Monday, October 31, 2011

26 Films: Keys to Tulsa

As I noted in my review of I Went Down [Link] the post Pulp Fiction video landscape was suddenly open to Indie crime films from around the world, it was also open to a number of US indie crime flicks sent in such far flung locals as: Denver, Boston, New Mexico, and in this case…. Tulsa.  Telling the story of rich kids who had grown up to not find their way to make their own fortunes (shockingly we were talking about a group of Gen xers here), Keys to Tulsa finds our principals engaged in grasping for the cash that they have managed to get their hands on. There is blackmail, betrayal, and an underlying sense of failure and doom.

Eric Stoltz is given the chance to step up and carry a film, and along with James Spader doing his best Elvis manages to keep things rolling along. Some nice character moments from James Colburn and others make the film worth checking out. I liked the moment when Colburn tries to get Stoltz to get the hell out of dodge and send him the bills. This is a Noir so of course he’s not smart enough to take the hint.

Over all it’s not the best of the regional noirs of the era, but it’s not the worst either. If you haven’t seen Things to Do In Denver When Your Dead, check that out first, but after that… and Two Hands, I Went Down … I would recommend checking out Keys to Tulsa.

Friday, October 28, 2011

FFB: THE Spy by Clive Cussler & Justin Scott

Back when I got out of college in the bad old days of 1996, my first job was a minimum wage security gig.  I worked Midnight to Noon on Saturday and Sunday the guy who worked the opposite 12 hour shifts spent a lot of his time reading and Clive Cussler was one of the authors he was a fan of and I started making my way though the Cussler books. I had read Raise the Titanic in college, but hadn’t picked up any of the other Cussler books.  After a couple of years my tastes changed and I stopped picking up the Cussler books and the increasing number of books that he was writing with others. 

I checked out The Spy on Audio book on a whim, and didn’t get around to listening to it until I was on an long drive to the other side of the state. I found The Spy to be a fun, fast adventure story set in the early 1900s. PI Isaac Bell is hired to find the killer of a weapon designer for the Navy. His investigation takes him all over the country and into the obit of a few soon to be famous people and events. There is a secret weapon in the Dreadnaught race and industrial espionage ensues. It’s a solid story and it passed the hours of my driving and downtime during my vacation last spring. I don’t know that I am interested in sitting down and reading any more Cussler books, but I have already queued up the other adventures of Isaac Bell in Audio Book form.

Isaac Bell tales
1.     The Chase (2007)
2.     The Wrecker (2009)
3.     The Spy (2010)
4.     The Race (2011)
5.     The Thief (2012)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Final Thursday Music: Jeeves And Wooster (theme melody) by Anne Dudley

On the list of soundtracks that I have yet to find a copy of you can list the Frye and Laurie series Jeeves And Wooster based on the books of P.G. Woodhouse. The theme by Anne Dudley is a great homage to the music of the era of the series; with its Jazzy hints of both Lounge and Swing.  It also holds up on it’s own, and leaves me wanting to hear what else she could come up with in the same vein. 

Apparently there was a CD release of the soundtrack for the show, which not only included the theme, but also Hugh Laurie’s numbers from the show. IT went quickly out of print in the UK and never appears to have made it to US shores. You would think that in this day and age of iTunes that music featuring Hugh Laurie would at least be available for download, but last time I checked it was MIA.            Over time there have been several TV series themes that have become classics on their own, and Anne Dudley has created one of the greats that is out there waiting to be rediscovered.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Friday Forgotten.... Liner Notes? Nuggets Box Set

I think I have a bead on the kind of people that follow the FFBs, and one thing that I think many of you will find something to like in is the Nuggets set of 60s Garage Rock tunes and the accompanying liner notes.  While the music on the set is some of the greatest Rock and Roll tunes ever recorded by bands like; The Electric Prunes, The Castaways, The Sonics, The Amboy Dukes and The Standells to name just a few, it’s the liner notes that I really want to focus on today. For those not in the know, Garage Rock in it’s 60s form was really about young bands inspired by 50s Rock, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Dylan, playing teen clubs, writing fast furious and sometimes primal pop songs.

 Running just under 100 pages the booklet included with the box set a work of art by itself.  It is to the point where the last two entries in the Nuggets series of sets by Rhino Records have been in book form with the attached. The liner notes in the first set include lots of photos and reproductions of the cover art from the singles that the tunes are drawn from. Nuggets started as and LP collecting many of the one hit wonder singles of the late 60s; it was released in 1972, and included in the booklet is the original essay written by compiler and music critic Lenny Kaye. A couple of other essays are included in the book, but the real story is the track-by-track reviews of the songs.  The box covers 118 songs across 4 CDs, and each of them is given a history, context and information on labels, where the band was from, and chart date. On it’s own it is a history and puzzle that is worth checking out… and of course the music is first rate.

