Friday, March 31, 2017

Good Morning, Miss Dove

Good Morning, Miss Dove is a 1955 sentimental film about a school teacher's life of service and the positive effect she has on an entire community. Schmaltz, but nicely done shmaltz if that's to your taste. It stars Jennifer Jones as Miss Dove. Robert Stack and Chuck Connors are also in this movie.

via Youtube:

The New York Times opens its review with this: "Since it is unashamedly sentimental without being excessively maudlin about its heroine, "Good Morning, Miss Dove" deserves credit for being honest and entertaining." DVD Talk concludes, "... fans of the hale and hearty Inspirational Teacher genre will be touches by this lovingly crafted story."

Thursday, March 30, 2017


Nocturnes is a 2009 fiction collection -I can't quite call them short stories, as they seem longer than that, by Kazuo Ishiguro. This book of 221 pages contains 5 pieces which all have a connection to music. They aren't so much focused on linear plot development as they are pictures of situations, episodes in the characters' lives. I enjoy the way this author writes, but this wasn't as much to my taste as other books I've read by him. It may be that my general prejudice against short fiction is responsible for that.

description from Wikipedia:
As the subtitle suggests, each story focuses on music and musicians, and the close of day. All of the stories have unfulfilled potential as a linking theme, tinged with elements of regret. The second and fourth stories have comic undertones. The first and final stories feature cafe musicians, and the first and fourth stories feature the same character. All five stories have unreliable male narrators and are written in the first person
The NYT says, "... these five too-easy pieces are neither absorbingly serious nor engagingly frivolous". The Telegraph concludes, "... his prose is notable for what, in music, would be described as upper partials – intervals that resonate after a note is struck. One turns away, thinking the narratives one-note. Yet they resonate long after the book is set aside". The Independent says, "Ultimately this is a lovely, clever book about the passage of time and the soaring notes that make its journey worthwhile".

This counts towards my TBR book challenge.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Target Earth

Target Earth is a 1954 alien invasion movie in which we gradually get to know the few people who missed the mass evacuation. Robots from Venus aren't the only danger, though, as the group members turn on each other and the military doesn't know there's anybody left in the target area.

part 1:

part 2:

1000 Misspent Hours says, "it accomplishes much more through subtlety than its budget would ever have allowed had its creators aimed for spectacle instead." Moria says, "The film has a great opening. ... Alas, once we see the robots -about 30 minutes into the film– Target Earth takes a nosedive."

Weird Wild Realm likes the robot and says,
And even though the robot appears to have been constructed from large biscuit-tins; flexi-ducts then spray-painted silver, it's even so a wonderful piece of art deco minimalism, inspiring many a child of the 1950s to build their own robot costume from cardboard boxes. ... Well acted, cool robots, with a more than adequate array of B-actors headed up by Richard Denning, & told with poker-faced conviction. Truly worthwhile.
TCM has information. Rotten Tomatoes has an audience score of 27%.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Noel Coward Quote

I think we can all agree with him on this. And the British have made tea into a major part of their culture.

Noel Coward died on the 26th of March in 1973 of heart failure at the age of 73.

Please join the T Tuesday blogger gathering at Bluebeard and Elizabeth.

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Bad Sleep Well

The Bad Sleep Well is a 1960 Akira Kurosawa film starring Toshiro Mifune. Both the director and this actor are favorites of mine, so I watch everything I come across involving either of them. They never let me down.

I watched it at Hulu. Hulu doesn't offer any free viewing now, so we're out of luck with them. Here's a trailer:

The New York Times' 1963 review said,
If all the future imports in this theater are as forceful and engrossing as this one from the director of a long list of Japanese champions, beginning with "Rashomon", local film fans are due for a lot of excitement and the popularity of the project should be assured.

"The Bad Sleep Well" is an aggressive and chilling drama of modern-day Japan, exposing a fringe of "big business" in the forthright manner of an American gangster film.
Kurosawa in Review concludes with this: Like so many of the Kurosawa films before it, The Bad Sleep Well is a call to action. Kurosawa lays it all out there for the audience to see. While at the time he was making a film that commented on the society that he lived in, the themes live on today.
Shakespeare would be proud." TCM has an article that quotes the director: "... A film made only to make money did not appeal to me one should not take advantage of an audience. Instead, I wanted to make a movie of some social significance."

