Monday, December 17, 2012

My Next Big Thing

The bundle of verbal awesome that is Sue Quinn tagged me in a blog meme.  If you follow this blog, you know it has been neglected worse than a toothbrush at a hillbilly hoedown, so I guilted myself into accepting the honor in order to inspire an actual New Post.

Brace yourselves.

What is the title of your next book?
Smart Alec
And it’s written by a smart ass.  Fitting.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
My son and I thought it up together.  He wanted to write a book with me, and we brainstormed the character (a boy who can read minds) and the core of the plot (cool  / dangerous stuff happens to him). 

He typed up the outline, and we didn’t do anything with it for about a year.  Then I hit a wall on a different WIP, and I took a swipe at Smart Alec one day.  I didn’t tell my son I had started without him until I had about 10,000 words down.  He. Was. Pissed.

I let him read the beginning and he liked it, so it’s cool now. 

What genre does your book fall under?
It’s a YA thriller.  It’s tell you more, but why waste the time when there’s a one-sentence description coming  after two more questions…

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
My preference would be for the book to be such a huge phenomenon before it was optioned that it could propel newcomers to stardom, rather than rely on big star names for box office draw.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
Alec can read the mind of anyone he’s looking at and takes advantage of it, but when he gets kidnapped and blindfolded he has to escape using something he’s neglected since he discovered his power: his own wits.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Time will tell.  If my other books start to fly off the shelf, I’ll probably stay Indie, but I may get back into the world of querying just for fun. (NOTE: Right. Who the f%#@ queries for fun?)

So to spare me the indignity of querying, please recommend my books to people:

The Man in the Cinder Clouds, the real story of how Kris Kringle came to be known as Santa Claus.  It wasn’t easy.

Rudy Toot-Toot, a little boy whose special power will blow you away.  Literally.  It’s a real gas.  I’d tell you more but I don’t want to spill the beans.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
The clock is still ticking, so I can’t say yet.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
That’s tough.  Alec is the only one who can read minds and it takes place in the present, so it’s on a different level from Sue Quinn’s awesome Mindjack Trilogy, but it still has mind reading, so it's in league.

Alec also goes up against a nasty antagonist…a teacher who has a dangerous obsession for a girl that Alec likes.  It’s not going to be Kiss the Girls creepy, but it will have an edge.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
When my son and I plotted it out, we were working with a middle grade Alec.  About 30,000 words in, he grew to adolescence, and I upped the ante to young adult.  There’s more complexity to the story and emotions that way, and it’s more fun to write.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Alec knows what you are thinking.  Literally…as long as he can see you, he can read your mind.  It’s a great way to ace tests, and football rocks when you know the other team’s plays, but when Alec discovers a teacher’s dangerous obsession for a classmate, he stops being selfish with his ability and uses it to protect Emma Whitaker from Mr. Schmidt.  As Alec spends more time with Emma, his new relationship puts an old relationship with his best friend at risk…but it also brings out the over-protective-psycho in his history teacher.  When Mr. Schmidt kidnaps Alec and blindfolds him, Alec is rendered powerless.  Now he has to escape using something he has neglected for a long time: his own wits.

And now for the obligatory tagging!  Here are some writers whose works I am interested in reading (or reading more of).  Let's see if they are as easy to goad into participation as I was:
Scott G.F. Bailey
Alex J. Cavanaugh
Belinda Nichol
Travis Erwin
Anne Gallagher

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Book Give-Away!

No, not here...Over at Sheryl Hart's blog!

She's hosting an interview with yours truly and I'm giving away a signed copy of Rudy Toot-Toot to a random commentor (on that blog, not this one...).  Head on over, leave a comment, and cross your fingers!

Reflections on the A-Z Challenge

Back in the spring I participated in the A-Z blogfest challenge, posting almost every day for a month and writing about my favorite movies.

Today Alex Cavanaugh, one of the A-Z sponsors and blogging ninja extraordinaire, posted an interview with me about that experience.  I gave him my typical smart-ass answers.  Hop on over to the A-Z challenge blog to check it out!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Potty Humor!

Ever wonder why kids are so fascinated with potty humor?

Me too, and luckily for me, awesome YA Author Sue Quinn let me pontificate on the subject on her blog!  Check it out, click here.

And while you're there, poke around to around to learn more about Sue and her books, the Mindjack series is a lot of fun!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Sand Art- The Reader

Thanks to D.G. Hudson for the inspiration / suggestion.  An open book, indeed...along with a reader absorbed in its pages.

What book its it?  Why, it's Rudy Toot-Toot, by yours truly!  The sand version slightly thicker than the print or Kindle versions

The sculpture is slightly incomplete (about 95%)...a thunderstorm popped up and I had to abandon my efforts in the final details in order to not get hit by lightning.  I guess I'm not the world's most dedicated sand artists, but at least I survived to sculpt again.  It may be a while, since we are leaving first thing in the morning.

Here's a play by play on how I created the reader:

Step 1- Make a rough outline.
Step 2- Make a huge pile of sand.  This took 15 minutes.
Step 3- Add water.  I dumped about 8 buckets full of water on the pile.  The water makes the sand stick together better.
Step 4- Make a rough shape.  Basically, remove sand until I have the shape I want.  It's rare that I add more on to the pile.
Step 4- Front view.  The head is exaggerated, because I will whittle it away.  Start big and refine the sculpture as detail is added.
Step 5- Detail.  I have a paint scraper to make cuts and fine lines.  Making angled cuts at the bottom where the sculpture meets the beach creates shadows, which add depth to the work and keep it from getting washed out in the pictures.
Front view.

Head-on.  This was bigger, so I could put more detail in the face than my mermaid had.
Side view.
Reading over his shoulder- Rudy Toot-Toot by Rick Daley!
Angled view, I like the way the shadows fall on this one.  My son Vic is in the background.
The total effort = 1 hour 15 minutes.  The hardest part was taking the pictures...I couldn't see my phone screen at all in the beach sunlight, so I could only hope a few of them turned out!  Then, I almost wiped them all off my phone, which was giving low data warnings.  Luckily they survived...

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Sand Art- Mermaid Edition

Many pictures of one sculpture today.  This sand mermaid is probably the most intricate sculpture I've attempted to date.  It took about an hour and twenty minutes from start (piling up a bunch of sand) to finish (the cross-hatch lines on her tail and fins).  Now I'm brainstorming for the next sculpture...I think I have one more in me before we head home.  Any suggestions?





Monday, August 13, 2012

Sand Art- 2012 Edition

If you've been following this blog for a while, you know I love to make sand sculptures at the beach.  I'm no professional sand artist, but I know how to have fun with it.  My past works range from Bugs Bunny, the Sphinx, and alligators, to Kris Kringle napping under an evergreen tree and sand swimmers.

So here we are in Hilton Head for our annual vacation, and this is what the tide brought in...

This frog was my first creation...
Then I made a dragonfly for him to snack on...
...while a hungry cobra eyes the Frog!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Breaking News!

This just in...

WASHINGTON, D.C. (August 8, 2012) – Political discourse in the US took a highly anticipated turn and devolved into a childish name-calling contest.

It all started when the Obama camp slammed Mitt Romney, calling him a “Doodyhead.”  The Romney campaign, in retaliation, accused the president of having cooties since the third grade.  Fact-checking sources were not able to confirm or deny the latter accusation, as Obama’s elementary school records are sealed.

“I think Obama should release his grade-school files to prove that the accusation is false,” said Rush Limbaugh.  “Until he does that, we’ll all just have to assume that he has the cooties, and anyone whose hand he shakes on the campaign trail will get them, too.”