The Nuggets box set was enough of a hit that of course Rhino had to follow it up with others.  Nuggets II focused on non-US bands, Children of Nuggets focused on the neo-garage movement of the 80s, and the last two Love is the Song We Sing (about the San Francisco scene) and Where the Action Is? (about the LA scene) have been region specific. In many ways the last two have been a bit of a let down, and I haven’t bothered to pick them up… however if a Seattle, Scandinavian or Detroit set appears you can bet that I will be in line to pick up a copy.

Rather than the standard call for thoughts, comments and the like, I think this time I am going to call for your Juke Box picks from the bands and songs on this set….

While I love so many of these songs, the one that today calls out to me is … Cold Outside by The Choir

Thursday, October 20, 2011

26 Soundtracks: Fast Track To Nowhere OST

Along with remaking the AIP films of the 50s and 60s, the Rebel Highway also included remakes of the music of the era. Roadracers featured Charlie Sexton’s cover of Race with the Devil and Girls in Prison featured the Jody Reynolds classic Endless Sleep as coved by Concrete Blonde and the music fits well with the films. As stand alone tracks they are a mixed bag, like any covers album. There are some standouts, Concrete Blonde has long been a favorite of mine, and I have developed a fondness for the Meat Puppets and their House of Blue Lights. I think over all it’s a solid album, that if you find it isn’t going to cost all that much and if you like these songs or bands you should enjoy.

Going back to my comments about the rebel highway series needing a reissue on DVD (wide screen if possible) or on Bluray, If I was going to do a boxset I think that I would add copy of the soundtrack, and if not a special feature on the music, at least a directory of all the songs used in the films.

C'mon Everybody by Iggy Pop
The House Of Blue Lights by Meat Puppets
Lights Out by  Los Lobos    
Endless Sleep by Concrete Blonde
Let The Good Times Roll by Neville Brothers
I'm Gonna Be a Wheel Someday by Sheryl Crow
Gene Vincent’s Race With The Devil by Charlie Sexton
I'm Walkin' by Blues Traveler    
Evil by The Wild Colonials    
Stroll by The Smithereens    
The Girl Can't Help It by Babes In Toyland    

Monday, October 17, 2011

26 Films: Roadracers

A throw back to 50s JD pictures should open with a car chase intercut with a rockabilly band. Robert Rodriguez knows this and that exactly how he opens his entry in the Rebel Highway series, Roadracers.  The series, a revival of the American International Pictures of the 50s and 60s, ran for ten-feature length made for Cable TV films. Roadracers is about Dude Delany, a small town outsider who dreams of leaving to become a rockabilly star. He’s on the outs with the town sheriff.

     The film includes an early performance by John Hawkes from Winters Bone and Deadwood, along with a solid turn with by William Saddler.  The perfect music selection included Link Wray and Hasil Adkins, and Gene Vincent. It’s not some long lost treasure, it’s simply a solid entertaining film that catches a young cast and crew making a B film and having some fun.

     Re-watching it has gotten me geeked to revisit the rest of the series. and thanks to the magic of the Internet I have 5 of them on the way on DVD. I do have to wonder why we don’t have a box set of these from the Shout Factory or someone like that.

The complete series includes:

        Girls in Prison - Directed by John McNaughton and starring Anne Heche and Ione Skye.
        Dragstrip Girl - Directed by Mary Lambert and starring Mark Dacascos and Natasha Gregson Wagner.
        Shake, Rattle and Rock! - Directed by Allan Arkush and starring Renée Zellweger and Howie Mandel.
        Runaway Daughters - Directed by Joe Dante and starring Julie Bowen and Paul Rudd.
        Roadracers - Directed by Robert Rodriguez and starring David Arquette and Salma Hayek.
        Reform School Girl - Directed by Jonathan Kaplan and starring Aimee Graham and Matt LeBlanc.
        Motorcycle Gang - Directed by John Milius and starring Gerald McRaney and Jake Busey.
        Jailbreakers - Directed by William Friedkin and starring Antonio Sabato Jr. and Shannen Doherty.
        Cool and the Crazy - Directed by Ralph Bakshi and starring Jared Leto and Alicia Silverstone.

 Check out my thoughts on the soundtrack later this week.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

26 Soundtracks: Dudes

            The soundtrack to Dudes, more than any other album (save one, and I am going to get to that one soon) has informed my musical taste. With it’s mix of Heavy Metal, Hard Rock, Punk, Alt Country, and Alternative music it not only fits the film, it’s like a sample of not only what Rock and mainstream music and underground music was going to become in the 1990s, it’s a snapshot of Rock N Roll in transition.

            Not only were the pieces of the decade to come in rock in motion and evolving when the film was made in 1987, but so were many of the bands. You have first and foremost Janes Addiction and Megadeth two band who would go to become major acts in the early 90s. Here Janes gives what I have always thought was their best song, the energetic and frenetic Mountain Song, and Megadeth provides a revved up cover of the classic These Boots are Made for Walking.

