Monday, June 30, 2008


I was not expecting much from Kevin Smith's 2006 follow up feature to his original Clerks (1994). Not that he was incapable of coming through with the goods, but rather this one felt to me like an expected more than requisite title. Until I watched it, of course.

The characters are all well drawn -- Jeff Anderson, in particular, is a standout -- and the story arc and narrative drive are silky smooth.



(George Clooney's 2005 film on Edward R. Morrow's efforts to take out 'Red Scare' Senator Joseph McCarthy during the mid 1950s.)


Considering that I grew up watching some 'grindhouse' pictures -- and certainly the trailers before the main event -- it took me a long time to get around to checking out one half of the Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez co-pro, Grindhouse. The two filmmakers made each a film done in the style of a so-called grindhouse flick from the 1970s. The total presentation in theatres when these were released ran a little over three hours.

No need for me to regurgitate what is out there about the genesis of the two films. All I can say at this point is that Planet Terror -- Robert Rodriguez's contribution -- is a bad movie. It is fine to argue that a lot of the original flicks mimicked here were bad themselves, but you must add something to the equation or it isn't worth doing anything. The only element added to the mix is the fact that this film looks as though it was made now; references to what is happening overseas makes it clear when this movie was made. My question is, what is the point of mucking up the print to make it look like it has been around for a while?

There is a standout ingredient in this Planet: Rose McGowan. She looks and acts like she's in the right time and place. But her director couldn't follow her lead.

Rodriguez was a director with much promise. I was there when El Mariachi was first released back in 1992. This director has been a big disappointment. And Planet Terror reminded me of that loser film, From Dusk Till Dawn (1996). Why is Rodriguez so in love with boring mass zombie scenes?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Regular readers have noticed that I am not posting in my usual manic and obsessive way. It is a conscious decision that I post every couple of days or so, even though I am brimming with things to say; too much to say. (I have a small backlog to put up.)

At the end of any given month, a count of 15 or 16 is what I hope to see as opposed to one for every day. Yes, I do have a life. Blogging to me is a way for me to keep the pencil sharp.

Thank you, pencil sharpeners.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


Attention all Trekkies and Trackies: This coming weekend, the TSO (Toronto Symphony Orchestra) will be playing selected pieces of music written for the various Star Trek incarnations. The best of the hours of background music written for this franchise thus far would be anything from the original series, the first feature film, and the frequently joyous tunes for the "one about the whales". Unfortunately, the bulk of the evening will feature pieces of interest only to the average fanatic. (I do not know what the program is highlighting, exactly.)

So, Trekkies and Trackies, set your phasers on stun, this concert is going ahead at warp factor nine!

("Trekkies" are the die-hard Star Trek fans -- as everyone knows -- and "Trackies", my own term, are those who spin their soundtrack albums somewhat obsessively with little or no regard or interest in the music as something designed to accompany a visual element... like a movie or television series.)

Monday, June 16, 2008


I was reading an article this morning titled, "The History of the Cat". It talked about the history of the cat and how it became our friend.

I have my own story: Late one night, after a hard day at work, I accidentally left the kitchen door open. Half asleep, I was standing before a counter, peeling potatoes. Suddenly, I felt a warm furry thing rubbing up against my left leg. Thinking it was one of the local raccoons, without looking, I reached down to pet the late night visitor. "That's a pretty skinny little raccoon", I thought. My lazy and tired eyes decided to lock on. It was a cat. I wondered what it wanted...

To make a long story short, I pulled out the tuna and fed the animal. (The cat went squirrely when I applied the can opener to the tinned goods.)

And that is how I was domesticated.

Saturday, June 14, 2008


Last night I went to do an errand. It was about 9 p.m. when I left the house and before I flew out the door I did the dance: "Should I take the umbrella? No... maybe I should. The sky is looking pretty mean."