Slant Magazine says, "Grim and astringent, Akira Kurosawa's searing condemnation of post-WWII corporate corruption takes direct aim at his prior work's humanistic hopefulness". DVD Talk closes with this: "Any serious student of Japanese cinema should rush out and see The Bad Sleep Well, one of the very best films from one of the art's great masters."

Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 100%.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Hello Holland: 230,000 Tulips at the Dixon Gallery and Gardens

The Dixon Gallery and Gardens has an annual tulip display that just takes my breath away. This is the walk up to the entry to the gardens:

Tulips aren't my favorite flower (I'm more a sunflower and daisy gal), but WOW!

There are plenty of chairs and benches placed throughout the gardens.

There are tulips planted in every area of the gardens during this season.

There is a new piece of art displayed near the entrance to the main gallery building:

Isn't that delightful? It is Smooth Egg with Bow (Magenta/Violet) by Jeff Koons. Wikipedia says, "His Balloon Dog (Red) sculpture was one of the artworks brought to life in Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian." The Memphis Flyer says, "He currently holds the word record auction price for a living artist. Balloon Dog (Orange) sold at Christie’s Auction house in New York City in 2013 for $58.4 million." I can't think of a more suitable work to display here. It brightened up my day to see it, and I saw it after I'd already seen those gorgeous tulips!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Bitter Tea of General Yen

The Bitter Tea of General Yen is a 1933 directed by Frank Capra and starring Barbara Stanwyck

via Youtube (although this movie comes and goes, never staying available long):

The New York Times has this from the time of its release:
The screen attraction, "The Bitter Tea of General Yen," is a handsomely mounted affair with conspicuously good portrayals by Nils Asther and Walter Connolly. It is a melodrama of China that has certain aspects of Edith M. Hull's "The Sheik." It is a story that is scarcely plausible but which has the saving grace of being fairly entertaining. Certain characters are called upon to be exceptionally credulous at times and those who can overlook this and other shortcomings will probably find the tale of missionaries, romance and civil war in China diverting.
Senses of Cinema says,
The Bitter Tea of General Yen seemed doomed to disgrace from the day of its release. Despite having the honour of being the first film to premiere at Radio City Music Hall, it was a resounding flop that altered the course of the career of its ambitious young director. Back then, audiences could not accept a film that showed a Chinese man and a white woman achieving unprecedented levels of intimacy. Today, audiences may regard the white characters’ stereotypical denunciations of Chinese culture, or the interracial love story with the Chinese romantic lead played by a Swedish actor in yellowface makeup, with either camp irreverence or a queasy sense of shame for Hollywood’s racist legacy. It is a film orphaned between historical and cultural norms.
DVD Talk opens a positive review with this:
Frank Capra's lush, sensual 1933 melodrama The Bitter Tea of General Yen explores what happens when an American woman gets seduced by a powerful Chinese warlord. Although it at first appears to be dated, pulp-magazine junk - replete with stereotypical "Chinamen" references and the old portrayals of Asians as exotic, alluring seducers - Capra and star Barbara Stanwyck elevate this tasty Pre-Code melodrama into something special.
Entertainment Weekly says, "Its credentials are legendary: Directed by Frank Capra and among his personal favorites, it’s also one of the first movies ever to deal openly with interracial sexual attraction." This film is included in the book 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die. Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 100%.

Friday, March 24, 2017


Wool is a post-apocalyptic novel by Hugh Howey. I knew nothing about this book and just picked it up at my local bookseller on a whim. I'm glad I did. It's an interesting situation.

from the back of the book:

What would you do
if the world outside was deadly,
and the air you breathed could kill?

And you lived in a place
where every birth required a death,
ad the choices you made could
save lives -or destroy them.

This is Jules's Story.

This is the world of Wool.

