Review by John Ward: The Ruins
Thirteen years ago, I read an excellent novel by a first-timer named
Scott Smith. It was titled A Simple Plan, and a more apt title could
not be found, I promise you. Smith’s tale of murder, deceit, and
betrayal gripped me from its opening page. He told his story of three men,
two brothers and a friend, who stumble upon a twin-engine plane crashed
in the woods, containing over four million bucks. The men hatch a “simple
plan” to hide the loot until the heat dies down, and then split it up.
What happens to their plan can only be described as chillingly inevitable,
and Smith told this story with such a matter-of-fact prose style that the
reader could not help but be enthralled. Smith spent some time writing
the screenplay for his debut novel. I liked the film a lot, but found myself
wishing that Smith would get busy and write another book. So I waited.
Now, thirteen years after A Simple
Plan, Scott Smith has returned with his second novel, titled The Ruins.
Thirteen years between books? This guy makes Thomas Harris look positively
prolific! (If you don’t recognize Harris’ name, try thinking of fava
beans and a nice Chianti.)
I’d be furious if The Ruins wasn’t
so damn good. Smith has once again returned to that simple, matter-of-fact
writing style that served him so well with his first novel. But that’s
where the similarities end. Where A Simple Plan was a dynamite tale of
modern crime grounded firmly in the workaday world, The Ruins delves deeply
into the realm of weird horror, made all the more chilling by Smith’s plainly
descriptive approach. It’s one of the most frightening books I’ve read
in a long time.
Sketching the premise of
the book without giving away too much of the plot presents a challenge,
but here goes. Six young people, including two American couples, a German,
and a Greek, become friendly while on vacation in Cancun. The German is
worried that his younger brother has gotten lost on a trek into the jungle
interior, and decides to go find him, with the aid of a hand drawn map.
The others offer to go along, thinking it would be a fun side trip. Little
do they know.
It’s not long before the
group finds the endpoint of the map: an archaeological dig on a hillside,
overgrown with vines and flowers. Curiously, the group receives no opposition
from the local villagers, but once they step foot on the hillside, the
villagers draw their bows and arrows, refusing to let them come back down.
So the group is forced to climb the hill…and see what’s at the top.
More than that, I will not
tell. It’s enough to know that Smith is a master of psychological
thrills, getting inside the minds of his characters and allowing the reader
to watch, in growing fascination, as barriers of normalcy and morality
crumble away. There’s an element of the fantastic in this novel that
is pure Stephen King, but Smith shows that he is up to the task. He doesn’t
even bother to provide an explanation for the situation; it simply is what
it is, and the group of young people must find a way to deal with it.
Once again, as in A Simple Plan, I found myself caught up in
the inevitability of the experience, that slightly queasy feeling you get
in the pit of your stomach when you sense you know how thinks will turn
out, but as the reader, you’re powerless to do anything about it; you certainly
can’t warn the characters. And yet, you can’t turn away, either.
By the end of the novel, I was gasping for breath, and for once, sincerely
glad to be the “reader as outsider.” The Ruins is one of those novels
that draw you in without making you want to “live” the experience.
Read it, and you’ll see what I mean.
One final side note to Mr. Smith: do not wait 13 years
to write another book!
Two Cons, Two ICS members, too much fun!!!
This month we are treated with the adventures from two very different
Science Fiction/Horror Conventions with one thing in common – FANS!!!
The conventions were Horrorfind and Shore Leave. Two of our own attended
and here are their commentaries.
From Mike Schilling – Shore Leave 28 Shenanigans
Shore Leave. It conjures up images of huge
guys and gals in Klingon makeup in front of a makeshift jail, room-full
of talkative types going over the latest in sci-fi fare, packed ballrooms
full of dealers hawking their wares, and of course lots of guest stars
doing their Q&A’s in front of a huge crowd of adoring fans hanging
on their every word.
With all of this in mind, I counted down the weeks and then days until
the convention would begin, just like I have every year since my first
‘Leave back in 1986. Lisa, on the other hand, was counting down the weeks
and days until the whole thing would be over and done with so that regular
life could begin again (sorry about that, hon). Honestly, though, Lisa
is a bit of a “closet” Trekker. She doesn’t brag on it and revel in the
technicalities of what makes the sci-fi universe tick as I do. However,
she does get into meeting many of the guest stars and taking their pictures
whenever the opportunity arises. She also enjoys certain elements of the
big show, like the Masquerade, the Shore Leave Showcase, and checking out
what’s in the Art Show now and again. So, it isn’t too difficult to find
something that we both like. Between you and me, I think that my personal
indoctrination program is working out quite well. (Insert favorite evil
After sealing my personal two minutes of fame
on Fox 45 news early in the morning, Lisa and I arrived at the Hunt Valley
Inn early in the afternoon on Friday. After getting our room and registering
with the Con, we began what I call “the first walk-through”. It’s at this
time when you check out all the flyers on the tables, see what fan groups
are set up, see what guests have already arrived, and generally get the
lay of the land.
