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Johnny LaRue's Crane Shot
Tuesday, October 4, 2005
"I am...Kirrooookkkk!"

I've got a bunch of silly images trapped on my hard drive, so I thought I'd occasionally post one and see how it plays with you.

In the STAR TREK episode "The Paradise Syndrome", Captain Kirk (William Shatner) is stranded on a pretty Earth-like planet populated by aliens who closely resemble American Indians. He bumps his head and gets amnesia, but when he uses 23rd-century first aid to save the life of a young boy, the tribe considers him to be a magical medicine man named "Kirok". He falls in love with the chief's racktastic daughter, Miramanee (Sabrina Scharf), and gets her pregnant.

That's pretty far out for a 1960's adventure show; leading men did not impregnate guest stars every day. Or maybe ever. Of course, the reason for that is that guest stars come and go, but Shatner is going to be back on the Enterprise next week. So you just know Miramanee is doomed.

Meanwhile, the Enterprise, with Spock in command, is backtracking the predicted path of a meteor that is due to smash into the Indian planet. Phaser power is too weak to blow the rock up, but the ship rushes back to the planet at exactly the same time Kirok/Kirk gets his memory back and discovers the Indian temple is actually an asteroid deflector built by the planet's ancestors to knock big rocks out of the orbit path. Miramanee is stoned to death by her tribe, and Kirk mourns her just before he beams back up to the ship.

Yeah, it sounds ridiculous, but most SF plots do out of context. "The Paradise Syndrome" benefits from lovely location shooting, an unusual premise, a good performance by Shatner (who gets to grow out his sideburns for this one episode), the foxy Sabrina Scharf, a rigorous fight scene between Kirk and his romantic rival for Miramanee's affections (Kirk uses his patented two-legged chest kick), and a genuinely emotional finale.

You also get to see Shatner ham it up in war paint, screaming to the gods, "!"

Posted by Marty at 11:51 PM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, October 5, 2005 11:25 AM CDT
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Damn Yankees
I thought it going in and I'm just as convinced now that the New York Yankees are the front-runners to win the World Series. They looked pretty good against the Los Angeles/California/Anaheim/Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim tonight, winning 4-1. The downside of watching the game is listening to the inanities spewed by Fox broadcasters Tim McCarver and Joe Buck. They demonstrated their cluelessness in the first inning when discussing Yankee manager Joe Torre's decision to start Mike Mussina in Game 1 of the Divisional Series, citing Mussina's experience in postseason Game 1's. While they were talking, Fox posted a stat showing that Mussina had started six Game 1's in his career, but had not pitched particularly well in them. Of course, Buck and McCarver bent over backwards talking about the two starts Mussina actually had pitched well in.

Jeanne Zelasko: worst hair on TV.

I got a flat tire after work last Thursday and it took me until Sunday afternoon to get a new one, basically because I needed a ride to the tire store. It took me a couple of hours Thursday evening to put my spare donut on, because A) my lug wrench snapped in two, and B) none of my neighbors who were home had one that was the right size (after they graciously dug them from their trunks). Finally, another neighbor returned and not only had a wrench that fit my nuts, but also helped take the tire off. It was dark by the time I got the spare on, but when I went to take it on a test drive, I found out that the spare was flat too. Yes, I did some cursing. So I sat on my rear in the apartment all weekend until my dad could come by Sunday and drive me to Wal-Mart, where I shelled out $84 for a new tire. Since I had just the week before received a $75 check from The Hub for writing film reviews, I figured this must be some higher power's idea of a funny joke. Heh.

I'm really liking SUPERNATURAL, even though A) some of the story points stretch believability (the two leads have little trouble getting people to believe their cockamamie stories of ghosts and monsters) and B) it pretty blatantly rips off THE X-FILES, not surprising, perhaps, considering its first three episodes were helmed by two of THE X-FILES' best directors. I like the simple straightforwardness of the storytelling and the relationship between the leading characters, who are brothers and act like it. For instance, in tonight's episode, the older brother got some gunk on his fingers and surreptitiously wiped it off on his brother's suit. There also was some humor between them when one brother discovered the other was afraid of flying, which sucks when you have to board an airplane piloted by a demon that plans to crash it in 40 minutes.

