Showing posts from July, 2015

Friday Roundup: Vacation edition

I'm on vacation this week, off gallivanting around the Pacific Northwest, getting back to my roots while drinking excellent cappuccinos and craft beers and Columbia Valley wines. Hence, this is going to be a quick one.

First up: Glitter Princes. Here's Smitty, the rattiest and meanest of this glamorous gaggle of spies. His cover is an auto mechanic. He doesn't get along with his fellow Glitter Princes (well, except for Rob--everyone gets along with Rob), largely because he assumes none of the others are taking their life-and-death missions seriously enough. He's probably right.

I have trouble with Smitty's hair. Apart from being a glamorous redhead, he needs to have some clean, clear way to differentiate him from the others, especially Etienne and Marcel (Sebastian and Rob sorta have their own visual thing going). I've more or less decided he should always have a shaggy mullet, which he often yanks back into an unkempt ponytail.

Film Review: Tom at the Farm

In deep grief over the sudden death of his lover, Guillaume, a young man named Tom travels from Montreal to a gloomy dairy farm in rural Canada to pay his respects to the deceased’s family. Guillaume’s bereaved mother, Agathe (Lise Roy), welcomes Tom warmly enough, but appears to have no idea who he is; erring on the side of caution, Tom introduces himself as simply a coworker and friend. Guillaume’s brutish, volatile brother Francis (the excellent Pierre-Yves Cardinal, who physically resembles a brooding, Gallic, malevolent Ben Affleck) is desperate to keep the nature of Tom’s relationship with Guillaume a secret from his mother. He enlists Tom’s reluctant aid in maintaining a web of careful lies about Guillaume’s fictional girlfriend, a woman named Sarah. When Tom balks at going along with the ruse, Francis turns nasty. Emotional manipulation and intimidation escalate into vicious physical attacks, and Tom soon finds himself a prisoner on the farm, caught up in the bizarre dynamic …

Miami Vice Mondays: “Whatever Works”

Episode: Season Two, Episode Two: “Whatever Works” Original airdate: October 4, 1985 Directed by: John Nicollela Written by: Maurice Hurley
Summary: Two cops are shot execution-style, with Santeria talismans left at the crime scene. Crockett and Tubbs investigate the murders and find local crime lords acting unusually wary and trigger-happy around the police, having been deeply spooked by something.
Castillo consults with his old friend Chata (Eartha Kitt, fabulous), a university professor/Santeria priestess, who provides him with access to the inner workings of Miami’s Santeria community. It turns out the slain cops, along with a couple of their comrades, had been brutalizing and extorting money from local miscreants, even going so far as to kidnap the son of Victor Davila (Hector Jaime Mercado), a powerful drug lord and Santeria practitioner. After Davila murders another crooked cop in retaliation, the cop’s partner (Bruce MacVittie) heads after him, guns blazing. Bloodshed and tears e…

Friday Roundup: Tom at the Farm, Common People, Attack on Titan, and more Glitter Princes

Happy Friday! Just look at all the fresh content I’ve churned out in July thus far! Not one but two brand-new Duranalyses (Kulture Shock and “Come Undone”), plus a bunch of Miami Vice, a little Kidd Video, and that epic-length Sailor Moon piece. This, for me, is an unprecedented level of summer activity.
Crunching the numbers on my site traffic over the past seven weeks (in which I turned out fifteen new posts), compared to the seven weeks prior to that (in which I turned out five new posts), it looks like the overall number of visitors to this website has… dropped fourteen percent.
Too bad. I’m going to continue to ride this rare burst of summer productivity. Onward and upward!

Duranalysis: “Come Undone”

Like a radio tune I swear I’ve heard before…

“Come Undone” is the second single off of the band’s 1993 self-titled album, which is known far and wide as the Wedding Album, because Duran Duran had already released a self-titled album back in 1981 and life is plenty confusing as it is, thank you very much. The video was directed by JulienTemple, who also directed the classic 1988 comedy Earth Girls Are Easy.It’s a very pretty video (just look at all those bright, colorful, exotic fish! Just look at all those bright, colorful, exotic Durans!), but I’m correct in assuming we’d all rather be watching Earth Girls Are Easy, right?