David Axelrod, Obama’s chief strategist, condemned the allegations in the strongest possible terms, saying, “It’s f&*%ing bull*&^#.”  He went further to explain the Romney’s mother is so fat that when she sits around the house, she sits around the house.  He ended his statement with, “Neener, neener!”

Sarah Palin, professional Attention Whore, fired back, accusing the president of actually being born with cooties, and again calling for a release of Obama’s birth records.  Harry Reid retaliated, quoting a secret source who confirms that on Romney’s past tax returns, he did in fact list his occupation as “Doodyhead.”

Regardless of the president’s health or the actual size of Romney’s mother, this election is certainly shaping up to be a game-changer in American politics.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Rudy Toot-Toot is Available!

At long last, Rudy Toot-Toot is available for sale on Amazon.com!

Have you read it?  Please enter a review!  Haven't read it?  Please check it out!

Ready for a blast of laughing gas? Rudy Toot-Toot has a special power, almost like a super-hero: he can fart. It comes natural when you’re born on a bean farm. The problem is that Rudy can’t control the timing or the force behind his special gift. 

His farts get him into a lot of trouble at home and school, and after one monstrous blast scares all the Beanheads away from the Toot-Toot Family Bean Market, it’s up to Rudy to find a way to use his talent to lure the customers back before the bank takes away their home. 

This hilarious tale about self-control (and the lack thereof) will have readers young and old laughing out loud. They might even learn a thing or two along the way…

Sure the book is about a boy who farts, but before you balk at the subject matter, it's important to understand two things:

1. Farts are funny.

2. The story is really about self-control, and finding the right time and right place.   And it is a really good story.  Trust me. 

Rudy Toot-Toot is a great summer reading choice for kids in kindergarten through 5th grade.  The first page gets their attention and the story holds it, expect giggles and the sound of ruffling paper.  Seriously...as hard as it is to get kids to read, this is a book they will want to finish!  You may need to read aloud to younger children, but this is a book adults can appreciate, too.

Paperback copies are only $9.99, and for the month of July Rudy Toot-Toot is available on Kindle for only $0.99 (and The Man in the Cinder Clouds is still just $0.99 on Kindle for my Christmas in July sale)!

Click here for the paperback copy.

Click here for the Kindle copy.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Christmas in July, Happy Anniversary Cinder Clouds!



Last year on July 12, I celebrated Christmas in July with the publication of my book, "The Man in The Cinder Clouds."  Over the past year, many people have read and reviewed my story, and while it has yet to see explosive sales and become an international phenomenon (NOTE: Don't worry, I'm patient.  It will come...), the feedback and reviews I've received from readers young and old has been wonderful.

This year for Christmas in July I'm offering The Man in the Cinder Clouds for $0.99 on Kindle.  So if you know anyone looking for a summer read, please recommend it!  Even if you're swamped with a reading list thousands of pages long, this is a great one to add to the pile and save for a cold December day...Heck, it's even a cool read for a hot summer day.

So please go to Amazon and grab a copy.  If you already have one, please tell a friend.  It's a fun, quick read...one kids and adults can enjoy together.  Don't just take my word for it, here's what some of the reviews have said:

--"THE MAN IN THE CINDER CLOUDS is one of those middle grade books that the grown-ups get sucked into along with their kids. You think you bought if for your young reader but after you browse chapter one you just sort of... can't stop."

--"I don't typically read this type of book, but I'm glad that I did. It showed up on my suggestions and I took a chance :) I really liked it, as I read it in one sitting....and I don't do that very often."

--"I'm not fond of Christmas...This book showed me that I do love a good Christmas story."

--"I've read all the Christmas stories and it's so hard to find anything that feels fresh. This book does! It has an exciting, unique premise and is just so darn fun. I suggest families buy it and read it aloud together."

--"I just finished reading this book, started about 3 hours ago, I was hooked with the first chapter and couldn't put it down."

--"For this forty-something father, it brought back the magic I remember as a child when I watched the Christmas specials on TV, except this story seemed more "real". I definitely think it could be a new classic, allowing modern kids to feel the same sense of wonder we all felt when we were young."

--"The Man in the Cinder Clouds...is a story within a story within a story...The three stories twist and turn together, bringing modern and ancient adventures together with a splash of magic and the wonder of Christmas in this completely fresh take on the story of Santa Claus."

--"The characters are well developed and the settings of the book make you feel like you are actually in the book...part of the story, amongst the characters."

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Big, Fat, Hairy Deal

They say nothing good happens after midnight.  This is mostly true, but sometimes, when the party is still going strong, someone breaks out a bunch of wigs and bald guys like me can't resist the temptation to feel hair on my head and shoulders again.

Hair extensions are a gateway wig...
That's more like it!
Channeling my inner 80s Hair-Metal Band, Poison Def Bon Motley Leppard Crue.
This is my kids' favorite: the stupid hippie.
I was not the only lunatic there...
You gotta own it...
...and wear it with pride!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Indie-Pendence Day Q&A


Q: What is an Indie?
A:  It’s when your belly button doesn’t stick out.  Ha!  Just kidding.  Indie is short for Independent Author.  Or Indiana Jones, but I think you spell that with a –y, i.e. Indy.

Q: Why celebrate Independent Authors?
A: Because supporting an Indie Author is supporting small business.  These are talented entrepreneurs, creating high-quality books and selling them at competitive prices.  It’s what readers should be looking for, to be honest.  Indie authors are enterprising people starting up their own businesses...It's the American way!  Celebrating their efforts around the 4th of July makes perfect sense.

Q: But don’t all self-published books suck?
A: No, they don’t all suck.  Far from it.  While self-publishing is a process of making an e-book available, or working with a POD (print on-demand) publisher, and Indie Authors do self-publish in this sense, I see a difference between the stigmatic "self-published books" and being an Indie Author.

Indie Authors don’t work alone; self-publishers do it all themselves (hence the name). Self-publishers self-edit, often rushing to publication with a first draft of a first novel.  While there are many horrible self-published books out there, there are even more great novels by talented new Indie authors (including those who publish through small presses). Indies solicit expertise from peers and/or professionals to hone their writing, from grammar and line edits to character, plot, and pacing; they care deeply about the quality of their writing.  It’s the dedication to the craft that is enabling Indie Authors to create a new perception of quality in the market.    

Q: Aren’t you an Indie Author?
A: Yes, but this isn’t about me.  This is about the entire community of Indie writers and the readers who support them.  While I would love for more people to read my books, I want to recommend two Indie authors whose books I read an enjoyed:

Travis Erwin’s semi-memoir The Feedstore Chronicles is a fictionalized account of his coming-of-age, set around his high school job in the Texas panhandle.  It’s laugh-out-loud funny, and funny doesn’t come easy.  Sure, some of the humor is crude.  Okay, pretty much all of the humor is crude.  There are a couple scenes that make fart jokes seem like church talk, one involving a bulldog.  But it is funny, and it’s the voice with which Travis describes the awkward situations that makes the narrative so compelling.  His writing is natural, witty, and full of heart.

Anita Laydon Miller has independently published two books, Earthling Hero and A Scary Good Book and is currently working on a new YA novel with agent representation.  Her stories are perfect for middle-grade readers, with characters they can relate to.  She has a good sense for writing action and suspense, in A Scary Good Book, especially…It’s as good as any Hardy Boys or Three Investigators book I read as a kid.  Anita is finishing courses in pursuit of her MFA degree, I expect her future works to keep getting better and better.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Rudy Toot-Toot has arrived!

Ready for a blast of laughing gas?

