Casting Internets

UPDATE: I’ve been so scatter brained lately that I completely forgot to plug my new dad blog Pop Poppa. Check it out for all things father and kid-related.

For CBR, I’ve talked to Joe Casey about Haunt, Matt Hawkins about Top Cow, Joshua Fialkov about The Last of the Greats, Kevin McCarthy about Epoch and Enrique Carrion about Vescell.

I also wrote my monthly Five Fave Avengers post over on Last week’s spotlight was on Black Panther writer David Liss and all around swell guy to talk about comics with!

My buddies Zach Oat of Diamond Select Toys and freelance video dude Alex Kropinak put together an awesome video for DST’s M.A.X. MiniMates. I love the M.A.S.K. feel of it!

Jim Shooter‘s account of creating Dazzler is fascinating. Click the link and find out how KISS and Rodney Dangerfield were involved (sorta).

If you’re a comic fan and have been enjoying the behind the scenes goldmine that is Jim Shooter’s blog (seriously, check it out if you haven’t yet), then Ron Marz‘s explanation of how he “was offered” the writing chores on Secret Defenders is also right up your alley.

Roger Daltrey told Rolling Stone that Pete Townshend’s hearing is going. That news makes me sadder than it probably should.

My buddy and editor Ben Morse waxes poetic on the character Jack Flagg. He almost makes me want to read his appearances in Thunderbolts. Almost.

Esquire‘s got Dean Martin’s hamburger recipe. Damn, that dude was slick. I should make these burgers and watch Ocean’s 11 again.

Anthony Bourdain did a quick blog post on Travel Channel’s site talking about the beauty of Cuba. I saw the No Reservations episode and he’s right, it’s strangely alluring and beautiful.

Tobe Hooper talked to about his new book Midnight Movie, which is about an old Hooper movie showing at South By Southwest and turning the viewers into zombies. Eh, I might bite if it’s on a discount table somewhere in a year. Puns!

Rat Pack Theatre: The Ambushers (1967)

I love the unbridled goofiness that is Dean Martin as superspy Matt Helm. These movies don’t take themselves seriously when it comes to anything except having fun and showing off some ridiculously pretty 60s chicks and that’s exactly how it should be. So far, I’ve seen The Silencers, Murderer’s Row and now The Ambushers. For whatever reason, the fourth and final flick The Wrecking Crew is the only one not available on Netflix Instant. If you’re even remotely interested in these flicks, check them out soon because they’ll be gone on January 1st.

As usual, Martin swaggers through the film with his cool composure constantly throwing out one-lines, some of which are pretty funny and many of which fall flat. This flick teams Helm up with a lady pilot who flew an experimental aircraft that looks like a UFO and runs on electromagnetism that’s been stolen from the US government. The man who orchestrated the theft let her go into the woods and she was eventually recovered, but she was much worse for wear. Thinking she was actually married to Helm (because of a previous mission the two worked together) they’re assigned to find out who took the aircraft and get it back. From there you get a fair amount of gadgets, girls and guns, pretty much everything you’d expect from a 60s spy spoof.

There were a few things that surprised me about the flick, though. See, Helm’s cover is that he’s a big-deal photographer. At one point he takes a picture of the bad guy and one of the guards confiscates his film. But that’s not a problem because he’s able to transmit the photo back to his bosses who receive the image one line at a time, 90s printer/bulletin board style. There’s also these exoskeleton suit things that the brewers use that look like earlier models of what Ripley uses in Aliens. I’m sure that tech seemed completely ridiculous to late 60s audiences. There’s also a scene where Helm blows “funny smoke” at a firing squad to get out of being shot to death, which seemed a lot like fast-acting weed. I’m kind of surprised that got through the censors.

Anyway, that’s pretty much that. I think Deano is my favorite Rat Packer to watch on screen because he’s the most fun. Sammy and Frank have their own unique appeals, but I could watch a hundred of these Matt Helm flicks, alas there’s only four. There was a funny bit at the very end of the movie where Helm is asked to talk to a new recruit which just so happens to be a ludicrously hot blonde woman. He tries playing a Dean Martin record for her, but that’s not doing it for her, so he switches to Frank Sinatra’s “Strangers In The Night” and she’s all over it. The last quip of the movie is him saying “You really like Perry Cuomo that much?” Zing!

