Growing up, I was a big fan of Marvel Comics and one innovative series they had was called “What If?” It explored possible alternate storylines like “What if Spiderman joined the Fantastic Four?
I have my own set of “What Ifs?”
What if…you could confront childhood characters on Jerry Springer?
JERRY SPRINGER: Today Tony Wade will confront characters from his childhood that bothered him. First, from “Charlotte’s Web” welcome Wilbur. (Wilbur trots out and I immediately tackle him and start punching him in the snout).
JERRY: Tony, why are you angry at Wilbur?
TONY: (in- between punches) Because he let Charlotte die!
WILBUR: But…I…didn’t …know…she…
TONY: Shut up, you (BEEP!) pork chop!
JERRY: Next, here’s Ralph from Beverly Cleary’s “The Mouse and the Motorcycle”!
(Ralph rides in and I snatch him off the bike and swing him around by his whiskers)
JERRY: What did Ralph do?
TONY: When he rode his motorcycle into a trash can, it freaked my mom out and she wouldn’t buy me a minibike!
JERRY: Our final guest is from the Hundred Acre Wood; welcome Tigger!
(I fling Ralph and he flies into Wilbur’s left nostril, then I body slam Tigger)
TIGGER: Wha…what did I ever do to you?
TONY: Your blood screwed up Charlie Sheen!
AUDIENCE: Jer-ry! Jer-ry! Jer-ry!
What if…"Gilligan’s Island" had a Dating Game episode?
SKIPPER: Welcome to the Dating Game! Our bachelor today is first mate Gilligan!
(Gilligan enters, trips, falls then takes his seat)
GILLIGAN: Bachelorette number 1, what motto sums you up?
MARY ANN: “There’s no place like home.”
GILLIGAN: Bachelorette number 2, same question.
GINGER: “If the thatched hut is rockin’, don’t bother knockin’!”
GILLIGAN: Bachelorette number 2, please look at number 1 and tell me her best feature?
GINGER: (staring at Mary Ann) Well, it has to be her personality.
GILLIGAN: Okay, Bachelorette number 1 do the same thing for Bachelorette number 2.
MARY ANN: Botox.
GINGER: Cow girl!
MARY ANN: Tramp!
GILLIGAN: Bachelorette number 3, describe the ideal man you’d like to be stuck on a deserted island with.
LOVEY HOWELL: He’d be extremely rich and sound just like Mr. Magoo.
GILLIGAN: Bachelorette number 2, same question.
GINGER: Well, he would have to be very smart and able to make incredible inventions that would make our life easier, but not smart enough to build a simple raft to get us off the island.
GILLIGAN: Okay, what about you Bachelorette number one?
MARY ANN: He would be lanky, clumsy, moronic and never change his clothes.
SKIPPER: Okay, little buddy, it’s time to choose. Whose it gonna be, Bachelorette number 1, Bachelorette number2 or Bachelorette number 3?
GILLIGAN: Number 1!
SKIPPER: All right! Let’s see who you didn’t choose. First Bachelorette number 2 is a washed-up actress whose libido works overtime. Greet Ginger Grant!
GINGER: (walks by him shrugging) Your loss.
GILLIGAN: Can I change my mind?
SKIPPER: Nope. Now here is Bachelorette Number 3, Lovey Howell!
GILLIGAN: Um, how are you a Bachelorette? Aren’t you married to Mr. Howell?
LOVEY: My dear boy, I’m a desperate housewife. You see, the Professor has been unable to synthesize Viagra from mangos.
SKIPPER: And now meet your date, from Kansas, Mary Ann Summers! The two of you will enjoy an all-expense paid trip to the lagoon. There you will enjoy a lovely dinner of fried papayas and coconut cream pie. You can take in the sunset but just look out for the indigenous tribes. And with that in mind let’s give a big Headhunter Kiss to the audience. Mwhaa!
What if historical figures went on the Maury Povich show?
MAURY: Okay we are ready to reveal the DNA paternity test results for our guests, slave Sally Hemings and President of the United States Thomas Jefferson. For Sally’s child Monticello, Thomas, you are the father!
AUDIENCE: (wild applause)
MAURY: For Sally’s daughter Nickel, Thomas, you are the Father!