The early settling-in hours of the con were
spent getting a look at the Art Show (generally the first thing to open),
checking out the selection in the Dealer’s rooms, and getting my first
few autographs while the lines hadn’t quite started building up yet. Going
into a convention like this, try to catch the stars and autograph tables
as early into the weekend as possible, because you just know that the lines
will get worse and worse as the show kicks into high gear.
Something that really struck me this year
was that just about every one of the 11 “above the title” guests were seated
at an autograph table by dinnertime Friday, including top-level guests
Connor Trinneer and Carmen Argenziano. Historically, the first-line guests
of local cons have only appeared at their daily Q&A sessions and official
autograph sessions before being whisked off. The only guest not there Friday
was Jamie Bamber. I had found out literally the day before that he was
shooting Galactica late into the evening in Vancouver. He would be ready
for autographing and Q&A just about the time of day when folks want
to get their dinners and prepare for the Saturday night Masquerade/Ten-Forward
No doubt the greatest disappointments of the
weekend had nothing to do with the convention. The hotel itself had undergone
major renovations over the past year that was still in progress at con-time.
The carpets, lighting, furniture, and décor of the public areas
had all been radically changed. And in most folks’ opinions, NOT for the
better. True, the original materials had become quite faded and worn over
the years, but the replacements were a gaudy, psychedelic-inspired mish-mash
of primary colors on the floor, a mix of pastel-colored track lighting
for the ceiling, and an ultra-mod/vaguely Japanese look for the floor décor.
Just looking at it tends to give one a nasty headache. In fact, the running
joke at the con was that with a pair of old-fashioned 3-D glasses, one
could make out subliminal messages in the carpeting...and at least one
guest star improvised a little on that during their talk.
After dinnertime, many of the guests had already
started their first appearances. First was Gigi Edgley of FARSCAPE fame,
and if you hadn’t seen a picture of the actress beforehand, you would never
be able to tell that that was the fiery, bawdy Chiana that we know and
lust after so much. Gigi is a petite, highly energetic young lady who possesses
more energy and genuine enthusiasm for what she does than any three other
actors you could name. She immediately won over the crowd with her beaming
smile and stories of the closeness of the Farscape family. Even more impressive
was her total lack of airs or ego, as she was seen throughout the weekend
basically everywhere…judging art show pieces, handing out workmanship awards
at the masquerade, and so on. Right after her was Kent McCord. He didn’t
have Gigi’s energy or looks, but he certainly won the crowd’s admiration
and attention with his direct, yet kindly manner and his crystal-clear
memory of the impressive line of people and projects that he’s been associated
with over a 40-year acting career that seems to involve playing a lot of
Immediately afterwards, I found myself taking
part in a special Trek 40th Anniversary panel with some guys from the Starfleet
ship USS Chesapeake that I’ve been verbally jousting with for a good 20
years now. The panel basically spent a bit of time going over each Trek
series and a bit on the movies, and it went a good solid 90 minutes (nothing
was scheduled for that room afterwards), and it could have gone another
90 if we weren’t on opposite the Meet-the-Pros party.
The MTP is basically a setup where all of the writer
guests and some of the scientists sit around and chat and sign copies of
their work. I personally went to get Peter David to sign my copy of his
latest New Frontier hardback “Missing In Action”, which he cordially did
as we talked for a few minutes before his line built up again...he is just
about the most popular of the regular authors at the con outside of maybe
Howard Weinstein and Bob Greenberger (because those two have missed a grand
total of one or two SLs since their debuts at II and III, respectively).
I also wanted to catch Joan Winston, who in her 70s now has lost none of
her love and enthusiasm for the whole Trek universe. Along with Bjo Trimble,
I consider her to be the “grand dame” of all things Trek in this world,
especially when it comes to starting up and building a convention, as she
was one of the original committee that put on the first known Trek cons
in New York in the early ‘70s.
Having been up so early that day, and not
being as young as we used to be, Lisa and I conked out fairly early after
that (by con standards). However, that next morning, we went back to the
con and to seeing what the bids were like in the Art Show, and made another
Dealer’s Rooms walk-through before the main room programming really started
to kick in.
In the midst of all this, Lisa and I went to have
our Photo Op with Connor Trinneer in a quieter area of the hotel. Connor
was the #1 guest personally for both of us as Enterprise fans (one of the
few, I know). Connor stood there in a casual T-shirt and an aw-shucks smile,
put his arms around us both, and voila, it was done. The photo was ready
at the Pre-Reg table for us to snap up a few hours later. It turned out
beautifully, and is sitting framed on our hutch as I write this. (After
we had him autograph it that evening, of course).
Meanwhile in the main ballrooms, I managed to catch
a piece of William Schallert and Antoinette Bower’s talk. And I had no
idea that they were such a great comedy team. Mr. Schallert has a sharp
eye, an ever sharper tongue, a great memory, and a more amazing wit. This
would be impressive for a man a third of his age. Ms. Bower, though no
less interesting, was a perfect foil for him as she was much quieter and
more reserved in her comments, which made the impact when she did
fire off a zinger that much greater on Mr. Schallert and the rest of the
audience as well. They really took off when they had the opportunity to
have an audience and it was a thrill to see.
