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Monday, April 30, 2007


My two cents on "The Sopranos," Episodes 3 and 4:

Would, or could, Tony have whacked Paulie? I always thought that -- ratting to the Feds and dancing in gay bars notwithstanding -- "made" men were whack-proof. (For instance, Tony went to great lengths to hide his complicity in the murders of Richie and Ralphie.) But my nephew pointed out that if Tony believed it was Paulie who leaked the fat joke about Ginny Sack to Johnny Sack (thus igniting a bloody New Jersey/New York rift), that alone would give Tony the license to silence Paulie forever.

The Uncle Junior storyline was amazing. For a brief moment in his dotage, Corrado rose back to his former mob-boss stature -- or, let's say, a nursing-home version of same. There he was, running a card came (with Kit-Kats and Cokes instead of thousands of dollars), cultivating cronies and beating up that professor. Then, alas, it was back to reality. The young actor who played Junior's disturbed fleeting henchman gave an excellent performance.

The Little Vito thing -- OY. David Chase could easily, and blamelessly, declare the Spatafore storyline finito, and leave those loose strings untied (as he likewise could have done with Johnny Sack), in order to focus on building toward the series finale. But Chase proves again and again that every character can be explored and developed. And what Little Vito did in that gym shower -- OY.

The fight between Tony and Carm was brutal. The look of resignation on Carm's face when Tony actually got physical with her seemed so genuine. What Tony said about iffy lumber causing Carm's spec house to collapse and kill an unborn baby is a case of -- as in real life -- hurtful words spoken in a moment of passion that can never be taken back.

Seeing Nancy Sinatra say, "Congratulations, Philly" to Phil Leotardo was hilarious. Her father always tried to play down (if not outright deny) his mob connections, and here Nancy plays herself practically giving the new boss of New York a lap dance. What a sport. Remember when her brother likewise appeared as himself?

My brother asked me, "Why did Tony return the money (after Hesch's lady died)?" It took me a 90-minute car ride to develop a theory. The Tony who returned Hesch's money was the same Tony who apologized to Carmela. He realized in both cases that he was hurting two people he cared about.

Thursday, April 26, 2007



You know me, the Metal Men completist. That also makes me a Metal Men purist. You may have read my previous Web columns -- OK, blogs -- criticizing DC Comics for messing with the Metal Men's origin, or for cavalierly using the Metal Men for fleeting cameos in order to "up" the character count in DC's infernal ongoing imitation of the '80s "Crisis on Infinite Earths."

Superman/Batman #34, just out, gives the robot team a lot to do for a change, but at a price. Willy-nilly, they've added a character and renamed another!

With zero fanfare, we suddenly have Copper, another female robot. The sole original female member of the robot team, Platinum (nicknamed "Tina") has suddenly been renamed "Platina." Would they rename Batman?

Not to mention the fact that artist Pat Lee is drawing the Metal Men in a manga-ish (to me) style. Tin, especially, is unrecognizable. (Read about Superman/Batman #34 by clicking here.)

I can't help but suspect this out-of-the-blue amping up of the Metal Men will somehow seep into the announced movie project. I can only hope Lauren Shuler Donner (who claims to have a long-held love for the Metal Men) will follow Alex Ross' example, and present the Metal Men as created by editor/writer Robert Kanigher, penciller Ross Andru and inker Mike Esposito -- the REAL Metal Men. These characters survived reasonably intact for a good 40 years before these punks took over.

Sunday, April 22, 2007


Yeah, I caught "Grindhouse" a third time (with a friend who wanted to go).

So, considering that Movie Boy and other in-the-know types are predicting that this is the final weekend for "Grindhouse," I can hold my head high that I supported this thing at the box office.

People have complained that "Grindhouse" is too long, or that Quentin Tarantino's segment is too "Tarantino-y," and not "grindhouse-y," enough. Both arguments are probably valid.

Truthfully, Tarantino's segement breaks the rules of "Grindhouse." Robert Rodriguez and his fellow fake-trailer directors -- Eli Roth (‘‘Thanksgiving"), Rob Zombie ("Werewolf Women of the SS") and Edgar Wright ("Don't")-- keep it real with their homages to '70s and '80s grade-Z schlock. Then Tarantino takes over and delivers what we've come to recognize as a Tarantino film (to say a "typical" Tarantino film would not be fair), with only a few film scratches and jump cuts to link it to the whole. And, of course, the car-crash/girl-gang/vintage-music thing, which would not be out of place in ANY Tarantino movie.

I ain't complainin', though. I could listen to those girls talk forever (especially the second group: Tracie Thoms, Zoe Bell, Rosario Dawson and Mary Elizabeth Winstead). I marvel at their long dialogue scene captured in one shot.

