Monday, November 28, 2011

26 Films: Rolling Thunder

from imdb:

from imdb:
Plot: Major Charles Rane comes back from the war and is given a number of gifts from his hometown because he is a war hero. Some greedy thugs decide that they want to steal a number of silver dollars from him. In the process they also manage to kill his wife and son and destroy his hand. The Major wants revenge so he enlists the help of his war buddy Johnny to meet the thugs in a final showdown

The 70s were of course the era of not only the revenge film but also post Vietnam film. Co- written by Paul Schrader, the film has a tie to Taxi Driver in that it deals with men who have been thought a change in not only of the culture around them, but with in.  William Devane is not an actor that I have ever been a big fan of, although I dig his role in the  Jesse Stone  films, but he carries this film hitting just the right notes of knowing how to give Rane a public face and a private face. I don't have a whole lot to say about the film other than it is well worth checking out and re-watching.

Friday, November 25, 2011

FFB: ILL Wind By

    The two pillars of the post apocalypse fiction world are Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank and Earth Abides by George R Stewart and every other book in the genre owes some debt to one or the other. Alas, Babylon deals with the aftermath of a nuclear exchange, and Earth Abides deals with the aftermath of a plague which wipes out a chunk of humanity.

Illwinds falls mostly into the Earth Abides camp, telling the story of what happens when microbes intended to eat oil spills end up eating all petroleum based products on the planets. Airplanes fall from the sky, the combustion engine is useless and the infrastructure of the world just seems to fall apart.

I don’t recall much from the book aside from the plot other than I enjoyed it, as I enjoyed most of the books in the genre that I read at the time. There were a few that I read and didn’t really get or like. With some of these books that I recall liking and some that I recall fondly I wonder if they would hold up for me. I was a different kind of reader then, I was living a life that had different expectations and a different perspective on life. I have to admit that I have some fear of opening one of these books and finding that I have changed too much, or worse yet finding that I haven’t.

Anyway, Ill Winds was once worth reading for me, and if you are looking for something to follow up The Stand or Swan Song, it might just fit the bill.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

FTM The Valentine Six

I think that I heard these guys on a college radio show somewhere, and got my hands on a copy of a 7” of theirs soon after. I listened to the 7” once or twice and filed it away in my box of records.  I had a vague thought that they had a dark, nourish jazzy feel, and the name of the band lodged in that dark rarely visited file cabinet in the back of my brain…. And then I really found noir, I started reading both the cannon and the new cannon of the genre along with starting to watch the films. Being a Rockfiends, I naturally went looking for Noir Music… and recalled The Valentine Six

     Listening to them via their self titled CD I can hear a rocking Jazzy dusk cacophony of squealing that recalls Hoppers Night Hawks at the Diner, rundown motels. Vocally singer Parker Valentine (and I am thinking Lee Marvin big time just reading his name, and I expect that the FFB Noir crowd will know exactly why that tickled my fancy) emits a groaning croon that you might find on a micro stage at the back of a dingy roadhouse in a 40s crime pic.  This is music for sitting in a rundown motel smoking that last cigarette, downing that last shot of rotgut while looking at your last dollar on the table. 

The Valentine Six
1. Ghost Face    
2. Sonic    
3. Motel girl
4. Thin Red Line    
5. Blood Orange    
6. Silencer    
7. Tucson    
8. Always is my Name    
9. Bad Penny         
10.         Kill Street    
11.         Motel Lights    

The album was released by PCP Entertainment (nope I never heard of them either) and never seemed to get much distribution… and like so many of the lost gems of the 90s is most likely going to be found circling the drain of you local used record shop’s discount bin. Needless to say, if you spot a copy, I recommend picking it up.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

26 Soundtracks: The Crow

Aside from Singles, no soundtrack in the early 90s showcased hard rock, metal and alternative music better than The Crow. Finding music to fill out the apocalyptic vision of the motor city in it’s post job creator downfall was a challenge that met by bringing in the harder edge of the burgeoning Alternative music scene.

Mixing cover tunes and originals the sounds present vary from heavy to sweet, primitive to refined. In many ways the soundtrack is a Rosetta stone of the music of the era, with Stone Temple Pilots (with the Big Empty being a hit track of time), and Rage Against the Machine adding their heavy anger and groove to the mix and of course you couldn’t have a dark soundtrack of the time without the Nine Inch Nails.

