show was, and I don’t know if you could make a good program with invisible planes and lassos of truth with modern effects.  For the most part, in the late 70s and early 80s the industry simply wasn’t prepared to utilize comic book characters in entertaining and competent presentations.
  That changed with Kenneth Johnson’s development of The Incredible Hulk for CBS in 1977.  Like many, I would race to the television set when I heard that show’s opening theme throughout its five season run, and I would watch every episode from start to finish even if I had already seen it ten times.  Like many, I was continually surprised that the makers of this smash hit were able to interest me in David Banner (Johnson didn’t like the fact that Stan Lee liked characters whose first and last names begin with the same letter) and his unique exploits to such an extent that it didn’t matter if the Hulk only showed up for a few minutes at a time to toss stuntman around and roar and flex in slow-motion.  It also didn’t matter that the show utilized Lou Ferrigno sprinkled with green dust and sporting a lousy wig as the Hulk, because as primitive as that approach may have been, the end result was rather admirable.
I tuned in week in and week out to watch David’s woeful journey through a television landscape that could best be described as TV America, a land populated by engaging characters in quaint little communities where it was never hard for David to find work or conflict.  Each new town presented our hero with another nice job and several honest people to call friends, and each time he grew comfortable just in time for all hell to break loose, forcing him to become the Hulk and save the day. 
This endless cycle always led to the arrival of David’s nemesis, tabloid journalist Jack McGee, expertly played by Jack Colvin, who would show up, snoop around, and force our lonesome hero to move on after sacrificing his brief stint of peace for the good of those who showed him kindness.  It was heartbreaking even without that sad music, and if you liked the show even half as much as I did, you can probably hear it playing right now.  It’s the sound of leaving, the sound of turning your back on what you want because you know it’s the right thing to do.  It’s the sound of nobility giving way to tragedy.
Yes, I own the box set with every episode of this landmark series.  Yes, I still watch it and enjoy it, and my children like it almost as much as I do, so it still has some resonance even in this day and age.  Since I love the show so much, it’s no wonder I found myself thinking about David Banner earlier today.  In fact, I found myself wondering what exactly happened to that hero from my youth, the one legitimate success that emerged from the efforts to televise the exploits of a superhero for comic fans of a bygone era.  David was a good guy, a hell of a man really, and the fact that he was played by a thespian like Bill Bixby never hurt matters.  It was easy to like Bill, and he made it even easier to know and love David Banner.  With that in mind, here are a few things I hope he found along the way:

A good woman.  The guy definitely deserved it.  I know he encountered several good women along the way, but I’m hoping he met one he was able to stay with at some point, and if not, I’m hoping he met one who was able to come along for the journey.  I know this would be dangerous in some ways, but if I was traveling with David I would have been more worried about the shit he gets into than that green-skinned goliath that he transforms into when he’s angry.  Though that behemoth will roar and toss bad guys around with the very best of them, he never hurt anyone who doesn’t deserve it.  I’ve seen this version of the Hulk handle baby birds without incident, for Christ’s sake.

A good job that wasn’t at the center of some sinsister scheme.  Let’s face it, David was the kind of employee every boss dreams about.  He was willing to take on entry level work or dive head-first into mammoth projects, and he had to have the best resume of all time.  Imagine all the prestigious institutes and projects listed among his job credits, and then think about all the menial labor and customer service gigs you would have found there as well.  This guy was a genius with humility who came cheap, and he showed time and time again that if something bad happened at his workplace he would not hesitate to save the day.  Who wouldn’t hire a guy like that?  However, I should point out that if he was required to save the day at some point, well, then it would probably be time to rebuild once the dust settled.  And the company would have to replace David, who probably wasn’t all that big on two-week notices.  Regardless, the guy deserved a nice job. 

A cure.  He worked hard enough for it, and every time his results ended in failure if they weren’t destroyed while he was in the process of saving the day.  Plus, he was kind of obsessed about it.  Edward Norton was content to do crazy breathing exercises so that he could control his anger, but Bixby needed closure.  The television version of the character needed a cure to put the chaos and strife behind him so that he could settle down and lead a normal life.  I hope he figured it out at some point. 
Though this is the third item on my list, it would probably be helpful if David got his cure before he met the good woman and found the good job that wasn’t at the center of some sinister scheme.  Maybe the guy got on a roll at some point and the hits never stopped coming.  Again, he deserved it.

A story in the news about Jack McGee suffering a terrible fate.  David probably wouldn’t have wished for this, but fans of the show understand my feelings here.  This guy made us hate the paparazzi before the paparazzi even existed.  Seriously, how the hell did the bad guy on a television show become a poster child for the media as it exists today?  Jack McGee introduced us to sensationalism and invasive reporting without conscience, and I have a hard time sleeping thinking that he might still be dogging David on his trek across TV America.  Oh, and I don’t like to think David reading about Jack McGee dying in his sleep because of smoke inhalation either, I’m hoping that the bastard got it worse than that.  Like maybe he was doing a story on bees and he got stung to death by thousands of angry hornets, or maybe he was doing an expose on the wrong pawn shop and someone decided it was time to get the gimp.  I’m sorry if this seems harsh, but trust me: he deserved it. 

A ride.  Walking is good for you, and I understand this, but that dude’s feet were definitely in need of a break.  He was walking along the side of the road for far too long.  I get the feeling he wouldn’t have cared if it was a showpiece or not so long as it got him from point A to point B, but I hope he had a nice stereo.  God knows he should have had something better to listen to whenever he was leaving town.
That haunting melody is almost enough to make a grown man cry.

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

It's hard to fathom precisely what it is that makes The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly so compelling.  Surely it's a combination of many things, but is there one essential, one key to the picture's timeless success?  And if so, what would it be?  It is Leone's majesty?  The director's shot composition and pacing are damn near perfect, creating a mood and an atmosphere that is equal parts stark realism and surreal mythology.  Is it Morricone's incredible score?  Surely the music plays a critical role in the operatic nature of the piece, transforming the action playing out so leisurely before us into drama of the highest order.  Or is it that magnificent cast?  Both Eastwood and his effortless cool and Van Cleef and his deathly stare are frequently overshadowed by Wallach's fire and gusto.  Yet these three performances are interwoven to such an extent that (as the title suggests) there is no way to weigh them individually, for none of these powerful figures could be drawn so neatly without the presence of his peers in this celebrated classic.

