Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2014: The Year of Vonnegut

Novelist, playwright, satirist, humanist, all around pugnacious prattler, and clown prince of gallows humour, one Mr. Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., would be turning 92 in the year 2014.  Well, if he wasn't already dead, he would be turning 92 this new year, but since he died in 2007, at age 84, one supposes a thing like that will not actually be happening.  So it goes.  But not to fear my intrepid lackies, for I plan on keeping the dead ole bastard alive for at least another year.  No no, I'm not planning on any sort of Frankensteinian experimenting here.  It's as simple a thing as reading all of Vonnegut in the year 2014.  That's right ladies and germs, I am going to read all of Vonnegut, from beginning to end, starting on January 1st, 2014 - which, if you happen to be reading this post on the day I originally posted it, is tomorrow.  If you are reading this at a later date, I say to the future you, what the hell took ya so damn long!?  But I digress.

Actually, as a reader of fiction, I have been a pretty big slacker for the last decade or so.  Sure, at one time, I read rather voraciously.  Hell, I even went to school for it.  But lo this past decade or so, my reading has consisted mainly of film-related books, my beloved comics, and an array of online nick-nacks and doo-dads, and pollywog-a-doodles - or should I say Wampeters, Foma and Granfalloons.  Trust me, all the Vonnegut fans in the room are laughing their collective asses off right now.  But again, I digress.  As I was blathering on about (god, this guy likes to here himself talk, huh?) my fiction reading has kinda taken the proverbial nosedive, and I aim to fix that in 2014 - beginning with one of my great literary loves of the past.  You see, once upon a time, when I was still an avid reader of fiction, the Indianapolis born Vonnegut was one of my faves.  I was even lucky enough to meet the guy once, back in 1997, after a lecture he gave near my hometown.  But alas, it has been many a year since I picked up one of Vonnegut's books, and that ends tomorrow dammit!

As I said, I will be reading, or in most cases, re-reading the author in chronological order.  Well, in semi-chronological order at least.  Since all of his short stories have been collected in one or another short story collection, I am not going to be doing all the back-and-forth of reading all of these from the beginning (I am lazy after all), opting instead to read the aforementioned collections wherever they happen to fit into the whole chronological scheme of things.  The one exception is my reading choice for day one, aka January 1st, 2014.  On that day, I will take an eye to the writer's very first published work - a short story called "Report on the Barnhouse Effect," and originally published in Collier's Weekly on February 11th, 1950.  After that I will move on to the first novel, Player Piano, followed by Sirens of Titan, Mother Night, Cat's Cradle, and so on and so on (and so on) until Sucker's Portfolio, published posthumously just this past year. 

Will I write about my 2014 Vonnegut adventures?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  How's that for some solid information?  Seriously though, we'll see how things go, but chances are rather good that you will be seeing some reviews (or some such kind of thing) on some, if not all (but probably just some - remember, I am kinda lazy after all), of the books I will be tackling throughout the year.  For now, let's just leave it at that, and power on.  Time to get to reading that crazy old bastard.  To close with the obvious (and the Vonnegutheads in the room know what I'm talkin' 'bout) - hi ho.  Really, that's it for now.  See ya 'round the web.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Film Review: Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street

As a Martin Scorsese fan from the moment this once impressionable thirteen year old mind first caught a glimpse of Taxi Driver on late night TV more than thirty years ago, it is with great sadness (and possibly some quite furious anger) that I must state the following:  I did not like The Wolf of Wall Street.  That's right kids, this long-avowed Scorsese fan did not like the director's latest film.  Now sure, there have been other Scorsese films over the years of which I have not been the biggest fan.  Films such as The Age of Innocence, Kundun, The Aviator. The Color of Money, even The Last Temptation of  Christ, are all Scorsese films that have less than tickled this critic's fancy, but none of these films seemed as great a disappointment as did The Wolf of Wall Street when I saw it just two days ago.  Sure, when a man makes no less than five masterpieces in his career, you can certainly cut the guy some slack every once and a while, but even so, the utter disappointment is still there - in fucking spades.

Now others who have panned the film (and we seem to be a minority) have done so due to what they call an excess of sex and drugs and overall immorality.  To that I say, bah!  The film, being about the life and times and exploits of a greedy, repulsive, money-hungry, drug-engorged, sex-addicted asshole of a human being, is a movie about excess, and therefore should be an excessive film.  Add to that the typical excess of Scorsese's auteur style, and the film is bound to go over the top.  This however, is not my problem with the film.  My problem is that I found all this excess (and everything else) to be utterly and deliriously banal as all get out, or should I say, as this film takes the coveted bronze medal in f-bomb movies, banal as all fuck.  Yes indeedy, the first forty minutes or so are actually rather entertaining.  Watching the first act of this film is like watching the Scorsese you know and love.  Perhaps not the Scorsese of Taxi Driver or Goodfellas, but at the very least, the Scorsese of Casino and After Hours.  But alas, then comes the second hour, and then the third, and now any and all love of Scorsese has flown out the proverbial window, only to be replaced with some sort of godawful feeling of despair and outright anger.

Granted, the film does entertain with several quite cinematic Scorsese moments, as well as the director's loving penchant for recruiting re-imagined imagery from everything from The Red Shoes to Hitchcock to Citizen Kane. Moments that make us remember just why we get so damn excited every time the man releases a new film.  But alas poor moviegoers, this is not that Martin Scorsese.  This, ladies and gentlemen, is a different animal altogether.  This is a director that has gotten lazy.  A director that has maybe forgotten what it means to be Martin Scorsese - though since his last two films, the unfairly maligned genre deconstruction of Shutter Island, and the brilliantly filmic nostalgia called Hugo, were a collective upswing from other recent work, this is a theory that really holds no water.  So what is it then?  Frustration in a new digital age?  The fact that one can not help but compare the filmmaker's muses, and let's face it, the mediocrity of Leonardo DiCaprio as an actor could never hold up in comparison to one Mr. Bobby De Niro.  No, it must be something deeper that that.  Or perhaps not.  Perhaps The Wolf of Wall Street is merely a blip in a career that, as I said before, has created at least five masterpieces, and several more near ones as well.  With the recent release of David O. Russell's Goodfellas-esque American Hustle, my wife said to me, "it's as if two different directors tried to make a Martin Scorsese film this year, and it was Martin Scorsese who wound up the loser."  Now I think I'm going to go watch Taxi Driver again.

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Great Albums: Hunky Dory by David Bowie

For the second installment in The Great Albums series, I have decided to go with the fifth studio album by the man who changed his name because Davey Jones of The Monkees, was already a star when this young English boy came on the scene.  In other words, David Bowie, and the album Hunky Dory. Usually not considered Bowie's best work (though NME named it the third best album of all-time a few months back - behind only The Queen is Dead and Revolver), often falling short of more critically acclaimed records such as Ziggy Stardust, Diamond Dogs, and Low, but Hunky Dory is still a quite fun album to peruse.  From its album cover of Bowie a la Marlene Dietrich, to its twisting and turning melodic voice that the singer/songwriter was just beginning to bring into the forefront of his artistic style, Hunky Dory represents Bowie at a musical and stylistic turning point in his career - one of many more to come.