I had no new revelations on Viewing 3 except to add that Michael Parks is the MAN.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


Everybody's talkin' 'bout the first two episodes of the final season of "The Sopranos."

Here's my two cents:

Christopher's distraction ("Cleaver") is one thing, but when he slept with that junkie chick Tony earlier courted (Julianna Margulies), THAT was disrespectin' the boss. (Remember when Tony belt-whipped Assemblyman Zellman for taking up with his old "comare"?) Tony didn't belt-whip Chrissy, but this considerable slight made him question Chrissy's loyalty -- hence Tony's discussion with Bacala in the boat. Tony has made it clear time and again that when it comes to appointing a right-hand man, blood is key. But Tony sounded like he was willing to stretch the issue by heaping more confidence on Bacala who is, after all, a brother-in-law if not a brother.

That is, until the drunken Monopoly brawl.

That was a jaw-dropper. Who, like me, thought Bobby was gonna get his face rearranged when he and Tony took that little ride the next day? Tony assigning Bobby to take out Laundry Boy was penance -- and probably not the ONLY penance.

I'm sure you picked up on this: When Janice spilled to Carmela about an old "boyfriend" who hit her and made her go ballistic -- "I'm not proud of it" -- she was talking about the late, unlamented Richie Aprile. "In the end, he went his separate way," is one way of putting it.

What a surprise to see Johnny Sack again. With all the pressure to wrap up "The Sopranos" with a nice, pretty ribbon, David Chase could certainly have left that character alone. But "The Sopranos" never fails to surprise. What a touching coda for the character. A friend said Vince Curatola should get an Emmy for that one episode.

The restaurant whacking in Episode 2 had echoes from the restaurant whacking in "Godfather" I.

I found Little Carmine's TWO speeches unbearable. Who wants to hear about this idiot's dream or his light dinner after skinnydipping? You could just feel Tony seething.

Where is Chase going with Phil Leotardo? How will the Tony/Christopher thing play out? Why does Carmela keep bringing up Adriana? I can't imagine how they're going to wrap this thing up, but I hope we aren't disappointed. "Sopranos" fans DON'T expect that pretty ribbon, but at the same time, we've come to expect so much from this show. The bar is high.

Sunday, April 15, 2007


I saw "Grindhouse" again over the weekend. Couldn't stay away.

The movie haunted me all week, and I decided I couldn't wait for the DVD. And since I heard producer Harvey Weinstein was disappointed in the opening-weekend take, I thought I'd cast my vote for culture and buy another ticket.

Once again, Rose McGowan stole the film out from under everyone. Her portrayal of Cherry Darling is hypnotic; she somehow makes Robert Rodriguez's (albeit, intentionally) cliche-ridden dialogue ring true. And when she's firing off that machine-gun leg of hers, it's party time.

I have a new favorite film moment: the diaper-wearing adult baby jumping up and down with a teddy bear in the cellar from the trailer for "Don't." If I'm hard up for a laugh -- and who isn't from time to time? -- I need only conjur that image.

My favorite line of dialogue is still Rosario Dawson to Tracie Thoms: "Did you just hit a BOAT?"

I love how "Planet Terror" doesn't take itself seriously. The scene when you first see the Army base looks like it was shot in the back of a warehouse. If that scene were in a Tom Cruise movie, it would have been a massive complex teeming with extras, high-tech equipment and vehicles. I love the return to old-school restraint. Like the great "Terry and the Pirates" writer/artist Milton Caniff used to say, "There has to be a place to rest your eyes."

I learned from Movie Boy's blog (click here to read it) that Weinstein made some disparaging statements about "Grindhouse" when it didn't do the box office he'd expected. Said Weinstein, "We tried to do something new, and obviously we didn't do it that well."

Don't backpedal, Harv. Rodriguez, Tarantino and the guest trailer directors delivered three-hours-plus of great entertainment. I understand that the movie business is a BUSINESS, but that's no reason to denigrate their achievements.

Weinstein's idea to re-release the "Grindhouse" films as two separate features is heartbreaking to me. I'm hoping the Easter-weekend excuse plays out, and "Grindhouse" rebounds in Weekend Two.

Of course, if the audience ain't there, the audience ain't there. I'm reminded of how "Arrested Development" couldn't stay alive even after its Emmy win, but "Friends" lasted for nine seasons. People get the kind of culture they deserve.

Thursday, April 12, 2007


I just finished all 39 half-hour episodes of "Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Season Two'' (Universal Home Video), a five-disc DVD box set a friend was kind enough to lend me for a couple of weeks.

Like Season One, the episodes are were addictive, like eating potato chips. You just keep watching and watching.