No, it can't be that one of these ingredients rules the recipe, for what this picture represents is surely a stew, expertly seasoned, never failing to entertain not by virtue of a key component but rather because everything comes together in perfect harmony.  Some classics can't help but age; maybe they were stellar examples of quality films for their era, or perhaps some were vastly overrated to begin with.  Some, however, are cut from such a different cloth and executed to such perfection that they retain all of their glory and wonder throughout the ages.  Nearly fifty years after it revolutionized the western genre, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly is still fresh and damn near hypnotic, drawing us in and mesmerizing us with a winding tale that never ceases to delight.  That it manages do so can't be explained simply with a nod to Leone, Morricone, or any of the gifted actors who worked wonders with a script that would have fallen flat had one of them lacked the required charisma.  Leone excels, as always, Morricone gives the picture wings, and Eastwood, Van Cleef, and Wallach shine; as a result, there can be no doubt that The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly will forever remain perhaps the finest example of what a western can aspire to be.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Tackling Schwarzenegger

I'm putting together a fresh Top 5 for my good friends over at RVA Magazine, and this time I'll be sizing up Arnold Schwarzenegger's movies.  I'm truly surprised I haven't done this one before, and it promises to be difficult.  I know what the top two are, but I'm not sure about the order, and beyond that it's just going to be brutal.  I love Arnold and I've grown up watching his movies.  I'm super-stoked to see he and Sly join forces once again in The Expendables 3, a picture I'll also be reviewing for RVA Magazine when it opens in a couple of weeks.  Few things about the current state of cinema thrill me as much as seeing the big guns from my childhood working together like they have been as of late.  There are also some other Top 5s that may figure into this equation being discussed.  Maybe Mel, maybe tough-guy ensemble pictures.  Maybe both, who knows?  Anyway, I'll share links to the articles here and keep you posted.

In other words, . . . I'll be back.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


I fell in love with Slayer in the 90s, so Seasons in the Abyss was my favorite album until God Hates Us All unleashed hell in 2001.  Anyway, I've always favored the newer stuff, and while I never disliked the older stuff, I didn't really spend an awful lot of time with it either.  Until recently.  I'm working on a new horror novel and I've been listening to a lot of Slayer while I work.  For whatever reason, it started with Hell Awaits, which I had never really listened to at all, leading to a greater appreciation of Reign in Blood.  Finally, it has brought me to South of Heaven, and I finally see what all the fuss is about.  I've always thought that South of Heaven was good, but I wasn't as keen on it as many of the band's fans are.  I'm still probably going to have to choose between Seasons in the Abyss and God Hates Us All when it's time to pick my favorite, but whereas I didn't fully grasp the South of Heaven camp's argument until recently, I totally get it it now. 

Parting shot: if you didn't already know this, when it comes to heavy metal there is Slayer and then there's everybody else.  That's just the way it is.  You don't have to like it, but it's indisputable.  Slayer is to metal what the Beatles were to classic rock.  True story.

O.K. by Paul West

I just finished O.K. by Paul West, labelled an account of "the corral, the Earps, and Doc Holliday," and in truth it is all of those things, though the emphasis here clearly rests upon the latter.  This is Doc's story, told from Doc's point of view, and it centers on a complex and vastly misunderstood man's efforts to define himself.  Is he a dentist, a gentleman, a gambler, a gunslinger, or an agent of the law?  Is he all of the above?  In West's unique take on the man, no one knows, least of all Doc--at least the Doc whose mind West attempts to crawl inside.  Of course, whether or not his take on the notorious figure is accurate or not is debatable, but there is a sense that the author may have latched onto something authentic.  I found his efforts to flesh out this iconic gunmen to be both moving and inspiring, and I applaud his work here.

The prose is poetic and roams throughout the book, carrying us through the details of Doc's life, savoring some of his most memorable moments while treating others like minor details (or essentially ignoring them) in lieu of further detailing Doc's raging eternal debate.  It's rich stuff; Doc questions religion, loyalty, integrity, sex, and death, all in great detail, and West is happy to take us into the furthest reaches of a quizzical killer's mind as these themes are explored. 

West has done his homework, yet there are inaccuracies here, and honestly I don't think that a wholly accurate representation of the man was nearly as intriguing to the author as a chance to unravel the mysteries of Holliday's mind.  At best, this endeavor largely consists of guesswork, and as such, those looking for a scholarly take on the material will not be pleased.  Additionally, the very approach will put many off.  I must confess that I loathed West's work initially, though his writing soon wormed its way into my heart.  In the end, I enjoyed the book and would recommend it to those who can approach the tale with an open mind.  In the final two pages alone, I was inspired to laugh out loud before West nearly brought me to tears.

Bonus points: two of my favorite lines, both of which I decided to tweet, were contained within the same paragraph.

"I am climbing socially, I guess, downward.  From dentist to assassin.  Not bad."

"Ike Clanton was always looking for everybody until he found them, and then he lost interest."

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Picking the Right Vodka

1) Go to the liquor store.  Moonshine can be purchased from random people on the street.  The same can not be said of Vodka.

2) I am not picky.  Buy some shit that costs as much as a camping trip if you like, I'm going to spend $20 or less.  More like $13, honestly.

3) The vodka needs to be either 100 proof or 80 proof.  Truthfully, 80 proof is like settling for a field goal.  70 proof is a punt, anything less than that is a turnover.

4) The vodka needs to be on sale.  I repeat: I am not picky.  Having said that, I prefer something in a glass bottle and there will be some nifty sales.  If there are no sales, you are in the wrong liquor store.  Recalculate.

5) Avoid anything with any kind of flavor.  If there are fruits and berries on the bottle, it is not really vodka.  Vodka isn't supposed to taste like raspberries.  If you are looking for something that tastes like raspberries, I recommend that you start with raspberries.  Also: do not put any of your raspberries in my vodka.

6) Purchase vodka.  Go home.  Mix screwdriver.  Screwdriver should be composed of 3 parts orange juice and 2 parts vodka.  If you are working with a different recipe, you are making a Screwdriver Lite.  If that's the way you're living, you might as well throw some raspberries in the cup.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


I watched Sabotage last night and I enjoyed it as much as one can enjoy such a dark piece.  It wasn't your typical Schwarzenegger thrill ride, that's for sure.  This one was seriously grim at times; the good guys were seldom that good, though the bad guys were surely that bad.  It was fast-paced, complex, and it was centered by a solid performance from Arnold, who seemed to be summoning Clint Eastwood.  There was definitely a western vibe to the picture and there were enough twists and turns to keep the audience guessing.  Sabotage is a difficult watch in many ways, but it was highly-entertaining, with a game cast and a dark heart to go along with an abundance of violence and profanity. 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Raid 2

I finally got to sit down with The Raid 2 last night and I was totally floored.  I loved the first one, which was sort of a John Carpenter meets Bruce Lee extravaganza--lean, mean, and boosted by some of the best martial arts choreography I had ever seen.  I was looking for more of that from the sequel and that's what exactly I got, but I also got a whole lot more.  This movie had all the action and excitement I was hoping for, somehow upping the ante.  There were massive fights, stellar opponents, and a showstopping car chase that has to be seen to be believed.  Additionally, there was a storyline that seemed like The Departed by way of Tarantino.

Now, at 150 minutes, it is possible that the movie lingered a bit too long in certain spots.  I'm not really willing to say that there was anything extraneous inserted into the mix, because I loved the way the story unfolded and the style in which Gareth Evans presented all the intrigue and all the gory delights along the way.  I surely wouldn't want to trim those magnificent fight scenes, and yet I was a bit fatigued at times, so maybe there's such a thing as trying to squeeze too much awesome into a single movie. 