Casting Internets

I decided to kick Casting Internets back up today because I’ve read and seen some pretty interesting things around the nets today. I’m also trying to branch out and read a few more websites than I usually do, so hopefully this will be a little more varied.

Everything kicked off with this old school Frank Sinatra piece that Gay Talese wrote for Esquire back in 1966 called “Frank Sinatra Has A Cold.” It’s such a good piece of New Journalism that it not only made me want to try writing that way, but also made me want to buy Talese’s book. Thanks to Jen for the link on Facebook!

Checking out that link got me reading some posts on Esquire’s politics blogs like this two-parter by John H. Richardson called On The Road With The Birthers (part 1 and 2) in which he follows a group of people demanding to see President Obama’s birth certificate. Those two pieces combined with Mark Warren’s article called “The Questions We Have Refused to Ask of the Tea Party” definitely creeped me out. I understand feeling trapped and hopeless when it comes to the economy, but to focus that energy on ridiculous ideas like proving the President is American (don’t you assume that’s part of the whole process?), but this is just scary.

Okay, enough scary political nonsense, check out Abigail Chu’s audition tape for Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World that Edgar Wright posted on his blog. Reminds me of the time I went to the first Bonnaroo and Jack Johnson was playing with a seven year old drum prodigy named Scarlett. I have no idea how I remember that. Anyway, cool video. I just started reading Tom Spurgeon’s The Comics Reporter. Good timing especially because he linked to Paul Tobin’s rad gallery of Jim Steranko covers. Steranko was the first old school comics artist I got into, so this gallery is right up my alley. I know the above, from Steranko’s non-consecutive three issue run on Captain America, isn’t a cover, but it’s one of my favorite pieces of art (not just comics) ever. Rad.

In semi-related comic book news, AMC had a bunch of zombies right outside of Penn Station to promote this week’s premiere of the Walking Dead TV show. When I worked in the city, I walked up those steps every day and I’m afraid that I’ve seen so many–read: too–that I would have either run back to my train and skipped work for the week until the zombie apocalypse died down or found the nearest blunt object and done my part for society. Either way, I would have gotten in trouble. (via Bleeding Cool)Speaking of TV, I’m bummed I haven’t caught up with Doctor Who yet. Why can’t those DVDs come out faster, or better yet, just make their way to Netflix Instant? Anyway, I really dig this piece of art by Ian Leino featuring most of the previous Doctors. I’ve only watched one older Doctor Who series, but I love the idea of all these guys being together in one place. (via Fashionably Geek)

I also love Dean’s renditions of the Cybermen over at Springfield Punx. They should get him to do a webisode or Saturday morning cartoon.

One last bit of TV news I saw today over on /Film that got me kind of got me excited is that Comedy Central has approached Waiting‘s Rob McKittrick to work on a series based on the movie for the network. I honestly haven’t watched Comedy Central on a regular basis in years and I didn’t like the crappy Waiting sequel, but I’m still hopeful for this, assuming it doesn’t butt up against a show I already watch.

/Film also informed me that there might be a plan to convert the Indiana Jones movies to 3D along with the Star Wars flicks. Sign me the hell up. Seeing those movies on the big screen again is worth it, I don’t care what it takes to make it happen. Let’s chill out on all the whining. NECA makes some of the raddest figures on the market, take this Army of Darkness Medieval Ash figure they revealed on the TwitPic account. I might not be as big of an Evil Dead fan as the rest of the horror community, but I still know a damn good figure when I see one. The G.I. Joe Collector’s Club revealed their 2o11 exclusive club figure today. Generally I wouldn’t care too much, but it answers a mystery from my childhood. I had the original Dial-Tone figure, but I found him somewhere or was given him loose, so I never knew his name or which side he was on. I figured he was a bad guy and also French thanks to the mustache, beret and the red symbol on his arm. Finally, something about this image blew me away. There’s no information about what this is either on Ffffound (where I first saw it) or the Could Even Be The Best One Yet picture set (where it came from originally), but I’m guessing that it’s a hand colored image of the building of the Golden Gate Bridge. I hope that’s what it is. Kind of took my breath away.

