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Showing posts from 2016

Friday Roundup

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I’m taking next week off, so this will be the final post of 2016. Weird year across the board, right? May we all find strength, courage, and kindness in great abundance in 2017.

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

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Hoo, boy. Brace yourselves. This is a bad one.

Napoleon exits the offices of the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, which, in a high-water mark of cultural sensitivity, has a carved wooden cigar-store Indian propped outside of it. A headband-wearing Native American man ducks behind the statue to avoid being seen and rolls it down the sidewalk after Napoleon. Napoleon meets up with Illya in an alley, where they find themselves surrounded by a gaggle of Native Americans, who hurl tomahawks and shoot flaming arrows at them. Amidst a flurry of smoke signals, Illya and Napoleon fend off the attack and escape unscathed.
At U.N.C.L.E. headquarters, Mr. Waverly briefs Illya and Napoleon on their new mission: With the aid of Japanese nuclear scientist Dr. Yahama (Richard Loo), THRUSH has developed a hydrogen bomb. U.N.C.L.E. has tracked Yahama to the Cardiac reservation outside Oklahoma City. The chief of the Cardiac tribe, Chief Highcloud (Ted de Corsia), has recently disappeared; Waverly suspec…

Friday Roundup

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The great Sarah Kurchak—whip-smart journalist and U.N.C.L.E. fan extraordinaire—is now the proud owner of a vintage (and slightly disintegrating) Illya Kuryakin costume. Check out her photos; this thing is amazing. It’s simultaneously nightmare fodder and the greatest thing in the world. I wish I owned it. (Doesn’t that mask in the photo below look like it should’ve been used as a prop in an actual U.N.C.L.E. episode about THRUSH creating an evil Illya doppelganger, in which a THRUSH agent puts on the mask, and then there’s a tasteful cutaway, and then for the rest of the episode he’s played by David McCallum?)

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

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This is a frightfully silly episode in which very little happens: Illya and Napoleon swill beer, huddle together in small spaces, and whine about their jobs a lot. I have no complaints. Let’s dive in:
Illya zips through the Alps in a sporty red convertible, in hot pursuit of a car driven by noted crime lord Lucho Nostra (Bruce Gordon). The road is blocked by uniformed sentries, who raise the barricade to allow Nostra to pass, then lower it in front of Illya. Illya smashes through the barricade, spins out of control, and crashes his car. While he’s struggling to collect himself, he’s approached by a suave ne’er-do-well named Artie King (the multifaceted jazz musician/actor/activist Don Francks, who, I just learned yesterday, is Cree Summer’s dad. You know what might be even cooler and more random than that? He voiced Sabretooth in the 1990s FOX X-Men cartoon. Dude led a fascinating life), who informs him that he has illegally entered the tiny sovereign nation of Ingolstein and is now …

Friday Roundup

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I've got nothing! Nothing but drudgery interspersed with holiday preparations on this end! Okay, I've got a few small bits and pieces: First up, please do visit/like the Duranalysis Facebook page, if you haven't already done so. There's weird stuff there, like Union of the Snake comics (see above). Hang out, post your own Duranny links, have fun.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: “The King of Diamonds Affair”

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This episode features perhaps the most obnoxious opening sequence in the history of the series, in which a young woman bites into a slice of pudding in a London tearoom and dissolves into ear-shredding histrionics when she breaks her tooth on a piece of glass. A customer points out that the glass is actually an uncut diamond, whereupon all the female customers and waitresses gasp and swoon and drop plates in astonishment. It’s grating and frenetic and juuuuuuust on the cusp of offensiveness, and it made me predisposed to loathe the episode.
And then the rest of the episode turns out to be perfectly innocuous and occasionally charming (I mean, it has Ricardo Montalban in it), but man, that opening sequence is dire.
Illya and Napoleon pop up at Pogue’s Pudding Shop in London and introduce themselves to the snippy proprietor, Victoria Pogue (Nancy Kovack, sporting a dodgy English accent). More diamonds were found in other puddings from Pogue’s; at the suggestion her puddings have been t…

