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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Dallas Season 12 on DVD


DVD BOX SET REVIEW:

Sue Anne Ewing (Linda Gray) indignantly blurts out, “You mean that bastard is still alive?!" after she discovers that she failed to kill J.R. (Larry Hagman) at the end of Season 11. As I recall I was thinking the same thing about Dallas in general by the time the twelfth season rolled around. Not only are there explosions on the Southfork Ranch this year, but on the show as well. With Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing) already gone from the series last season, Priscilla Pressley (Jenna Wade) and Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs) would soon follow on this one, taking a lot of their fans with them. Also Linda Gray (Sue Ellen) will wander off at the end of this season after a lame plot to make a failed movie of J.R.’s life, exposing all of his backstabbing schemes to the world.

This time around in the midst of all the departures, the show overcompensates with humorous and overblown plot twists, exploding dams and oil wells, hired mercenary ranch hands totting machineguns and/or side arms, and field trips to Europe. One of my favorite scenes this year is when J.R. hilariously pretends to be dying in the hospital to try to make Bobby feel sorry for him. One great result of all the behind-the-scenes shakeups is that we get to see Miss Ellie stop being a weak and timid damsel in distress. When her beloved Southfork is threatened, she stands her hallowed ground and becomes a “mama bear protecting her cubs” force to be reckoned with that pales J.R. in comparison.

The great George Kennedy joins the cast as their affable but secretly evil neighbor Carter McKay; possibly the most worthy adversary that not only J.R. has faced, but Miss Ellie (Barbera Bel Geddes) as well. Fans of the show will like the return of Afton Cooper (Audrey Landers) into Cliff’s life, bringing along a daughter that may or may not be his.

As expected, this year JR’s lust-obsessed brain has dropped back into his groin and he can’t resist the temptation of a pretty young thing while on a camping trip with Bobby and their sons. His intended target takes the form of Cally Harper (Cathy Podewell) and before J.R. knows what hit him, he’s cut off from his powerful connections, convicted of rape and sentenced to jail with no way of getting word out for help.

What follows in quick succession are a shotgun wedding resulting in a new wife for J.R., escapes from jail, a tornado, a range war involving Ray Krebb’s adjoining land, a dammed up stream threatening to parch Ewing livestock and possibly the ultimate sign of the apocalypse-Cliff Barnes (Ken Kercheval) becoming a partner in Ewing Oil… with Miss Ellie’s blessing! This results in an infuriated J.R. becoming determined to sabotage any deal that they make in an attempt to destroy the one love that he’s never cheated on-Ewing Oil.

For a refreshing change, the season leaves the confines of the studio and spends a lot of time on the actual Southfork Ranch in Texas. The cameras also take the aforementioned field trip to Europe, which seemed to be the studio’s excuse to reward the cast members that were willing to remain with excursions to Vienna, Salzburg and Moscow.

This collection comes in the form of the usual (and annoying) three double-sided discs that make watching the series with a multi-disc player impossible without getting up and flipping them instead of in a continuous series. These discs are also unlabeled with only fine print at the center hole. DVD extras are limited to English subtitles for the hearing impaired.

All things considered, I liked this season and if you’re a fan of the show this volume makes a great addition to any collection.

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©-2010 by Jet Gardner/Blogcritics.org

Friday, February 5, 2010

Tim Tebow "Miracle Birth" Ad Is Questionable

According to legend and the coming Super Bowl ad:
American Christian missionaries Bob and Pam Tebow landed on Philippine shores to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to the local heathen natives by indoctrinating them into the Christian faith; thus saving them from eternal damnation. In 1987 a very pregnant Pam was diagnosed with dysentery and complications from a serious infection that threatened the life of her “unborn” child (their fifth.) Concerned for the survival of the mother and predicting that her child would be stillborn, the local medical team strongly recommended that she immediately have an abortion.

Relying on prayer and her faith in God’s miracles, she defied her doctor’s advice and mere mortal mankind’s odds and soon after on August 14th in nearby Makati City, she gave birth to a completely healthy boy.

What this ad is implying is that if you chose to defy the odds and your doctor’s orders to abort a child for the sake of saving the mother’s life, God will give you a miracle child that will grow up to be not only a messiah and preacher of the Christian Faith, but a legendary Heisman trophy winning football player as well!

Where this little fairytale falls flat on its face is that the Tebows would entrust the health of Mrs. Tebow and her fifth child to a doctor who would recommend an abortion in the first place. To compound the contradictions, we’re led to believe that the missionary Tebows would trust her to the care of a physician from an overwhelmingly Catholic nation that didn’t know that the Philippines passed a very strict law way back in 1930 prohibiting any type of abortion, even in the case of rape or the mother’s life being threatened.

According to the 1930 Revised Penal Code of the Philippines Articles 256, 258 and 259 calls for:

imprisonment for the woman who undergoes the abortion, as well as for any person who assists in the procedure, even if they be the woman's parents, a physician or midwife. Article 258 further imposes a higher prison term on the woman or her parents if the abortion is undertaken "in order to conceal [the woman's] dishonor

All attempts over the previous 56 years before Tebow’s birth to loosen those restrictions have failed, due mostly to the opposition of the strong and influential Catholic Church in the region.

Could Tim Tebow be our next “Balloon boy”?







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©-2010 by Jet Gardner/Blogcritics.org

Monday, November 30, 2009

CSI Miami: Season 7

DVD REVIEW

When it comes to CSI Miami there is one thing you can count on; from the moment Roger Daltrey screams “Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah” until Horatio Caine (David Caruso) puts those infamous sunglasses back on you won’t be bored. Season seven opens where season six left off with Caine shot dead on an airport tarmac and the reluctantly believed theory that CSI Ryan Wolfe (Jonathan Togo) is the main suspect. About the only revelation that is not a surprise is that of course Horatio isn’t dead. Then again this is the same series that killed off the much-liked Tim Speedle (Rory Cochrane) character after we grew to know and love him, and allowed Dr. Alexx Woods (Khandi Alexander) to wander off to a calmer job at a local hospital, so no one can really be considered safe. By the end of the season this point is driven home quite forcefully when popular and loved CSI Eric Delko (Adam Rodriguez) is presumed dead in the Everglades and then subsequently leaves the force in the opening weeks of season eight.

This is the season where Caine discovers his ex girlfriend Julia Winston (Elizabeth Berkley) is married to his new nemesis and subsequent episodes flesh out her drug and financial problems. Horatio also gets his newly discovered son Kyle (Evan Ellingson) a job in order to keep him out of trouble, by having him join the CSI team in the Autopsy Lab. With the exit of Alexx from autopsy comes young Dr. Tara Price (Megalyn Echikunwoke) whose first case involves a man who crashed a party fully engulfed in flames, apparently from the inside out. As the season progresses, and just as you get to know, trust and like her, Horatio’s son Kyle discovers that Tara is stealing prescription narcotics from her crime victim’s belongings, leading to her being fired.

Along the way, new ways of killing people are found. Amongst the more interesting methods are using a high-rise construction crane to murder a witness hiding out in the top of an office building who is due to testify against a well-known crime boss. A man is dissolved in an innocent-looking swimming pool filled with acid, and a designer original dress has been rigged to explode in order to punish a shoplifter.

Calliegh Duquesne (Emily Procter) and Delko’s romance gradually heats up to a boil. Russian crime families play a large role in Eric’s back-story this season starting with a corpse that has part of a man’s neck tattoo… in its stomach. As the Russian mafia aspect develops throughout the season, it eventually leads to Delco betraying his colleagues and to his cliffhanger “demise.”

Despite the computers getting fancier and the gadgets getting more fantastic, the technology still takes a back seat to the mental detective work required to crack each crime; which is as it should be. As with the previous seasons, this set includes an alternate soundtrack in Spanish, interesting episode commentaries, a wide-screen format, and it includes behind the scenes DVD extras that are worth checking out.

All in all I found the collection satisfying and well worth adding to your collection.




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©-2009 by Jet Gardner/Blogcritics.org

Monday, November 23, 2009

Trans-Siberian Orchestra - Night Castle


MUSIC REVIEW

Trans-Siberian Orchestra has a well-deserved reputation for blending hard-driving metal rock with symphonic classical music into something glorious for the holidays. As a fan, I count The Christmas Attic as one of my favorite CDs. The first thing I had to do however, when reviewing this double CD was to overcome the disappointment that this wasn't that long-anticipated and hoped-for (five years) Christmas album from a group that knows how to make the holidays, well… magnificent.

If you’re looking for the perfect gift for a heavy metal/acid rock fan; this is it.

I should warn you ahead of time however, that it is very hard for a great musical group to top themselves once they’ve released something incredible. The best example of this would be Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours” album in 1977 making them superstars. In an attempt to keep their fans happy and “top themselves” the band released an over-bulked double album entitled “Tusk,” in 1979, which promptly fell on its face. In attempt to avoid FM’s example, Trans-Siberian Orchestra has become afraid of losing or not living up to its own notoriety. In the process of trying to top themselves, TSO has become guilty of over-producing, over-repeating, over-creating and over-performing themselves, and possibly worst of all over-confidently forsaking the format that made them famous to begin with.

