Friday, July 18, 2014

Songs About Summer

I know you've all missed me.  It's been so long. I miss you all too.  Let's hug it out.

Okay, we're in the middle of summer. We're all distracted by the awesome weather. It's my favorite time of year.  As you're lounging on the beach somewhere, or poolside, sipping a cocktail, reading a trashy novel (in print or on your electronic device, it doesn't matter), here are some songs about summer to add to your playlist and make you think of me.

To make this list somewhat managable, I only included songs with an actual summer reference in the title.  Many other songs that make me think of the warm months of the year had to be left by the wayside, songs like "Under the Boardwalk" by The Drifters, "Heatwave" by Martha and the Vandellas, "Wipeout" by The Surfaris, "Margaritaville" by Jimmy Buffett, "Vacation" by The Go-Gos, or anything by The Beach Boys.

Nevertheless, there were plenty of songs left over.  Here we go, something for almost every taste.

"All Summer Long" by Kid Rock

"Beat This Summer" by Brad Paisley

"The Boys of Summer" by Don Henley

"Cruel Summer" by Bananarama

"Endless Summer Nights" by Richard Marx

"Hot Fun in the Summertime" by Sly and the Family Stone

"I Hate Summer" by F--ked Up

"I Know Where the Summer Goes" by Belle and Sebastian

"In the Summertime" by Mungo Jerry

"The Other Side of Summer" by Elvis Costello

"School's Out for the Summer" by Alice Cooper

"Suddenly Last Summer" by The Motels

"Summer" by Calvin Harris

"Summer" by War

"Summer Babe" by Pavement

"Summer Breeze" by Seals and Crofts

"Summer Girls" by LFO

"Summer in the City" by The Lovin' Spoonful

"Summer Love" by Justin Timberlake

"Summer Madness" by Kool and the Gang

"Summer Nights" by John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John

"Summer Nights Lakeside" by Gospel Claws

"Summer of '69" by Bryan Adams

"Summer Rain" by Johnny Rivers

"Summer's Comin'" by Clint Black

"A Summer Song" by Chad and Jeremy

"Summertime" by Beyonce

"Summertime" by Billy Stewart

"Summertime" by DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince

"Summertime" by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong

"Summertime Blues" by Eddie Cochran

"Summertime Clothes" by Animal Collective

"Summertime Sadness" by Lana Del Rey

"Summertime Summertime" by The Jamies

"That Summer Feelin'" by Jonathan Richman

"Theme from A Summer Place" by Percy Faith

"This Summer's Been Good from the Start" by Gorky's Zygotic Mynci

"Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer" by Nat King Cole

"Tokyo Summer" by The Mounties

Now I must venture off again. Remember me as you listen to these tunes and know that I shall return again, but the summer breeze beckons me and I cannot refuse the siren call of the waves. Wait for me. Summer is fleeting, my friends.  Enjoy it while it lasts.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Best Reader Comment for June 2014

Time once again to look back at the month that passed and select the reader who contributed the best feedback.  Past winners have included Abrawang, Bill Beck, CrankyCuss, EyeSpye, LibbyLiberalNYC, MalcolmXY, Pat Malone, Margaret Feike, Matt McMillan, Jan Sand, and Bob Skye.  The "chosen one" for June 2014 is Robert La Vallie who submitted a tsunami of excellent comments.

My favorite was this short but hilarious retort to my post "A Good Time to Be a Sports Fan:"

It is funny. Your title of this topic is "A Good Time to Be a Sports Fan." Then, you mention soccer. Soccer is not a sport. It is a foo foo activity with dots on the ball. 

Then, he hit the keypad and went on a roll with some brilliant doozies:

Response to May's Reader of the Month
by Robert

I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed last night that I did not win the post of the month. Nothing against the winner, but let's face it, it really wasn't that good. I then looked at myself, and, in all honesty, I could hardly blame Kikstad, as really, from what did he have to select? Very little. And so, with this entry, I fully anticipate winning this month's award. So, what shall we talk about? 

One word. Conan.

Yes, it is true. Conan, or should I say, KING Conan, hits the theatres just in time for Christmas next year. 