Friday Roundup

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Happy December. I hope  everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving last week (where applicable). Ours was low-key and lovely, filled with plenty of good food, starting with my homemade potato rolls (and cranberry mimosas) for breakfast. My sister roasted a pair of Cornish game hens and did a stuffing made from jalapeño cornbread I’d made the night before, combined with roasted chestnuts, water chestnuts, sage, celery, and Italian sausage. I made miniature sweet potato soufflés with cooked sweet potatoes combined with butter, a little brown sugar, and a ridiculous amount of grated lemon peel and ginger. In a fit of daring, instead of whipped egg whites, I experimented with using aquafaba—the whipped liquid from cooked chickpeas. It worked well! I scoffed at first, but now I’m an aquafaba convert.

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

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Somewhere in North Africa, Napoleon hangs out in a hookah bar and ogles belly dancers while eavesdropping on a conversation between THRUSH boss Colonel Hubris (Victor Buono) and his knife-wielding henchman, Malik (Joseph Sirola). THRUSH Central is sending Colonel Hubris millions of dollars to finance his plot to seize control of all of Africa; the money, along with all of THRUSH’s top-secret plans, will be transported via what Hubris refers to as a “robot plane”, which will drop a satchel containing the cash and plans in Hubris’s backyard before self-destructing. In today’s world, in which unmanned aircraft have become commonplace, I think we all really missed an opportunity by opting to call them “drones”.  “Robot planes” sounds infinitely cooler.
Illya traces the flight path of THRUSH’s robot plane, which is scheduled to fly directly over Odysseus’s (fictional) Isle of Circe on its way to Hubris’s lair. Equipped with a device designed to signal the plane to remotely jettison its pr…

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: “The Tigers Are Coming Affair”

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In India, the sinister Prince Panat (Lee Bergere, slathered in a generous coat of brown face paint), accompanied by his right-hand man, Colonel Quillon (Alan Caillou, who also wrote the episode), and a beautiful French woman named Suzanne de Serre (Jill Ireland, again), hunts tigers on the grounds of his lavish estate. A ragged young man, whom Suzanne recognizes as the prince’s private pilot, interrupts the hunting expedition by hurrying up to Suzanne and gasping out something about poison. At Prince Panat’s orders, guards knock him unconscious and drag him away. The prince calmly explains to Suzanne that the man was only an escaped prisoner and therefore nothing for her to worry about (“It does liven up rather a dull day, doesn’t it?”).
Suzanne visits U.N.C.L.E. headquarters in New York and explains her predicament to Mr. Waverly and Napoleon: She’s a chemist/botanist, who’s been working in India to introduce technological advances in farming techniques to the locals. At this, Napol…

Friday Roundup

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How’s everybody holding up? Are you all getting enough sleep, eating the right foods, drinking in moderation, not letting anger and/or despair interfere with productivity, taking time to appreciate all the good things in life? If so, you have my respect and admiration; on any given day since the election, I’ve managed maybe half of those things.
One of the (many) consequences of having a catastrophic election outcome is that it robs us all of the luxury of remaining outwardly apolitical. I’ve spent too much time over the past week and a half poring over analyses and election postmortems and rants and calls to actions. I imagine many of you have done the same, but in case it’s of any help to anyone, I’ve put together a very fast and not-at-all comprehensive resource guide and reading list to start to shape a course of action for the rough days (weeks, months, years) ahead:

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

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We now live in a world without Robert Vaughn, and it’s a mighty cold and unglamorous place. Don your best tuxedo and/or sparkly cocktail gown, pour yourself a stiff martini, and help me celebrate his iconic and irreplaceable magic.
In Manhattan, THRUSH goons transport bullets and hand grenades hidden inside vacuum cleaners to their secret headquarters in a repair shop. Napoleon slinks into the store, where the counterman is arguing with an irate customer. At the sight of Napoleon, the counterman whips out a gun, whereupon Napoleon calmly shoots him with a tranquilizer dart. Being an anarchic sort at heart, he then opens the register drawer and encourages the customer to steal herself a refund. He bursts into the back room and confronts the THRUSH goons, who jump into a van and make a break for it; Illya, who is loitering in the alley, fires a rocket launcher and takes out the van.

