Friday, August 23, 2019

Heart in Houston: Keeping the Music Fresh and Powerful

On Thursday night, my family and I went up to The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion in The Woodlands (just north of Houston) and saw Heart with Joan Jett and the Blackhearts and Elle King. We actually arrived too late to see Rob Schneider's daughter, but thoroughly enjoyed both Joan Jett and Heart. When it comes to summer concerts, there is no other place than the Mitchell Pavilion that I'd rather be. The vibe is wonderful. I always buy lawn seats because there are few things better than sitting in a small chair on a grassy lawn, under the stars, and listening to great music.

Joan Jett

Joan Jett is a trailblazer. There she was on stage, leading her five-piece band, dressed in black leather, jamming during her entire set. I was struck by her appearance. Not only does she look just like she did thirty years ago, but I thought back just two weeks ago when the band Halestorm opened for Alice Cooper. Lzzy Hale fronts Halestorm and she is a direct descendant to Joan Jett, even down to Hale's wardrobe.

Jett and the Blackhearts delivered the exact set we all wanted, included an unknown-to-me version of Sly and the Family Stone's "Everyday People." Boy is that a message as timely as ever.

Heart Arrives

By the time the lights went dark and Heart stepped on stage, I sat up in my chair. The crowd started cheering and, out of the darkened stage, Ann and Nancy Wilson appeared. As part of my Legacy Rock Tour--that is, seeing as many legacy rocks acts while we still can--there's something magical about seeing veteran artists for the first time. I'm a casual Heart fan, a greatest hits fan, but when those two ladies walked out on stage, I started grinning ear to ear. There they were!

And man, they have not missed a beat. For a total of sixteen songs, Ann and Nancy Wilson led the band through cover songs and original material. Ann's voice is still powerful, filling the covered part of the pavilion and washing over the capacity crowd on the hill. The harmonious blending of their voices waxed and waned depending on whom sang lead. Very happy they included the Moog synth on Magic Man since it takes me back to the mid 70s.

The covers were an interesting choice. There was a three-song mini set, starting with Yes's Your Movie, then I Heard it Through the Grapevine, and a wonderful version of The Boxer with Nancy singing lead while playing acoustic guitar.

The Rhythm of the Band

A word on Nancy's playing. This being the first time to see the band, I knew she played guitar, but I didn't know how well her rhythm playing was. I'm a sucker for a great rhythm player. Imagine the Beatles without John Lennon's guitar, KISS without Paul Stanley's playing, or Metallica without James Hetfield. Can't do it. Neither can you be without Nancy's playing. She drove the band, leading it through the tunes. Frustratingly, the camera operators focused on her playing infrequently, but when they did, it was impressive.

What was also impressive was Ann's voice. We all know veteran rock singers lose a step or two as time takes it toll. It's part of the aging process for everyone. Ann, however, still has a powerful singing voice. I've been recently introduced to the band's 2016 album, Beautiful Broken, and I enjoy it quite a bit. In some of the more orchestral songs, I wondered how Heart never got tapped to record a song for a James Bond film. It's a natural choice, and Ann would be able to belt it out with the best of them.

Modern Spins on Classic Songs

The choices the band made were great. While I wondered why they chose covers over some of their other hits, what they did with the hits was a nice change. For all the on-stage wizardry of bands who can play their greatest hits just like the record, it's a refreshing change to hear a band like Heart change up the instrumentation of some of their songs. These Dreams, in particular, had much of the 1980s sheen stripped away, leaving a more organic and natural version of the song that is, frankly, better than the original. Same with What About Love, and the inclusion of tasteful bongos. Minstral Wind is a tune I don't know, but it served as the nice atmospheric extended jam before kicking into Crazy on You. That song still rocks.

The Encore

When they came back for the encore, I was ticked off songs they hadn't played. We all knew they'd end with Barracuda, so that meant we'd get renditions of All I Wanna Do is Make Love to You, Alone, and some other hit from the 80s. What we got instead, was Stairway to Heaven. From the opening chord, I recognized the song. I turned to my family and voiced the obvious question: "Why?"

Well, there was a reason. Over Nancy's acoustic guitar, Ann sang those familiar words. Line by line, verse by verse, I was swept away. Through the slow parts, her voice was so powerful that I gradually looked forward to the inevitable: Ann Wilson singing the fast part. Brilliant. As my wife said and I agreed: second best version of this song we ever heard.

That's why.

And that's why I am so glad we got tickets for this tour. If you haven't ever seen the band, or you haven't seen them in a long time, get your ticket today.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

I Finally Watched Chasing Amy

(This is the fourth in a series of how a fifty-year-old geek finally saw the films of Kevin Smith. If you want the origin story for this series, read the Introduction. I've already reviewed Clerks and Mallrats.)

You've got to be kidding me, right? Kevin Smith, the same guy who wrote Clerks and Mallrats, also wrote Chasing Amy?

Three Different Films...

Clerks is the slice-of-life kind of film famed for its indie spirit. Mallrats is a raucous comedy about twentysomethings in the mid 90s. Chasing Amy is an all-out romantic drama with some humorous dialogue thrown in. On the surface, you'd be right to question if the same writer developed all three films. But there's an underlying thread running through all three films.

Chasing Amy starts in a comic book convention. Check traditional Smith trope number one. A fan wanting to get his comic book signed starts an argument with Jason Lee's character, Banky Edwards. Banky is the inker for the famous Bluntman and Chronic book, and he and the fan dispute the importance of an inker. The fan says Banky is merely a tracer. Banky thinks otherwise. They come to fisticuffs, leaving it to Ben Affleck's Holden McNeil (the penciller) to break it up.

[Aside: The worst part about not knowing much of anything about Kevin Smith films and having to go to Wikipedia to verify names is seeing certain characters, like Banky, have their own entry. Thus spoiling things for future films, because the best thing about Smith's films is seeing how and where the same actors show up.]

Now, I'll admit when I first saw Jason Lee, I thought he was the same character as in Mallrats. Ditto for Affleck, which led to wonder how the two characters from Mallrats made up and work together. That's not the case here. In this film, the main stars, like the various other side characters, play different people in this movie.

It's at the comic con where Holden first lays eyes on Alyssa Jones, played by the brilliant Joey Lauren Adams. Alyssa is also a comic book writer, but for a not-very-famous title. Holden is besotted, especially when Alyssa invites him out to meet her in a bar. A very particular kind of bar that Banky picks up on pretty quickly but that Holden doesn't until the shattering moment when Alyssa makes out with a girl.

A Shared Moment

Alyssa is gay. Holden has no clue. He thinks she had eyes for him. She doesn't, but she likes him as a friend. Script-wise, the scene was great. The bartender, Hooper X, (Dwight Ewell) is flamboyantly gay and he's about to tell Holden the truth, but Holden's too fixated on Alyssa singing her torch song to listen. Banky looks around, sees all the evidence that it is a gay bar, and the smile Lee brings the Banky's face is fantastic. It's only when Holden's world is crushed when Banky tells him "That, my friend, was a shared moment."

The Frank Dialogue

In what I'm now realizing is a trope of Smith, Banky, Holden, Alyssa, and her gal head off to a different bar where copious amounts of dialogue occurs. In Clerks, it was about life in dead-end jobs. Mallrats was about suburban pop culture. Chasing Amy is about relationships, love, and sex. Here, Alyssa and Banky see eye-to-eye on many things. And, in a particularly hilarious spoof, they start comparing sexual scars...just like the three characters did in Jaws. When Alyssa props her leg on the table just like Robert Shaw in Spielberg's movie, I busted out laughing. Not only does the dialogue move the story forward, it's also a great in-joke for movie buffs. Just like Kevin Smith.

The Story Twist

After a so typical 90s montage scene showing Alyssa and Holden doing various things, getting along, and, of course, Holden falling in love, the movie comes down to two people sitting in a car. Rain pours down and Holden has to reveal the truth to Alyssa. He declares his love for her in a rather decent manner. Sure, it's not Billy Crystal in When Harry Met Sally, but it's genuine and heartfelt. And selfish.

Watching in 2019, in the week celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall riots, in a year in which it's no big deal to see same sex couples at the grocery store or concerts, I was shocked at Holden's declaration. What was he thinking? What did he expect would happen? I'll tell you one thing: Alyssa's reaction is exactly what I expected.

Joey Lauren Adams Knocks It Out of the Park

Up until this point in my Kevin Smith movie run, Joey Lauren Adams has been the bubbly girl with the unique voice and the infectious laugh. But in this scene when Holden lays out his heart, she is brilliant. The anguish. The betrayal. The anger. It all comes out in this fantastic scene, especially her reaction to Holden's stupid off-hand comment about "a period of adjustment." Great, great scene. I wasn't sure where they were going to go next, but I sure as hell didn't expect the kiss.

Nor the dating stuff. Sure, I expected the scene when Alyssa tells her friends, but what sets Adams's performance above everything in this movie is that she effortlessly goes from the anger of the rain scene to the wonderful explanation scene when she answers Holden's "Why me? Why now?" question. Her answer is so sincere and so from the heart. "The way the world is, how seldom it is that you meet that one person who just gets you - it's so rare." Holy cow, this is good. So good.

And then she turns it back up during the hockey scene and its aftermath. Man, I wanted to slap Holden for doing what every single guy in a relationship tries to do: find the history of the new girlfriend and compare. And Alyssa deservedly lets him have it. "I was an experimental girl for Christ's sake! Maybe you knew from early on your track was from point A to B, but unlike you I was not given a f***ing map at birth, so I tried it all! That is until we, you and I, got together and suddenly I was sated!" That may not be as succinct as "You had me at hello" or "I know," but that's one of the best declarations of love I've seen on screen, and it's delivered like a gut punch. Or a kick the nuts.

