Friday, August 26, 2016

Friday Roundup

I have more or less recovered from our vacation, I think, so let’s do a roundup.

I touched on this in my vacation travelogue, but I’ll elaborate a bit more here: During the Seattle leg of our trip, my sister Ingrid and I visited Durandy’s acclaimed Duran Duran archive. Durandy was a gracious host, and the trip was a heck of a lot of fun. As of this month, he’s got a brand-new book out, The Music Between Us: Concert Ads of Duran Duran, which is available from Amazon; if you’re looking to purchase it, you may want to go ahead and contact Durandy directly through his website, because I’m sure he’d be more than happy to personally inscribe it for you. Pictured above is an earlier edition of this book, which Durandy sent to me back in January—he’d had a few copies printed up early to present directly to the band members during their tour late last year, and in a very cool move, he passed an extra one along to me after he first contacted me about Duranalyzing his first book. I don’t know how much the copy I have differs from the finalized version, but it is, of course, totally awesome; I love and treasure it. It’s filled with glossy full-color photos of Duran Duran concert posters, from their early days in Birmingham all the way through the Paper Gods tour.

Anyway, Durandy’s archive has all kinds of cool stuff, as you'd expect. Only Durandy has vintage Power Station-branded hot sauce:

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: “The Come With Me To The Casbah Affair”

Hey, it’s a tawdry little sex farce, U.N.C.L.E.-style!

In Algiers, Illya arrives at a bistro to meet with a THRUSH underling named Pierrot La Mouche (Pat Harrington, Jr., once again), who wants to sell him a book of top-secret codes swiped from his boss, Colonel Hamid (Jacques Aubuchon). Meanwhile, Hamid receives a coded message from his superiors at THRUSH Central. Upon discovering the theft of the codebook, Hamid bursts into the bistro and ambushes Illya and Pierrot before they can complete their transaction. Pierrot escapes with the codes, but Illya is knocked unconscious. Because a gigantic earthenware crock of olive oil falls from the ceiling and cracks apart over his head. It’s zany! This is a season three episode, could you guess? The zaniness is high in season three. This episode is chock full of madcap shenanigans.

Napoleon visits Illya in the hospital, where he’s recovering from his olive oil-related injuries. “It’s too bad they didn’t put you in a cast. I could’ve autographed it,” Napoleon purrs at his wounded partner. Robert Vaughn, being Robert Vaughn (i.e. wonderful and dazzling and deeply strange), manages to put so much lascivious innuendo into his delivery of that line that it comes out sounding absolutely filthy, like “autographing a cast” is a euphemism for some kind of unspeakably kinky behavior. I hope Robert Vaughn lives forever, because the world needs him.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Travelogue: Tacoma, Leavenworth, Spokane, Seattle

Tuesday, August 9th
We leave New York in the wee hours of the morning, catching a shuttle from Grand Central Station to Newark. The first leg of our trip gets us as far as Los Angeles. We’re flying Virgin America, which means we have a layover in the Worst Terminal At LAX™. If you fly out of Los Angeles with any frequency, you know which one I mean; if not, Google “Virgin America terminal LAX” and settle in for some horror stories. It’s dreary and cramped and overstuffed with travelers, and the food options are limited to Starbucks, Burger King, and an overpriced and semi-awful fish restaurant. We’re here for a while, so we go to the fish restaurant, because it’s the only place where we can sit in relative peace. We order salads and glasses of indifferent wine. Tab with tip: $120. This will be the most expensive meal of our entire vacation, and that will include the time Ingrid picks up the check for a leisurely dinner in Spokane, with multiple rounds of drinks, at a sit-down restaurant with two of our friends.

LAX is glutted with bands. We don’t know why. There are two leather-clad bands in the restaurant with us, lugging around their guitar cases and sundry gear. At the booth in the corner are the San Diego-based heavy metal group CAGE; we never manage to identify the band seated directly beside us, but all the members bear a striking resemblance to Lemmy from Motorhead.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Monster Squad

Originally published at Forces of Geek

The featherweight plot of 1987’s The Monster Squad involves a gaggle of suburban kids who fend off an invasion from Dracula and his coterie of creature-feature staples. Frankenstein’s monster, the Wolfman, the Mummy… even the Creature from the Black Lagoon puts in an appearance. Hey, why not? It’s that kind of film. It’s also a rip-roaring good time.

The titular squad is headed up by Sean (Andre Gower), an imaginative and personable kid who broadcasts his extracurricular interests with his “STEPHEN KING RULES” T-shirt and holds monster-centric club meetings in his tree house. Notable among Sean’s acolytes are his toddler sister Phoebe (adorable Ashley Bank) and local bad-boy Rudy (Ryan Lambert), who chain-smokes and dresses like he’s auditioning to play Danny Zuko in a local production of Grease; naturally, the other kids regard him with a mixture of fear and awe (Phoebe: “I heard he killed his dad!”).

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Last Starfighter

Originally published in 2010 at Forces of Geek

The Last Starfighter features an absolutely brilliant and irresistible hook: Aliens use arcade games to recruit Earthlings to fight in an intergalactic battle against a tyrannical oppressor. This is nothing shy of genius. It also goes a long way toward explaining why this agreeable but otherwise unremarkable little film has been remembered with such fondness by so many viewers since its 1984 release.

Teenaged Alex (Lance Guest) lives with his overworked single mom (Barbara Bosson) and his odious younger brother in a trailer park somewhere in the desert. Alex considers his existence unsatisfactory in many ways, but don’t be too quick to pity him: He’s comforted by his smoking-hot and boundlessly supportive girlfriend, Maggie, who is played by the awesome Catherine Mary Stewart; it’s to The Last Starfighter’s detriment that Maggie is never allowed to run amuck with an assault rifle, a la Stewart’s zombie-fighting heroine in the cult classic Night of the Comet.

(In case Stewart doesn’t provide sufficient geek cachet on her own, sharp-eyed viewers can catch a glimpse of a wee Wil Wheaton cavorting about the trailer park in a dialogue-free role as one of Alex’s brother’s little friends.)

Sunday, August 14, 2016


Originally published in 2010 at Forces of Geek

Somewhere beneath Gotcha!’s layers of misogyny and xenophobia, hiding under the tedious pacing and repetitive scenes, there’s a sleek, exciting Cold War-era spy thriller yearning to breathe free.

Released in 1985 and directed by Revenge of the Nerds’ Jeff Kanew, Gotcha! centers around Jonathan Moore (Anthony Edwards), a UCLA student and aspiring veterinarian. He’s got his work cut out for him, as UCLA doesn’t offer a veterinary science degree, but let’s not quibble about the small stuff—Gotcha!’s problems are bigger and broader than Jonathan’s chosen career path. In any case, the sole point of this veterinarian business is to establish that one of Jonathan’s professors keeps a gun loaded with animal tranquilizers in his classroom; as Chekhov might say, the tranquilizer gun introduced in the first act will almost certainly be used to take down a ruthless KGB agent in the third.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Girls Just Want To Have Fun

Originally published in 2010 at Forces of Geek

Isn’t it awful when nostalgia betrays you? When something you remember from your distant past as being fun and delightful turns out to be neither of those things? Such is the case with Girls Just Want To Have Fun.

See, I liked this movie when it first came out, back in 1985. Granted, I was eleven at the time, and I also really liked Weird Science, so obviously I had some taste issues. When I watched it again, 25 years down the road, my expectations were modest. I didn’t expect brilliance. Let’s be honest: It’s an entire movie based on a Cyndi Lauper song. There are limits to how good it’s going to be. Even so, I wanted it to be better.