AUDIENCE: (wilder applause)
MAURY: For Sally’s son Two Dollar Bill, Thomas, you are the father!
SALLY: (pointing in Jefferson’s face) I need child support! Oh, you can make the Louisiana Purchase but you can’t buy some Huggies?
MAURY: Finally, for Sally’s son Mount Vernon, Thomas, you are NOT the father!
GEORGE WASHINGTON: %#&@*!
Reach Fairfield freelance writer Tony Wade at firstname.lastname@example.org
The early morning call I received last week from Harvard professor of symbology Robert Langdon was shocking for three reasons.
First, he said there was a bomb threat that could destroy Fairfield. Secondly, he’d called me for help. Finally, I was pretty sure he was a fictional character.
Still, the voice on the phone seemed real enough. Langdon said he needed my help because I knew the Fairfield area plus he thought my column last week on Justin Bieber was funny.
Langdon was at my house in five minutes and when I climbed in his car I started repeating “You’re Tom Hanks!” But Langdon kept insisting he was Langdon.
The incriminating words deciphered thus far were “Clinton”, “atomic”, “bomb” and “Travis.” As it happened, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was scheduled to land at Travis Air Force Base later that afternoon.
As ominous music played when Langdon said this, I knew it was serious.
I remembered that Tom Hanks is an old friend of Solano College Theatre’s Artistic Director George Maguire and to make small talk, I suggested that if we lived through this crisis he should definitely check out their wonderful current production of “Eurydice.”
That was a mistake because Langdon then launched into a really boring history of Greek mythological symbolism.
As he droned on, I feigned taking notes on my cell phone but actually checked the web for Charlie Sheen updates.
We went to the Starbucks and questioned a barista who was cooperative but also thought Langdon was Tom Hanks. The barista kept trying to get Langdon to drawl “life is like a box of chocolates” but he refused.
I then stuck out my bottom lip and began rattling off the different ways to cook shrimp, but Langdon told me to knock it off.
The barista said that at approximately 7 pm the previous night a strange looking young man was there who might be a suspect. He’d sat in the corner using the free wi-fi on a beat up laptop and drank his iced venti half-caff Americano in, of all things, an In and Out Burger cup he’d brought.
Langdon asked if there was a football field nearby. I say yes, my alma mater Armijo High’s Brownlee field. We screeched down the road and once there, he picked up blades of grass which somehow Langdon connected to the Chief Solano “smiling-and-waving-in-my-thong” statue which in turn somehow lead to the Jelly Belly factory.
Langdon explained how each clue led to another but to me it kind of sounded like maybe he had been bangin’ those seven gram rocks with the aforementioned unemployed Tiger-blooded “winner.”
The clues with various symbols came fast and furious then and included the Fairfield city logo, the illuminated county seat sign, and a Doublemint chewing gum wrapper. We zipped all over town with me acting as tour guide and Langdon furiously piecing together the mystery.
We ended up on Da Vinci Court near Solano College, where the perpetrator lived. Langdon smiled broadly as he figured out all the clues. When the soundtrack music reached a crescendo, I suspected we were at a dramatic turning point.
I was right.
It turned out the encrypted email wasn’t encrypted at all but just had really terrible spelling. The perp’s name was Travis and he didn’t want to blow up Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, but turn up funk pioneer George Clinton, the creative genius behind the 1970s groups Parliament and Funkadelic.
“The bomb” was a reference to a greatest hits album called “Parliaments’ Greatest Hits—The Bomb” and George had a solo hit called “Atomic Dog.”
With the crisis averted and Fairfield safe from funk enthusiasts, Langdon drove me back home where I offered to make some dinner for us and gave him plenty of options.
“There’s shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew…”
Reach Fairfield freelance shrimp cap’n Bubba Wade at email@example.com
Years ago I had a creative writing class at Solano College and the teacher gave us an assignment to research a topic, write a paper on it and present an oral presentation to the class.
After considering everything from nuclear disarmament to plate tectonics, I chose to do mine on the history of the toilet. Part of me was trying to be a wiseacre, but in putting it together I learned quite a few things which even decades later I can’t seem to delete from my brain.