Jay and Silent Bob Arrive

Nearly eighty minutes into the film, Jay and Silent Bob arrive. Again, as in Mallrats, you can't help but wonder how a cool kid like Holden even knows or hangs around these two. Again, probably because he's best friends with the writer, Jay gets one of the funniest lines in the whole movie: "Bitch pressin' charges? I get that a lot." He delivers the line as if he's in a Naked Gun movie: deadpan, straight, and with obvious history.

Over three movies, I've been conditioned to expect Silent Bob to speak. He spoke gold in Clerks. He spoke a joke in Mallrats. Now, in Chasing Amy, I expected gold again. I got it, in the form of a soliloquy on love.

"I wasn't disgusted with her, I was afraid. At that moment, I felt small - I'd lacked experience, like I'd never be on her level, like I'd never be enough for her or something like that, you know what I'm sayin'? But what I did not get - she didn't care. She wasn't looking for that guy anymore. She was...she was looking for me, for - for the Bob. But, uh, by the time I figured this all out, it was too late, you know. She'd moved on, and all I had to show for it was some foolish pride, which then gave way to regret. She was the girl, I know that now. But I pushed her away. So I've spent every day since then chasing to speak."

Give Smith credit: he can write some awesome dialogue for his actors to say, but he saves some of the juiciest morsels for himself. Other actors might get more memorable and quotable lines, but the heart of the story rests in the words of Silent Bob.

Holden's Stunningly Stupid Idea

I've been keeping notes as I watch these movies. Yeah, I'm a dork, but I want to capture my thoughts. I wrote "astonishingly dumb!" when I realized what Holden suggests he and Alyssa and Banky do together:  have sex. She knew it, Banky was oddly clueless. Did Holden not hear what Alyssa said (and that I quoted here)? Did he not understand what Silent Bob told him? I mean, come on. If Silent Bob breaks his silence to relay some morsel of knowledge, listen man!

But no, Holden didn't listen. He thought the three of them having sex would solve everything, Alyssa's explanation as to why she was walking out the door killed any chance he had with her. Well, heck, let's be honest: after the hockey scene, there was no chance.

Separate Lives

It is still simply wild that Holden would even suggest such a solution, so I was greatly rewarded when the three of them ended up with three separate lives. As much as I was surprised with the initial kiss between Alyssa and Holden, I would have been pissed if they ended up together. Glad they didn't, but it makes the ending, the final line, that much more poignant. A year later, at another comic convention, Holden and Alyssa have a final and proper good-bye. When asked by her companion who Holden was, Alyssa has the perfect response: "Just some guy I knew," relegating Holden to a past lover, a past Alyssa will likely not mention unless asked.

The Verdict

Chasing Amy was an unexpected film. It didn't fit into the mold of what I assumed Smith's movies were like. I assumed he had a career of Mallrats and Clerks clones. That isn't what Chasing Amy is. This is a really good film, chock full of multiple truths, as told by a gifted storyteller with something to say in the mid 1990s.

There's a trend apparent in the first three films that I'm curious to see if it continues. With Clerks, it was all about the truth as Smith knew life as a young twentysomething not seeing himself or his friends represented on screen. It was cheap to look at but rich in character. Flush with success and money, he makes a strikingly different film in Mallrats, an over-the-top comedy I enjoyed but didn't make a lot of money. Batting only .500, Smith had to draw on more truth, this time an emotional truth. Clerks and Chasing Amy both look and feel like indie films. Mallrats doesn't.

This is kind of like the even numbered Star Trek movies being the better ones while the odd numbered ones just move things forward.

Looked at it another way, one might argue Smith's merely flexing his movie muscle, trying his hand at various types of movies he had consumed up until that point: the talky one, the comedy, the romantic drama. Knowing Dogma is next, I cannot even imagine what that film will be like.

But I'm eager to see it.

Watching for the Trademark Kevin Smith Things

A real treat about watching these films for the first time at age fifty and having listening to Smith's podcasts for years is to see how certain things he still says to this day initially show up in his movies. Here are a few I saw:

  • First mention of cock knocker
  • DeGrasse
  • Alyssa overtly naming characters from Clerks and Chasing Amy
  • Inker discussion
  • Brian O'Halloran is back. That's three for three
  • Camera work in the car while Holden and Alyssa are driving, the back-and-forth


When I saw this movie in early July 2019, the trailer for Jay and Silent Bob Reboot had not yet dropped. When it did, the world got to see the fact that Affleck and Smith got past whatever had driven them apart. I've now listened to Smith relate the details of Affleck coming down to the set and working again as Holden. Which prompted Smith to write a sequel to Chasing Amy.

Look, I'm in the bag for the Reboot film, but having already seen eight of Smith's films as of this writing [21 August 2019], the Chasing Amy scene in Reboot is probably the one I'm looking forward to the most.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

The Haunting of Hill House

(With word that Netflix is going to release a director's cut of 2018's The Haunting of Hill House, perhaps the best thing I saw on TV last year, I realized I had not posted my review here. Now I have.)

I never saw this show coming and it totally blew me away.

We live in a golden age of content, especially television content. There is just so much that we can’t realistically be expected to watch it all. Even as an avid Netflix consumer, I didn’t know the re-imagined version of “The Haunting of Hill House” was even a thing. My wife, did, however. She read about it in ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY and then it popped up on her Netflix account. We had just finished Amazon’s brilliant “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” it was October, so why not? It was a short, 10-episode series–movie, really–so it wouldn’t take up too much time if it proved to be bad or if I proved indifferent.

All I needed was the first episode.

Specifically, the last minute or so. Well, no, let me backtrack: the stellar cast, the adept direction, and the fantastic writing of the first episode got me to swallow the hook. The last couple of minutes set the hook. “I’m in,” were the words out of my mouth as soon as the credits rolled. Truth be told, I was already in.

The Haunting of Hill House, as re-imagined by director/writer Mike Flanagan, tells the story of the Crain family in two different phases of their lives. In flashbacks, we see Hugh Crain (Henry Thomas; yes, that Henry Thomas) and his wife, Olivia (Carla Gugino) move into Hill House with their five children. In the present day, the children are now adults, Hugh is now played by Timothy Hutton, and Olivia isn’t around. The central mystery of the show is what happened to her and to the family at Hill House.

Taking his cue from any number of modern examples of non-linear storytelling, director Flanagan expertly weaves in and out of both times, revealing just enough here while intentionally not showing you something there. I knew what he was doing, and I didn’t care. I became so enthralled in the story and the way it was presented that I came close to the desire to binge it all. The closest we got was two separate days of two episodes each. Most of the time, however, it was an episode per day. But the beauty of watching the show in this manner was the ability to mull over the story and the characters.

And mull it over I did. Numerous nights and even throughout the days, snippets of the show would float back into my head. My wife and I discussed various aspects of the show, and I even played the age-old game of trying to guess what was going to happen next.  Thankfully, I was wrong on nearly everything except one crucial aspect. And, no, I can’t tell you what it was because it is fundamental to the story. (see below)

Billed as a horror show, it lives up to that reputation. Yes, there are jump scares. Of course there are jump scares. But, for me, Hill House was less a horror show than a supernatural suspense, eerie type show. There were some moments in the show that I was glad I was watching in the day time. And most of those are quiet moments you didn’t see coming.

Flanagan–whose work I don’t know–did a marvelous job at directing and pacing. I’m no film geek, but even I realized some of the tricks he used to great effect. One was the just-out-of-range blurring of a background character. He did this often, and it really worked well. Camera movement was pitch perfect. Probably the thing getting the most buzz is episode 6, “Two Storms.” The story content is stellar and pivotal to the series, but the direction is what will earn this episode award nominations. Even as we watched it, we could tell it was shot in multiple long-takes, with the camera moving this way and that, revealing a nothingness behind one character in one second only to reveal something behind the very same character when the camera pulls around again. Excellent work.

An excellent director with an excellent story can only get you so far. If you don’t have excellent actors, you get something sub par. The casing director of Hill House needs an award today. Let’s start with Henry Thomas. Seeing as I didn’t look up or know anything about this show ahead of time, it was during the first episode I realized he was the “E.T.” kid. I haven’t followed his career at all, but man did he deliver in the various flashback scenes. The chemistry Thomas has with Gugino and the five child actors is so good, you’d think they were a real family. Speaking of Gugino, she had the difficult task of conveying Olivia as a loving mother and wife, but as someone also haunted by things not often visible, sometimes even in the same scene. When she was comforting a scared child, she was honest and sincere. When she was facing something else, she was just as scared as you were in that moment.

In any movie starring kids, you might get less-than-good actors who deliver less-than-good performances. The five children–especially Julian Hilliard (young Luke) and McKenna Grace (as young Theodora)–gelled on screen as if they were truly siblings. They really inhabited their characters well. Not to be outdone, the adult actors playing these characters also knocked it out of the park. There was one scene in particular where Theodora–who has a special talent–does the thing she does to use her talent (like how I’m obfuscating?). With modern technology and CGI chicanery, Flanagan could have conjured up anything for a scary moment. Instead, he lets Kate Siegel’s face be centered on the screen. When she “sees” what she sees, Siegel screams a scream so bloodcurdling your mind is the thing conjuring up the horror. So well done.