Posted by Marty at 10:47 PM CDT
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Sunday, October 2, 2005
There's No One Left To Fly The Plane!
Now Playing: MAYDAY
Kudos to CBS for being virtually the only television network to continue producing crappy movies for its Sunday night lineup. Following in the lowbrow footsteps of last season's SPRING BREAK SHARK ATTACK and LOCUSTS comes MAYDAY, which aired tonight.

It's based on a novel co-written by Nelson DeMille. I have read most of DeMille's work, including THE GENERAL'S DAUGHTER, CATHEDRAL and WORD OF HONOR, but somehow missed this one. If director TJ Scott adapted it accurately, then it doesn't seem as though it was worth reading.

MAYDAY is a movie you've already seen a zillion times, from big-budget studio affairs like AIRPORT 1975 and SKYJACKED (hmmm, both with Charlton Heston) to low-budget DTV schlock like GROUND CONTROL and TURBULENCE 3: HEAVY METAL. It's the 1,583,433rd movie about a novice pilot who takes over the cockpit of a passenger jet and manages to land it with help from the control tower and a stiff-upper-lipped stew. MAYDAY does throw in an interesting twist that I don't think I've seen before, in that the people on the ground don't particularly want the disabled plane to land and try to sabotage it.

Aidan Quinn (BLINK) stars as a "weekend pilot" taking a flight from San Francisco to Tokyo. After the U.S. Navy fires a test missile that accidentally smashes into the passenger jet, ripping a hole in one side of the fuselage and exiting through another on the other side, most of the passengers and crew are either sucked out 65,000 feet above the Earth or in an oxygen-deprivation coma. Only a handful of able-bodied passengers remain, including Quinn and stewardess Kelly Hu (X-MEN 2).

The radio is out, so Quinn can only communicate with the authorities in San Fran via a datalink that involves text messaging. Unfortunately, an icy insurance executive (Gail O'Grady of AMERICAN DREAMS) convinces an oily airline executive (Sasha Roiz) that it would be better off for their companies--and certainly cheaper--if the airplane were to crash, so they IM false instructions to Quinn.

Meanwhile, the dumbass Naval commander (Dean Cain, the 21st-century Dack Rambo) that fired the missile also wants to cover up his mishap, so he orders his fighter pilots to blow the jet out of the sky. His superior officer (Charles S. "Roc" Dutton, currently starring in CBS' THRESHOLD) seems opposed to it, but he doesn't exactly exert himself to stop Cain.

All the cliches are here, and it says something about the cast that they almost make you believe what's going on, even though director Scott provides zero suspense and the story is ludicrous (I mean, really, how did the airline think it was going to cover up its instructions to Quinn to turn off his engines?). The crummy CGI effects would have been laughable in a LAND OF THE LOST episode thirty years ago and make one long for a return to three-dimensional miniature effects.

CBS is back at it next week with THE HUNT FOR THE BTK KILLER, a "ripped from the headlines" docudrama in the mode of THE ATLANTA CHILD MURDERS with Martin Sheen and THE CASE OF THE HILLSIDE STRANGLERS with Richard Crenna. Few famous serial killers haven't been the focus of a made-for-television movie. With Gregg Henry (BODY DOUBLE) playing the notorious Kansas killer "BTK" and Robert Forster (JACKIE BROWN) as a detective, this film should at least offer some solid acting chops, even though the true-life story doesn't seem to offer much in the way of TV-style dramatics. After all, the cops more or less accidentally caught the guy when he was dumb enough to leave evidence on a computer he was using at his church.