Having said that, if your biggest criticism of any movie is that the filmmakers may have inserted too much awesome into the proceedings, I guess that's not so bad after all.  Iko Uwais once again nailed it as Rama, proving that he has the skill and the charisma to be the next big martial arts star.  He may be light years away from the one and only Bruce Lee's physique and raw ability, but he is 100% badass and he doesn't play when it's time to throw down.  My father and I always marveled at the way Bruce would thoroughly dismantle his opposition--he had a mean streak in combat.  It was a stark contrast to other martial arts stars like Chuck Norris and Jackie Chan, who fought like, well, good guys.  When a villain came to blows with the master, he didn't just got knocked out, Bruce pulverized those bastards.  More so than anyone to hit the scene since, Uwais shares that mentality, physically dismantling his adversaries in gory fight scenes that are shot and choreographed to perfection.

Yet my favorite aspect of the picture may have been the return of Yayan Ruhian, the first Raid's villain, who was given an arc that made his character seem like a good guy of sorts in this sequel.  While his Prakoso and Rama never crossed paths this time out, he still delivered one of the picture's finest confrontations, and he was a joy to watch whenever he was on screen.  

I also have to call attention to Julie Estelle (Hammer Girl) and Veri Tru Yulisman (Baseball Man) for their unique roles and combat styles.  Their names make what they do self-explanatory, but they really do it with style.  They go toe-to-toe with Rama in one of the best fight scenes of all time, and the conclusion to this epic showdown is one of the most glorious and brutal things you'll ever see in an action movie.  Seriously, it's a home run.

The plot requires Rama to go undercover to bring down a criminal syndicate, and when I say dude goes undercover, I mean dude goes seriously, seriously undercover.  If your cover requires you to pull 2 years in the pen and break every law in the book once you get out, I think you're devoted to the cause and then some.  Rama is essentially off the grid as a policeman in The Raid 2, allowing him to do whatever is necessary to take down the bevy of crooked cops and various villains who are vying for power.  What really pulls all this together is the time that Evans devotes to the portions of the movie when someone isn't getting their ass kicked as well as the rich character development.  There are at least five bosses or underlings of some stature in the mix, to include those in charge and those like Arifin Putra (who has acting chops like Iko has karate chops) as Uco, for whom nothing matters save the bloodthirsty pursuit of power.  Evans is a gifted director, proving every bit as innovative and skilled at creating atmosphere and intrigue as the story unfolds as he is at showcasing brutality when the good guys and bad guys (or the bad guys and the other bad guys) square off. 

In closing, The Raid was a kickass action movie of the highest order.  The sequel delivers the goods on that front, and despite a lengthy running time that may wear you out, it also boasts a riveting storyline.  It is enhanced by a number of remarkable performances to go along with all the bone-crunching fight scenes and gruesome demises.  The Raid 2 is as gory as any horror movie, as exciting as any good kung-fu flick, and as gripping as any worthwhile crime story.  That's a tall order, and even if it does threaten to overstay its welcome, I have to say that this follow-up is a smashing success.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Just Another Day in the Life . . .

Sat up until 3:00 a.m. working on my new book and editing an old video project that I'm finally committed to bringing to life--it's a long story.  Anyway, I had a nice workflow going: I would tweak my video as needed and while I waited for the adjustments to render I would bring up Word and type like a madman.  I had a blast with it; I love editing, which I've always considered phase two of directing, and I'm really enjoying the new book that I'm working on.  Last night I wrote the first big bloody horror scene of the book, and those segments are always a lot of fun to work with. 

Then I got up this morning and made pancakes for the fam, and now it's time to do it all over again.  I think an artist is at their best when they're truly enjoying what they're doing.  I hope that's the case, anyway, because I had a great time yesterday and I'm looking forward to another day in the life today.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Seahawks Fever

Last night, my beloved Seahawks brought home two well-deserved ESPYs: one for the fiery Richard Sherman and one for the team itself.  Sherman taking home the Breakthrough Athlete award seemed like a no-brainer.  This dude has gone from being a guy scouts regarded as a potential back-up to a Super Bowl Champion who nabbed the cover of the upcoming edition of Madden.  His stellar play and his brash antics have made him a household name, hated by many and loved by the rest.  The club itself scoring Best Team honors was more of a surprise, though they did clobber an offense labelled the best of all time by many in the Super Bowl.  Also: it was a fan vote.  As you already know, the 12th Man is loud and proud.

It was nice to see these honors bestowed upon Seattle, a franchise that has labored in obscurity in the Pacific Northwest for much of its existence.  Upon catapulting themselves to the top of the charts with an epic beatdown of the Broncos in the Super Bowl, the hate has been overwhelming.  Look for any positive article about the team online and the comments sections will be overflowing with animosity directed toward #25 and the bandwagon fans. 

Yes, Sherm can be obnoxious, but I think the same thing every time I see some numbskull making a passionate case for why he's not the best cornerback in the league: if you're a professional athlete and there are multitudes of people expending lots of time and energy talking about why you're NOT the best at what you do, well, you're probably the best at what you do.  That's how it works.  His stats speak for themselves and he has been doing it for a few years now.  Quarterbacks have started to shy away from him, but his video game production has remained consistent.  The same could be said for his chippy demeanor and his bravado.

The bandwagon thing is equally silly; yes, every championship team in this day and age garners bandwagon fans, but people want to act like Seattle has never been known for having a rabid fanbase.  Wind the clock back 30 years and the Kingdome was known as one of the loudest stadiums in professional sports, and that's back when the team could only manage to occasionally flirt with anything other than mediocrity.  There were some downright painful years, to include wasting the immortal Cortez Kennedy on a team saddled with one of the most pathetic offenses ever to take the field.  Yet the fans were there, and there wer people like me cheering them on from the other side of the country.  Take the bandwagon noise and shove it.

Things have changed.  The fanbase was always there, but aside from Steve Largent and his glorious hands, there was little to celebrate.  Now Big Tez and Walter Jones have joined Steve in the Hall of Fame and the Super Bowl champions reside in the Pacific Northwest.  Last night, the champs ruled over the ESPYs and the stage is set for another run at greatness in 2014.  The team has a young roster filled with budding stars, many of whom have been inked to long-term deals.  We have a quarterback on the cusp of greatness, a beast at running back, a receiving corp that is anything but pedestrian, and a defense that made Peyton Manning look totally inept in the biggest game of his career.  It's a great time to be a 12 and it should remain that way for a while.

As Russell Wilson says at the end of every press conference or interview he participates in, "Go Hawks!"

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Melinda Ain't Playing

The fam enjoyed BBQ sandwiches for dinner tonight and I spiced mine up with a new hot sauce: Melinda's XXXXtra Reserve, a Habanero pepper sauce.  The verdict: it's a nice hot sauce.  It didn't blow my head off by any means, but it definitely brought a bit of heat to the table.  Most importantly, it had a really nice flavor to it.  I dig the hot and spicy stuff, but I'm always interested in a nice blend of heat and flavor.  This might be one of the better balancing acts that I've encountered.  For those who are also looking to liven a dish up without needlessly setting their taste buds on fire, I'm going to recommend this one. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Thor is a Woman and the Comic Industry's Love for Publicity Stunts

If you haven't heard yet, Thor is set to become a woman.  No, he's not getting a sex-change, though I imagine it's only a matter of time before Marvel or DC does something like that with one of their signature characters.  Someone else (someone with a vagina) is going to take the hammer and replace the Thor many of us know and love.  I suppose this makes perfect sense; the character has only thrilled millions upon millions of readers (and cinema patrons) since 1962.  This comes after recent reports that we're also going to see a new Captain America shortly, with the odds-on favorite to wear the shield being Falcon.  A female Thor is a definite, a black Captain America is likely.


