Showing posts from 2017

Duranalysis: Perfect Day

It’s been nine months. About time for a fresh new Duranalysis, huh?

“Perfect Day,” Duran Duran’s immaculate version of the 1972 Lou Reed classic, appeared on Thank You, their 1995 album of covers. While Thank You was critically savaged upon release (Rolling Stone called it “stunningly wrongheaded”; the Irish Times dubbed it “the single worst album in the history of recorded music”), “Perfect Day” escaped the carnage relatively unscathed: Metro Weekly called it “far and away the best thing on the album,” while Reed himself referred to it as “the best cover version ever completed of one of my songs.” Duran Duran pulled off a beautiful, bittersweet rendition of a beautiful, bittersweet song.

Friday Roundup

The Mummy? Wow,” said the dude tearing tickets at the movie theater on Monday morning.
The Mummy is the kind of movie you see on a weekday morning when you’re unemployed, and the water is turned off in your building for plumbing repairs so you have to spend the day out of your apartment, and Seattle museums are too expensive (MoPOP is $33, are you kidding me?), and there are no conveniently early show times for Wonder Woman at any local theater. Under no circumstances other than those should anyone see The Mummy.
Scratch that. Even under those circumstances, don’t see The Mummy. Learn from my mistake.
I was going to do a whole blog post detailing the somewhat shocking awfulness of The Mummy, but it seems like every single movie critic has that territory covered already, so I’m just going to move on. I can usually find something to love about even the biggest and dumbest of big summer movies, but The Mummy broke my soul.

xXx: The Return of Xander Cage

I moved to Seattle from New York last Saturday. As is the nature of cross-country moves, this ended up being an exhausting, laborious, emotional, expensive ordeal, from which I have yet to fully recover. Every stage of the moving process was unnecessarily problematic, from finding an apartment in Seattle to booking a moving company to packing up all our crap. By the time my sister and I boarded our plane at JFK early Saturday morning, spirits broken, backs aching from heavy lifting (we packed something in the range of 3500 pounds of stuff, most of it books), shins and knees scraped and bloody, hips and spines bruised from sleeping on bare floors since the moving truck carted away our worldly goods the previous Wednesday, we were running on fumes.
Our flight, thankfully and unexpectedly, was bliss. Delta treated our wounded souls gently, presenting us with free and tasty food, perfectly decent coffee, and a kick-ass in-flight entertainment system loaded with movies. I could’ve watched…

Friday Roundup

Been a while, huh? Sorry about that—it’s been a busy couple of weeks. I had a Very Important Houseguest, and then my Duranalysis book launched, and then I went to Seattle to search for an apartment (found one! A good one! But it was an uphill battle!), and… well, I’m back. Until I’m happily and successfully relocated in Seattle by the middle of May, though, things will be spotty and sporadic around here. 
Good trip to Seattle, though my sister and I spent much of it kind of stressed and unhappy that our apartment hunt was going so poorly. Yesterday, my sister sent me her carefully itemized notes of everything we did on the trip; it contains sentences like “Ate gas station burrito in hotel room” and “Had wine and peanut M&Ms from honor bar for dinner”, so, y’know, it was that kind of a visit. We did manage to squeeze in some good food as well, though, including excellent pho in our new neighborhood of Capitol Hill. And that gas station burrito was surprisingly tasty, really.
The V…

The DURANALYSIS book is now available at Amazon!

The DURANALYSIS book has been released into the wild! If you order the paperback version now at Amazon ($9.99), you'll probably actually receive it a few days in advance of Thursday's official release date.

Order it here. You can also pre-order the Kindle version for $3.99 here and have it delivered to your device on April 20th.

The book consists of fifteen brand-new essays, plus an introduction. If you've enjoyed my Duranalysis posts on this site, there is every chance in the world that this is the book for you.

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

This is the backdoor pilot for the short-lived spinoff series, The Girl From U.N.C.L.E., and man oh man, it is terrible.

Illya, dressed in a fancy ruffled tuxedo, poses as an advertising executive and loiters around a swanky party for Caresse Cosmetics, which is in the process of choosing Miss Moonglow, the new face of the company. The party is teeming with pretty ladies; Caresse’s cofounder, Jean Caresse (Mary Carver, the mom from Simon & Simon), asks Illya for his opinion as to which one should represent her company. “Personally, I would prefer a woman of accomplishment,” Illya says. This bit of straightforward common sense alarms Jean, who is a seasoned THRUSH agent. Jumping into action, she grabs a henchwoman and alerts her to her suspicions that a cute blond U.N.C.L.E. agent has crashed their party. Illya snoops around and ends up captured by Jean’s evil brother, Arthur (Kevin McCarthy).

