Sunday, February 08, 2015

A Whole Lot Of Star Trek...

So I'm a real big fan of the original (Shatner, Nimoy, Kelley) STAR TREK series.  And over the years I have slaked my fan desire on all sorts of books dedicated to the stars and the show, from the contemporary "Making Of Star Trek" paperback by Stephen E. Whitfield, to David Gerrold's exhaustive examination of the making of "Trouble With Tribbles", to biographies by and/or about virtually every significant cast member.  And when I met my son's babysitter's Grandfather for the first time, I was stunned to be in the presence of the great Anthony Caruso, AKA Bela Oxmyx from "A Piece of the Action."

So like I said, I'm a fan.  And I thought I knew a lot about the show.  But turns out I didn't know diddley.  However, a prolific writer named Marc Cushman knows a WHOLE lot, and he's produced a three volume (!) set of books to prove it, exhaustively looking at the development and production of every single episode of the original Trek.  Exhaustive may not quite cover it -- the book exploring the episodes produced during season three is over 750 (!) pages long. 

Using interviews from the major players, both old and new, Cushman explores the development of scripts (including many that got away), the backstage machinations, concerns of the actors, network battles, on and on and on.  And it's all written in an accessible style that draws the reader in.  It's going to take me weeks to plow through it all, but if you have ANY interest in the original Trek beyond "I kinda liked it", this ridiculously (in a good way!) comprehensive set will make the heart flutter. It's available in hardcover and softcover (tho the price difference between hard and soft cover is minimal) and on Kindle from Amazon. 

(PS: Deforest Kelley was making $2500 an episode in season three.  Walter Koenig was at $650 per show.  Things really HAVE changed...)

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Whiplash! The Movie, Not The Song Or Auto-Related Injury!

Finally catching up to my screener collection, and since the studios weren't kind enough to send out John Wick for our amusement (what?  They don't see "Oscar" written all over that one?) I decided to give Whiplash a spin.  As a casual drummer myself (extremely casual!), I was intrigued by the subject matter.  And as a JK Simmons fan, I was intrigued to see him tackle an intriguing character.  And intriguing he is!  Simmons plays Terrance Fletcher, a good hearted music teacher who... oh wait, that was Richard Dreyfuss in Mister Holland's Opus.  In Whiplash, Simmons plays a musical sociopath who plays brutal head games as he pits his students against one another and ultimately against him. 

Miles Teller plays Andrew, a determined young jazz drummer who is taken under Fletcher's vulture-like wing.  Needless to say, the fur flies, along with a chair and other objects, as Fletcher drives Andrew toward "Charlie Parker"-like perfection.  Fletcher lights a fuse under Andrew, but then things take an unexpected turn. 

What I really liked about Whiplash was that I really had no idea where it was going, and was surprised (in a good way) by the plot twists and turns.  Until...


So toward the end of Whiplash, both Fletcher and Andrew have been fired/expelled from the music school and are drifting down alternate paths.  When Andrew accidentally comes across Fletcher playing a jazz gig at a NYC bar, they talk, seem to patch things up, then Fletcher invites his nominal prodigy to play with Fletcher's band of professional musicians at a "JVC competition."  Fletcher raises the stakes as Andrew arrives, warning his (professional) band that record labels and talent scouts are in the audience, but when they hit the stage, Andrew discovers he's been set up.  Fletcher calls for a song that Andrew doesn't know, fails to provide even charts, and Andrew goes down in flames. (That's not where the movie ends, but I'll save SOMETHING for those folks who ignored my spoiler warning and read on anyway). 

So here's my question.  Yes, I get that Fletcher rightfully blamed Andrew for getting fired, and that he might be the sort who would seek "revenge."  But would a guy this crazy-compulsive about making perfect music really throw the rest of his professional musicians under the bus to screw over his ex-student?  During an actual, live, competitive show?  Wouldn't the other professional musicians (not students, remember) want to take Fletcher's head off for sending them out with an unprepared drummer who ruins their set? I mean, diabolical is one thing, but self-immolation is another.

Suffice to say things "work out" to some extent, but it's interesting what's a bump for some is a feature for others....

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Monster! The Magazine!

"Back in the day", before computers and the internet and websites and (f this, I'm feeling old), there were these curious publications known as "fanzines."  Which were pretty much what they sound like, amateur or semi-professional magazines written and published by "fans" of pick-the-genre.  In my world, there were all sorts of fan magazines dedicated to comics, science fiction and movies.  Why, I even published one myself, a mimeographed movie-related 'zine called "The Big Screen."  When I finally gave up the publishing ghost I had close to 100 subscribers, but it was all too much for a high school student with limited funds...

Anyhow, most of these small publications are long gone, but there are still a few out there that have the glorious fanzine feel.  I especially like Video Watchdog (nearing issue #200!), Shock Cinema and a more recent endeavor called "Monster." Available through Amazon and (I suspect, tho I may be wrong!) published using print-by-demand technology, Monster has kept a rigorous monthly schedule, with issue #12 just released.  Basically, if you're into oddball/obscure horror or science fiction, Monster is bound to have something for you.  With articles by experts like Stephen Bissette and editor Tim Paxton, it's a great read.  You have any interest in the world, go to Amazon and check out the detailed contents.  And support these guys so I can selfishly read more!

Monday, January 05, 2015

Crashmobile! I'm Not The Only One Who Likes Them!

I love Crashmobiles.  And is there are a more forgotten figure in American pop culture than Art Linkletter?  How does this connect?  Is Mark finally (?) losing his mind? 