Friday Roundup

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Hey, everybody! Any news this week?


Well. Things are awful. As to the election, I had a long rant composed in my brain, but I'm going to hold off on it for the moment. We have four years of intensive damage control ahead of us, and we will need great amounts of strength, courage, and kindness, all of which seem to be in short supply at times.

We lost a pair of greats this week. First up: Rest in peace, Robert Vaughn, you magnificent, beautiful, brilliant bastard.

Self-Inflicted

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I'm sad and angry, so I wrote a sad and angry poem.


Self-Inflicted
That’s the thing about self-inflicted wounds: You get pity, but no compassion. You get mocked, and it’s hard to say it isn’t deserved. Yet the bullet lodged in your squishy bits Does no less damage when you put it there yourself. We stood in lines in drab school hallways. We chatted with our neighbors. Beautiful fall weather, Earl. Nice day, isn’t it. Let’s burn it down. We hovered at rickety booths and fired our weapons at once. Not all of us, no. Fewer than half. But that’s another thing about self-inflicted wounds: They can cause collateral damage.
We did it because we dislike loud women, clever women, women with opinions. We did it because higher melanin levels make us suspicious. We did it because we hope wealth is contagious. We did it because we didn’t read the damn manual. We did it for the lulz. Tens of thousands of reasons. Rank them on a spectrum From careless to foolish to venal to vile. Now we wait for…

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: “The When In Roma Affair”

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In Rome, Napoleon races through the outdoor seating area of a restaurant with a pair of THRUSH goons in hot pursuit. As the goons close in on him, he stops at a table and tucks a perfume atomizer containing a top-secret formula into a purse belonging to Darlene Sims (“The Foxes and Hounds Affair”’s lovely Julie Sommars), a meek young woman from Omaha who is visiting Italy with a tour group. This episode is pretty typical of season three, in which the plots were drawn with increasingly broad strokes, so we’ll never learn any concrete details about what the atomizer contains. It’s a formula, it’s top-secret, Napoleon has it, THRUSH wants it. That’s all the information anyone’s going to get. It’s probably all anyone needs, really.
The goons capture Napoleon and drag him off to a lavish palazzo owned by a louche count, Cesare Guardia, who, upon finding himself in dire financial straits, has reluctantly allied himself with THRUSH. Cesare is played by dashing Italian actor Cesare Danova, w…

Friday Roundup

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Duranies unite! My Duran-loving friends, I could use your help.

Good news first: There will be a Duranalysis book. And it’s not going to be just a bunch of repackaged blog content, either; this is going to be 100% original material. It’s going to be jam-packed with premium, uncut, all-new Duranny goodness. Nothing but the absolute best for you guys.
The bad news: I’m having trouble finding an agent to represent the project. Over the summer, I put together a slick, funny, insightful, meticulous, airtight, comprehensive, fifty-page book proposal, complete with a chapter-by-chapter breakdown and sample material, and last month I started cautiously sending it around. Here’s the first and thus far only response to the proposal: This sounds like a great project but I don't see that you have the social media numbers in place that will be needed to really convince a publisher.
Okay, then.

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

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At headquarters, Mr. Waverly meets with Dr. Armand Warshowsky, a THRUSH scientist who has defected to U.N.C.L.E. Dr. Warshowsky tips Waverly off about a diabolical plot to poison all of Southern California’s water supply. In return, he demands to be allowed to see his brilliant young son, Bartlett, who is a student at a fancy THRUSH-run private school in Switzerland; Mr. Waverly refuses, on the grounds that his visit might alert THRUSH to his switched allegiances. The argument grows heated, so Mr. Waverly brings the discussion to an abrupt close by spraying Warshowsky with a blast of knockout gas hidden inside his pen, which seems like a grotesque overreaction to a perfectly reasonable request. After all, the dude just wanted to see his kid. I think we just learned a lot about the way U.N.C.L.E. conducts negotiations.
Acting on Warshowsky’s information, Illya and Napoleon head to the Mojave Desert to destroy a water tank containing THRUSH’s supply of poison. They slink around in ador…