Finished; time to go home. I'm walking down Bloor Street when it starts to trickle rain. Yaa... I am on top of the game. As I get within about 15 minutes of my house -- I was walking -- it started to really come down. And there was thunder and lightning. The umbrella is one wonderful little instrument, even if they are designed to be replaced in short order -- how short, I was to be educated. And then some. I turned onto the street leading to my own. (This street runs east-west). In case you have not experienced a fire-crew spraying water right at you as you walk, and a film-crew blowing one of those wind machines two feet from your face, well then, you have not experienced what I did last night. Never have I been caught in such a driving, raining windstorm. The rain was attacking me in an almost horizontal plane. My umbrella was slowly but surely collapsing into a primitive form as I made my way. What should have been a three minute walk easily turned out to be double that. I was soaking wet. In case I did not understand that, I was instantly and continually reminded. My shoes became squishy from being waterlogged many times over. It was funny... I was laughing all the way. The sky was glowing with the constant flashes from lightning bolts. With the same sense of humour which kept me in good, albeit, damp spirits I periodically looked up and around at the sky, knowing that the lighting would make a nice background to a funnel cloud. There were tornado warnings for the Toronto area, and I had not forgotten. And would not been surprised if I thought I was looking at a rear projection screen from that certain scene in The Wizard of Oz.

I made it to my stoop. My umbrella had the look of a former umbrella. As the water unwrapped from my body, I stood there... watching the sky.

It was great.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


Every time I was about to post my opinion on the CBC possibly icing the The Hockey Theme, there was another update to the story and I put myself on the bench.

As most Canadians -- and a surprising number of Americans -- know, CTV ended up rescuing composer Delores Claman's iconic Hockey Night in Canada theme music. I agreed with those who said canning this song was one big bone-headed move. (How many things can the CBC fuck up?)

Everything is now resolved. The day after the CBC's main competitor grabbed the rights to Canada's second national anthem, I heard that they were playing it over and over again on their Sportsnet station the night before: Their way of rubbing the CBC's nose into the ice.

The good news for me is the CBC is running a competition for the replacement theme. The prize is 100,000 big ones.

Where are my Synsonic Drums?

(My fear is that the winning entry will be some idiotic rock song.)

Sunday, June 8, 2008


The National Hockey League's Detroit Red Wings deserved to win professional sport's most beautiful trophy: The Stanley Cup. In the final game (number 6), the last couple of minutes of play was very exciting -- the Pittsburgh Penguins came within one goal of tying the game when they scored with 90 seconds left in regulation play. The Pens pulled their goalie so they had an extra man on the ice -- they were very close to scoring in the final few seconds; Chris Osgood, the Red Wings goalie, had to make a sharp arm save and moments later stopping a tight angle shot with his blocker and stick pressed to the ice, the puck then shot past the front of the goal a split second after the game ended.

This was an example of why I think there is no team sport which comes close to ice hockey for genuine excitement.

ROBERT H. JUSTMAN (1926 - 2008)

Yet another Star Trek name passes on. Robert H. Justman was one of the most important contributors to the success of the original series. His knowledge of production issues was indispensable to that series' effort to survive the battle of the budget, network (NBC), actor's egos, and so on. Not only was he in control of and understood the mechanics involved, he also possessed an uncanny ability to pick the right things; knowing what works and what doesn't and how to save money. As associate producer, then full producer, Justman was responsible for overseeing, co-ordinating, and helping guide everything from scripts, props, actors, editorial, music scoring, visual effects, and aspects in between.

I would argue he might just have been the single most important carbon-based unit involved in a show where -- like any production -- every person is a key contributor. By way of some sneaky -- and misguided -- machinations by creator Gene Roddenberry, Robert Justman was kept out of the production of the first Star Trek movie. I will continue my argument and suggest that this was one big bone-headed move. Even though I do like Star Trek: The Motion Picture more now than when I first saw it, the super production man in question would have maintained the high level of quality that the original series enjoyed. The first movie in the generally miserable Trek franchise chain had "all the money in the world" but showed what happens when you have respected people associated with mounds of cash but in the end suffers from "something's missing".

Before Star Trek, Justman was first assistant director (as he had been for years before) on the original The Outer Limits television series; so he was well trained in how to do science fiction on a television budget.

I ask, "who carries the flag for Robert H. Justman today?"

(When I watch -- sample -- current television science fiction I just see a lot of cheap-to-do vacuuformed sets, electronic effects "done on my computer", and scripts written by fanboys & girls who have been waiting for the day when anything their little geeky hearts desired can be realized... on a television budget. Where is the soul?!)