Look, I don't care what color a comic book character is, nor do I care about the character's gender.  Yet as a Spider-Man fan, I can assure those of you who aren't keen on comics that shit like this is the medium's biggest flaw.  Spider-Man and Batman have probably suffered more than most in this regard, though Superman has also been a frequent victim of the industry's love affair with publicity stunts.  Sometimes it's just about shaking things up dramatically and sometimes I think they really do things just to piss fans off, knowing the ensuing uproar will make enough noise to translate into sales to curious parties who just want to know what all the fuss is about.  Give me another logical explanation for the the Clone Saga, perhaps the most wretched of all these affairs, or that "One More Day" nonsense--which seemed to be engineered solely for the purpose of taking a shot at doing something fans would loathe more than the Clone Saga.

Look, it sells, and I get that, and when you're as big as Marvel or DC, there will always be new readers--so who cares if you turn the old readers off?  Yet comic fans are loyal, spending entirely too much money on their hobby.  Believe me, I know what I'm talking about here.  We are passionate about comics and we have absurd hypothetical discussions about them on a regular basis.  If you don't believe me, ask a Batman fan how the caped crusader would fare in a fight against another comic book character.  Hell, ask them how he would fare in throwdown with God himself and they're going to tell you that with enough planning and the right strategy and equipment Bats would win.

I guess that's why I hate the publicity stunt nonsense so much.  It sells, it's good for business in that sense, and the effects are usually only temporary, but it's like a thumb in the eye to the fans who pay the company's bills.  Dude with a thousand Thor comics and a tattoo of Odin's favorite son on his bicep doesn't want his boy to get replaced by a girl.  Batman's biggest fan doesn't want to read about Bats getting his back snapped like a twig by some second-tier villain dressed like a luchador.  Superman fans don't want to attend his funeral after he gets killed by The Thing's cousin, and Spider-Man fans don't want to learn that the webhead is a clone or see everything they love about the character erased in a deal with the devil.  I'm sure it would be the same if it was the other way around.  Luke Cage passing on his powers to a white accountant named Stanley wouldn't go over all that well with Power Man fanboys, and I doubt She-Hulk readers want to see her replaced by yet another male Hulk.  Maybe a purple one this time.

Think about it: Stephen King could make a fortune if he announced that he was going to write a book where Roland, his beloved gunslinger, died in a car accident.  The publicity would be staggering and the outcry from the fans would only add fuel to the fire.  It would make money, but he wouldn't do that, not in a million years, not unless it happened organically while he was writing a book.  CBS isn't going to replace Pat Sajak with a black guy tomorrow just to get a bump in ratings.  Your favorite sports team isn't going to trade your favorite player tomorrow just to get a little buzz.  The View isn't going to swap Whoopi Goldberg out for Chris Rock next week for a few headlines.  Why?  That isn't how you treat your fanbase, that's why.  Yes, there's money to be made and publicity to be gained, at least in the short term, but there's something to be said for delivering a consistent product to your fanbase--a product that they support and encourage, no less.

I love comics.  The medium has a lot to offer and I treasure the way it requires such collaboration and puts so many different talents on display.  I just can't stand the industry's addiction to constantly shaking shit up just to shake shit up and sell a few more copies in the now.  99% of the time, that's all this boils down to.  Superman rose from the grave, Batman healed, Spider-Man isn't a clone*,and I bet we'll have both the Thor and the Captain America we know and love back shortly.  The issues that caused so much fuss when these sweeping changes were made will become dollar bin fodder and the casual readers who tuned in to see why the long-term fans weren't following their favorite characters anymore will have moved on to something else. 

Like I said before: Yawn.  Call me when it's over.  Also: I'll pass on the special debut issues for these developments, even if they have foil covers or come with 72 amazing variants.  Sometimes the variants are mere sketches.  Sometimes they are blank covers.  True story.  You know what?  I think we're pretty much finished here.

*I don't think he is, anyway.  The more Marvel tried to erase the Clone Saga, the more confusing it got.  I challenge anyone to explain it in a coherent paragraph.  Wikipedia has a whole page on it (see link above) and it reads like something someone suffering from severe head trauma jotted down after waking up from a weird dream.

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Whole Letting Your Toddler Wear Whatever They Want Debacle

Yeah, I'm going there.  Look, I'm old school in many ways; I was raised in an era where parents were more interested in guiding and leading their children through life than being held captive by their children's whims.  I keep seeing articles about people letting their toddlers wear whatever they want (generally in reference to boys wearing dresses or pink) and these articles are applauded by the internet community.  Look, I'm not trying to oppress anyone, and I don't give a shit who's gay and who isn't.  I'm also not about to let my children have final say over what they wear and I find the notion that toddlers are advanced enough to make these decisions as though they are more aware of who they are than their parents to be more than a little bit naive.

Your son wants to wear pink, so you buy him a pink dress and parade him around town.  Okay.  What if he wanted to wear his Halloween costume every day of the year?  What if he wanted to use the towel or a sheet as a toga or something the next time the fam goes out to eat?  What if he sees his dad using Duck Tape and just wants to be wrapped up in that shit the next time there's a trip to the playground?  What if he really (like 100% sincerely) doesn't want to wear anything aside from his underpants and a pair of rain boots on the next trip to the Wal-Mart?  Maybe underpants, rain boots, and a cape.  I could go on and on.  What if some little boy wants to go straight Drag Queen with a prom dress, a potent application of make-up, a blonde wig, and toddler heels?  Might as well let them be who they truly are, right?

Nope, I don't think so.  Suddenly, I think some of these parents might object because, well, these are children after all, and golly gee, sometimes their decision-making process is a bit mystical.  Sometimes they need an adult to guide them, and that doesn't mean the adult is denying them the opportunity to be who they are.  If Asher (my son, who is 3) wants to wear jeans and a tee-shirt tomorrow, I'm going to dress him in jeans and a tee-shirt.  If Asher wants to wear one of his sister's ballerina outfits tomorrow, I'm going to dress him in jeans and a tee-shirt.  When he's an adult, if he wants to wear a ballerina outfit, he's free to wear the damn thing.  The difference isn't that I'm refusing him the right to an identity, the difference is that as an adult he will have a firm understanding of who he is and what he wants to wear.

Here's another thought: there are a few things I did in this life that I seriously question, to include various styles and haircuts.  There were a few things I wanted to do along the way that were shot down by my parents, but they were fairly open-minded.  I do look back as an adult and wonder why in the hell they allowed me to do some of these things.  My rat tail (about 6 years after the rat tail craze was a distant memory) is a stellar example.  Anyway, I strongly believe that many of these children whose parents are so liberal and understanding are going to look back at pictures one day and say, "What the fuck was wrong with you guys?  I was 3, for Pete's sake.  Who cares what I wanted--or thought that I wanted--weren't you guys supposed to be dressing me?"