Friday Roundup

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Weekend before last, I did some experimenting around with stenciling designs onto fabric. Result: the snazzy tank top emblazoned with Nick Rhodes’ lovely face. I wouldn’t say the process was easy, exactly, but it was relatively straightforward. Very quickly, here are the general steps: I took a photograph of Nick and did a whole bunch of futzing around in Photoshop to make it stencil-ready.Like so:

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: “The Bow-Wow Affair”

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A well-dressed man in a dark cloak (Paul Lambert) lurks in the shadows outside a mansion, glowering malevolently and doing his very best Dracula impression. He climbs through a window into an empty bedroom, where he spreads out a pair of polka-dot pajamas on the bed and stabs a jewel-handled dagger through them.
Back at U.N.C.L.E. headquarters, Napoleon is undergoing rigorous physical therapy at the capable hands of lovely agent Sarah Johnson. Apparently Napoleon blew out his knee when he tripped over the office cat, which means he’ll be taking a backseat for most of this episode. This makes it the first-ever episode to focus primarily on Illya instead of Napoleon, but really, the big takeaway here is that U.N.C.L.E. has a cat wandering around headquarters, whom we will never see and who will never be mentioned again. As a cat lover, I count this as a huge missed opportunity. Mr. Waverly interrupts Napoleon to ask for a personal favor: The stabbed set of pajamas belongs to his cousin, …

Duranalysis: “Too Much Information”

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This band is perfect, just don’t scratch the surface…

The video for “Too Much Information”, the third single off of Duran Duran’s 1993 Wedding Album, was directed by Julien Temple, who also directed the band’s lovely and stylish video for “Come Undone”. More importantly, though, he helmed the 1988 sci-fi musical comedy Earth Girls Are Easy;“Come Undone” is swell, but Earth Girls Are Easy is a classic. Despite consisting mostly of performance footage, “Too Much Information” still manages to be a raucous good time. Let’s hit it:
The video was filmed on the enormous, elaborate, multilevel set Duran Duran used during their 1993 Dilate Your Mind tour. The set, described by Nick as a “cross between Flash Gordon and Kafka”, is a large-scale pastiche of pop-culture ephemera created by legendary English National Opera stage designer Stefano Lazaridis; it required six trucks to move it from venue to venue and ended up being too huge and unwieldy to fit on several of their stages (a scheduled pe…

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: “The Four-Steps Affair”

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Well, this is a weird, messy little episode.

This was scripted, at least in part, by U.N.C.L.E.’s very best staff writer, Peter Allan Fields, who brought us a whole slew of this show’s finest episodes, including “The Concrete Overcoat Affair”, “The Foxes and Hounds Affair”, “The Ultimate Computer Affair”, “The Girls of Nazarone Affair”, “The See-Paris-And-Die Affair”, and “The Fiddlesticks Affair”. Alas, even Fields couldn’t work his usual magic with this one, for a very good reason: This episode is pieced together from unused footage shot for two separate theatrically-released Man From U.N.C.L.E. feature films, neither of which were written by Fields: To Trap a Spy, which is the feature-length version of the pilot episode, and The Spy With My Face, the feature-length version of “The Double Affair.” Fields had the unenviable job of bridging together unrelated leftover plotlines into a single semi-cohesive story, with mixed results.
Somewhere in the Hamptons, a badly wounded U.N.C.L.E…

Friday Roundup

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I’ve been grievously neglecting Duran Duran over the past few months, so I’m happy to announce that Duranalysis will resume next week and (hopefully) continue on a more or less regular schedule through the end of the year. First up: 1993’s “Too Much Information”, a video bursting at the seams with gleeful forays into tonsorial madness. Look for my analysis to be posted on Thursday or thereabouts. In the meantime, to get back into the Duranalysis spirit, what’s your preference: John’s cherry red coiffure, or Nick’s purple (sorry, Nick, lilac) locks? Discuss in the comments below.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: "The Very Important Zombie Affair"

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Hey, everybody! Ready for a hefty dose of Voodoo Magic™?