We were sure to be in the Main Ballroom early
enough to get a decent seat for Connor’s talk. Connor was very impressive
with his intelligent and warm manner toward the fans, answering as politely,
yet honestly as he could. He seemed to be genuinely proud of his association
with Enterprise and the whole Trek mythos and appreciative of all of the
support, yet he also wasn’t afraid to mention how low the ratings were
and how he felt his character was dealt with as the show sputtered to a
stop. He also spoke very glowingly about his experiences on Stargate Atlantis
as well, mentioning that he feels that there’s still room to see more of
his character Michael in the near future.
However, a very proud thing did happen while
I was waiting for Connor’s talk and Amanda was still on. Shore Leave also
prides itself on the number of charitable causes we become involved in,
one of which is the Julien Fleming Fund, created by the USS Athena Starfleet
Chapter out of Virginia that donates funds to families of seriously ill
children to defray medical costs and such. This year, one of our prominent
SL members created a hand-made, one-of-a-kind panda bear for Amanda to
auction off. Usually such an item will net perhaps a few hundred. However,
a bidding war soon took place, raising the bid eventually to $1,000. In
the middle of the bidding, Amanda said that she would match whatever was
bid. That may be a paltry sum considering what she does for a living, but
the gesture was not lost on any of us who saw it. Over the years, no matter
how good or bad the economy is, people spend money...and donate very generously…at
these conventions, and that’s something that I’m extremely proud of. To
top it off, I found out from one of my con chairpersons a few days after
the convention that the bidder who finally gave up wound up donating $1,000
herself to the fund. Wow.
Not long after the main wave of guest talks
it was time for the madness of the autograph lines to begin. All we needed
was for Connor to sign our photo op that we by now had, but his line was
with Amanda Tapping’s and that was very considerable. Not wanting to miss
our turn, we simply waited in the main area and chatted with some folks
here and there that wandered by that we knew until Lisa’s badge number
range was called. We spent the next few hours creeping along in that procession,
and we just barely caught Connor before the cold knocked him out of the
box completely, but it was well worth it.
By the time we got done with all that, it
was almost time for the Masquerade to begin. Imagine the craziness of the
main hallway, as the end of Amanda’s and Connor’s line, the beginning of
Jamie Bamber’s line (he had arrived and given his first talk by then by
then), the folks waiting to get into the ballroom for Masquerade, and folks
waiting to take pictures of the costumed revelers all jammed together and
bounced off each other at the same time. Also, many of the other guest
stars still had small lines at their tables at the same time! Other tables
vying for attention along that path included Tye Bourdony’s Lighter Side
of Sci-Fi (always great for a laugh, and a real pleasure to talk to), the
D.C. Chapter of the R2D2 Builder’s Club, and several Stargate fan organizations,
one of which had constructed a HUGE replica of the Stargate at the very
end of the hallway.
We took our spot outside the ballroom, content
to watch the actual presentations on a moderately-sized monitor while we
waited for the participants to come out to get their pictures taken. Among
the most popular of the costumers was an exquisite rendering of the costume
worn by Spock’s mother, played by Jane Wyatt, in Star Trek IV:The Voyage
Home, already celebrating its 20th anniversary. Other very popular ones
included a spectacular soldier from the War of 1812, a sharp-looking version
of the Joker from the ’89 Batman movie, and a whole collection of good
and evil X-Men warring with each other to themes from “West Side Story”.
By the time Masquerade ended, we were almost done in.
Lisa retired to the room while I made one more run-through to see what
else was going on. It seemed on the whole most folks were just waiting
for the doors to open on the big annual Ten-Forward Dance.
When folks ask me to describe Shore Leave’s
vibe, I oftentimes mention that it’s really just a 3-day party with a couple
thousand of your closest friends, and that Star Trek is just the excuse
to “get the party started”. Not being drinkers or dancers per se, we soon
found ourselves in la-la land as we prepared for one more big day.
We awoke on Sunday, and the con having
the same amount of programming in about half the time on a Sunday, gave
the schedule a day that is quite compacted, making for some VERY tough
choices. We made ours and off we went.
Before Connor came on again, we were able
to take part in a few more panels. We talked for a solid hour about Superman
Returns and a little about X-Men 3 at one, and in another the rumor mill
was running at full-speed about the announced production of Star Trek XI
under the control of LOST and ALIAS creator J.J.Abrams. Naturally, the
passion level was WAY up on those, especially regarding the latter panel
as fans are seeking to resuscitate the Trek franchise over the plans of
close-minded executives and indifferent studio subdivisions. And for those
of you who know me, you KNOW that I wasn’t close-mouthed about any of it,
pro or con. That’s why the panels are among my favorite things to do at
a con. A chance to shoot my mouth off even more so than usual!
After the main talks were over and the
autograph lines were winding down, we caught the last thing on the program,
“Mystery Trekkie Theater 3000”, which Peter David, Michael Jan Friedman,
and Robert Greenberger have been performing for a number of years now.
Basically, it’s what you might think, a takeoff on MST3000 with a Trek-theme,
usually attacking a Classic or TNG episode. The gang decided to attack
“A Private Little War”, truly an episode screaming for parody, in my oh-so-humble
opinion. It was a grand way to officially end the festivities.