Band leader Paul O’Neil apparently has never been told that too much of a good thing will sometimes give you a stomach ache, because the net effect here is that the instrumentals, vocals, and over-extended story are so over-perfected as to have become too sterile to be touched by human hands.

The simple, yet beautiful tale of a young girl and her grandfather’s castle on the beach has been bulked up into a mini-novel encompassing a 66-page booklet that is required reading if you have any hope of understanding the story. The tale is extended across two CDs in lead vocals that are drenched, inundated and over saturated with anguish, pain, anger, resentment and righteous indignation… in other words-opera on a triple overdose of steroids. Some songs are extended long after their usefulness by screaming guitar riffs competing with drum solos competing with vocal yodeling appropriate for live albums… but not here.

Even worse, in an attempt to outthink themselves, TSO has compartmentalized their performances so that rock and classical genres are presented equally but separately, with the two seldom blending, forsaking their own claim to fame.

Then there are the glorious sound effects. The helicopter flyover for no apparent reason other than that it sounded good. There is the storm that invades, inhabits and tests every speaker in the room, or places the gale within your mind via a good set of headphones. The wind storm rivals those contained in Alan Parson’s “The Fall of the House of Usher,” or The Door’s “Riders on the Storm," but then it’s all wasted on a magnificent, yet bastardized and savaged version of Savatage’s version of "Hall of the Mountain King”

In other words Night Castle is so magnificent that after about track 7 of this 26 track work, it becomes tedious. The magnificent electric guitar performances are so perfect; they appear to be done by computer with a mechanical precision with some riffs repeated repeatedly as accurately as the first. There are magnificent choral arrangements too inconceivable to be performed by human voices, and programmed magnificent synthesizer meticulousness that outclasses any keyboardist alive. In short the musicians have perfected their parts to the point of being sterile and robotically devoid of human expression.

In conclusion, this magnificent collection is like that sixth serving of rich and chocolate mousse that your great Aunt Margaret proudly insists with a loving smile that you finish up; it’s worth the lip-smacking anticipation on the drive over, it’s worth waiting for all through dinner, it’s delicious chocolate comfort food is worth dipping your spoon into the first, second and third serving, but after that…

There are eight pages devoted to bandmember credits on this double CD. Some tracks have double or triple personnel on each instrument. On some tracks there are seven vocalists and twenty-nine back-up vocals... and that's not including several choirs and a multitude of guest appearances. The core of the band is the writer, producer and guitarist Paul O’Neil who gave a good effort, but tried too hard here.
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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Eddie Izzard Live From Wembly

COMEDY DVD REVIEW

Like all great comedians, Eddie Izzard doesn’t tell jokes; he weaves funny stories. The well-honed skill that sets him apart is the art of presenting two people conversing with each other… even though he’s the only one on stage. Either that or he’ll suddenly stop and debate with himself about how a particular line should’ve gotten a better laugh but didn’t, or worse—one that shouldn’t have gotten one but did.

If I had to describe this hilarious standup concert, it’d have to be done in one very long sentence, because that’s how Eddie Izzard presents it. It used to be that Johnny Carson was the only man I knew who could get lost in the middle of a monologue and then make you laugh your head off listening to him try to dig his way back to where he started.

Eddie has that very same talent.

I found myself unable to stop laughing; especially when he reveals and illustrates his conclusion that the legendary Greek and Roman Gods had to have been invented by a man with an extremely large bag of weed and an awful lot of time on his hands.

Other topics that are delivered in rapid-fire fashion include the similarities between transvestites and super heroes because they have to change clothes before they help people. He’ll get hopelessly distracted trying to explain what dark matter is while giving an astronomy lesson on the planet Mars complete with movie sound effects. That leads to a story of how archeologists in Rome dug a huge rectangular hole searching for ancient artifacts, but then didn’t find anything, so they announced they’d found a famous ancient swimming pool.

His admiration for firemen wanders off course when he speculates that they throw cats out the window of fire engines in place of a broken siren, leading to an explanation of the Doppler effect. That leads to his embarrassing problem of not proofreading text mistakes until after he’s hit send… and by then it’s too late.

A great story of how to deal with attacking sharks somehow wanders into an even funnier tale of how to deal with houseflies—especially the ones with Klingon cloaking devices that show up in places you don’t expect. That leads to an observation of how racists are never as polite as smokers, which veers back somehow to how English hunters should stop hunting foxes and instead go after flies using flamethrowers.

Another great talent he has is for acting out all of the parts of a movie, which he uses with ease describing his idea of what Sigourney Weaver and the monster would do in the newest fictitious sequel to Aliens, which of course logically becomes a debate about what was more important; the invention of the wheel, or the invention of the axle. James Bond makes an appearance in one of the worst impressions you’ve ever heard … which stops in its tracks when he relays that the French dub his voice anyway, so no one in France knows what Eddie sounds like.

He pauses to tell of how he’d recently gotten curious about exploring the Koran and how bad of idea it was to read it on a transcontinental flight to the U.S., which somehow stops to explore his puzzlement over the sudden appearance of balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing, the evolution of the Neanderthal, Noah’s problems with the menu on the arc-especially when he has to hide from God that he’s eaten one of the cows, and then he ends it all up with his puzzlement over the question of why horses are measured in “hands” instead of “feet.”

This 90 minute concert is well worth the price and includes as a DVD extra the 40-minute Live at the Norwich which is an earlier version of this concert and gives you the opportunity to see how he writes and then hones his craft.

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Monday, November 9, 2009

The Mod Squad Season 2-Vol II

DVD REVIEW
The first thing you’ll notice about this collection is the crystal clarity of the transfer. It caught my eye in Captain Adam Greer’s office when I could read the labels on his file cabinets and had I wanted to, I could have paused the picture and counted the hairs on his head. This DVD set is a perfect time machine revealing an era when detectives actually had to think a puzzle through without the help of forensics or a bank of super computers.

The Mod Squad was so successful because the four main characters comprised a classic ensemble cast that became closer than family. Captain Adam Greer more often than not referred to the squad as his kids rather than officers, and protected them like a mother bear defends her cubs. Pete Cochran, Lincoln Hayes and Julie Barnes started out as three strangers and had to grow to know each other quickly because their lives depended on it. This on-screen interaction allowed us to know and care about them too, which is why the show was such a winner.

In that era the young generation considered the police the “fuzz,” the “man,” the “establishment,” and everything that the hippie counterculture generation were rebelling against. Then Aaron Spelling, Danny Thomas and Harve Bennett threw everyone a curve and presented a squad of cops that were the younger generation instead of gun wielding storm troopers. An excellent idea that worked… at the time. When you look back at it today though, you realize it was merely Mr’s Spelling, Thomas and Bennett’s idea of the young counterculture instead of the real thing.

The three main characters wore beautiful clothes in the latest styles, and they drove beautiful cars and lived in beautiful apartments. Pete, Link and Julie were what every average teen wanted to be; they had lots of friends, had rich society connections, lots of opportunities and lots of support when they got into trouble. However their on-screen personas were supposed to be young and troubled teens from the tough streets of Los Angeles. Julie was a teenaged runaway who’d been arrested for vagrancy. Linc was as uneasy and angry as the streets of Watts that he came from. Racially charged streets that were nearly destroyed in the name of “Black Power.” Pete was the penniless son of a rich businessman who’d been disowned only to become a streetwise car thief. Yet surprisingly levelheaded Link quoted Shakespeare and listened to classical music, Julie had a striking and large apartment, and Pete owned a brand new Dodge Challenger convertible on what he earned as a probationary cop.

At first I was going to comment on how much the role of female cops/agents have changed since the 60s and 70s, but then I remembered the characters of Emma Peel of “The Avengers” and Officer Eve Whitfield of “Ironside.” Emma and Eve brawled with villains, brandished guns and were equal members of their teams. Julie Barnes on the other hand, was always the damsel in distress who wilted to the floor or a couch and/or cried in a fight instead of defending herself alongside Pete and Link. She also had a talent for being kidnapped or grabbed by the bad guys in desperate need of rescue. I consider her character the only flaw in a beautiful diamond, and the comparisons lead to the conclusion that Peggy Lipton had been cast as mere eye candy instead of as an undercover police officer.

Despite the contradictions, the show was, and still is, one of the best character/story driven programs in TV history. This particular DVD collection holds some of the best episodes of the entire series; particularly the one entitled “Survival House” in which singer/dancer/rat pack member Sammy Davis Jr. gets to show off his incredible acting talents in a well written story about a recovering drug addict given the chance to help others like him. This collection also features today’s famous actors back when they were getting their first breaks in show business, so watch the extras and minor costars for people like Richard Dreyfuss, Ivan Dixon, Ed Asner and Gloria Foster-the Oracle from The Matrix movies.

