Hitchcock

(2012, PG-13) Anthony Hopkins (Alfred Hitchcock), Helen Mirren (Alma Reville), Scarlett Johansson (Janet Leigh), Toni Collette (Peggy), Danny Huston (Whitfield Cook), Jessica Biel (Vera Miles), Michael Stuhlbarg (Lew Wasserman), James D’Arcy (Anthony Perkins), Michael Wincott (Ed Grein), Kurtwood Smith (Geoffrey Shurlock), Richard Portnow (Barney Balaban). Music: Danny Elfman. Screenplay: John J. McLaughlin. (based on “Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho” by Stephen Rebello). Director: Sacha Gervasi. 98 minutes.

Tags: Behind-the-Scenes, Bio-Pic

Notable: Good story about the making of Psycho, but the personal aspects ain’t actual history.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

By all accounts, Alfred Hitchcock was a difficult man, as a person, as a director, and as a husband. The great gamble of his life was to make the film Psycho. The studio hated it, wanting him to fall back on thrillers like The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934, his first big success in the genre) and several dozen others. Hitch was becoming somewhat bored with the formula, even with brilliant films like Rope (1948), Strangers on a Train (1951), and Rear Window (1954) in his repertoire. The truth was that Vertigo (1958), which has long since been vindicated as brilliant, was a box office flop as far as the studio was concerned; North By Northwest (1959) did well enough, and Paramount wanted “another one like that.” They wanted to make money, and at that point, the team of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis was making a ton of cash for the producers. Studio executive Lew Wasserman was so sure that Psycho was going to bomb that he banked on the rather “craptastic” Martin-Lewis debacle called Cinderfella, which came out that Christmas. Talk about flops… Continue reading “Hitchcock”

The Manitou

By Graham Masterton
ISBN 1587541033

Publication Year: 1975

Tags: Horror, Native American

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Harry Erskine is a phony clairvoyant who reads Tarot cards for a living. One of his “wealthy old ladies” has a niece, Karen Tandy, who has been having disturbing dreams and, perhaps coincidentally, has developed a strange lump on the back of her neck. Growing at an astonishing rate — measurable in centimeters per hour — the lump has some of the characteristics of a developing fetus. Piecing together clues both material and psychic, Harry believes this to be the impending reincarnation of a Native American Medicine Man from 300 years in the past, returning to reclaim the land from the White Man. If he grows to maturity, if he escapes Karen Tandy’s body, the girl will be the first to die… and the body count will only grow larger… Continue reading “The Manitou”

The Traveler

(2010, R) Val Kilmer (Mr. Nobody), Dylan Neal (Det. Alexander Black), Paul McGillium (Dep. Pine), Camille Sullivan (Dep. Hollows), Nels Lennarson (Dep. Sherwood), Christopher Gauthier (Desk Sgt. Gulloy), John Cassini (Dept. Hawkins). Music: Ross Vanelli. Screenplay: Joseph C. Huscat. Director: Michael Oblowitz. 91 minutes.

Tags: Thriller, Horror, Revenge

Notable: A few good twists on an old trope, with a deus ex puellita ending.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

A drifter walks into a police station on a rainy Christmas Eve to confess to a series of murders, none of which has happened… yet. A terrible thing happened in this police station a year ago, and those involved are about to discover that karma is, indeed, a bitch. Continue reading “The Traveler”

I Moved Your Cheese

By Deepak Malhotra
ISBN-13 — 978-1-60671-399-0

Publication Year: 2013

Tags: Social Commentary, Business, Self-Determination

Rating: ★★★★☆

Mice who live in the maze are taught that, if someone moves your cheese, you go out into the maze to find more cheese. From an early age, Max asked questions: Who moved the cheese, and why, and what is the maze anyway, and why do we stay in it? Most of the other mice simply laughed and ignored him, until one day Max comes to find Zed, to tell him that he has found the answers. With the help of Big (himself thought strange because he only seeks cheese when it suits him and does without it when it doesn’t suit him to go looking), Max has discovered what the maze is, and who moved the cheese, and he has sought out Zed because it is said that Zed questions the mere existence of the maze itself, not to mention its value.

This book was written in answer to Spencer Johnson’s Who Moved My Cheese, providing an answer “for those who refuse to live as mice in someone else’s maze.” Continue reading “I Moved Your Cheese”

Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

(2017, Rated PG-13) Tom Bateman (Bouc); Kenneth Branagh (Hercule Poirot); Penélope Cruz (Pilar Estravados); Willem Dafoe (Gerhard Hardman); Judi Dench (Princess Dragomiroff); Johnny Depp (Edward Ratchett); Josh Gad (Hector MacQueen); Derek Jacobi (Edward Henry Masterman); Leslie Odom Jr. (Dr. Arbuthnot); Michelle Pfeiffer (Caroline Hubbard); Daisy Ridley (Miss Mary Debenham); Marwan Kenzari (Pierre Michel); Olivia Colman (Hildegarde Schmidt); Lucy Boynton (Countess Elena Andrenyi); Manuel Garcia-Rulfo (Biniamino Marquez); Sergei Polunin (Count Rudolph Andrenyi). Music: Patrick Doyle. Screenplay: Michael Green (suggested by the book by Agatha Christie). Director: Kenneth Branagh. 114 minutes.