I saw portly Robert Emhardt (a very recognizable character actor who did a ton of TV in the '50s and '60s) as a cuckolded college professor; an amateur gardner whose wife fancies herself a movie star's twin; and a maniac stalking a honeymooning couple.

I saw Sir Cedric Hardwicke (who we horror geeks loved as Ludwig Frankenstein in "Ghost of Frankenstein" and Rollo in the Charles Laughton "Hunchback of Notre Dame") in two roles, as the patriarch of a respectable family covering up his daughter's murder of a schoolteacher; and a stranger in town whose wall of indifference is pierced by a precocious little girl.

I saw Claude Rains (another fave of horror geeks, for reasons I need not recount) as a washed-up alcoholic actor. Game Claude does a nice stunt fall and cries on camera (as he did in Season One).

I saw Robert H. Harris as a desperate would-be groom; and a paranoid commuter in a city with an escaped lunatic.

I saw the tall, veddy British John Williams as a publisher who guesses his new author's murder novel may not be fiction; a homicide detective with too many confessed suspects for one murder; and a henpecked husband who escapes to a tropical paradise via his fantasies, accompanied by a fetching Barbara Baxley in a sarong.

I saw Hume Cronin and Carmen Matthews as a featherbrained brother and sister who plot to kill random hobo James Gleason in a house fire for the insurance money.

I saw an old-timer named Russell Collins who I consider to be the secret weapon of Season Two. Collins seemed to specialize in drunks, hobos, ex-cons and mentally fragile characters. I'm going to keep an eye out for this guy (who died in 1965 at age 68).

I spotted three up-and-comers: Vic Morrow, Rip Torn and -- believe it or not --Harry Shearer (who was 11 at the time).

I believe there was a little more humor in Season Two than in Season One. Hitchcock was his usual droll self in the introductions and wrapups. Many times, the murderer got away with his crime in the episode, but then Hitchcock would explain, with a wink, how the murderer eventually got his comeuppance -- AFTER the episode's conclusion. Ha, ha.

Sunday, April 08, 2007


I caught "Grindhouse" last night with three friends. We attended a 10:50 p.m. screening. The ticket seller AND the ticket tearer both stressed that this screening would take us past 2 a.m. It was a dark, cold 2:20 when I walked to my car after the flick.

My verdict: "Grindhouse" rocks.

This movie nails the elusive vibe of exploitation movies of the past. It's as if Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino and company mixed ingredients from "Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry," "Eaten Alive," "Death Race 2000," "City of the Walking Dead," "Ilsa, She Wolf of the S.S.," "The Incredible Melting Man," "The Crazies," "The Toxic Avenger," "Reanimator" and others in a blender -- without the lid on.

The scatched film stock, the sometimes monophonic soundtrack, the missing frames (and "reels"), the deadpan dialogue, the cheezy FX, the car crashes, the leering shots of scantily clad actresses -- all of it added up to a dream movie for aficionados of low-budget exploitation movies.

Of course, thanks to those irresistable "Grindhouse" trailers, everyone was dying to see Rose McGowan with a machine gun for a leg. Rest assured, those scenes really pay off. Rose is luminous in her two "Grindhouse" roles; this should be her starmaker. Ageless Kurt Russell is so good, you'll forget all about "Tango & Cash" and "Captain Ron." Rosario Dawson (a doll as always), New Zealand stuntwoman Zoe Bell (playing herself!) and Tracie Thoms are three girls you don't wanna be messin' with.

I think it's time for Quentin Tarantino to finally make HIS dream movie, "Playing Footsie," about a foot fetishist gone wild. After presenting loving closeups of the tootsies of Bridget Fonda (in "Jackie Brown") and Uma Thurman (in "Kill Bill: Vol. 1"), Tarantino has gone whole hog in "Grindhouse" with shot after shot after shot emphasizing the pretty peds of Sydney Tamiia Poitier. Get it out of your system already, Quentin.

My favorite of the fake trailers is "Machete." Man, that Danny Trejo is magic. He can do no wrong. WHAT A FACE. To Robert Rodriguez: Please, please, please finish making "Machete."

My biggest complaint about "Grindhouse": Tarantino's two onscreen roles. Rodriguez's casting of Tarantino, not to mention Tarantino's casting of himself, is far from objective or organic. You can't even call it "nepotism"; I'll call it "filmmaker masturbation." It stinks of indulgence.

Listen, some directors have acting chops -- Kevin Smith among them -- and have rightfully earned a place in front of the camera. Tarantino ain't one of those dudes. If Tarantino was to play a movie geek, that might work. But darned if he isn't always cast as a tough guy and/or a cool guy, SOMETHING HE IS INCAPABLE OF PULLING OFF.