This collection contains 13 episodes comprising the second half of the second season of the series from 1969 thru 1970 spread over three discs. The only real complaint I have about this collection is that it only contains half of the season, which means you have to pay twice for Season Two, where most other series collections don’t. It stars Michael Cole, Clarence Williams III, Peggy Lipton and Tige Andrews. Another item of note is that this TV series is from an era when an hour-long show only had 8-10 minutes total of commercials, unlike today when the average is more like 15-17 minutes or more. The technical quality of the show and the reproduction onto DVD is as flawless as I’ve ever seen and this collection is well worth the investment.






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©-2009 by Jet Gardner/Blogcritics.org

Monday, September 28, 2009

Neil Diamond is Forever... And With Good Reason

BOOK REVIEW

There’s a very spirited argument running through my head as to whether Neil Diamond is Forever should be published as a book critique or a music review. This beautiful hardbound monster of a book came in the customary brown mailing envelope and the moment it emerged from hiding, music began flowing through my head. Music more clear than any CD could possibly produce and more vivid than any photograph or painting. From the moment you open this volume until hours after its last page is viewed, Neil Diamond’s music will flow flawlessly through your mind.

You are the sun, I am the moon, here are the words, you know the tune… read this.

Masterful fingers will continuously strum a blessed guitar and strings swell higher than an eagle dares to fly… and I hadn’t even opened the damned book yet. Neil Diamond has an incredible talent for placing images in your mind intertwined with music and though sometimes after a period of years you may forget a lyric or two, the music lives on.

As each page turns you find a new image of a career that has spanned decades; and deservedly so. It’s a book that has to be read twice because you don’t want words to distract from the beautifully reproduced images and the music that can’t leave your mind. “I’ll read it after I check out more of the pictures,” you’ll tell yourself.


Fat chance


The next page always seems to have an image that brings up a long-lost memory that compels you to read its description. You find yourself carried away remembering your old 45 collection; deciding not to explain to your kids what a “45” is for fear of making yourself seem or feel too old just yet. Surprise’ll catch you by the image of a Monkees single, then you read where young Neil was approached by Don Kirshner to submit some music for his new TV show. The pre-fab four’s rendition of “I’m a Believer” originally began as a throwaway tune that was a little bit too “bubblegum” for Neil until he became rich over night from it, setting up his financial freedom to record more masterful works.

And the story of a young delivery boy who made it good in the big city, and then the country, and then the world goes on from there, but it’s the pictures that make this book a worthy addition to any Neil Diamond fan’s collection.

This incredible artist began his career in a long-lost era when music was mostly delivered over 3-inch transistor radios in mono laying face down on a beach somewhere. The only alternative was a single 5-inch car dashboard speaker bouncing off of a flat windshield. To impress someone under that format was a feat in itself. It was a time when AM radio stations played the Mamas and the Papas, the Smothers Brothers, Steppenwolf and Barbra Streisand one right after the other and never batted an eye. There were no synthesized instruments or stolen bits and pieces of other musical artists’ work to hide behind. You usually only had no more than three or four minutes to sell your song because radio stations didn’t want listeners wandering off if they didn’t like what was playing at the moment… so that’s all you had-a moment. If you weren’t good your were relegated to that much-avoided category of “one hit wonder.”

Jon Bream has done a great job of building this 8.5 x 11 inch hardbound collection and it is a testament to just how well the author knows his subject. Within its 160 pages you’ll find 225 huge color and 81 black & white photos leaving you with the impression that there can’t possibly be a single photo of Neil that isn’t contained in this volume. The story of Neil’s life and career is inspiring and noteworthy because of its many triumphs and it’s longevity.
The only regret I have of writing this review is having to reduce the size of the incredibly clear and large photos so that they’ll fit on a little computer screen. If you click on any of the images above they enlarge for a better view! The only question still looming after reading the book concerns wondering why Neil hasn’t been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame yet. The next time you go to a fireworks display and sing along with Neil coming to America you can ask yourself the same question.

I highly recommend this book and it holds an honored place on my shelf.

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Saturday, August 1, 2009

Eric Woolfson Sings The Alan Parsons Project That Never Was

CD REVIEW

My favorite tracks from the collected Alan Parsons Project CDs are nearly all sung by Eric Woolfson. However if you’re expecting a lost Parsons Project CD (as the title implies,) you’ll be sorely disappointed here.

I’d expected to find at least an alternate version of “Time,” an acoustic version of “Don’t Answer Me,” or like Alan did on his CD A Valid Path; an electronic version of “The Raven.” What I got instead in my opinion, were under/over produced original album discards and show tunes that gave me nothing that even vaguely resembled The Project, except for that long craved-for voice.

In addition The Alan Parson Project CDs at least had an underlying concept, which is completely lacking here unless you consider songs recorded over the years but rejected for cause as a valid theme. APP CDs also had that infamous wall of sound that carries you thorough from the beginning to the end of each song that’s sorely lacking here. On some tracks of this CD you can actually feel the empty space between the words

Any casual fan (despite a sort of doubting bitter denial in the liner notes) knows of Eric Woolfson’s essential contribution, voice and name to the APP since it’s inception with Tales of Mystery and Imagination.

From the liner notes:
Interviewer: “As you are the creator and writer of The Alan Parsons Project, and sometimes lead singer, why is it not called ‘The Eric Woolfson Project’? Or perhaps the ‘Parsons/Woolfson Project’?"

Woolfson: “I describe the decision to call it ‘The Alan Parsons Project’ as both the best and the worst decision of my career. The best, because I have enjoyed the benefits of the APP success without having to deal with public recognition and media attention. The worst because outside my family and friends, few people have any idea of who I am or what I do, which is a price, I have always felt, was worth paying.”

The above makes Woolfson come off as a bitter ex-wife, and this CD is a perfect explanation as to why they were called the Alan Parsons Project. Any fan would resent the fact that the above implies that Alan had nothing to do with the creation of the band by the use of "the creator" instead of "one of the creators." If he’d simply titled this CD Eric Woolfson… My Latest Solo Effort instead, I wouldn't have anticipated another version of the Parsons Project and maybe it would be more readily acceptable… or at least palatable. But getting my hopes up for the "Alan Parsons Project that never was" in my opinion is at best false advertising.

At least when Alan continued on, after Eric left in 1990 to write stage musicals, Parsons re-branded the band simply Alan Parsons. You knew his new efforts would be similar, but you weren’t expecting the same essence you’d previously become comfortable with.
As you listen to this compilation, one thing will quickly become crystal clear; The Alan Parsons Project without either Parsons or Woolfson is like being asked to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich without one of the two essential ingredients between the bread. While you’d be willing to eat either without the other, and both are digestible, it’s just not as good if you’ve tasted both together previously. To be fair, I thought the exact same thing about Alan Parson’s CD A Valid Path. The majority of that CD is great until he tried to re-imagine such classics as the aforementioned “The Raven” by subtracting Woolfson’s contribution to it.

Woolfson has presented here instead (as the liner notes make clear) a studio version of a high school produced stage play entitled, “Applaud me, for I am the unsung hero!” Instead of envisioning the music in your head as you listen to it, in its place you see Woolfson standing alone on an empty barren stage with no one in the audience. No more so than on the track “Someone In The Audience” where the request is made to ring the curtain down on him in the middle of his performance.

So let’s get down to the particulars:

The first thing that hits you within seconds is that Eric’s voice isn’t being “doubled” as it was on the APP CDs, which means every wavering, strained or struggled note that he sings stands out like a sore thumb. Doubling is the studio effect of the singer singing with himself smoothing out the rough edges. Because of the lack of this one single effect that warm comforting and beautiful voice of his that you loved and instantly recognize comes off as just old and tired.

For example, on “The Golden Key” I actually winced in pain when his voice cracked twice delivering the line “…no one promised me an island in the sun”. Some songs are delivered in a pace that is so slow; you can almost imagine the track being dragged across the floor with a 200-pound concrete block chained to it. On several tracks he tries to sing either far above or far below his vocal range. “Along The Road” is delivered with the strain of a first tenor trying to sing the part of a second bass. The effect is so distracting that it’s impossible to distinguish that it's actually Woolfson singing it, making it difficult to enjoy or comprehend the song.

In fact it’s nearly impossible to enjoy or comprehend this entire body of work. If you’re planning to purchase this CD because you’re a fan of Woolfson’s post APP work and/or his stage musicals, you’ll probably be delighted.

All music and lyrics here are by Eric Woolfson. He produced this compilation too and it shows because without the balancing influence of Alan Parsons to refine it and apparently his ego, it in my humble opinion falls flat on its face.

My general response to this volume of work would be to re-title it, The Alan Parsons Project That Never Was… and for truly good reason!

A classic and long-gone cartoon series called BLOOM COUNTY had a penguin named Opus who did movie reviews for the local paper. I’d like to think he would’ve used his famous tag line on this CD: “…Well, maybe it wasn’t THAT bad, but Lord it wasn’t good!”




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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Dynasty Season 4-Volume 1

DVD BOX SET REVIEW

1983 was not a year that Dynasty fans will look back at and say; “They had a gay old time.” It was the year that both TV series Dallas and Dynasty felt the heat—literally. Just by coincidence, both series’ previous cliffhangers threatened death by inferno to its main characters; Southfork ranch was set on fire during a fist fight with half the cast trapped inside, and on Dynasty Alexis (Joan Collins) and Krystle (Linda Evans) were last seen locked in Steven’s remote cabin after it too had been set ablaze. Krystle’s ex husband Mark Jennings heroically comes crashing through the door, which had been locked from the outside and rescues both damsels in distress.