Actually, Bowie himself considers Hunky Dory to be one of the most important works of his career, claiming it as the time he started communicating with what he wanted to do. Granted, he still had no idea what exactly it was he wanted to do, but now at least he knew he wanted to do something.  Following in the footsteps of his third album, The Man Who Sold the World, this is Bowie's first time fully with the band that would become the Spiders from Mars, and would help him become the Ziggy Stardust we all came to know and love and admire. This is an album that syncs together Bowie's talent of musical magic and his ability to write some of the most prophetic and poetic lyrics in rock and pop history. Opening with the stellar instant classic Changes, with its thumping, stuttering brilliance, and insular sounds (Bowie plays sax on the record as well), and full of lyrics that would be an opening anthem of the obsessive chameleonic nature of the artist's future days ("Strange fascination, fascinating me / Changes are taking the place I'm going through"), Hunky Dory stands as one of the finest - and most influential - albums of its day.  But Changes is just the beginning.

Just as Bowie is the most eclectic of performers and personalities, Hunky Dory is a most eclectic album. With songs that foretell of a Ziggy-esque future and ones that hearken back to Bowie's earlier Brit Pop days of his first album, as well as oddities and oddballs galore, Hunky Dory (in hindsight) is as much a fascinating deconstruction of a career that was just getting going at the time, as it is just a deee-light to listen to - over and over and over again.  With songs that giddily bounce around with the beauty of a hurdy-gurdy man (Kooks, written for and sung to Bowie's new born son, Duncan, aka Zowie), and ones that evoke surrealist imagery (Life on Mars? plays as a Dali/Bunuel-esque take on a little girl lost in the media-minded modern world), as well as songs written in tribute of Andy Warhol (this Flamenco-infused acoustic number, opens with a Warhol-esque behind-the-scenes intro), Bob Dylan (a loving parody of Dylan's Song to Woody), and Lou Reed (a Sweet Jane-inspired hard glam-rocking beast of a song for one of his biggest influences), Hunky Dory is perfectly pitched as an album that is so obviously created by a madman musical and lyrical genius. Changes may be the album's cornerstone work of musical lushness, the most haunting track though, belongs to the succulent Quicksand ("I'm the twisted name on Garbo's Eyes / Living proof of Churchill's lies") while the most dense (and probably the darkest) is the final track, the seemingly sinister Bewlay Brothers, with its Magical Mystery Tour-like fade away chanting ("In our wings that bark / Flashing teeth of brass / Standing tall in the dark"). I really cannot get enough of this album.

And then I think about the album some more, and realize that perhaps NME was right to call it the best Bowie ever made (and third best album of all-time). I've always loved it so, but while putting this second installment of The Great Albums together, I listened to Hunky Dory over and over again (both before and during my writing of said installment), and it has become ingrained into my so-called musical soul, moreso than ever. Yes, albums such as Ziggy Stardust, Diamond Dogs, and Low, are incredible works as well, as are the vast majority of Bowie's albums, but right here, right now, I must say that Hunky Dory is indeed the best damn thing Bowie has ever done - or at the very least is my favourite Bowie album. Favourite indeed. To end with the beginning of Oh! You Pretty Things: "Wake up you sleepy head / put on some clothes, shake up your bed / Put another log on the fire for me / I've made some breakfast and coffee / Look out my window, what do I see / Crack in the sky and a hand reaching down to me / All the nightmares came today / And it looks as though they're here to stay." And thus, the modern day David Bowie was born.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Heavenly Body of the Week: WASP 12b

The poor little planet that is being eaten by its own sun. This planet is so close to its sun (one year on WASP 12b is equal to just one Earth day), that tidal forces are distorting the planet into an egg shape, and pulling away its atmosphere at a rate of 189 quadrillion tonnes per second.  It has an estimated life expectancy of 10 million more years before being completely devoured by its own sun, which in the whole scheme of things is pretty young for a planet.  Alas poor WASP 12b, I wish I knew him well.

See ya 'round the web.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Happy Life Day to Everyone!!

"This holiday is yours, but we all share with you the hope that this day brings us closer to freedom, and to harmony, and to peace. No matter how different we appear, we're all the same in our struggle against the powers of evil and darkness. I hope that this day will always be a day of joy in which we can reconfirm our dedication and our courage. And more than anything else, our love for one another. This is the promise of the Tree of Life." - Princess Leia Organna

Monday, December 23, 2013

The 10 Best Fictional/Parody Religions

Yeah yeah, I know.  Many would say (myself included) that all religions are fictional, and most are also parodies of themselves or other religions.  Even those non-agnostic amongst us, such as Christians and Muslims and Jews (oh my), would call other religions fictional just by default of not being their own beloved cult...er, I mean religion.  so, for the sake of argument (though we all know just how understanding of others, religious people can be) let us stay away from the so-called "real" religions of the aforementioned spiritual triumvirate, as well as the Hindus and Buddhists and Taoists and B'hai's and all the other snake charmers out there, and stick with just the ones that are mostly considered fictional and/or satirical. With that in mind, today I am going to countdown my ten favourite fake religions - those found in literature and movies and music and television shows, as well as those found in the real world sometimes.  But before we get to all that, howzabout we briefly mention a few of the ones that did not make the final cut.

Some of these fictional religions can be found in books (the Lapine Theism of Watership Down and the sisterly Bene Gessent of the Dune books, as well as Omnism, Yen Buddhism, and all the other religions in Terry Prachett's Discworld series) and others in movies (such as the Gozer worshippers in Ghostbusters), and on TV as well (the satirical Scratch religion on Cowboy Bebop or Devon Banks' pseudo-religion, Practicology on 30 Rock - created by the alien king living inside Stan Lee).  I suppose I probably shouldn't even try to mention Scientology in the realm of fiction and/or parody, huh?  Yeah, Tom Cruise'll be bringin' the wrath of Xenu down on me.  But, I would like to mention two fictional religions that just missed out on that final cut.  These are essentially my numbers eleven and twelve.  First (at no. 12) come the Quantum Presbyterians, the religion of Kang and Kodos, the resident aliens on Matt Groening's The Simpsons.  Next (at no. 11) are those worshippers of the Great Pumpkin,  Yup, Linus (and sometimes Sally) worship at the stem of the Great Pumpkin, and therefore it is a religion - even if it is a fake one.  Anyway, enough and enough, let's get on with that countdown.

And awaaaaay we go...

10. The Church of the Fonz
From the "pages" of Seth McFarlane's Family Guy doctrine, comes this sect (created by Peter, of course) that worships at the alter of one, Arthur Fonzerelli, aka The Fonz.  You young 'uns reading this list may not even know what Happy Days is, or who The Fonz is, but worship you will - worship you will.

9. The First Church of Appliantology
Supposedly created by a man known as L. Ron Hoover (get it?), this obviously insincere take on Scientology was actually spawned from the wicked and brilliantly subversive mind of Mr. Frank Zappa (in his second straight Top Ten List), on the musician's album Joe's Garage.