Posted by Marty at 10:48 PM CDT
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Saturday, October 1, 2005
Dr. Tongue's 3D House of Slave Chicks
Now Playing: SCTV
I've been watching more SCTV lately, since Shout! Factory has released their fourth volume of episodes. This box offers shows that aired on NBC's late Friday night schedule from November 1982 to March 1983. Dave Thomas, Rick Moranis and Catherine O'Hara had left the show by this point, and their absence is sorely missed on these episodes, even though Martin Short had been added to the cast to pick up some slack. There were still some good shows this season, but SCTV was not as consistently good as it was in their pre-Short 90-minute episodes (not that Short is to blame).

I say this, even while admitting that the season's first episode is one of the show's best. The premise is that a strike of SCTV technicians has spurred owner Guy Caballero (Joe Flaherty) to simulcast programming from the CBC--the Canadian Broadcasting Company. Flaherty and Short wrote much of the material for this episode, which brilliantly and painstakingly parodies typical Canadian TV shows, such as HINTERLAND WHO'S WHO, a series of 60-second wildlife films, HEADLINE CHALLENGE, a very dull and slow-moving panel quiz show, and an amazing spin on GOIN' DOWN THE ROAD, a low-budget 1970 Canadian film hardly known in the U.S., but a major critical and cultural smash in its homeland. This episode's writing is so strong that it isn't necessary to be familiar with the shows being spoofed, just so long as you get the premise that A) Canadian television is boring, B) there are few major Canadian TV stars, and C) Canadians suffer from low self-esteem when compared to their American neighbors.

Another episode I recently saw guest-starred Robin Williams in a clever movie parody called THE BOWERY BOYS IN THE BAND, which puts Slip (Williams as Leo Gorcey), Sach (Short as Huntz Hall), Whitey (John Candy as Billy Benedict) and Louie (Flaherty as Bernard Gorcey) into the middle of William Friedkin's gay-themed THE BOYS IN THE BAND. Something I wondered about this and other SCTV episodes is how well their humor has aged. Meaning that, as funny as THE BOWERY BOYS IN THE BAND is, it's surely incomprehensible to anyone who doesn't know who the Bowery Boys are or what THE BOYS IN THE BAND is, which is, of course, nearly everybody under the age of 30.

I never saw a Bowery Boys movie until just a few years ago. I remember seeing countless listings in TV Guide when I was a kid for Bowery Boys movies airing on WGN-TV in Chicago. Unfortunately, I lived in a town that was so small that it didn't get cable television until I was well into high school. And I don't recall WGN still running the Bowery Boys after that, or else I probably would have seen them. Aside from some public domain titles with Bela Lugosi that have appeared, I don't think any of their work is on DVD, except perhaps for some of their early 1930's A-pictures when they were called the East Side Kids. But I'm talking about the Monogram programmers the Boys churned out four or five times a year. Every once in awhile, Turner Classic Movies airs some, but it's pretty rare.

I know Cheeseburger has already tuned out by now. Anytime I talk about a movie or TV show more than five years old, she stops reading. That's right--I'm calling you out, Cheeseburger.

I also started watching one of my few recent DVD purchases: THE DICK CAVETT SHOW: ROCK ICONS. August 18, 1969 would appear to be an historic date in television history. That's the night Jefferson Airplane performed "We Can Be Together" and uttered the word "motherfucker" on network television, probably the first time that had ever happened. The occasion was Woodstock, and the Airplane, Stephen Stills and David Crosby flew directly from the Woodstock stage to New York City to go on Cavett's late-night ABC talk show, which was competing with THE MERV GRIFFIN SHOW for #2 in the timeslot behind THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JOHNNY CARSON. Joni Mitchell, who famously did not appear at Woodstock specifically so she would be fresh for her Cavett appearance, sang four songs that night, Stills did one, and Jefferson Airplane three.

Shout! Factory has done a nice job with the episodes I've seen so far. What they have done is cherry-picked episodes in which famous rock stars performed, but instead of just editing together clips, they have elected to air the complete 90-minute episodes, so we can judge the performances in their proper context. This allows us to more fully absorb the history and the setting, and Cavett's unusual interviewing format, in which all the guests sat together in a semi-circle so everyone could participate, allowed, say, Sly Stone and tennis great Pancho Gonzalez to chat.