The Washington Post opens with this: "Even if it were just a run-of-the-mill post-apocalyptic novel about a society forced to live underground, “Wool” would still be quite a tale." The Guardian says it "is uneven but shows a great deal of promise". The Independent closes with this: "...with the film rights already sold to Ridley Scott, Howey's Wool is likely to be spoken about in the same breath as The Hunger Games and The Passage before long."

Wired says,
Howey’s strength is in his characters. They are distinct and yet familiar in their desires. They love, even when it isn’t allowed, they explore even within the confines of the silo and they create. So much happens in Wool that little more can be said about the characters without giving much away. Let’s just say that this is storytelling based upon good characters placed in difficult situations...

Fantasy Book Review says, "Give it a go. It's pretty good." SF Book concludes, "Wool is a fascinating tale of the world in a tube, a classic not to be missed." Kirkus Reviews has an interview with the author.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

A Case of Two Cities

A Case of Two Cities by Qiu Xiaolong is the 4th novel in the Inspector Chen series. The Inspector is also a published poet and samples of poetry are scattered throughout. Here's one:

35 Birthday Night
2:30 A.M. A dog barks
against the moon-bleached night.

Is the dog barking into my dream
or am I dreaming of the dog?
I appreciate this look into a foreign culture, and I'm reading these as I can. I got this one as a Christmas present. They should be read in order. You can read Chapter 1 of this book at this link.

from the back of the book:
Inspector Chen Cao of the Shanghai Police Department is assigned a high-profile anti-corruption case, one in which the principal figure, Xing, has long since fled to the United States and beyond the reach of the Chinese government. But Xing left behind his organization, and Chen , while assigned to root out the coconspirators, is not sure whether he's actually being set up to fail.

In a twisting case that takes him from Shanghai all the way to the United States, reuniting him with his colleague and counterpart from the U.S. Marshls Service, Inspector Cathering Rhon, Chen finds himself at odds with hidden, powerful, and vicious enemies. At once a compelling crime novel and an insightful, moving portrayal of contemporary China, A Case of Two Cities is the finest novel yet in this critically acclaimed, award-winning series.
Publishers Weekly opens a positive review with this: "Chinese expatriate Qiu's gripping fourth Inspector Chen novel ... captures an honest detective's struggle to be true to his professional ideals under a repressive regime." The Independent says, "As a detective novel this is lacking in thrills, but its pleasures lie elsewhere. A fascinating picture of the new China emerges...". Reviewing the Evidence has a positive review.

I have read:

#1 Death of a Red Heroine
#2 A Loyal Character Dancer
#3 When Red Is Black

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Masque of the Red Death

The Masque of the Red Death is a 1964 film directed by Roger Corman and starring Vincent Price. Price plays a nobleman who terrorizes the local villagers. There's plenty here to spark quite a philosophical conversation about good and evil, life and death, love, sacrifice, and choices.

Senses of Cinema concludes:
A film that defies both categories and critics, The Masque of the Red Death is a unique work in the annals of Anglo-American horror. It sits more comfortably, perhaps, beside such Italian Gothic films as Beatrice Cenci (Riccardo Freda, 1956), La frusta e il corpo (The Whip and the Body, Mario Bava, 1963) and Suspiria (Dario Argento, 1977). All these films share its near-psychedelic visual exuberance, although they lack its underlying subtext of renewal and hope. Yet on its deepest and most visceral level, The Masque of the Red Death is precisely the sort of lurid and vulgar “bad” movie that – back when you were a child – your parents always told you not to watch. As a basic motivation for watching movies, it’s hard to improve on that!
Moria gives it 3 1/2 out of 5 stars and says,
The Masque of the Red Death is the most sumptuous of all Roger Corman’s Edgar Allan Poe adaptations with some expansive castle interior sets, most notably a series of interlocked rooms with each in a single colour scheme.... The film is also luxuriously photographed by a young Nicolas Roeg, who would later embark on his own directorial career with the likes of Don’t Look Now (1973), The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976) and The Witches (1990).
1,000 Misspent Hours calls it "mostly forgettable". British Horror Films begins a positive review with this: "It would be easy to dismiss Masque Of The Red Death as just another Corman/Poe film, but somehow, it's much more than that." TCM has some information.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