8. Fordism
This assembly-lined religion, named after Henry Ford, was first created as a social and economic philosophy, but was then usurped by Aldous Huxley for his classic dystopian novel, A Brave New World, where everyone is meant to bow down at the alter of the aforementioned Mr. Ford.

7. Askani
A mostly philosophical religion (a la Buddhism) in Marvel Comics' alternate future storylines that revolve around Scott Summers, Jean Grey, Rachel Summers, and Nathan Dayspring, aka Cable.  Being part of the X-Men universe, there is time travel galore in this religion, which might get a bit confusing for some.

6. Festivus
Not so much a religion as a holiday, but we are counting it anyway.  Actually celebrated by writer Daniel O'Keefe, who's son, while a writer on Seinfeld, brought it into popular culture via Frank Costanza's celebration of it in a 1997 episode.  Now, let the Feats of Strength begin.

5. Bagism
More a social theology than a religion, but for the purposes of this list, we are counting this John Lennon/Yoko Ono created dig at organized religion and modern day consumerism.  Everybody's talkin' about Bagism, Shagism, Dragism, Madism, Ragism, Tagism, This-ism, That-ism, ism, ism, ism.

4. The Vulcan Religion
Sure, the Vulcan race is a logical race, and hence do not have a true religion per se, but any culture that can mind meld with others, and give us the hormonal imbalanced ritual of Pon Farr (yeah, baby!!), must have somethin' goin' for it, so here it is.  Plus, Spock rocks, so there!

3. The Church of the Sub-Genius
Created by Irving Stang in the 1970's, and based upon the teachings of J.R. "Bob" Dobbs from the 1950's (a la another parody of the ever-so parodiable cult of Scientology), this satirical huckster religion has kinda become a real, albeit quite tongue-in-cheek, thing.  Now if only we could all attain a state of slack.

2. Bokononism
Kurt Vonnegut created several different parody religions throughout his writings (both the Church of God, the Utterly Indifferent and the Church of Jesus Christ the Kidnapped spring to mind) but it is the teachings of the enigmatic Bokonon, from Cat's Cradle, that make's this guy question his faith.

1. Jedi
Anyone who knows anything about me should have easily seen this one coming.  Yup, that ancient religion that gave us Obi Wan, Yoda, and eventually Luke and Leia (and in a Sithier mode, Darth Vader) is the number one fictional religion.  Number one with a bullet...er, I mean with a lightsaber.

See ya 'round the web.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Film Review: David O. Russell's American Hustle

From his quirky beginnings in the indie world to his more recent Oscary successes, filmmaker David O. Russell has played his directorial hand at many different honey pots, from teen sex comedy to acerbic war picture to pugilistic, dysfunctional family dramas, but up until now, playing is all the guy has been doing - but it is a long-time playing that has finally led to this, the director's seventh feature film, and very well his first truly great work of cinema.  In fact, American Hustle, the 1978-set story of a group of con artists working (unwillingly, their collective hands forced) with the F.B.I. to ensnare corrupt politicians, may very well be the best damn Martin Scorsese film ever made by someone who is not Martin Scorsese.  But there is much more to American Hustle than mere auteuristic hero worship and cinematic reverence.

Russell's Hustle, the follow-up to his inexplicably praised Oscar big-wig, Silver Linings Playbook (yet another merely mediocre work being gilded to the high heavens come Oscar time), takes the best of the con game movie tropes, adds in the director's best impression of the aforementioned maestro Scorsese, kicks it up a notch or two with great casting and one hell of a nostalgic 1970's bent, twists it into a deft and biting dark comedy, and comes up with what is easily one of the best damn motion pictures of 2013.  Hoo hah!   The film is written by Russell and Eric Warren Singer, and based on the ABSCAM operation of the late seventies. The film stars past Russell compatriots, Christian Bale as combed-over con man Irving Rosenfeld (based, as is most of the main cast, on a real participant of ABSCAM), with Amy Adams as his lover/partner-in-crime. Jennifer Lawrence as his long-suffering and long insufferable wife, and Bradley Cooper as the narcissistic fed fuck-up who drags Bale's huckster into the game to begin with. The film also stars Jeremey Renner (working with Russell for the first time here) as the Camden, New Jersey mayor that acts as target for this gang of grifters.  What Russell does with his film, turning the genre on its head so to speak, is take a group of people who are usually marginalized in society as bad and/or pathetic creatures, and gives his con game a heart and soul.  We feel for these people - well at least some of them - and we care what happens to them - again, to most of them.  It's some pretty amazing shit actually.  Russell has finally made his first truly great film of his career.

As for the acting of Russell's crew?  Bale, of course, is quite spectacular in his role as the ultimate con-man.  Methodically becoming the character, Bale brings his bravura presence into a character who is equal parts bravado-riddled grifter and in-over-his-head huckster with a heart of fool's gold.   The deepest and most sincerely sympathetic character in the bunch.  In other words, ring-ding-ding, Christian Bale is proving once again that he is one of the damn finest actors in the world today.  Meanwhile Adams, Renner, and even Cooper do their respective things with a certain amount of juicy aplomb, but let's face it, it is Jennifer Lawrence who runs away with each and every damn scene she finds herself in - even those in which she shares the screen with the deceptively charming chameleonic Bale himself (well okay, maybe not with Bale, but hey, he is Christian Bale after all).  Lawrence, in the atypical role of manipulative, and possibly semi-psychotic, femme fatale wife-from-hell, and after safer, less-daring roles (ie, a great talent going to waste playing characters anyone could play) in the blockbusters X-Men: First Class and The Hunger Games, and her rather overrated Oscar-winning turn in Russell's Silver Linings Playbook, gives her bravest and boldest performance since her breakthrough role in 2010's Winter's Bone.  Wicked (and wickedly funny), Lawrence riptides through the film in much the same way Sharon Stone did in Scorsese's (there's that name again) Casino, infusing her character with just the right parts of shallow gold-digger, wanton powder-keg, and lost little girl.  A brilliant turn from a brilliantly underused talent.  There is also a great uncredited cameo a little past the film's midway point, but I will just let those who do not know of said cameo, find that little tidbit naturally, as they watch the film.  And watch it, you most certainly must.

This review can also be read over at my film site, The Most Beautiful Fraud in the World.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Heavenly Body of the Week: Teegeeack

"The head of the Galactic Confederation (founded 95 million years ago) solved overpopulation by mass implanting.  He caused people to be brought to Teegeeack (Earth's original name) and put an H-Bomb on the principal volcanoes.....His name was Xenu." - L. Ron Hubbard, Founder of Scientology

See ya 'round the web.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Guest Blogger: The Dangers of Being the Dangerman

ed. note: The below diatribe/semi-incomprehensible rant was written by All Things Kevyn foreign-esque correspondent, Rufus Dangerman.  The guy may very well be a madman (in fact he most certainly is a madman) but his writing is fun (I'll come up with a better word later) so I thought I would share it with all my faithful readers and true believers out there in cyberland.  So here it is, the first of what I hope will be a regular gig for the man known as Rufus Dangerman.  So be it.
It ain't easy being the Dangerman.  But be that as it may, I am indeed the man known as Dangerman, Rufus Dangerman.  And baby, it ain't easy --- but it sure is a whole lotta fun.  Ya see, I am kinda known as an enigma in these parts -- and other parts as well -- and that's just smooth as silk with me.  What did Churchill say about mama Russia?  An enigma wrapped in a riddle, hidden inside a mystery, or sumthin' like that?  Well baby, that's the Dangerman --- inside and fuckin' out.  Ya see, I am the phantom of cyberspace.  I am the ghost in the machine.  I am the King of Rock City.  I am performance art incarnate.  I am a figment of everyone's imagination.  I am the Muffin Man.  I am the wind.  I am whomever I want to be.  I am Rufus T. Dangerman.   At least that's what it says over on my Google profile, and if it's on the internet it must be true.  Right?  Riiiight.  But enough of this introductory shee-ite, and all that Salinger-hated David Copperfield crapola --- let's, as they say, get on with the fucking show.  You're here to find out all things Dangerman, and I aim to please ya with the exploits of such things.  Well, at least with the things I'm a-willing to tell ya'll.  So here goes nuthin'.