Speaking of Sly Stone, his appearance on this DVD set is interesting because he was so coked out at the time. Sly and the Family Stone do a kickass version of "Thank You (Falettin Me Be Mice Elf Again)", but Sly's chat with Cavett is nigh incomprehensible. He comes off as friendly, polite and even intelligent, but it's obvious that his well-publicized drug problem was in full swing.

The third episode I have watched so far came near the end of Cavett's ABC run, after the network cut him back to one week per month under its WIDE WORLD OF ENTERTAINMENT umbrella. His shows were just a half-hour, which barely gave David Bowie, in a very rare TV appearance, time to sing two songs ("1984" and "Young Americans") and chat with Dick. I'm not a Bowie fan, but he was on fire that night, and his talk with Cavett--the first time many of his fans had ever seen him in conversation--is delightful.

Cavett has had several TV shows, including one in the 1990s on CNBC. The 1969-74 late-night show contained here is probably his best. What's interesting about watching them now is how unhip he was and how comfortable the rock stars seem to be with him. Cavett was not a fan of rock and roll, and, in fact, didn't even know who Jefferson Airplane was. But unlike many other interviewers, he doesn't condescend to them, and doesn't ask a bunch of stupid questions. I believe he was genuinely curious about them, even if he does occasionally fall back on stock questions ("What do your parents do for a living?").

THE DICK CAVETT SHOW is a neat artifact from a period in television when people actually came on talk shows to talk. In the three shows I watched, not one guest was there to plug a movie, a show, an album or anything else. If it came out naturally that Bowie was on tour or that Debbie Reynolds was doing a stage show, fine, but that was just part of the conversation. Senator Fred Harris from Oklahoma, who later unsuccessfully ran for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 1976, came on with his wife, a Comanche, to talk about current events and Native American rights. When's the last time a little-known politician appeared with Dave, Jay or Conan to talk about issues?

It's also fun to see these shows with the benefit of hindsight. When Jefferson Airplane did "We Can Be Together" and "Volunteers", no one in the audience had heard them because the album hadn't been released yet. So while we know the songs well (and both kick major ass), it was new music to everyone in the studio and at home, and it's fun to eavesdrop on that sense of discovery.

Janis Joplin appeared in three episodes that are on the second disc in the box set, and George Harrison, Paul Simon and a 20-year-old Stevie Wonder are on Disc Three. Should be fun.

Posted by Marty at 11:20 PM CDT
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Wednesday, September 28, 2005
That's The Second Coolest Thermos I've Ever Seen
Now Playing: INVASION
The death of Don Adams this week reminded me that I own an actual GET SMART thermos that dates back to 1966.

That's not actually my thermos, but one just like mine that I found listed on eBay. I also have a cool metal THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN lunchbox.

I hope I haven't just killed Lee Majors.

Posted by Marty at 10:45 PM CDT
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Monday, September 26, 2005
Missed By That Much

Just a few days after sitcom legend Bob Denver (GILLIGAN'S ISLAND) passed away comes news of another death: Don Adams, the Emmy-winning star of GET SMART!

Unlike many fans, I didn't get to grow up with GET SMART!, since it was never rerun on any TV station in the Champaign-Urbana market. I remember seeing a couple of episodes in motels while on family vacations, but it wasn't until TV Land began airing it in the 1990's that I got to see GET SMART! on a regular basis. Created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, neither of whom had anything to do with the series after the pilot, GET SMART! is perhaps the only commercially successful spoof in TV history. Series like POLICE SQUAD, WHEN THINGS WERE ROTTEN (another Brooks show) and SLEDGE HAMMER! followed in GET SMART!'s footsteps, but none came anywhere near the five-season run or multiple Emmy trophies of their predecessor.

I actually came to know Adams through his voicing of Tennessee Tuxedo, a wisecracking penguin who teamed up with a dumb walrus named Chumbley on a popular cartoon series I watched a lot as a kid. He also appeared on the box and in commercials for an Aurora toy called Skittle Pool; I understand Adams won a Clio for directing the commercial.