It is in that vein that I proudly present today’s column which is subtitled “More Information Than You Ever Needed To Know About Wedgies.”
Before I begin, I have a disclaimer: much of the “research” that the following is based on came from Wikipedia. For the uninitiated, Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia which anyone can update so all the stuff I’m going to relate probably didn’t come from a respected source like the World Wedgie Foundation (WWF), but more than likely was posted on the site by my brother Kelvin in between chuckles.
I did try to elevate this obviously rather low brow topic to at least mid-brow, but when I entered “wedgie” in the Encyclopedia Britannica online search engine the response read: “Seriously? You have a world of information at your fingertips and you want to know about wedgies?” I was humiliated.
So anyway, according to Kelvin Wade, er, Wikipedia a wedgie occurs when a person's underwear is forcibly pulled up by another person as a prank and gets wedged between the buttocks.
The term wedgie is the preferred and most descriptive, but there are many others including a “bite”, a “turkey” and a “snuggie.”
When I was 15, in 1979, I was introduced to a new term for the practice, a “melvin.” Of all places, I learned it on a youth missionary trip to Mexico.
Once we got to the village we were there to help for a week, instead of building a baptistry or painting their church, the older kids from a Bay Area Christian high school began giving melvins to the girls who had came with us.
Soon the Mexican kids were emulating our actions. The chaperones were alerted and we were all dressed down. Apparently God never said to be fruitful, multiply and administer melvins.
Over time I honed my wedgie skills. Naturally I started on my brothers and soon developed flawless technique. The One-Handed Clean Jerk maneuver was my favorite and if you were able to get your wedgee’s feet off the ground it was quite satisfying.
The Two-Handed Power Yank that resulted in both successful wedgification and tore the elastic of their Fruit of the Looms was the Holy Grail. The thrill of that feat for me wasn’t surpassed until I saw NBA player Darryl “Chocolate Thunder” Dawkins shatter a glass backboard.
I should stress that wedgie-giving is an ancient art form and should not be reduced to a mere bullying technique akin to throwing slushies in the faces of glee club students.
Hey, stop laughing about it being an ancient art form. Wedgies originated in feudal Japan with sumo wrestlers. If a wrestler felt he was going to lose a match, he would grab his opponents’ mawashi (the ceremonial diaperlike garment they wear) and give it a yank sending it up into no man’s land.
Of course, with the rotund grapplers it was much easier than today because with the mawashi (literally translated as “sumo thong”) you were halfway there. Tightie whitie briefs were actually developed to create more of a wedgie challenge.
When I was growing up, it was considered taboo to show your drawers in public and it was only on the rarest of occasions that someone ‘s undies were visible and ripe for a wedgie.
But now you have all these youngsters looking like fools with their pants on the ground which takes all the sport out of it.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, you also have women who wear hip hugging pants that reveal their thong undies which in effect taunts would-be wedgie-givers while simultaneously administering a self-wedgie.
I yearn for a simpler time.
Reach Fairfield freelance writer and 1st Dan Wedgie Master Tony Wade at firstname.lastname@example.org
(warning: the video contains some profanity)
My brother Kelvin’s recent harrowing flight and his resultant gratitude when it was over which he detailed in his column last Thursday, sparked a memory of one of my favorite scenes in a movie. The flick is “Almost Famous” by director Cameron Crowe (“Fast Times at Ridgemont High”. “Jerry Maguire”).
It is a semi-autobiographical tale about a 15-year old who is writing a story for Rolling Stone magazine about an up-and-coming rock band. The budding rock journalist witnesses all the band’s backstage issues including drugs, groupies, and personality conflicts. The relevant scene is when they are flying in a small plane to a gig, hit major turbulence and it appears the plane is about to crash.
Getting a little scared, one of the band members makes a blanket “if anything should happen I love all of you guys” statement, but when it actually appears they are in mortal danger, they get more real.
The band manager admits that he once hit a man with his car and kept going and was sorry. Then the floodgates open and revelations about intra-band infidelities, declarations of love from one band member to another’s girlfriend and resentment over the self-centeredness of the lead singer fly around the cabin along with anything not nailed down.