I questioned why Flanagan didn’t just put Henry Thomas in older make up but rather cast Timothy Hutton as the older Hugh. Visually, the two actors are not too far off, and stylistically, they created mannerisms for Hugh each actor mimicked. But in keeping with the obvious recasting of the kids, the choice for a second actor for Hugh was a good one. I’m not too familiar with Hutton’s work, but as the series propelled itself to the end, his gravitas carried his scenes and I was ultimately satisfied with both actors playing the same part.

Oh, one other thing about the cast: each one of them get what I call a “Robert Shaw in Jaws” moment. You know the scene in Jaws where Shaw, as Quint, tells the story of the U.S.S. Indianapolis and the sharks. Best dang scene in the movie. Well, the adults get their version, but none was better than of Robert Longstreet as caretaker Horace Dudley. When he says what he says in the manner he does it, Flanagan keeps the camera on Longstreet. The actor delivers that story with so much depth and emotion that I immediately called it a “Robert Shaw in Jaws” moment. Incredible that a piece of a show like this by a side character could be so compelling.

I could go on and on, but I’m going to halt here. I’ve seen some great stuff this year, but The Haunting of Hill House is easily in the Top 3, maybe even Top 2. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

P.S., I’m stopping the main review here. If you want to avoid spoilers, stop and watch then return. For those of y’all who want to continue, you’ve been warned.

The one aspect of the show I did see coming was Episode 5, “The Bent Neck Lady.” At that moment, I nearly thought the secret of the house was an alternate dimension.

What I didn’t see coming was the ending.

Holy moley. Who in the world saw it coming? Who in the world would have predicted the ending of a showed billed as a horror show could have such a genuinely emotional ending? I don’t know about y’all, but I was bawling my eyes out when Hugh–first as Hutton then as Thomas–talked to Steve and explained the situation. He told his son why and how the house needed to be saved. And then the instant transition from Hutton to Thomas? Lost it. My wife did, too. Maybe it’s my age, maybe I’m just so emotional about family, but The Haunting of Hill House delivered not only genuine scares, creeps, and thrills, but also a deep, heartfelt emotionally resonant ending. I couldn’t be happier about it.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Year of an Indie Writer: Week 33 AKA What a Difference a Week Makes

What a difference a week makes.

If you tuned in last week, I wrote a "What's the point?" post in which I wondered why a creative (notice, not just writer) should keep working. I came around to my own conclusion.

We creatives all go through times like these where the urge to just throw in the towel is so dang strong. It would be so, so easy to just give up. And no one would notice.
Fight through those tough times. Persevere. Keep going.
Why? Back to Jay's first item: because you love it.
That's the point. 

This week, I remembered why I love storytelling so much. But I almost threw in the towel on one story.

New Thriller Story

A few weeks ago, I was invited to submit a crime/mystery/thriller story for a yet-to-be-named anthology. The deadline was 15 August. Sure, I thought, when I first got the invitation, I've got a story. It's already started. All I have to do is finish it. I'll have it way before the deadline.

But I didn't. The story remained elusive. I had the first half of the story already written, but it was listless. I was listless. I'd wake up at my morning writing times and chose to write a blog post. I just wasn't into the story. Even as I wrote my "What's the Point?" post last Friday, I was ready to email the editor and bow out. I hesitated, deciding to give myself Monday.

Monday came. Monday went. No good progress on the story. The deadline was Thursday. There was just no way to satisfactorily finish this story. Tuesday morning's session came and went. I got into the shower to get ready for work. I was going to email the editor later that day.

And something clicked. The thrill that passed through me as one small piece of the puzzle fell into place. It was the crucial piece, the keystone of the whole tale. I smiled in the shower. I wasn't going to email the editor at noon. I was going to move the story forward.

I moved it forward 1,450 words that lunch hour. I was on a roll. Then I had to get back to the day job. Later that evening, I read the opening to my wife. She liked it. A pretty good indicator considering she doesn't read this kind of story.

Wednesday morning and lunch came and went. More words. More progress. I needed to stick the landing, so I let my mind churn on it. I was done by Thursday morning's writing session. The lunch hour was proof hour. Came home and sent it to the editor.

It was the high point, creatively, for the week. I cannot control what any reader thinks, including the editor. Maybe this yarn won't even fit the vibe of the anthology and the story'll come back. All of that doesn't matter. All that matters was how excited I was to write the tale, how excited I was to read it aloud to my wife, and how excited I was to have completed another story.

And, perhaps, launched a series.

That is why I do this.

Then I got a reward in the form of another blog post by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Expect Success

Please tell me you read Rusch's Thursday posts on here blog. For the past few weeks, she's been discussing licensing. This week, she took a break and focused on success, specifically the mental fortitude one needs to strive for success.

Boy, was it exciting. And sobering. And thrilling. And daunting.

But most of all, it was encouraging. It's not a magic potion. Being creative is work. Sometimes, like this week, the work is tremendous. Other times, like all those hours before Tuesday for me, it's frustrating. But it's still something for which to strive.

Toward the end of the piece, Kris talks about what to  do when we creatives face challenges. One is to print her blog and re-read it. Another is to purchase the book she mentions. I've bookmarked the piece and will come back to it whenever I feel like throwing in the towel.

She ends like this:

Maybe you should ask yourself what terrifies you the most about the possibility of success.
Expect success. And then work for it. Each and every day.

The Elementary Finale

Going in, I knew the tears would come. Even if the episode was just a mystery-of-the-week, saying good-bye to this version of Holmes and Watson was going to be difficult. Because I loved them. I'm not going to get into a tit for tat as to which version of Sherlock Holmes is the best. Jeremy Brett pretty much nailed the traditional version. The BBC Sherlock was a nice updating of the original canon. I also enjoyed Robert Downey, Jr.'s version quite a bit.

But Jonny Lee Miller's Holmes evolved. That's what it comes down to for me. And he was simply brilliant. He showed a broken man with immense mental gifts that were also a curse. He learned to broaden his self-centered life, even though it often proved very difficult. Miller's acting acumen was on full display every week. The seven-year arc of this version of Holmes was a joy to witness, and the finale was beautiful.

Many thought the stunt casting of Lucy Liu was just that. Hogwash. She took what was traditionally side-kick role and made Watson equal to Holmes. She learned, she excelled, and she often beat Holmes to the deduction. And she always had her partner's back. Always. From the jump, I loved the idea of the gender swap. It was something different. Creator Robert Doherty re-imagined Holmes, Watson, and the canon. The show was not slavishly trying to mimic the canon. It was inspired by it. The show lived and breathed

Many also predicted Holmes and Watson would hook up. I never figured it would happen, and glad it didn't. What emerged was a deep love between two characters that needed no romance. The finale showed that to the full extent.

Season 6's finale was all but perfect. Season 7's was just as good. All the tears. All the feels. All the love. I will so miss this show, but I'm so glad it went out on a high note before the quality started to drop.

As I wrote on Twitter:

Perfect casting from day one. Perfect ending. Incredible writing for a complex pair of characters and actors who love each other deeply. So well done. That is how you create a fulfilling finale. 

Friday, August 16, 2019

Chicago 13 at 40

This is not Chicago's worst album. It is among the ones I return to often. But it also doesn't make it one of Chicago's best.

The Post Terry Kath Era

Chicago 13 arrived in stores forty years ago this week (Tuesday, 13 August to be exact). The record marked the second and last album to feature Donnie Dacus, the first replacement lead guitarist and singer after Terry Kath's untimely death. Looking back on the time now, I understand why the founding members of the band made the choices they did. Kath, the soul of the band, was gone. So, too, was his deeper voice, and his extraordinarily unique guitar playing. His was a style born out of the 1960s and early 1970s, a musical style that, by 1979, had changed and morphed into something different. You can hear Kath's own style changing, especially in his playing on Chicago XI. A favorite guitar piece, "This Time," Kath was already adjusting and pointing in a different direction. Change was inevitable.

But his absence carved a hole out of the band that, arguably, has never truly been filled. He was one-of-a-kind, the underappreciated rock guitar monster most veteran guitarists acknowledge could play circles around most of them. By 1979, long-haired guitarists fronted album covers--Peter Frampton. A brand-new style was debuted only a year before: Eddie Van Halen. The lead guitarist as leader of the band was nothing new--just watch old Chicago shows from the early days and you can see Kath was the leader. So when it came time for the band to audition a new guitarist, that person was going to be put front and center.

Donnie Dacus was twenty seven when he joined Chicago and recorded Hot Streets in 1978. He brought a youthful energy to playing the old songs and the new ones. He was different than Kath, but his style matched the era, just like Chris Pinnick's did in the early 1980s and how DaWayne Bailey's Van Halen-esque style did in the late 80s and early 90s when I got on board. One of my favorite all-time shows is the Los Angeles concert with the orchestra. Dacus was fantastic in that show, and every show I've seen with him. It would have been interesting to see what the band would have done had Dacus remained for XIV, but then, we'd not get Pinnick's great playing.

Be that as it may, the Dacus Era ended in 1979, but not before 13 August, when Chicago 13 debuted. And it had one of my favorite things the band ever did.

The Cover

Let's get this out of the way early: This is my favorite Chicago album cover. In a gallery of album covers, 13 stands out. It's not the plain wood, leather, or steel of the early album covers. It's not one that obscures the logo like 16 or Twenty-1. It's the signature logo, front and center, in the most interesting presentation among the albums. Come to think of it, in terms of visual appeal, Chicago 25 is up there. I'll have to do a Top 10 list of favorite Chicago album covers someday, but the top spot is already taken.