R.I.P. Chuck Berry


Chuck Berry died this past Saturday at age 90. A musician whose influence can't be overstated, a founder of Rock and Roll, his loss will be keenly felt. The BBC obituary says,
Chuck Berry's trademark four-bar guitar introduction and quickfire lyrics reflected the rebelliousness of the youth of the 1950s. He was one of that exclusive group who took rhythm and blues from its black roots and "crossed over" to make it part of most teenagers' lifestyle. He influenced generations of succeeding rock stars, most notably the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and the Beach Boys.
Nadine, released in 1964:

lyrics excerpt:
Nadine, honey is that you?
Oh, Nadine
Honey, is that you?
Seems like every time I see you
Darling you got something else to do

I saw her from the corner when she turned and doubled back
And started walkin' toward a coffee colored Cadillac
I was pushin' through the crowd to get to where she's at
And I was campaign shouting like a southern diplomat

Notice that coffee-colored Cadillac in the lyrics? That's my connection to the weekly T is for Tuesday gathering at Bleubeard and Elizabeth's blog. We share a drink (and I admit this post stretches the point); but please join me in a cuppa coffee (I take mine black, but I have white and brown sugar cubes and Swiss mocha for flavoring if you like) while we stroll down memory lane and appreciate some more of his music.

He wrote Memphis, Tennessee in 1959, though the Johnny Rivers 1964 cover is better known:

"If you tried to give rock and roll another name, you might call it Chuck Berry." - John Lennon

Rock and Roll Music (1957):

The New York Times obituary calls him "genre’s first true superstar" and says, "Chuck Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven” wasn’t the first rock ’n’ roll song, but it was the best and brashest of the genre’s early advertisements." Roll Over Beethoven (1956) is #97 on Rolling Stone Magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Billboard says,
Berry isn't, as some assume, the inventor of rock. True, he was its most important early architect, but by the time his debut single "Maybellene" was unleashed into the world in 1955, Bo Diddley, Fats Domino and Bill Haley & the Comets already had iconic hit singles on the Billboard charts. Elvis Presley's rocked-up version of the blues song "That's All Right" dropped in 1954, and "Rocket 88" -- an Ike Turner-helmed recording some historians hail as the first true rock n' roll release -- actually came out in 1951, years before the rock revolution started in earnest.

So why, if rock was already on the charts, is Chuck Berry most commonly cited as the single most important figure in rock music's creation? Simply put, unlike Domino, Presley, Haley or even the immensely influential Diddley, Chuck Berry helped codify what rock music would become.
Maybelline (1955):

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has a nice biography and says, "it's not an exaggeration to say that he's the most influential figure on modern rock & roll: Name any major band—the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Aerosmith—and they'll have cited Berry as an inspiration," and is quoted by Wikipedia as saying
While no individual can be said to have invented rock and roll, Chuck Berry comes the closest of any single figure to being the one who put all the essential pieces together. It was his particular genius to graft country & western guitar licks onto a rhythm & blues chassis in his very first single, "Maybellene".
A couple more of note are No Particular Place to Go from 1964:

and, of course, Johnny B. Goode from 1958, one of the musical selections chosen for inclusion on the record sent into space on Voyager:

Not ready to stop? Here's an hour of him, a Greatest Hits album:

R.I.P. Chuck Berry.

Monday, March 20, 2017

I Live in Fear

I Live in Fear is a 1955 film directed by Akira Kurosawa and starring Toshiro Mifune and Takashi Shimura, a trio that never fail to make a wonderful movie. This one is about a factory worker who is frightened of a nuclear attack and is devoting all his effort to moving his loved ones to safety in Brazil. His family fights him every step of the way, going to great lengths to prevent him from realizing his plan. The fear is tragic, but anyone who lived through the Cold War or 9/11 or the current presidency so far can surely connect with the desire to pick up lock, stock, and barrel and move some place safer.

I watched it free (but with commercials) at Hulu. You can watch a trailer at MUBI. I can't find even a clip to embed.

There's what sounds like a theremin in the score.