            The rest of the album runs the gambit of the genres that I have already listed. Looking back I can see that this album was in many ways a Rosetta stone for the soundtrack of my life. It lead me to the vast majority of what I listen to today. Megadeath and WASP lead me to metal and hard rock. The Vandals and the Little Kings to punk, and Legal Weapon to Alt Country. Now I know that there is more than a little nostalgia in my love of the soundtrack, but I think one of the reasons that I keep coming back to the film, the album and several of the songs is that I just hope people will discover them.

Friday, October 7, 2011

FFB: 'Til Death by Ed McBain

Bordering on cozy territory ‘Til Death, one of the three 1959 entries in the 87th Precinct series, ‘Til Death is a solid read, but feels like an entry which is drifting away from the police procedural genre pioneered in books like; Cop Hater, The Mugger and The Pusher. This is not to say that I didn’t like McBain’s tale of Det. Steve Carella looking into a threat to his sisters fiancé on their wedding day.

    Setting two sets of plot in motion, the protection of the groom and the investigation of the prime suspect, McBain gives a quick, driving novel with just enough of the 87th Precinct style to keep me reading. What I am left wondering is if at the point the book was written if McBain had yet to realize the opportunity he had in front of him. I don’t know that he realized three years into the series that he had the chance to show the evolution of police and their culture over the decades.  I do realize that he book is still early in the series and that marketplace pressures might have played a role in the softening of the series.

    I plan to keep on reading the series, and up next is King’s Ransom, a notable entry in the 87th Precinct series as it is the bases for Kurosawa’s High and Low (which received a Bluray release from Criterion recently).

Thoughts, Comments, Feedback?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

26 Films: Dudes

I have written about Dudes, the 1987 Punk Western, before many times and am not sure why I keep coming back to it. The plot is a combination of the road film, the fish out of water film and the revenge film. Its stars are solid b film actors, Jon Cryer, Daniel Roebuck, Catharine Mary Stewart and Lee Ving, who all do an admirable job with the material. The script is also solid, with moments of better than average dialog. Direction by Penelope Spheres keeps the film and the action moving forward along with the music (which I am going to talk about on Thursday). I also want to point out the great cinematography, which showcases the landscape of the west as good and often times better than other films of the period.

     So what is it that keeps me coming back to the film? Part of it is the nostalgia, the fact that it was a film that I ‘discovered’ and embraced when I was an impressionable teen. The fact that while the most current reviews of it I have seen are positive, that it has yet to reach the cult level of Rock and Roll High School or Suburbia by fans of punksploition. Maybe it’s that I am baffled at it being ignored wholesale (along with The Running Kind) by the growing legions of Alt Country fans who are likely to see something of their youth in the film.

I don’t have the answers to these questions yet, and I might never have them. What I can say is that it’s a film that means a lot to me, even if I don’t watch it often. I can say that if it ever gets a proper DVD or Bluray release I will have it pre-ordered the first day that I can.

Dudes writer Randall Jahnson has a nice website where he talks about Dudes Here

Monday, October 3, 2011

26 Films: Dudes

I am delaying the Dudes VHS and Soundtrack posts until next week, you can read my early write up of the film HERE

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Sept Reads

The Astounding, The Amazing and the Unknown by Paul Malmont
Malmont returns to the world of The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril, this time around Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asmomiv, Sprague De Camp and L Ron Hubbard are looking for lost technology to help defeat the axis in 1943. I took my time reading this one and enjoyed it immensely. It’s geeky fun with a lot of little cameos and even an appearance by Walter Gibson and Lester Dent.

Killer Wedge by Ed Mc Bain
See review Here

33 1/3: Johnny Cash – American Recordings by Tony Tost
 Another ultra readable 33 1/3 volume, this time exploring the myth of the Man in Black. Using the first of the American Recordings albums, Tost looks at the end of the life and time of Cash, looking both back and forward, examining not only Cash and his life, but the other song writers who came into his orbit. It’s a little long, but sent me back to the album which is the ultimate goal of these books.. one critism, for this entry and the others I have read, there really should be the track listing for the album at the start of the book and the play list of all the mentioned songs in each book at the end.

Ride the Pink Horse by Dorothy B Hughes
 First Published in 1946, made into the film of the same name (which I have yet to see) If Hard Case Crime is looking for a classic Noir by a woman to reprint, maybe this should be there first. Set in the southwest, Sailor is looking for the Senator who owes him money for a job done. Told from Sailor’s POV the book unfolds the story of what happened back in Chicago, and who Sailor is at his core. It left me thinking of Nightfall by David Goodis for some reason.

'Til Death by Ed McBain
An 87th Precinct Mystery. Another solid entry in the series, I am not going to say much more as I am holding off to use this as a FFB sometime down the road.

So I didn’t get to a Lawrence Block book or a Stark House book this month for a lot of reasons, but that’s ok, I am finding that around September I am needing a break from my plan, and I think that next year I am going to build that into the plan. I hope to be back on track next month, but we will see.