Asher's favorite toys are his wrestlers and his super heroes.  He also likes his sister's My Little Pony toys and he is free to play with them.  His sisters have dressed him up in dresses and their ballerina outfits while playing around the house on occasion, and while some would condemn this kind of stuff, I believe that type of play can be helpful and informative.  Besides, I'm pretty sure it happens to every little boy with three sisters, particularly when two of them are older sisters.  Yet when we head out into the world at large, it's up to me and my wife to decide what he wears.  He can play however he wants, those are decisions I think he's fully capable of making.  Total authority over his wardrobe is another matter altogether, and I'm truly surprised that some people don't understand that.  Frequently, I'm pretty sure that most of these people I'm referring to throughout this blog actually fully understand, but man, that internet applause must really do something for them.  Hell, there may even be headlines . . .

I know, I'm a caveman, but that's my opinion on the whole letting your toddler wear whatever they want debacle.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Salem/Under the Dome

I love Salem.  If you're a fan of horror and you aren't watching it, you're missing out.  It's kinky, it's dark, it's gruesome, it boasts a fantastic cast, and the soundtrack is equally impressive.  I really don't want to say much about the plot.  It's about witches, of course, but it's really fresh and exciting.  I think this is definitely one of those cases where the less you know going in, the more you're going to enjoy yourself.  The show's creators may have felt the same way; the previews were intriguing but didn't really give a lot away, and I've been surprised and delighted by the program from the very beginning. 

Bonus points: In addition to stealing the show as Cotton Mather, Seth Gabel has a killer beard.  I've never seen this dude in anything before, and while the show is brimming with quality performances, he's been a bit of a revelation.  He's good, really, really good.

Under the Dome is a different story.  I really enjoyed the way the first season started.  This is when the series was being a bit more faithful to the book, but King intrigued me with all his talk about taking the show in a different direction and presenting a different conclusion.  Early in the second season, I think it's become obvious that this approach was a dreadful mistake.  Hey, if you like it, you're free to watch it, but I think a very promising series has devolved into garbage.  I don't think I'm going to keep watching it; Season 2 has been downright painful.  Whereas the book (a top-notch affair with a somewhat lackluster ending) focused on the people and the human conflict playing out under the dome to great effect, the show has become more of a mediocre CGI and bizarre plot twist showcase.

It's depressing, particularly when you look at the cast and think about what could have been.  The talent is still working hard to make it work, but plot holes, massive gaps in logic, and poor effects have ruined a program I was really enjoying early on. 

Anyway, if you're not watching Salem, join the party--it's a wicked good time.  And if you're still sailing with Under the Dome, well, may God have mercy on your soul.

Friday, July 11, 2014

LeBron and the NBA Off-Season

I'm not a LeBron fan.  I'm a Kobe fan, so there's that, and there was The Decision, and mostly there's the fact that when you're the best baller in the world you can't moonlight as a flopper.  I don't like flopping, but some guys can get away with it.  If you don't have the best toolkit on your team and your ability to get the ref to whistle when there's no foul earns you playing time, well, it's hard for me to fault you for that.  Yet if you're the best there is at what you do, you can't be flopping around out there, and that's that.  Anyway, I'm no fan, but I applaud LeBron for going back to the Cavs.  Hell, career-wise a return to Cleveland is somewhat akin to taking a bullet for your hometown.

However, as much as people want to discuss LeBron and his big decision today--and it's big news, don't get me wrong--I think the bigger story is the way the NBA has been grabbing headlines of late.  Even when The Decision ruffled so many feathers once upon a when I don't remember there being so much discussion about the NBA's free agency period.  I know Melo's out there too, but off-season headline dominance has typically been a staple of the NFL, and to a certain extent the MLB.  I don't ever remember dealing with so much hype in regards to the NBA off-season.

Whether people like LeBron or hate him, and whether they like his return to Cleveland or not, this is a win for the NBA.  People are talking about LeBron and Melo.  They're talking about the alien known as Chris Bosh and there have been headlines coming out of Toronto--Toronto!!!  Yes, people are still talking about Donald Sterling and his adventures in insanity as well, but all this attention has to be seen as a major boost for a league that hasn't been this hot since MJ was tearing it up or Magic was going toe to toe with Larry.

The NBA is back, folks, and all this off-season noise could be setting the stage for a huge year on the hardwood.  Of course, if you're a Lakers fan like me, it's hard to relish all this enthusiasm, but it's there and Adam Silver has to be loving it.

Thursday, July 10, 2014


My four children are wonderful blessings.  I treasure them and I wouldn't trade them for anything.  I adore them and each one is so incredibly unique.  They are my reason for being and everything worthwhile in my life can be tied directly to my love for my wife and my little ones.  Yes, I'm one of those people who truly believes that those who don't have a family to share their lives with are truly missing out, and every day I find a new reason to be thankful for all these wacky Waylands.

Having said that, there are certainly moments when the voice in my head sounds a lot like this:

Some Kind of Monster/Lars Sucks

I have no idea why, but I'm currently stuck on the song "Some Kind of Monster" c/o Metallica, a band I've always been lukewarm on despite my love for heavy metal.  Anyway, I really dig this track, particularly the lyrics and Hetfield's performance, both of which seem to represent some of his better work.  And then there's Lars.  I like this song and I'm listening to it a lot, but Lars (a mediocre talent if ever there was one) really sucks it up on this one.  At times, his work on "Some Kind of Monster" is simply awful.

Now, to be fair, I'm a diehard fan of Slayer, a band that has somehow been blessed with both Dave Lombardo and Paul Bostaph in their efforts to rock us all over the years.  That sets the bar pretty damn high, but it still doesn't totally account for my disdain for Lars and his meager effort on an otherwise noteworthy song.  Dude is dreadful, and if being in a rock band was like most jobs, I'm pretty sure he would have been fired during the recording session. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Say "So Long" to Solos

Disclaimer:  The following story was birthed from an informal interview with an unknown source reputed to be an actual representative from an alleged band that wished to remain anonymous.  No real names, dates, or places are mentioned, and the author cannot be considered financially responsible for any insult or injury that may occur to any individuals, fictional or non-fictional, resembling those represented in this depiction of a band reported to be quite famous.  No one was harmed in the writing of this story and rest assured, reading it will not harm you. 

Proceed with caution.

Montana found himself in the final stages of what had surely been an awful performance.  His sweat stank of cheap liquor and his heart was threatening to burst.  The crowd was giving him the benefit of the doubt, but that had never mattered for him.  It was shit, absolute shit, and he knew it.

He looked to Bernie and saw disgust registering on the lanky guitarist’s typically stoic face.  Bernie was a good chap and you could always count on him for a truthful response.  

Mickey was another story altogether.  Montana was hung over, and he had smoked at least six joints and snorted half as many lines of coke in the four hours he had been awake prior to the rise of the curtain, but he was good, really good to be honest, feeling just damn great actually.  His drummer was wasted.  Montana would bet every dollar in his bank account that Mickey had no idea where they were playing tonight—not even so much as the state.  Nothing mattered to Mick the Hick but his next ride, and he was never coming down.

Montana turned back to face the hungry crowd, uncertain of how to proceed.  Should they stick to the script and continue to fuck it up, or try something else completely and take the risk of fucking that up far worse?  It was his call, . . . his and his alone.

