Friday, October 30, 2015

Duranalysis: “Out of My Mind”

Just in time for Halloween, here’s an incomprehensible ghost story, featuring Simon, Nick, and Warren.


“Out of My Mind” is a single off of Duran Duran’s 1997 Medazzaland album. The album, despite being quite good, was a commercial failure; outside of the core Duran fandom, “Out of My Mind” is mostly known for being featured on the soundtrack for the 1997 Val Kilmer film The Saint. The video, which was directed by Dean Karr, is similarly obscure. If you’ve seen it, you probably remember it as the one in which Nick Rhodes makes out with a demonic tattooed bald lady while his head melts.

If you haven’t seen it, you’re probably thinking one of two things right now, just based on that description:

1. Holy crap! That sounds awesome. I must see this!
2. Holy crap! That sounds awful. I must see this!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: “The Ultimate Computer Affair”


In the fictional South American country of Chacua, a blond-haired, blue-eyed vagabond in tattered clothes strolls barefoot through the streets, strumming a guitar and singing a rousing rendition of that traditional Latin American ditty, “Hava Nagila.” Why, it’s U.N.C.L.E.’s very own Man of a Thousand Faces, Illya Kuryakin! ‘Sup, Illya? What tomfoolery are you getting yourself into this time? Illya approaches a man in a suit and, trotting out his finest we-don’t-need-no-stinking-badges accent, asks for a handout. When the man tries to shoo him away, Illya whacks him over the head with his guitar. Uniformed authorities swoop in, club Illya into submission, and haul him off. Left alone, the suited man whips out an U.N.C.L.E. communicator and contacts Mr. Waverly to let him know the plan is proceeding according to schedule.

Next thing you know, Illya’s been sentenced to seven years of hard labor at the friendly local penal colony, which is secretly operated by the dreaded terrorist organization THRUSH. In a heavily-defended fortress beneath the colony, THRUSH has been safeguarding their latest fiendish device: the Ultimate Computer, which contains all the knowledge stored in all the books in all the world’s greatest libraries. So, THRUSH has just invented Project Gutenberg a few years ahead of schedule, pretty much. Illya’s mission: infiltrate the penal colony and steal the computer to enable U.N.C.L.E.’s top minds to replicate this amazing technological achievement, so all of humanity may benefit from its near-unlimited stores of information.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Friday Roundup: Sapphire & Steel, Duran Duran’s “Pressure Off”, Jem and the Holograms

Amateur mixology corner: As we move into the holidays, I'm trying to come up with new, festive cocktails. Here's my best effort thus far. I'm calling this a Peach Schnapple, because I've been unable to dream up a less-awful name. Take an ounce of bourbon, an ounce of peach schnapps, half a cup of cold peach tea (I’m using herbal; you could easily substitute a flavored black tea if you wanted to amp up the Snapple™ resemblance), and a healthy squeeze of lemon. I’m using the crappy packaged kind, because I have no fresh lemons on hand. Would fresh lemon juice work better? Hells yeah. 

Combine, stir, and serve over ice. Unbeatable color and a clean, fresh taste. Look how pretty that is! Probably more of a late-summer drink, really, but our weather has been strangely warm and sunny this week, so it works.

First and foremost: Duranalysis is back! I posted the Duranalysis of the brand-new “Pressure Off” video earlier today. I’m retiring Miami Vice Mondays for the time being in favor of weekly new Duranalyses through the end of the year. Posting schedule will probably be adjusted thusly: Man from U.N.C.L.E. recaps will be switched to Tuesdays, Duranalyses will be on Thursdays, and these roundups will continue on Fridays. We’ll see how that works. I have quiet doubts about my ability to come up with a constant stream of fresh Duranalysis topics for the next ten weeks or so, but I’m going to give it an honest try.

Duranalysis: "Pressure Off"

Everybody, everywhere, feel it in the air…


Duran Duran just released the video for “Pressure Off”, the first single off their new Paper Gods album, and it’s a good one; since first viewing it, my fingers have been itching to Duranalyze the crap out of it. “Pressure Off” was directed by the band’s frequent collaborator, visual artist/director Nick Egan, who, in addition to creating the cover art for Duran Duran’s Wedding Album, also directed four of their earlier videos: “White Lines”, “Perfect Day”, “Ordinary World”, and “All You Need is Now.” Hey, those are all great songs! And those are all beautifully composed and visually compelling videos! However, while I have Duranalyzed a grand total of twenty-four videos to date, none of the aforementioned have made the cut. You know why? Because Egan doesn’t really do plots. His videos for the band, which mostly feature impeccably-shot performance footage mixed with cool visuals, don’t have storylines. Trust me, it’s much easier coming up with a thousand words or so about a video when there’s at least a loose narrative thread to follow.