Friday Roundup

There are two weeks to go until the launch of my Duranalysis book! April 20th is the big day. If you prefer reading on a Kindle, you can pre-order the e-book now on Amazon for $3.99. There’s no pre-order for the jazzy paperback version, which will be $9.99; it'll probably be available to order at Amazon on or around April 17th, with other online book retailers following shortly thereafter. After April 20th, you’ll also be able to order it from your local brick-and-mortar bookstore.

About the book: It consists of fifteen brand-spanking-new essays about various aspects of Duran Duran, arranged chronologically to form a de facto biography of the band from its origins to the present. Here’s a glimpse at the table of contents, so you'll have some idea of what you're getting into:

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

Napoleon and Illya hang out in a parked car and watch covertly as a power plant official named Bardington meets with Angel Galley (Jan Merlin), a racketeer who offers him ten thousand dollars in exchange for uranium. Bardington refuses the offer, whereupon Angel whips out a knife and stabs him to death. Napoleon chases after Angel, who is seized by a gaggle of armed men. Napoleon watches as Angel is forced into a car, then notices a blond man keeping a close eye on him.
Back at headquarters, Illya and Napoleon compare notes: A mysterious party has been repeatedly attempting to purchase uranium; fearing a possible nuclear threat, U.N.C.L.E. has been trying to uncover the source of the request. Illya fumes about letting Bardington, their best lead, get murdered in front of them: “We couldn’t look more foolish!” Aw, Illya, baby, don’t worry. As this series progresses, you’ll get used to looking foolish. Apart from being shot in black-and-white, this is a surefire way to tell this episod…

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

Right up front: This late-season-three barrel-scraping episode doesn’t have much going for it. Its most interesting feature is probably the pedigree of its writer, David Giler, who churned this script out at the very start of his career; his father, prolific television scribe Bernie Giler, contributed episodes as well, including “The Her Master’s Voice Affair,” “The Foreign Legion Affair,” and “The Take Me To Your Leader Affair.” Following his brief association with U.N.C.L.E., David Giler made the switch to features, writing the scripts for such disparate films as Myra Breckinridge and The Money Pit; he’s best known for producing (and occasionally writing) all the Alien films, from the 1979 original that jump-started the franchise all the way through the upcoming Alien: Covenant. I defy anyone to find any thematic common ground between The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Myra Breckinridge, and Alien.
Illya and Napoleon meet with a man named Fred Score in Singapore, who passes them half of a film…

Friday Roundup

Bear with me during the site redesign, please. It's a work-in-progress at the moment; I'm not in love with it, but it'll get there, I hope...

The Duranalysis book will be released on April 20th, barring catastrophe. Looks pretty snazzy, right? I'm very happy with how it turned out. You'll be able to preorder the ebook on April 1st or thereabouts; the print book probably won't be able to be preordered, but I'll make sure to provide everyone with purchase links, plus I'll probably try to do a pre-release giveaway or two, either here or at the Duranalysis Facebook page.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: “The Apple-a-Day Affair”

At a newsstand, Illya and Napoleon make contact with a traitorous THRUSH agent, who slips them THRUSH’s latest top-secret project—a bag filled with apples—in exchange for cash. Their transaction is interrupted by a gaggle of armed THRUSH goons, who swoop in and retrieve the apples. In the resulting melee, Napoleon hurls an apple at the newsstand, which explodes on contact.
Back at headquarters, Mr. Waverly explains the assignment: THRUSH has developed a new strain of apples laced with nitroglycerine, which they plan to use to blow up a nuclear stockpile. The apples given to U.N.C.L.E. by the THRUSH turncoat were wrapped in paper bearing the label of an orchard located in what Waverly dismissively refers to as “hillbilly country,” so Illya and Napoleon rent a jeep and, posing as a pair of traveling encyclopedia salesmen, head into the Appalachians to find the orchard. Illya looks at the rustic surroundings and sniffs, “I have a feeling we’re not going to dispose of too many encycloped…