Side One

Street Player - To start one of the more energic, dancable, and fun tunes off with a rim shot? This is certainly not Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone," but I can't think of another Chicago tune that starts solely with percussion. One of the more recognizable horn licks Chicago has ever written. Heck, it's one I can sing to myself while on a walk. The gorgeous disco beat in infectious. And there's cowbell! Peter Cetera's vocals soaring high above the music. He and Dacus make a good, high-tenor pair. True, the band missed the deeper, soulful Kath vocal, but setting that aside, Cetera and Dacus are good together. Speaking of soaring, Maynard Ferguson's trumpet is awesome. I remember hearing 13 for the first time in the mid 1980s and scrambling for the liner notes--I think the cassette version didn't have them so we had to find an album--to confirm what could only be Ferguson. Easily the best song on the album.

Mama Take - With an acoustic guitar and electric guitar intro, this tune is the direct descendant to Hot Streets' "Gone Long Gone." Again, Cetera leads the way, often serving as his own backup vocalist, a trend I never truly enjoyed. The horn break is pretty good. Well, are there any bad Chicago horn breaks? Nothing to write home about, but a serviceable pop tune.

Must Have Been Crazy - Dacus wrote this tune and it served as the lead single to the album. It's a curious song with which to lead. In a precursor to the 1980s Chicago songs, this song downplayed what a Chicago song was supposed to sound like. Sure, you got Cetera in the background, but no discernable influence by Robert Lamm, and no horns. There is a cowbell, and a short guitar by Dacus. I'm all for the Dacus years and giving him a front-and-center look, but unlike Bill Champlin in the 80s, Dacus didn't write a Chicago song. He wrote a Dacus song. The tune certainly fit the times. You easily imagine this song sung by REO Speedwagon or Supertramp, but even then, I'd have much rather had Street Player be the lead single.

Window Dreamin' - Chicago 13, along with Chicago VII, share one particular thing in common: every member of the band contributed a song. This entry is by saxophone player Walter Parazaider and trumpeter Lee Loughnane. You can hear it in the opening seconds when the horns lead off this track. The vocals kick in, and it likely sent listeners in 1979 to the liner notes. Who the heck is "P.C. Mobelee"? It's clearly Cetera, but why the rigmarole of renaming himself. He sang in his lower register more than once before (parts of Hideaway from VIII and State of the Union from V and Song for You from XIV jump instantly to mind), so what's the point? His vocals actually make it more difficult to hear the words. Killer guitar solo, especially the sound of it amid all the horns. That sequence is probably my favorite part of the song. The groove is pretty good, too, but it would have been so much better if Cetera just sung it normally. Or Lamm.

Paradise Alley - Speaking of groove, this tune takes a sound straight from Stevie Wonder. It figures since Lamm wrote the song. Surprisingly, he doesn't sing it. It's Dacus again. Drummer Danny Seraphine shines on this song (as he does over the entire album. If Chicago XI is a Kath album, then 13 is a Seraphine album). I love the bridge (the "It reminds you of who you used to be and who you are" part). The sound and vibe change. It's a fun song and it closes out side one of the album.

Side Two

Aloha Mama - Despite the song title, this song opens with a horn lick straight out of New Orleans. If you had any doubt, when Loughnane comes in with his flutter trumpet, you are in a sweaty bar down in Louisiana. P.C. Moblee makes his second appearance on the album, but Cetera sings much better here. The horns are all over this tune written by Seraphine and Hank Wolinski, the same pair responsible for Street Player (and Take Me Back to Chicago and Little One from XI). They know what components a Chicago song is supposed to contain, and they deliver a highlight of the album. If you also need proof Cetera can sing rough, his closing vocals are the proof.

Reruns - Finally, a Lamm-sung tune. And it's brilliant. Deep, heavy groove. Stellar horns. Lamm's smooth-as-silk vocals. And cowbell! I love this song. And, in a hallmark of most every Lamm song on any album, you can hear the *other* guys in the band singing backup. It's another example of how well blended Cetera and Dacus actually are. You don't get a "wall of Lamms" like Cetera does for his own tunes. Jimmy Pankow's horn arrangement is another one I can find myself singing at random times. I know little of Lamm's personal life, but the lyrics pretty much point to a down time. Sorry for him, but he delivers one of his best-ever songs.

Loser With a Broken Heart - The harbinger of what was to come in the 1980s. Speaking of backing up your own lead vocals, I can't hear anyone besides Cetera here. No horns. No keys other than the organ playing whole notes. It's basically a feature song for Cetera's vocals. Considering he wrote If You Leave Me Now (the band's first #1 song), Baby, What a Big Surprise, and No Teller Lover, this song could have easily been predicted. Tasteful, but short, guitar solo toward the end. And for a guy who played his bass on the earlier Chicago albums in the style of Paul McCartney, Cetera just sticks with eighth notes here. It's an okay song.

Life Is What It Is - Talk about a time capsule song, this song just reeks of the late 70s...but in a gorgeous way. Seraphine's wonderful high-hat cymbal drives this song with nice horns in the background. Cetera is perfect here. And all that Cetera-backing-Cetera stuff? I actually like it here. But you can hear Dacus in the background on verse three, so he should have done it from the get-go. I've always linked this song with Love Was New from Hot Streets. And we finally get a horn solo with Pankow's trombone. This is one of those songs that just makes me smile. I didn't know the song, album, or band in 1979, but with this tune, it's almost like I did. The vibe takes me back forty years.

Run Away - The sole song written by Pankow, the tune begins with a decent groove and first couple of verses. The half-time section is a favorite of mine because it showcases a long-standing hallmark of Chicago songs: multiple voices singing lead. Here Cetera and Dacus shine. But the song is a little light on content and substance, despite Dacus's guitar soloing during the fade out.

Bonus Track

The original album contained only those ten songs. The 2003 reissue included the song Closer to You and an alternate mix of Street Player. I had already purchased the 1991 Group Portrait box set so I've had this song for a long time.

And boy is it great! Dacus sings lead on a tune that has the vibe similar to Life Is What It Is mixed with Take a Chance from Hot Streets (my favorite Dacus/Chicago song). The horns are everywhere on this cut, Seraphine's cymbal work is great, and Lamm's keys give a great undercurrent. Dacus's vocals are fantastic here, giving the tune an urgency. The horn break is excellent, and in a page ripped from Chuck Mangione, Loughnane's fluglehorn soars in a short solo. How in the world did this song not make the original album? Perhaps it was the similarity to Life Is What It Is. Perhaps the original members didn't want to give Dacus a third song (fourth if you include the duet with Cetera on Run Away). Who knows. But Closer to You belongs on the album and I've always included it on the various playlists I've created over the years. It's top 3 for this album.

The Verdict

The Dacus Era was not to last. I don't know all the personal details about 1978-1979, but I appreciate how difficult it must have been for the founding members to move on. I've read Robert Lamm had a bad time which was probably why he has only two writing credits on Chicago 13 with only one vocal. But this era--and this album in particular--saw the rise of Danny Seraphine's songs. The man can write some killer songs, with one long-standing hit so popular, it was sampled twice. If you want the man's insight on this era, check out the Nakedly Examined Music Podcast.

The era also saw the ascendancy of Peter Cetera as a songwriter and leader. Say what you will about his style and the types of songs he writes, but there was a void in the band and he filled it. By doing so, we are able to witness the band's fifty-second year of existence and their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Without him, that likely doesn't happen.

And I'm glad it did. Without the Cetera Era, we don't get the great ballads that introduced me to the band. Without Cetera, Chicago doesn't become one of my two all-time favorite bands. I've listened for thirty-four years now and I've come to love the Originals Era best, but that doesn't mean I don't love the Dacus Era. I do. In fact, I have a 1978-1979 playlist on my phone. It's a great vibe that reminds me of that time in my life even though I didn't know the band at the time.

I enjoy Chicago 13 much more than I used to. Heck, I enjoy the Dacus era quite a bit. I enjoy scouring YouTube for live cuts just to hear him play. Earlier this year, I bought the vinyl of 13 and just sat and listened to it. Very enjoyable album.

I place Hot Streets in my Top 10 Chicago albums. I enjoy the songs of Chicago XIV, but I prefer them in my own revised order. Chicago 13 isn't a top 10 album, but if you judge the catalog by how many times I return to 13 and listen to these songs, it's Top 15. Pretty darn good for an album many fans--and likely some band members--rarely discuss. Sure, there might be better albums, but here, on this album's 40th anniversary, I'm glad it was made. It marked a band in transition from one era to the next. It's a fascinating pocket of time in the band's history.

If you haven't spun it in a long time, break it out. Give it another listen. The music will surprise you and remind you what a talented group of muscians can do with changing musical styles.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

I Finally Watched Mallrats

(This is the third in a series of how a fifty-year-old geek finally saw the films of Kevin Smith. If you want the origin story for this series, read the Introduction and then review of Clerks.)

The same guy who made Clerks made Mallrats?

One is a black-and-white indie film made on a shoe-string budget set mostly in a single location while the other is a full-color movie set mostly in a single location with a lot more money on the screen. Well, okay so the premise of both films might be similar, but the payoffs are completely different.

Oh, and you get a glimpse of Future Kevin Smith in this movie, too.

The Production

A year after the success of his first film, Clerks, writer/director Kevin Smith made his second, Mallrats. I suspect there are numerous places you can go to learn about how this movie was made. Suffice it to say the difference between Clerk and Mallrats is night and day. The instant you see the Universal logo, you almost forget you're watching a Kevin Smith film. Wasn't this the guy who filmed his first film in black and white?