Prevalent to me as we thought about
the end of the con, was the sense of loss that runs through me at this
point every year. There’s very few things in this world that sadden me
so as the sight of a convention hotel nearly deserted and the tables and
such being folded away when just hours before the place was full to the
rafters and teeming with excited folks from all over sharing their joy
of the whole sci-fi/fantasy universe. The idea of returning to work and
“the real world” seemed roughly akin to getting a tooth pulled without
Novocain. Still, I knew that parties weren’t meant to last, like the great
poet Prince has said, and I reflected at the back of my mind that before
I knew it, talk of the next convention would begin to simmer.
For now, the cycle has ended, but in
the Trek world at least nothing stays down for long…it shall begin again.
Amen to that.
A Walk thru HORRORFIND by Dave ‘Hendo’ Henderson
The day was sunny, warm and thankfully less humid,
as I steered the Hendomobile off the ramp leading to Hunt Valley.
Horrorfind Weekend. Yes, that weekend convention organized by Outside-of-Baltimore-Carpetbaggers
was on again. I had a great time last year working the ICS table,
but this year the board had decided to skip Horrorfind, so I was there
as a paying fan. I knew that somewhere on these premises ICS’ers
Steve Vaught, Regina V and Andrew Kent were already lurking. But
first I had to wait in line to get a ticket. That line paralleled
the line to see legendary filmmaker George Romero. 10:15 and already
a long line to see Mr. Romero. Must be heartening to the old guy.
Acting on Norman Prentiss's email of the night
before, I headed for Salon F to hear him do a reading. If Norman
was worried, he shouldn't have been. He had a co-speaker whose name
escapes me, and since I'm writing this spur of the moment and am too lazy
to go upstairs to get the program, I'll just have to refer to him as "co-speaker".
The room filled quickly, and in with the throng came Andrew, Steve and
Regina. Norm's story about a family named the Albrights who had sextuplets...
or did they? was creepy and certainly held my interest. The co-speaker
read two stories- both of with were well done. So much talent out
there, but getting noticed is always the problem. "The Rising" writer
Brian Keene came on at 12 (Brian's a local author by the way, and would
make an interesting ICS guest), but unfortunately nature didn't call, it
screamed at me... so I had to leave before hearing him. I decided
to make a first trip around the dealer's room.
Well, if the dealer's knew there was a bit
of a tight squeeze in the money market these days, their prices sure didn't
show it. I have never seen such overpriced items. DVDs held sway
over most of the tables, offering hard to find stuff. One just had
to watch out for the bootlegs... I happen to collect action figures- and
I didn't pick up one this year. I refused to hand over $70 for a
Chris Lee Dracula figure that was still available on the net for $50.
Caveat emptor indeed!
Next was a quick go round in the celebrity
room. You've got to feel sorry for some of these folks. Nostalgia
just ain't what it used to be. And at $20 an autograph, it was really
hard to open the old wallet and splurge on one. For example, Sybil Danning,
B movie Queen of the 80s, was looking old, and was charging extra for autographs
on nude photos. I don't know- having to pay a star for their autograph
just seems so... dirty. You know, the bad kind of dirty. Some say
the autograph is free, but the photo costs $20. Whatever makes you
feel better. Anyway, some of the guests included Dee Wallace Stone
(The Howling), Erin Gray (Buck Rogers), Cerina Vincent (Cabin Fever) and
some others I didn't recognize offhand.
Well time for lunch, and I found much to my
consternation that the little eatery that they have has been remodeled
and redone and only serves veggie and deli wraps. Swell. Worse, the
Marriott has a deal with Pepsi, and that's all that was available! Ugh.
Thankfully I found that the outside concourse was serving burgers and hot
dogs. By this time, some of the fake brains in the dealer's room
were looking good!
I ran into Joe Ripple, of TIMEWARP films (Joe, Don Dohler, Leanna Chamish
and a few others were ICS speakers awhile back and ICS members Mitch and
Kelly Klein help out with their SPFX). He told me they were premiering
their new movie at 2:30. So at 2:30 I was there to see the unveiling
of their new movie "Dead Hunt". And you know- it wasn't bad.
It needed some editing and tightening up for some slow spots, but the premise
was sound, and there was actually some humor in it! Plus the cast
showed up for publicity purposes, and Leanna is always friendly towards
her fans. It was standing room only, and the audience liked what
Time to check out the dealer's room once more.
There I bumped into Regina, Andrew, and Steve, who had picked up Norman
II. We decided to head to the bar for a few drinks and friendly conversation.
There we ran into some other friends of Andrew's, one who is John Clayton's
younger brother. Sometimes the most fun part of all is the socialization,
hung on the framework of a convention.
After that it was nap time for
my stalwart companions. I decided to hang outside and watch the patrons
to this year's event. People are fascinating to watch. Black
shirts are almost mandatory (I knew that, but wore my ICS shirt instead).
Tattoos on every inch of forearm and leg are not unusual. Piercings, either.
But it isn't a crowd like you see at say "Shore Leave" where there are
a lot of people who can't get a life so they have to borrow someone else's.