Miami Vice Mondays: "Definitely Miami"

Episode:  Season Two, Episode Twelve: “Definitely Miami” Original airdate: January 10, 1986 Directed by: Rob Cohen Written by: Michael Ahnemann and Daniel Pyne
Summary: Crockett becomes involved with Callie, a beautiful bad-news blonde (Arielle Dombaselle) with a dangerous scuzzball of a husband, Charlie (Ted Nugent, yikes). Believing Crockett to be his criminal alter ego, drug runner Sonny Burnett, Callie and Charlie run a scam on him, one they’ve executed successfully many times before: Claiming that Charlie is abusive, Callie seduces shady men and maneuvers them into in sketchy deals with Charlie under the pretense of protecting her, whereupon Charlie murders them and steals their money.

Friday Roundup: Book stuff, Glitter Princes, summer cocktails.

My friend Ray Black just got a great review from Kirkus Reviews for his middle-grade book, Ethan Weiss and the City Between Two Rivers, which I published this year through my company, Luft Books. The review calls his book, "An imaginative adventure in a fully realized alternate world that young readers will surely want to visit", which is an apt assessment. Check out the full review here.

No book giveaways to report this week, but all of my Kindle-formatted ebooks are priced at a very reasonable $2.99 at Amazon. Looking for summer reading? Here's a full rundown of my books, complete with descriptions and purchase links. Still not sure which book is right for you? Take this highly-scientific (if slightly outdated) quiz over at the official Luft Books website, and it should point you in the right direction. Or just start with Bias Cut--that one is generally a crowd-pleaser. Don't have $2.99 to spare? Eh, no worries. Leave me a comment here or Tweet at me, and we'l…

Kidd Video: Ranking the Videos

Fake television band alert! I’m a sucker for a good fake television band, whether we’re talking about The Monkees, or Jem and the Holograms, or today’s raison d’etre, Kidd Video.
A half-hour blend of live action and animation, Kidd Video aired for two seasons on Saturday mornings on NBC from 1984 to 1985. It was produced by Haim Saban for Saban Entertainment, who would later go on to create the Power Rangers mega-franchise. While Kidd Video never reached anything approaching Power Rangers-esque levels of enduring pop-culture impact—for starters, it’s never had a proper home entertainment release, most likely because securing the music rights would be prohibitively complex and expensive—it’s nonetheless remembered fondly by MTV-crazed kids from that era.

Miami Vice Mondays: “Out Where the Buses Don’t Run”

Episode: Season Two, Episode Three: “Out Where the Buses Don’t Run” Original airdate: October 18, 1985 Directed by: Jim Johnston Written by: Douglas Lloyd McIntosh & John Mankiewicz Story by: Joel Surnow & Douglas Lloyd McIntosh
Summary: A legendary retired Vice detective named Hank Weldon (Bruce McGill) reemerges after years of obscurity to drop a bombshell: He claims to have evidence that his former nemesis Tony Arcaro, a notorious druglord who vanished in 1979, is once again doing business in Miami. Weldon teams up with Tubbs and Crockett to search for Arcaro. As Crockett and Tubbs spend time with Weldon, they grow more and more skeptical about his reliability. Weldon, who spent years gathering enough evidence to arrest Arcaro only to see the case dismissed on a technicality, suffered a psychotic break shortly after Arcaro’s disappearance. His demeanor careens wildly between goofy and violent; his former partner Marty Lang gets openly spooked at the mere mention of him.