Finally the drummer yells out that he is gay and suddenly the plane straightens out and the band realizes that not only will they live, but they now have to live with the truths that hang in the air.
What I like about the scene is that it shows how so many of us hold on to our true feelings and secrets until we think death is imminent. The thing is, death is always imminent. As far as I know, no one knows the exact hour when they will draw their last breath.
This column isn’t about death however; it’s about telling people what we think while we still can. Unlike the movie, I’m not suggesting that it necessarily be negative things either.
My parents’ generation didn’t open up and talk about feelings and motivations. It just wasn’t done. Consequently many of their children sought affirmation, approval and love and needed it to be verbalized and not just shown through actions.
It’s kind of like “Fiddler on the Roof” when Tevye asks his wife Golde if she loves him and she replies that she has cooked and cleaned and raised a family with him for 25 years.
I had a complicated relationship with my father growing up. We were just so different. I think what helped open up or relationship was me growing up and not seeing him as just an extension of my environment, but an actual human being with needs, desires and cares like anyone else.
I’m very thankful that before both of my parents passed away any resentment that I had allowed to fester when I was younger was cleared away.
Compared to my parents’ generation which played their cards close to the vest, the current one just shows their hand all the time.
It seems nowadays we’ve swung too far the other way with people sharing way too much stuff about themselves on TV talk shows and social media internet sites. I don’t think everybody needs to know all of your business.
However I think it’s definitely beneficial to have someone, even if it’s just one person, you can be open and honest with.
I think like a lot of people and men especially, when I was younger I both craved and feared true intimacy. I now know that that’s what life is about—connecting with people on a deep level.
While it would be really great if you could just read other people‘s thought balloons, as far as I know there is no shortcut to true intimacy. And from my experience, it’s so much better to try to achieve it before you think you only have seconds to live.
Reach Fairfield freelance writer Tony Wade at email@example.com
The incredibly realistic 1989 movie “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” told the story of how Ted "Theodore" Logan (Keanu Reeves) and Bill S. Preston Esq. (Alex Winter) got an A on their high school history final by bringing historical figures from long ago to their school in San Dimas.
Bill and Ted went back to the past using a time-traveling phone booth and returned with the likes of Napoleon, Billy the Kid, Socrates, Sigmund Freud, Genghis Khan, Joan of Arc, Abraham Lincoln and Beethoven.
It made me think: if I were able to go back into the past, who would I bring back to 2010 and why? For starters, I wouldn’t use a phone booth because you’d have to go back in time first to even find one of those and the paradox of that is giving me a headache.
A DeLoreon would be cool, but when’s the last time, if ever, you’ve seen one of those? No I’d just slap a flux capacitor in my Ford F-One Fiddy and be off.
Of course I would need a partner and so I’d choose Daily Republic columnist Brad Stanhope. Judging from past writings of his I’m sure after we made our historical wish lists that I would have to make some deletions from his as he’d include Fred Flintstone, Robinson Crusoe, and Wonder Woman—none of whom are real.
Once the list was set we would embark on Tony and Brad’s Adequate Adventure.
John Montagu –This 18th century British statesman was Postmaster General, First Lord of the Admiralty and Secretary of State for the Northern Department, but is best known as being the 4th Earl of Sandwich and inventing the culinary device that allows people all over the world to eat anything as long as they have two pieces of bread.
From bacon, banana and mayonnaise to the McDonald’s McRib, John Montagu, we salute you sir.
Jimi Hendrix—I would tell Jimi that the whole drug thing would become very passé and that it would be so much cooler if he just ushered in the whole era of the awesome guitarist instead of the ever popular rock-star-choking-to-death-on-their-own-upchuck thing.
Marquis de Sade—I would hope that he could explain how he could simultaneously be known for writing books about pornography and eroticism with torture and pain and also make such wonderful music like “Smooth Operator” and “Your Love is King.” “The Sweetest Taboo” does kinda make sense however.
Benjamin Franklin—It would be great to hear what Franklin thinks about modern culture and how he has survived in it. Specifically the 1997 song “It’s All about the Benjamins” by Puff Daddy (yes, he was Puff Daddy then) and how Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman’s uncanny resemblance to the founding father didn't help her failed campaign.