Okay, here's some of that Copperfield crapola to start off with anyway.  It was a cold late wintry day in 1977, in a small town in Western Pennsylvania, and a baby boy came into this harsh and harrowing world.  There!  Enough of my childhood.  Now let's move on to my so-called adult life.  Like I said before, it hasn't been easy being the Dangerman, but what a fuckin' ride.  I remember a time hitchhiking the highways and biways of Arizona and New Mexico.  It was just me and my best friend at the time.  For secrecy purposes, let's call him Dean.  Mainly because he actually thought he was Dean Fucking Moriarty.  Ya know, from Kerouac's Road book.  Anyway, me and Dean -- I guess I should call myself Sal in this scenario -- we was doin' some hitching 'cross this great fucking nation of ours.  Somewhere on the wilds of route 380, just outside of Roswell -- yeah, fucking Roswell, but this ain't got nuthin' to do with aliens -- we met a girl named Cherry Bomb.  Seriously, her real life, birth certificate name was Cherry Bomb.  First name Cherry, middle name Bomb.  I fucking kid you not.  Somethin' about her parents being punkers who hung with Joan Jett and the gals when she was conceived.  Anyways, as I was sayin', we met this Cherry Bomb chick while hitchin' our way to sunny Southern Cal-eee-forn-eye-A, and damn, if Dean didn't nab her up for hisself, and make his way south with the girl in tow.  The thing is, Dean was nineteen and she was fourteen.  Yeah, that's right.   Dean ended up livin' the New Mexicali Blues, with a bottle and a girl who's just fourteen.  Okay, maybe some of that story was made up.  Maybe it wasn't.  I ain't a-tellin'.  Let's just say that Dean spent a few years in jail after that.  But hey, I'm rambling off into wild tangents, so I should watch myself.  I don't wanna become like a certain guy who runs this joint.  Not that I'm a-sayin' Kevyn rambles, but hey...

Alright now!  Let's talk less about the exploits of the fake Dean Moriarty and little Miss Cherry Bomb, and more about the Dangerman, and what he/I plans on doing in the "pages" of All Things Kevyn.  The blogmeister has pretty much given his old pal free reign to write about any damn thing that pleases him/I.  So this is it.  Writing about nuthin' really.  Nuthin' at all.  But also, anything.  Anything at all.  I gots me a forum, and a captive audience.  Well, not so much captive, but there is that old lady I got tied up in the basem...er, I mean, let's move on with the story, eh.  So, I now have free reign to write about anything my black ole heart desires.  So with that juicy-juice in mind, let's talk about some secret shit.  My days as a counter-culture revolutionary.  At the time, I was in my early twenties, and I was living in Bakersfield, California.  My job was to stealthily put up signs and stickers and what have you, all attacking then Presidential hopeful George W. Bush.  I would put these signs and stickers in some of the best places.  In malls and stores, restaurants and bars.  I would put them in restroom stalls and above urinals.  I would sneak them into offices -- disguised as a delivery guy -- and put them all over cubicles and lunch room fridges.  I even got some into the Bakersfield Republican Committee's head office.  I take a large amount of pride in how many nooks and crannies I got these anti-Bush slogans into. I'm sure none of this did anything, even though, technically, Bush did lose that election...so maybe...maybe.  Okay, so maybe that story doesn't exactly reek of counter-culture espionage.  And maybe I wasn't exactly the SDS or the Yippies making their way in the Vietnam era, but hey, I got food and board for my actions, so that's good enough for this cat.  I never did get into the whole bloody revolutionary thing.  I was mainly just a talker and a squawker.  Still am really.   But that's neither here nor there.

But hey, I'm a-supposed to be telling ya'll of the dangers of being the Dangerman, and so far all I've talked of are bullshit stories about a slutty teenage runaway and some silly political stickering.  Where the fuck is the danger, man!?  Where the fuck is it!!?  Well, it probably all started the day I turned thirty.  By this time in life, the towers had already fallen and we were livin' in a brave new world.  I had the rep of being a rather muckrakery kinda guy at the time, and so I was hired by some nefarious dudes to help track down this backstabbing bitch by the name of *BEEEEEP*.  Yeah, that's right.  Apparently this bitch had killed one of their friends and was now comin' after them.  So, needing the moola, I took the job and went after *BEEEEEP*, and...wait a minute.  No, that's the plot to Kill Bill.  That wasn't me.  What the hell was I doing on my thirtieth b-day?  Um...oh yeah, I was getting wasted in an ash-ram in Modesto California, with Billy-Dee Williams.  Yep.  I was.  Actually, that may be the only truthful statement I've made so far.  But enough of all these bullshit stories -- and enough of this introductory article.  Kevyn can have it just like it is, and publish it or not -- makes no hither or tither with me.  Though, if ya do publish it oh blog-O-burgermeister, ya might wanna include a pic or two.  Maybe one with a Cherry Bomb reference or one with Billy-Dee.  Seriously, that part of the whole story is real and true and all that.  Other things may be made up, or at least partially made up.  Cherry may have been sixteen, and her birth name may have really been Esther Rosenblatt, and she may have been a runaway from a rather affluent New York Jewish family on the Upper East Side.  As for Dean, aka Henry Kuplinski (yeah, that's right), he spent two years in jail for statutory rape.  Kept wanderin' around after he got out.  About seven years later Henry was killed by a motorcycle gang outside of Tallahasse, but we had drifted apart long before that.  I ran into Esther a few years back.  It was in Manhattan, and she was dragging a somewhat reluctant date into see The Sorrow and the Pity at Film Forum.  Okay, that may have been a lie as well.  Any Annie Hall fan can tell ya that.  But I really did smoke weed with Billy-Dee in an ash-ram in Modesto.  Hand to G-O-D.