I received ARCs (advanced reader copies, for you non-writer folk) of my new kids' book, Rudy Toot-Toot!  I'm giving away a limited number of signed copies in exchange for reviews on Amazon, BarnesandNoble.com, and Goodreads.

If you'd like an advance copy for review (Free! Signed!) just email me at rjdaley101071 (at) gmail (dot) com.  First come, first serve!  Act now!  Hurry, while supplies last!  (NOTE: I should get a job on an infomercial)


by Rick Daley
Rudy Toot-Toot has a special power, almost like a super-hero: 
He can fart.  It comes natural when you’re born on a bean farm.  The problem is that Rudy can’t control the timing or the force behind his special gift.  

His farts get him into a lot of trouble at home and school, and after one monstrous blast scares all the Beanheads away from the Toot-Toot Family Bean Market, it’s up to Rudy to find a way to use his talent to lure the customers back before the bank takes away their home.

This hilarious tale about self-control (and the lack thereof) will have readers young and old laughing out loud.  They might even learn a thing or two along the way… 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Inspiration

Today was the last day of school.  I attended the ceremonies briefly, which consisted of standing in a 4th grade classroom while the kids got an intense sugar high, then I acted as umpire for a game of kickball, and then I visited a 2nd grade pizza party.

That was all fun, but something else made my day...

During the time spent watching the 4th graders ingest a thousand forms of sugar, a slideshow played on the projector.  It had been looping all day, pictures from the course of the school year flashing in succession, a visual timeline of the 4th grade.  Several featured yours truly, pictures from an author visit last December.  During the visit I read from The Man in the Cinder Clouds and Rudy Toot-Toot, then I guided the class through an interactive writing workshop where the class took a premise I provided (a treasure hunt) and we created main characters and a storyline.

The teacher told me that she has one student in particular who is a terrific writer, and he’s been working on a book for a while.  Earlier in the day, when the author visit pictures first started scrolling, he told her that was the day he started writing his book; my visit served as the inspiration.

That’s my favorite kind of feedback.  I like it when my stories entertain people, and I am thankful for every book sold …but to know that I inspired a young writer to start his own story, that I helped grow the creativity waiting in someone’s heart, serves a deeper purpose.  It’s rewarding in a way Amazon reviews and royalties can never be. 

And it inspires me to write, too.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Simple Logic Prevails

My son sat in the backseat of the car on the way to soccer practice.  He was fiddling with my iPod.

"Dad, how do you get rid of this?" he asked.

I'm a stickler for details, and I needed more information.  I said, "What are you trying to get rid of?"

He fiddled for a second and then said, "Nothing."

"Oh, that's easy," I said.  "Anything."

"Huh?"

"You want to get rid of nothing.  You can use anything to get rid of nothing."  Problem solved.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Understanding the Left

I have a friend who is a full-fledged conservative of the highest degree, and we recently discussed the intentions of the left vs. the right.  His take, and indeed the stance assumed by many on the right, is that the left is attempting a fascist coup and is aiming to destroy America.  As an independent, I disagree.

Listening to any ideologue discuss how politics affect the nation is like listening to a fish in a bowl describing the room in which the tank sits; the environment of the bowl warps the perspective of the observing fish.  Some things may seem larger or smaller than they actually are; other things are reflections of objects in the tank and do not actually exist in the room itself.

If conservatism involves less government and the basic fiscal responsibility to spend within reach of revenues, fine.  I get that and I agree whole-heartedly.  The Democrats have little-to-no sense of fiscal responsibility, but the right misjudges their intentions and vilifies them.  Most that could carry the label “Liberal” are actually quite charitable at heart, perhaps to a fault, and they want to use the resources of government to administer what they see to be charitable acts, such as financial assistance to the poor, healthcare for the sick, and protection from oppressors (both foreign and domestic).  I see the primary disagreement between right and left being that these charitable acts should not be the responsibility of the government, not that these intentions are inherently evil, although the pundits may disagree from within the fishbowls.

In regard to the lattermost point regarding protection against oppressions, particularly domestic, the left sees a great potential for business owners to be oppressive to their workers.  It is true that they call for government regulation of business in hopes of preventing such oppression, for they fear those with money will quickly lose moral judgment in pursuit of more capital. Government’s regulation of business for the protection of workers goes back to the abolition of slavery.  I would certainly hope we can all agree that the federal government was justified in making laws deeming slavery illegal, and while it certainly impacted the profitability of slave owners, the rights of those workers were deserving of federal protection.

Going back to the overdeveloped sense of charity that “Liberals” are affected by, I see a great irony in the number of Christians who align themselves with the GOP from a moral standpoint.  It seems to me that Jesus would have been in favor of doing all that was possible to clothe and feed the poor and heal the sick; that Jesus would not be in favor of preemptive military strikes; that Jesus would accept a homosexual as a person deserving of love and respect.  From my understanding of Jesus’ actions, he demonstrated more “Liberal” qualities than conservative.  He washed the feet of tax collectors, he made company with whores and beggars, he protected the adultress by inviting one without sin to cast the first stone, he espoused charity and urged his followers to do away with all their worldly possessions, he eschewed wealth; most importantly, he called on others to follow in his footsteps.  These are virtues pursued by “Liberals” who are trying to protect their fellow man and the earth we all share.  They are Christian in nature.

Speaking of protecting the earth, environmental laws do serve a purpose: they keep people from shitting upstream of others.  Present bickering over climate change and pollution is not about a fascist takeover of the world, it is an attempt to define what constitutes shit, and where the boundaries of the stream are.  Those downstream say “Stop shitting in my water supply” while those upstream say “Too bad, I can’t afford to build an outhouse.” 

And then there’s perhaps the most divisive issue in all politics: abortion.  It seems to me that the right’s stance on abortion has allowed all logic and reason to be swallowed by blind dogma that states no abortion should be allowed, ever, under any circumstance.  Pro-choice does not entail the merciless slaughter of infants.  If a woman were to be raped and impregnated, I think she should be entitled to an abortion and should not be forced to carry that baby to term.  If pregnancy complications threaten the life of the mother of two, I think she should be able to have an abortion and save her life, for her two children and husband are better off with a mother and wife than a sibling / third child.  If a father rapes and impregnates his daughter she should not be forced into a back-alley with a coat hanger in order to keep that child from entering the world.  However, I do not think abortions should be used as a basic means of birth control, and late-term abortions should only be allowed in the event of a life-saving decision on the mother’s behalf.  There can be a middle ground. 

The right seems to have unwavering faith that businesses will be just and moral and need no regulations, but strives to regulate morality on the individual level.  They claim the fascist left wants to re-form the constitution, but the right has its own changes it wants to make, such as a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.  The heart of gay marriage really boils down to tax benefits and advantages gained from being able to file jointly; normally the right is all for lessening a tax burden, but not when it’s just for a couple of fags, I guess.  Homosexuality is not new.  It is neither created nor expanded by gay marriage. Two gay people getting married does absolutely nothing to affect the sanctity of my marriage.  It is not an act of war on marriage, as many right-wing pundits claim.  Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh have done more to deface the sanctity of marriage with their infidelity and multiple divorces than the two ladies who live together three houses down from me, yet Rush and Newt are idolized by a large faction of the right. 

Then there’s waterboarding, which is another divisive topic between right and left.  There are two angles to the argument: whether or not it is torture, and whether or not it is effective.  I can’t speak to the first directly, but I do take credence in John McCain’s view that waterboarding is torture; here is a man who has truly been tortured, he has a valid perspective.  I doubt waterboarding’s effectiveness as an interrogation technique.  I bet if you waterboarded Dick Cheney or George Bush long enough you would get them to confess that 9/11 was an inside job (NOTE: I do not believe 9/11 was an inside job, I do believe people will say anything to stop being tortured).