Tags: Remake, Mystery, Avoid-At-All-Cost

Notable: Single most idiotic portrayal of Hercule Poirot in the history of the known world (Branagh); sets are better than the actors.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

Having solved a case in Istanbul, the famous Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot is recalled to England for a consultation. Securing travel on the Orient Express — the famous train that runs from Istanbul to Paris — Poirot finds himself embroiled in a mysterious murder. With the train snowbound, the murderer must be one of the passengers in the main coach… but which, and how? Poirot must engage his “little grey cells” to solve one of the most complicated crimes of his career. Continue reading “Murder on the Orient Express (2017)”

The Halloween Tree

By Ray Bradbury
ISBN 0-375-80301-7

Publication Year: 1972

Tags: Fantasy, Horror, Youth

Rating: ★★★★★

All the boys lament: How can there be Halloween without Pipkin? The light-footed lad may miss his tricks and treats this year, for he has been whisked away on a journey into the world of Halloween itself, and it could mean his life or death. His eight friends must follow him, guided by the mysterious Carapace Clavicle Moundshroud and the symbols upon the Halloween Tree, to fly through all of space and time to learn the terrifying history of Halloween, from ancient Greece, Rome, and Egypt, through the Druids, medieval Notre Dame, and the Day of the Dead, with Pipkin always just ahead, waiting, calling, seeking the very roots of Halloween itself … Continue reading “The Halloween Tree”

And Justice For All

(1979, Rated R) Al Pacino (Arthur Kirkland); Jack Warden (Judge Rayford); John Forsythe (Judge Fleming); Lee Strasberg (Grandpa Sam); Jeffrey Tambor (Jay Porter); Christine Lahti (Gail Packer); Sam Levene (Arnie); Robert Christian (Ralph Agee); Thomas Waites (Jeff McCullaugh); Larry Bryggman (Warren Fresnell); Craig T. Nelson (Frank Bowers). Music: Dave Grusin. Screenplay: Valerie Curtin and Barry Levinson. Director: Norman Jewison. 119 minutes.

Tags: Courtroom Drama, Social Satire

Notable: One of the finest courtroom “opening statement” scenes in movie history, with the oft-misquoted line, “You’re out of order! You’re out of order! The whole trial’s out of order!” (Pacino)

Rating: ★★★★☆

When corrupt Judge Fleming is charged with rape, idealistic lawyer Arthur Kirkland is quietly blackmailed into defending him. Kirkland has had problems with the judge in the past, including one incident when the judge wrongly sentenced his client, Jeff McCullaugh, because of a technicality. As Kirkland prepares this and two other cases, he faces a series of moral and legal dilemmas, including the possibility that the judge is guilty.

With the hearings regarding Judge Brett Kavanaugh going on, now is a great time to revisit this particularly relevant film. Continue reading “And Justice For All”

Thursday Afternoon

Brian Eno

Tracks: 1—Thursday Afternoon.

Tags: Ambient, Electronica, Minimalist, Drone

Release Date: October 1985

Rating: ★★★★★

When Compact Disc technology first became popular in the mid-1980s, it naturally became a challenge to electronic composer and experimental minimalist Brian Eno to come up with something unique to this new medium. At that time, a disc could easily handle up to 70 minutes of recording time. Eno’s trick was to create something that would be available exclusively on CD — a work consisting of a single, uninterrupted, ambient musical track lasting 61 minutes. Continue reading “Thursday Afternoon”

Oh Boy, New “Words”

A news item in a CNN email series that I subscribe to announced on September 19, 2018, that Merriam-Webster has added 840 words to their dictionary. In a prepared statement, the publisher noted that, “The addition of new words to a dictionary is a step in the continuous process of recording our ever-expanding language. The dictionary’s job is to report that usage as it enters the general vocabulary.”

Translation: “Because Americans are too lazy to use real language, and too offended not to be included, we’ll make them feel better by putting their disgustingly stupid non-words in our book.” Continue reading “Oh Boy, New “Words””

Geography Club

By Brent Hartinger
ISBN-13: 9780060012236

Publication Year: 2003

Tags: Gay, Gay Youth, Coming Out, Avoid-At-All-Cost

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

From the back cover of the book: Russel Middlebrook is convinced he’s the only gay kid at Goodkind High School. Then his online gay chat buddy turns out to be none other than Kevin, the popular but closeted star of the school’s baseball team. Soon Russel meets other gay students, too. There’s his best friend Min, who reveals that she is bisexual, and her soccer–playing girlfriend Terese. Then there’s Terese’s politically active friend, Ike. But how can kids this diverse get together without drawing attention to themselves? “We just choose a club that’s so boring, nobody in their right mind would ever in a million years join it. We could call it Geography Club!” Continue reading “Geography Club”