The NYT review from 1967 calls it "one of the weakest of the great Japanese director's works". TCM has an article which opens with this: "One of the first Japanese commercial features to directly address the fear of nuclear holocaust and the implications of the atom bomb, I Live in Fear (1955, aka Record of a Living Being) was an unusual and unexpected movie for director Akira Kurosawa." Time Out notes it as "Kurosawa's least commercially successful work" but argues it is successful in some ways: "Kurosawa remains the cinema's supremely humanist emotional manipulator".

Slate opens with this: "If someone should feel compelled to make a film about 9/11—specifically, about the social and psychic toll that the attacks have and haven't taken—a good model would be Akira Kurosawa's I Live in Fear".

Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 70%.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

A sign of 42

I saw this 42 while I was walking north on McLean.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

A Sportsman's Sketches

A Sportsman's Sketches (1852) is a short story collection by Ivan Turgenev. I've read that this work was partially responsible for Turgenev's house arrest. The book is available online in translation here or here, which is where I read it. Individually they are interesting enough just as stories, but taken as a whole they provide a picture of a life that must have been terribly difficult.

Khor and Kalinych, the first story in the collection, begins with this:
Anyone who has chanced to pass from the Bolhovsky district into the Zhizdrinsky district, must have been impressed by the striking difference between the race of people in the province of Orel and the population of the province of Kaluga. The peasant of Orel is not tall, is bent in figure, sullen and suspicious in his looks; he lives in wretched little hovels of aspen-wood, labours as a serf in the fields, and engages in no kind of trading, is miserably fed, and wears slippers of bast: the rent-paying peasant of Kaluga lives in roomy cottages of pine-wood; he is tall, bold, and cheerful in his looks, neat and clean of countenance; he carries on a trade in butter and tar, and on holidays he wears boots. The village of the Orel province (we are speaking now of the eastern part of the province) is usually situated in the midst of ploughed fields, near a water-course which has been converted into a filthy pool. Except for a few of the ever-accommodating willows, and two or three gaunt birch-trees, you do not see a tree for a mile round; hut is huddled up against hut, their roofs covered with rotting thatch. The villages of Kaluga, on the contrary, are generally surrounded by forest; the huts stand more freely, are more upright, and have boarded roofs; the gates fasten closely, the hedge is not broken down nor trailing about; there are no gaps to invite the visits of the passing pig. And things are much better in the Kaluga province for the sportsman. In the Orel province the last of the woods and copses will have disappeared five years hence, and there is no trace of moorland left; in Kaluga, on the contrary, the moors extend over tens, the forest over hundreds of miles, and a splendid bird, the grouse, is still extant there; there are abundance of the friendly larger snipe, and the loud-clapping partridge cheers and startles the sportsman and his dog by its abrupt upward flight.

On a visit to the Zhizdrinsky district in search of sport, I met in the fields a petty proprietor of the Kaluga province called Polutikin, and made his acquaintance. He was an enthusiastic sportsman; it follows, therefore, that he was an excellent fellow. He was liable, indeed, to a few weaknesses; he used, for instance, to pay his addresses to every unmarried heiress in the province, and when he had been refused her hand and house, broken-hearted he confided his sorrows to all his friends and acquaintances, and continued to shower offerings of sour peaches and other raw produce from his garden upon the young lady’s relatives; he was fond of repeating one and the same anecdote, which, in spite of Mr. Polutikin’s appreciation of its merits, had certainly never amused anyone; he admired the works of Akim Nahimov and the novel Pinna; he stammered; he called his dog Astronomer; instead of ‘however’ said ‘howsomever’; and had established in his household a French system of cookery, the secret of which consisted, according to his cook’s interpretation, in a complete transformation of the natural taste of each dish; in this artiste’s hands meat assumed the flavour of fish, fish of mushrooms, macaroni of gunpowder; to make up for this, not a single carrot went into the soup without taking the shape of a rhombus or a trapeze. But, with the exception of these few and insignificant failings, Mr. Polutikin was, as has been said already, an excellent fellow.

On the first day of my acquaintance with Mr. Polutikin, he invited me to stay the night at his house. ‘It will be five miles farther to my house,’ he added; ‘it’s a long way to walk; let us first go to Hor’s.’ (The reader must excuse my omitting his stammer.)