“Excuse me,” he spoke into the microphone, trying to find his stride.  “I’m looking for some people who want to tear this fucking place down.  I'm serious.  I want this fucking place to burn.”

A ripple seemed to spread throughout the crowd, which was suddenly gaining energy and enthusiasm.  The head security guard gave Montana a stern glare, but the vocalist ignored it.  He needed some magic and he was going to take a stab at shooting the moon.  Singers always bluff when there’s money on the table.

“That's right, motherfuckers.  I mean you people understand that we only live once, right?  At least in this incarnation, that is if you believe in such things, but the point remains the same.”

Bernie was looking at him like he had flipped his lid.  Maybe he had. 

But maybe, just maybe, he was primed to explode one last time.

Once.  That’s a hefty fucking word as far as I’m concerned.”

The people were getting into it.  They were moving.  They were getting loud.  Next they would get rowdy.

The security chief was still looking at Montana, but he seemed uncertain now.  Maybe he was thinking about splitting.

“So why don’t we join together, . . . right here, . . . right now, . . . tonight, and make this fucking moment burn.”

What followed was the finest moment in the band’s infamous history.  Only the bizarre notion of telepathy can account for the incident that forever defined them as rock icons and tragic heroes.  

Montana and Bernie exchanged a prolonged stare, their minds melding into one.  As the crowd writhed and chanted, their frenzied intensity blossoming into full-blown mayhem, the singer and the guitarist turned to regard the trashed drummer.  Mickey met their gaze and nodded his head, vowing to go the distance.  “Fuckin’ A,” he slurred, raising his sticks high overhead before screaming and simultaneously striking his cymbals.  

Magic was the word of the day as the band launched into one of their heaviest songs, an unheralded gem from their second album that wasn’t on the setlist.  Truth be told, prior to that glorious night of debauchery, the band hadn’t played “Sewer Bitch” in so much as a practice session within months of the show.  Maybe years.  It was an awful song, but awful times call for awful measures.

As the musicians gave way to the primal power that controlled them, the music brought out all of the passion and angst of those in attendance.  There was chaos, bouncing bodies churning in a sea of violent emotion.

There was rock, there was love, and there was glory.  Oh sweet glory.

And then some asshole accidentally burned the whole place down. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Biter

Here's the really crazy part about this Luis Saurez biting stuff:

He has bitten opponents on a couple of occasions already.  This is bad for his image and the game.  I'm sure he knows this.  I'm sure he's been told this.  I'm 100% positive that those close to Suarez (and his country and the clubs that he represents) have made this clear: chill with the biting, boss, it's bad for business.  I'm sure that's something that was on his mind heading into yesterday's World Cup match.  I'm sure it has been discussed, not once or twice, but many, many times.

And yet here we are.  Another day, another game, and another biting incident.  Let's face it: the dude is seriously crazy.  This is the biggest stage in soccer and here's a guy out there playing his ass off for his country.  He's a wonderful talent and he is critical to Uruguay's success in the World Cup, which often seems to be the only thing that matters in the world of soccer; everything else is just a tune-up of sorts for the World Cup, or so it seems in the grand scheme of things.  So, on this massive stage, what does this immense talent with a bad rep (and a firm understanding that of all the things he shouldn't do out there on the pitch, biting is #1 on the list) do?  You know the answer, you've read the headlines.

It's totally crazy.  Just imagine you're out there playing for your country, knowing you must not bite anyone--which is something you probably shouldn't have any desire to do to begin with--and then it happens.  You're overcome with the urge.  There's this dude a few feet ahead, and as important as this game and your reputation are, you have to bite that son of a bitch.  Suddenly your eyes are glued to his shoulder, and all you can think about is sinking your teeth into that man.  You decide that maybe you can get your bite fix and fool everyone in the process if you try to play it off like your teeth and his shoulder came into contact by accident and it's on.  Damn sanity.  Damn your reputation.  Damn the World Cup.  It's time to bite someone.

I mean, honestly, that's what it looks and feels like to me.  And that, my friends, is some seriously crazy shit.  I don't know that I've ever seen anything like it in professional sports.  Here is a guy that many feel is perhaps the best player in all the world, and if some of the pundits get their way he may never play the beautiful game again.  Hell, it makes sense in a way, how can it be called the beautiful game if there's some lunatic running around out there on the field looking to take a bite out of his opponents.  What's wrong with Luis Suarez?  What will happen to him? 

I don't know, but I know this: it's crazy as hell.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Best Smell in the World

It's an easy one for me.  It's probably an unusual choice, but I know there are others who will understand--though I fear we may be a dying breed.  Yes, it's an old musty paperback, with that ancient smell that sweeps me back through a few hundred musty paperbacks that I flipped through in a few thousand different places.  There's nothing quite like it.  Every time I pick up one of those old treasures (like the copy of Jaws I'm currently reading, the same copy I've read so many times I've lost count) and that aroma washes over me, I'm filled with a special sort of joy.

I've always loved that smell, though for different reasons.  As a youngster, that was the scent of adventure, and perhaps even a whiff of the taboo as much of what I was reading was intended for mature readers.  I started with King's Christine at the age of 8 after finding my dad's stash of horror novels.  Given the way this life-changing discovery went down, I don't think that was an accident, and Pop never objected once my love for such fare became common knowledge.  Anyway, in those days the potent smell of the aging paperback was an invitation to adventure and a passport to worlds yet unknown.

Now, there's still a bit of that magic in the smell, but it's more about familiarity and a love for all the joy and knowledge this particular hobby has provided me with over the years.  It's a bit nostalgic, perhaps even a bit melancholy, and yet it is a wonderful smell that remains ripe with promise.  Whether it represents a return trip to a familiar destination or a brand new odyssey, that smell remains partnered with the excitement of taking part in a story, the greatest pastime of them all.

Friday, June 20, 2014

God Bless Plumbers

Listen, plumbers cost a lot of money.  I get it.  That's why I do a lot of this stuff when I can.  Today I am engaging in my second major plumbing experience of the year.  Trust me, those of you who haven't gone this route before, plumbing ain't easy.  Plumbing is hell.  Plumbing is hard, plumbing is dirty, and I do not like plumbing.  Were I a wealthy man, there would be a plumber here right now.  I am not a wealthy man and I am doing the plumbing, and in summary, plumbing is not fun.  So God bless plumbers, and if you aren't doing the plumbing yourself, don't gripe about the cost.  It's worth it.

I promise.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Last Word on The PC Police

Fuck 'em.  I love colorful language and I'm smart enough to base my feelings on language more on the intent and the context the language is delivered with than some over-sensitive twat's idea of what is and isn't acceptable.  After all, sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.  Remember that shit?  There's a glorious concept that has fallen out of style in this era of "woe is me" and "don't hurt my feelings, they're all I have" and whine-sniff-cry-whine-whine. 

Fuck 'em.  Fuck 'em hard. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Jaws by Peter Benchley

I'm reading Jaws.  Again.