GET SMART! is a marvelously clever TV series, a spoof of the many spy movies and shows that were so popular at the time, ranging from the James Bond movies to THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. Adams was idiotic CONTROL agent Maxwell Smart, a bumbler who always somehow managed to stop the nefarious plans of rival spy agency KAOS, usually with the assistance of his gorgeous partner, Agent 99, played by the brainy and beautiful Barbara Feldon.

Catchphrases like "Would you believe...?", "Missed by that much" and "Sorry about that, Chief" became widely imitated, and running gags like the Cone of Silence and other wild gadgetry were hallmarks of the series. But most of all, GET SMART! was successful because of its star. Adams never really did much after GET SMART! went off the air, perhaps because of typecasting. He was certainly a very talented comic actor, a master of the double take and able to wring every last laugh out of a gag by punctuating the lines with that distinctive Maxwell Smart voice (which was not how Adams regularly talked, by the way).

Adams reprised the character in THE NUDE BOMB, which was one of the first (but not the first) times the cast of a successful television show got to star in a theatrically released sequel. Motion picture remakes of old TV shows are common today, but this was an example of a reunion movie being made for theaters, and was perhaps inspired by STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE. Universal released it with a PG rating in 1980, and it was not a critical or box office hit, probably because GET SMART!'s supporting cast, including Feldon, Dick Gautier (Hymie the Robot), Bernie Kopell (Siegfried) and King Moody (Starker) were not included in the film. Feldon's absence was a particularly stiff blow to GET SMART fans, and the cheap production values (the Universal tour plays a large part in the action) and clunker-filled script didn't give Adams much to chew on. Adams also came back to play Smart in the very good made-for-TV sequel GET SMART AGAIN! (which wisely featured the old cast, including Feldon) and in the short-lived 1995 Fox TV series GET SMART, in which Adams and Feldon played the parents of a new bumbling CONTROL agent, played by, of all people, Andy Dick (NEWSRADIO).

GET SMART! is scheduled for a DVD release early next year. It's a shame Adams didn't live to see them come out, but let's hope he was available to participate in some bonus features for the DVD. He apparently has been in ill health for several years now, and, at age 82, it seems unlikely he could have been too active with the DVDs, but it certainly would be a wonderful bonus for those of us who appreciated his fine talent.

Posted by Marty at 11:25 PM CDT
Updated: Monday, September 26, 2005 11:36 PM CDT
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Sunday, September 25, 2005
The Long Weekend
I'm not going to post much right now; I need to get some sleep. I spent a three-day weekend as the best man at my friend Kevin's wedding up north. Even though I really had few duties as best man, it still made for a long, exhausting weekend. So exhausting that even if I had been able to score with the blond hottie who was hostessing at Connie's Pizza Friday night, I might have had to beg off. And, hey, I was succeeding too. I just would have had to have put in a few hours groundwork with her at Fat Sam's, but it just wasn't to be. I find I'm much more successful with women I meet outside of C-U. I think part of the reason is that women from more urban areas are more open to strange men, more curious to learn more about people, regardless of their appearance. Maybe because they have more contact with strangers or because city life has made them more open-minded. I don't know, but I find conversing with strange women is a lot easier for me in Chicago or Atlanta or Los Angeles than it is here.

And I also think that women in this area are, frankly, not very pleasant. I know that won't be a very popular statement, but the number of interesting, attractive single women, particularly childless women, around here is about the same as the number of registered Republicans in south central L.A. And the percentage of those women who are actually nice people, well, we're talking microscopic numbers here. I've considered pulling a Tolemite and doing my own Shame Week of stories about how cruelly women have treated me, but my ego has taken enough of a beating, and I'm not sure I can stand to relive them. Even though some of the tales are, admittedly, pretty funny. I know you've heard the expression "cold shoulder", but I have actually received one. Brrrrr.

I'll post more about the wedding later. For now, I'll say that it was a good time and a very nice ceremony. I could have used a nice break during the afternoon, but the reception and the excellent prime rib there more than made up for it.

