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.