Seriously, my paperback is held together by scotch tape and love at this point.  I have a hard time deciding which of the books I hold so dear is actually my favorite.  It's probably the book you've read the most, right?  If that's true, it's either Jaws or 'Salem's Lot.  Either way, the heat of summer is here and I'm hanging with Brody and Quint once again.  I'm happy to hang with Hooper whenever I watch the movie, but he's kind of a prick in the book.  For those who don't know, I'm not offering up any spoilers (unless Hooper being a dick counts) but the book is rather different from the movie.  There are more deaths, there are entire subplots that didn't make it to the cinema, different characterizations, and most importantly, a completely different (and superior) climax.

Recently, I concluded a review of Dan Brown's Inferno by noting that Inferno = Shitburger.  That was accurate.  On a similar note, Jaws = Goldburger.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Beautiful Game

I hope you're watching the World Cup.  This is truly one of the greatest sporting events of them all, and anyone looking to argue that it is in fact THE greatest has a lot of credibility.  It is a game of grace and skill, and when all that athleticism and creativity leads to a score, watching the end result is a lot like experiencing fine art.  Yet it's such an amazing spectacle that scoring isn't truly required.  Today, Mexico challenged the host country, Brazil, and the outcome was a 0-0 draw.  However, despite the lack of goals, this was a thrilling match that oozed drama and suspense. 

Watch the World Cup.  I know we Americans are relative newcomers to the sport and many of us know precious little about it, but the 2014 World Cup is just getting started.  Thus far, it promises to be a gripping education for those who aren't in the know, and those who are in the know have to be impressed with the results thus far.  Besides, The NBA Finals are over and football is still a couple of months away.  This is the time to embrace the beautiful game.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Inferno by Dan Brown

Several years ago, two of my friends convinced me to read both Angels & Demons and The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown.  I must confess that I knew of the properties and I wasn't really that keen on reading them, but after weeks of peer pressure, I relented.  Honestly, I really liked those books.  I also greatly enjoyed The Lost Symbol when it came out.  I waited until Inferno hit paperback to snag a copy and I finally got to read it last week.  It took the better part of a week for me to finish the book and for those who have seen me zip through four or five books (or more) in a week, that is likely criticism enough.  It's true, I didn't like Inferno.

In fact, let's be brutally honest.  Inferno sucks.  It boasted a flimsy plot, enough coincidences to ruin any thriller, enough absurd twists to ruin any three thrillers, and it also featured some terrible storytelling.  There was one sequence that Brown revisited over and over again for dramatic effect; I honestly groaned the second or third time he did so, and by the time the book (thankfully) drew to a close, he had probably revisited this particular sequence some 15-20 times.  I would recommend Angels & Demons, The Da Vinci Code, and The Lost Symbol to most readers.  I wouldn't recommend Inferno to anyone.

Inferno = Shitburger


Friday, June 13, 2014

"Stuck" Video for Drowning Delilah

What's up, peeps?
I've been pretty busy promoting Never Look Back Again and working on my next book, but I also found time to direct a music video.  The band is Drowning Delilah and they are totally badass.  They were cool enough to provide a song for Never Look Back Again and in return I directed the video for that song.  The track is "Stuck" and it's killer--they gave me the opportunity to pick any track from a previous release and this one really worked for me.  I'm equally pleased with how the video turned out.

I went for a high energy, high contrast approach, and I think I nailed it.  Most importantly, I think it captures the spirit of the band, and they're really pleased with it.  With that in mind, I wanted to share it with you guys, so here it is: "Stuck" from Drowning Delilah.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Job Interviews: The Right Answer for the "Worst Trait" Question

I always thought this was obvious, so hopefully you're not surprised either.  However, over the years many of you have proven me wrong on this one.  The bottom line is this: don't really dish out something negative when a potential employer asks you what your "Worst Trait" is or any question along those lines.  This, like many questions posed during a job interview, is a perfect situation for a timely lie.  There is no need for full disclosure and I've watched many of you crash and burn at this stage of the game. 

Seriously, here are some answers I've heard during interviews I have conducted:

"I'm always late."

"I lack confidence."

"I like to play on the internet too much."

"I have lots of personal problems."

"I'm not that good at whatever the job is."

I'm being 100% sincere about this.  The "I'm always late" dude was a good guy who I wanted to see interview well.  Also, he may have had a problem with tardiness, but it wasn't that bad.  Geez.  Anyway, I repeat: don't really come clean on this score.  It's self-defeating.  You have to list a negative that is actually a positive. 

Examples include:

"I can be too passionate about my work.  It's like I don't even want to leave until the job is finished."

"I can be a bit of a perfectionist.  Trying to live up to my own expectations can be daunting, but that's how I motivate." 

"I'm very competitive.  I'll be friendly with my co-workers, but my focus will be on doing my job well.  (pause) I really work hard to be the best at whatever it is I'm doing." 

They may call your bluff and try to cajole you into slipping up:

"Well, that's not so bad.  Why don't you give me something that is really a problem for you?"

The game hasn't changed.  Play the same hand again.  Use another negative that is actually a positive.  Whatever happens, you won't say something like "I have lots of personal problems" and lose the job. 

Happy hunting, good people.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Cult Classics from Dimension X: Sorcerer (1977)

 Sorcerer is a riveting picture that was widely panned by critics and audiences alike, yet it has a cult following and noted director William Friedkin considers it to be his best offering.  Roy Scheider gives perhaps his most gripping performance in the lead role, playing one of four heroes who are clearly anything but.  The story revolves around these four men, refugees in a woeful South American town gripped by poverty and threatened by revolution.  This hellhole is tailor-made for our protagonists, four hard men who have fled the homes and lives they knew and now find themselves mired in squalor and a daily struggle for survival.  A chance at redemption—or escape at the very least—comes in the form of a raging fire that must be extinguished.  The solution: blowing it out with a batch of unstable nitroglycerine that must be ferried 218 miles through wretched jungle terrain populated by bandits and cruel twists of fate.  The problem: this stuff is so unstable that a good jolt could trigger a hellish explosion, making the task of loading it into a couple of trucks and delivering it little more than a full-on suicide mission. 