I reviewed my first show since losing Kathy: Johnny Winter/Edgar Winter/Rick Derringer Friday at the Basie. It had taken me all this time -- 10 days shy of 19 months -- to re-enter that arena. Of course, this historic triple-bill was nigh impossible for an old concert hound like myself to resist (notwithstanding my duty to my readers).

It was really funny watching Red Bank fill up with old rockers (myself included) from about 6 p.m. on. It was so obvious why they were walking the streets here. I was standing with a few at the corner of Monmouth and Pearl waiting for the light to change, and thought I'd have a little fun. I said to an old long-hair: "Jeez, I keep seein' all these '60s/'70s people walking around. You'd think there was a Johnny Winter concert in town." But he didn't get my humor. "There is," he deadpanned. "We're going to it."

While I was in the lobby waiting to spot Brinie and Sister-in-Law (who were driving up from South Jersey), I swapped concert stories with a very interesting couple. I said to them, "You two haven't changed a bit in 30 years." Of course, I'd never met them before, but they just had that late '60s/early '70s look: denim, boots, feathered hair and lined faces. They were adorable together. The fella told me he'd seen the Allman Brothers Band with Duane Allman many times. He'd also seen Jimi Hendrix (including the Band of Gypsies concert on New Year's Eve 1969) and Janis Joplin. They laughed when I said, "I've never even MET anyone who's seen the Allmans with Duane!"

The concert was really amazing. (Read my review by clicking here.) There was one credentialed photographer, and an annoying abundance of audience members running up to the stage with cell phones to take closeups. It was like the Wild West all night. Of course, I kept picturing the kind of photos Kathy would have brought back from the show. I could just see them so clearly in my mind.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


Nephew e-mailed me some news today that I can scarcely believe.

A major Hollywood player, Lauren Shuler Donner, is planning to make a ... a ... Metal Men movie?!

The Metal Men are somewhat obscure, usually humorous DC Comics characters, robots with human personalities who squabble, shape-shift and otherwise cause trouble for their inventor, Doc Magnus.

I made such a big noise about the news at the office that Movie Boy (who sits three workstations to the east of me) asked, "So, you think it's going to be a big deal?"

The point is, I DON'T think it's going to be a big deal. It's just that I'm positively dumbfounded that someone thinks a Metal Men movie would be marketable. But I am so down with the idea. As I've said in earlier Web columns -- OK, blogs -- I am the world's only Metal Men completist. I have every, every, every piece of MM memorabilia in existence. These are my characters, my boys. I've loved these guys since I was 8 years old. But the characters are so obscure that I've often felt like an audience of one.

"Are you the kind of person who hates it when a cult obsession goes mainstream?" asked Movie Boy.

I said, no, I'm THRILLED that more people are potentially going to learn about noble Gold, lovesick Platinum (nickname: "Tina"), hot-headed Mercury, strong Iron, loyal Lead, humble Tin and studly Doc Magnus.

Who, by the way, is not written or drawn correctly these days. Doc -- as originally conceived by writer/editor Robert Kanigher and artists Ross Andru and Mike Esposito (the character's creators) -- was President Kennedy in a lab coat, with Hugh Hefner's pipe dangling out of his mouth for good measure. He dated supermodels before they were CALLED supermodels. He'd bring them to his laboratory-complex and dance the latest '60s dances with them, right there in front of the robots! (It used to make Tina so jealous.)

Anyway, maybe now my dream book project, "The Metal Men Companion" (that's the subtitle; I still need a main title), will become a reality. Or maybe the whole thing will fall apart like half the comic-book movie adaptations that are announced. The latter scenario is more likely. But like the song sez, "You gotta have a dream/ if you don't have a dream/ how you gonna make a dream come true?"

Sunday, April 01, 2007


Exciting news!

Remember my little niece, the one who played Allegra Sacrimoni's flower girl on Season 6/Episode 5 of "The Sopranos" (albeit, in a blink-and-you-miss-it scene)?

(To reacquaint yourself, click here.)

Well, she's going to be on the longrunning NBC sitcom "Scrubs" on Thursday, May 3rd. Her mom (my cousin-in-law) emailed me a photo from the shoot.

I believe my niece will play one of three younger versions of Sarah Chalke's character, Dr. Ried, in some sort of fantasy sequence. The janitor character played by Neil Flynn will also be portrayed, by three young boys.

As "Scrubs" fans know, the show incorporates a lot of quick comedy bits, frequently utilizing fantasy, so there's a good chance my niece's scenes will be likewise brief. We shall see.

Since all of the little girls are blond cuties, it would be impossible for me to describe my niece accurately enough for you to pick her out. So I'll put it this way: She's the cutest one.

I work on Thursday nights, but there's a TV near my workstation, so nobody here will be able to squeeze any work out of me for a half-hour that night. I think I'll bring in a snack. Maybe Bugles?