Book Review: Mr. S – My Life With Frank Sinatra by George Jacons and William Stadiem

I’m not exactly sure when my fascination with Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack started. I think it was around my Sophomore or Junior year of college, but I can’t pinpoint any specific experience that kicked it off. As you can see in the picture below I had that famous poster of the Rat Pack outside The Sands in my dorm room Junior and Senior year (on the wall next to the Clerks poster in the background). That’s also around the same time that I read Mr. S: My Life With Frank Sinatra by George Jacobs and William Stadeim. If memory serves, I read about the book in a magazine like People or Entertainment Weekly, thought it sounded interesting and somehow had the time to read it along with all the other assigned reading I had to do. See, Jacobs was Sinatra’s valet for about 15 years. Sinatra had been famous in the early 40s as a teen pop star. He rode that wave out to Hollywood where he starred in some movies, but the tides turned and he wasn’t on top anymore. In fact, he was on the bottom of the barrel. But in the early 50s, Mr. S was working hard to get back into the limelight with roles in some upcoming movies and a record that wound up selling big time. Around then he met Jacobs who was working for a big time agent and Frank basically stole him away. From there Jacobs was living the high life meeting pretty much every famous person in the world including some up and comer by the name of John F. Kennedy. Jabobs was with Frank through lots of good times and then things started on a decline once Sinatra married Mia Farrow (I had no idea this happened before I read the book because it lasted for such a short period of time). Jacobs was out one night while the Mia/Frank relationship was nearly over, she happened to come into the same club he was killing time in, she asked him to dance, he agreed, some paparazzi snapped a picture and the next day, Jacobs was completely cut off from the man he served so well all those years without even a “kick rocks kid.”

Mr. S is Jacobs’ account of those 15 years. He kicks the book off at the end, explaining what happened leading up to his firing–or more accurately shunning–by Sinatra. The book however is not a bitter recounting of good times from a man on the down and out. Jacobs seemed to be living well when the book was published in 2004, though for the life of me I can’t find any recent information about the man online, he doesn’t even have a Wiki page which is mind boggling. The author offers what seems like a very fair and accurate account of Ol’ Blue Eyes as well as plenty of other legendary names in Hollywood and even politics. If you’ve ever had an interest in the history of Hollywood and what people were really like, this is a great book to read. I know you’re supposed to always question the narrator, but I believe what Jacobs says because he says as much about himself as anyone else. It really opened my eyes to the Kennedys who come off as a bunch of fun-loving rich kids whose dad bought them into power and helped sway the public by appealing to Sinatra’s desire to be respected by important people and to be important himself. It might sound crazy, but Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack actually had a pretty big hand in getting JFK elected.

The portrait that Jacobs paints of Sinatra is one of a man who didn’t only love vice, but people as well. He had many a lover, both common and celebs like Marilyn Monroe, and even more prostitutes, but Jacobs also says he had a great respect for working girls and treated most of his women very well. Sinatra also helped a lot of people he met–mostly women–by giving them money or helping to pay for their kids’ school. He was a sucker for a sob story apparently. Mr. S was a hard drinking, hard working man who wanted to prove everyone in Hollywood wrong when they counted him out. He sought the attention of more famous and established people, but would cut someone off after the slightest transgression. On a movie set he would only do one take because his acting hero Boris Karloff said that’s the way to go. He was coarse, but friendly, feeling for anyone who was looked down on by society, thinking of himself as in the same boat thanks to his Italian upbringing in Hoboken New Jersey. By today’s standards he’d be called insensitive and insecure, but at his height he was king of the world, living the kind of life that lots of people dream about living.