‘Who is Hor?’

‘A peasant of mine. He is quite close by here.’

We went in that direction. In a well-cultivated clearing in the middle of the forest rose Hor’s solitary homestead. It consisted of several pine-wood buildings, enclosed by plank fences; a porch ran along the front of the principal building, supported on slender posts. We went in. We were met by a young lad of twenty, tall and good-looking.

‘Ah, Fedya! is Hor at home?’ Mr. Polutikin asked him.

‘No. Hor has gone into town,’ answered the lad, smiling and showing a row of snow-white teeth. ‘You would like the little cart brought out?’

‘Yes, my boy, the little cart. And bring us some kvas.’

We went into the cottage. Not a single cheap glaring print was pasted up on the clean boards of the walls; in the corner, before the heavy, holy picture in its silver setting, a lamp was burning; the table of linden-wood had been lately planed and scrubbed; between the joists and in the cracks of the window-frames there were no lively Prussian beetles running about, nor gloomy cockroaches in hiding. The young lad soon reappeared with a great white pitcher filled with excellent kvas, a huge hunch of wheaten bread, and a dozen salted cucumbers in a wooden bowl. He put all these provisions on the table, and then, leaning with his back against the door, began to gaze with a smiling face at us. We had not had time to finish eating our lunch when the cart was already rattling before the doorstep. We went out. A curly-headed, rosy-cheeked boy of fifteen was sitting in the cart as driver, and with difficulty holding in the well-fed piebald horse. Round the cart stood six young giants, very like one another, and Fedya.

‘All of these Hor’s sons!’ said Polutikin.

‘These are all Horkies’ (i.e. wild cats), put in Fedya, who had come after us on to the step; ‘but that’s not all of them: Potap is in the wood, and Sidor has gone with old Hor to the town. Look out, Vasya,’ he went on, turning to the coachman; ‘drive like the wind; you are driving the master. Only mind what you’re about over the ruts, and easy a little; don’t tip the cart over, and upset the master’s stomach!’

The other Horkies smiled at Fedya’s sally. ‘Lift Astronomer in!’ Mr. Polutikin called majestically. Fedya, not without amusement, lifted the dog, who wore a forced smile, into the air, and laid her at the bottom of the cart. Vasya let the horse go. We rolled away. ‘And here is my counting-house,’ said Mr. Polutikin suddenly to me, pointing to a little low-pitched house. ‘Shall we go in?’ ‘By all means.’ ‘It is no longer used,’ he observed, going in; ‘still, it is worth looking at.’ The counting-house consisted of two empty rooms. The caretaker, a one- eyed old man, ran out of the yard. ‘Good day, Minyaitch,’ said Mr. Polutikin; ‘bring us some water.’ The one-eyed old man disappeared, and at once returned with a bottle of water and two glasses. ‘Taste it,’ Polutikin said to me; ‘it is splendid spring water.’ We drank off a glass each, while the old man bowed low. ‘Come, now, I think we can go on,’ said my new Friend. ‘In that counting-house I sold the merchant Alliluev four acres of forest-land for a good price.’ We took our seats in the cart, and in half-an-hour we had reached the court of the manor-house.

‘Tell me, please,’ I asked Polutikin at supper; ‘why does Hor live apart from your other peasants?’

‘Well, this is why; he is a clever peasant. Twenty-five years ago his cottage was burnt down; so he came up to my late father and said: “Allow me, Nikolai Kouzmitch,” says he, “to settle in your forest, on the bog. I will pay you a good rent.” “But what do you want to settle on the bog for?” “Oh, I want to; only, your honour, Nikolai Kouzmitch, be so good as not to claim any labour from me, but fix a rent as you think best.” “Fifty roubles a year!” “Very well.” “But I’ll have no arrears, mind!” “Of course, no arrears”; and so he settled on the bog. Since then they have called him Hor’ (i.e. wild cat).

‘Well, and has he grown rich?’ I inquired.