I do not condone the voices of the far left.  I am glad Keith Olbermann was fired from MSNBC and from Current.  While I think Rush Limbaugh is a selfish man with very little moral value, I do not think he is the “Worst Person in the World” and think that by attempting to classify him as such, one downplays the truly horrible acts that occur every day.  Likewise, to liken the left to a rising Nazi party belittles the horror of the Holocaust, and to associate the left with Nazism is to imply the left is trying to rise up to take over the world and engage in mass genocide—a Fourth Reich, so to speak—which is simply ludicrous.  The left—who wants to feed and educate the poor, to heal the sick, to abolish the death penalty, to protect the environment—is not the party of death.  They are more pro-life than many foes of abortion.

I’ll conclude by saying that while this rant was largely focused on the right, the left are equal in their use of deplorable tactics, and they also set party lines based on rigid dogma requiring unwavering support on all fronts.  Both sides have a single, primary goal: to destroy the other party.  There is no intent to fix, to heal, to reconcile.  Both sides have adopted the stance that “it’s my way and fuck yourself while you’re at it.”  Sadly, the majority of Americans, who are just trying to live day-to-day, will be the ones most affected by this fight, and not in a good way.

PS  I won’t defriend you if you comment sharing a different viewpoint.  I value the ability to debate issues in a rational manner.

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Saturday, May 5, 2012

Ouch.

I woke up at 6am this morning.  In case you are reading this in the future, let me specify that it is Saturday, and except for house fires and tornados there are very few acceptable reasons to wake up that early on a weekend.  I did it so I could run a half-marathon, 13.1 miles.  This is not an acceptable reason, and it is evidence of the fact that I am slightly crazy.  Like we need more of that.

I am not, however, clinically-certified batshit-crazy.  That classification is reserved for the silly people I saw today running the half-marathon barefoot.  And I'm not talking about those shoes with toes that supposedly give a "run natural" feel.  I mean totally barefoot over city streets.  There were two such lunatics today, and I would like to thank them for making me feel sane.

Many people held signs and cheered for the runners.  I cheered for the cheering people, because they need love too.  Plus they did a great job, I felt highly motivated and deeply loved even though I am not "Mom."  Man, she has a lot of kids rooting for her.

One man held a sign that said "Run Like You Stole Something" so I grabbed it from him and took off.  He should have seen that coming.*

About eight miles in I passed a young kid.  I asked his age, he said twelve.  Way cool.  It's good to be crazy when you're young and it's better justified.

I finished in 2:02:35, according to my Garmin, which also says I ran 13.24 miles.  I was trying to get under two hours, but I'm satisfied.  I beat my 2009 time of 2 hours 10 minutes, so it's all good.

They had lots of food and beverages in "recovery row."  Sports drinks, and for those who wanted something lighter water.  And for those who wanted something lighter, Mich Ultra.

The real reason I ran this year, though, is to support a college friend whose son has a rare and dibilitating form of muscular dystrophy called Ullrich Muscular Dystrophy (“UCMD” or collagen 6 deficiency). This is a terrible progressive muscle wasting disease for which there is no cure. Gabe does not have the muscle strength to run, jump, or climb a flight of stairs. Individuals who suffer from UCMD also develop contractures, complications with feeding, and respiratory problems. Congenital Muscular Dystrophies do not receive much attention in the way of research grants or funds.  Fortunately a group of parents of children afflicted with congenital muscular dystrophies stared CURE CMD a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization in dedicated to raising funds to for research.

I have a 10-year-old son, and also a 7-year-old son, and I am thankful for their health.  Dedicating time to training for this run and helping to raise awareness and funds to help find treatments and, hopefully, a cure for CMD is the very least I can do in appreciation for my own sons' health and to show Ted and Gabe that they are not alone in this difficult battle.  This lessens, but does not resolve, my insanity for partaking in this event.

If you would like to make a donation, you can do so at: http://curecmd.org/events/ccmarathon2012

You can pick my name (NOTE: "Rick") from the list.  Please also select "Collagen VI Research Fund."  Donations can be made anonymously. 

*No, I didn't really steal that sign, but I should have.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Happy Anniversary!

Today is my 13th anniversary.  I am sharing a song I wrote for my wife because she is beautiful and I love her deeply.  It's tough to imagine what life would be like without her, she is truly the best thing that ever happened to me!


Monday, April 30, 2012

A-Z Challenge: Zombie and Zombieland

Zombies have long been a staple of horror genre, and for good reason.  There's something about reanimated flesh that captures our imaginations.  Even for the non-horror loving folks out there, most religions deal with the dead coming back to life in some way or another; it isn't exactly a new meme.

For all the great zombie movies out there...From the original Frankenstein and Mummy movies to Night of the Living Dead and 28 Days Later, there are two that really stand out, and not just because they begin with the letter Z.

Zombie is a low-budget movie about someone, I think a girl, who goes to a remote island to look for someone else, maybe her father.  I can't remember, because it's been a long time since I saw this movie and because the plot was absolutely inconsequential.  This movie is about gore, and it delivers.  There's one scene involving the close-up of an eye and a large piece of wood.  It does not end well, for the eyeball or the wood.  I will never forget it.  I'm not sure if that's good or bad, but for a single scene to stick in my memory after decades...well, that's an impactful scene.  And as horror goes, this scene is truly horrible.  Seriously.  (NOTE: I am not recommending that you do this, but just as an FYI, if you were to search for "Big Fucking Splinter to the Eyeball" on YouTube, you could see what I am talking about.) 

Zombieland, on the other hand, takes the genre and makes it funny, a lot like Shaun of the Dead did but using a title that starts with Z and doesn't compete with Star Wars for inclusion in my A-Z Challenge.  Come for the double-tap, stay for Bill Murray's biggest regret.  Zombieland had a great style, and the acting in it was perfect...the cast played it like it was real without overacting or getting too campy, which can work if done right (see Evil Dead 2), but that's a crap shoot that can kill a movie if it backfires.

Thanks to all who stopped by, especially the dedicated few who stayed for the entire A-Z series!

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Saturday, April 28, 2012

A-Z Challenge: Young Frankenstein

"Tragedy is when I cut my finger.  Comedy is when you walk into an open sewer and die."
- Mel Brooks

Young Frankenstein is one of many comedy greats from Mel Brooks.  I'm glad I had an open letter to fit him in here.  Between this, History of the World, Blazing Saddles, The Producers, and Spaceballs, not to mention Get Smart! (the TV show), it's no small wonder he has an Oscar, Emmy, Tony, and Grammy on his mantel.

Young Frankenstein (pronounced Fraank-en-steen) also features Gene Wilder, who was a gifted comic performer (and frequent Mel Brooks collaborator), and the late great Peter Boyle (aka Raymond's dad) as a singing monster.  And then there's Teri Garr in her youthful hotness and Marty Feldmen with his bulging eyes...he had such great facial expressions this movie could have worked as a silent film.

If you have never seen this movie, shame on you.  It's an American classic, and you owe it to yourself to watch it, followed immediately by The Producers, Blazing Saddles, History of the World Part I, and Spaceballs.

May the Schwartz be with you.

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Friday, April 27, 2012

A-Z Challenge: X-Men

The first X-Men movie was a great film.  It provided in-depth origins stories for some characters while teasing at the origins of others, leaving me satisfied and wanting more.  The action hit the mark, and the story was fueled by plenty of angst, giving a nice dramatic edge.  That angst is a big part of what made the X-Men, and other superheros like Spider-man so successful...it gave them a commonality with the teens (and adults) who followed their stories.