The film opens with four prologues that introduce us to our four protagonists and take us across the globe.  Originally, the plan was to do a single prologue introducing us to Scheider’s Jackie Conlon.  Jackie is a petty crook who has to flee New Jersey after crashing the getaway car following a robbery at a church with mob ties.  In the end, Friedkin decided to give each of the leads his own prologue.  Thus, we begin in Mexico, where an assassin named Nilo (Franciso Rabal) performs a mundane assassination.  This is followed by our introduction to Kassem (Amidou), a terrorist who is a part of trio who detonate an explosion in Jerusalem.  In a subsequent attack by the military, one member of the group is killed and another is captured, but Kassem manages to get away.  Thirdly, we journey to France where we meet Victor Manzon (Bruno Cremer), a banker accused of fraud.  He convinces his partner to try and get his wealthy and powerful father to bail them out.  His partner does try, but his father rebuffs them.  Victor convinces his partner to try again and goes out to dinner with his wife.  Unfortunately, his partner is rebuffed once more and subsequently kills himself, forcing Victor to flee both his home and his wife.  Finally, the series of prologues concludes with Scanlon and his Irish gang’s ill-conceived robbery and bungled escape back in the states.
Roy Scheider gives one of his finest performances in Sorcerer.
 At this point, the film shifts to a remote village in South America.  Here Scanlon and the others assume false identities and toil away in poverty, earning precious little and looking for some way out.  Then comes the fire and a desperate job for desperate men.  There are tests to identify the best candidates and four men are chosen.  Each of our leads aside from Nilo makes the cut.  Next the men set about crafting their vehicles from scrap parts from vehicles left in the jungle during a war.  All this happens while Nilo looks on, scheming.  Though little is made of it, the trucks have unique designs and each has a name.  One is “Lazlo” and the other is (drum roll) “Sorcerer.”  When the trucks are set to depart, Marquez, a friend of Kassem’s and the fourth driver, fails to show.  Kassem discovers that Marquez has been murdered and the identity of his killer is no mystery, but at this point the men have no choice but to allow Nilo to take the dead man’s place in their unlikely crew.  That’s when the journey begins, and that’s when a picture that has been incredibly compelling yet rather deliberate really takes off.
This is Nilo.  Note: You cannot trust Nilo.
The trip is packed with danger and intrigue.  There are two trucks and two teams of two men.  Kassem despises Nilo, but that’s okay because he’s partnered with Victor.  Jackie doesn’t really like Nilo either, but surprisingly they become closer as the film progresses.  In truth, none of these men are all that fond of one another initially, but their circumstances force them to work together and ultimately they become a cohesive unit, albeit a cohesive unit where each men is aware that his share will increase if any of his peers perish along the way.  They must battle the terrain, the weather, and the violent rebels who roam the countryside.   Most strikingly, they must cross a decrepit wooden suspension bridge in a raging monsoon.  That sequence is beyond spectacular, and it should be.  It cost millions to shoot and took months to complete. The end result is spellbinding and you will never see anything like it in any other motion picture.  Friedkin earned the nickname “Hurricane Bill” while shooting the sequence, requiring helicopters to fly overhead and instructing his crew to blast the set with fire hoses.  One watches the scene in disbelief, wondering how in the hell the trucks could possibly hope to make it across that pitiful bridge.  In truth, during filming they put the trucks in the water numerous times trying to make it across.  Add the weather effects that Friedkin achieved and the Tangerine Dream score and it’s hard to adequately describe this portion of the movie, which is truly masterful from start to finish.

In the end, only one man will survive this horrific journey, and I use the term horrific for a reason.  Sorcerer isn’t really a horror movie, it’s clearly a thriller, and yet the strange title isn’t the only thing that about this one that might be more at home in a horror movie.  The grueling odyssey and the endless trials the four men face along the way bring with them an ominous tone.  Additionally, some of the scenes of the trucks plowing through the treacherous jungle and the moments of swift and destructive violence that punctuate their voyage are positively monstrous.  Finally, Friedkin elected to close the picture out with a somewhat ambiguous ending that I think is clearly a downer.  There’s some room for hope in that we don’t actually see the ultimate conclusion of the piece, but good old Hurricane Bill painted enough of the picture to allow his audience to easily fill in the blank.

To tie this off, I want to note that Sorcerer is most certainly the work of a master, and it may represent his finest hour.  I would also argue that it stands as Roy Scheider’s best performance, and I say that as a big fan of his work.  Truthfully, everyone plays their role well, and Scheider, Cremer, Rabal, and Amidou are all given much to do.  The script is lean and mean, and whenever it isn’t necessary dialogue is absent from the proceedings, but that doesn’t take away from the depth and the power of the picture.  If you have never seen Sorcerer and you’re reading my work with Cult Classics from Dimension X, you must check this one out.  Friedkin is an amazing director, and this is a true gem.  

Author’s Note:
I can’t stress this enough: the bridge sequence must be seen to be believed.  Seriously.  It is clearly one of the most dramatic scenes ever captured on film, and it looks positively incredible.  It is totally mesmerizing, and it may stand as perhaps the finest example that though modern effects and the marvels they allow our filmmakers to create for our enjoyment are truly spectacular, it’s impossible to top reality when it comes to delivering the goods.  Is the picture truly Friedkin’s masterpiece?  As a devotee of both The Exorcist and To Live and Die in L.A., as well as a fan of The French Connection, I’m not sure that I can fully agree with the director on that point.  However, if we’re talking scenes, the bridge sequence is surely his best setpiece, and I can’t think of many epic scenes that can stand alongside it without suffering by comparison.  The closing reel of The Road Warrior is equally impressive and that’s yet another testament to doing it the old and crazy way: doing it for real.
Oh, and one other thing: the new Blu-Ray transfer is a wonderful achievement.  The picture looks positively sublime, therefore there has never been a better time to sit down and enjoy Sorcerer.

Sorcerer Trivia

A French version of the source novel bearing the book’s translated title, The Wages of Fear, was directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot and is widely regarded as a true classic.  It isn’t surprising that many who treasure that picture were exceptionally hard on Sorcerer.  Wages of Fear, released in 1953, is a fantastic movie and was the fourth highest-grossing picture released that year.  Having said that, I prefer Sorcerer. 

Friedkin wanted McQueen and a number of other A-listers to take the lead, but he was spurned several times.  McQueen was intrigued, but demanded a part for Ali McGraw.  In the end, Friedkin went with Scheider (who he had previously directed in The French Connection), a decision he came to regret.  Friedkin has expressed that while Roy did a good job, he wasn’t a big enough star to drive the picture.  Like many, I couldn’t disagree more—Roy may not have been a true A-Lister in Hollywood terms, but he was a highly capable leading man and he nailed the part.  I can’t picture anyone else in Jackie Scanlon’s shoes and the movie surely benefits from his presence. 

Tangerine Dream provided their highly-regarded score for the film without ever seeing the picture.  They were given a copy of the script and composed the score based on it. 

Many who cherish the film as much as I do feel that the movie’s failure to inspire critics or the mainstream public could be tied to the fact that it was released only a week after a movie called Star Wars hit the scene.  Sorcerer is gritty, grim, and explores some seriously dark territory, making it pretty much the anti-Star Wars in terms of tone and effect.  Others tie the picture’s failure to the odd title.  In my opinion, both of those camps make points that are hard to argue against.

About the name: Friedkin has said that he chose the title as sort of a nod to his previous film, The Exorcist.  He has also stated that in addition to the fact that one of the two trucks in the movie is labeled “Sorcerer,” he also felt that the title alluded to some dark “Sorcerer of Fate” who was making life miserable for our would-be heroes.

 Some viewers have made a pretty good case for the movie serving as a metaphor for a stint in purgatory for our four main characters followed by a woeful trip to hell, complete with a crossing of the River Styx and hellfire. 

There’s a scene in the Paris prologue where Victor’s wife is telling him about a bit in a memoir she is reading.  The book is a about a retired French Foreign Legion officer and the passage in question concerns a situation where he must decide whether or not to kill a civilian.  Victor asks if the officer pulled the trigger and his wife answers that he did.  Thus, Victor reasons that he was “just another soldier,” but his wife disagrees.  Friedkin says that her response, “No one is just anything,” is the central theme of the picture.

. . .

If you liked this, feel free to share your thoughts on Sorcerer or suggest future selections for Cult Classics from Dimension X.  Also, scope this one out: Cult Classics from Dimension X: Vice Squad (1982)