A book like this is interesting because it gives a lot more context to the life of a legend. He isn’t JUST a dude who could sing, act and drink Jack Daniels with the best of them. Frank Sinatra was a regular person with the same flaws many of us have. You come away feeling a little bad for Sinatra as things started to crumble around him towards the end of Jacobs’ tenure with him. That cool guy 50s mentality was starting to give way to the swinging 60s, a culture the then-50 year old crooner could hardly stand. Jacobs and Stadiem do a fantastic job of creating a roller coaster ride effect with the book, starting with the tragic ending which makes you think Mr. S is kind of a dick, then going back to the beginning of the story when he was down and out, building him up to a hero of sorts and then reminding you that he was a jerk. But it doesn’t end completely on a down note as far as Jacobs is concerned, though it is sad that he and Sinatra never reconciled possibly because Sinatra’s wife Barbara seemed to have a real dislike for Jacobs, going so far as to not even invite him to Frank’s funeral when he passed away in 1998 at age 82.

Even with all the warts revealed in the book, there’s still a lot to respect about Sinatra. Yes he was insecure and had a pretty big weakness for the ladies, but he was also a good man who liked to help people and, to spill the same ink a million people already have, he did things his way and he did them well. If you have any interest in Sinatra, the Rat Pack, Hollywood, Las Vegas (another place Sinatra helped keep alive) and just the overall culture shift that happened between the 50s and 60s, Mr. S is the perfect book to read.

Rat Pack Theater: Sergeants 3 (1962)

Unlike say, Salt & Pepper or Murderer’s Row, Sergeants 3 is a full-on Rat Pack movie because all five remembers actually appear in it. Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. and Peter Lawford make up the main leads, but Joey Bishop’s also there too. I think Ocean’s 11 is the only other movie that boasts the full roster. Anyway, this one’s apparently a remake of Gunga Din, though it might not have been intended as such. Hollywood legend (and the IMDb Trivia Page for the flick) says that the filmmakers had to pay out a bunch of money towards the makers of GD in order to get S3 released. Whether it was an out-ripe rip-off or a series of honest mistakes I have no idea because 1. I wasn’t there and 2. I haven’t seen GD yet (it’s sitting in my to watch pile from Netflix).

So, here’s the basic plot as far as I could follow: Sinatra, Martin, Lawford and Bishop are all in the Cavalry out west. They’re a rambunctious group who loves carousing, drinking and fighting, but they’re also apparently pretty damn good at their jobs which include trying to find a bunch of murderous Indians called Ghost Dancers. Meanwhile, Lawford wants to get out of the service so he can get married and Davis–a freed slave–wants to join up and kind of tags along, helping where he can here and there.

I’ll be honest, the plot seems a little overcomplicated and I didn’t quite catch everything. The Sergeants 3 spend so much time not chasing down the Ghost Dancers, that you almost forget that’s the point of the movie. I’ll also say, some of the editing is crap, but I think that comes from the well known fact that Sinatra would only ever do one take of anything, which results in some off-looking fight scenes.

However, as a Rat Pack fan, this film is fantastic. Dean plays the charming drunk as a cowboy really well and does one of my favorite gags in the movie involving shooting Roman candles at the invaders which Lawford accidentally replaces with dynamite. Frank is basically Frank, being the tough guy leader, Lawford brings some legitimacy to the proceedings with his acting skills and Bishop (who I’m not sure if I could pick out of a line-up) does well as the straight man but Davis really shines in this flick. This guy was SO talented. The movie might feel a little uneven with its mix of seriousness and cartoony action (the aforementioned dynamite scene), but Davis always feels genuine and real. I even got a little choked up when he got what he wanted throughout the whole movie at the end.

So, in the end Sergeants 3 isn’t the greatest movie ever made. It’s got crazy mood swings and feels like what it is: a movie made by a bunch of friends so they could make a movie and hang out, but even with all that, I love seeing these guys on screen together. And, for what it’s worth, the movie looks amazing. They shot out in Utah and man, that desert and mountains look amazing on film even all these years later. I bet this thing would benefit from a Blu-ray transfer.

Rat Pack Theater: One More Time (1970)

After enjoying Salt & Pepper so much, I jumped at the chance to to watch that movie’s 1970 sequel called One More Time, which unfortunately wasn’t on Netflix Instant, so I had to wait A WHOLE DAY for the DVD (yeah, I know that’s lame of me, but I just love instant so much).