Unlike Superman, who is just solid awesomeness except in the presence of kryptonite, these heroes are deeply flawed.  Wolverine is probably the most enigmatic (and most bad-ass), but even Magneto earns our sympathy, even if he is the bad guy.

The story in the X-Men goes beyond a simple good guy vs. bad guy tale.  There's a different morality to it, and the way it parallels our present-day societal fears and prejudices makes it even more commendable.

This is probably a bit deep for a movie that centers around mutants who can controls others' minds, shoot lasers from their eyes, and make adamantuim claws shoot from their hands, but I just call 'em as I see 'em.  X-Men is a good movie.  I attribute half of this to the characters and stories the movie is based upon, but also to the talents of director Bryan Singer, who also directed The Usual Suspects, which was an alternate for my U-post and a fantastic movie.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A-Z Challenge: Wall-E

Wall-E ranks among the best kids' movies of all time.  The animation is spectacular.  The imagery not only nails the scenery of a world lost and forgotten, it successfully shows the thoughts and feelings of characters in a movie with very little dialogue.  It is true art.

One of my friends saw this with his kids and didn't like it.  "It's just somebody's dumb political message," he said.  He had seen it before I did, so this thought echoed in my head when I watched the movie fore the first time.  I felt bad for my friend by the end; he had let misplaced political bias overshadow a great, funny movie.

I loved the biting satire when Wall-E gets to the cruise ship.  Is this where humanity is headed, to be fat, lazy, semi-boneless beings dependent on technology?  I don't know, but it makes for some funny situations and an entertaining kids' movie.  And there's nothing wrong with a message about taking care of the environment.  Believing in or denying global warming isn't the point of the film.  It's about doing the right thing.  That's a message I'm okay with, personally. 

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A-Z Challenge: Very Bad Things

Very Bad Things is a black comedy.  I am almost ashamed to admit how hard I laughed at this movie.  It's one where you will get it or you won't, and even if you get it, you may not find it funny.  After all, it's about a bachelor party gone wrong where a hooker gets killed and dismembered.  And then it gets weird...

Christian Slater turns in a great performance as a motivational speaker, who also happens to be the best man in this wedding party.  Never one to let reality get him down, his pep talks inspire his friends to go to great lengths to protect themselves from the accidental crime their buddy Michael (Jeremy Piven) committed.  But at every turn, things go from bad to worse, and the hooker is not the only one to die.

It would be a fun game to watch this movie and count the number of times it makes you say, "Oh no they di'nt!"  Even better if you drink each time you say it, but you may get alcohol poisoning by the time to get to the climactic wheelchair battle at the end.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A-Z Challenge: Up

Sometimes a kids' movie comes out that not really a kids' movie.  It's just a really great movie that kids will probably like, too.  Up falls into this category.

Up is perhaps the best, most original new story to have come out of Hollywood in the past decade.  If you extended that time-frame back to "ever" I would have a hard time arguing with you.  Thinking back to my R-post and Ridiculous Remakes, the originality brought to the screen in Up makes the remakes even more ridiculous.  Here is a movie with characters, settings, and events that are fresh, vibrant, and damn funny.

When movies are made right they can hold powerful influence over our emotions.  Many of the films I've listed in this series are movies that inspire a reaction: a gasp, a cringe, tears of laughter, tears of joy.  Up is a hard movie to watch to the end with dry eyes.  It's also hard to watch quietly, without laughing.

I couldn't pick a favorite part, but some of the more memorable scenes are:

- When Russel first knocks on his door and introduces himself over and over
- When they first meet Doug the dog, who loves them immediately even though he just met them; a dog has never been so perfectly written.
- The first time Alpha speaks.  It's not just the squeaky voice, but they way he speaks, very formal, almost Yoda-like in his syntax.  I can't not laugh.
- The cone of shame.  Again, a keen understanding of the dog's psychology is at play...look at Doug's face and body posture when they put him in the cone, they nailed it.
- When Mr. Fredricksen is emptying out his house at Paradise Falls and he finds Ellie's scrapbook; he flips to the end where she was going to put their adventure to the falls and finds she had filled it out with their adventures together and holy crap this might even make me cry thinking about it.  Squirrel!  There, that's better...

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Monday, April 23, 2012

A-Z Challenge: True Romance

I don't know why I like chick-flicks that aren't really chick-flicks.  The Princess Bride fell into this category, and we hit it again with True Romance, a movie I had passed over countless times while perusing the shelves at Blockbuster (NOTE: It has been ages since I set foot in a Blockbuster, I don't think there's even one open near here anymore).  I would have continued passing True Romance up based on the title had a friend not recommended it.

This movie is a triple-serving of holy f*&^ing sh!t.  I guess it does truly cover the romance angle, but it ranks so high in bad-assery the romance is a bit of a sub-plot.  Clarence (Christian Slater) is set up with Alabama (Patricia Arquette), a call girl, but they fall in love.  Clarence promises to get her things from her pimp, Drexel (an unrecognizable Gary Oldman in what, in my opinion, is the best supporting performance by a character actor in ever, period).  Clarence grabs the wrong bag and ends up with a suitcase full of coke, which mobsters Christopher Walken and pre-Soprano James Gandolfini want back.

And if that's not enough to fill the big screen we have Brad Pitt smoking a honey bear bong, Val Kilmer as the soul of Elvis, Samuel L. Jackson confessing his dietary habits before getting a bellyfull of shotgun, and Dennis Hopper taunting a hit-man in an epic racist rant.  And then there's the Mexican standoff at the end...a lot like the end of Reservoir Dogs, in a way.  Did I mention this was written by Quentin Tarantino?

This is another one for my top five favorites.  Aside from the mayhem, of which there is plenty, it still has humor and despite some preposterous turns of events, still feels real.

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Saturday, April 21, 2012

A-Z Challenge: Star Wars

Star Wars defined my childhood.  I was in kindergarten when the movie (and toy line) came out.  R2-D2 was my first action figure, followed by every other one they ever made, including the ones you had to mail-order 10 proofs-of-purchase to get.

The first time I saw the movie was at a drive-in theater with my older brothers.  That sentence sums up absolutely everything I remember about that event.  I was only six. 

Remember, back on letter C, when I talked about our Betamax?  My dad rented three movies the first night we had the Betamax: Caddyshack, Conan the Barbarian, and Star Wars.  My vote for first movie to watch was Star Wars.  I was outvoted; we watched Caddyshack...But the next morning I was up at the crack of dawn watching Star Wars.  I ended up getting a copy of it and I believe I have watched it well over 100 times in my life.

I have a cousin 45 days younger than me, and he only lived 20 minutes away for most of my childhood.  He collected Star Wars stuff, too.  My mom and my aunt colluded to make sure that our presents didn't overlap on Christmas...I got cool stuff he wanted and he got cool stuff I wanted.  Together we had everything.

My favorite movie in the series is The Empire Strikes Back.  It is most abundant in awesomeness out of all six movies.

My kids have seen most of the movies, and it's hell explaining which one they are watching.  "It's the original one, but it's episode IV...no, this one came first but The Phantom Menace is movie number one...Actually, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith come before this, but this is the first one they made..."

The prequels are not as good as the original movies, but I still like them.  I can't not like them, the series is far too ingrained in every fiber of my being, and it's been there since I was six years old.  I'm loyal that way.

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Friday, April 20, 2012

A-Z Challenge: Robocop and Ridiculous Remakes

Robocop is a great movie.  The thing that struck me most when I first saw it at the tender age of 16 was the lack of opening credits.  The movie title comes up and then right into the film, and if there are any dull moments I don't remember them.  It's mayhem and violence and retribution silly commercials for futuristic games and guys mutated by enormous vats of toxic sludge, and then it ends like a splurt of blood from Red Foremen's jugular (Watching this movie now, I would keep expecting him to call Robocop "dumbass."  I'd buy that for a dollar!).