Yup. And he's also learned a thing or two about staging, spacing, lighting, and other things now that he had the backing of a major studio. He also had some well known and soon-to-be famous actors in tow. Michael Rooker starred in Days of Thunder and The Dark Half while Shannen Doherty appeared weekly in Beverly Hills 90210. Ben Affleck is here, as is skateboarder Jason Lee in what I think is his first main role. Man, he shined in this film. To be honest, I know him best from Alvin and the Chipmunks and as the voice of Underdog in the live-action movie. What? I have a kid and we watched those movies over and over. Oh, and My Name is Ed.

Smith and co-star Jason Mewes are back as Jay and Silent Bob in a much bigger role than they had in Clerks. I've got to find some behind-the-scenes talk about the choice Smith made to broaden the presence of these two. Was it merely to get himself and his friend more screen time or enhance the story with some comedic elements? Either way, he succeeded on both counts.

The Setup

As the film opens, T.S. Quint (Jeremy London) is about to pick up his girlfriend, Brandi Svenning (Claire Forlani), and take her down to Florida. He's going to propose in the Universal Studios theme park. She can't go because she has to fill in as the female contestant on her dad's game show, Truth or Date. They fight and quickly break up. Despondent, Quint heads over to see his friend, Brodie (Jason Lee) and talk it over. Brodie himself has just been dumped by Rene, his girlfriend (Doherty), for not being romantic enough. Considering he lives in his parents' basement crammed full of comic boxes, magazines, and superhero posters on the walls to say nothing of his reluctance to introduce her to his mom, I'd say she has a point.

I found it funny that T.S.--who basically comes across as one of the cool guys--would even ask basement dweller Brodie for advice. As the movie goes on and T.S. witnesses some of Brodie's ideas, I questioned how they were even friends. Brodie gives voice to my puzzlement: "You're gonna listen to me? To something I said? Jesus, man, haven't I made it abundantly clear during the tenure of our friendship that I don't know shit? I mean, half the time I'm just talking out of my ass, or sticking my hand in it." This is truth, but T.S. doesn't even bat an eye when Brodie suggests the antidote for both of their troubles: go to a mall.

What the choice does is allow Smith to fill the mouths of his characters with more witty observational dialogue just like he did in Clerks, albeit with fewer bad words. And while I found Clerks humorous, I laughed out loud more than a few times during Mallrats. Brodie's story about farting in front of his girlfriend was pretty darn funny. I had heard the discussion of Superman and Lois Lane and the perils of her getting pregnant before, but it comes across funnier as spoken by T.S. and Brodie. I especially enjoyed Brodie's comment about not talking about romance and girls when the discussion is focused solely on comics. Spoken like a true 90s twentysomething.

The Antics of Jay and Silent Bob

What makes Mallrats so much fun are the happenstance encounters Brodie and T.S. have and their reactions to them. There's poor Willam who cannot for the life of him see the image in the 3D picture ("It's a sailboat."). Affleck's more "grown up" character works at a men's store in the mall. Joey Lauren Adams' Gwen trying on clothes but keeps getting surprised by Silent Bob and his antics.

Jay and Silent Bob. They're just hanging out at the mall. Bob is trying the Jedi mind trick to levitate a cigarette from the palm of one hand to his other. Jay is much funnier in this movie than in Clerks. Holy cow, his little dance as he looks at all the people walking by the pet store is hilarious. They're friends of Brodie (natch) and it is to them he turns to help destroy the game show set erected inside the mall as a means for T.S. to find time with Brandi.

Love this little back-and-forth as an example of how listless Jay and Silent Bob are.

Brodie: You know about this game show they got going on here? We need you guys to somehow ensure that it doesn't happen.
Jay: Is that it? We were gonna do that anyway.
Brodie: Really? Why?
Jay: What else are we gonna do? Silent Bob stole the schematics from some foolish carpenter and found a weakness just like the fucking Death Star. You knock this crossbeam out and fucking bickety-bam! The whole stage comes crashing down.
Brodie: Well we were thinking of something simple, but, hey, if you want to destroy the stage, we're all for that.

Played as comic relief, Jay and Silent Bob are great in this movie. But what I appreciate most about them is that they appear to be in the wrong movie. Everyone other than Jay and Silent Bob know they're in a romantic comedy populated by twentysomethings. Jay and Bob are extras from an Airplane movie. Or the Marx Brothers. Or Wile E. Coyote. Or, more accurately, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.

Weird? Let me explain.

The best thing about the Abbott and Costello movie is that the monsters are all played straight. You never see Dracula poke Frankenstein in the eyes a la The Three Stooges. The only funny people in the movie are the two main stars. In Mallrats, the same dynamic is at play, except the funny guys are the side men. It'll be interesting to see how this evolves knowing Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, where they appear to be the leads, is in the future.

The Expected Ending

Despite all the window dressing, Mallrats is a romantic comedy. Like a good Doris Day and Rock Hudson picture, it's not if the leading men will get back together with their ladies, it's how. For T.S., it's him on the Truth or Date game show with Brandi as the contestant. In this way, he gets to pop the question in front of an audience. Any chance she'd say no?

For Brodie during most of the movie, it doesn't look so good. That is, until a chance (not really) meeting with comic book legend Stan Lee. The elder man talks to Brodie about love and what's really important (read: not comic books). Knowing that Stan is married, I expected him to circle back around to his own wife, but instead, spins a yarn that is exactly what Brodie needs to hear. Sure, T.S. had asked Stan the Man to do it and he did, with wonderful warmth. But it is yet more evidence that writer Kevin Smith is a romantic at heart. In all the podcasts he does, when the subject of marriage comes up, he's glowingly effusive about how great it is. The younger man who wrote this movie either was in love or knew the truth about love because this little soliloquy by Stan Lee is fantastic.

Watching for the Trademark Kevin Smith Things

A real treat about watching these films for the first time at age fifty and having listening to Smith's podcasts for years is to see how certain things he still says to this day initially show up in his movies. Here are a few I saw:

Snootchie-bootchies and Noochie noochie
Tell 'em Steve Dave
Whatever you call that "mmnnmmnn" sound Jay makes when he and Silent Bob are air guitaring to heavy metal music. I've heard Smith do that frequently.
"Trust me, True Believer." Yup. I went back and re-watched Stan Lee's cameo in Captain Marvel after seeing Mallrats. I cannot even imagine what longtime fans of the movie felt when they saw that. 

Silent Bob Speaks

After Silent Bob's great line about women in Clerks, I was admittedly underwhelmed with his one bit of dialogue in this movie. "Adventure. Excitement. A Jedi craves not these things." Sure, it's a great quote from a time when there were no new Star Wars movies on the horizon and the franchise had not consumed all of pop culture yet, but the bar for Bob's dialogue had been set very high. This was just nice.

The Verdict

Boy, I loved Mallrats. I don't get how it didn't do well. I'm a fifty year old man watching it for the first time and I loved it. Sure I'm a comic book geek like the guys in the movie, but that's just side chatter. Yes, it's part of the film's DNA but it doesn't get in the way of the warm-hearted story.

In a recent podcast interview with the Empire Film folks, Smith talked about the movie bombing when it opened but aging well. It certainly has. Not sure what the audience thought this film would be like in 1995. Like the original trailer closed with: "What else did you expect from the director of 'Clerks'?"

So far, two movies into Kevin Smith's career, I'm seeing a pattern. Let's see if it holds true for Chasing Amy.

Monday, August 12, 2019

License to Kill at 30

With thirty years hindsight, one of my favorite James Bond films could have easily worked in the 21st Century.

The Summer of 1989

It was altogether fitting that the fabulous summer of 1989 for movies would also include a James Bond film. It had been since 1974's The Man With a Golden Gun that a Bond film did not premiere in the summer. Coming two years after 1987's The Living Daylights, License to Kill was Timothy Dalton's second outing as 007. I would have liked to have seen more (yet I truly enjoyed Pierce Brosnan's turn as well).

License to Kill (LTK) was the first Bond film not based on a single Ian Fleming novel. With A View to a Kill and The Living Daylights the titles for a pair of short stories, even LTK's title was unique. It's story of drug cartels in Central America was straight out of dozens of films in the 1980s. Some might think this was pandering to a current trend, but I have always seen it as fitting. Although it hadn't happened yet, 1989 would see the unification of Germany and the felling of the Berlin Wall. The Soviet Union was crumbling. The United States and United Kingdom was down one major adversary. Why not turn to a smaller, more intimate James Bond film?

And Timothy Dalton was the perfect actor for the role.

The Darker Bond

Before Daniel Craig signed on and made the James Bond franchise noticeably darker in tone and subject matter, Timothy Dalton was the one who did it. Sean Connery had moments. Later, Brosnan had one of my favorites. Even Roger Moore had a few moments here and there of the literary Bond. But Moore had turned Bond into a middle aged super-hero by 1985's A View to a Kill, something from which Dalton turned away. Heck, he even had Bond smoking again.

For a story in which Bond goes rogue, seeking vengeance and revenge for the mauling of his friend, Felix Leiter, and Leiter's new bride, I can't image any actor up until then playing the role quite the way Dalton did. Sure, Craig could do it now, but up until 2006, we hadn't seen a brutal Bond for an entire movie. Watching the movie again this past weekend for the first time in I can't remember how long, I was struck by how hollow the humorous moments felt. When Bond takes his first revenge again the traitorous US agent Kilifer, the dialogue you can imagine any of the actors saying. "You earned it. You keep. Old buddy." Then he throws the suitcase at the agent hanging over the shark tank. The traitor falls and the shark feasts. But it's Dalton's dead stare that is so chilling. Craig delivers looks like this. But up until 1989, no Bond had done so.