Friday Roundup: Magic Mike XXL, Armada, Glitter Princes, Keywords

Happy Friday, all. There are wild raspberries growing in Central Park, the special cream puff filling of the day at the Beard Papa’s at 76th and Broadway is hazelnut, and life is good.
I saw Magic Mike XXL last weekend (not many people did—it underperformed at the box office, and there were only about four people in the theater with us. Then again, we caught the 10:30 AM showing, which is maaaaaybe not the optimal time to watch a high-spirited romp about male strippers). It’s thoroughly charming. No real plot to get in the way, just two hours of watching a bunch of attractive, amiable strippers as they bump and grind their way from Tampa to Myrtle Beach. On my spectrum of movies I’ve seen thus far this summer, I put it squarely in the middle with Dope, while Mad Max: Fury Road is unchallenged at the top and Avengers: Age of Ultron is bringing up the rear.
No free book giveaways this week. After that mad flurry of recent giveaways, I figure it was time to take a breather. However, I s…

Duranalysis: Duran Duran on Kulture Shock

I came across this fascinating cultural artifact recently on YouTube: It’s an interview with Simon and Nick from October 1984 for a music news show called Kulture Shock, which apparently aired on Tyne Tees Television in North East England. There’s not much of an online record for Kulture Shock; after doing some hunting, I could only scrounge up a whopping total of four relevant search results. There’s this video, there’s a performance by Duran Duran of “Girls On Film” circa ’81 or ‘82, back when Andy had shock-white hair and everybody favored those blue-and-white striped shirts, there’s an interview with the members of UB40, and there’s a performance by UB40. That’s it. While there’s an obvious explanation for the lack of an electronic trail—not everybody held onto grainy VHS copies of local television programs for thirty years before uploading them to YouTube, more’s the pity—I prefer to think Kulture Shock catered to a very selective pop-culture niche and, indeed, only produced epi…

Miami Vice Mondays: “Bushido”

Episode: Season 2, Episode 8: “Bushido” Original airdate: November 22, 1985 Directed by: Edward James Olmos Written by: John Leekley
Summary: A major Vice operation to take down a key drug lord goes weirdly and inexplicably egg-shaped when the drug lord ends up murdered under bizarre circumstances (Crockett and Tubbs find him strung upside-down in a men’s room on the beach with his head stuffed in a toilet full of cocaine. You know, the usual) and half a million of the Miami Police Department’s money goes missing. Castillo quickly figures out the culprit: Jack Gretsky (Dean Stockwell, never better), his close friend and fellow former CIA spook, now rumored to be working for the KGB. Castillo secretly meets with Gretsky, who urges him to protect his wife and son, then whips out a gun and opens fire on Castillo. Shocked, Castillo shoots and kills him.

Friday Roundup: Fourth of July, Ethan Weiss, Glitter Princes, and Heroes Reborn

Happy Independence Day weekend, fellow Americanos and anyone looking for an excuse to celebrate. To commemorate the occasion, I’ve fixed vanilla custard tarts topped with blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries. Patriotic and festive! And we’re planning on making a Pimm’s Cup, and maybe seeing Magic Mike XXL. Summer is my least favorite season—I like hiding in cold and dark places, Gollum-style—but honestly, I’ve heard of worse plans for a long holiday weekend.
I’m experimenting with a new posting schedule here for the summer: Mondays will be Miami Vice recaps, Wednesdays will be reserved for a post on whatever strikes my fancy (check out this week’s epic 3,500-word Sailor Moon: Top Ten Episodes post), and Fridays will be a smorgasbord of anything that doesn’t require a separate post. We’ll see how this goes. On the slate for next Wednesday: the much-delayed return of Duranalysis.

Sailor Moon: Top Ten Episodes

I’ve been on a Sailor Moon bender lately. I first fell in love with the 1992 anime series in 1996, post college, when I was working at a soul-killing temp job and living for my nightly dose of the weirdly-dubbed episodes that were then newly airing on U.S. television. Last year saw the debut of a reboot, Sailor Moon Crystal; I watched enough of Crystal to realize it was a limp and charmless copy of the original (the characters are poorly defined, and worse, it’s not funny), which then sparked a renewed craving for the pure, uncut glory of old-school Sailor Moon.
Sailor Moon centers around Usagi Tsukino, an adorably scatterbrained eighth-grade girl who discovers she’s a reincarnated super-powered princess from the moon. She fights an unending slew of villains and demons and miscreants from all over the galaxy with the aid of her four fellow reincarnated Sailor Soldiers: brainy Ami (Sailor Mercury), temperamental Rei (Sailor Mars), brawny Makoto (Sailor Jupiter), and glamorous Minako (S…