Word on the street is they are planning to remake this movie.  Why?  The original was great.  The effects were award-winning and still hold up, in my opinion.  The acting was superb.  Red Foreman was a great villain, and his crew were chilling in the way the laughed and joked while blowing the limbs off of Murphy.  And there was a bad guy named Dick, and everyone said his name with the right-but-wrong inflection, because he was one.

There's no need to re-make this movie.  There's a new Spider-Man movie coming out, too, and that also screams needless remake to me.  Who knows, maybe they will have some magic formula that makes it great, like Batman Begins had in rebooting the caped crusader.  I kind of doubt it, but time will tell. 

I guess my frustration stems from the knowledge that this is lazy story-telling, demanded by lazy marketing.  There are better movies that can be made without relying on a re-hash of old material.  We don't need to keep going back to TV shows (Rockford Files starring Vince Vaughn!) and movies that aren't even ten years old yet. 

That being said, I am very excited to see Prometheus, Ridley Scott's prequel to the Alien franchise.  But the excitement comes from knowing that Alien has very little to do with Prometheus, it has its own plot and story and the Alien references are more like Easter Eggs than a central plot.

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Thursday, April 19, 2012

A-Z Challenge: Quentin Tarantino

I'm taking slight liberties again, using a person's name instead of a movie title, but this serves as a better movie-related Q-word than Quest for Fire, The Quest, or Q-The Winged Serpent...Let's face it, the pickins are slim when it comes movies with Q-titles.

Reservoir Dogs was the first Quentin Tarantino movie I saw.  It is intense with great pacing, and it's almost all dialogue-driven.  There are some flashbacks to the robbery and brief foot and car chases, but 99% of the movie is the characters trying to figure out what's wrong with their heist job and each other (there's a snitch in their midst).  The Mexican stand-off at the end is classic.

Pulp Fiction is easily in my top 5 favorite movies of all time. (NOTE:  How many times have I said that in this series?  Like six or seven?)  I first saw Pulp Fiction in the theater in college.  The opening dialogue made me wonder if I was going to like it...It was a little tough to figure out what the heck they were talking about.  Then Hunny-Bunny whips out a pistol and shouts something about executing every last one of you mother-f#$@ers and surfer guitar kicks in, and holy shit!  Hang on, it's a wild ride till the end, kind of like a shot of adrenaline to the heart, and the soundtrack is great.

Kill Bill (both volumes) is a terrific homage to the spaghetti western era of martial arts movies.  I like how Quentin showed off his chops by mimicking old film styles.  Plus the action kept things moving (NOTE: By "action" I mean lethal sword-fighting and gallons of blood), which is a nice touch considering how his dialogue drives so much of his movies' content.

I'm not a huge fan of Jackie Brown, and Inglorious Basterds was good but not phenomenal (with the exception of Christopher Waltz's villain, he played the overly-nice but scary guy perfectly).  Quentin has a new movie coming out this Christmas called Django Unchained, starring Jamie Foxx as a slave out for revenge on Leonardo DiCaprio.  Samuel L. Jackson, Christopher Waltz, and Kurt Russel will also be in it.

I could go on, and talk about his writing credits for movies like Natural Born Killers and True Romance, but the former wasn't that great and the latter will be discussed when we get to the letter T...

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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A-Z Challenge: The Princess Bride

The first time I saw this I was in high school with a group of friends.  I didn't want to watch it.  The title screamed "chick flick" in the worst possible way.  I was just like the kid in the movie.  And, just like the kid in the movie, I got hooked early on and loved the story by the end.

If you haven't seen The Princess Bride, it's worth your time to check it out.  It has adventure, sword-fighting (left-handed and right-handed, by the way), giants, intense logical arguments, deception, torture, magic, and the very best revenge scene ever filmed.

I'm totally serious about that revenge scene.  It makes the movie, and it give me goosebumps every time I watch it.  I would hope that if I am ever killed by a six-fingered man over a magnificent sword, that my kids would avenge my death in a similar manner.

Every post has made me want to see the movie I've written about.  Several of them happened to be on TV within a few days of posting, which either means that TV programming is reading my mind and catering to my whims, or I like popular movies.  I'm going with the former.  But for this movie, and this revenge scene, I could not resist going to YouTube to watch it again.  Here you go, in case you have the same irrepressible urge...

Click the link.  I tried to embed it but blogger won't take the link and the blogger YouTube search won't pull this video and I'm frustrated and have stopped trying.  Dammit.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A-Z Challenge: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Today's post is cheating, in a way.  I'm taking advantage of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest to talk about Jack Nicholson's best movies, so this is a multi-film post.  If it's not cheating, you can consider it bonus material.

First, let's start with the chosen subject: In One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Randall Patrick McMurphy, a common criminal, has his sentence commuted from jail to a psyche ward.  Unhinged but clearly sane, McMurphy makes his mark on the other patients and the staff at the hospital, especially his nemesis, Nurse Ratched. This movie is fantastic.  The characters and the actors who portray them are engaging, entertaining, and realistic.  At it's core is an incredible performance by Jack Nicholson in what I think is the third greatest performance of his very noteworthy career.

His greatest performance, in my own humble opinion, is in As Good as It Gets.  Here his craft is honed and precise, his character filled with quirks but 100% believable.  The movie seems like it was written just for him, like the entire effort was put in place so Jack could bring Melvin Udall to life.  Like many of the movies I've mentioned, this is a mix...It's a hilarious comedy, but it has a hell of a lot of heart and is a poignant drama at the same time.  If you have not seen As Good as It Gets, you should go see it.  Now.

Nicholson's second greatest performance is as Jack Torrence in The Shining.  It evokes of one of his lines from As Good as It Gets: "Go peddle your crazy somewhere else.  We're all stocked up here."  The Shining is chock full o' memorable moments.  Like when he's stalking his wife up the stairs, demanding the baseball bat, or when he pokes his face through the door and says, "Here's Johnny!"  Few people can turn on the crazy like Jack Nicholson.

And I'll close out with an honorable mention: He made The Joker an icon before Heath Ledger did.  He totally made Time Burton's Batman, again amping up the insanity and giving an inspired performance that stole every scene.  I won't compare his performance to Ledger's because they are too different, it's like trying to pick my favorite ice cream (Ben & Jerry's Chubby Hubby) over my favorite potato chip (Ruffles)...they are both totally delicious, one's sweet and salty the other is pure salt, so it depends on what I'm in the mood for. 

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Monday, April 16, 2012

A-Z Challenge: No Country for Old Men

I love to read.  I love to watch movies.  Watching movies made from books I've read...well, that is a different story most of the time.

No Country for Old Men has one major thing going against it, and one major thing going for it.  Both of those things are Cormac McCarthy.  His prose is so unique it brings immediate gravitas to all of his works.  Once I start reading one of his books there's a cadence to his words that is almost hypnotic; he is truly a gifted writer, and a filmmaker can work character motivations, dialogue, and general descriptions of scenery into a movie, but the language chosen for the overall narrative...that's a color that doesn't exist on a director's palette.

Fortunately for the Cohen Brothers, who directed No Country for Old Men, McCarthy's original intent for this was a screenplay, and with his mastery of language he wrote a book that is almost exactly like watching a movie.  The resulting film is one of the best book-to-movie translations I've ever seen.  I watched the movie first, and when I read the book it was like watching the movie all over again.