So, I guess this is the part of the day where I say that I'll be back next time with some sort of rant or another.  I don't know what it'll be on yet, or even if I'll be allowed back after my dissing of the fella who runs the shop around here, but somebody has to keep the old man on his toes.  That old guy is my elder though, by nearly a decade, so I should show 'im some respect, but like I said, someone's gotta keep 'im on his toes, so why the fuck not me.  Anyways, I'm sure my next article will be something of great interest and even greater bullshit.  Who knows, maybe I'll tell the tale of when I ran with the bulls.  It wasn't the running in Pamplona or anything like that.  It was in  a field in Montana somewhere, and me and my buds were pretty high and tryin' to impress these girls we picked up and...well, let's just say Tommy was never the same again.  Oh poor poor Tommy.   I still have trouble looking him in the face.  Anyways, I'll see ya on what they call, the good ole flipside.


The man known as Rufus Dangerman can be found elsewhere on the world wide web as well, such as at his website, The Dangerman Blog; his Tumblr site, It Ain't What it Used to Be; and, of course, just like every other mo-fo on the planet, on Facebook as well.  That's it for now.  Be back for more next time...if you dare (insert maniacal laughter here, please).

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

I'm Not Garbo Ya Know - I Don't Really Vant to be Left Alone

Ya know, I look around this thing we call the world wide web, and I see and read a lot of blogs and/or websites out there, and I must say that a lot of these places are in much the same predicament that I find myself and my own blog.  An alarming lack of comments in the good ole comments section.  Almost as if no one is reading or even watching.  Okay, maybe some are watching, but in the grand tradition of interwebs trolling, no one is fessing up.  And ya know what?  It's starting to bug me.  A sad state of affairs, indeed.  Now granted, this blog has only been up and running for a few weeks now, and perhaps I should not yet expect a loyal following, but the same lack of comments also plagues my film site, The Most Beautiful Fraud in the World, and that sucker has been around for just over four years now.

It's not as if no one is around, as my blog stats say my posts are getting viewed (at least in a small manner of speaking), although that may include a lot of robots trolling around looking for good places to drop their loads of spam, but those that are around just seem to wish to keep to themselves, never letting me know how I'm doing (whether it is poorly or wonderfully or anywhere in between), and never ever validating my cyber existence.  Um, okay...perhaps I have some issues pertaining to my own self worth, but that's neither here nor there (nor anywhere for that matter), for it still bewilders me that after all these years (4+ on The Most Beautiful Fraud and a few weeks in my new home) there is not any sort of commentary or dialogue to accompany my posts.  Sure, I managed to get a bunch of comments on one single post recently (for those keeping score at home, that post would be The 10 Best Damn Mustaches in the World) but that was mostly due to my unsavory begging and pleading for comments over on Facebook.

And speaking of Facebook, that blue-hued social media mogul that keeps so many (myself very much included) so occupied at home and at work and everywhere in between, this is the place where everyone seems to go now to make their collective voices heard - even if they have nothing to say.  I go and post links to any and all of my blogging posts (and have been since, cyberly-speaking, time immemorial) and instead of going to my blog, reading whichever and whatever post, and leaving a comment or two in the comments section (gee that section feels so lonely ya know), they come rushing back to the ole FB, and leave whatever notice there, bypassing the original item, and its original host, in the proverbial dark and dank dungeon crevices of internet obscurity.  And ya know what?  This guy ain't no internet obscurity!  I've been around the track a few times, and I know that many in the film criticism world know my name and know my work.  Sure, I may not be to the grand ole level of someone like Jonathan Rosenbaum or Dave Kehr, or even Glenn Kenny or Kim Morgan (and those who know and care about film and any or all of its cinephiliac branches, knows of whom I speak) but I still know I have at least a tiny yet solid following in such circles.  And this bewilders me even more that no one really seems to be listening.

I said earlier that many fellow bloggers seem to have the same dilemma as me.  They are in the same sinking commentary boat as me, if you will.  Yet, at the same time, many bloggers (including the aforementioned film bloggers in the preceding paragraph) are at the other end of the spectrum, and are inundated with comments galore.  A real honest-to-goodness dialogue is happening at their respective places on the web, and I must admit, it's making me more than a bit jealous that I too do not have such a discourse, even after all these years on the web (I spent eight years webmastering a different film website, The Cinematheque, before moving onto The Most Beautiful Fraud four years ago).  Sure, with this new catch-all blog (not just film stuff, but all of culture, pop or otherwise) the following I do have may yet catch on and catch-up to where I am doing most of my current writing (I still publish my film reviews at the other site as well), and perhaps I am just howling at the empty wind this early on in this new blog's game, but howl away I most certainly will.  Howl away, indeed.

Now I know that I have at least one faithful follower here at All Things Kevyn.  My dear old friend Rufus Dangerman (and no, I will not reveal the man's secret identity, so stop asking!!) seems to comment on just about everything I do.  Granted, sometimes the guy can be a real pain in the ass, but at least he's honest and true about what he believes in, and more importantly, at least he takes the care and time and effort (as little as that may be) to write a few words in the ole comments section below each post.  In fact, the man known as Rufus Dangerman is such a regular customer around these parts (as well as a mysterious phantom entity over at Facebook), that I decided to toss him a bone of sorts, and offered him a guest spot right here.  That's right, this very same faithful and loyal pain in the ass will soon become a regular guest blogger right here at All Things Kevyn.  But that is another story for another day (his debut will be coming in a day or two).  Right here and right now, I am still whining (or is it bitching?) about the lack of love I am getting from the outside, so-called real world.

But I suppose Rufus isn't the only one to take pen to pape...er, I mean take fingertips to keyboard (or thumbs to keyboard if you happen to be of the more mobile-device set) and say a few things, but he is certainly the only one doing so with any sort of regularity.  I get a spattering of comments, both here and over at the film site, but these are few and far between, and ofttimes are due to my unseemly begging for comments and kudos.  I do want to give thanks to some of these off-regulars, such as Anna, Molly, Carter, Biff, The Kong, Zuky (and any and all of his fellow alter-egos), Dexter, Amanda, and Dan the Man too.  Hopefully these fellow travelers will keep making their presence known around these parts (and maybe do it a bit more often - not-so-subtle hint hint) and perhaps others that I have reached out to, will maybe do the same - as well as all those who may be currently trolling up the place as we speak.  I am just now beginning to run a series called The Great Albums, beginning just yesterday with my take on The Smiths' The Queen is Dead, and I figure/hope that these music-related pieces will start to get more people interested in the blog, and maybe even convince some to start that all-important dialogue of which I keep speaking.  Anyway, that's about all I had to rant and rave about today.  And now, since I did reference the lady in the post's title, I'll leave you with a pic of the lovely and talented Miss Greta Garbo.  See ya 'round the web.

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Great Albums: The Queen is Dead by The Smiths

Jarring and jangling, The Queen is Dead is The Smiths at their brightest and brashest.  Both Morrissey and guitarist Johnny Marr consider their follow-up, Strangeways, Here We Come, the band's fourth and final studio album, to be the band's best work, and perhaps that argument could very well be made, but here and now, today, we are talking about the 1986 album that, a few months back, was called the greatest album of all-time by Brit music magazine, NME.  Is this the greatest album of all time?  Obviously some would say yes.  I would say no, but at the same time it is an album that I would surely include in any serious top fifty album list...hell, maybe even in a top twenty-five list.  In fact I will be compiling a list of the greatest albums, be it a top 100 or 500, or maybe even a top 1000, come sometime in the second half of 2014, to be posted right here at this blog, but more on that later.  Let's talk The Queen is Dead.

