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Johnny LaRue's Crane Shot
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
I Hope It Was A Good One
Did everyone have a nice Christmas Day? Mine was...okay, I guess. I'm beginning to wonder whether Christmas is just for little kids. Or maybe I've just lost my Christmas spirit, I don't know. I don't even bother to put up a tree anymore. It seems like a lot of work just for me to look at. I still have the habit of hanging the Christmas cards I receive on the doorframe, so there is some semblance of holiday spirit in my place.

I didn't have a bad holiday, it just seems...I don't know...not so special. I spent the weekend with my dad, my brother, his wife, and his wife's family at my brother's house near St. Louis. Most of my time was spent eating or watching football, and while it was nice to just hang out and not worry about going to work or checking email or updating a blog or moderating Mobius Home Video Forum for a few days, eh, well, it still doesn't seem very special to me. I'm not sure I can really explain it, and I'm not sure how I can shake this feeling by next year.

Things are quiet back at work, as they usually are this time of year. I'd say at least half of my department takes the whole post-Christmas week off, meaning not only is it really quiet around here, but it's difficult to work on some projects because other people who need to provide you with pertinent information or to approve your work are not in the office. I actually have a few things I can work on this week, so the near-empty office shouldn't affect me very much.

Got back in time last night to head to Chicken's to watch the 555th and final episode of MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL on ABC. NFL games will continue next season on Monday nights, but over on ESPN (with Al Michaels calling the game), while NBC takes over prime-time duties with a Sunday night game (FOOTBALL NIGHT IN AMERICA) and a pregame show hosted by Bob Costas. ABC recruited former play-by-play man Frank Gifford to appear on the show with Michaels at halftime, but the bigger coup was taping some segments with "Dandy" Don Meredith at his home in New Mexico. It was quite a charge having Meredith ask, "Are you ready for some football?", before the game.

Feel free to post your Christmas stories. I hope you got plenty of loot. I got some cash, a box of kitchen cookware and a Visa gift card this year. Yeah, I only got to unwrap one present this year. But I ate enough ham to make up for it.

Posted by Marty at 5:01 PM CST
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Friday, December 23, 2005
Why I Shouldn't Be Allowed To Have Money
Chicken, LD, J Brown and I were talking about the DIE HARD movies. I think DIE HARD 2 is the best of the trilogy. Chicken virulently disagrees and doesn't even think it's a good movie. LD sort of had my back, even though I don't know if he believes it's better than DIE HARD.

At any rate, I went to and found that a box set of all three DIE HARDs, in 2-disc Special Editions, was available for under $30. I immediately bought it.

I don't feel too bad, because I emailed the link to the other guys, and Chicken and J Brown bought them too.

Merry Xmas and Happy Holidays, gang. See you next week.

Posted by Marty at 2:34 PM CST
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Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Day 5
Less than four weeks until the Best Show on Television returns. 24 begins its fifth season in January on back-to-back nights of two-hour episodes...four hours over two consecutive nights...before settling into its regular Monday timeslot. Tonight I watched a 10-minute prologue to Season 5 that was funded by Toyota expressly for the DVD release of Season 4. It doesn't appear to be directly related to upcoming events and exists really to sell Toyotas (they reportedly paid $1,000,000 for the "mini-episode").

In it, Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland), who had faked his own death and was last seen wandering into the sunset David Banner-style, is in Chicago, where he drives up an empty street in a sleek Toyota 4-door, parks, gets out, and hides behind a big truck. There he meets Chloe (Mary Lynn Rajskub), who tells him that her computer at CTU has been invaded and his autopsy records examined and that he'd better get the hell outta Chicago. Before she leaves (in another Toyota), Jack asks her how his daughter Kim is doing. It has been 12 months since Jack's "death", and Chloe tells him that she was heartbroken, but has gotten better.

Chloe splits and Jack gets into his car, where he spies a mysterious motorcycle rider whose features are hidden by his helmet. Then--SCREEEEEECHHHH!--a car whips around the corner...and we've got a car chase! It wouldn't pass muster on a typical T.J. HOOKER episode, but I guess it's as good as we get from today's TV directors (there are no cast or crew credits on this "episode", so I don't know who directed this one).

Jack eventually maneuvers his way into an auto junkyard, where his pursuer slides sideways into a forklift and fatally crashes. As Jack surreptitiously drives off, the mysterious motorcyclist watches...