In the weeks that followed, everyone in the cast is accused of trying to murder the two granddames of the series. It is eventually discovered that master butler Joseph went crazy and set the fire in an attempt to kill Alexis. In his insane state of mind, he thought he could stop the Colbyco/Denver-Carrington merger by murdering her, which is revealed in a suicide note he left behind after shooting himself in front of Blake and Jeff.

We also find that Fallon (Pamela Sue Martin) is still obsessed with her suspicions that Adam poisoned and nearly killed Jeff last season. When Adam discovers that Fallon and Jeff have succeeded in getting positive proof against him in Montana, he tricks Alexis into signing some contracts. What she didn’t realize is that the second and third copies are falsified receipts for mercuric oxide, the toxin Adam unsuccessfully used on Jeff. When Blake confronts his ex-wife with the false proof that she tried to murder Jeff, he doesn’t believe her denial. Without enough time to prove her innocence, she reluctantly drops her attempt to force Blake to merge Denver/Carrington with Colbyco.

Meanwhile in true soap-opera form, the power struggle between Adam (Gordon Thomson) and Jeff (John James) for influential control of Colbyco while Alexis convalesces continues. When Alexis solidly puts Jeff in charge and Adam in his place, Adam leaves in a huff to go and work for his father at Denver-Carrington. A few weeks later, and much to Adam’s chagrin, Jeff forces Alexis to trade his stock in Colbyco for hers in Denver/Carrington and becomes a 47% owner and member of Blake’s board of directors… becoming Adam’s boss once again.

On a business trip to Los Angeles, Blake buys a beautiful and race-winning horse as an engagement gift for Krystle from a millionaire playboy named Peter DeVilbis. Fallon accompanies them there and falls in love with Peter, not knowing that he’s scheming to con Blake out of millions to pay off his drug habit debts.

Mark begins to sense he’s losing the battle for Krystle’s affections and proposes marriage to her in her hotel room. When she turns him down he attacks, trying to force himself on her but she fights him off. Blake’s ongoing campaign finally wins Krystle over and by the end of volume one of this collection she re-marries him. The act that seals the deal was his offering her a more prominent role in his life by making her Director of Public Relations of Denver-Carrington. Meanwhile the woman the job was promised to seethes with resentment and joins with Adam in behind the scene plots against her.

Jeff’s wife Kirby spends the entire first half of the season fretting over how to tell him that the child she’s carrying is the result of Adam raping her last season. That comes to a boil when Jeff discovers that she’s five months pregnant instead of three, meaning he couldn’t possibly be the father. When she admits that Adam raped her and that he’s the real father, Jeff confronts Adam on the top of a high-rise building under construction and nearly kills him. Adam didn’t know he’d fathered a child and goes on a relentless campaign to break up Jeff’s marriage. While in anguished grief for her father Joseph and after several attempts at intentionally losing the baby, Kirby relents and agrees to divorce Jeff and marry the evil Adam.

This was also the year (one of several) that the character Steven Carrington (Jack Coleman) “chose” to go heterosexual, alienating a good portion of the show’s fan base. On a personal note, I stopped watching the show midway through this season in disgust that they would present a harmful theory that someone could on a whim just change their sexuality at will. To make matters worse, in subsequent seasons he “chooses” to be gay again, only verifying the religious right's claim that sexuality is a conscious choice of lifestyle.

During his first term, and under President Ronald Reagan’s guiding wing, the religious-right movement was gaining influence across the country. They began a negative letter writing campaign against Dynasty’s producers for presenting a positive gay roll model during prime time viewing hours. As a result of the pressure that was brought to bear, strong speeches were added to the new scripts. John Forsythe as Blake began angrily railing against his gay son for raising a Carrington grandson “in that homosexual environment,” with his supposed gay lover. More often than not the word “homosexual” began being used instead of “gay” as well. The net result was Blake suing his own son for custody of Steven’s infant son Danny rather than the child being influenced in such a twisted household.

When this plot line was revealed to the cast the previous season, Jeff Corley walked off of the show halfway through, and Jack Coleman was hired to fill in for him. Steven was almost killed in an oilrig explosion to explain away the difference in the two actor’s physical appearance.

After a year of playing “gay for pay,” straight actor Jack Coleman was increasingly getting questions accusing him of secretly being gay himself. With his male ego being threatened, Coleman intimated he’d leave the show unless Steven miraculously turned straight. With that and the additional pressure from the religious fanatics, the producers cooked up a plotline where Steven sees the error of his ways and marries Claudia Blaisdel (Pamela Bellwood) straight out of her sanitarium. Incredibly, but not surprisingly considering the times, the judge is instantly convinced that Steven is now completely morally straight and allows him to retain custody of little Danny.

Blake too is immediately certain that his son is now acceptably heterosexual and allows him to move back into the mansion with his new wife. The family warms to their patriarch for his compassion, but actually it’s a way of easing back into their affections after they all turned on him by testifying on Steven’s behalf during the custody hearing. Steven has always been an honest straight-forward man on the show, but flabbergasted fans began to wonder if he had merely used Claudia to keep his son, but as scenes of him making love to her in nearly episode afterward seem to prove, he’d gone completely straight… well at least for now anyway.

Heather Locklear as the evil scheming Sammy Jo Carrington has only a small roll in this volume, limited to testifying against Steven during the custody hearing. She’ll play a larger roll in the latter part of the season not covered here.

Michael Nader joins the cast as the love-obsessed Dex Dexter, who is determined to win Alexis’ affection by using a scheme to acquire oil in Canada in their new LexDex Corporation as a way into her checkbook of heart. His financial interests in Denver-Carrington won’t hurt his campaign either. A few days later, Alexis comes home to find her apartment ransacked and she hires Mark as a live-in bodyguard; which of course is an excuse for knock-down-drag-out fight scenes between him and Dex.

The midseason cliffhanger serves as an inferior and disappointing finale to this first volume of season four. Someone seems determined to wrest Claudia’s sanity away from her again by sending her violets in her dead husband’s name the way he used to do.

This collection includes an appearance by President Gerald Ford and first lady Betty, along with Henry Kissinger in a charity ball scene

The transfer to DVD is crystal clear, as is the sound. The collection contains few extras in order to squeeze fourteen episodes onto only three discs. They consist of choices of English or dubbed Spanish soundtracks with English or Spanish subtitles.

I confess to not being a fan of the recent trend of breaking up series collections into two or more volumes. The majority of studios present classic TV shows as a convenient one-piece 6-disc collection. The practice of breaking them up gives the impression that an effort is being made to harvest as much cash as possible out of the fans by charging them a little less than twice as much as what they’d normally pay for only one season.

I found the series very enjoyable to watch again, if only for the nostalgia and would recommend it to any fan of the show.

Cast:
· Producer: Aaron Spelling
· John Forsythe-Blake Carrington
· Linda Evans-Krystle Carrington
· Joan Collins-Alexis Carrington Colby
· John James-Jeff Colby
· Pamela Sue Martin-Fallon Carrington Colby
· Jack Coleman-Steven Carrington
· Gordon Thomson-Adam Carrington
· Michael Nader-Dex Dexter
· Heather Locklear-Sammy Jo Carrington
· Pamela Bellwood-Claudia Blaisdel
· Geoffrey Scott-Mark Jennings



WARNING: Reproduction of this article is forbidden without the author's permission
©-2009 by Jet in Columbus/Jet Gardner/Blogcritics.org

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Hawaii 5-0 6th Season Box Set

DVD REVIEW

This great collection brings back a long-lost era when TV cars weren’t allowed to come to a stop without screeching their tires… even on a dirt road, and nearly all car accidents no matter how minor always ended up in a huge fireball. The show had new Chevrolet police cars in a chase scene that would morph into older Fords and back into Chevys unless they were involved in a crash; then they’d turn in to a badly painted 12-year-old Ford Galaxy just before impact.

Steve McGarrett’s infamous 1968 four-door black Mercury Park Lane (which he used like the “Batmobile” of another series) could magically lose and regain hubcaps, move its radio antenna from the front fender to the back quarter panel at will and never ever ever got dusty, dirty, or even wet! Jack Lord could never park between the lines in a parking lot and usually kept a piece of chalk in the car to jot script notes on his sun visor.

This was the golden era when TV cops handled fresh evidence, plutonium in flimsy little clear plastic boxes and even plague victims with their bare hands. It was also a time when computers with half the power of a home PC took up whole rooms.

Being produced and filmed entirely in Hawaii meant building the show from the ground up. That meant instead of using Hollywood lots, they had to build their own studios and import actors from the mainland with the temptation of a free week’s vacation in paradise. Because of the production costs, stock footage had to be used wherever possible. This saved money by not having to have to repeatedly film McGarrett’s Park Lane screaming down the street for every single episode.