After driving home through a pounding rainstorm all the way from Orland Park, I spent the rest of today on the couch watching TV. Fox's KILLER INSTINCT is a real turkey. It's a stupid police procedural--a genre I really like, but even I'm beginning to get sick of them--starring a guy named Johnny Messner, who is a very bad actor, and a young actress named Marguerite Moreau, who is not much better. Moreau was fired after the pilot and was replaced by Kristin Lehman, but I won't be tuning back in for Episode Two. The great Chi McBride is wasted as the gruff black cop superior in this thin, obvious mystery series.

The teaser of THE WEST WING was a neat surprise, taking place three years in the future and giving us a sneak peek at what the characters will be up to after President Bartlet (Martin Sheen) has left office. Since the series will likely focus on the Jimmy Smits/Alan Alda presidential race until one of those actors/characters wins the White House, it will probably be the show's best chance to give its audience closure concerning its beloved cast. We find out C.J. is married to reporter Danny Kilcannon and has borne him a child, Toby is teaching at Columbia University, the Mary McCormack character has written a book, presumably about the Bartlet presidency, and Josh appears to be working for the current U.S. president, Matt Santos (Smits). Or is he? I doubt the show is showing its hand this soon, so maybe Josh has a new job three years from now. We'll see.

I'm really looking forward to Chris Noth's return to LAW & ORDER: CRIMINAL INTENT. It's my least favorite L&O show and one I don't find essential, but Noth, a beloved former star of the original L&O (he was partnered with George Dzundza, Paul Sorvino and Jerry Orbach), is returning to star in half of this season's L&O:CI episodes, alternating with Vincent D'Onofrio. In just the few minutes of screen time Noth had in tonight's opener, he was a breath of fresh air, and it will be great to see him in his own episodes, partnering with Annabella Sciorra (THE SOPRANOS). I predict Noth will be the fulltime star next season, and D'Onofrio will be history.

Bengals are 3-0, baby! Take that, Bears fans!

Posted by Marty at 11:10 PM CDT
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Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Drive-In Memories
I watched a documentary tonight about the rise and fall of the American drive-in theater, and I thought it might be fun to share some of my own drive-in memories. You can let me know if it is.

First, some background, since I know so many people who have never attended a drive-in theater. And even if you do go, today's drive-ins aren't the same, I don't think. You generally get only one movie, as opposed to the two or more that were mandatory in the old days, and the movie is usually some big, homogenous blockbuster that might even still be playing in the multiplexes, so you aren't even getting the thrill of discovering something A) new and obscure or B) bold and exploitative. Drive-ins began to die out in the late 1970's, simply because land became so valuable that it was more profitable for drive-in owners to sell their property to developers to turn into shopping centers.

There are still a couple of drive-ins around here, but, eh, it's just not the same. It doesn't feel special, as it once did, to go to them. There are no promotions or gimmicks or music or any sense of community. You show up, pay money, park, and watch a movie. One. And you're outta there way before midnight.

Champaign-Urbana used to have two drive-ins: the Widescreen, which was on North Cunningham in Urbana, and the Twin City, which was on North Market in Champaign across the street from where Market Place Mall is now, where Heilig-Meyers is. My recollection is that the Widescreen was more likely to show mainstream movies, whereas the Twin City showed harder exploitation items. That's why my family--mom, dad, little brother and me--almost always went to the Widescreen. I only remember going to the Twin City once, in 1981 to see FOR YOUR EYES ONLY (we left before the second feature, WOLFEN). 1981 was also the year the Twin City closed, so I likely saw one of the last features there.

The thing I mostly recall about the Twin City is that you could see the screen from Interstate 74, and I'm convinced the first time I saw a naked woman was as a very young boy seeing all kinds of pink naughtiness bouncing around that silent arena on the way home from a family trip.