These folks, well if you see them on the street on Monday will still be
dressed like they are. This is their lifestyle. Sometimes uncomfortable
for a white bread middle aged guy like myself ("Via con Satan"? brrr!).
But unpretentious, for good or ill.
I talked with some of the staff, who
told me for another year in a row they've outpaced the last one.
This could eventually result in a change of venue one day. But, they
were busy with the con at hand. Tomorrow is another day.
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN 2: DEAD MAN’S CHEST: A REVIEW
By Mike Schilling
Ever since the day it came out, and perhaps
even long before that as the trailers and the omnipresent ad campaign was
in full swing, I was putting teeth marks in the bit to see POTC 2: Dead
Man’s Chest. Both Lisa and I were huge fans of the original, citing several
factors…the action, the pacing, the thrilling musical score, the awesome
beauty of the settings, and of course the spectacular cast led by the spectacular
Johnny Depp (I still say that he was ripped off by not getting that Oscar).
Early reaction to the previews only reinforced the
idea that this was THE movie event of the summer. I must admit that I was
concerned, however, when negative reviews started pouring in on release
day…not just negative in many cases, but absolutely devastating. Still,
I tried not to pay it that much heed, not allowing “critics” to tell me
what and what not to watch. I decided long ago that if such folks told
me what was worthy of watching, I’d see nothing but foreign and avant-garde
films, and that sci-fi, fantasy, and especially horror were unworthy genres…in
other words, OUR kinds of movies.
Sadly, although I’m not nearly as unsatisfied
as many of the pros are, I must admit that I was disappointed with the
final results. There are many good things about it, to be sure. But the
overall effect of this lumbering, epic 2-and-a-half-hour franchise-builder
is wondering what other brands of kitchen sink they could throw into the
While I was trying my very best to sort out
all of the plot mini-threads that are tossed out almost randomly and keep
my level of enthusiasm up, Lisa was squirming back and forth in her seat
and attempting to look at her watch in the dark - not a good sign. She
was not alone. Over the din of the soundtrack, I kept hearing mutters
of “bored” and “confused”. From what I could tell the crowd was paying
due attention to the proceedings, yet the laughter, applause, and sense
of giddy excitement that was there all the way through POTC just only to
be found in fitful spurts in this one.
In walking our way back to the car,
I was trying to piece together what went right and wrong with the movie.
I came to the conclusion that the film had fallen victim to the old Hollywood
adage that “more is more”. The original, for all its modern effects and
bluster, was a good old fashioned pirate swashbuckler with a fairly straight
storyline. Dead Man’s Chest seems to want to be all things to all people
- action piece, character study, love story, moral tale, monster movie,
etc etc. All while throwing more and more irons into the fire.
I don’t want to give anything away, but in this
movie everybody seems to have a different agenda, each one causing pond
ripples that affects everything else that’s happening around them. Oftentimes
during the course of the story, these agendas switch sides or go in a totally
different direction. So, instead of tying up plotlines through the course
of the adventure, each new twist creates a new series of ripples that only
serve to entangle the storyline and slow down the pacing.
Now, in the midst of all this, there is still
much to enjoy about this picture. Johnny Depp, although not given as much
chance to strut and shine this time, is always at the very least fun and
interesting to watch as he squirms and shimmies his way through one death-defying
trouble-spot after another.
The cast, like before, all perform very capably
and make it very easy to pull for the good guys and hiss the bad guys.
Bill Nighy, even under tons of make-up and CGI, makes a fantastic Davy
Jones (as in The Locker, not The Monkees) whose delicious sense of malice
provides a great balance for our anti-heroes aplenty. Orlando Bloom has
blossomed quite a bit as an actor since we saw him before, and it’s a delight
to see Kiera Knightley take a much more active role in moving the story
forward as a stronger character, yet losing none of her considerable charm.
The action set pieces in many cases have to be seen to be believed, adding
fantastical element upon element that actively makes you wonder “How the
HELL did they do that?”
Adding to the feel of the movie is the score,
which I believe was done once again by Klaus Badelt, which adds a great
deal to the sense of adventure, mystery, and romance to the story. It reminded
me of a time when huge-scale instrumental film scores had much to do with
the overall success of a movie, and those were good memories indeed.
Here’s a little taste of the plot. The latest
wigged hotshot running Port Royal wants Mr. Turner and Ms. Swann in the
pokey for helping Jack Sparrow escape. But, if they can bring Capt. Jack
to justice, they can go free. Will goes to find Jack, who is looking for
a key to Davy Jones’ chest. That chest contains something that allows Davy
to enslave sailors’ souls and live forever in half-man/half-fish form.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth makes her own deal to help both guys with more than
a little daring, but she has to bring back Jack’s compass that apparently
never points North and has very unusual powers. Jack owes Davy his soul,
it seems, so naturally, Jack is trying to find a way to purge his debt
and/or take charge of Davy’s territory himself by having control of the
chest. In the meantime, the wicked wigged one back home wants the same
things as Jack, but more as a mercenary as he wants to control the high
seas totally via the interests of the East India Tea Company, whose logo
keeps turning up on everything, going so far as to sidestep the island’s
original governor (Elizabeth’s father) and enlisting the disgraced former
Commodore, who has more than one bone to pick with Will and Capt. Jack
in his own right.