Homer-I think it’d be interesting to see what this author of epic poems like The Odyssey and The Iliad thinks of the fact that when most people hear his name these days they think of Bart Simpson’s bumbling father.
John Lennon—We’d pluck Lennon from 1967 when the Beatles were in a particularly creative phase and have him talk about songs he’s working on. Also, taking a cue from Doc from “Back to the Future” I would leave him a package with a note telling him to wear the enclosed bulletproof vest on December 8th, 1980.
Abe Vigoda—In one of my favorite films “The Godfather”, the late Vigoda played Tessio who delivered the famous “Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes” line and later went on to play Detective Fish on “Barney Miller.” Vigoda could then…wait…what? He’s not dead? Really? Oh. Never mind.
Harriet Tubman—One question I’d love to ask the famous conductor on the Underground Railroad is how come if it’s a subterranean locomotive no one just called it a subway? It’s so much easier to say. I mean, you don’t hear anyone calling the internet the “Information Superhighway” anymore do you? All hail brevity!
Bob Clampett—I’d finally confront this Looney Tunes animator and creator of Porky Pig and make him explain why his famous porcine construct wears a sports coat and bow tie but no pants. I mean, what the heck?
Reach Fairfield freelance writer Tony Wade at firstname.lastname@example.org
My deadline for this column is Friday at 5 PM and sometimes I am at a loss to come up with anything. Then there are times when, by a convergence of events, it becomes crystal clear what my topic should be. The latter was the case this past week.
Slavery wouldn’t be the first thing to pop into my head to write about, but I had recently started listening to an audio book of the Lincoln-Douglas debates brought to life by actors David Strathairn (Edward R. Murrow in “Good Night, and Good Luck”) as Lincoln and Richard Dreyfuss as Douglas.
I had been listening in my truck to the eloquent verbal sparring about states’ rights concerning the expansion of slavery into the western territories for about a week and then out of the blue I got a letter from Texas that made the recreated debates much more personal.
The letter informed me that my late father had owned a very small parcel of land that a natural gas well was built on. At first I whooped like I had struck it rich a la Jed Clampett, but that’s not the case. I did however get blessed with riches for my soul.
I called the Landman (an intermediary for an energy company) and he said how he got a hold of me was through a genealogy of my family. I was intrigued and asked him if he could send me the genealogy along with the other paperwork.
Now, in 1977, I, like millions of other Americans, was fascinated by the television event “Roots.” To be completely honest, when I watched the first episode what I really took away from it was being floored that my father allowed me to watch a show that had naked breasts in it. (Hey, I was a 13 year old boy!)
But soon I was enthralled by the tragic and triumphant story and read the book as well. The small-screen adaptation of Alex Haley’s search for his African ancestors triggered a desire for many to dig into their family history.
I was interested in my roots but had no idea where to begin. My family wasn’t really that close to any of our relatives and unlike “Roots” my parents didn’t spin colorful yarns about them either. It’s a shame because it turns out my ancestors had pretty colorful names at least.
My great-great-grandmother’s name was...wait for it…Anarchy. Seriously. Ned and Anarchy Wade were listed together in the 1870 census. Her name sounds like a Marvel Comics Super Villain.
Ned and Anarchy had been the property of a man named Edward Teal and when he died in 1858 he left no will so the courts had to settle the estate. This is what it says in the genealogy:
“The appointed commissioners of the courts ordered that the heirs of the estate separate the Negro property into two lots 1 & 2 and place them in a hat and draw and whichever one drew that lot would own those Negroes.”
Besides the sheer horror of learning my ancestors were basically raffled like merchandise, there were also dollar values on them. Anarchy was 45 years old and valued at $500. Her daughter Texana was 16 and was valued at $950. Violet, age 14, and John, 12, were each valued at $800.
I, of course, knew that I was a descendant of slaves, but had no names—no real connection until I read the genealogy. It was sobering.
It’s impossible for me to imagine what it was like to actually be a slave--to be owned by another human being. I can’t fathom what that does to your soul. While I’m grateful that I was able to learn a little of my past, I wish that I could hear the stories--funny, tragic, poignant—to flesh out the list of names and dates.