Thankfully, this takes place after Conan the Barbarian. It bypasses the ridiculous Conan the Destroyer and the terrible 2011 remake. According to Arnold Schwarzenegger, "Conan is very much alive. Age doesn't mean anything to me, because I work out every day. I work out twice a day, as a matter of fact. At night I work out with weights, and in the morning I do cardiovascular training. So for me, to get on the set and to swing the sword around again and to ride the horses and all those things doesn't mean anything [does not scare me], because I feel like I did thirty years ago. So as long as I stay in shape, that's the key thing, and to keep your body young."

The idea for this movie is that this takes place AFTER Conan has been king. Conan, like Arnold, is in his mid 60s now, so he will have to fight through an aging warrior body, having cracking bones, aches, and having to get back into the battle.

I, for one, will venture to the Halls of Valhalla and back, and slake my thirst from the cup of Valeria, for the opportunity to venture on one final quest with the true Conan. To crush my enemies, see them driven before me, and to hear the lamentation of their women.

And if you do not know what the above paragraph means, shame on you. Time to dust off your old copy of Conan the Barbarian.

And then this review:

You Will Be Disappointed by Her
by Robert

This week, I watched Her, a film starring Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, Olivia Wilde, Portia Doubleday, and Scarlett Johansson as the voice of Samantha. The film centers on Theodore Twombly (Phoenix) soon-to-be divorced from his childhood sweetheart Catherine (Mara). Out of loneliness, he develops a relationship with Samantha: an intelligent computer operating system (OS) with a female voice and personality.

Theodore is fascinated by Samantha's ability to learn and grow psychologically. They bond over their discussions about love and life, and Samantha proves to be constantly available, always curious and interested, supportive and undemanding. 

Theodore is convinced by Samantha to go on a blind date with a woman (Wilde). To his surprise, he and the woman hit it off. As they are kissing, the woman asks if Theodore is willing to commit to another date with her, and when he hesitates, she leaves. Theodore mentions this to Samantha and they talk about relationships. Theodore and Samantha's intimacy grows through a verbal sexual encounter during which Samantha claims she can feel his touch. However, Samantha is all-observant where Theodore is concerned, and worries about her inability to give or receive physical gratification. Samantha suggests Isabella (Doubleday) as a sex surrogate, simulating Samantha so that they can be physically intimate. Overwhelmed by the experience, Theodore interrupts the encounter and sends a distraught Isabella away, causing tension between himself and Samantha.

Meanwhile, Amy reveals that she is divorcing her overbearing husband after a fight. She admits to Theodore that she has become close friends with a female OS that Charles left behind. 

At this point, the movie goes into the truly bizarre, as Samantha begins privately interacting [wink wink] with another OS.

And therein lies the problem with Her. There is not one lasting, committed relationship in the entire movie. Both the director of this movie and the developers of Samantha fail to evoke any sense of morality. As an example, the morning after Theodore and Samantha's "lovemaking," Theodore's response is, "I should tell you that I'm not in a place to commit to anything right now," and Samantha's reply is, "Did I say I wanted to commit to you?"

Because of this, infidelity sets in, though not the way you would think, and the result is a feeling of loneliness and emptiness. That is exactly how you feel after seeing this nihilistic claptrap.

The futuristic take on the evolution of technology is mere window (un)dressing for the 1960s "If it feels good, do it" modus operandi. The sleeping around would have more relevance if it were counterbalanced by any beacon of decency.

You can do a lot better than Her. Trust me.

Rating: Two (of Five) stars

Followed by this:

Most Over-Rated Players Today
by Robert

I would like to point out what I consider to be three of the most overrated players today, one from baseball, one from football, and one from basketball. 

Most Overrated Player: Baseball
David Wright: New York Mets

He is the face of the franchise, and you know what, the franchise is in a horrific state. Now, you may be thinking, "Well, this guy is a home run hitting machine, and the rest of the team is terrible."