Today was our annual White Elephant game at work. If you saw the hilarious Christmas episode of THE OFFICE, where they called it Yankee Swap, you know how it works: everyone opens a gift, which could be something nice or something lame. Then there's a stealing round, where you can either keep what you have or swipe someone else's gift and trade them yours.

I am the King of White Elephant. For five straight years, I have left with something pretty good and definitely better than what I brought in. I usually use it as an excuse to dump some old VHS tapes I don't need anymore, so someone this year took home a collection of Don "The Dragon" Wilson, David Carradine, Treat Williams and Jeff Wincott movies. I ended up with A CHRISTMAS STORY on DVD. Some of the "zonks" this year included an ugly hummingbird candle that has been re-gifted three years in a row, a Wal-Mart gift card with no money left on it, a framed photo of one of my co-workers, a Xmas tree ornament of a cappuccino machine and an oven mitt that came in a custom-made iPod box complete with a photo of Steve Carell (those of us OFFICE fans thought this was a hilarious gift).

Posted by Marty at 11:19 PM CST
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Yes Or No?
Just one question and we can go back to robot monkeys. It's a yes or no question. I don't wanna hear any Bill Clinton this or Bill Clinton that. Just yes or no.

Do you feel comfortable with the President of the United States--any President--having the authority and ability to eavesdrop on your conversations, phone calls, e-mails, etc. just because he feels like it and without obtaining a warrant?

Posted by Marty at 6:05 PM CST
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Tuesday, December 20, 2005
'Twas Beauty
Bah, who wants to see the new KING KONG anyway? Do you realize that in the 187 minutes it takes for Peter Jackson to tell his giant-monkey story, you could watch both KING KONG VS. GODZILLA and KING KONG ESCAPES? Now which scenario do you think delivers the better value?

I'm writing about them for the next issue of The Hub, which will be the first of 2006, so I won't go into much detail now. 1962's KING KONG VS. GODZILLA was actually Kong's first big-screen appearance in nearly 30 years, since the original RKO KING KONG in 1933. He comes out of retirement when a pharmaceutical company travels to Pharaoh Island (re: Skull Island) to capture a mythical god rumored to be living there among the natives. Kong appears and fights a giant octopus before he succumbs to hallucinogenic Juicy Juice and wakes up on a raft bound for Tokyo. He gets pissed and escapes, but is eventually subdued again. His dignity takes a beating when the Japanese lift him into the air using wire and helium balloons and airlift him to Mt. Fuji to fight Godzilla. Trapped in an iceberg at the conclusion of GIGANTIS, THE FIRE MONSTER/GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN, Big G is back and ready to dropkick a mudhole in Kong's ass.

In 1967, Toho brought Kong back in KING KONG ESCAPES, which was, believe it or not, inspired by a lame American TV cartoon series called KING KONG that was then airing on Saturday mornings. It's colorful and well-paced like a good kiddie show. Square-jawed sub commander Carl Nelson (Rhodes Reason, whose actor brother was incredibly named Rex Reason), a nurse and a Japanese cohort take a cool flying sub to Mondo Island, where they discover...who else...Kong, who fights a dinosaur and a big snake. Meanwhile, evil villain Dr. Who is in cahoots with the sexy Madame X (Mie Hama from YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE), who may or may not be from Red China, but definitely wants the radioactive Element X to use for nuclear domination of the world. Dr. Who's giant robot King Kong (!) fails to mine the element, so Who decides, naturally, to kidnap the real monster and hypnotize (!) him into doing Who's bidding. The climax finds Kong and the robot Kong fighting atop the Tokyo Tower. The only thing cooler than a robot and a monkey is a robot monkey. When's the last time you saw one in a movie?

Posted by Marty at 10:26 PM CST
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The Answer Is Clear
How can you tell when a Republican knows he's wrong about something? He claims it's Bill Clinton's fault. I don't know how many times today I've heard that Clinton is to blame for President Bush illegally eavesdropping on the conversations and correspondence of American citizens. The National Review and Newsmax are just two sources that are claiming falsely that Clinton set a precedent for Bush's actions, and two commenters on my previous post say the same. What they really mean is, "Yes, Bush fucked up again, but I just can't admit what I know to be the truth." Look, I don't even care if Clinton did do it. Or Reagan or JFK. It's illegal, it's morally reprehensible, and whoever does it should be punished. End of story.