Got a headache yet?
This is only the impetus for getting the whole thing
started. Naturally, each character spends a great deal of time and trouble
finding each other and just missing each other, pursued by cannibals, undead
monkeys, Davy’s fish-folk warriors, royal soldiers, huge squid-like sea
monsters, and all sorts of colorful characters.
In between the scenes of active mayhem, we get flashes of pathos as
Will is reunited with his father Bootstrap Bill, also in servitude to the
squishy evil one, and much romantic hand-wringing and looks of longing
and desire for clarity from our principal leads. It’s quite a hodgepodge
on paper, isn’t it…it’s not much better on screen.
Overall, I will still give the movie a slight
recommendation, a 2 and a half star rating out of four, I suppose. This
is mainly for the sheer epic scope of the movie, the sheer spectacle and
complication of the action scenes, some really strong, likable performances,
and of course for the pleasure of seeing Johnny Depp once again cavort
about in a role made for him. It’s certainly not what it could have been,
another round or three of editing of extraneous subplot would have done
a lot of good to streamline the story and improve the pacing. Perhaps they’ll
be more aware of that and be more careful with POTC 3: AT WORLD’S END,
which is due next year. We can only hope.
news movie news Silver Screen movie news movie news
Aug 6th Ghost Rider
Cast: Nicolas Cage (Johnny Blaze/Ghost Rider), Eva Mendes, Sam Elliott,
Premise: his is the story of motorcycle stunt performer, Johnny
Blaze, who agrees to become the host of a "spirit of vengeance" in exchange
for the safety of his true love (Mendes), but the price he pays is
cursed with the avenging spirit that takes its form at night as a demon
a flaming skull on a motorcycle of hellfire Based on a comic
Aug 18th Snakes on a Plane
Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Nathan Phillips, Rachel Blanchard, Julianna
Premise: A ruthless assassin unleashes a crate full of lethal snakes
aboard a packed passenger jet over the Pacific Ocean in order to eliminate
witness in protective custody. The rookie pilot and frightened passengers
must band together to survive.
Sept 1st Crank
Cast: Jason Statham, Amy Smart, Efren Ramirez, Jose Pablo Cantillo,
Premise: Chev Chelios is about to begin his morning with an unexpected
He hears he has been poisoned in his sleep and only has an hour to
live. As it turns out, Chev is a hit man who freelances for a major West
Good bye farewellsfarewellsfarewells
J. Madison Wright Morris, a former child actress who underwent
a heart transplant at 15 and had a heart attack a day after returning from
her honeymoon recently, has died.
Her first major role was in the mid-1990s NBC series Earth 2. She also
appeared in the 1997 feature film Shiloh, with her younger sister Tori,
and in several television shows, including GRACE UNDER FIRE and ER. Her
last role was in the 1998 Disney TV movie Safety Patrol. In Earth 2, she
portrayed True Danziger, a motherless girl taught to fend for herself in
a world that was centuries in the future. She was 21.
Robert Cornthwaite, a character actor whose first major movie
role was as the mad scientist Dr. Carrington in the 1951 horror thriller
The Thing from another world, has died at age 89.
In an interview some years ago, Cornthwaite recalled that producer
Howard Hawks had selected him personally for the role, "I suppose I'm proudest
of that film because Hawks chose me," he said.
Other genre films on his resume include the original War of the Worlds,
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, kiss me deadly, on the threshold of space,
colssus: the forbin project and the naked monster. His television career
was even more prolific, including dramatic roles on shows to numerous to
mention and appearances on such genre series as men into space, thriller
twilight zone, voyage to the bottom of the sea, batman, buck rogers in
the 25th century and beauty and the beast.
Kurt Kreuger, a Swiss-German actor who fled Hollywood in frustration
over being typecast as a Nazi in 1940s war movies, has died. He was 89.
With his Continental accent and rugged good looks, Kreuger was once
the third most-requested male pinup at 20th Century Fox, behind Tyrone
Power and John Payne.
He was born in Michenberg, Germany, and raised in St. Moritz, Switzerland.
An only child, Kreuger attended the London School of Economics and Columbia
University but later dropped out to pursue an acting career.
Among his career highlights are the films a yank in the raf, tonight
we raid calais, sahara, mademoiselle fifi, escape in the desert, unfaithfully
yours, the enemy below and what did you do in the war, daddy?. He also
guest starred in a myriad of television series in the late 1950s and 1960s.
Other films in his long distinguished career include - you’re in the
navy now (with fellow vets Lee Marvin and Charles Bronson), from here to
eternity, run silent, run deep, wake me when it’s over, the thin red line,
the man who lover cat dancing, all the president’s men, death on the nile,
the bad news bears, and justice for all, the presidio, toys, bullets over
broadway, bulworth and the replacements. He was 85.