‘Yes, he has grown rich. Now he pays me a round hundred for rent, and I shall raise it again, I dare say. I have said to him more than once, “Buy your freedom, Hor; come, buy your freedom.” . . . But he declares, the rogue, that he can’t; has no money, he says. . . . As though that were likely. . . . ’

This counts towards my Russia book challenge.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Battle Beyond the Stars

Battle Beyond the Stars is a 1980 science fiction film. A Roger Corman production, it stars Richard Thomas, Robert Vaughn, George Peppard, and John Saxon. It's a period piece, obviously getting some of its inspiration from Star Wars.

via Youtube:

Empire Online gives it 3 out of 5 stars and concludes with this: "Derivative sci-fi hokum but some imaginative touches here and there." DVD Talk calls it "a sincere, engaging sci-fi spectacle that makes a lovely ruckus, though it lacks a cracking pace that helped shape "Star Wars" into a legend." TCM has information.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Near Enemy

Near Enemy by Adam Sternbergh is the 2nd book in the Spademan near-future series. I enjoyed the first one much more, I think because the concept was new to me. Without that novelty there's just not really that much here for me.

from the back of the book:
New York is toxic -decimated by a dirty bomb. The only people still in the city are those too stubborn to leave -and those rich enough to escape to a virtual-reality haven, oblivious to the horrors raging outside their windows.

But for Spademan, the city's still home. And for a hit man, it's not a bad place to earn a paycheck.

At least, that is, until a routine job reveals a secret he can't ignore: terrorists are getting ready to attack the city again. This time in a way that should be impossible -and that will leave the crippled city in ruins.

Spademan may be a killer, and New York may be a wasteland, but he'll be damned if he doesn't try to stop what's coming. And unless he can figure out who his true enemies are, he may be damned either way.

Near Enemy is another hard-hitting, cyberpunk-infused noir from Edgar Award finalist Adam Sternbergh, featuring an unforgettable antihero and a terrifying, insidious enemy.
The Globe and Mail says,
Near Enemy’s plot twists and revelations aren’t so much obvious as plain boring. Did you know that people in positions of power are sometimes corrupt? Did you know that, heck, even the police aren’t above such depravity? Did you ever think that maybe in the West there’s a tendency to scapegoat Muslim communities? Near Enemy unfolds like Baby’s First Post-9/11 Allegory.
Kirkus Reviews concludes, "The machinations of all this sinister reality remain rather abstract and thus wind up having far more interest to Spademan than to the reader." Publishers Weekly says that "Sternbergh laces his second cyberpunk voyage with dark humor and eccentric characters". Fantastic Fiction calls it "Perfect for fans of INCEPTION, LOOPER and Hugh Howie."

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Tourist Trap

Tourist Trap is a 1979 horror film about a group of teens whose car trouble strands them in the middle of the road near, yes, you guessed it, a tourist trap. Mannequins can indeed be truly horrifying. Chuck Connors stars as the attraction's proprietor. closes with this: "Recommended? Hell yes, I love this damn film, enuff said!" Horror Express calls it "One of the best horror films of the 1970's". Moria calls it "a genuinely strange film" and says, "Connors has clear fun, giving a great demented performance".

Tuesday, March 14, 2017


photo from

We went to Buckley's Grill for an anniversary dinner late last year. We had never been and had heard so much good about it. It was indeed good. Very expensive, that's true enough, but for a one-time special occasion we weren't unwilling to pay these prices. You can look at the menu here.

I had stuffed mushrooms for an appetizer:

and then a salad:

The steak was perfect:

We couldn't resist dessert:

The service was pleasant and helpful. It was dark inside and crowded, so I couldn't get photos of the tables and decor and can't find any online. It was a comfortable, child-friendly environment. People were dressed in a range from quite casual to dressy. The tables had cloth table covers, cloth napkins, and a candle. When we go back, we'll get the burger. I'll bet the food is just as good, and it'll be much less expensive that way.

Yelp has a 4- out of 5-star rating with 111 reviews. Trip Advisor has a 4.5- out of 5-star rating with 155 reviews.