As you might be able to tell from the amazing poster to the left, the second flick has a lot going on including the appearance of horror stalwarts and a traditional English fancy dress party. This time around, we discover that Pepper’s brother is a lord who winds up dying and Pepper (Lawford) takes his place, but doesn’t say anything to Salt (Davis). Salt thinks that Pepper’s brother might have killed him, so Salt starts working for the lord and goes to his big crazy old mansion somewhere (in England, I assume?). It’s a pretty gothic set up that does in fact include brief appearances by Frankenstein (played by Peter Cushing) and a vampire (played by Christopher Lee). It’s such a brief scene that it doesn’t warrant a “Horror” tag in the category section, but reading ahead of time about their appearances, I was hoping the film would wind up being Sammy and Peter spending the entire film fighting monsters, which is not the case.

Instead, we see Salt acting like the lord’s friend in order to figure out what’s going on with the murder of his best friend, which, of course, does unfold in front of both Salt and Pepper. Of course, Salt realizes at some point that the lord’s really Pepper and the two start kicking ass, solve the crime and finish the movie talking as themselves (the actors) to the audience. The plot gets even more complex from there, but it’s not really worth getting into.

Like with the original, I found myself mesmerized by these guys just being good friends and having a lot of fun. It’s interesting that by this time, Frank Sinatra had actually stopped talking to Lawford thanks to Lawford’s brother-in-law John F. Kennedy not staying with Frank in Palm Springs after he had a helipad built so the president could get in and out with ease (it’s a more complicated story, but that’s the gist). So, even though he was on the outs with the notoriously hard-nosed Sinatra, Lawford was still making movies with Sinatra’s friend Davis. I wonder if that lead to any problems between the two Rat Packers (Davis and Sinatra I mean).

Anyway, hot damn, Lawford and Davis are GOOD actors. I’m not talking about just funny dudes having fun, but when Davis thinks Lawford is dead, I really got the vibe that he was DEVASTATED. In fact, that was the one part of the movie that kind of bummed me out: that Salt didn’t tell his best friend Pepper that he was taking his brother’s identity. If any of my best friends took up their dead lord brother’s identity and didn’t think they could trust me I would be pissed. Instead Salt just takes it in stride.

It’s one of those movies that needs to be seen to be believed because it’s absolutely not the type of movie that could get made right now unless, say, Tom Cruise and Will Smith wanted to do it. Actually that could be kind of fun…

Rat Pack Theater: Salt & Pepper (1968)

Welcome to a new semi-recurring feature on the blog: Rat Pack Theater. I am a big fan of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop and pretty much everything they did. Well, everything I’ve seen, which I’ll admit hasn’t been too too much. I dig their music and their movies are a lot of fun. I’ve retroactively dubbed a few other reviews as RPT (Sinatra’s Suddenly and Martin’s Murderers’ Row). These will be a showcase of any movie starring any combination of these guys or just them on their own. I stumbled upon Salt & Pepper which I actually thought starred Davis and Martin because I was just looking at the little icon on Netflix and didn’t do any actual reading (apparently I’m lazy even when I don’t mean to be). As you can see from the above poster (I love lost wider posters) it actually stars Lawford who I think I’ve only ever seen in the original Ocean’s 11.

The film’s about buddies and London club owners Salt and Pepper (Sammy’s Salt, Peter’s Pepper) who find themselves embroiled in some international espionage when a Chinese call girl turns up dead in one of their rooms. But, as you might expect, this isn’t a serious thriller, but more of a madcap, super-fun action comedy that features the less-than-muscle bound Lawford and Davis transforming from regular guy club owners into a pair of ass-kickers who took on a whole army of bumbling bad guys. The plot itself gets pretty complicated, but it’s not super important as the whole endeavor seems invented for Davis and Lawford to look awesome (and hey, missions accomplished!).