What I can do, have done, and will continue to do is share and pass on stories of my family with my daughter Kaci. They may not be as dramatic as Kunta Kinte, Kizzy and Chicken George’s, but they are mine and now they are hers.
Reach Fairfield freelance writer Tony Wade at email@example.com
I’m not an Elvis Presley fan. I’ve never owned an Elvis album. Never was a fan of his movies, except for his third and universally agreed upon best film, Jailhouse Rock. The movie was recently re-released in a 50th anniversary deluxe edition on DVD and I hope a new generation of music lovers will give it a look to see what the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll was all about.
In the film, Elvis plays a contract laborer named Vince Everett. The movie starts by showing Everett getting paid and buying drinks for the house in a small bar. When an abusive man manhandles his wife, Everettsteps up to defend her honor. In the process, he beats the man to death, is convicted of manslaughter and sent to prison. This is all in the movie’s first five minutes.
While in prison, Everettbunks with a prison kingpin and onetime country music singer named Hunk Houghton (Mickey Shaughnessy) who puts Everett in a televised prison variety show (don't stop to think) that catches the eye of the public. Houghton recognizes Everett's raw talent and signs him to a 50-50 contract. Everett will be getting released first with Houghton to follow a year later. They make plans to work together in show business.
Once out of jail, Everett hooks up with Peggy Van Alden (Judy Tyler, who was killed in a car accident shortly after filming the role), a woman in the recording business, and shortly they start their own label and rise to the top.
But the plot hardly matters. What people want to tune in for is the King and he delivers. He plays Everett with swagger as a backwoods jerk really. He's completely without manners or tact and seems driven only by making a lot of money in the singing business, even failing to see that his business partner, Peggy, is in love with him.
Perhaps its Elvis Presley's charm and starpower or offhand delivery that make his rudeness charming, if not unintentionally hilarious. There are many examples of his arrogance.
*When a bellhop shows him to his room in a hotel, Everett says, "What do you want?" The bellhop answers, "It's customary to tip a man when he brings you to your room." To which Everett deadpans, "Well, I'm starting a new custom. No tip."
*Upon meeting his future business partner Peggy in a bar, she asks him to buy her a drink and he barks, "Buy your own drink." To which, she responds, "Is yours the approved manner with the ladies in the backwoods?"
*Later, in a restaurant, when Peggy wants to inform him that she's sold his first record, Everett blows her off with a curt, "Let's eat" even though he's broke.
*And when Peggy brings Everett to her folks soiree and an upper class woman is waxing philosophic about atonality in jazz music and asks Everett his opinion, he responds with a disinterested, "Lady, I don't know what the hell you talking about!"
The acting is well enough to move the story along. Elvis wears the role of Vince Everett like a tailored suit. Judy Tyler would've clearly went on to greater success had she lived. But the woman who plays Elvis' studio-initiated love interest, Jennifer Holden, sleepwalks through her role. True, her character is supposed to be disinterested but it appears the actress was. She only made two other films and now apparently runs a cheesy website trying to cash in on her fame as 'the lips that kissed Elvis.' Give me a break.
The music is where the movie really shines. Hits such as "Don't Leave Me Now", "Treat Me Nice" and the hauntingly beautiful "Young and Beautiful" showcase Elvis Presley's musical instrument, his rich voice, often described as tenor and baritone. The movie has been digitally remastered in 6 channel surround sound and the audio performances really come alive. You realize that this guy wasn't just a great performer, he could really sing.
But it's the title track and sequence that presents the movie with its showstopper. Everett rehearses a number called "Jailhouse Rock" for a television special and it features Elvis dancing on a fake cellblock set with other dancers dressed in prison garb. It is here that you see that famous pelvis in action. You see the swivel hips, the crazy left leg snapping in and out and Elvis dancing on his tiptoes. In watching this masterful performer at work, you can see how his style influenced such future entertainers as Michael Jackson.
In rewatching the movie recently after having not seen it in years, I was struck by something that many new viewers may find. Most people of my generation and younger have seen Elvis impersonators way more times than we've actually seen Elvis Presley footage. So watching the movie, while I admired seeing the King in action, some of his movements generated unintentional laughs just because I'm so used to seeing Elvis impersonations. There probably has never been a more impersonated act in the history of rock 'n' roll and Hollywood than Elvis Presley, so it's a unique situation.
