The Great Hannibal Lecter Deep Dive

Do you ever get really excited about a deep dive, go full-boat into it and then wash out? Well, that’s kind of what happened last year when I found myself minorly obsessed with Hannibal Lecter and his exploits throughout television, film and, of course, the written word. I started watching the series, which made me read the books, while still watching the show (a very unique and interesting experience) and then the movies, but I petered out after seeing my third take on the Red Dragon story. But, I still wanted to get these thoughts out there, so here’s most of the original post I started sometime last spring.

For years, I’d been hearing great things about NBC’s three season-long series Hannibal based on Thomas Harris’ character made most famous in The Silence Of The Lambs. It ran from 2013-2015 with Mads Mikkleson starring as the title character and Hugh Dancy as Will Graham, a pure empath who FBI Behavioral Sciences head Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) brought back in from his teaching gig in an effort to help catch a serial killer. I decided to dive right into the series thanks to its presence on Amazon Prime Video and now have a new favorite show! Continue reading The Great Hannibal Lecter Deep Dive

A Few Thoughts On Five Cary Grant Movies

I do this thing when I read a book about someone or watch a documentary about them where I want to absorb as much of their art as possible. Usually, I can’t get to the material fast enough and something else catches my eye, but I’m trying to stay focused on watching Cary Grant movies after reading Marc Eliot’s book on the actor. I’ve borrowed a number of his films from the library and only watched half of one, but recently took advantage of several of his films appearing on TCM On Demand. In the last few months, I’ve come to realize that TCM doesn’t keep its films on there for very long, so I’m not sure if they’re still there. Hit the jump to read my quick roundups of To Catch A Thief, Mr. Lucky, Houseboat, Walk, Don’t Run and The Philadelphia Story!

Continue reading A Few Thoughts On Five Cary Grant Movies

Halloween Scene: Old School Round-Up

bride-of-frankensteinAs I mentioned yesterday, I got to an early start when it came to watching horror movies this fall. So, I’ve got a lot to talk about! First, if you haven’t already, check out a pair of lists I wrote for CBR. One’s about movies and shows to follow Stranger Things up with while the other focused on the best classic horror movies to stream on Netflix and Amazon Prime!

Continue reading Halloween Scene: Old School Round-Up

Halloween Scene: Universal’s Wolf Monsters

chaney-wolf-manI might have to rethink my position on werewolf movies. For a while, they just didn’t click with me, but after loving An American Werewolf In London and four Universal Monsters movies revolving around lycanthropes, I might be changing my tune! And thanks to picking up the big UM DVD set, I’ve been able to do a pretty deep dive on all (or most) things wolf from that era. Continue reading Halloween Scene: Universal’s Wolf Monsters

Riverdale Trade Post: Archive Vol 1 & Archie Vs. Predator

archie-volume-1No one’s more surprised than me that I’m writing a post about not one, but two Archie books I love, but that just goes to show that I was previously being close-minded about this company AND that they’re pretty awesome right now. Continue reading Riverdale Trade Post: Archive Vol 1 & Archie Vs. Predator

Halloween Scene Triple Feature: Shivers, After Midnight & Billy Club

shivers posterLast week I found myself in the enviable position of being in the house alone during the day with a bunch of work to do on my laptop and the television unoccupied by children demanding to watch the same two episodes of Bubble Guppies on repeat. So, like anyone who hasn’t been able to stay up past 11 on a week night in recent memory, I decided to watch three movies in a row all on Amazon Prime! Continue reading Halloween Scene Triple Feature: Shivers, After Midnight & Billy Club

Christmas Stories: 12 Of My Favorite Christmas Records Of All Time

It doesn’t feel completely accurate to say that my wife and I like Christmas music. We freaking love it. We both come from homes that celebrated old school classics as well as newer material. As a result we have a pretty solid and impressive collection of Christmas music. In fact, we actually have an iPod dedicated specifically to Christmas music. When my wife got a new iPod, we took her old mini (which very appropriately is green), cleared out all the old stuff and loaded it up with holiday tunes. As soon as Thanksgiving’s over, we pop that bad boy on and dig those tunes until Christmas. I figured it would be a good time to lay down a list of some of my favorite records to listen to around this time. Hit the jump to dig these crazy tunes. Continue reading Christmas Stories: 12 Of My Favorite Christmas Records Of All Time

Ambitious Reading List III

 

Long before I finished Please Kill Me, I was working on creating my next Ambitious Reading List. As I said at the end of that review, I’m a big fan of this much-smaller version of my larger to-read pile. Helps me stay focused while also keeping my interest not only in reading, but in crossing one book off the list and moving on to the next. Most of the books in this pile are newer to that pile, but there are a few that have been sitting around for a while too.

From the top, I picked up Robert Ludlum’s Bourne Identity at a flea market out of sheer interest based on the Matt Damon movies. I can’t keep the straight, but I’m curious to see how this book compares to the movies as well as an audiobook version of The Bourne Legacy that we finished recently and will review soon. I’ve also got an Elmore Leonard book called Riding The Rap in there. I bought this for $2 at a used book store based solely on Leonard’s name. Love that dude’s books. After that is Hunger Games, which my wife read and liked. My last ARL got in the way of me reading this over the summer, so I included it this time. I hope to compare it to the movie somewhere down the line too.