Please join us at Bleubeard and Elizabeth's weekly "T is for Tuesday" blog gathering, where we share our drinks (see my water in the photos?) and visit with each other.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Walking Inside, One Mile at a Time

I like to walk, but I don't like getting out in cold or wet weather. On those days those walk-in-place videos are helpful. I have a number of Leslie Sansone walking videos of various lengths. She has some shorter videos online:

Here's her 1-Mile Happy Walk:

and her 1-Mile Express Walk:

Jessica Smith has a 1-mile Express Interval Walk here:

and a 1-mile "Turkey Trot" here:

and a 1-Mile Express Abs Walk:

a 1-Mile Walk and Talk on Motivation:

and a 1-Mile Upper Body Circuit Walk:

In another post I'll share videos that are longer than a single mile.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Red Hot Riding Hood

Red Hot Riding Hood is a 1943 Tex Avery animated short, a racy re-telling of the classic story.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is a 1916 adaptation of the Jules Verne book. This film was the first to use underwater photography -not underwater cameras, but an ingenious series of watertight tubes and mirrors.

The book can be read online.

via Youtube:

Moria compares this one with the Disney version with James Mason and says,
What is also noticeable about the film is that half of the screen story has been mixed in with Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea sequel Mysterious Island (1875), which was about Confederate prison escapees who land on a desert island where they were aided by Captain Nemo.
What is also noticeable about the two versions of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is their focus as science-fiction films.
Horror News has information on how the photography was done. Wild Realm Reviews concludes, "Not a very good film, testing one's patience to get through it, this version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea does have visual content advanced for 1916, & must be granted a larger place in the history of cinema than it justifies in terms of watchability."

Friday, March 10, 2017

A Red Death

A Red Death by Walter Mosley is the 2nd book in the Easy Rawlins mystery series, and an interesting look at African American culture in California during the 1950s. I'm enjoying these and look forward to the next one.

from the back of the book:
It's 1953 in red-baiting, blacklisting Los Angeles, a moral tar pit ready to swallow Easy Rawlins. Easy is out of "the hurting business" and into the housing (and favor) business when a racist IRS agent nails him for tax evasion. Special Agent Darryl T. Craxton, FBI, offers to bail him out if he agrees to infiltrate the First American Baptist Church and spy on alleged communist organizer Chaim Wenzler. That's when the murders begin....
The New York Times closes by saying, "Mr. Mosley has depicted a special locale and a corner-cutting way of life that most readers will find far more riveting than the crime pages of their newspapers." Kirkus Reviews praises it.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Riders of the Whistling Skull

Riders of the Whistling Skull is a 1937 western with weird/horror elements. This one stars "The Three Mesquiteers". Wikipedia provides this plot description:
After Professor Marsh disappears whilst searching for the lost city of Lukachukai, a party of anthropologists including Marsh's daughter Betty arrive in a Western town to prepare an expedition to look for him. Meanwhile, the Three Mesquiteers have discovered a delirious man wandering the desert and bring him to town where Betty recognises him as a member of her missing father's expedition. As the man slowly gets his memory back the party wishes to know the location of Professor Marsh and Lukachukai that contains an ancient legendary treasure. The man is murdered with a knife bearing an Indian description. The Mesquiteers recognise that the murderer is one of the party in the room. Keen on his detective magazine that he constantly carries with him, Stony and the Mesquiteers lead an expedition to find Professor Marsh, the lost city and its treasure and the murderer. Well armed devil worshiping Indians and walking mummies enliven the proceedings.

366 Weird Movies says
Riders of the Whistling Skull is the kind of movie which is so delightfully in love with its period that one could easily imagine a true genre geek like Tarantino falling in love with it today. Director Mack V. Wright is completely comfortable throwing horror, western, jungle, mystery and comic relief into a seamless mix.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Spring at the Memphis Botanic Gardens

These photos are from a visit late last month. The seasonal flowers were some beginnings of daffodils:

There were also some flowering trees:

and flowering shrubs:

There's an island in the center of the lake, and if you look closely in the photo below you can see a heron there in front of the rock at the center right:

There are a lot of turtles and koi in that shot, too. I got closer shots of the koi in another section of the lake:

I parked near the Succulent Garden, which -oddly- is actually out in the parking lot:

I love this park. It's close, and I go fairly often.