Makoto Iwamatsu a.k.a. Mako, who earned an Academy Award nomination
for his role in 1966 film The Sand Pebbles, has died. In the film he played
the Chinese character Po-han, who spoke pidgin English, called the white
sailors in the movie "master," and treated them as such. But through the
power of his acting, Mako transformed Po-han and compelled the audience
to empathize and identify with the engine-room "coolie." He used this portrayal
as well as other stereotype Asian roles to push for more and better roles
for Asian American actors. He co-founded East West Players, the nation's
first Asian American theater company.
His other films include the great bank robbery, the green hornet, the
island at the top of the world, the bushido blade, conan the barbarian,
Conan the destroyer, pacific heights, robocop 3, rising sun, highlander
III, seven years in tibet, pearl harbor and memoirs if a geisha.
He was 72.
Jack Warden, the gravel-voiced character actor and two-time Oscar
nominee who appeared in nearly 100 feature films, has died. He won an Emmy
award for his portrayal of crusty football coach George Halas in the 1971
television movie Brian's Song.
Born John H. Lebzelter (German for ”honey cake baker”) in New Jersey
on Sept. 18, 1920. He changed his last name to Warden (his father’s middle
name) when he went into acting. He was a professional Boxer, a bouncer,
a sailor in the Navy and Merchant Marine and a paratrooper with the 101st
Airborne during WWII. In 1946 in New York, Warden met Margo Jones, manager
of the well-regarded Alley Theatre in Dallas. She asked him to join the
company, and he spent five years studying there. He debuted on television
in 1950 on the philco playhouse and on Broadway in 1955 in Arthur Miller's
A View From the Bridge. He first made his mark in the movies in 1957 as
the sports-obsessed juror in 12 Angry Men. He received Academy Award nominations
for his supporting work in two Warren Beatty vehicles, Shampoo and Heaven
THE LAST WARD . . .
By John Ward
I’ve been writing this column for over three years, and I figure there
have been a few moments when you readers have thought, Huh. Big shot
movie buff. Thinks he’s seen everything. He’s not so smart.
I bet he hasn’t seen DESTINATION MOON!
Well, actually – yes, I have.
But I haven’t seen FORBIDDEN PLANET.
While you’re shaking your heads over that one, let me go on by
adding there are plenty of movies I haven’t seen. It’s possible you
might think, So what? over a couple of the titles, but I’m willing to bet
that most of the movies I mention this month will make you go, Is he kidding?
He hasn’t seen PINK FLAMINGOS? And he calls himself a movie buff?
To which I answer: That’s correct; I haven’t seen PINK
But I still call myself a movie buff. And if you’re reading
this column, you probably call yourself a movie buff, too. Because
it doesn’t matter what we’ve seen or haven’t seen; what matters is the
ever-present thrill of discovering something new.
I love westerns (an upcoming column topic), but I have never
seen the original STAGECOACH – you know, the one that launched John Wayne’s
superstar career? Nor have I seen RED RIVER in its entirety, with
the great rivalry between Wayne and Montgomery Clift. Add to that
list most of the westerns that James Stewart made with director Anthony
Mann in the ‘50s: WINCHESTER ’73, BEND OF THE RIVER, THE NAKED SPUR,
THE FAR COUNTRY, and MAN OF THE WEST. (Actually, Gary Cooper starred
in that last one.)
I can’t remember much of the cavalry trilogy that John Ford made
with Wayne, so I guess that means I’ve also missed FORT APACHE, SHE WORE
A YELLOW RIBBON, and RIO GRANDE. I’ve also missed Ford’s later epics,
the ones that essentially closed his career: HOW THE WEST WAS WON
and CHEYENNE AUTUMN.
Then there’s the genre stuff, the horror and sci-fi films we’re
always talking about. Okay, I’ve already admitted to missing FORBIDDEN
PLANET. (But if you want to help me purge my grief, vote for the
flick at the August meeting – I know I plan to.) But I’ve also missed
PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE, the one movie that’s on just about everyone’s
worst-movie list. I guess I’ve heard enough people call it a stinker
that I’ve never really tried to watch it. I don’t remember ever watching
the very first GODZILLA movie, although I have fond memories of seeing
KING KONG VS. GODZILLA when I was five.
For horror, although I’ve seen most of the well-known Dracula
films – the ones with Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee – I’ve never seen
the one that started it all, F.W. Murnau’s NOSFERATU. (At this point
I should probably note that I have seen clips of many of these films on
TV documentaries, etc, but I’m not counting those.) There have been
others I’ve missed, not as famous as NOSFERATU but still touchstones in
the genre of horror thrillers: M, THE WICKER MAN, DON’T LOOK NOW, THE CABINET
OF DR. CALIGARI, DIABOLIQUE, REPULSION, ROSEMARY’S BABY…the list goes on.
And that list becomes long – really long – when you start talking
about foreign films. Take Fellini, for instance. Scratch him
completely off my list, which means I’ve missed classics like LA STRADA,
8 ½, LA DOLCE VITA, AMARCORD…I’ll own up to seeing his CASANOVA
back in college, but since most of his fans consider that one of his weakest
efforts, the less said about it the better, I guess. Then there’s
Francois Truffaut. Who are we kidding? I’ve never seen a single
Truffaut film, which eliminates films like JULES AND JIM, FAHRENHEIT 451,
THE 400 BLOWS, DAY FOR NIGHT, and THE LAST METRO. Now, if you’re
talking about Truffaut the actor, I can proudly say I’ve seen CLOSE ENCOUNTERS
OF THE THIRD KIND!