In the film, Hunk Houghton gets out of prison and looks up his protege' looking to enforce their contract. Meanwhile, Vince Everett and Peggy stubbornly refuse to acknowledge their feelings for each other. The film doesn't have a great plot but it doesn't need one. The plot serves to give us Elvis channelling some of that James Dean angst and dishing up vintage toe tapping servings of vintage rock 'n' roll.
This is the young, virile Elvis Presley the nation and world fell in love with, not the overweight, pill popping, sideburned, rhinestone studded jumpsuit Vegas caricature that's burned into our memories of his later years. Pop in the DVD and enjoy the beginning of the legend.
The DVD features a behind the scenes look at the "Jailhouse Rock" musical number, including the truth behind who choreographed the scene. There is also commentary by Steve Pond, who I believe is an author of an Elvis Presley book.
You don't have to like Elvis Presley to like this movie. Check it out.
There's a documentary available on HBO on Demand and also through Netflix that every American should take the time to see. It may be available for rent at your local video store. It's called "Alive Day Memories Home From Iraq" and runs a scant 57 minutes so it's only an hour of your time.
As the documentary states, there are two dates that are important to those wounded in combat. The first is their birthday. The second is their "Alive Day", the day they narrowly escaped death.
This excellent look at ten men and women who cheated death in Iraq is an arresting, haunting look at the true cost of war and the nature of courage.
The documentary is directed by two Emmy Award winning directors, Jon Alpert, who directed the excellent look at medics in "Baghdad ER" and Ellen Goosenberg Kent, who won one of her Emmy's for "I Have Tourettes But Tourettes Doesn't Have Me."
The documentary is executive produced and hosted by Emmy Award winning actor James Gandolfini.
There are no slick production values. It's just a set featuring Gandolfini interviewing the ten men and women interspliced with video of the soldiers' lives before they were wounded and their trip back through amputation, physical therapy and healing.
"...We're celebrating the worst day of my life," he says, uneasily.
Lt. Dawn Halfaker's Humvee was hit with an RPG and she lost her right arm. It's a particularly poignant part of the piece when she stares off into space lamenting the fact that she will never be able to lift her future children with two arms.
For me, 41 year old U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jay Wilkerson's calm recounting of the events of his Alive Day will stay with me a long while.
“..That blast blew the door off the second humvee…the back door behind the driver. And the scout who was scanning was severed..half of his body went with the door and fell out of the humvee… His legs were still in the humvee. And all I heard was screaming and everything went black.”
His voice is soft but one can tell by his pauses, his swallows, that he's a man reliving something unimaginably horrible and is thisclose from losing control.
That's the power of this documentary. The people it features don't look like Rambo. Some are gung ho. Others are more circumspect. But what he have here is a cross section of America. Just ordinary folks caught up in extraordinary circumstances. The fact that they're so relatable makes their stories all the more horrible.
As if the sight of amputated limbs and scars, glass eyes and misshapen bodies isn't enough to convey the true brutality of war, intercut with many of the stories are insurgent released videos of the actual IED attacks that caused their injuries. The monstrous explosions followed by the guttural chants of "Allahu Akbar!" take one's breath away by the insanity of it all.
The directors and Gandolfini take no position on the war. This is not a polemic. It's not an exercise in Bush bashing or secondguessing or pointing fingers. This is just soldiers telling their stories about what happened to them in Iraq.
And one of the beautiful things about Gandolfini's role in the documentary is that its totally downplayed. There are zero reaction shots. No closeups of Gandolfini. This isn't Tony Soprano. It's an American who wants to listen to these brave Americans tell their story. It's clear he wanted the focus to be on and stay on his subjects and kudos to him for this. This is a project without ego.
There are a few grisly scenes of combat and some profanity, so be forewarned. But these are stories that Americans need to see. When you see and hear the stories, you'll want to support the troops. And i'm not talking about with a bumper sticker or a magnet. These people deserve the finest medical care and psychological care we have to offer. Whatever we have to pay to make sure their lives are made as whole as possible, must be paid. Because they've paid.