Illya and Napoleon arrive at the Miami airport, looking to meet with a contact who, per Mr. Waverly’s instructions, will be wearing a striped suit and a panama hat with a green hatband and carrying a nudie magazine tucked under his arm. Upon spotting their man, Napoleon asks him for a light, whereupon the man passes him a matchbook with a hotel address and room number scrawled on it.
As soon as the man leaves, however, Napoleon and Illya spot another man in a striped suit and green panama hat, who, yep, has a nudie mag tucked beneath his arm. Confused, Illya wanders over to him and asks for a light. The second man hands him a matchbook, which turns out to be blank. Illya tosses the matchbook in the trash, only to have it explode seconds later. Illya and Napoleon might not be the most competent spies out there, but by gum, they sure are the luckiest (and the prettiest, and the most charming, but that’s neither here nor there).

Friday Roundup

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Congratulations to Mousie Mouse, who won the September giveaway of a signed copy of Demon City and a bunch of Japanese snack foods! The day I mailed this package off to Mousie, she and her family were evacuated from coastal Florida in advance of Hurricane Matthew. I presume the post office will not attempt to deliver mail to an evacuation zone, so Mousie, you will mostly likely be united with your package whenever you’re able to return to your home, which I hope will be very soon. Please stay safe, and thank you for entering the giveaway. I’ll probably try to do another one in November, so for anyone interested in free swag, keep following these roundups for details.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: “The Take Me To Your Leader Affair”

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I’ll start this recap with a bit of trivia: This episode was written by Bernie Giler, who penned two other U.N.C.L.E. episodes: “The Foreign Legion Affair”, which is one of the rare episodes to depict Illya as someone who, despite his outwardly frosty demeanor, might enjoy having sex with pretty ladies, and “The Her Master’s Voice Affair”, which features a nubile young woman who is hell-bent on seducing a recalcitrant yet bemused Illya. Just think of this episode as a messy yet entertaining mishmash of “Foreign Legion” and “Her Master’s Voice”, and you’ll be all set.
Napoleon and Illya arrive at an observatory located on a private island in the Caribbean, which is run by astrophysicist Dr. Cool (frequent U.N.C.L.E. guest star Woodrow Parfrey). They’re greeted by Dr. Cool’s daughter, Coco, who is played by the adorable Nancy Sinatra. Coco, who is dressed to kill in a hot pink bikini and matching boots, leads them to her father, who grills his visitors on how much they know about radio…

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

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Illya waits at the airport for the arrival of a flight carrying Dr. Margaret Armindel, a renowned physicist from M.I.T., whom U.N.C.L.E. suspects has been recruited by THRUSH for her iconoclastic work in the field of nuclear propulsion. She’s whisked off the plane on a gurney, having suffered a massive fatal heart attack in the air. Illya bats his pretty eyes at a flight attendant and sweet-talks her into giving him Dr. Armindel’s personal effects, which include strips of microfilm containing photos of her research.
At U.N.C.L.E. headquarters, Illya and Napoleon are briefed by Mr. Waverly on their new assignment. Over the past few years, several high-profile scientists have mysteriously vanished; U.N.C.L.E. suspects they’ve been either kidnapped or bribed by THRUSH to work on their latest nefarious project, a nuclear-powered spaceship designed by missing Polish scientist Dr. Janos Hradny. Among Dr. Armindel’s possessions is a ticket to see a popular revivalist preacher known as Brot…

Friday Roundup

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Happy fall. The Kindle versions of two of my books are free at Amazon today: Lonely Satelliteand Bias Cut. Bias Cut is an IPPY silver medalist and an ABNA semi-finalist; it’s a murder mystery set in the fashion industry. Lonely Satellite is an ABNA quarter-finalist; it’s an alternate timeline retelling of Bias Cut set in a post-nuclear wasteland. Both are pretty good! Get yourself some free reading material for the weekend.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: “The Hong Kong Shilling Affair”

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Ah, “The Hong Kong Shilling Affair”: Proof positive that even Season One could churn out the occasional terrible episode.