On the other hand, the Right can't even be consistent in their Blame Clinton stories. Here, Bill Kristol says that Clinton didn't do illegal wiretaps, but he should have, because nobody would have blown up the World Trade Center if he had. Actually, Dick Cheney said this too.

It's hard to explain how ludicrous that statement is. If an illegal wiretap would have produced enough evidence to prevent 9/11 from happening, illegal wiretapping wouldn't be necessary. The NSA could have gotten a FISA warrant. What makes this whole argument so stupid is that FISA warrants are ridiculously easy to get. Since 1979, do you know how many times FISA has refused to issue a warrant to someone who has asked for one? 4. Four times in 25 years. And they have issued 18,742 (through 2004). 18.742 to 4.

So why didn't Bush get a FISA warrant? The answer is obvious, isn't it? It's because he knew FISA wouldn't give him one. Because he knew he was spying on somebody (or somebodies) that he wasn't supposed to be spying on.

By the way, guess who said this in 2004:
"Secondly, there are such things as roving wiretaps. Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires — a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we’re talking about chasing down terrorists, we’re talking about getting a court order before we do so. It’s important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution."

Yep. George W. Bush. Let's go to the videotape.

I guess he was against wiretapping before he was for it. There are so many lies and obfuscations in the Bush administration's stories that it would be silly for me to list them all, including Condoleeza Rice's appearance on a Sunday talk show (where she swore up and down that Bush was following the law, but was unable to explain exactly what law he was following). But all is consistent with the current White House's dictatorial strategy in which they do anything they want to without any fear of reprisal.

Do you really feel safer knowing that the NSA can read your email anytime it feels like it, even though it hasn't obtained a legal warrant? Remember, the Bush administration also favors a national ID card ("You vill show me your papers!"), a Berlin wall along the Mexican border, torture (McCain's anti-torture bill stopped that), and concentration camps (Guantanamo Bay and the secret prisons in Asia). Are you honestly okay with that kind of government in the United States? I'd love to hear your reasons.

Posted by Marty at 6:19 PM CST
Updated: Tuesday, December 20, 2005 10:27 PM CST
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Monday, December 19, 2005
Truth Is A Lot Scarier Than Fiction
Last week I started reading Fletcher Knebel's 1965 novel NIGHT OF CAMP DAVID, which I picked up months ago at a flea market for under a buck. I'm four chapters into it. It's about a junior U.S. senator from Ohio who is tapped by the President to be his Vice Presidential running mate for his second term after the current VP resigns in the wake of a scandal. The senator comes to realize, after a couple of late-night one-on-one bull sessions at Camp David, that the President is insane, partially because of the Chief Exec's mad rantings about the necessity of eavesdropping electronically on American citizens who, in his paranoid mind, may be plotting against him.

So imagine how I felt last week when the New York Times reported that President Bush has been illegally tapping the phone calls and emails of American citizens. And, like the President in Knebel's novel, doesn't find it the least bit suspect morally. Holy fucking shit, man, the goddamn plane has crashed into the fucking mountain. Does the guy know anything about American history? It's not like he wasn't alive and an adult during Nixon's term in office. He's (mis-)managing the Iraq war in the same manner in which Nixon screwed up Vietnam (to be fair, Nixon had some "help" in that regard from Johnson, McNamara et al.) and now he's bugging phone calls like Nixon did. If it means he'll be resigning soon, I guess I'm all for it. I'll even let him listen to my phone calls if it'll get him tossed out of the Oval Office.

Knebel also wrote SEVEN DAYS IN MAY, which was adapted by Rod Serling into a taut 1964 movie. Long before I started reading NIGHT OF CAMP DAVID, I imagined Dick Cheney as the Burt Lancaster character in that film, and I'll bet I'm not the only one.

Posted by Marty at 7:46 PM CST
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Sunday, December 18, 2005
A Broken Lizard Bummer
I had high hopes for THE DUKES OF HAZZARD, the big-budget remake of the rural hit TV series, considering the participation of director Jay Chandrasekhar and his Broken Lizard cohorts. I think their movie SUPER TROOPERS, which came out in early 2002, is one of the best comedies of the decade, a rollicking, goodnatured slacker comedy obviously influenced by ANIMAL HOUSE. Unfortunately, some bad casting and a reliance on JACKASS-styled slapstick really sink DUKES.