In 1972 the executives in charge of Hawaii 5-0 began fixing some of its continuity problems. Shortly after, and much to the producers’ chagrin, letters starting coming in complaining that those very errors were part of the charm of the show, so in 1973 some were cautiously let back in. McGarrett would run out of his office in a gray suit, and stock footage showed him getting into his car wearing a dark blue one. “Danno” would leave alone for a crime scene in his black Ford detective car with its black interior, and show up in his black Ford with a red interior with Chin Ho Kelly at the wheel instead.

Then there were the college drinking games that depended on whether Jack Lord’s hair moved or not during a close up.

By the end of 1973 Hawaii 5-0’s sixth season was a certified hit for CBS and would enjoy another six seasons of success.

There are two ways to watch this box set. One is for the great story-driven action, trying to see if you could figure out who did it, or how they did it, before McGarrett does. The other is for the memories of better days gone by, those beautiful 35-year-old cars in brand new condition, and those freewheeling, free thinking fashions.

1973 was a year to remember and this collection brings all those fond reminiscences back full force. A warmhearted smile can be had with only a glance of a pretty girl, an old brand-new Admiral TV, a pristine classic car or a payphone with a dial instead of touch-tone buttons. President Richard Nixon was just getting tangled up in Watergate never to recover. The 60s youth movement was beginning to wither as those “never trust anyone over thirty” hippies were turning thirty themselves. Best of all it was a nonjudgmental time of “do your own thing, man!” One guy could wear a psychedelic shirt, striped bell-bottomed pants, gold chains and an Afro haircut that was 12 inches in diameter. Another man could sport hair longer and better maintained than his girlfriend’s. And yet another could wear straight-legged jeans, a white t-shirt and a crew cut and none of them were given a second glance. It was a wonderful era of being accepted for whatever you were or wanted to be… and disco was blessedly still four or five years away in the future.

This collection is best watched twice, once for the story, then again for the scenery. The pause button got a lot of exercise, as I’d stop a street scene only to be reminded of a time when I could identify the make, model and year of every car in a traffic jam. It was also an era, not only in Hawaii but also all over the U. S., when unashamed people became sexy. Women sported long flowing hair wearing form fitting halter-tops and skimpy skin-tight cut-offs. Men sported long flowing hair wearing form-fitting tank tops and skimpy skin-tight cut-offs. Hawaii 5-0, like its illegitimate love child Miami Vice, would and did take advantage of the local human eye-candy and the ratings soared in response.

Then there were the heartbreaking scenes that made you want to weep; such as a crane pulling a disposable eight-year-old (at the time) flawless ’65 Mustang out of the bay, tempting you to scream in astonished protest, “Do you know how much that thing would be worth today!?”

This collection has pretty standard fare for the time and every episode is worth watching without a single clinker in the lot. There are also a few standouts worth mentioning because of the great scripts and the trivia that comes along with them.

Hookman features an assassin with hooks instead of hands. He’s out for revenge against four young cops that put him in jail for robbing banks by using a bomb once too often to threaten the tellers. One of the men he’s after was a young probationary policeman named Steve McGarrett. This episode also features the unique and famous mid-60s Pontiac Catalina 2+2 ambulance, which is painted black and regretfully wrecked as a hearse without removing all of the emergency lights and cowling from the roof. My guess is that the production office could finally afford a Cadillac that year so it was disposable.

A Bullet For El Diablo Radicals kidnap a much-hated Latin American President’s daughter to lure him to Honolulu and then substitute her for his look-alike illegitimate daughter in an assassination attempt. Note the police escorted limo that the loathed president is using always has it windows down.

The Finishing Touch Steve McGarrett brings in a good friend who is a well known and respected documents expert to help him detect counterfeit city and state bonds that threaten Hawaii’s economy. The viewer is let in from the beginning that the counterfeiter is the expert, but how long will it take Steve to catch on?

Nightmare In Blue A cop uses his uniform to gain the trust of women in order to rape and then kill them. McGarrett must find him before the Honolulu Police Department’s reputation is completely ruined. The script is great, but the execution was terrible, which makes it noteworthy. The phony police car is a brand-new and huge gold 1973 Buick Electra luxury car with wide whitewall tires and a flimsy little magnetic blue light on the roof. When an experienced veteran female undercover cop is assigned to the case as a decoy and almost kidnapped, she not only can’t remember later on whether the car was a Ford or a maybe a Buick, but never spots the completely unmarked car as an obvious fake!

Mother’s Deadly Helper A deranged vigilante begins killing criminals that are set free due to courtroom technicalities. McGarrett starts receiving bragging fan mail giving details that only the killer would know and the sharp shooter is increasingly convinced that Steve considers him a cherished member of his team. Frank Cady who played Hooterville’s Sam Drucker on Green Acres takes on a serious role as the judge, who later becomes the killer’s target in this episode.

30,000 Rooms, And I Have The Key This unusually funny episode should have been titled “Saving The Best For Last.” A charming and lovable multi-millionaire master thief, master of disguise and master key maker arrives on the island to expand his fortune. McGarrett is taunted and vexed at every turn with clues such as $10 bills and roses as the Frenchman moves from hotel to hotel. The episode’s grand finale involves him sending Steve an engraved invitation to a burglary. This is undoubtedly my favorite of the whole 12-year TV series. You will find yourself actually rooting for the bad guy and hoping that McGarrett doesn’t catch him! What appears at first as canned music that’s been used before, was actually reworked and re-recorded with great new arrangements just for this episode. As the tension and the music builds you will hold your breath as a target approaches a well laid trap set by McGarrett… and then you will cheer out loud in laughter at the line, “Why howdy friend; step right on in here!”

This collection contains 24 episodes on 6 discs. Except for Jack Lord's “Join us next week for…” promos, there are no DVD extras. The transfers are good, but some installments are noticeably grainy and there are skips in the music on occasion as if it was edited in order to get four hour-long episodes on each disc.

Other things in this collection to watch for are the magic green Ford with an equally green vinyl top that appears as a cab, then a detective car, then a victim’s car, then the bad guy’s getaway car. There is also an old beaten up white Chevrolet station wagon that makes repeat appearances as either stolen or a detective’s personal car. Count also one of my all-time pet peeves; the interior rearview mirror that appears and disappears depending on how vain the guest star is. Speaking of guest stars, some famous actors turn up in their younger days all over the place in bit parts or even as just extras.

Possibly the most noticeable thing about this particular collection is the complete lack of the catch phrase, “Book ‘em, Danno!”

All and all I liked season six. If only for the 30,000 rooms episode it’s well worth the price.

Trivia:In some stock footage you can spot McGarrett’s original two-door 1967 car instead of the four-door ’68 by its red interior. Until the end of the 1974 season, Steve drove a 1968 Mercury Park Lane Brougham 4-door Sedan, with power steering, power front disc brakes, power windows, power seat, A/C, AM/FM, and cruise control. For some unfathomable reason the actual “hero” car was blown up as part of the final episode of that season instead of a double. Even after it was destroyed, footage of the Park Lane flying down the street was used as stock footage in later seasons.

Jack Lord was offered the role of Captain Kirk on Star Trek and turned it down.

Sammy Davis Jr. did a vocal of the famous theme song that never aired.

Cast: Jack Lord-Steve McGarrett, Danny MacArthur-“Danno” Danny Williams, Kam Fong-Chin Ho Kelly, Herman Wedemeyer-Duke Lukela, Harry Endo-Che Fong, Richard Denning-Gov Paul Jameson, Al Harrington-Det. Ben Kokua, Al Eben-Doc Bergman, Peggy Ryan-Jenny.

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WARNING: Reproduction of this article is forbidden without the author's permission
©-2009 by Jet in Columbus/Jet Gardner/Blogcritics.org

Friday, May 8, 2009

I Hated Star Trek “Reboot” For Making Me Love It!

MOVIE REVIEW

I hope a suitable nickname for this movie can be found other than “reboot” or the inevitable “Star Trek, the First Generation.” Being a trekker for longer than I care to admit, the thought of anyone playing Kirk and Spock other than William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy was near sacrilegious to even consider. After being bombarded with on-line ads and articles, I grudgingly gave in and checked one out on U-Tube. What immediately hooked me was Karl Urban’s flawless performance as a young “ever bitching about something” Dr. Bones McCoy. Even within the brief seconds that he appeared in the preview, you could tell that his was a McCoy you could accept.

I got more excited when I saw more previews and grudgingly decided to go see the damned thing at the local theater. What sealed the deal was reading of Leonard Nimoy's involvement in the plot as "Spock Prime.” One suggestion here to the producers that would pull more “old school” fans in would be to divulge that the movie is actually about Spock (“our” Spock-Leonard Nimoy) setting out to save Earth from destruction by time-traveling Romulans. As for those upset that I'd reveal Nimoy's involvement and appearance in the movie, it's been on the web for months and known to all but those who live under a rock.

Eric Bana fans are sure to love his performance under all that makeup as the Romulan Captain Nero.