We open in Hong Kong, where Illya, barefoot and dressed as a Chinese rickshaw driver, a conical hat pulled down over his face to hide his blond hair and blue eyes, crouches outside a waterfront bar called the Smiling Fish and keeps a careful watch over boats arriving at the harbor. A Western businessman hops in for a ride; Illya dons a ghastly Chinese accent and replies, “So sorry, rickshaw not free now. Honorable gentleman try someplace else.”
Ugh. Yeah. I mean… Yeah. On several other occasions, I’ve discussed this show’s cheerily dated and cringe-worthy approach to foreign cultures, particularly when it comes to the many disguises of Illya Kuryakin, Man of a Thousand Faces, so I’m going to move right along, though I’ll quickly note that this episode will get much worse. Consider bailing out now if you’re not feeling up to dealing with this sort of thing.

Friday Roundup

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Happy Friday. There’s a mosquito somewhere in the apartment, which has bitten me approximately eight billion times today. I’m going to spent the afternoon hunting it down and seeking grim vengeance. With insects, I generally try to take an all-creatures-great-and-small leave-well-enough-alone approach, but mosquitos are exempt from my mercy. It’s going down.
Last weekend, I replaced a faulty igniter in our gas stove. I am not especially intrepid with household repairs—I live in constant fear of electrocuting myself, accidentally blowing stuff up, or causing grievous property damage—but I’m getting much better. This year alone, I’ve re-hung vinyl windows, replaced a broken window lock, replaced a p-trap in the kitchen sink, and fixed a leaky bathtub faucet. And now, of course, I’ve replaced the igniter. I watched dozens of YouTube videos before starting the repair, which ended up being a little tricky, since I had to get out the hacksaw to saw off a stuck machine-threaded screw. 
Here…

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: “The Brain-Killer Affair”

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At an exclusive social club, Mr. Waverly plays chess with Calvin Farmington (Liam Sullivan), a high-ranking official in the State Department, while Napoleon slouches in a nearby armchair, his nose buried in a newspaper. Despite being a world-class chess player, Farmington makes a series of crippling blunders. Waverly acerbically points out that Farmington has also made several catastrophic decisions at his job lately, causing U.N.C.L.E. to suspect his mental faculties have been compromised.
A waiter at the club overhears their conversation and, acting on the orders of his unseen superiors at THRUSH, slips a deadly neurotoxin into Waverly’s cognac. Waverly drinks it and collapses. Before falling unconscious, he manages to gasp out three names to Napoleon: Farmington, Nikos Korzos, and Nils Bergstrom. Napoleon contacts headquarters and orders Illya to send some agents to the hospital to protect Waverly: If THRUSH was behind the poisoning, they’ll probably try again.

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

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On a London-bound flight from Paris, Illya watches covertly as a fellow passenger, an infamous French assassin named Raymond, is confronted by uniformed airline personnel, who ask him to submit to a search. Raymond shoots them with a gun disguised as a camera, then barricades himself in the airplane lavatory. He detonates some plastic explosives and blasts a hole in the hull that sucks him out of the plane, which seems like an overly-dramatic way to get out of being searched. Upon hearing the commotion, Illya breaks down the lavatory door. This causes the cabin to depressurize; he’s forced to cling to the doorway to avoid following Raymond out into oblivion.
Nice one, Illya, I thought smugly while watching this. We’re two minutes into the episode, and you already almost got yourself killed, to say nothing of endangering the entire plane. Good to see you’re maintaining your usual level of competence.
And then Illya (and Napoleon, for that matter) spends the rest of the episode acting i…

Friday Roundup

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Awesome foodstuffs corner: We picked these up last weekend:

Japanese green tea Oreos! These were tasty but a bit of a cheat, since they weren’t in any way shaped like traditional Oreos. They were very small—they came seven to that box, individually wrapped, and were shaped like tiny squares. The base was a chocolate cookie layer topped with a layer of matcha-flavored Oreo cream, with the whole thing coated in dark chocolate. Nothing to dislike about that. The mint chocolate ice cream bars were from Taiwan and were… fine. The ingredients contained no cream (they used powdered milk instead) or chocolate (cocoa powder mixed with coconut oil for the coating), which isn’t ideal, but they did have a good astringent mint flavor.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: “The Cap and Gown Affair”

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Oh. It’s this episode. Yippee.