A Worthy and Scary Adversary

It was the brutal actions of Franz Sanchez, drug lord from a fictional Central American country, that brought out Dalton's dead stare. Sanchez, played wonderfully by Robert Davi, fed Leiter to the sharks after having his wife killed (and presumably raped). All throughout the film, Sanchez is unlike most of the villains Bond had faced up until 1989. He was ruthless and vicious, happily willing to mete out punishment in violent ways. Despite Sanchez saying thing were purely business, Davi pretty much plays Sanchez and a man who enjoys the pain he dishes out.

For the longest time, I would always associate Davi with the role of Sanchez. Didn't matter what he was in, whenever I saw him, I'd say "That's Sanchez."

In a movie with one of the better villains in the Bond franchise, it also had one of the better Bond girls.

A Tough and Capable Partner

Carey Lowell has been one of my favorite Bond girls for thirty years. Even at the time, I could tell she was different. She wasn't some shrinking violent who only needed saving. The then most recent one--Maryam d'Abo from The Living Daylights--fell into the prior category. I honestly can't even remember Tanya Roberts's turn in A View to a Kill. (I can barely remember anything from that film save the great theme song.) You had to go back to Carole Bouquet as Melina Havelock in For Your Eyes Only for a Bond girl who could hold her own with 007 in the action department. Honestly, I think my favorite of all is Michelle Yoeh from Tomorrow Never Dies.

But Lowell was right there. We first see her with Leiter as he's working with her to capture Sanchez. Next she's welding a shotgun in a bar and enables hers and Bond's escape. We learn she's a pilot, a skill that comes in handy more than once. You can see the turn in her character after Q mentions a field agent must use all the whiles at his (or her) disposal. At that point, she's there to save Bond's butt more than once.

For me, she's top tier of the Bond girls.

The Theme Song

Sorry, Gladys Knight. You sing well, but I've never enjoyed this theme song. But considering the theme for Die Another Day is sitting there as the all-time worst Bond theme song, License to Kill will never reach the bottom. Actually, as I'm writing this piece, I have a YouTube playlist going with all the theme songs. Even when compared to others, LTK just doesn't hold up for the absolutely worst reasons: it's boring. Who writes a boring Bond song?

And this is one of the few Bond films I can remember that had a different closing song. Sorry Patti LaBelle. "If You Ask Me To" is a better song that the main theme, but the record for best-ever closing song is k.d. lang's "Surrender" wins in a blowout. That's so good, it could have--should have been--a main theme. Love that song.

Bond's Plan

It's a common trope to have the hero infiltrate the villain's lair and destroy from within, but I can't remember one for Bond in quite this fashion. Goldfinger brings 007 to Fort Knox thinking Bond knows something. In On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Bond's investigation leads him to Blofeld's base in the Alps. Most of the time, Bond finds himself in the hideout, but he soon starts blowing things up.

In LTK, Bond uses his brain much more than in other films. He's cold, calculating, thinking of ways to get to Sanchez rather that just shoot him. His actions remind me of the character in Dashiell Hammet's 1929 novel, Red Harvest, and the move Yojimbo (1961). I suspect the writers had this trope in mind. I'm just surprised it took Bond so long.

The Stunts

In the history of all the Bond films and Bond stunts, I have always enjoyed the water skiing sequence in LTK. Of course he would do that. It was all the funnier later in the movie when Anthony Zerbe, as Milton Krest, explain it to Sanchez. The drug leader didn't believe it. Most of us wouldn't either.

As to the 18 wheeler on its side? Well, this was 1989. All practical effects. Some stuntman on set actually did that, so be quiet about "it couldn't happen." It did happen.

Q in the Field

I've always loved LTK for the extensive use of Desmond Llewelyn as Q not only giving Bond the gadgets, but actively helping 007 with his mission. I'm a fan of the franchise, but this is the only one when this happens, right?

The Verdict

License of Kill remains one of my favorite Bond films. Dalton remains one of my favorite Bonds. I like that he and the producers sought to bring Bond back to his darker, literary roots with The Living Daylights and License to Kill. I'm glad it was Dalton who portrayed Bond in a story like this. This wasn't some megalomaniac trying to take over the world. This was personal. This was revenge. This was Bond's career be damned. He was going to have his revenge.

LTK is a film firmly ensconced in the 1980s, and I'm fine with that. So, too, was From Russia With Love, Live and Let Die, Tomorrow Never Dies, and Quantum of Solace. Bond evolves with the times. Bond reflects the times. It makes perfect sense for Bond to confront the drug cartels of the 1980s.

As a result of the subject matter, License to Kill is a darker film. In fact, as I mentioned to my wife, watching the movie from  the vantage point of 2019, License to Kill is a Daniel Craig-type Bond film...just years ahead of its time.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Year of an Indie Writer: Week 32 AKA "What's the Point?"

You ever have one of those weeks in which you mutter to yourself, "What the hell's the point of all this?"

The Funk

Usually, I don't get those moments, but somehow, some way, I got stuck in that rut. Been trying to analyze why.

Last weekend, I did the grunt work associated with re-publishing my westerns from my pen name "S. D. Parker" to my full name: "Scott Dennis Parker." Updated the website, too. Have to admit it was nice seeing all the stories in one place in a location other than my website. So that was a good thing.

The new book's not going as swimmingly as when it started. That's an expected thing. Beginnings are always flush with excitement. Endings are barreling to the big conclusion. It's the vast middle where you have to keep up your game. And with this new book being unlike any of the others, the self-doubt crept into my head. "Hey, buddy, you know you can write mysteries, westerns, and thrillers. Why are you even bothering with this other thing?"

For most of this week, my answer was "I don't know." "Who the hell am I fooling" swept in and out of my brain this week. There's a writing assignment with a fast approaching deadline that I kept struggling with. I almost emailed the editor to back out. Heck, I even chastised myself for not bowing out of Do Some Damage with last week's column (seeing as how we're celebrating our decade anniversary and with me being the only original left, it's soft code for everyone else figuring out something different to do). It would have been a nice, even number. Ten years to the month.  Holly's post from last week, "Writer, Know Thyself," struck home with this mentality. If I'm having second thoughts on the validity of keeping the DSD streak going, well, then...

What the hell is the point?

The Beginning of the Turnaround

Here's irony for you. A large bulk of this feeling coincided with the beginning of August. This month marks my twenty-year wedding anniversary, so that's an awesome thing. But August almost marks the beginning of the end of summer. Around mid May, I am so excited for the summer mentality that I can't wait for the end of May, Memorial Day, and the early days of June. Early summer is such a welcome thing. The boy's not in school. I don't have to get up at 4:30 am to write. The weather is wonderfully hot. The movies, books, and TV are all geared to the summer mentality.

Now, in August, the summer's at an end. CBS's Blood and Treasure finished its wonderful freshman season this week. American Ninja Warrior is nearing its season finale. Elementary airs its series finale this coming week. Man, am I going to miss that show.

And school starts. Back to 4:30 am writing times. That's not a huge deal because I've been getting up at 4:45 to 5:00 am this summer, but still.

What August also means is that the 97-day writing cycle I touted back on Memorial Day was mostly for naught (in terms of fiction).  I let time slip away from me and didn't get nearly the amount of work I wanted to complete done. It almost seems like a waste.

But not totally.

The New Project: Watching Kevin Smith Films

From the end of June all the way to this week, I've been working on watching and reviewing all twelve of Kevin Smith's films before the new movie, Jay and Silent Bob Reboot, debuts this October. My goal was to watch them all before I started publishing them so that I could have my own thoughts on all his films without anyone going "Boy, his movies really took a dive after [fill in the blank]." I wanted nothing coloring my own opinions.

But that meant I had to sit on all these reviews. No more. My Introduction and first review for Clerks is now out. The Mallrats review comes out this coming week, so I finally get to share what I've been doing. I've seen and written reviews for eight of his films now. All those reviews are already in the can, waiting to be let out in the coming weeks. Now, I can talk about what I've been doing this summer.

The Posts at DSD

It turned out to be great timing for the return of veteran DSDers to the blog. Three of them--Jay Stringer, Dave White, and Russel McLean--all wrote about the crap time they've faced and with which I've been struggling. Dave's post about the joy of blogging brought a smile to my face. But it was something Jay wrote that, yet again, struck home.

1. Find a thing you love doing
2. Put in the work to get good at it
3. Draw your self-worth from doing it, not from what you think you'll get from having done it. 

You see that third point? I've preached that for a long time. I call it "Control the Controllables." Some when this summer, I lost sight of  it. When people are shocked that I get up at 4:30 am, I tell them it's a blast because I get to tell myself stories! How awesome is that? Well, I forgot how awesome it is.

And then I remembered. I'm a storyteller.

Is it the best job in the world? Probably not, but it's a damn good one.

Am I out of the funk completely? Not yet. But the light is there.

We creatives all go through times like these where the urge to just throw in the towel is so dang strong. It would be so, so easy to just give up. And no one would notice. Well, we would. And we'd like feel like crap.

Fight through those tough times. Persevere. Keep going.

Why? Back to Jay's first item: because you love it.

That's the point.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Blood and Treasure: The Perfect Summer Show

I cannot think of a better way to spend a summer than watching the CBS series Blood and Treasure.

As I wrote back in May when I watched the first episode, this series had me from the promos. A show with two attractive leads on on globe-trotting action/adventure expedition, hunting for Egyptian artifacts, complete with secret organizations and near-death escapes? This is exactly what I want in a show.

And Blood and Treasure delivered. Every single episode, culminating in Tuesday's season finale. If you thought you knew where things were headed, chances are good you were wrong.