Well, let's look at his Home Run stats for the past few years:

2011: 14 HRs
2012: 21 HRs
2013: 18 HRs
2014: 6 HRs [on pace for 14 HRs]

He is a decent player, to be sure, but is by no means a superstar. The contract the Mets paid him [7 years, $160 million] could have been used for other players. In my opinion, he is a good complementary player, but not the type of leader you need on a team like the Mets. 

What is stunning is that he has escaped any type of media criticism since his time with the Mets. For these reasons, and more, I rate him the most overrated player currently in baseball.

Most Overrated Player: Football
Peyton Manning: Denver Broncos

What, you say? Peyton Manning is one of the greatest QBs in NFL history. I would qualify this statement, as follows, "Peyton Manning is one of the greatest REGULAR-SEASON QBs in history." When you get right down to it, in the post season, Peyton Manning is far-too average. 

How average?

His win-loss record in the postseason is 11-12.

When you make it to the playoffs in 13 years, and have only one Super Bowl trophy, to me, that is failing to get the job done. For these reasons, I rate him the most overrated player currently in football.

Most Overrated Player: Basketball
LeBron James: [Team: TBD]

Note the above comment of "Team: TBD," as that pretty much sums up this basketball player. What I hear about Mr. James is that he is one of the top five NBA players of all time. 

This is a perfect example of short-term memory. 

So, let me see if I get this straight. LeBron James is one of the top-five players of all time.

So, who are the players not better than LeBron James?

Magic Johnson
Larry Bird
Michael Jordan
Julius Irving
Oscar Robinson
Tim Duncan
Jerry West

and the list goes on

Also, I don't recall one of these great players playing for a team, NOT WINNING for a team, moving to a new team and recruiting star players, NOT WINNING with that team, and now opting out of that team.

This is what LeBron James did, and is doing.

To be a great player, in my opinion, you must take a team and make it better, not join a team of superstars.

Kobe Bryant: 5 rings. He started with the Lakers, and remained with this team.
Tim Duncan: 5 rings. He started with the Spurs, and remained with this team.
LeBron James: 2 rings. He is going to be on his third team next year.

For these reasons, I rate him the most overrated player currently in basketball.

Just my two cents.

Others also commented this month, but their timing was unfortunate, picking a month when Robert awoke from cyber-hybernation. It's like choosing to play soccer against Pele during his peak. I still applaud all of you who tried:

Ben Sen
Chiller Pop
Cranky Cuss
James M. Emmerling
James Hart

As always, I extend my thanks to everyone who shared my posts on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media, and who posted a review of my City of Kik blog on (If you haven't reviewed it yet, please do so.) As I always say, and sincerely mean, I appreciate it.

Thank you for continuing to read, share, and comment on what I write.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Movies in July and August 2014

I hope you all have an excellent Independence Day weekend ahead. I'm spending my week-long vacation with my family. Now it's time to look forward to the movies arriving these next two months, the peak of summer.


Earth to Echo (July 2) - Does that poster image look a bit familiar to you? It reminds me of the iconic image from E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (which was a play on Michaelangelo's Sistine Chapel masterpiece). The plot for this kid-friendly science fiction flick also seems pretty close to that 1980s blockbuster as youngsters try to help a cute visitor from another planet return home.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (July 11) - I'm a huge fan of the Planet of the Apes series and this latest chapter in the rebooted franchise looks pretty spectacular. The Earth is devastated by the Simian Flu.  The war between humans and the apes begins!

The Purge: Anarchy (July 18) - Two years ago, The Purge was a sleeper hit, so the inevitable sequel is here as more terror and drama take place with a stranded couple trying to survive during the annual ritual of violence and mayhem.

Hercules (July 25) - Back in January, Renny Harlin's version of The Legend of Hercules arrived in movie theaters with a whimper, but now director Brett Ratner and star The Rock (Dwayne Johnson) bring their rendition of the Greek demigod to the big screen.


America - Here's a fascinating documentary just in time to celebrate our nation's birthday. What if the thirteen colonies lost the Revolutionary War?

And So It Goes - Who says Hollywood only panders to teenagers during the summer months? Director Rob Reiner delivers a comedy/drama/romance starring Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton.