I’ve already named my all-time least favorite episode—that’d be “The Jingle Bell Affair”, and I still feel pretty confident about that decision—but this one gives it some competition for the title. There are episodes that are more nonsensical, there are episodes that are duller, there are episodes that are sloppier, there are episodes that are more offensive, but this one… well, it’s a little bit of all of the above. Let’s wade in.
Under heavy security, Mr. Waverly is chauffeured across New York while Illya and Napoleon, in separate cars, relay information to each other about his progress. The car carrying Waverly drives over a manhole, which explodes, engulfing the car in a ball of fire. Illya and Napoleon crouch beside Waverly’s body, which is sprawled across the pavement, lifeless.
Eh, Waverly’s fine—the body was only a mannequin, used in an attempt to lure THRUSH, which has been hell-bent on assassinating Waverly, out into the open. Napoleon urges …

Friday Roundup

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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 h…

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

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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 autograp…

Travelogue: Tacoma, Leavenworth, Spokane, Seattle

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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 restaura…

The Monster Squad

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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!”).

The Last Starfighter

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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

Gotcha!

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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.

Girls Just Want To Have Fun

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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.

Solarbabies

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Originally published in 2010 at Forces of Geek

The opening sequence of Alan Johnson’s 1986 film Solarbabies is really pretty good: In the middle of a desert at night, two teams of teenaged warriors in face masks and protective gear square off across an athletic court: the noble Solarbabies versus the treacherous Scorpions. A violent, no-holds-barred game of something called skateball—an unholy blend of lacrosse and field hockey played on roller-skates—ensues. The game is disrupted by the arrival of the E-Police, a brutal force led by the sadistic Strictor Grock (Richard Jordan), head of the excellently-named Maiming Squad. The kids frantically wheel away to safety, with the authorities in hot pursuit. This is a promising start.
Alas, nothing else in Solarbabies can be classified as “really pretty good.”

Night of the Comet

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Originally posted in 2010 at Forces of Geek
Christmas, 1984: A comet is scheduled to pass close to the Earth. Across the world, people await its arrival. In Los Angeles, the streets teem with revelers, caught in the grip of comet-mania. When it comes, the comet turns the skies red with poisonous dust. It obliterates most of the world’s population instantly, transforming everyone into sad little piles of red powder. Those who don’t die become… well, they’re not true zombies exactly, any more than the crazed, virus-infected Londoners in 28 Days Later were zombies, but let’s face it: Night of the Comet, written and directed by Thom Eberhardt, is a zombie film. And a damn fine zombie film it is, too.

Dance ‘Til Dawn

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Originally posted in 2010 at Forces of Geek
Dance ‘Til Dawn is a 1988 NBC made-for-television movie featuring a slew of familiar TV faces, all slotted into a simple tale of wish fulfillment on the night of the high school prom. Yes, it’s a prom movie. An eighties prom movie, no less. This generates certain expectations.
Consult your prom-movie checklist: Snobby popular girl gets her comeuppance? Check. Underdog gets elected prom queen? Check. Unlikely couplings? Check. Riotous after-party? Check.

Tuff Turf

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Originally posted in 2010 at Forces of Geek.
Tuff Turf should be much worse than it is. Let’s start with the title: Tuff Turf? Really? Gee, that’s sort of… lame. Let’s move on to the premise: A rebellious preppy battles a tough Los Angeles gang. While that description alone is enough to win my cheese-loving heart, I would not be so bold as to assume such a film would be, like, good.
You know what? It’s good. No, really. Or if “good” is too strong, it’s at least executed with competence, enthusiasm, and a fair amount of panache from all concerned parties.