My folks used to take my brother and me to the Widescreen a lot. I remember sitting in the back seat in my pajamas eating popcorn out of this gigantic green Tupperware bowl and drinking Coke out of a Tupperware sippy cup. We always brought our own refreshments. This would have been in the early-to-mid 1970's. I don't know if it was on its original release or a re-release, but I clearly recall seeing PAPILLON at the Widescreen. I didn't realize it until I saw the film as a teenager, because I only remembered a beheading (PAPILLON was rated PG) and someone eating a bug. My parents were very strict about taking us to see R-rated films (there was no PG-13 then), and I didn't see one until I was about 14.

We saw a lot of Disney films at the Widescreen: GUS, THE APPLE DUMPLING GANG, NO DEPOSIT, NO RETURN, THE NORTH AVENUE IRREGULARS. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that I saw just about every Disney picture that came out during that time. I also recall my folks being mortified by a PG movie we went to. It was a western about a treasure map that was tattooed on the asses of hot women, and the heroes had to go around stripping chicks to see the tattoos. Again, when I got older, I found out that was THE STRANGER AND THE GUNFIGHTER with Lee Van Cleef and Lo Lieh. It's on VHS, but I have never gone back and rewatched it, although I have meant to for many years. I also recall being bored silly by THE NORSEMAN, a Viking picture I was excited to see because it starred Lee Majors, then the star of one of my favorite TV shows (still is, I guess), THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN.

The Widescreen closed in 1986, and I was just going away to college by then. I transferred to Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, and I was lucky enough to attend the Egyptian Drive-In in Energy, a few miles from Carbondale near Marion, a few times.

I believe the Egyptian had the largest drive-in screen in the world, and my first visit there was for a double feature of RAMBO III and ROAD HOUSE. I also saw K-9 with THE DREAM TEAM there. What was wonderful about the Egyptian is that it was independently owned by the old woman who started it with her husband back in the '40s. The concession stand was covered with autographed photos of celebrities who had visited over the years. It also had a DJ booth, and this woman would entertain before and between movies by playing old rock and country records with patter in between. It was a very festive place to be, and I'm sorry I didn't go more often than I did. My last visit was to see FATHER'S DAY and AUSTIN POWERS: INTERNATIONAL MAN OF MYSTERY while I was in town to help a friend move into an apartment in Carbondale.

Gibson City hosts the Harvest Moon, which I've been to a couple of times (the last was to see THE MARK OF ZORRO), but it just doesn't hold the same allure for me. There are only 14 drive-ins left in Illinois, though, and even if I never go back to one, I hope they last forever.

Posted by Marty at 9:34 PM CDT
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Tuesday, September 20, 2005
Glug Glug
Well, I tried. While I was watching MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL with Chicken last night, I was rolling tape on both PRISON BREAK on Fox and the premiere of SURFACE on NBC. Too bad I didn't get to see either of them. A thunderstorm must have glitched my cable box, because it clicked over to the wrong channel, and I ended up taping LAS VEGAS instead.

I saw the majority of SURFACE, I suppose, but between weather warnings taking up about 30% of the screen and occasionally preempting the show and WAND-TV going off the air for most of the fourth act, I was pretty lost. I should watch another episode or two to give it a fair shake, although I wasn't that thrilled with it, and I don't expect it to stay on the air long anyway.

Formerly called FATHOM, SURFACE stars the improbably named Lake Bell, who not convincingly portrayed a callow young attorney on THE PRACTICE, as a marine biologist who sees what might be a bigass sea monster deep below the Pacific Ocean. A wimp teenager in North Carolina sees some weird shit in the Atlantic, including some kind of alien egg, which he brings home and hides in the family fish tank. That ranks high on the List of Stupid Decisions. There's also a beer-guzzling Louisiana redneck (Jay Ferguson from EVENING SHADE) who has something to do with the show, but since the dumbfucks at WAND were off the air, I don't know what. He must have seen a monster too, because he's packin' up and goin' east to find it.