I actually started reading Michael Chabon’s Manhood For Amateurs around the time our daughter was born, or maybe just before. It’s a great book of essays I’m looking forward to finishing. I’ve been living a lie with Wizard of Oz, keeping it on my shelf since high school without every reading the whole thing. I plan on remedying that and also telling a pretty great story about the signature I have in that book. After that it’s Patton Oswalt’s Zombie Spaceship Wasteland which I got from the library for a list I was working on before my pal Rob Bricken moved from Topless Robot to io9. I have no idea where that list will lie, but that’s the first book on the pile I’m reading because I’m lousy at getting books back on time.

From there I’ve got the illustrated version of the unfilmed Harlan Ellison script based on Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot,Marc Eliot’s book about Cary Grant which I got because George Hamilton made him sound really interesting in his book and Peter Ackroyd’s retelling of Geoffry Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. I read parts of the original in college, but could barely get through it, man.

I got Raiders! thanks to a PR email letting me know about this book about the guys that made the 80s Raiders of the Lost Ark fan film. Then I’ve got It Happened In Manhattan, an oral history about the Big Apple by Myrna Katz Frommer and Harvey Frommer and finally Harvey Pekar’s graphic novel adaptation of Studs Terkel’s classic look at careers, jobs and Americans Working. As you can see, it’s another eclectic mix. I’m pretty jazzed to be adding a few different formats (screenplays, essays, graphic novels) and also think that this one might go a little bit quicker than the previous one, assuming I still have time to read. The next few months are going to be pretty busy/crazy.

A Few Thoughts On Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)

I took a break from my consumption of Prison Break to go through a few movies my Instant Netflix Queue told me were expiring soon and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was on the top of the list because it was expiring soonest, was directed by Howard Hawks, stars Marilyn Monroe and, most importantly, it’s pretty short. I didn’t intend for this to be a full-on review, but it kind of morphed into one as I thought more and more about the movie. So, let’s jump in.

I’m always forget the artificiality involved with romantic comedies from the 1950s. In this case, Monroe’s character has a thing for men with money because she wants to be taken care of while her dancing partner played by Jane Russell likes the handsome fellas. Neither deviate from this path, nor do they seem to fully understand the other’s position. Everything ends exactly how you think it will, but it really is the journey that’s important and this journey involves a cruise liner, the US Olympic team and Paris, so at least there’s something to look at aside from the ladies and the dance numbers. On the other hand, there’s a kind of brutal honesty involved in this story and the portrayal of the characters. Sure, things wind up well for them, but there’s something to be said about people staying steadfast to their desires. Those things don’t just change overnight or thanks to an imagined betrayal of trust. People have a hard time changing and this movie goes along those lines from beginning to end, you just keep looking until someone fills the cut-out you’re looking for. Sometimes that’s forever sometimes it’s for now. Relationships are tricky. Okay enough philosophy. Jane Russell was totally barking up the wrong tree if she thought these dudes would be into her:

They ain’t there for love with you honey, but I bet they have a grand old time together. Speaking of which, George Winslow would have been about 6 or 7 if my math is correct when he played Mr. Henry Spofford III and got to sit between Russell and Monroe. If he wasn’t king of his world by that point, I don’t know what it must take to impress Hollywood kids. He also steals scenes from his counterparts like a master pickpocket picking off tourists in Times Square.

Killing it. Anyway, the most famous part of this movie is Marylin performing “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend” which I’ve seen before in various clip shows and copied/parodied/homaged a million times. The number itself was pretty much what I expected. This movie isn’t really jam packed with epic dance numbers. I read that the filmmakers had to teach Monroe to dance less sexy and Russell to spice it up a bit. That really comes through in the performances. Russell’s stiff and seems like she should be playing more straight ahead comedic roles without dancing or striking dark ladies in mystery flicks. I know nothing about her, but she does get to show her comedic and sexy sides, I’m just not sure if the dancing fits. Her impersonating Monroe at the end of the film and doing this number on her own is pretty  fantastic. I wish I could dance my way out of my next parking ticket.

Ambitious Reading List: War Of The Worlds by H.G. Wells

Well, I finally did it. As the days of summer come waning towards fall, I actually finished the first book in my Summer Reading List that looks to be turning into a 2010 Reading List. And even though my copy of War Of The Worlds clocks in at 172 page, it STILL took me a while to read, mostly because the story is just a recounting of what happened instead of putting the reader in the story more with actual dialog. It’s almost epistolary or like reading a journal entry with almost all telling without showing.

As far as my review goes, I didn’t read any of the supplemental material in the book or anything about Wells or the book’s background. I just jumped in. So, some of my observations and revelations might be really obvious to anyone knowing the history of the era (late 1800s/early 1900s). I took a history class of that time period in college and most of my excellent English professors in college would give us lots of background before diving into a text. I kind of just wanted to leap in feet first and see what I would see. Now that I’m done, I might go back and read the chronology or just move on to the next one.