“Pressure Off” has no storyline, either, but it’s so damn fun that I’m going to give this a whirl anyway. Here goes:

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Man from U.N.C.L.E.: “The Project Deephole Affair”


In a cheap hotel in Manhattan, Illya and Napoleon protect famed geologist Dr. Remington from a gaggle of evildoers intent on kidnapping him. THRUSH spies, led by the beautiful and hopelessly vain Narcissus Darling (Barbara Bouchet), have surrounded the building; Illya and Napoleon look for a way to smuggle Remington past them to safety.

In the room right next to theirs, hapless Buzz Conway (Jack Weston) argues on the phone with his bookie. When the manager pounds on his door, he climbs out the window to avoid paying his past-due rent. He’s spotted by Narcissus and her gang, who assume he’s Remington and converge on him. They knock him out with a hypodermic dart, but before they can haul him off, Napoleon swoops in, guns blazing, and shoos them away. Illya takes advantage of the distraction to slip out of the building with the real Dr. Remington.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Friday Rundown: Halloween, Man From U.N.C.L.E., Duran Duran


Happy October! It’s still a little warmer here than I’d like, but leaves are changing, and the air is getting a bit crisper and clammier. Here’s our annual Halloween table, an idea we’ve cheerfully pillaged from the always-entertaining Dinosaur Dracula

Festive! The ceramic gold skull is from Z Gallerie; I ordered it for Ingrid a couple years ago, because it was described as a paperweight and thus I was, erroneously, expecting it to be roughly softball-sized. Nope, it’s the size of a real human skull. It creeps me out, honestly, but it’s appropriate for this time of year. Years and years ago, our late mother hand-stitched the stuffed fabric pumpkins for us. 

We’re still mulling over the perfect theme cocktail to serve out of the bone-and-skull-festooned goblets. Something the color of fresh blood, probably. Campari might have to be involved. Suggestions welcomed.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: “The Terbuf Affair”


After the overheated, tawdry shenanigans of the last episode, let’s cool things down with this brisk and breezy offering from the first season. In this episode, which was directed by Richard Donner, the man behind The Goonies and Ladyhawke and the entire Lethal Weapon series, everything’s on a smaller scale: The fate of the world isn’t at stake, no one dies, THRUSH isn’t mentioned, and nobody gets tied up and worked over with a cattle prod. No, not even Illya.

In the tiny fake country of Terbuf on the Balkan Coast, a man named Emil (Jacques Abuchon) flees for his life from the sinister Lieutenant Fest (Michael Forest). A lovely young woman named Clara (Madlyn Rhue) stashes Emil in a haystack, then promises to help smuggle him out of the country.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Miami Vice Mondays: “When Irish Eyes are Crying”


Episode: Season Three, Episode One: “When Irish Eyes are Crying”
Original airdate: September 26, 1986
Directed by: Mario DiLeo
Story by: John Leekley
Teleplay by: Dick Wolf and John Leekley

Summary:
While investigating a tip about a possible weapons deal, Gina saves former IRA member Sean Carroon (Liam Neeson) from an assassination attempt, then becomes romantically involved with him. Carroon, who claims to have renounced his violent ways, is now a vocal proponent of peace between England and Northern Ireland. Vice teams up with a Scotland Yard detective (Daniel Gerroll), who is certain Carroon is using his avowed pacifism as cover while he plots an attack on England. Crockett and Tubbs go undercover as weapons dealers and discover that, indeed, Carroon has been purchasing surface-to-air missiles as part of a plot to bring down the Concorde. Heartbroken, Gina tries to stop the attack, and ends up shooting and killing her lover.

Oh, and Crockett’s beloved Ferrari gets blasted to pieces by a rocket launcher.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Friday Roundup: Duran Duran and Adam Lambert at the Garden, Trader Joe’s pumpkin madness, more U.N.C.L.E., The Devils

Okay, right, it’s Saturday. Saturday is very close to Friday, honestly. Practically the same day.