What I liked/loved:
The majority of the main cast did a superb job of putting their own stamp on legendary and iconic figures. By showing Kirk and Spock growing up, it was easier to accept the younger actors. Zachary Quinto is flawless as Spock. Karl Urban as Bones made me grin in recognition of the ghost of Deforest Kelly throughout the movie. Simon Pegg as Scotty provides the laughs, even when he’s in peril. When he gleefully bursts out with how much he loves the ship and how much fun he’s having, you just have to grin right along with him. I even recognized Majel Roddenberry as the computer voice… even though it wasn’t on the Enterprise.

In fact I actually found myself grinning from ear-to-ear several times, which I really didn’t expect. There are many touchstone lines honoring the old TV series and any “trekker” will love that they were included, and any “newbie” to the franchise, once hearing them, will become an instant fan.

The “alternate universe/time shift” assumption is very well (and thankfully) quickly explained. For us true fans of the original, think of when Leonard Nimoy played an evil Spock with a beard in the original TV series. Once you get past that, the rest is pure enjoyment, because suddenly you accept Pine, Urban, Quinto, Pegg, Saldana, Cho, and reluctantly Yelchin as the original TV/movie characters you’ve known and loved over the years.

The action and special effects are spellbinding and LOUD.

What I didn’t like/hated: (lest I be accused of gushing.)
The action and special effects are spellbinding and LOUD.
The theater where I saw it played the movie at a near deafening sound level. I actually began plugging my ears during the battle scenes. To my astonishment, a mother ushered her four young children out of the theater within ten minutes of the opening. I’m not sure if it was a particularly violent scene that caused this, or the kids putting their hands over their ears. That said, this is not a movie for kids under twelve-years-old.

Sorry folks, but as Star Trek bad guys go, Eric Bana as Nero was no Khan. The intense and passionate hate, plus the driven obsession with revenge that Ricardo Montalb├ín so excellently put on the screen made Bana’s Nero look only mildly pissed off.

I’m a huge fan of movie music, which in a lot of cases can be as important as the script. Alexander Courage’s original TV theme or even those time-honored “eight notes” is to be found nowhere in the body of the movie. I say this for those who are like-minded and anticipating them. Oh you’ll forgive the omission even before you leave the theater, but in my opinion it is still a nearly unpardonable sin.

Chris Pine needed to work on his Shatner impression. I didn’t mind that his performance wasn’t an out-and-out imitation of the man, but it seemed to me that Pine went out of his way not to be Shatner, and after all Bill did originate the part. The other actors are true to themselves (as they should be,) but still paid grateful homage to those who brought them to the honored stage where a very select few are permitted to stand.

For Spock to have a love affair with one of the crew desperately needed a rethink before it made it to the screen. Not that he wasn’t young and half human, but the “real” Spock” wouldn’t even consider unprofessionally having a tryst with one of his subordinates. While everyone loved (including me) Sulu having an excuse to have a sword in his hand, whipping out a rapier in the middle of a mid-air fight with phaser-armed Romulans probably wasn’t a good script idea and frankly a bit contrived. Anton Yelchin’s Russian accent was just so damned over-the-top heavy, even the Enterprise computer didn’t like it. While I watched the movie it became more of a distraction than anything and made it hard to accept him as Checkov.

The star of the show/movie has always been and should always be The Enterprise. Remember how you cried the first time you watched Kirk being forced to destroy her in “The Search For Spock?” More attention was needed to be paid to her and regretfully wasn’t. Also, when Kirk pulled up on his “motorcycle” (Richard Geer in “Top Gun”) to see her being built, suffered because she was barely recognizable behind all of that scaffolding. Fortunately the scene was so brief that it didn’t give you time to wonder about why a huge starship was being built on the ground instead of in space. Earth's gravity truly would’ve tested those engine and saucer section pylons to the limit and most likely beyond.


To conclude:
The movie, despite its flaws is magnificent. I went in prepared to nit-pick and hate it, but I applauded when the final credits came on. J.J. Abrams proved himself with this one, and it’d be a shame if they didn’t assign the inevitable sequel to him.

I think; no I’m sure that Gene Roddenberry is looking down from heaven and smiling.



WARNING: Reproduction of this article is forbidden without the author's permission
©-2009 by Jet in Columbus/Jet Gardner/Blogcritics.org

Sunday, April 5, 2009

I Love You Phillip Morris-Movie Review

This review has moved to the "Jet's Gay Pride" page, see Table of Contents link to the left to go directly to the article...

Thanks

Friday, December 19, 2008

Saturday Night Live Sucks and Should Be Canceled!

Every so often (because I loved it growing up) I try to watch Saturday Night Live to see if by some miracle it's gotten funny again. So when I heard Michael Phelps was hosting, I steeled myself and gathered my courage to watch the September 13, 2008 season premier all the way through.
I did, but not without help.

Maybe it was my extreme disappointment that Ohio State having just minutes before lost to USC so badly, but I doubt it. Even Senator Obama (as it turned out wisely.) bailed at the last minute,

The only laughs were the faux Palin/Clinton spot at the beginning and the surprisingly funny "Michael Phelps" diet commercial at the end. William Shatner was tapped for a cameo appearance, but wasted doing a shameless and self-promoting priceline.com commercial from the audience. Phelps’ mother should sue for defamation because of the way she was portrayed; that she sat there and took it was as amazing as the forced laughter.

In between the two high points of the show was some of the most unentertaining junk that I've unfortunately come to know Saturday Night Live all too well for in recent years. The poorly conceived "Charles Barkley" talk show was ridiculously dumb, the music video for the "Space Olympics" made no sense. Bobby Moynihan's waiter skit was... I can't find words to describe how stupid it was... a total waste of time?

Michael Phelps bravely slogged through the swim team skit, playing a high school kid afraid to jump off the blocks and into the water until the coach pulled out an inspirational tape in the locker room of some of the most ridiculous music I’d ever heard. He then proceeded to go into a flailing and to put it bluntly; inexcusable dance routine that the team walked out on... with the exception of Phelps.

More than once, the champion athlete/hero looked like the proverbial "deer caught in the headlights," and at times appeared to be searching for his mom in the audience to ask, "is this really funny?"

The audience actually laughing at all during an extremely dull skit involving a family with two retarded kids amazed me. Minutes into it, I suspected that the audience is either green-screened in, or that prerecorded laughter must’ve been employed to augment their lack of response, because real people (no matter how stoned) just would not laugh at that.

It's been a long time since I've used the Picture-In-Picture feature on my TV, but tonight I thanked God for it, as the commercial breaks seem to go on forever.

On occasion, I've chastised myself into giving Saturday Night Live "another chance" and I've put my proverbial hand on the stove to be burnt once too often. Unfortunately I'm the victim of being spoiled by the likes of Eddie, Gilda, Dana, Chevy, and John.

I'd considered titling the piece "Someone come and put Lipstick on SNL!"

...as for the actual title of this piece,
Well maybe it wasn't THAT bad...

...but Lord it wasn't good!


WARNING: Reproduction of this article is forbidden without the author's permission
© 2008 by Jet Gardner

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Levi Stubbs-The World Loses one of Motown's Soul Masters

Levi Stubbs had a deadly accurate voice, which always found your heart no matter how hard you tried to hide it. What made him unique were the verbal weapons that no one else could master the way he did. Those tiny words that slammed into you with such force, you had to start singing whether you wanted to or not. Words like the staccato “HA!” that appeared in the middle of the musical bridge just before he repeated the chorus of his vocal masterpiece, “I’ll be there.” Another one only he could master was the piercing “GOT” that stabbed in to your soul between the line, “Baby I need your lovin’,” GOT “to have all your lovin’.”

On the other hand Levi owned one of the few voices that could express a broken heart and still remain absolutely masculine. Manly men in the middle of the night with sopping wet eyes closed tightly and headphones clamped to their ears would weep as they mimed his vocal expressions in the dark. Holding anything cylindrical that felt like a microphone, they’d let his voice take over theirs and plead a desperate, “Noooooooo!” in “Sugar Pie Honey Bunch” that could only be followed by the confession, “I can’t help myself!”

Stubbs was the 1960s god of all teenaged kids regardless of race, who’d been thrown over by their first unrequited crush. Boys would let only Levi’s voice express their heartbreak, usually in the shower, while pretending three of Motown’s best backup singer/dancers agreed with them because the heartless “Bernadette” left them all alone with their pain, or had condemned them to live in an empty house containing “Seven Rooms of Gloom.” I learned to dance to “It’s the same old song, but with a different meaning since you’ve been gone.”

Just as easily they could brag convincingly that there, “Ain’t No Woman Like the One I Got.”

Grown men were prone to buy two copies of his vinal ‘45 singles, because they knew they’d wear the first one out playing it over and over and over again. Levi assured them that there was a male strength associated with loving a woman, or mourning her loss to another man.

So it was with great personal loss, that I discovered that Levi Stubbs died Friday October 17, 2008 in his Detroit home at the age of 72. He’d been fighting cancer and the aftereffects of a stroke in 2000 that finally compelled him to stop performing.