Deliver Us From Evil - When I was a kid, I drafted a horror screenplay with this same title. Now let's see what a mainstream production starring Eric Bana, Edgar Ramirez, Olivia Munn, and others can deliver.

Life Itself - Here's another documentary, this one tracing the career of the late, great Roger Ebert.

Lucy - Luc Besson directs a sci-fi action movie with Scarlett Johansson as a woman with extraordinary powers. It also stars the always terrific Morgan Freeman.

A Most Wanted Man - One of Philip Seymour Hoffman's final performances hits the screen, alongside fellow actors Rachel McAdams, Robin Wright, Willem Dafoe, etc.

Planes: Fire and Rescue - Disney's spin-off to the animated Cars sparks a sequel. It might not match the Pixar classics, but it'll be nice to hear the voices of Dane Cook, Ed Harris, Julie Bowen, Hal Holbrook, Wes Studi, Teri Hatcher, Brad Garrett, Stacy Keach, and others.

Sex Tape - Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz star in a screwball comedy.

Tammy - Melissa McCarthy tries to continue her streak of excellent comedic performances. Susan Sarandon and Kathy Bates also star.

Very Good Girls - Dakota Fanning and Elizabeth Olsen play two friends who fall in love with the same guy.

Wish I Was Here - Zach Braff stars in and directs this comedy drama. Kate Hudson is also in the cast.


Guardians of the Galaxy (August 1) - Will Marvel's money-making streak continue with this lesser known comic book title?

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (August 8) - What makes this latest version of TMNT different from all the others that came before? The answer is producer Michael Bay. Expect more pumped up Turtles, bigger explosions, and Megan Fox as April O'Neil

The Expendables 3 (August 15) - Sylvester Stallone continues his all-star action franchise for a third outing.

Sin City: A Dame To Kill For (August 22) - Nine years later, Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez have created a sequel to their graphic novel adaptation.

Jessabelle (August 29) - You may never have heard of this movie, but that hasn't stopped other obscure but creepy horror thrillers from emerging as unexpected blockbusters.


Calvary - It was critically acclaimed at the Berlin International Film Festival and now it tries to attract a broader audience.

The Congress - Despite the terrible title, this could be an interesting science fiction film.  It stars Robin Wright, Harvey Keitel, and Jon Hamm.

Get On Up - This is a bio flick on the life of music legend James Brown.

The Giver - Based on the book by Lois Lowry, another young adult science fiction adventure hopes to spark a franchise.

If I Stay - Chloe Grace Moretz is always amazing (too bad the Carrie remake flopped.) Now she's playing a girl in a coma who has an out of body experience.

Into the Storm - Low-budget movies can now create some of the special effects that amazed audiences back in 1996 with Twister.

Let's Be Cops - Here's a comedy that might disappear as quickly as it arrives, but might offer a few good laughs while it's here.

Life After Beth - Tired of stories about people returning from the dead? Hey, it's supposed to be a metaphor.

Life of Crime - Based on the Elmore Leonard novel, Jennifer Aniston is a kidnapped woman whose wealthy husband refuses to pay the ransom.

Love Is Strange - I don't know if this drama will be any good, but the cast is promising: Marisa Tomei, John Lithgow, and Alfred Molina.

The November Man - Pierce Brosnan is in an action thriller that's not a James Bond movie.

Step Up: All In - Did you know that there have been four previous movies in this dance/romance series? Now comes number five with the "all-stars" of the previous films returning for more of the same.

What If - Originally called The F Word, this is a better title but will it be a hit? Based on the play, it stars Daniel Radcliffe.

When the Game Stands Tall - Jim Caviezel is a legendary football coach.


I mentioned that this is the peak of film distribution for the year, so here's the lineup of many of the other motion pictures hitting theaters in the next eight weeks.

About Alex
Alive Inside
Are You Here
As Above So Below
The Fluffy Movie
The Girl on the Train
Happy Christmas
The Hundred-Foot Journey
I Origins
Land Ho!
A Long Way Down
Magic in the Moonlight
Mood Indigo
My Man Is a Loser
The Notebook
One Chance
The One I Love
The Trip to Italy

Which ones are you looking forward to seeing?