I'll let history be the judge of my mental acuity, but re: Linkletter --for a time Art was the "kids" guy, most famous for "Art Linkletter's House Party" and "Kids Say The Darnedest Things." (He also lived to the ripe age of 98 and passed away in 2010.)  Anyhow, Art also liked exploding car toys.  Here's a cool poster of Linkletter pimping, I mean, selling the wondrous Crashmobile.  As seen on TV!!

Saturday, January 03, 2015

In Brief(s)... Cool Comics Stuff

No, I'm not IN my briefs (well, actually I am, but you don't need that mind-picture)... some of the latest comics related stuff that's piqued my interest:

There are obscure comics, and then there are OBSCURE.  That I lived to see the day when a publisher like IDW would reissue the entire run of future Mad Magazine editor Al Feldstein's sexy comics from the early 50's astounds me.  But I did.  And I am astounded.  This big, 400 page full-color volume may strike some as overkill, but given the price of these books on the collector's market, $50 is a steal.  So, what makes this stuff worth the deluxe reprint treatment?  Don't look at the stories, which are dull "inspired by Archie" teen junk.  What makes this stuff "raise the ol' eyebrow" is the ridiculously detailed fetish art by Feldstein. Specifically, the dude liked drawing lady's breasts.  Feldstein took pains to delineate thrusting, bursting-from-the-fabric breasts on every female character.  And I mean every female character, not just the cute Betty and Veronica surrogates, but also matronly "mom", elderly teachers -- if the character's female, chances are her sad chest is just aching to explode from some ridiculously tight blouse or sweater. The end result is frankly quite surreal, since none of the stories ever actually touch on the insanely overt sexuality.  This book also features a nice text piece on Fox Comics (where this stuff originally appeared) and various rarities, like sketches.  And I'm still astounded.

This may be even MORE obscure.  Cole was a comics publisher/artist/editor from 40's-on whose claim to fame lies with his crazy dayglo, pop-art comic book covers.  Cole was a fairly talented artist, but his real talent lay in his great design sense.  This guy knew how to catch a reader's eye.  Since Cole mostly worked for smaller companies, they needed something to differentiate them from the more mainstream DC and Timely/Atlas/Marvel books.  He certainly managed that! At 270 full color pages and even LARGER than the Junior/Sunny book, this is more Cole than most people need, but it is a comprehensive and well produced volume.

There are several Wolverton art collections out there, but this is the first volume of a set that intends to explore his entire career from a biographical point of view.  Most collectors know Wolverton for his really bizarre pen-and-ink "portraits" (his drawing of "Lena The Hyena" made the cover of Mad magazine) but he was also a great comics artist, radio personality (!) and etc.  This is a remarkably detailed biography of the man's early years, including rare photos of Basil visiting the set of Buster Keaton's "The General" (it shot in Oregon, near Wolverton's hometown).  I confess a personal obsession with Wolverton, who lived near where I grew up... when my Uncle ran into Wolverton and told him that his nephew was a comics nuts, Basil was kind enough to call this very young fellow and talk... well, local wrestling, but also comics. Nice guy and a nice book.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

John Wick Gets MAD

So while toiled away at varied and sundry, I've almost managed to catch a few movies.  Among those caught:

JOHN WICK: There was a brief internet firestorm when the first trailer for this appeared, partly because it looked like an awesome action movie, but also because it seemed to be slightly mocking the genre.  When a fierce Keanu Reeves growls that the bad guys are going to pay because they killed the dog his dying wife left him, well, it's hard to take that completely seriously.  But pay they do in this ferocious and fun action movie.  Wick is a retired hitman who, by sheer bad fortune and concidence, is targeted by some Russian mobsters who want to steal his cool car.  The aforementioned dog croaks and Wick decides to seek vengeance.  Turns out Wick knew these bad boys in his past life and suddenly things get complicated.  But boy, does he GET vengeance.  The body count in this movie has to be pushing triple digits, with assorted Russian goons shot, stabbed, hurled off high places, run down and otherwise dispatched.  It is a non-stop orgy of well choreographed violence... over a dog.

The action is extremely well done and Reeves is excellent as Wick.  Morally though, I'm a little dubious about a story that celebrates a sociopath lunatic wasting dozens of mob soldiers who had NOTHING to do with his doggie's demise. (Remember: he's avenging a dog.)  I'm also in awe of the fantasy city where a guy can go on a massive, city-wide murder spree without drawing the slightest police attention.  Imagine the tumult that would occur on real life news channels if 89+ people were violently murdered in one night by a single shooter/stabber/nut-kicker/neck-twister.  Also, it appears that the video tracking systems that have become a staple of television cop shows (24, Criminal Minds, etc.) have been totally dismantled in John Wick's world, since evidently not a single one of his murders is captured on surveillance.  But -- so what.  Any movie where the best line is "oh" followed by a dropped telephone works for me!

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Well, That Was Awhile...

So it's been a few months.  Give a guy a break.  But with any luck I hope to be back with a little more frequency now.

Just to catch up, I've been working on a little show called Constantine for a little network called NBC.  Our first season wound up being 13 episodes and now we wait to see what happens next.  Contrary to some reports, Constantine was not cancelled by NBC -- all episodes will run, they continue to promote the show, and life is good. As far as what the future holds, well, we're not the only series waiting for a pick-up.  In other words, "we'll see."  I would report on other big doings, but doing Constantine was pretty much "it" over the last few months. 

What I will probably start doing is rev up my movie/music/book reviews... as always the goodies have been piling into the Verheiden manse, and where better to discuss them?  Keep watching FMVOF for updates!