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

In Greenwich Village, a villainous THRUSH agent named Buuder (Joe Mantell) harangues a struggling artist, Jay France (Kelton Garwood), who custom-designed a fabric print with a secret THRUSH code embedded in it. The print, which was supposed to be exclusive to THRUSH, popped up in a photograph in a fashion magazine on a dress worn by a model. Under duress, France admits he gave some of the fabric to a friend, a fabric cutter and aspiring designer named Jerry, who works for a struggling design company named Agnes Sue. Buuder and his henchman stab France to death with a pair of scissors, then set his studio on fire. Illya and Napoleon, who are are canvasing the neighborhood in search of France, arrive at the studio just as it explodes into flames. Always two steps behind the plot, gentlemen. You’re off to a good start.
In Mr. Waverly’s office, Illya and Napoleon examine the magazine photo and brainstorm ways to find the dress before it falls back into THRUSH’s hands. Illya flips throug…

Friday Roundup

Hello! I’m back in business. Putting the site on hiatus throughout most of February turned out to be exactly what was needed—I got my upcoming Duranalysis book finished, edited, and typeset. Cover's done, everything's good to go. Right now, publication date looks like a pretty firm April 20th. It’s good.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: “The Napoleon’s Tomb Affair”

Pop the champagne! U.N.C.L.E. is back!

We open in Paris, where President Tunick (Kurt Kasznar), ruler of a struggling north African country, is visiting with his trusted advisor, Malanez (Joseph Sirola). A noted Francophile, Tunick worships Napoleon Bonaparte. He’s eager to tour the country, but Malanez cautions him to moderate his expectations: Their country was once under French rule, and Malanez suspects they’ll be regarded with disdain.
At his fancy Parisian hotel, where Illya is posing as a very fetching bellhop, Tunick is greeted respectfully by the staff. All goes well, until an elderly French rabble-rouser starts hurling pointed Gallic insults at him (“You shatter the eardrums of everyone present with your vulgar bellowing!”); the word “nincompoop” is frequently invoked. Tunick shouts insults back at him, and fisticuffs ensue. While trying to protect Tunick, Illya gets accidentally punched in the face, whereupon Napoleon pops out of nowhere to come to his aid, whereupon Napol…


I'm midway through a big project that I'm trying very hard to finish by the end of the month, and to make that work, I need to chisel out a chunk of extra time. Ergo, U.N.C.L.E. recaps and Friday Roundups are going to be on hold until the end of the month. It's a necessary evil. Duranalysis Facebook page updates may continue, albeit sporadically.

Take good care of yourselves and be kind to each other. Illya, Napoleon, and I will see you back here in March.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: “The Yo-Ho-Ho and a Bottle of Rum Affair”

Illya and Napoleon hang out at the docks in Hong Kong, being all delightful and charming while spying on a ship chartered by THRUSH. Illya sneaks on board to search for THRUSH’s latest fiendish device, a contraption that can generate deadly tidal waves. Displaying his usual level of competence, he somehow accidentally ends up locked in the hold. The ship sets sail while Napoleon remains behind on shore. 
This is the last scene Illya and Napoleon will share together until the final seconds of this episode. It’s not a terrible episode or anything—by the grotesquely lowered standards of season three, it’s pretty darn watchable—but it does make the key mistake of keeping Napoleon and Illya separated the whole time, thus depriving viewers of this show’s major strength, i.e. the magnificent chemistry between the leads. This is the first episode Norman Hudis wrote for the series, and, despite some problem areas, he did a decent job of it: The pacing is sluggish, but the characterizations ar…

Friday Roundup

Bear with me. I sliced the pad of my thumb apart on Wednesday in some inexplicable kitchen-related way (I have no idea what I did; I was just in the middle of cooking, then suddenly noticed I was bleeding), and typing is a bit of an ordeal.

I finished the first draft of my forthcoming Duranalysis book today, only three days behind schedule. Which, considering that January threw all the hurdles it could in front of me, isn’t too shabby. The book consists of fifteen essays on the Duran Duran experience, short-ish and sweet. I’m still aiming for a mid-April publication date. I’ll let you know more details as things fall in place.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: “The My Friend The Gorilla Affair”

Well. Here we are. This is widely regarded as the Worst U.N.C.L.E. Episode Ever, though I would respectfully disagree; it’s not as disgracefully wretched as “The Jingle Bells Affair”, nor is it as in-your-face offensive as “The Indian Affair Affairs.” I’d even argue that it’s slightly better than “The Hong Kong Shilling Affair.” Heck, throw a dart at a list of season four episodes, and odds are very good it’ll hit an episode at least marginally worse than this one.
That said, this one is indeed pretty terrible. Napoleon dances the Watusi with a gorilla. There’s just no putting a positive spin on that.

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

I suppose this episode won’t magically improve the longer I put off recapping it, so let’s rip this bandage off quickly, shall we?