Them Duke boys, Luke (Johnny Knoxville) and Bo (Seann William Scott), run into big trouble when Hazzard County dictator Boss Hogg (Burt Reynolds) frames them for moonshining and steals their farmland so he can strip-mine it. The plot could have been ripped straight from the TV show--which is fine; it only needs to be strong enough to support the car chases and genial humor--but the crass, cynical humor certainly isn’t. I don’t want to overstate the quality of the ‘70s television series, but at least its lead characters were intelligent, good-hearted guys who loved their family and friends. That isn’t the case in this movie, where Cooter (David Koechner) tries to solicit a hummer from Duke cousin Daisy (Jessica Simpson, who is terrible) as payment for rebuilding their racecar, a ’69 Dodge Charger nicknamed General Lee.

Besides Kevin Heffernan, who has some fun as a redneck pal of the Dukes, the other members of Broken Lizard are relegated to barely-there cameos, including a return of two Super Troopers that is kinda fun, but has nothing to do with the story and feels more obtrusive than entertaining. Only Chandrasekhar as director appears in the movie's titles as editor, writer or producer, something in which they were involved in their previous films, although interviews indicate that they may have polished or even heavily rewritten the screenplay. They don't appear to have much fondness for the source material, turning Bo and Luke Duke into sex-crazed morons with a penchant for causing each other pain and embarassment. I watched the unrated DVD, which has way too many naked breasts, sex jokes and f-bombs for a movie about the Dukes of Hazzard County. M.C. Gainey is Sheriff Rosco, downgraded from imbecile to evil minion of Boss Hogg, and Willie Nelson is a dope-smoking, sex-minded Uncle Jesse.

Broken Lizard's first feature was shot on the campus of their alma mater, Colgate University, around 1995-96. For years only seen on campuses and at festival screenings, PUDDLE CRUISER (I don’t know what the title means) finally hit DVD recently with misleading cover art meant to resemble an idiotic T&A comedy. It isn’t, but it’s not quite as inspired as SUPER TROOPERS or as absurd as their next movie, CLUB DREAD.

PUDDLE CRUISER is a romantic comedy where the least interesting aspect is the romance. The best parts of the film occur when two or more of the Broken Lizard guys are onscreen, but unfortunately the film revolves around the efforts of one of them, Felix (Steve Lemme), to date a girl whose boyfriend plays rugby at a different university. Chandrasekhar was still polishing his directing skills, as CRUISER's pacing is too slack and the banter among the actors isn't snappy enough, but there remains enough silliness and good gags to make the movie a decent rental.

I got out more than I expected to this weekend, considering how cold it has been. It's 5 degrees as I write this, but I still went over to Chicken's to watch the Bears beat Atlanta on ESPN this evening. The Bears keep winning--gotta give 'em credit--but they sure are getting plenty of breaks. Their defense is excellent, of course, but I don't think it takes much to stop Michael Vick, who's a very overrated QB, IMO. He has a strong arm and he can scramble, but so far he hasn't shown me that he's a winner.

More importantly, my Bengals clinched the AFC North today, their first division title since 1990, which was also the last year they were in the Super Bowl. They're 0-2 in Super Bowls. Could this be their year? Well, it looks like the Colts (who took their first loss today) are the front-runners, but I can dream, eh?

Roger and Eric had a kickass party on Saturday. I got there around 4:30 and didn't expect to stay too long, but I didn't leave until around 11:00. Besides one drunken idiotic gay guy who keeps crying, falling down and sitting on my lap, there were a lot of cool people there and plenty of good food and drinks. It was quite a festive Christmas party, but I think the key was the toilet seat cover, which lights up an image of Santa and his reindeer. I can honestly say I've never seen anything like it.

Here's what has played on iTunes since I started writing:
"Dance On"--The Shadows
"Smooth Thrill"--Francisco De Masi
"The General"--Frank Skinner from GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN
"I'll Be Back Upon My Feet"--The Music Fair covering The Monkees
"No Milk Today"--Herman's Hermits
"Train on a One Track Mind"--American Breed
BLACK MAMA, WHITE MAMA radio commercial
HALLOWEEN Main Title--John Carpenter
Harry Nilsson's theme to THE COURTSHIP OF EDDIE'S FATHER
"Google Eye"--The Nashville Teens
"My Mind's Eye"--The Small Faces
"My Baby Loves Lovin'"--White Plains

Hey, I'm up to 2490 songs now.