SURFACE's pilot was written, directed and executive-produced by its creators, twins Josh and Jonas Pate. These guys created a wonderful series called G VS. E, which originally ran for eleven episodes on the USA cable network. G VS. E was a wonderfully imaginative, clever, funny, fast-paced genre series about immortal angels tracking down and destroying Satan's minions in Los Angeles. It fell apart after it moved to the Sci-Fi channel for its second season of 11 shows. It was still decent, but that initial 11 was damn good. The Pates eventually took over L.A. DRAGNET during its aborted second season, which was good, but I felt the Pate brothers were too interesting to waste running a cop show, solid though it may be.

So I'm optimistic about SURFACE, even though the promo for next week's episode looks like a random group of alien-conspiracy cliches, including the government blackout and two kids keeping a baby alien as a pet in the bathtub. Wonder what the odds are of that "cute" pet getting mean and ugly in a big hurry?

NBC premiered MY NAME IS EARL, a very funny new single-camera sitcom starring Jason Lee (MALLRATS) as a New Jersey redneck and ne'er-do-well who decides to change his life after hitting the lottery and sets out to right the wrongs he has committed. The opener found him trying to get a wimp he bullied in grade school laid, which is harder than Earl thought when he discovers the guy is a "Homosexual-American". It's hard not to like Lee in this role, although his bitchy ex-wife (Jamie Pressly) and idiot best pal could get old quick.

I caught THE OFFICE for the first time--the U.S. version with Steve Carell, not the U.K. show. Working in an office, I related to some of the painful bits, but I thought this episode was a little too uncomfortable. It was funny alright, but in an edgy, shift-in-your-seat kind of way that doesn't play very well with prime-time audiences. Carell is obviously talented, and if THE OFFICE is going to follow MY NAME IS EARL, I'll probably check it out again. I can't get away from co-star Rainn Wilson anyway; in the last month, I've seen him in SAHARA and an episode of ENTOURAGE.

LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT opened with a strong show starring Robert Patrick, the T-1000 from TERMINATOR 2, as a just-released rapist who may or may not have attacked a woman he rode a bus with. The episode actually forgets about that rape to concentrate on the ethics of Detective Stabler (Chris Meloni) going undercover in Patrick's therapy sessions and getting close to the ex-con in case he rapes again. It's all very close to entrapment, and the point is made that Stabler's interaction with Patrick may have been the bell that set him off. Some surprising suspense and gunplay mark the climax, but it's the excellent performance by Patrick going head-to-head with the intense Meloni that made this a good show. It was great to see Robert Walden as a guest star too, even though his character disappears right after the opening titles. Walden was the bulldogish reporter Rossi on the old LOU GRANT show, and his retired detective on tonight's SVU was reminiscent of his earlier Emmy-nominated role.

Posted by Marty at 11:48 PM CDT
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Monday, September 19, 2005
Happy Bat-Birthday

Adam West, the greatest Batman of them all, turns 77 today. Someone told me today that if Nike had any sense at all, this photo would be the start of a brilliant new print ad campaign. Nike, make it happen.

Shatner pwns Alan Alda. After losing the Emmy to Shatner last night, Alda made a big show of ripping up his acceptance speech. He was probably just kidding, but there's no shame in losing an acting award to The One True Shat.

This is the most important DVD news of the year. THE ROCKFORD FILES is finally being released before the end of the year. While there's nothing inherently wrong with Season One sets of ADAM-12, BAA BAA BLACK SHEEP, EMERGENCY!, MCCLOUD, MCMILLAN AND WIFE and DRAGNET, why did Universal release these shows on DVD before ROCKFORD, which is guaranteed money in the bank. Maybe it's because...

...they were waiting for some sweet extras. Usually, Universal just dumps these shows with no special features, but according to this menu shot from TV Shows on DVD, they managed to land James Garner for an interview. I'm assuming the 90-minute pilot guest-starring Lindsay Wagner (pre-BIONIC WOMAN) and William Smith will be included. One of the series' defining moments is the great scene where Rockford sucker-punches the bigger and meaner Smith in a mens' room.

Look for it December 6, 2005.

Posted by Marty at 5:34 PM CDT
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