We open somewhere high up in the Himalayas, where Illya bids farewell to his native guide, then dresses up as a Yeti in head-to-toe fur and a rubber mask so he can sneak across the border into the fictional country of Ghupat. We’re barely a minute into the episode, and already things are irreparably stupid. We are deep in the foul and stinky waters of season three.
It quickly gets stupider: Illya is ambushed by Calamity Rogers (Anne Jeffreys), a former movie star dressed in full cowgirl regalia. Mistaking him for a genuine Abominable Snowman, she whips out a rifle and shoots him in the arm. “Yahoo! I got that ornery critter!” she proclaims to her loyal manservant.
Still with me? You can bail out now; I won’t get offended. It won’t get any better.

Friday Roundup

In terms of happiness and general mental health, how is everyone doing? Hanging in there?

This morning, I saw a plane flying over Harlem trailing a banner proclaiming RESIST: WE OUTNUMBER HIM. It was oddly comforting on this bizarre and melancholy day.
My sister and I went to the United We Stand rally at Columbus Circle yesterday. We were there very briefly; the crowd was twenty thousand strong, and we are both mildly agoraphobic, so we stayed inside the boundaries of Central Park where we could slip away easily. Baby steps. Glad we went, albeit briefly, even though we missed Cher (Cher!).


No U.N.C.L.E. recap this week due to a combination of an overpacked agenda and general inertia, but have no fear:

a) I'll post a new recap early next week, and:
b) it's just going to be that stupid third-season episode where Illya dresses up as the Abominable Snowman for absolutely no good reason, so you're not missing all that much.

Apologies for the delay.

Friday Roundup

Happy 2017. I never really feel the new year starts until my birthday, which is on Monday, so I’ve still been in post-holiday mode. Hence the lack of a roundup last weekend, and hence I'm going to spend most of this roundup yammering on about various Christmas foodstuffs.
My sister and I had a very nice Christmas. The cocktails in the photo are made from vodka infused with, um, green apple-flavored Mike & Ike’s, with apple-flavored seltzer added. The result was sticky-sweet and gimmicky but pleasantly appletini-ish. The mysterious orbs at the bottoms of the glasses are cherries.
Christmas Eve: For brunch, I made a very good tart with puff pastry topped with a mixture of cream cheese, goat cheese, garlic, and herbs, with a ton of grilled vegetables—eggplant, zucchini, onions, peppers—and fresh basil loaded on the top. We had champagne and our traditional oyster stew—a long-standing family recipe that I have since amended into a smoky oyster chowder—for dinner. For the chowder,…

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: “The Candidate’s Wife Affair”

In San Francisco, Napoleon provides bodyguard services for Miranda Bryant (Diana Hyland), wife of presidential candidate Senator Bryant (Richard Anderson) and rumored target of a THRUSH kidnapping plot. Posing as a press photographer, Napoleon chaperones Miranda to her appointment at a beauty salon. While he waits in the foyer, she’s ambushed by THRUSH operatives, who whisk her to their hidden lair beneath the salon and replace her with a woman who’s been surgically altered to be her duplicate. When Fake Miranda rejoins Napoleon, he fails to notice the switch.
Later, Napoleon saunters into U.N.C.L.E.’s San Francisco headquarters, where Mr. Waverly and Illya greet him with bad news: According to the electronic voice print U.N.C.L.E. has on file for Miranda, Napoleon has been escorting around an unknown enemy spy. Illya gets in a few cutting digs about his partner’s ineptitude in failing to prevent THRUSH from making the switch right under his nose. Hey, Illya? Not that you don’t have …

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: “The Sort Of Do-It-Yourself Dreadful Affair”

Napoleon breaks into a THRUSH hideout located inside a pawn shop and steals a file from a safe. He’s stalked throughout the store by a glassy-eyed, inhumanly strong young woman (Willi Koopman), who lurches around with her arms sticking out straight in front of her in classic movie-monster style. The woman, credited as “Agent A-77”, effortlessly rips through a chain-link fence and ambushes Napoleon. He shoots her repeatedly, but his bullets fail to slow her down. 
…This is a really long opening sequence, by the way. Seriously, it lasts for seven minutes, which comprises a significant chunk of a fifty-minute episode. It’s also really draggy: Agent A-77, being a cyborg (spoiler alert: she’s a cyborg), moves at a zombielike, stilted pace, and it’s boring as snot watching her sloooooowly chase down Napoleon. This episode, which was scripted by sci-fi great Harlan Ellison, has huge problems with pacing. It has other problems, too, come to think of it; I’m an Ellison fan (A Boy and His Dog