Before we go on though, I must confess to a rather terrible act.  Until earlier today, I hadn't listened to this album in what is probably twenty or more years now.  Who knows why this gap in musical knowledge, a generation gap from my relative youth to my current middle-esque age, has occurred (an obsessing over other things perhaps), but it is certianly sad really, since in the late 1980's though the early 1990's, this was easily one of my favourite albums - and this was at a time that albums actually meant a vinyl record, not some downloadable digital file - though at the moment I do happen to be listening to the album (playing it on loop as I write these words) on the digital platform known as Spotify.  I actually forgot just how much fun this album happens to be.  Yeah, that's right, I just called an album by The Smiths, often called a miserablist rock band, fun - and I stand by that.  But, at the same time, this album has its typical Smithian melancholy side as well.  The combination of Marr's guitar-driven Jangle Pop and heavy influence from such 1960's bands as The Byrds, and Morrissey's nostalgic bent and wry and whimsical Wilde-esque lyrics (not to leave anyone out, I should make mention of bassist Andy Rourke and drummer Mike Joyce as well), meet perfectly in the band's third album.

From the very outset, where the voice of Cicely Courtneidge, ringing out Take Me Back to Dear Old Blighty, from the 1962 British film, The L-Shaped Room (Morrissey is a rather avid cinephile, as can be seen by French film icon Alain Delon adorning the Morrissey-designed cover of the album), and then rolling into the opening title track, with its tom-tom and wah-wah sound, we know right away that this is something special, something unique - something for the so-called ages.  From the giddy charm of Frankly, Mr. Shankly (an ode to Dylan's Mr. Jones perhaps), Bigmouth Strikes Again, and the drolly acerbic Cemetery Gates, to the sad, longing tones and lyrics of I Know It's Over and The Boy With the Thorn in His Side, to the perfect blending of both sides in There is a Light That Never Goes Out, possibly the best song The Smiths have ever created (though to give credit where credit is due, this song would not exist the way it does if it had not been for The Velvet Underground and There She Goes Again), The Queen is Dead is not only one of the best albums ever produced, but also one of the most influential on a future generation of musicians, having given birth to such acts as The Stone Roses, Oasis, Blur, and Suede.

As I said earlier, sometime next year, most likely in the second half of said year, I will be compiling my own personal list of the greatest albums of all-time, to be published in these very blog "pages."  In the meantime, I will be boning up on all the albums I never checked out before, as well as revisiting all those I have, in a sort of six or seven month research project for said list, and however long (and probably long-winded) this aforementioned list may very well be (I am guessing 500 at this point, but ya never know), The Smiths' The Queen is Dead will surely sit in one of the more upper echelon spots.  Perhaps not the top spot like NME bravely and boldly did back in October (anyone who knows me well should be able to predict what album, barring any surprises during my research project, will be sitting in that spot) but surely in the top fifty at the very least.  So stay tuned for that, and as you wait (with baited breath I am sure) make sure to check out my new running series, of which this is the inaugural one, called The Great Albums, where I, randomly and in nor particular order, take a look at some of the, well...some of the great albums of all-time of course.  Duh.  See ya 'round the web.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Film Review: Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine

For approximately a quarter of century now, with the release of each new Woody Allen film (and there is usually one a year) critics invariably say one of two things.  Either it is a return to form for the director or it is a lament for the past, far superior filmmaker of the 1970's and 1980's.  In my wish to break such silly tradition, I propose that his latest, Blue Jasmine, is neither a return to form, nor is it something that makes us yearn for the days of Annie Hall or Manhattan.  Let's face it, the director would be quite hard-pressed to match such aforementioned films as these, and we shouldn't keep expecting him to get back to such greatness, nor should we feel so disappointed when he does not.   Sure, the writer-director's output is much more hit-and-miss these days than it was in the so-called olden days, but through the muck of such disasters as Scoop and/or Anything Else, the guy can still make one hell of a movie.

What Blue Jasmine is, is a Woody Allen film, better than some, worse than others, but still a strong and charming film, full of the wry sense of humour that we have come to expect from a Woody Allen film, as well as a deeper and darker undercurrent running through its belly, finally rearing its full form in that harrowing finale, that stands on its own, without need of comparison to the director's past oeuvre.  With that said, I would like to add that even though Allen's new film may not be able to compare to the likes of the filmmaker's golden streak of the past (in this critic's mind, from 1977 through 1995, a streak of nineteen films, Allen made not a single dud) it is easily one of the best he has made since those days, as well as one of the best films of 2013.  Oh well, I guess I kinda just did the very thing I claimed I did not want to do.  Oh well.  Let's move on anyway, for I must let you in on the greatness  that is Blue Jasmine - somewhat surprisingly so, considering the cool reception I had to Allen's last film, and my belief in the overpraising of the one before that.

What Woody Allen does best, other than writing a damn smart comedy (a few damn smart dramas as well), is elicit some damn fine performances out of his stars - something he does once again in Blue Jasmine.  Cate Blanchett, as atypically self-absorbed Allen leading lady, has been getting kudos upon kudos ever since the film first opened, and on top of all this, award accolades and chants of the actor's second Oscar have spewed from almost every Academy Award pundant out there.  Even many of those who dislike the film (and some do quite hate the thing) still praise Blanchett's work in said film.  Her ability to make her audience laugh and cry in one single scene, sometimes in one single take or shot, is quite astounding indeed.  Not many actors can pull off such a feat, and Blanchett does it time and time again in Blue Jasmine.  Of course, we should not, in our praise for Blanchett, forget the great supporting performance handed in by Sally Hawkins as Blanchett's sister in the film.  These two performances shine through and deserve the accolades they are receiving, but at the same time, we should not forget that Woody Allen (here we go) has seemed to returned to form in his latest film.  Well, yeah, I couldn't go the whole time without saying that, now could I?  Seriously though, Blue Jasmine, with its inherent wit and witticisms, is one of Allen's better works, and deserves to be included, if not in his golden first tier, then in his strong and charming second one for sure.

This review can also be read over at my film site, The Most Beautiful Fraud in the World.

Friday, December 13, 2013

The 10 Best Damn Mustaches in the World

That's right ladies and germs, today we are taking a look at that manliest of manly hairy accoutrements - the mustache.  Now there have been some pretty stellar mustaches throughout history, from Genghis Khan to Vlad the Impaler to some guy named Hitler.  Sure, there were good mustaches on the heroes of history as well, such as Wyatt Earp and Pancho Villa.  There have been some great mustacheod gentlemen in the White House as well, where you have Chester A. Arthur, William Howard Taft and Teddy Roosevelt.   And let us not forget about Joseph Stalin and Kaiser Wilhelm.  Moving onto the athletic set, some rather notable sporting 'staches come in such fields as wrestling (Hulk Hogan), Nascar (Richard Petty), Swimming (Mark Spitz), and of course, baseball, with such daring mustacheod players as Davey Lopes, Phil Garner, Wade Boggs, Keith Hernandez, Thurman Munson, Donny Mattingly, Garry Maddox, Reggie Jackson, Mike Schmidt, Catfish Hunter, Sparky Lyle, Jason Giambi, Greg & Mike Maddux, Goose Gossage, and a player to be named later (as in, later on the actual list - a foreshadowing kinda thing).  And of course there is always Chicago's very own Mike Ditka.