For you music fans, Davis does a really fun musical number called “I Like The Way You Dance” where he fake plays the guitar (he strums it on the bass parts and holds it awkwardly because there’s no strap) and does some slick moves seemingly inspired by Chuck Berry. Luckily someone put this bad boy on YouTube so you can enjoy it here.

The movie seems to have been one of Richard Donner’s first big directing gigs, which is cool. If you’re looking for a wacky, very 60s movie on Netflix Instant, this is a perfect choice!

Rat Pack Theater: Murderers’ Row (1966)

I’ll be honest, I don’t remember many of the plot points from Murderers’ Row, but I still had a great time watching the flick. See, back in the mid 60s the James Bond movies were pretty darn popular and also getting a little silly with all the girls and gadgets. Well, someone had the great idea to take hard core spy of the book world Matt Helm and hand him over to Dean Martin to make some of the swingenest spy flicks of all time. Basically spoofs, these spy movies took Dean Martin’s wildly popular lovable drunk image and transplanted it into the world of spy organizations and hoverboat races. The Austin Powers concept seems to have borrowed heavily from these movies, including Powers’ occupation as a photographer which he shares with Helm.

Anyway, watching Martin is always a pleasure (I love him by himself and with the rest of the Rat Pack), but when you throw in the tropes of spy movies (which I also love) with the aforementioned girls and gadgets how can you go wrong? You can’t, especially if you throw in the lovely Ann-Margret and Karl Malden.

See, I know Malden from a live action Disney movies called Pollyanna that my mom loves. I’ve probably seen the movie as many times as I’ve watched Mallrats (probably one of my most viewed movies) and embarrassingly far more times than I’ve seen any single Star Wars movie. I’ve got the thing memorized and could probably write a fairly accurate screenplay from memory. Anyway, in that movie, Malden plays a real fire and brimstone priest and in this he plays the bad guy. I’ll be honest, I don’t know what made him bad, but at the end of the movie he takes off in a giant hovecraft and Helm gives chase on a smaller one. What a great chase scene! I’ve wanted a hovercraft ever since I was a kid and saw commercials for a remote control one (does anyone remember the name of that toy?) For whatever it’s worth I think he came off scarier in Pollyanna.

There’s two more Helm movies I haven’t seen (I watched the first one but didn’t blog about it and don’t remember much) and plan on watching the other two assuming their both on Netflix Instant. Damn, I love this service!

Rat Pack Theater: Suddenly (1954)

There is exactly one reason why I added Suddenly to my NetBox queue and his name is Frank Sinatra. I love Old Blue Eyes and have had a minor obsession with the Rat Pack aesthetic for as long as I can remember. So, when I came across this movies, which I honestly had never heard of, I just added it and forgot about it. Thanks to some recent queue shuffling, it made its way towards the top and I checked it out last night. Aside from feeling like an old TV show as opposed to a movie, I really loved this movie. See, the idea is that the president (who would have been Dwight D. Eisenhower the year the movie came out) is passing through a small town called Suddenly. The Secret Service lock the town down because they’ve got word of an assassination attempt. Meanwhile, the potential assassin, played by Sinatra, and his goons hole up in an old man’s house along with his widowed daughter in law, her son, the town sheriff and another local. While he holds them captive, Sinatra explains exactly how he’s going to get away with this crime that no one has ever gotten away with. It’s really interesting to hear him defend his actions, the other people telling him he’s nuts and the overall feeling that something like that is actually impossible. Think about it, this is 9 full years before JFK (a friend of Sinatra’s) was killed and the three presidents assassinated before that were in 1865 (Lincoln), 1881 (James Garfield) and 1901 (William McKinley). Even though it’s been over 40 years since JFK was killed, it still feels like it could happen any time thanks to the flurry of assassinations that took place around that same time and the later attempt on Ronald Reagan. Hell, there’s a whole Wiki page devoted just to presidential assassination attempts (I just realized this post might get me put on some kind of watch list, yeesh). Anyway, it’s a quick little movie you can watch in under an hour and a half and I highly recommend it not only for Sinatra’s great performance but also because it’s an interesting piece of fiction from a time that seems almost foreign to us now.