For anyone who might not be familiar with it, the book follows a philosopher as he survives an invasion by the Martians in 1898 (at least that was the year the book came out, so give or take a few years). The Martians look kind of like Krang from Ninja Turtles and walking around on giant tripods. They’ve got weapons that include heat rays and something akin to mustard gas that kills automatically. We hear about the invasion both from our narrator and from a recounting of the narrator’s brother’s adventures in London (the narrator lives in the country). The narrator’s journey isn’t particularly heroic in any way, he just happens to survive without influencing the battle in any way, which makes for a somewhat boring account of the action. For instance, he spends a week in an abandoned house under which one of the Martians is building his war machines and doesn’t do anything but eat and beat the crap out of his annoying companion at the time. I kept wanting him to grab a knife or something, drop down into the pit and straight-up murder that little ball of slime. But nope. He doesn’t do jack but watch. Overall, it’s kind of disappointing that this is the best way HG Wells could think of to tell a really interesting story.
The epistolary-like presentation of the material really sucks the tension out of things. Obviously, our hero survives all of his trials and tribulations as does his brother who either told him what happened or recounted it to someone else who told the narrator. As if that weren’t bad enough, our narrator hints at and then flat out tells us that the invasion gets pushed back and society gets back to the point where they can publish pamphlets soon enough well before the end of the book.

Really what gets me is the lack of dialogue. The book could have been so much more interesting had we actually read the interactions between the narrator and, say, the curate or the infantryman as opposed to just hearing this guy ramble on and on and on.

There are two aspects of the book that I did find interesting. First off is the complete lack of a basic sci-fi language. It’s kind of funny reading Wells’ narrator try to explain a heat ray, when you’re just like “CALL IT A HEAT RAY!” but obviously science fiction was in its infancy back then, so the terms were all there. Wells deserves a lot of credit, of course, as he was one of THE guys back then for this kind of fiction, but that doesn’t make this story any more fun to read.

The other aspect of the story I thought a lot about was the actual Martian invasion. Unlike alien invasion stories of today, it’s not like there’s a mother ship waiting outside Earth’s orbit, the Martian soldiers are just sent hurtling across space based on whatever intel their overlords could glean from watching Earth from afar. Once the soldiers are there they either succeed or fail and carry on the plan while their people watch back home.

For a while I was thinking this was really interesting and unique, but then I realized that this was basic military tactics for the day. Without mass communications or speedy transport, the terrestrial versions of these battles were pretty similar. Some general somewhere sends a bunch of soldiers off to war in a far off place. Whether they survived or failed would decide the next move. So, while I was thinking this was some kind of crazy, cool aspect of invasion fiction I hadn’t really heard before, it was actually commonplace military practice for the time, which doesn’t make it any less interesting, just makes me think about it differently. All of which makes me think the story while on the surface trying to entertain with an alien invasion story, also was trying to say something about England and other countries’ desire to expand their holdings on other continents. It’s got a “how would you like it if someone bigger with better weapons tried to take what you have?” vibe to it. I wonder how that went over with the people.

I did find myself enjoying the last few chapters of the book, after the narrator finally got out of the house and realized the invasion had stopped because the Martians weren’t used to Earth germs, or more accurately any kind of bacteria. Yes, it’s kind of a flimsy excuse that they had absolutely NO germs, but what are you gonna do? Our “hero” wanders around, meets the infantryman again who’s got big plans for lying low and taking over one of the walkers to blast the Martians (at the time, they don’t know the invasion’s over). Now THAT would have been a fun read! From there we get a recounting of the few days after the events and everyone’s happy to be alive and also freaked out that aliens attacked and the narrator notes that they’ll be keeping an eye on Mars, but also that they saw what looked like Martians being launched at Venus. The humans also studied the Martian technology to figure out flight, though the heat ray seemed to be giving them trouble.

The version of the book I read is the 1993 Everyman edition. I’m not a huge fan because there’s a complete lack of footnotes or notation of any kind explaining what the hell these hundred year old words mean or how far away Woking is from London. It does include a timeline and a chronology of Wells’ life in the beginning as well as a section in the back about Wells and his critics, but what I really needed was a little help in understanding the text more. As it was, I found myself trying to speed read through a fairly boring text.

I bought this version back around ’93 because as I’ve mentioned my dad introduced me to old time radio at a young age and I was fascinated by Orson Welles’ radio play. But, as it’s so dense, I stopped reading pretty quickly. Even so many years later, I feel like I did when I was 10. That book was rough to get through, but at least I can say I read the original and will be able to compare it to the radio play, the Steven Spielberg movie and the second League of Extraordinary Gentlemen trade, all of which I will be absorbing soon and doing my very first Book Vs. Movie Vs. Radio Play Vs. Comic!

Next up on the summer reading list is Ulysses by James Joyce, one monster of a book. I read sections of it in college for a class and think I liked it, but the denseness of it plus the huge length are making me a little nervous. I’ve also been thinking of reading something light and short or maybe a few short stories as something of a palette cleanser, but we’ll see. I’ll keep you posted.