The Four Tops began their long career as “The Four Aims,” a cabaret act that played mostly jazz lounges. In 1963 Motown took a gamble in signing them, which paid off immensely for both the group and the record label. The quartet composed of four best friends named Levi Stubbs, Duke Fakir, Obie Benson and Lawrence Payton hit chart-topping pay dirt after they were put into the capable writing hands of Motown’s “holy trinity” of writers-Eddie Holland, Lamont Dozier and Brian Holland.

With success and acclaim, Levi was never tempted to follow the vain actions of other lead singers of famous Motown groups like the Supremes or the Miracles, who insisted that their name be plastered in front of his companions, or to callously dump them altogether and go solo. He humbly maintained that whenever he heard their music, he could only imagine it with his three band mates behind him, and that they were as important to his fame as he was.

Stubbs insisted on several occasions that his voice wasn’t very remarkable, nor all that good, being neither Gospel nor Pop. Other wiser men would go on to describe that instantly recognizable baritone with such words as passionate, classy, sophisticated and raw.

The Four Tops were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990 in recognition for having racked up over 50 million in record sales, of which 45 were certifiable chart hits for Motown and it’s later incarnations. "Keeper of the Castle" is one of my favorites of their post-Motown hits.

A few years ago I as invited over to a friend’s who was showing the 1986 version of “Little Shop of Horrors.” I spent the rest of the night trying to figure out why the voice of Audrey II-the human eating plant sounded so familiar… It was Levi!

We may have lost you Levi, but we’ll always have your outstanding music.

Brian Williams of NBC News put it perfectly, “You may not know his name right away, but if I said “Sugar pie, honey bunch,” you’d know him…” to watch the 60-second tribute click here
WARNING: Reproduction of this article is forbidden without the author's permission
© 2008 by Jet Gardner

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Seven Words You Can't Say-A Memorial Tribute to George Carlin

George Carlin - Seven Words - Dirty Words - Seven words you can never say on television - Filthy words