McCarthy's The Road is perhaps my favorite book, and that movie isn't bad, but it's no match for the book.  The Harry Potter movies are good, especially from a visual standpoint, but they had to cut so many things out and re-arrange the story that it's hard to watch those movies while the books are fresh in my mind (I finished reading the series about two months ago).  Perhaps time will dim the memory of the books and the films will serve as kind reminders of the main story lines.  I've only seen the movies through The Goblet of Fire (number 4) so we'll see.

Honorable mentions for adaptations go to:

- Stand By Me.  This movie, made from Stephen king's novella The Body, quite possibly ties for best adaptation.

- LOTR.  Even though I have my opinions on the change to the primary climax of the three books / movies, overall Peter Jackson did a better job than anyone else could have.  Of that I'm certain.  He took some major risks, not the least of which was shooting all three movies at once.  The things that work in these films far outweigh the flaws.  I own them all on DVD, have watched them repeatedly, and will watch them all again.

- The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.  This is a special mention because I think both film versions (the original Swedish and the recent David Fincher "American" version) are better than the book.  This is a rare case where the novel had a great story, but it was weighed down by hundreds of pages of needless backstory, which the movies cut out and effectively cleaned up the plot by doing so.

- The Sum of All Fears.  This is the worst book-to-movie adaptation I have ever seen.  Harrison Ford would not return to play Jack Ryan again, so they replace him with... Ben Affleck?  Nothing personal against Ben, he's a good actor, but they had to change the character from an older guy with decades of experience (that directly related to the plot of this book, a la his relationship with the Russian president) to a young analyst who just happened to write a paper on the guy so he knows exactly how he think s and how he will react when faced with the prospect of global nuclear war...I'm calling bullshit.  Clancy's books have a sense of verisimilitude that makes them great, and when you strip that away you have nothing but a stinking Hollywood cheeseball.  I'm just sayin...

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Saturday, April 14, 2012

A-Z Challenge: The Matrix

"What is he doing?"

"He's beginning to believe."

The Matrix has me.  Since first viewing, I was totally hooked on this kung fu sci-fi mindf*&^ of a movie.  It is awesomeness cubed.  (NOTE:  That should not be taken as any reference toward awesomeness regarding the two sequels.  I reserve my extended praise for the first movie only.)

I don't know how many times I have seen this movie, and I don't care.  I will watch it again.  The Matrix is easily in my top 5 favorite movies of all time, genre be damned.  It may even be number 1, I'd need to go through some serious reflection to determine what movie could unseat it.  Star Wars, maybe, but I don't know...

Through this challenge I've been pontificating on my favorites, but what about you?  What's your favorite movie?  It doesn't have to start with "M."

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Friday, April 13, 2012

A-Z Challenge: Lord of the Rings

I'm going all-inclusive today:  My Lord of the Rings (LOTR) post covers The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King. 

I was stuck in hard core geek-out mode for a long time anticipating these movies, and they did not disappoint (NOTE: except one major thing, which I will rant about in a minute).  The scenery was epic; New Zealand IS Middle Earth.  The costumes and set designs were true to the story and also true to life...They actually made chain-mail armor by hand. 

The visual effects were stunning.  From the evil gleam in Gollum's eye to Sauron's fiery gaze, all looked and felt real.  The actors hit the right notes for each character, and the entire series was damn near flawless, except one little thing...

The screwed up the whole climax of the entire three-movie series.  You know, the part where they actually destroy the ring, the specific task they had been working on for roughly 9 hours of movie? 

In the book, Gollum bites off Frodo's ring finger and, in a fit of joy, celebrating his reunion with his Precious, he falls off the edge of the cliff into the vat of molten lava below.

In the movie, after Gollum bites off Frodo's finger, Frodo attacks him and they both spill over the edge, Frodo clinging to a rock while Gollum plummets to the lava holding the ring.

Gone is the irony.  The irony of Gollum doing himself in, of his greed destroying the ring, of the ring that was created by evil being destroyed by evil.  The irony of his being happy and falling to his doom, destroying the ring in a fit of joy...blown away and replaced by three more minutes of slo-mo melodrama. 

I forgive Peter Jackson for this grievous misjudgement, but just barely.  If the rest of the series kicked one ounce less ass, this would have really spoiled it for me.  But as it is, the rest of the series did kick mountains of ass, so I'll grin and bear it.

Although I am nervous about the extra material they are adding to The Hobbit... 

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Thursday, April 12, 2012

A-Z Challenge: King Kong

King Kong used to play every Thanksgiving.  I remember watching it at Grandma's house, usually just the beginning, and sometimes the end when we got home.  Due to the 20-minute drive time, it was years before I actually saw the whole movie uninterrupted. 

This movie was remade (poorly) in the 1970s, and Peter Jackson did a decent job with his version more recently, but nothing compares to the original.  King Kong was a success from its first series of showings, where it sold-out ten shows a day for four days.  It didn't get any Oscars, though...unfortunately for Kong the visual effects category didn't exist yet in 1933.

But still, a fantastic story about a huge ape on an island with dinosaurs and giant snakes, with a beauty and the beast motif snuggled inside it, that's what movies are all about, in my opinion.  I love films that wrap many different elements together and present a visual spectacle driven by a compelling story. 

I've never seen the original King Kong on a big screen.  I wonder if that would enhance the experience or call out some of the technical disadvantages of the early days of film?  I don't think I'll ever know, but if I do get the chance to see Kong in full 70-mm glory, I know I'll take it.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A-Z Challenge: The Jerk

Last night my dog tried to play out a scene from The Jerk.  It's uncanny, because I don't think he reads this blog so he had no idea I was going to post about this movie today.  At about 3am he came to my side of the bed and reached his little paws up to the mattress...he can't jump high enough to get on.

"Leo, go lay down," I said, half-asleep.  He jumped back up, trembling so hard it shook the mattress, which is pretty intense shaking for a neurotic miniature schnauzer.

"Leo, go lay down you f*&^%$ r&^$%#."  He ignored this advice and jumped back up, still shaking.  He never needs to go out in middle of the night, and his persistence, usually reserved for thunderstorms, made me a bit concerned.  I got up and let him out.  He seemed happy to go out, so I thought that may have been it.  While I was standing at the door I heard a chirp: The battery in a smoke detector was low.

I let the dog back in and went back to bed.  Chirp.  Leo jumped back up, trembling harder than ever, apparently trying to warn us of a non-existent fire so we could officially change his name to "Shithead."  He wouldn't quit, and I became fixated on the chirp and couldn't fall back to sleep.  Finally around 3:30am I got up again to replace the battery.  After standing under each smoke detector in the house for several minutes apiece to figure out which one it was, I found the culprit in the guest bedroom.  I made it back to bed around 4am.

So after that prelude, here's what I have to say about The Jerk: This is Steve Martin's signature performance.  The rags-to-riches-to-rags story probably couldn't get a greenlight today for all the racial humor (NOTE: I said racial, which is of or pertaining to race, and not racist, which is derogatory actions based on race, but that doesn't matter these days...if you acknowledge race in any way, shape, or form someone is going to have an uproar about it).  But still, there's something about the way he says, "I was born a poor black child" that's hilarious.

The movie is comedy gold, but so much more.  There's romance...
Patty: I got your name tattooed on my ass.
Navin: Oh, there it is under the Js...

There's Drama...
Navin: Well I'm gonna to go then! And I don't need any of this. I don't need this stuff, and I don't need *you*. I don't need anything. Except this...And that's the only thing I need is *this*. I don't need this or this. Just this ashtray... And this paddle game. - The ashtray and the paddle game and that's all I need... And this remote control. - The ashtray, the paddle game, and the remote control, and that's all I need... And these matches...