  I had almost forgotten about Jane Siberry and her angelic anthem for the film that closes out the sound track, It Can’t Rain All The Time.  It’s a haunting number that I am sure will send those of us who once lived with this soundtrack back to a moment, to a place where someone was saying that all this darkness will end sometime and some place.

1. "Burn" - The Cure (Robert Smith, Simon Gallup, Boris Williams, Perry Bamonte) – 6:39

2.    "Golgotha Tenement Blues" - Machines of Loving Grace (Scott Benzel, Mike Fisher, Stuart Kupers, Brad Kemp) – 4:01
3.    "Big Empty" - Stone Temple Pilots (Dean DeLeo, Scott Weiland) – 4:56
4.    "Dead Souls" - Nine Inch Nails (Joy Division) – 4:54
5.    "Darkness" - Rage Against the Machine (Rage Against the Machine) – 3:41
6.    "Color Me Once" - Violent Femmes (Gordon Gano, Brian Ritchie) – 4:09
7.    "Ghostrider" - Rollins Band (Suicide)(Martin Rev, Alan Vega) – 5:45
8.    "Milktoast" (also known as "Milquetoast") - Helmet (Page Nye Hamilton) – 3:59
9.    "The Badge" - Pantera (Poison Idea) – 3:54*
10. "Slip Slide Melting" - For Love Not Lisa (For Love Not Lisa) – 5:47
11. "After the Flesh" - My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult (Buzz McCoy, Groovie Mann) – 2:59
12. "Snakedriver" - The Jesus and Mary Chain (William Reid, Jim Reid) – 3:41
13. "Time Baby III" - Medicine (Jim Goodall, Brad Laner, Jim Putnam, Ed Ruscha, Beth Thompson) – 3:52
14. "It Can't Rain All the Time" - Jane Siberry (Graeme Revell, Jane Siberry) – 5:34

Edited to try and fix the formatting issues... 11/17/2011
Also I urge readers to check out these TIG posts on Movie Soundtracks I Can't Live Without, Part I and The Sequel

Monday, November 14, 2011

26 Films: The Annihilators

 The 80s was the era of the big action flick… what people forget was that there were also the smaller action flicks. The Annihilators was one of those, a revenge film featuring a small squad of Nam vets who reunite after one of there own, Joey who saved all of their lives, is killed by the local gang. They fight back and get the residents of the neighborhood to stand up for themselves as well.

    The films isn’t any great shakes, it’s pretty straight forward. It never gets boring, and moves along quickly enough. There are a few things to recommend the film. Solid acting from Christopher Stone and Gerrit Graham, and there is a nicely played and shown but not dwelled upon element of the plight of veterans of Vietnam. The action and the film making are just enough above average to recommend it.

Friday, November 11, 2011

FFB Wishsong of Shannara by Terry Brooks

Elves, Swords, a quest, magic, it’s all pretty standard Fantasy stuff, and that’s why I have largely forgotten The Wishsong of Shannara aside from the fact that once upon a time I read it and liked it. The Shannara series started out in the late 70s and the third book arrived almost a decade later, just in time for me to find it at the end of elementary school and the start of Jr High.

            I am going to pause here from talking about the book and talk about my relationship with reading. I started kindergarten when I was 4 years old in the fall of 1977, and turned 5 about three weeks later, I had to be the youngest kid in my class until I became the oldest. When I was in the second grade my reading did not improve over the course of the year and my parents had me held back and repeat the second grade. I can recall clearly being annoyed and bored with the reading books we were given, Honeycomb and Cloverleaf. I also recall being attracted to the older schoolbooks from the 40s and 50s that some teachers kept in their rooms, and I recall visits to the school library and not finding many books that really related to my world there.

            When I was in the 4th grade I had one of those old school teachers who wasn’t going to fall in line with all the new fangled education theory and among other things she insisted that we read. She also read to us, Where the Red Fern Grows and Call it Courage were both read aloud in class… along with a couple of 50s text books, one called If I Were Going that ignited my imagination about seeing Norway, and that we do book reports. To this day I look back on the structure of her reports, synopsis, tell what you liked, tell what you didn’t like and tell the class if you recommend the book as THEE structure for any kind of review. I think that it is safe to credit her more than another teacher for getting me to read, and by the time I was in the sixth grade I was reading at an eight-grade level.