Actually there were two versions of this, one from "Class Clown" and the other from "Occupation Foole"
Here it is the best from both versions...
~~~~
I was thinking about the curse words and the swear words, the cuss words and the words that you can't saaaay, that you're not supposed to say all the time, because some people are into words. They want to hear your words. Some guys like to record your words and sell them back to you if they can listen in on the telephone, write down what words you say. A guy who used to be in Washington, knew that his phone was tapped, used to answer, "Fuck Hoover, yes, go ahead."

Okay... now there are 400,000 words in the English language and there are 7 of them you can't say on television. What a ratio that is-399,993 to 7. They must really be bad. They'd have to be outraaaaageous to be separated from a group that large. All of you words over here, ...you seven.... Baaaaaad Words.

That's what they told us they were-remember?
"That's a bad word!"

There are no bad words, just bad thoughts, bad intentions… and words.

So… what are the ones you definitely couldn't say, ever, 'cause I heard a lady say bitch one night on television, and it was cool; like she was talking about, you know, ah, well, the bitch is the first one to notice that in the litter, Johnny. Right. And, uh, bastard you can say and hell and damn, so I have to figure out which ones you couldn't...ever and it came down to seven, but the list is open to amendment and in fact, has been changed, uh, by now, and a lot of people pointed things out to me… and I noticed some myself.

The original seven words were, shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker mutherfucker and tits.

Wow!

...and Tits doesn't even belong on the list... It-it's such a friendly sounding word. It sounds like a nickname, right? "Hey, Tits, come here, man. Hey Tits, meet Toots. Toots, Tits. Tits, Toots." It sounds like a snack, doesn't it? Yes, I know, it is a snack. I don't mean your sexist snack. I mean New Nabisco Tits!, and new Cheese Tits, Corn Tits,Pizza Tits, Sesame Tits, Onion Tits, Tater Tits. "Betcha Can't Eat Just One." That's true. I usually switch off. But I mean, that word does not belong on the list.

Actually none of the words belong on the list, well, maybe fart-maybe, but you can understand why some of them are there. I'm not completely insensitive to people's feelings. I can understand why some of those words got on the list, like Cocksucker and Motherfucker. Those are heavyweight words. There is a lot going on there. Besides the literal translation and the emotional feeling.I mean, they're just busy words. There's a lot of syllables to contend with. And those Ks, those are agressive sounds. They just jump out at you like "coCKsuCKer, motherfuCKer” It's like an assualt on you.

Now where was I?… oh yeah.

So... to recap... For those of you in the audience waiting to uncover your ears... shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker mutherfucker and tits. those are the ones that will curve your spine, grow hair on your hands... and maybe even bring us, God help us, peace without honor... uhhhhhh what a burden!

And now the first thing that we noticed was that word fuck was really repeated in there because the word mutherfucker is a compound word and it's another form of the word fuck. You want to be a purist-it doesn't really-it can't be on the list of basic words.

Also, cocksucker is a compound word and neither half of that is really dirty. The word 'sucker'-that's merely suggestive and the word cock is a halfway dirty word, 50% dirty- dirty half the time, depending on what you mean by it. Uh, remember when you first heard it, like in 8th grade, you used to giggle. Remember the cock crowed three times." "Heyyyyyyy, the cock-three times! Cock is in the Bible! cock is in the Bible!"

Remember the first time you heard about a cockfight?
What? Huh? Naw it's not that ...is it?

...It's chickens, you know?

Then you have the four letter words from the old Anglo-Saxon fame. Uh, shit and fuck. The word shit uh, is an interesting kind of word in that the middle class has never really accepted it and approved it. They use it like crazy but it's not really okay. It's still a rude, dirty, old kind of gushy word. They don't like that, but they say it, a lady now in a middle-class home, you'll hear her most of the time she says it as an expletive, you know, it's out of her mouth before she knows. She says, "Oh shit, Oh shit, oh shit ...If she drops something. "Shit! I dropped the broccoli. shhhhhhit!"

So! Now the word shit is okay for the man. At work you can say it like crazy. Mostly figuratively, "Get that shit out of here, will ya? I don't want to see that shit anymore. I can't cut that shit buddy. I've had that shit up to here. I think you're full of shit myself. He don't know shit from Shinola. You know that?"

(I always wondered how the Shinola shoe polish people felt about that.)
"Hi, I'm the new man from Shinola!"
"Hi, how are ya? Nice to see ya?"

"Boy, I don't know whether to shit or wind my watch. Guess, I'll shit on my watch". "Oh, the shit is going to hit-the-fan." "Built like a brick shithouse." "Oh, he's up shit's creek. He's had it." Hot shit, holy shit, tough shit, eat shit. shit-eating grin. Uhhhhkkk, whoever thought of that was ill. "He had a shit-eating grin!" "He had a what?" shit on a stick. shit in a handbag-I always liked that one. "He ain't worth shit in a handbag."

....."Shitty. He acted real shitty. You know what I mean? I got the money back, but a real shitty attitude." "Hey, he had a shitfit!" Wow! shit-fit. Whew! Glad I wasn't there.

All the animals-Bullshit, horse shit, cow shit, rat shit, bat shit. First time I heard bat shit, I really came apart-A guy in Oklahoma, Boggs, said it, man. Aw, batshit! Vera reminded me of that last night. Snake shit, slicker'n owl shit. Get your shit together. shit or get off the pot.

I got a shitload full of them! I got a shit-pot full... shit-head, shit-heel, shit in your heart, shit for brains, shit-face, heyyyyyyyy. I always try to think how that could have originated; the first guy that said that. Somebody got drunk and fell in some shit you know. "Hey, I'm shit-faaaaaace! shitface, today!"

Then there's "I don't give a shit." Like it's worth something, you know? "I don't give a shit." "Hey, well, I don't take no shit, you know what I mean? You know why I don't take no shit? 'Cause I don't give a shit. If I give a shit, I would have to pack shit. But I don't pack no shit cause I don't give a shit."

"You wouldn't shit me, would you?" That's a joke when you're a kid with a worm looking out the bird's ass. "You wouldn't shit me, would you?" It's an eight-year-old joke but a good one.

Anyway, enough of that shit

The big one, the word fuck; that's the one that hangs them up the most. 'Cause in a lot of cases that's the very act that hangs them up the most. So, it's natural that the word would, uh, have the same effect. It's a great word, fuck, nice word, easy word, cute word, kind of. Easy word to say. One syllable, short u. fuuuuuck. Boom. Starts with a nice soft sound fffffffuh". Ends with a kuh. Right? A little something for everyone. Fuck. Good word.

Kind of a proud word, too.
"Who are you?"
"I am FUCK! ...FUCK OF THE MOUNTAIN!"
Tune in again next week to FUCK OF THE MOUNTAIN!

It's an interesting word too, 'cause it's got a double kind of a life- personality- dual, you know, whatever the right phrase is. It leads a double life, the word fuck. First of all, it means, sometimes, most of the time-fuck! What does it mean? It means to make love. Right? We're going to make love, yeh, we're going to fuck, yeh, we're going to fuck yeh. Right? And it also means the beginning of life, it's the act that begins life, so there's the word hanging around with words like love ...and life

...and yet on the other hand, it's also a word that we really use to hurt each other with, man. It's a heavy. It's the one that you save toward the end of the argument. Right? You finally can't... "Aw, fuck you, man! I said, fuck you! Stupid fuck-fuck you and everybody that looks like you!"

It would be nice to change the movies that we already have and substitute the word fuck for the word kill, wherever we could, and some of those movie cliches would change a little bit. "Mad fucker still on the loose!" "Stop me before I fuck again." "Fuck the ump, fuck the ump, fuck the ump, fuck the ump." "Easy on the clutch, Bill, you'll fuck that engine again."

Uhhhh, the additions to the list. I found three more words that had to be put on the list of words you could never say on television, and they were fart, turd and twat. those three.

Fart-we talked about, it's harmless. It's like tits, it's a cutie word, no problem. turd, you can say but who wants to, you know? The subject never comes up on the panel, so I'm not worried about that one.

Now the word twat is an interesting word. TWAT "Heyyyy, right in the twat! Twat is an interesting word because it's the only one I know of, the only slang word applying to the, a part of the sexual anatomy that doesn't have another meaning to it. Like, ah, snatch, box and pussy all have other meanings, man. Even in a Walt Disney movie, you can say, "We're going to snatch that pussy and put him in a box and bring him on the airplane!" and everybody loves it. But the twat stands alone, man, as it should.

And then there’s the two-way words. Ah, ass is okay providing you're riding into town on a religious feast day; You can't say, "Up your asssssss!" You can say stuff it. There are certain things you can say; its weird, but you can just come so close. Before I cut, I, uh, want to, ah, thank you for listening to my words, man, fellow, uh space travelers. Thank you man for tonight and thank you for the grammy!

Rest in Peace George... we'll miss you




WARNING: Reproduction of this article is forbidden without the author's permission
© 2008 by Jet in Columbus

Monday, December 17, 2007

Music: Out of the Blue-Electric Light Orchestra's 30th Anniversary edition

I got this preview CD in the mail to review last Tuesday February the 13th, and wasn’t able to write a single word about it down for three days… Why? Because I’ve become completely consumed by the incredibly clear memories of sights, smells and sounds that just listening to it repeatedly generates. The only way to describe it is that “out of the blue” (pun intended) some pieces of music will cause long-lost recollections to lock into your head that you haven’t thought of in years… or decades.

This album/CD is the soundtrack to one of the most glorious periods of my life, and at the time I didn’t know or even care who the Electric Light Orchestra was! Now it’s linked to one of the best pieces of art I’d ever created.

I’d been commissioned to do a painting for a friend who told me money was no object. This ditsy blond wanted me to surprise her boyfriend with a huge science-fiction painting… on his bedroom ceiling? The first thing I told her was that considering the logistics, it was impossible to do a large painting in one afternoon, especially on a ceiling… especially as a surprise! I mean really, he’d notice me wandering in and out of his bedroom, not to mention the scaffolding or the smell of paint for a week or more? On top of that, what if they moved away?

Unphased she informed me that that’s what I was getting the big bucks for to figure out. Oh and by the way; I only had 10 days to complete it.

Groan

As with all clients, I ask them to bring over a piece of music that they like, so I can get a feel for their personality. While we tried to work out the details of the project, she put on his absolute favorite album, which turned out to be Out of the Blue by someone named ELO.

The moment Turn to Stone started I was hooked.

After about two hours of discussing what she said he’d like, I borrowed the double album, made a tape of it and began working. In my career every painting I’ve ever done has a soundtrack attached. I merely have to look at it to hear The Mamas and the Papas greatest hits, Pink Floyd’s Animals album, Alan Parson’s Turn of a Friendly Card etc. etc. The tape of Out of the Blue went with me wherever I went, and it got to the point where I’d memorized the thing without even realizing I had.

In the midst of Sweet Talkin’ Woman (appropriately enough) I found the solution to the “surprise honey!” problem and told her I’d take the job. I also informed her I didn’t need his house key and that she should call me in about a week to pick it up. This frustrated her to no end, because I flatly refused to tell her exactly how I was going to do it!

For two days without touching paint to anything I relaxed with a pair of headphones trying to figure out Gary and why this album was his all time favorite. With pencil to sketchpad, lead singer/founder/producer Jeff Lynne’s voice on Summer and Lightning followed by Mr. Blue Sky began putting fantasy science fiction pictures in my head and on paper, and within hours I had the concept for it.

I started with the smooth back of a cheap piece of 8’ X 4’ wood paneling. In a few days I had a day scene of two opposing cliffs taking up the outer thirds of both sides of the painting. At eye level on both cliff edges were ancient castles with towers and domes. A dark hooded monk stood on the brink waving something at his twin on the opposite side who seemed to be returning the gesture.

Miles below in the middle third, I put a futuristic city on a flat plateau’s floor, with a river running through it and nifty buildings and air cars flying around in traffic patterns. Through the light blue haze above, I created a huge dead star that could barely be seen through the afternoon clouds and took up nearly the whole sky. Orbiting it was a bright and blinding dwarf star.

I almost called her to pick it up early, when while listening to Sweet is the Night, inspiration hit yet again.

In the next few days I made some major alterations and when I was done, she arranged to get him out of the house for a few hours and I went to work in his bedroom. With some friends, we lifted it up, added a clear piece of plexiglas to protect it and after some electrical wiring I pronounced it finished just as they returned home.

She was still fuming because I wouldn’t let her see it in advance.

When I was ready, I called them in and he didn’t notice anything; after all who looks at the ceiling every time they enter a room? The bolts that I used to put it up there with were painted over and became three-dimensional components of a few overhead hovering space ships or a tree that overhung the scene.

To the strains of Mr. Blue Sky he was absolutely blown away… but I wasn’t done yet.

I closed the curtains to darken the room and turned on black lights. The regular paint I used for the day scene didn’t fluoresce, and I’d gone over it a second time with fluorescent paint to create glowing lanterns in the monk’s hands, the dead star glowed a cracked dull orange and yellow and the dwarf companion star was truly blinding. The overcast in the day scene disappeared into a clear night that was filled with stars and a green quarter moon hidden by the non-glowing cloud paint.

In the valley below, the city lights now paled in comparison to a rocket taking off from a spaceport in the middle of town to dock with (what else?) the flying saucer from his favorite album cover. On the plexiglas I painted more flames for the star and the rocket, and components of the castles, so that when you moved your head they seemed to be three-dimensional and the flames seemed to dance.

Needless to say I got a huge check…

As the years passed I put Out of the Blue away and went on to other projects, listening to it occasionally if it was in the car’s tape player. As with all CD/albums there are songs you love that never get much airplay on radio and after a while you forget about them as you move on musically.

Such was the case with Track 12-Summer and Lightning. I bawled my eyes out the first time I heard it again last Tuesday. Listening to a classic piece of music like this sort of taints today’s music somehow and makes you want to go back to a simpler time when singers actually sang. A time when a hit song didn’t have the same three-second set of notes played over and over and over again while some guy told you how tough he was, the size of his gun, how many cars he owned or how many ho’s he could get.

The packaging of this CD is magnificent and frustrating at the same time. It comes as a uniquely designed little hardbound book as opposed to a dinky plastic thing. Within the 24 pages is the fascinating story of how the group was formed by Jeff Lynne, how the album was recorded and facts about the group members. It is loaded with dozens and dozens of photos and any fan would love the collection… if it weren’t for one little thing—no lyrics were included!

In the center is a little “assemble by inserting tab A into slot B” paper model on its own little pedestal of the spaceship on the cover. This is a scaled down duplicate of the original model that came with the first-run vinyl albums. I wouldn’t recommend actually cutting it out and building it though, as it’s very fragile and would probably get lost within the first week of display.

Now the really frustrating part: The disc is contained in a slotted thick paper flap at the back of the book, and is stuck in there so tightly that you have no choice but to squeeze thumb and forefinger to pry the thing out! As anyone knows, it’s a definite no-no to touch the bottom of a CD with your fingers unless you actually like skips.

The most painful part of the CD depends on if you’ve previously owned the 12” vinyl album. The magnificent artwork on the outer cover was wonderful… full sized, but shrunk down to the size of a CD case, hardly does it justice at all unless you have a magnifying glass handy. The album cover was the first time anyone had seen the ELO flying saucer and when looked at from above it became their logo on all their following albums and posters.

As for the CD extras?

Wild West Hero-alternate bridge, is what appears to be part of a rehearsal session for the finished song, in which Jeff harmonizes with others a cappella at home… but it’s only 24 seconds long.

The Quick and the Daft (Some electronic CD playback displays—mine included—have it listed as The Quick and the Draft) is an absolute classic Jeff Lynne/ELO instrumental at its finest, but at only 1:49 long. I plan to loop it to make it longer on my computer, it’s that good, but it’s that short.

Latitude 88 North doesn’t have that ELO “oomph”, which is probably why it wasn’t included on the original double album, but it’s enjoyable. It reminds me of a garage band that somehow talked some string players into jamming behind them.

The love of that musical era, the memories that will come flooding back, and the concept of what really good music used to sound like make this CD well worth purchasing.



WARNING: Reproduction of this article is forbidden without the author's permission
© 2007 by Jet in Columbus