And let's not forget Action and Suspense...
Mr. Hartunean: Navin, those aren't defective cans.  There's a defective person up there.
Navin: He hates these cans. Stay away from the cans!

And Musical Interludes...
Navin: I'm picking out a Thermos for you. Not an ordinary Thermos for you. But the extra best Thermos that you can buy, with vinyl and stripes and a cup built right in.

And, of course, a shithead dog.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A-Z Challenge: Iron Man

Iron Man is a strong contender to make my all-time top 10 movie list, if I were ever motivated enough to put such a list together.  This movie rocks on all levels: acting, effects, story, humor, suspense, creepy evil guy...It's rare that a movie in general can pull off such a fine *amalgamation, let alone a movie in the superhero genre, which is noteworthy for its lack of story and uninspired acting (NOTE: I know there are some great superhero movies and performances, like Jack Nicholson / Heath Ledger playing the joker, and all of Christopher Nolan's Batman movies...I'm referring more to the likes of The Green Lantern, X-Men: Last Stand, Fantastic Four, the various incarnations of the Hulk, etc.).

Robert Downey Jr. may have been born to play Tony Stark.  He embodies every aspect of the character, from the brilliance down to the alcoholism.  And Jeff Bridges (a.k.a. "The Dude") need only show up to steal a scene.

I wasn't impressed with the sequel, but all of my geek cylinders are fired up in anticipation of Iron Man teaming up with The Avengers next month.  Word on the street is The Avengers will be another triumph of good over evil.  It may even have a decent Hulk.  

* I am totally impressed with myself for using such a big word like amalgamation.  I did have to look it up to make sure I was using it properly, though.

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Monday, April 9, 2012

A-Z Challenge: The Hangover

First off, I think it's cool that on Saturday night I was flipping through the channel guide and caught the last half-hour of The Abyss, starting right before Bud puts on the liquid oxygen suit.  I let the kids watch the end of the movie, then we put them to bed.  I cam back downstairs and flipped channels again and came across The Forty-Year-Old Virgin, so I watched that with my wife until bedtime.  When I woke up and turned the TV on, Caddyshack was playing, I didn't even have to change the channel.  So clearly someone at my cable company has been reading these posts, which is way cool.

On to The Hangover.  This is one of the few adult movies I've seen in the theater in the past few years.  And when I say adult movies I mean R-rated movies, not adult movies, which I am not opposed to, but I would never go to see one in a theater. 

When I first saw The Hangover I started laughing within the first five minutes and didn't stop until I was in my car and a couple miles away from the theater.  Very few movies are that hands-down hilarious from beginning to end.  Zach Galuf..Gafink...the fat guy with the beard stole the show, but the rest of the cast were perfect in their respective roles, including Mike Tyson.

I've seen this movie several times, and while it's still funny, the first viewing where I did not know what was going to happen is still the best.  It's a great example of the benefit of staying spoiler-free, and letting the surprises and twists hit you full force.  There is no part of this movie that is not excellent. Especially the singer at the wedding and the photo montage at the end.

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Saturday, April 7, 2012

A-Z Challenge: The Godfather

Please tell me you could see this one coming.  G-movies, Godfather...It's almost too obvious (NOTE: I would say it's cliche but calling things cliche is so cliche).

The Godfather is not only the best mob movie ever made, it's one of the best movies ever made.  I went through my childhood having seen bits and pieces of it.. I remember being ten or eleven and seeing some scenes from the beginning, including the infamous horse head scene.  If you don't know what I'm talking about you are not worthy of an explanation. 

I think I was in my late twenties by the time I finally sat down and watched it from beginning to end.  So many great lines came from The Godfather.  "I'm going to make him an offer he can't refuse," being up at the top of the list, but followed closely by, "It's a Sicilian message. It means Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes."

Honor, family, greed, fear, deception....so many things at play in one of the most classic crime dramas ever to play on the silver screen.  Not to mention the incredible acting by Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, and James Caan.  Yes, The Godfather is an American classic.

Ciao.

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Friday, April 6, 2012

A-Z Challenge: Forty Year-Old Virgin

I'm cheating a bit on the title by spelling out Forty (it's officially 40 in the movie title), but quite honestly I don't care.  The 40-Year-Old Virgin is hands-down one of the best comedies ever made.  Not only is it laugh-out-loud funny from beginning to end, it has heart.

It's not just that Steve Carrell plays Andy perfectly, or that Paul Rudd, Seth Rogan, Jayne Lynch, and the rest of the supporting cast are able to earn honest laughs, too...What makes this movie work is that they all play it natural and actually make the characters feel real, not like the overblown caricatures they are.

I am tempted right now to go pop this DVD in, watch the movie twice, and then finish writing this.  Unfortunately I don't have time to do that.  I'll have to settle for reminiscing about my three favorite moments from the film:

- The car ride with Leslie Mann (the hottie from the bachelorette party).  Her epic drunken rant, from wishing for her period and French toast to the surprise collision ("That fucker came out of nowhere!") actually gets funnier each time I see it.

- When Andy tells Cal (Seth Rogan) that his girlfriend is actually a grandmother, Cal lets out a string of one-liners about grandma sex, including "Fuck her and have her send you a check for twelve dollars on your birthday."  Normally sex with a grandma jokes would not be very funny, but in context they are freaking hysterical.

- When Any's boss (Jayne Lynch) finds out he's a virgin and offers a discreet relationship that "will haunt your dreams."  Specifically, her tale of losing her virginity to their gardener when she was a teen, up to and including her Guatemalan love song (NOTE: I think it was Guatemalan.  I told you I don't have time to watch the movie right now, so I can't be sure).  The ultimate play-it-straight moment is when she sings.  She totally sells that scene.

My next favorite part is the entire rest of the movie.

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Thursday, April 5, 2012

A-Z Challenge: Evil Dead 2

I love horror movies.  Maybe it stems from my love of  horror novels, Stephen King has been a long-time favorite author.  There are always signature works that stand out in a genre, like The Shining or The Stand.  For me, Evil Dead 2 is an all-time favorite for horror movies.

I first saw this movie in college.  I was in a dorm that had suites shared by eight guys (or girls).  We had four bedrooms, a bathroom with a couple showers and several stalls, and a lounge area with a couch and chairs.  The guys from a suite one floor down invited us over for movie night.  They had appropriated a couple extra couches (we did not ask questions, but let's just say it was always wise to keep your suite doors closed) and had set them up in their lounge in rows, theater style. 

"It's all action," Chris told me when I asked what we would be watching.  He wouldn't say anything else.  We settled in and prepared for the movie.  Chris was right, it is non-stop action, and highly entertaining.  It being college, we were all on a lot more than fresh air at the time, and I'm sure the atmosphere amped the movie up a notch or two, but seriously, this is campy, gorey, scary fun that is so over-the-top you just have to go with it.

The movie is kind of a sequel, but also kind of a re-make of The Evil Dead, a story about a group of friends who go to a cabin in the woods and find a book in the basement...a book that summons the dead.  To go into further plot details would do no justice, for this movie is purely a visual spectacle, with such campy, goofy horror you can't help but laugh.  My favorite scene is when Ash's (Bruce Campbell's) hand becomes possessed and starts attacking him.  There is only one thing he can do: Cut it off with a chainsaw.  Later, he attaches the chainsaw to his arm as a prosthetic.

I also loved how the cabin, which looks to be a small, single-room structure from the outside, has numerous rooms and labyrinthine corridors inside, leading to some wonderfully confusing chase scenes.  And then there's the reanimated decapitated girlfriend, who does a macabre sexy dance for her boyfriend and then tries to kill him. 

Like I said, pure fun.

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