I’m reviewing Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s Grindhouse. This experimental project had the two genre directors each making their own film (Tarantino directed “Death Proof” Rodriguez helmed “Planet Terror”) as part of a double feature complete with faux movie trailers. They were aiming for exploitation heavy B-movies and each movie is artificially marred by audio cut outs, scratches, lines, missing reels, snap, crackle and pops, and other effects to make the movies seem straight out of the 70’s.
The three hour plus movie probably should’ve been dropped on Iraq rather than dropped in the 2600+ theaters it landed in April 2007. It bombed at the box office. According to Box Office Mojo, the movie had a production budget of $67 million and grossed a little more than $25 million.
The movies were split up, re-edited and released on DVD as separate films.
Let me preface this by saying that I’m a Tarantino fan. I loved “Reservoir Dogs.” “True Romance”, which Tarantino wrote the story for, is one of my favorite movies. “Pulp Fiction”, “Jackie Brown” and the “Kill Bill” movies are great films with the freshness of the storytelling, the pacing, the cinematography, action and of course, dialogue.
I’m also a Robert Rodriguez fan. “El Mariachi” is a great film made on literally a shoestring budget. The remake/sequel “Desperado” starring Antonio Banderas is one of the most badass films of the 90’s. Tarantino’s and Cheech Marin’s cameos are classic. And if you’re looking for a great story, unique cinematography and solid acting, check out “Sin City.”
Just don’t shell out any cash for either of the Grindhouse movies. Not only have I saved you a few bucks, I’ve added over three hours of time to your life to do something you’d truly enjoy.
“Death Proof” stars hotties like Rosario Dawson, Rose MacGowan and newcomer Zoe Bell (a stuntwoman and stunt double for Uma Thurman in the Kill Bill movies) and the legendary Kurt Russell who turns in a solid performance as Stuntman Mike. Tarantino does his usual, deposit the cast in a restaurant/bar and let them deliver his pop culture and movie homage references.
Only this time it goes on for WAY TOO LONG.
Stuntman Mike turns out to be a psycho killer who uses his stunt car to kill people. The car is so well made that he can survive crash after crash in it, thus rendering him death-proof. .
I’ve read reviews saying the final car chase scene is the best since The French Connection. Just rent the French Connection if you want to see a car chase. Or rent another movie this one pays homage to, 1971’s classic “Vanishing Point.”
Letting characters talk endlessly isn’t character development if what they’re saying doesn’t develop their character. Get it?
As for Robert Rodriguez’s “Planet Terror”, who can forget the trailers of Rose MacGowan using a machine gun attached where her right leg should be? The actual gun installation comes late in the film and once again, a bored movie goer will be drumming their fingers on the remote thinking, “Can we attach the gun already?”
Planet Terror is a zombie movie. There’s a secret release of chemicals that causes…oh who cares really? It makes zombies. And the point of a zombie movie is to have zombies feast on human flesh and have the protagonists shoot them. That’s pretty much a zombie movie. Rodriguez executes them with both shock and schlock.
Now I’m not the squeamish type. My mother took me to see Halloween I and II. We also saw The Evil Dead together. I was a big slasher movie fan. I loved Fangoria magazine and worshipped at the bloody altar of special effects master Tom Savini. So I’m used to bodies being cleaved in two, heads exploding as well as decapitations.
Still Rodriguez goes over the top with the violence. Pulsing bloody tumors bursting, brains scooped out of heads, arms shot off, bodies ripped apart and a truly horrific scene involving his own child. Someone on the set should’ve told him to scratch that scene out.
Freddy Rodriguez of HBO’s Six Feet Under fame, turns in a fine performance as head zombie killer El Wray, while Michael Biehn plays a sheriff out to kick some zombie butt.
The problem with the movie is that if it had been genuinely funny, the over the top violence would’ve worked. But too much of the movie is played straight or ambiguous. A truly funny disgusting zombie movie might’ve worked. A zombie snuff film? Not so much.
Both directors have done better work. Then again it’s hard to criticize these efforts as mindless dreck when that appears to be what they were shooting for. Don’t waste your time. The reason the movie bombed at the box office wasn’t the running time. It wasn’t the marketing. It wasn’t the timing. It was the product.