The cinematic world has also had a slew of great facial hair.  You have Douglas Fairbanks Sr., Errol Flynn, Clark Gable, Charlie Chaplin, Oliver Hardy, Peter Sellers, Burt Reynolds, and more recently, Daniel Day-Lewis as Bill the Butcher in Gangs of New York.  Oh yeah, and let's not skip Mr. Ron Jeremy.  Or lest we forget, Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot, a 'stache that nearly made the final cut.  On TV you have Magnum P.I., aka Mr. Tom Selleck, and Pat Harrington as Schneider on One Day at a Time, as well as (before his famous shaving of aught three) Jeopardy's very own Alex Trebeck.  In the world of music, ya get the likes of Freddie Mercury, John Oates,  Ted Nugent, Glenn Hughes (the biker in the Village People), and on occasion, Metallica's James Hetfield.  And let us not forget all those comic and cartoon mustaches like Snuffy Smith, Boris Badenov, Dick Dastardly, Dum Dum Dugan, Baltrac the Leaper, Omni-Man, Sinestro, Kraven the Hunter, The Mandarin, Ollie Queen, aka the Green Arrow, Tony 'Iron Man' Stark, and Hogun, Fandral, and Volstagg, the Warriors Three.  There's also Captain Hook, Ned Flanders, and Mr. Gomez Addams.  And to not leave out the ladies, there is always Miss Frida Kahlo.  Sorry, had to.

But enough of all those who did not make the list.  What of those who did? Patience, young padawan, we are getting there.  Before we go there, please allow the mention of three proudly mustacheod fellas that just missed out on making the list.  These three are film critic Gene Shalit, and actors Wilfred Brimley and Sam Elliot.  And if anyone has seen these three 'staches, then they know how iconic they are, and how great the ten that made the list must  be.  So, without further ado, here are the ten best damn mustaches in the world.  Let the countdown begin.

And awaaaaaaay we go...

10. Yosemite Sam
Who is the rootinest tootinest cowboy west of the Pecos?  Well, it's that red mustacheod two gun slinger in the twenty gallon hat - that's who.  Yup, that's right, and that Looney Tuned Yosemite Sam has the rootinest tootinest mustache this side of the Pecos as well.

9. Friedrich Nietzsche
Yowza!  That is one hell of a mustache on that crazy bastard - and we're only up to number nine.  But seriously, that is the kind of mustache that gets ya the ladies - that's for sure.  In fact that is the kinda 'stache that could getchya a bad case of Syphilis.  I kid.  Too soon?

8. Groucho Marx
Okay, okay, it may have been a painted on mustache (he did sport a real one sometimes as well) but it's still pretty fucking fantastic.  And c'mon, it has to be a pretty darn good 'stache to become the model for one of the most classic of cheap Halloween costumes.

7. John Waters
The Baltimore-based film director happens to hold the distinction of being the only member of this list that I have actually met, and let me tell ya, that pencil-thin mustache is even better in person.  An odd fact that has nothing to do with mustaches?  John Waters collects fake food. That's right.

6. Snidely Whiplash
As the arch-nemesis of do-gooder Dudley Do-Right, and a guy who loved tying women (well, one woman at least) to the train tracks, Mr. Whiplash did it all with great mustacheod style and flair.  Enough so that Hanna-Barbara ripped him off when they created Dick Dastardly a decade later.

5. Fu Manchu
A mustache based on a fictional character in the movies (he never had a 'stache in the books btw), and what a damn dandy mustache it just so happens to be.  Granted, the Fu Manchu films are rather crappy (though they do have a certain je ne sai quoi at times), but the mustache rules, baby! 

4. Salvador Dali
Sometimes he would wear flowers in his 'stache.  Other times he would twist it into different shapes.  Other times, Surrealist artist/filmmaker Dali would just melt into the ground like one of his iconic paintings.  Okay, that last one may not be true, but that is one hell of groovy 'stache.

3. J. Jonah Jameson
With their similar mustaches (though on occasion, his is drawn a bit differently), I could have put either Hitler or Chaplin in this spot, but the insufferable charm of Spider-Man's arch (non-super-powered) enemy, and current NYC mayor (at least in the comics), was too much to leave this Daily Bugler out of the running.

2. Rollie Fingers
The long-time Oakland A's ace reliever (he also played in San Diego and Milwaukee) and Baseball Hall-of-Famer, was once nicknamed Snidely Whiplash, because of the handlebar 'stache that he wore (and wears to this day), but yeah, he was one hell of a pitcher too.  I'm sure the 'stache helped.

1. Frank Zappa
C'mon, with that iconic think 'stache and soul patch, how could the late great Frank Zappa not be at the top of this list!?  The musical genius (that's right!) and Mother of Invention was not only one of the great innovators of modern music, but also one hell of a human being.  Oh yeah, and that 'stache.

See ya 'round the web.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Heavenly Body of the Week: Kashyyyk

"Wahr aauuurrr rauhrr aaauurrrruuugh." - Chewbacca, who happens to be from the planet of Kashyyyk.

See ya 'round the web.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Film Review: Edgar Wright's The World's End

They call it the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy.  First came Shaun of the Dead in 2004, a genre satire taking on the zombie film, and the best damn rom-zom-com out there.  Next came Hot Fuzz in 2007, a satiric take on the cop buddy genre, and now, in 2013, comes The World's End, a satire on aliens and the oh-so popular end of the world scenario.  They by the way - the ones that call these three films the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy (or the Blood and Ice Cream trilogy on occasion) - are Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost.  All three films are directed by Wright, written by Wright and Pegg, and star Pegg and Frost.  All three films are also quite subversively brilliant, are possibly three of the finest satires in all of cinema, and quite cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs hee-larious.  Oh, and the reason for the trilogy nickname is because a different flavour of Cornetto ice cream is used in each film, each symbolizing each film's theme (strawberry for the blood and guts of Shaun of the Dead, original blue flavour[??] to represent the blue of the police in Hot Fuzz, and mint chocolate chip for the aliens of The World's End).  But really, the trilogy is merely a marketing ploy (not even named a trilogy until someone pointed out to Wright that he did indeed use two different Cornetto ice cream references in his first two films) and is only mentioned here because this critic gets a big kick out of such things.  Otherwise, these three films are no more a trilogy than Antonioni's Trilogy on Modernity.  How's that for some name dropping?  Anyway, I digress.  Let us move on to just what this damn movie is about anyway.