It gets worse, folks.
You would think the club’s resident Oscar “pool boy” would be
up on his Best Pictures. You would be wrong. Out of the 78
films that have won the Academy Award for Best Picture, I have missed 29,
most coming before 1968 or so. The Oscars started in 1927 with the
World War I classic WINGS, but I can’t lay claim to a Best Picture viewing
until 1939 and GONE WITH THE WIND – which means I’ve missed not only WINGS,
but also ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT, GRAND HOTEL, IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT,
MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY, and YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU. Keep moving
down that timeline, and I have to admit I’ve missed REBECCA, MRS. MINIVER,
THE LOST WEEKEND, THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES, Olivier’s HAMLET, and ALL
THE KING’S MEN. And that’s just the ‘40s.
I also have to pass on AN AMERICAN IN PARIS, MARTY, AROUND THE
WORLD IN 80 DAYS, THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI, GIGI, WEST SIDE STORY,
TOM JONES, MY FAIR LADY, and even IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT. More
recently, I’ve skipped THE ENGLISH PATIENT and A BEAUTIFUL MIND.
If you look closely at that list of personal Best Picture snubs
and flubs, you might notice that I seem to have missed more than a few
musicals. You’d be right; musicals have never been my genre of choice.
Which means I’ve also missed (Get ready) SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN, MEET ME IN
ST. LOUIS, ANCHORS AWEIGH, A HARD DAY’S NIGHT, SWING TIME, EASTER PARADE,
and pretty much any movie where Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland ever got
up and roused the kids to put on a show.
It gets even worse.
I’ve never seen ‘60s benchmarks like EASY RIDER, WOODSTOCK, HELL’S
ANGELS ON WHEELS, FIVE EASY PIECES, or BLOW-UP.
I’ve never seen SOME LIKE IT HOT. (My wife still can’t
accept that one.)
I’ve missed REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE and EAST OF EDEN, which basically
means I’ve missed two-thirds of James Dean’s entire career.
I’ve skipped Robert Altman’s NASHVILLE.
I’ve missed Martin Scorsese’s MEAN STREETS.
I’ve missed Spike Lee’s DO THE RIGHT THING.
I’ve never seen Chaplin’s THE GOLD RUSH. Come to think
of it, I’ve never seen MODERN TIMES, CITY LIGHTS, or THE GREAT DICTATOR,
I’ve seen Buster Keaton – once. (THE GENERAL.)
I’ve seen Laurel and Hardy – once. (GO WEST.)
I’ve seen the Marx Brothers – twice. (DUCK SOUP and – thankfully
– A NIGHT AT THE OPERA.)
And I haven’t seen a single other movie those comedians have
The potholes in my moviegoing highway are practically unmissable,
and sometimes I wonder how I can ever get from point A to point B when
I’m talking about film. Let’s face it, when you’ve missed films like
THE GRAPES OF WRATH, BRINGING UP BABY, THE PHILADELPHIA STORY – well, it
gets a tad more challenging to make comparisons.
Which means I can’t make comparisons to films like A FISTFUL
OF DOLLARS, ERASERHEAD, THE HAUNTING, THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES, INVADERS
FROM MARS, JAILHOUSE ROCK, THE LAST DETAIL, LIFEBOAT…oh, the heck with
it. I’m halfway through the alphabet, and I’m too depressed to go
Just kidding. The point is that there’s a lot out there
I haven’t seen, and a lot that I still want to see – that I still need
to see. I guess it’s obvious that my dream job of replacing Roger
Ebert has been pretty much snuffed out, but that doesn’t mean I can’t continue
to hang out with some folks every month or so and watch something new and
interesting. And then talk about it.
Maybe next month, it’ll be westerns. Either that, or I’ll
have to cop to the trash I have seen, which is too embarrassing to talk
SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS?
ERNEST GOES TO CAMP?
What the hell was I thinking?
CALENDER OF EVENTS
LOOK AHEAD – 2006 ICS SCHEDULE
August 26 (*) Is it ICS-Worthy? Part 2 – CANCELLED – New topic TBA!
September 30 Werewolf Howls at Midnight, films presented by Betsy Childs
(Awwwwooooooooooooh!) (yes, that is a howl at the moon)
October 28 (*) Greg Mank Returns -- Lionel Atwill and Murder at the
Halloween Potluck Dinner All-Nighter (Spooky and delicious)
November 25 Jackie Chan Part 2 presented by Andrew Kent
December 30 (*) Yankee Swap (Oh Boy!)
Revenge Movies presented by Regina Vallerani
More exciting themes in 2007!!!
And don’t forget -
SEPT 14 -17 MID-ATLANTIC NOSTALGIA CONVENTION
ICS will have 2 tables in the dealer’s room. We will need
ICS volunteers to work the table, sell our wares and talk up the club to
passer-bys. Sign up at the August meeting or email a board member.
We need you!!!