The Leads' Chemistry 

Anchored by the two leads--Matt Barr playing Danny McNamara, a former FBI agent with a deep knowledge of art, and Sofia Pernas, playing Lexi Vaziri, a master thief who has her own personal reasons to join the chase--the cast of Blood and Treasure add up to more than the sum of its parts. Barr and Pernas are part of the long tradition of characters who love/hate relationship depending on the circumstances, but must work together to achieve their goals. I'm thinking Castle and Beckett, Moonlighting, the Brendan Frasier Mummy series, the National Treasure movies, and so many more.

As a writer, I appreciated how the Blood and Treasure writers allowed Danny and Lexi to grow and learn from each other, taking from the other aspects the individual doesn't have. It culminated in a wonderful scene in the finale in which each of them is faced with a challenge and they do what the other would naturally do. Loved it. Brought a huge grin on my face, especially when Danny crashed through an overhead window, dropping into a room holding onto a fire hose, and taking out the bad guys. Like I wrote on Twitter, I've been waiting all summer for that.

I also appreciated how the writing team met and overcame the obvious will-they-or-won't-they problem. From episode one, you know they will get together. It's just a matter of time. Harder still is the flip side of the equation: when the inevitable rift forms, will it be something artificial or organic from inside the show. One of my favorite recent shows was Castle, and by season eight, those writers created such a ham-fisted means to separate the two leads that I great to dislike it. I'm happy to report with Blood and Treasure, the fissures are organic. Danny and Lexi do get together, but then they separate in a way completely believable. That they end up together is, well, natural.

Barr and Pernas make a great team, but they are nothing without their co-stars.

The Rest of the Cast

In a show in which one of our leads--Danny--is a law-and-order man who occasionally steps over the line, you need another law-and-order type to remind him of the road he almost always takes. Enter Gwen Karlsson (Katia Winter). She's a straight arrow agent (most of the time) who ends up on Team Danny/Lexi by the end of the series. And she gets a wonderful, kick-ass scene toward the end of the series where she fights hand-to-hand against a masked intruder. I enjoyed her character arc because she also sees the validity of stepping over the line.

Throughout the series, Danny and Lexi always bump into old friends and enemies, but I really appreciated one of Danny's friends being a priest. Mark Gagliardi plays Father Chuck, an old friend from Boston who now lives in Italy. When he first showed up, I thought of course Danny's friends with a priest. More subtext about rules and law and order. But Gagliardi plays Chuck as a man of the world, willing to bend the rules to help a larger calling.

And then there is Shaw. Ironically, the character of Shaw is played by Michael James Shaw. I can't help but wonder if the creators had a different name for the character before and changed it because of Shaw's presence on the set. Either way, the actor Shaw brought so much fun and life to the character Shaw that he became my favorite co-star. Big, brawny, but with enough heart and humor, Shaw falls into the typical role of trusted sidekick but he brings it all with a wink and a smile. I especially enjoyed the first half of the season when he wasn't necessarily working with our heroes, but kept bumping into them. Later, when he joined the team, he became a crucial component.

These five actors and characters, and specifically their chemistry, are what elevated Blood and Treasure into a truly entertaining summer show.

The Story

I'll admit I cannot relate every single detail of the plot. The thirteen-episode, thirteen week series had a lot of twists, turns, and revelations to it that propelled the plot and sent Danny and Lexi all over the globe. So I never minded the occasional reset/exposition scenes scattered throughout the series. It helped me remember crucial details that, in real time, happened weeks ago for me.

But I loved the Egyptian archeology plot. To be honest, that's what sold me on the show from the trailers. Sure, the show looked fun, but having Antony and Cleopatra being the McGuffins was so fun to play with.

The Structure of the Episodes

And I really enjoyed how the backstories of the various plot threads were interwoven. The interludes over a map with the years zooming in and out of the present was like a literal map for the story. It gave off a Indiana Jones vibe that I know creators Matthew Federman and Stephen Scaia did on purpose. And don't get me started on all the in-jokes scattered throughout the episodes. I especially enjoyed the musical homage to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade when  Danny and Lexi visited Venice. It must have been so much fun to write this show, determine what references to include but not be ham-fisted about it. To be a writer in that writer's room must have been a blast.

The Big Twist at the End

With a sub-title like that, you know I'm going to reveal the ending. But, I'm also assuming if you've read this far, you already watched the finale. Fair warning.

The big reveal of Simon Hardwick (James Callis) Jay Reece's (John Larroquette) real son--and the real enemy--I didn't see coming. But it made perfect sense. But do you know what else it made me want to do? Rewatch the entire series. Just like when you get to the end of The Sixth Sense and you know the truth, you can watch it again and see how M. Night Shyamalan structured the film. The clues were there all along. I want to re-watch Blood and Treasure to do the same thing with an eye to Hardwick. Was it there all along? I'm hopeful there's going to be a DVD of this show so I can re-watch. Then again, it's probably already on CBS All Access. With Star Trek: Picard already the thing that'll make me subscribe to the service, might as well start early and enjoy this show again.

In Praise of the Network Schedule

In an era of binge watching our favorite TV shows mere hours after they are made available, I very much enjoyed the weekly format of Blood and Treasure. Granted, I rarely binge anything, even when a show is available to do so. I much prefer weekly episodic television. It gives me time to think about the show throughout the week, and then build excitement to air time.

Specifically for Blood and Treasure, however, watching it carried me through the entire summer. It started in May, after the main shows had aired their season finales, and took me all the way to a week before school starts. Every Tuesday, I would get my glass of wine and be treated to a wonderful show. I was able to talk about it to folks and, in one of my favorite things to do, follow the live tweets from Stephen Scaia. I loved the communal nature of watching a show at a given time where all viewers are doing it at the same time. And Scaia's tweets always gave glimpses into the production, including that musical cue I referenced above. It's the behind-the-scenes aspect of the show that I'm interested in that I'm hopeful we'll get a DVD set.

The Verdict

Blood and Treasure is one of a triumvirate of shows that carried me through the summer of 2019. The other two--Elementary and American Ninja Warrior--were known quantities. The promos for Blood and Treasure were what got me excited for the show. All the ingredients of the show--the creators, the writers, the actors, the settings, the globe-spanning and historical plot--mixed together and produced something greater than the sum of its parts. This show is all you could want in a summer show and more. It's entertaining, thrilling, funny, and romantic. I cannot wait until the summer of 2020 when Blood and Treasure will debut its second season and entertain us again.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

I Finally Watched Clerks

How did I miss this in 1994?

How I Got to Clerks

For that, you'll have to read the introduction to this series. Screw it. I'll save you a click and post it here as well.

For twenty five years now, Kevin Smith has spoken about his love of geek culture. In the 1990s, it was his films and his comics. In the 2000s, he held court during live events where he could entertain an audience just by talking about the things that he--and they--loved. When podcasting became a thing, Smith effortlessly moved into that field, broadening his brand and reaching an even wider audience.

Somehow, I missed all of it.

As I look back on it now in 2019, I still can't figure out how. I’m in Smith's wheelhouse. We like the same stuff. We’re basically the same age, so the pop culture we consumed matched. Star Wars changed our way of thinking. Batman is our favorite comic book hero. And we both tear up seemingly when the wind blows a certain way.

But he didn’t land on my radar until 2012. Even then, it was only a side mention on a separate podcast and only because Mark Hamill was a guest on a then unknown-to-me podcast Smith hosted called Fat Man on Batman. I listened to the Hamill episodes and I was hooked on the Fat Man podcast. So hooked that for these last seven years, I’ve known Smith as a podcaster and occasional director of DC's television shows on The CW. In fact it was his directorial debut on “The Flash” that serves as the first visual medium thing by Smith I saw. I've written about him often here on the blog. Heck, I've even seen him live and had a wonderful time.

But I've never seen any of the movies.

Why Not Start?

One of the main things Smith has been talking about this year is his new movie Jay and Silent Bob Reboot. It's coming out in the fall, according to his most recent interview with the Empire Film podcast. The hosts--and just about any audience member in his live podcasts--cheer with glee at the prospect. So, like I did with Harry Potter in 2007 (I had not read the books and decided to read the first six leading up to the publication of last novel), I decided to watch all of Kevin Smith's movies so I'll be able to watch Reboot when it lands in theaters.

How I Prepped

I didn’t. I did no research. I didn’t read up on any Wikipedia entry ahead of time. There are a few mentions in these reviews about stopping the process of reading Wikipedia while watching the movies, but I stopped cold with Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Heck, I didn’t even watch any of the trailers until after I watched the film. I wanted the movie-watching experience to be as pure as possible.

And I never went back into an older review and revised anything I'd written in the moment on an aspect of a character or situation that a later film touched on. These are all reviews I wrote after viewing one movie and completed before I started watching the next.

But even I knew about Jersey Girl bombing. I knew Tusk tanked. Smith talks about Tusk and Yoga Hosers so much in all of his podcasts that I’ve got a general idea about them. But I’ll wait to weigh in when I get there.

With my days filled with the day job, the other job (I’m a writer and publisher of my own books), being a husband, being a dad, and everything else, I found myself watching these films here and there. On lunch hours for fifty minutes, then at night for the next fifty or so. A few I couldn’t wait to get back to. Others were different.

But I had to start where it all began: in a convenience store in Leonardo, New Jersey.

Clerks' Premise

Clerks is a day-in-the-life movie about two young twentysomethings who are working dead-end jobs. Dante works at the Quick-Stop convenience store, Randal at the video store next door. On his day off, Dante is called in to run the store despite closing the previous evening. When he gets there, he discovers someone shoved chewing gun in the locks keeping the garage-door security gates in place. Thus he has to craft a makeshift sign on a sheet assuring the customers the store is really open.