Obit in the LA Times...,0,5889199.story

Saturday, June 7, 2008


On the front of this past Tuesday's Globe and Mail newspaper shone the headline, "It's Obama for President". I hope he becomes president of the U.S.A. He, of all people, can permeate the White House walls with humility and humanity. He certainly can cleanse those same walls of the slime and scum excreted by the 'beep' (and his pals) currently in office.

"B" is the man, and unlike James Earl Jones' character in the fine 1972 flick, The Man, he will not become president by default or by accident.

Thursday, June 5, 2008


(Filed on Tuesday, June 3rd.)

One thing that has struck me during these NHL playoffs is that Pittsburgh Penguins team captain Sydney Crosby does not fit the bill of Superstar. (I also watched a few games, where he was playing, during the regular season.) There is no denying that he is a very good player -- better than average -- , but I no longer hear a lot from various quarters proclaiming Crosby as truly "the next great thing".

Sydney Crosby is inconsistent -- technique and finesse are important but one must always be dependable. Everyone falls into a slump, but eventually they come out. Crosby is under-performing in the sense that there was a certain expectation of him and is simply not fulfilling his promise as Superstar. To me, he is a "B"-Superstar.

He is young and there is time, however, for him to change his ways... and make us forget.


(Filed on Tuesday, June 3rd.)

Like many hockey fans I welcomed 1:15 a.m. this morning. The second and third periods (especially) show why ice hockey is unbeatable for sustained team sports excitement. The game was resolved in the third period of overtime -- the players and the crowd in the Joe Louis Arena were all running out of steam. Pittsburgh's game-winning goal in "sudden death" was rather unceremonious, and perhaps a relief.

I can't even remember who scored it.


When the Net is down you cannot upload your latest blogs. (Important to know.) As energetic or manic as I can be, this electronic issue breeds no small amount of frustration in me. As a matter of fact, the service was down for a few days. I do not use this excuse not to write as my computer's word processing capability was strangely unaffected, allowing me to fumble the text even though is could not flash it immediately. (My previous two postings were done this way even though I am just getting around to putting this one up. Go figure.)

Here's to fumbling...

JOSEPH PEVNEY (1911 - 2008)

Two key Star Trek people passed away this past week: Composer Alexander Courage, and director Joseph Pevney. Pevney helmed 14 episodes of the classic series, including famed instalments, “The Trouble With Tribbles”, and the (brilliantly directed) “The City on the Edge of Forever”.

Pevney started in vaudville as a boy soprano and followed through as an actor in film and on Broadway. (Hey, back in the days when film and tv people actually “did things”.) He forged a career also as a director for the Broadway stage and for the big screen, directing actors such as Jeff Chandler in the 1956 VistaVision picture, Away All Boats, and James Cagney in Man of a Thousand Faces (1957).

By the 1960s, Pevney become known as a dependable and inspired director for television; working on series like Ben Casey, Wagon Train, and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. On Star Trek, he was brought in after the earliest episodes had been going habitually over budget and schedule; problems which had become very serious: Something had to be done. In television series terms, the show was expensive (by its very nature), and the constant overages were threatening to bankrupt Desilu. Pevney helped forge production efficiency while still inspiring cinematic integrity on a television budget. The only chink in his formidable directing armour happened at the end of the show's first season when “The City on the Edge of Forever” ended up $60,000 over budget – which was a huge sum in those days. (The director later said that this episode was worth every dollar spent.)

“City” is one of the finest pieces of hour long dramatic series television ever done for the medium... attributable, in a major way, to Joseph Pevney; in my humble opinion.

LA Times...,0,2766431.story

EARLE HAGEN (1919 - 2008)

We remember television themes tunes through sheer repetition, although, many of them – at least those from years ago – are catchy melodies in principle. Composer Earle Hagen was a master at writing the hummable television title tune. The evidence: The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Andy Griffith Show, and the propulsive The Mod Squad.

Hagen was also an educator, and wrote the first textbook on the technique of film and television music, "Scoring for Films: A Complete Text".

Forgetting for a moment that he was long retired, in a television world today run by idiots, Mr. Hagen would have no place any longer. The tv tune has gone the way of the intelligent producer.