Posted by Marty at 11:31 PM CST
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Saturday, December 17, 2005
John Spencer R.I.P.
I was very sorry last night to learn of the death of THE WEST WING co-star John Spencer, who succumbed to a sudden heart attack four days before what would have been his 58th birthday.

Even though the general quality of WEST WING has been a rollercoaster ride filled with ups and downs (and so have the scripts and the performances of many of its stars), the one thing that has always remained consistent is the warmth, intelligence and strength of Spencer and his performance as Leo McGarry, former Chief of Staff to President Jed Bartlett (Martin Sheen) and now the Vice Presidential running mate to Democratic candidate Matt Santos (Jimmy Smits).

The irony is that McGarry suffered a non-fatal heart attack last season in a harrowing scene set at Camp David (which stood out among the lame material that surrounded it in the episode) and has managed to come all the way back to run for Vice President. I really think McGarry--and Spencer--is the heart of WEST WING, which was once the most outstanding drama on TV. It will be difficult to imagine the series without him. It's likely this season will be its last anyway, as spiraling costs, lower ratings and a move to Sunday nights make it not as desirable as the former Emmy-winning Outstanding Drama Series once was.

Earlier this year, NBC had to write Jerry Orbach's character out of LAW & ORDER: TRIAL BY JURY after his death, and now presumably will do the same with Spencer. I have to believe WEST WING will have to kill off McGarry as well, considering the character's major role in the show's central storyline this season. Unlike Orbach, who was great and seemingly irreplacable--and the heart of LAW & ORDER--Spencer's death affects the show's central story arc, which is the Presidential race between Santos and the Republican nominee, Arnold Vinick (Alan Alda). I'm sure the show's staff already had the rest of the season plotted out, leading up to a Santos victory, but now there will have to be major rewriting.

After much Broadway success, Spencer turned to movies in the early 1980's. I first saw him in WARGAMES, where he and Michael Madsen (!) played officers manning a nuclear missile silo, but I never really noticed him until PRESUMED INNOCENT, a courtroom drama based on a Scott Turow novel in which Spencer literally stole his film from higher-priced stars like Harrison Ford, Brian Dennehy and Raul Julia.

That movie landed him a gig as a regular on L.A. LAW (where he first worked with Jimmy Smits), and from there, a long line of cops as supporting roles in solid Hollywood thrillers--SEA OF LOVE, BLACK RAIN, COPLAND, TWILIGHT, THE NEGOTIATOR. He was always a welcome presence. I miss him already.

Posted by Marty at 11:07 AM CST
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Wednesday, December 14, 2005
What's Playing In iTunes?
Now Playing: THE OFFICE
Between devouring all six episodes of THE OFFICE's first season (and the hour of deleted scenes) and writing next week's article on FOR YOUR HEIGHT ONLY and CHALLENGE OF THE TIGER for The Hub, I have no time for a real post, so I'll take the lazy way out and list what I have heard during the last hour with my iTunes in Shuffle mode.

"IOIO"--Bee Gees
"Indian Reservation"--Paul Revere & the Raiders (#1 hit)
"I'm Leaving It All Up to You"--Donny & Marie Osmond
Jerry Fielding's theme to THE BIONIC WOMAN
"Lt. Gerard" from THE FUGITIVE--Pete Rugolo
"Last Assault" from HALLOWEEN--John Carpenter
"The Weightless Waltz" from LOST IN SPACE--John Williams
"Good Clean Fun", a Michael Nesmith song by The Monkees
Radio commercial for THE STEPFORD WIVES (1975)
"Coffy Baby" from COFFY, sung by Denise Bridgewater
A George Duning suite from THE TIME TUNNEL
William Shatner performing "King Henry the Fifth"
The STAR TREK fight music from "Amok Time"
"Inferno No Mundo"--Bango
"Hang Out"--Kaleidoscope
Radio spot for THE MUTATIONS
Opening from THE IMMORTAL (with Paul Frees narration)
"Rock Your Baby"--George McCrae
"Angela"--Professor Morrison's Lollipop
"Time in a Bottle"--Jim Croce
Radio spot for THE MACK
"Living for the City"--Stevie Wonder
Radio spot for BOSS NIGGER
Quincy Jones' badass theme from IRONSIDE, which Quentin Tarantino swiped for KILL BILL

Hey, I only have 1322 songs in my library so far. Don't worry--I'm adding more soon.

Posted by Marty at 11:39 PM CST
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