In real life, Smith worked at that very store, but was only allowed to film at night. Thus the gum conceit explains why there's never any outside light on in the store. Brilliant.

What follows is ninety minutes of Dante encountering all sorts of customers and friends. The film comes across as little vignettes with some clever and witty dialogue delivered by Dante and Randal. I can understand why the world (except me?) ate this up like it did in the mid 1990s. This was the same year, same month, that Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction was released, also a verbal plethora of witty dialogue. I still can't understand why I never saw Clerks at the time, but these two films certainly come from the same cloth.

The Love is On the Screen

Everything Smith loved is on the screen or in the mouths of his characters. Dante misses his afternoon hockey game so Randal convinces him to close up the shop for a bit and play street hockey on the roof of the building. And, of course, Star Wars. In the years since I discovered Smith, the only scene I'd ever watched was Dante and Randal talking about the independent contractors building the second Death Star in Return of the Jedi. Namely, their deaths. It is just like discussions I used to have with my friends in those pre-internet days. I can remember three of us talking about time travel in Back to the Future while browsing in a bookstore, and a random stranger joined the conversation. Such were the happenstance things that occurred in those days before we all had our ears stuffed with earbuds, our minds a million miles away and not in the here and now of human contact.

Smith writes Dante's love life into the script. He still pins for his ex, something he realizes when he reads in the newspaper she's getting engaged. His current girlfriend and he have a fight about each other's past sex lives, something that every twentysomething male always does--no matter his own history. Dante talks about it with Randal and others, but it's the surprising source of truth that knifes through the banter and hits home.

Silent Bob Speaks?

After I discovered who Smith was, I also learned his character name, Silent Bob. All throughout the movie, Silent Bob and his friend, Jay, hang out and smoke. They're drug dealers, slackers, like most of the other characters in the film. Jay does all the talking and Bob is true to his name. Imagine my surprise when, toward the end of the movie when Dante's at a mental crossroads, Bob actually speaks. He utters one line, but boy does it ring true: "You know, there's a million fine looking women in the world, dude. But they don't all bring you lasagna at work. Most of 'em just cheat on you.”

Knowing the adult, happily married and happy dad Smith is in the 2010s via podcasts and interviews, it's funny that one of the slackers in Clerks has the presence of mind to clear the cobwebs from Dante's head. And probably half the viewing audience as well. It was almost as if 2019 Smith traveled back in time to 1993 Smith and wrote the line for him, letting him and all Gen Xers know it'll be fine. Just give it time.

But we know that's not true. What is true is that a twenty-three year old first time screenwriter and director looked at the world around him--his present life in a convenience store, his parents' marriage, his father's own unsatisfying job, his friends around him--and knew there was something better in life. He saw a void in contemporary film making--few movies focused squarely on Gen Xers, their lives and they way they talked--and shot for the moon to fill it. He did, and a couple generations of geeks, writers, and filmmakers have Smith to thank.

Experiencing the Movie at Fifty for the First Time

Can you be too old to discover something you should have consumed in your twenties? Maybe.

As I watched Clerks, I chuckled and laughed at the jokes and the way the characters interacted. I've listened to Smith talk this way on podcasts with Ralph Garman, Marc Bernardin, and others so the dialogue wasn't a surprise. But I distinctly remember my reaction to the dialogue in Pulp Fiction so I can understand how and why the folks in Clerks made such an impact. It was one thing to have gangsters (read: adults) John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson discuss the merits of bacon or what a Royale with Cheese actually was, but it was something completely different when Gen Xers do something similar.

I've pondered what I might've thought about Clerks had I watched it in 1994. At the time, I was in grad school, ready to learn how to be a history professor and regale future students about how cool history was. I had gone straight from high school to college to grad school with no break. My membership in the University of Texas Longhorn Band gave me the close-knit group many kids lack when they leave home, so I was spared meaningless jobs and an uncertain future. I had my trajectory in my sights.

Was I too old even then? Surely not. Smith is less than two years younger than me, so our lives more or less experienced the same things. I read comics and science fiction books regularly. I watched just about every genre movie or TV show released. My friends and I talked geek stuff in much the same way Smith's characters did in Clerks. Mostly.

So how did I miss this movie? I have no good answer, but I finally got there. Seeing Clerks as a fifty year old in 2019 did not have nearly the impact it would've had on my twenty-five year old self in 1994. But as a writer, historian, and lover of most things geek, I can watch and appreciate the particular moment in time Clerks showcased, the way it was written and filmed, and look forward to the next installment, Mallrats.

Monday, August 5, 2019

I Finally Watched Kevin Smith's Films

How did I miss all of this in 1994?

How I Got to Kevin Smith's Films

For twenty five years now, Kevin Smith has spoken about his love of geek culture. In the 1990s, it was his films and his comics. In the 2000s, he held court during live events where he could entertain an audience just by talking about the things that he--and they--loved. When podcasting became a thing, Smith effortlessly moved into that field, broadening his brand and reaching an even wider audience.

Somehow, I missed all of it.

As I look back on it now in 2019, I still can't figure out how. I’m in Smith's wheelhouse. We like the same stuff. We’re basically the same age, so the pop culture we consumed matched. Star Wars changed our way of thinking. Batman is our favorite comic book hero. And we both tear up seemingly when the wind blows a certain way.

But he didn’t land on my radar until 2012. Even then, it was only a side mention on a separate podcast and only because Mark Hamill was a guest on a then unknown-to-me podcast Smith hosted called Fat Man on Batman. I listened to the Hamill episodes and I was hooked on the Fat Man podcast. So hooked that for these last seven years, I’ve known Smith as a podcaster and occasional director of DC's television shows on The CW. In fact it was his directorial debut on “The Flash” that serves as the first visual medium thing by Smith I saw. I've written about him rather frequently here on the blog. Heck, I've even seen him live and had a wonderful time.

But I've never seen any of the movies.

Why Not Start?

One of the main things Smith has been talking about this year is his new movie Jay and Silent Bob Reboot. It's coming out in the fall, according to his most recent interview with the Empire Film podcast. The hosts--and just about any audience member in his live podcasts--cheer with glee at the prospect. So, like I did with Harry Potter in 2007 (I had not read the books and decided to read the first six leading up to the publication of last novel), I decided to watch all of Kevin Smith's movies so I'll be able to watch Reboot when it lands in theaters.

How I Prepped

I didn’t. I did no research. I didn’t read up on any Wikipedia entry ahead of time. There are a few mentions in these reviews about stopping the process of reading Wikipedia while watching the movies, but I stopped cold with Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Heck, I didn’t even watch any of the trailers until after I watched the film. I wanted the movie-watching experience to be as pure as possible.

And I never went back into an older review and revised anything I'd written in the moment on an aspect of a character or situation that a later film touched on. These are all reviews I wrote after viewing one movie and completed before I started watching the next.

But even I knew about Jersey Girl bombing. I knew Tusk tanked. Smith talks about Tusk and Yoga Hosers so much in all of his podcasts that I’ve got a general idea about them. But I’ll wait to weigh in when I get there.

With my days filled with the day job, the other job (I’m a writer and publisher of my own books), being a husband, being a dad, and everything else, I found myself watching these films here and there. On lunch hours for fifty minutes, then at night for the next fifty or so. A few I couldn’t wait to get back to. Others were different.

The Schedule

One of the things I would have loved to have done was watch all the movies before I started posting—to avoid outside influences—but the time table didn’t work out. I always envisioned this series to have weekly installments. Sure, I could have dropped all of them twelve days ahead of Reboot, but I wanted to start a conversation with these posts. I want to be able to watch the DVD extras during these next couple of months to get a better insight on the films, the characters, and the actors. I'd love folks who have seen these movies over and over to anticipate what I might say about their favorite film.

I started in the middle of June 2019, but then on 18 July 2019, Smith dropped the trailer for the new film. More importantly, he and Jason Mewes are going on the road to show the movie and talk about it. They land in Houston on 30 October (and I’ve already purchased my ticket). That’s twelve weeks from now. The new movie is Smith’s thirteenth. I think you see where I’m going.

Starting on 7 August, and going for the next twelve Wednesdays, I’ll post my review of each Smith film to date. The last review will be for Yoga Hosers on 23 October. A week later, Smith and Mewes will be in H-Town and I’ll see the new flick. Naturally, I’ll review it, too, on 6 November.

Here is the order and date of review:

1. Clerks (1994) – 7 August
2. Mallrats (1995) – 14 August
3. Chasing Amy (1997) – 21 August
4. Dogma (1999) – 28 August
5. Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001) – 4 September
6. Jersey Girl (2004) – 11 September
7. Clerks II (2006) – 18 September
8. Zack and Miri Make a Porno (2008) – 25 September
9. Cop Out (2010) – 2 October
10. Red State (2011) – 9 October
11. Tusk (2014) – 16 October
12. Yoga Hosers (2016) – 23 October
13. Jay and Silent Bob Reboot (2019) – 6 November

As of today, I have watched and written reviews for eight movies, so that means I've already seen Zack and Miri Make a Porno. I have only four more to go until Reboot comes out.

And that bit about being able to watch the extras on DVD? Already started. Actually ordered one on Amazon, but picked up others at Half Price Books. I'll probably either do a separate review for the behind-the-scenes material or do bonus episodes.

There might also be a video component.

I want to reiterate what I hope will happen. I'd love to have a conversation about these movies. A back and forth. I mean, I have twenty-five years of chit-chat to catch up on.

But we have to begin where it all started, twenty five years ago, at a convenience store in Leonardo, New Jersey.

Come back Wednesday for Clerks.