Friday, June 20, 2014

Books Worth Re-Reading

Summertime is finally here! Many folks are scouring the bestseller lists for beach reading material, but why not consider re-reading some blasts-from-the-past that have been collecting dust on the bookshelf? I've listed a bunch that have served me well after multiple go-throughs. Plus, if you've never had the pleasure of reading any of these (don't worry, I won't judge), it will be like reading a fresh new story hot off the printing press.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Animal Farm by George Orwell

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

Charlotte's Web by E.B. White

Dangerous Visions edited by Harlan Ellison

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Dune by Frank Herbert

The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty

Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

The Godfather by Mario Puzo

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy

Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice

I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

It by Stephen King

Jaws by Peter Benchley

A Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey

Peter Pan and Wendy by J.M. Barrie

The Princess Bride by William Goldman

Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Treasure Island by Robert Lewis Stevenson

Watership Down by Richard Adams

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

Feel free to chastise me if I've left your favorite perennial novel off the list.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Too Many Pixar Sequels?

Is Pixar, the animation company know for such instant classics as A Bug's Life, Ratatouille, and WALL*E, losing its creative edge by relying on too many sequels to previous hits?

No one can argue that the Toy Story trilogy wasn't brilliant, but did we really need Cars 2?

Monsters, Inc. was brilliant, but was the world crying out for Monsters University? (Technically, that was a prequel, but the same principle applies -- unnecessary rehashing of familiar tales instead of creating something brand new.)

Will audiences forget the uniqueness of Up and Brave if they are bombarded with the familiar as Pixar unleashes Finding Dory and eventually Cars 3? (The upcoming Planes is a spin-off and not directly made by Pixar, but I'll still count it, since it's part of the overall Disney family.)

Luckily, the studio is still producing new material that looks promising, such as Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur, but they should be wary and not fall into the trap of seeking easy profits with retreads as a substitution for originality.

Having said all that, I'm still excited to see The Incredibles 2!  :)

Monday, June 16, 2014

A Good Time to Be a Sports Fan

Even though my New York Yankees might be playing catch up to the Toronto Blue Jays, plenty of other sports events besides baseball this week have kept my interest. It's an exciting time to be a sports fan.

California Chrome teased us chasing the Triple Crown only to lose at the Belmont Stakes. The New York Rangers had a thrilling ride to the Stanley Cup Finals in hockey even if they ended up short against the Los Angeles Kings. The San Antonio Spurs delighted me by dominating the Miami Heat and winning the NBA Finals. Now, the World Cup has begun, the phenomenon that captivates the world every four years.

Today, the United States beat Ghana, earning payback for losses in previous tournaments.  We've already seen exciting matches as Italy beat England, major upsets as Costa Rica beat Uruguay, and lopsided blowouts as Germany dominated Portugal, France blanked Honduras, the Netherlands demolished Spain, and Colombia crushed Greece.

Even if you're not a fan of soccer, it's hard not to become caught up in the World Cup hype.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Content Is Still King

Traditional television networks have many reasons to feel threatened as competitors rise up from every corner to overtake them as the primary distributor of entertainment content. Viewers are already accessing their shows on computers and mobile devices instead of solely on TV sets. Now, other platforms are developing original programming.

Netflix has a lineup of its own show and Amazon Prime also is developing its own comedies and dramas. Now, Sony PlayStation is jumping into showbiz beyond the video games that have been its chief bread and butter.  The comic-book inspired Powers will be a live-action series available on the PlayStation Network, accessible through Sony's consoles.

Not to be mistaken for the Starz drug-war drama Power produced by 50 Cent, Powers is a mashup of police procedurals and superhero adventures.  It stars Jason Patric as a detective solving crimes involving superpowered heroes and villains.  Originally meant to air on FX, the show has had a tumultuous development cycle and will finally debut on PSN in December, the first but likely not the last original dramatic series to be distributed on the platform.

If it's a success, expect more scripted content to be produced and offered to audiences beyond the traditional TV channels.