Somewhere in there I picked up the Shannara books the first two were already out, the second one The Elf Stones was the first book that I literally stayed up all night reading. It was the 4th of July in the mid 80s…. when the Wishsong came out I was ready for it. The plot was about evil coming back into the world, and the Omsford clan once again is called upon to put a stop to it. Quests are started, Allies gathered and danger faced in route, but it all works out pretty well in the end… until the next series of course.  I don’t recall any of those books either, even though I did end up reading the next 5 or 6 entries in the series. .. It’s true that I have forgotten the book and it’s plot and most of the characters and what I really liked about it…. But in this case maybe what is important is that I remember that it was important to me once upon a time.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

26 Soundtracks: Return of the Living Dead Pt. 1

The Return of the Living Dead Original Soundtrack

I can’t really say how many times I have written about this soundtrack. It changed my life, or maybe it’s more that I allowed it to change my life. It was the catalyst for something in my life, A move away from rock and roll and pop tunes that extolled love with all of it’s complex highs and lows had left me low. It was in a moment of transition when things hadn’t been working out for me that I found the album on cassette and took it home to open a new chapter in my life.

The album came out at the same time as a new chapter was occurring in the underground music world. The bands represented on the soundtrack; The Cramps, The Damned, The Tallboys, The Flesheater, T.S.O.L., The Jet Black Berries and 45 Grave were all going though their own changes, reflecting differing moments in the scenes they belonged to both on the macro scale and the micro scale. Over all, Punk Rock had made it to its second wave. The early days of art rock and weird kids making a noise had given way to the Hard Core, loud, fast and out of control sound of stripped down Rawk.

 The Cramps and The Tall Boys (an off shoot of The Meteors) were moving from their Psychobilly beginnings towards a sound that we now think of as Garage Punk. 45 Grave and TSOL were moving from their Deathpunk phases into a sound that was more hair metal with 45 Grave going more and more Goth as time went on. The Damned were also on the Goth train with their Punk Rawk sound getting more and more pop and smooth. The Flesheaters were headed towards becoming The Divine Horsemen and The Jet Black Berries has moved from their Dark Psych New Math days to a cowpunk sound.  Most of the bands were headed for their last days of their initial run as they entered their final phases. Interestingly, all of these changes reflected new influences and refined musical skills, and even some maturity and growth as songwriters.

The Film famously is about the adventures of a group of punk who encounter the living dead while hanging out in a graveyard. It’s not that far fetched to think that the soundtrack would feature punk bands, and it’s just lucky that Enigma records was able to provide the soundtrack. Rather than getting some limp major label form of punk some true greats of the horror punk landscape were included along with some of the outliers.  It’s a special soundtrack to me, and one that I hope people keep on discovering and listening to.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Oct 2011 Reads

Choke Hold by Christa Faust
We are not only seeing the return of Hard Case Crime, but of Chirsta Faust and Angel Dare. The former Porn Star turned on the run WITSEC participant…. It appears that she didn’t have Marshal Marshall and Mary protecting her, this time she ends up in the middle of nowhere when an old flame wanders back into her life. Things go from bad to worse and Angel finds that she can’t escape the curse that seems to be following her. Faust knows noir and how to keep things rolling along. It’s a tough rolling adventure, and I of course look forward to the next tour of the darkness that Faust illuminates.

Gangway by Donald Westlake and Brian Garfield
A 70s effort from the authors of The Hunter and Deathwish. Set in San Francisco of the 1890, this heist tale was fun, but not anything amazing. I enjoyed it enough to finish, but was never really engaged by it. If you have made your way though the Westlake cannon and need a fix of something you haven’t read before, check this out, other wise I wouldn’t made any big effort to seek it out.

Lawrence Block book of the Month: Getting Off
The first of the new Hard Case Crime releases, Blocks Getting Off is also their first Hard Cover…. And it’s a about a killer on the road and her adventures as she tries to some to terms with her past. I thought it was pretty good, if a little long,

Bad Cop by  Paul Bacon
The true adventures of the author as he became a NYPD officer in the wake of 911. As a liberal he’s an outsider easy to read style and a nice insight to the works of the lower levels of policing. It was a very nice quick read that was engaging and I highly recommend it.

Stark House Press novel of the Month:
Body and Passion by Harry Whittington
A sharp tale of two men who get caught in a fire and only one survives… only he has no idea which man he is. One is a criminal and the other the DA, and you can guess who things play out from there --- maybe. Clocking in at a brisk 107 pages it’s a lean tale that nicely fills out the three stories in the book.