I went to Fresh 102.7’s Fall Fest at the Theater at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night, with headliners Duran Duran and Adam Lambert. Great show—I’d seen Duran at the Garden back in 2011, but that was in the gargantuan Arena, whereas this was in the much smaller and more intimate (but still pretty huge) Theater within the same complex. We could actually see the stage this time, which was a huge plus. Decent seats, cheap tickets, good acts (in addition to the big draws, Rachel Platten, A Great Big World, and Phases played on the bill). Anyway, Duran did a shortened version of their set from the Terminal 5 show last month (they dropped “Dancephobia”, as well as a few other songs, and damn it, I found myself missing that obnoxious little tune).

One sour spot: The crowd was… not great, at least in our section. There were a bunch of middle-aged male Duranies behind us and in front of us who were pretty loud and vocal in their contempt for Lambert. Look, dudes, you knew Lambert was scheduled to play when you bought your tickets, and being openly disrespectful is a dick move. Go hang out in the lobby if you don’t want to sit through his set. It put me on edge. I have a well-documented firm pro-Lambert stance: He’s got that amazing voice, he’s a natural-born showman, and he’s smart and dazzling and hilarious in interviews. Also? The gulf between Lambert and Duran really isn’t all that wide, guys, and it’s bridged by a love of sequins and eyeliner.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Man from U.N.C.L.E.: “The Concrete Overcoat Affair” (Parts 1 & 2)


 It’s a two-part episode. You know what that means? Twice the usual amount of nonsensical plotting and high-spirited nitwittery! Get comfortable—this is going to be a long one.

During its four-season run, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. produced eight feature films, which were cobbled together from a mixture of existing episodes and additional footage and released in theaters internationally. “The Concrete Overcoat Affair”, repackaged for theatrical release under the title The Spy in the Green Hat, is one of the stronger efforts. It’s a touch darker and more brutal than the usual U.N.C.L.E. episode (more blatantly James Bond-ish, really), but Illya and Napoleon are their usual sparkling and charming selves, and the big-name guest stars—Jack Palance and Janet Leigh—are standouts.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Miami Vice Mondays: “Prodigal Son”


Episode: Season Two, Episode One: “The Prodigal Son” (parts 1 & 2)
Original airdate: September 27, 1985
Directed by: Paul Michael Glaser, aka Starsky on Starsky & Hutch
Written by: Daniel Pyne

Summary:
After Gina is badly injured in a retaliatory shooting following a big drug bust, Crockett and Tubbs head up to Manhattan to infiltrate and take down the Revillas, the New York-based Colombian crime family responsible for the attack. While back in his old stomping grounds, Tubbs tries to rekindle a romance with his shady ex-lover, NYPD cop Valerie (Pam Grier), whose current undercover assignment puts her at odds with Tubbs’s mission. Crockett hooks up with Margaret (Susan Hess), a bad-news party girl who: a) steals his gun (Crockett, love, do not let your one-night stands steal your gun), b) falls in love with him, and c) betrays him to the bad guys. After blowing up warehouses and wreaking general chaos and shooting down helicopters and ending up with most of Manhattan trying to murder them, Tubbs and Crockett finally manage to neutralize the Revilla family, though they’re unable to do much about the great sweeping corruption surrounding them. Oh, and there’s some nonsense about Tubbs maybe thinking about moving back to New York to be with Valerie, except of course he doesn’t.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Friday Roundup: Free books, Ithaca vacation, Pawn Sacrifice, Man From U.N.C.L.E.

First up: Free stuff! Luft Books is giving away some free Kindle-formatted eBooks at Amazon today (and, in some cases, for the next few days). My books Demon City, Charlotte Dent (2008 ABNA semifinalist. Per Publishers Weekly: “From start to end, this is a crisp, fun treatment of Hollywood life”), and Preppies of the Apocalypse are all free right now, as is Four Emperors, the sleazy-yet-fun gay supernatural romance I wrote under the nom de plume Evan Allen. It’s a good time to scoop ‘em up. No Kindle, no worries: Amazon offers free apps to let you read Kindle-formatted content on your computer or most devices. Easy-peasy. (With the exception of Four Emperors, all my books are also available in paperback.)

Unsure where to start with my books? I usual point people in the direction of my all-purpose crowd-pleasing mystery Bias Cut (2012 ABNA semifinalist, 2013 IPPY medalist), which isn’t free today, but which, at a very reasonable $2.99, probably isn’t going to break anyone’s budget. Or you can check out the full Luft catalogue here.