The End of the World is a fast paced, even faster quipped action comedy about a group of forty year old former high school buds, who are brought back together by their ne'er-do-well pack leader Gary King, in order to perform "The Golden Mile" a pub crawl consisting of a dozen pubs, culminating at a pub called, yeah, you got it...The World's End.  While the other four ex hooligans have grown into responsible adulthood, Gary is still trying to live past glories as a grown child-man.  Of course things get a bit hairy when these (mostly) reluctant pub crawlers come back to their home town to perform the aforementioned "Golden Mile" only to find it may have been taken over by aliens, a la Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  Of course hilarity ensues, and being that it is Wright, Pegg, and Frost, said hilarity is of the wryest, yet most maniacal set.  With allusions to many past films and such (the official poster is a take-off on a similarly-themed 1977 b-movie called End of the World), and a slew of self-referential inside jokes that range from the five lads all having courtly names (with surnames of King, Knightley, Prince, Page, and Chamberlain) to the names of each of the twelve pubs associating themselves with the actions that take place there (at the Crossed Hands the boys get into a fight, at The Mermaid, they are lured by evil women, etc), Wright's film is on equal par with the previous two - maybe even above par.

The real revelation of the film, other than the amount of growth Wright and Pegg have had as writers, from parody to satire to genuine classic-styled filmmaking, is the central performance of Pegg himself.  Frost, as well as costars Paddy Considine, Eddie Marsan, Martin Freeman (Bilbo himself), and Rosamund Pike, all do wonderful jobs with their parts, but it is Pegg, in his black trenchcoat-clad, Sisters of Mercy t-shirt-wearing best, who goes above and beyond anything this critic has ever sen him do before - and considering how much I have enjoyed the guy in the past, that is saying a hell of a lot.   After a carer made out of playing nice guys (well, for the most part) Pegg now takes on the role of a self-centered and quite damaged asshole, though a self-centered and quite damaged asshole with an inevitable heart of, well maybe not gold, but at least some sort of lesser precious metal.  Pegg plays this role to near perfection (I know if I had an Oscar ballot, his name would surely be written as one of my Best Actor choices) and even though his filmic friends are sick and tired of his antics, I would do "The Golden Mile" with Gary King any day.   And then we have the film's finale.  I am not prone to give anything, but I will say this - it is freaking brills, baby! And Pegg keeps it going all the way to...well, to The World's End. 

This review can also be read over at my film site, The Most Beautiful Fraud in the World.

Monday, December 9, 2013

The 10 Sexiest Muppets

Yeah, that's right.  You read that correctly.  The ten sexiest Muppets.  Now don't tell me you haven't already made this same list in your own head, or maybe even written it down in some random notebook you have sitting around.  Really?  You haven't?  It's just me?  Oh well.  So be it.  But even if you haven't already considered a list such as this, or perhaps you've had a stray indecent thought about one Muppet or another (wondering what Gonzo could do with that nose, or maybe what's under those scrubs on Nurse Janice), now is the time to see just who I happen to think are the ten sexiest Muppets around - and maybe you will agree.  So here we go.  Let the countdown commence. Oh yeah, and for all you Kermit lovers out there, sorry, the frog just ain't all that sexy.

First, some runners-up to get us started: Let's face it, they don't call him Big Bird for nuthin'.  If Lea Thompson can have sex with Howard the Duck, then why the hell can't the ladies lap up the luxurious feathered locks of Sesame Street's (probably, unless you count Snuffy) most well-endowed denizen!?  Then ya got Link Hogthrob, the Rock Hudson-esque stud muffin of the Muppet Show.  He is certainly a heartthrob, hence the name, but his overblown ego (which is very unsexy), keeps this otherwise hunky piece o' pork off the list, and in the runners-up stable.  What about Gonzo, you ask?  Well, they do call him Gonzo the Great after all.  And remember the aforementioned parenthetical proboscis comment?  Yeah, I bet you do.  Remember the old Willie Dixon song, Back Door Man?  Maybe you remember the Doors cover version.  Anyway, one of the lines in there is, "I eat more chicken any man ever seen."  There's a sexual joke in there somewhere about Gonzo's henhouse harem, but I'll just let you come up with the particulars on your own.  As for the final of the four runners-up, we go the stoic Gary Cooper-esque route.  Sam the Eagle is a manly sort of ma..er, Muppet, and any God-fearing, flag-waving, red-blooded American girl would be lucky to have 'im.  But enough of this runners-up nonsense...on with the list.

And awaaaaaaay we go...

10. The Snowths
Sure Mahna Mahna gets all the credit (and how could he not, since the song is basically just him scatting his name over and over again), and I suppose the guy ain't hard on the eyes (if you're into the hippy freak kinda thing), but it is the sexy Snowths (are they girls or boys?) that make the song go all do doo doo do doo doo.

9. Crazy Harry
With his pale green skin and meth-addict eyes, and his penchant for blowing things up, Harry may not seem like the ideal date, but girls do love a bad boy, and Harry is pretty bad.  Well, at least he's pretty crazy, and isn't that all a girl looks for in a guy.  Well, isn't it ladies?  Seriously, isn't it?

8. Miss Piggy
Actually I don't find Piggy sexy at all, but I really wanted to do a Sir Mix-A-Lot "I like big butts" joke, and then toss some sort of, "who doesn't enjoy the taste of bacon" kinda thing out there.  Plus, as a guy, this was seeming a bit too much like a sausage fest.  So, big butts and bacon jokes.  There ya go.

7. Beaker
Science geek lab assistant to Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, this adorable little beeper can ride into his number seven position on the ever-so popular lab coattails of the guys on The Big Bang Theory.   Anyone who finds Sheldon Cooper sexy, cannot deny the appeal of young Mr. Beaker.

6. The Swedish Chef
They say the fastest way to a man's heart is through his stomach, so why not include a chef on this list.  Plus ladies (or guys, if you wish), isn't the allure of a foreign man of danger, a pretty sexy thing indeed?  And by danger, I mean the guy screams in pidgin Swedish and tosses knives all over the place.

5. Floyd Pepper
Named after a Beatles album, or at least a character from a Beatles album, this mustacheod hippy bass player for The Electric Mayhem is one of several members of the Muppet Show band to make this list.  After all, musicians do make for a sexier breed than your average guy and/or Muppet.

4. The Count
One!  Aah aah aah!  One sexy vampire!  Aah aah aah!  Two!  Aah aah aah!  Two sexy fangs!  Aah aah aah.  The Count is a true blue vampire, not one of those silly sparkling Twilighty creatures, and that in and of itself, makes him all the more sexier.  And then there's that goatee. Aah aah aah!

3. Rowlf
Hey, another musician. This time it's the hip piano playin' dog known as Rowlf (actually the very first Muppet ever created by Mr. Henson).  Rowlf is the kinda Muppet that can woo you with his smooth piano playing, while sexin' you up with his raspy puppy dog voice.  Ruff ruff.

2. Janice
Yup, another musician, but this one's for the fellas (or the ladies, whatever bakes your cakes).  With a voice like Joplin and a body like Twiggy, Janice, the hippy Nico-esque chanteuse of The Electric Mayhem sexes her way up to the number two spot on our little list.

1. Animal
How could the ultimate bad boy, and yet another member of the Electric Mayhem, not be in the top spot on out list?  Sure, ladies usually go for the guitar player, and not the drummer, but how can anyone resist such pure animal magnetism.  Yeah, that's right.  What says sexiest Muppet more than Animal?  Nothing!

See ya 'round the web.