Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Best Things of 2008

Well, it's the end of the year. And, as is the custom on this type of site, I'll now share with you my personal favorite "things" of the past year. This specific list was devised by close friend, and fellow blogger Mike Lizzio, but I decided to blatantly steal it and post it as my own. He's my very own Bernard Pivot. So there you have it.

And now, without further ado...

The Best Things of 2008:

Movies -

"The Dark Knight" - Yeah, I know. Blah blah blah... "The Dark Knight" was great. The best comic film of all time, and all that... you've heard this many times before, now let's move on.

"Dear Zachary"- I watch a lot of films throughout the year, and this was the first film in several years years that actually evoked honest-to-God tears from my cynical eyes. It's truly a heart breaking story, but one that everyone should see, for sure. And, yeah, it's slightly amateurish in its construction, but it only adds to the piecemeal charm of the story as a whole. I loved this film and look forward to it getting released at some point on DVD so I can see it again.

"The Darjeeling Limited" - I managed to stay away from "The Darjeeling Limited" for as long as possible, after being let down in a big way by "The Life Aquatic." I'd assumed Wes Anderson had simply come down a case of terminal quirkiness. And after all that, when my netflix queue had been all but exhausted, I was pleasantly surprised when I strapped myself down and watched the film. You know what? It touched me in a way that I had forgotten that Wes Anderson's films were capable of doing. Well played, Mr. Anderson.

Book - 

The Death of the Grown-Up By Diana West

This was at once the most eye-opening and aggravating read of the year. People today seem to simply refuse to behave like adults, and West hits the nail on the head pegging this generation for it's many immature faults, some of which even I'm guilty of. But this is a must read for anyone who hates seeing adults wearing pajamas out in public, or donning Mohawks at the age of 35, as much as I do. And just for the record, I even hate mohawks on children, as well. You now what-- let's just say that Mohawks should only ever be found on Native Americans, and be done with it.

Music -

1.) Ben Folds "Way to Normal"

Folds has yet to let me down. His lyrics, his music-- everything he does just blows my mind. Get into him, if you aren't already. You won't regret it. And if you do get this album, make sure to also seek out the "leaked" version, with the alternate versions of the songs. The alternate of "The Bitch Went Nuts" is one of his greatest songs ever.

2.) Does it offend you, Yeah? "You Have No Idea What You're Getting Into"

These guys are amazing, especially live. Electronic/brit-pop/funk... they are so many things, I don't even know how to describe them. They are terrific, and they have been part of my regular iPod loop for several months now.

Comic Book -

Mouse Guard by David Petersen

I'm not a comics aficionado-- not by a long shot. But I have been getting more into so-called graphic novels, and I absolutely loved Mouse Guard. I seem to really enjoy comics in which animals are given human traits (I'm also really keen on reading Maus and Pride of Baghdad.) But what can I say-- with this one, the cover blurb says it all, "it's Lord of the Rings meets Stuart Little." How cool is that? I really hope this is made into a movie. Soon.

Website -

1.) This is probably my most frequently visited site, and by far the most entertaining film related podcast going. In fact, if I could only choose one podcast to listen to, this would be it. Good hosts, funny banter and always well-considered reviews. It's like Filmspotting, minus the film snobbery. That's not to say there isn't snobbery, just of a different sort... Anyhow, give it a listen, you'll enjoy it for sure.

2.) - I can hear the collective sighs as I type this, but I don't know what else to say-- this site always made me chuckle, and sometimes even crack up. You may have to be a cat person to truly enjoy it, but it's one of my favorite time waster on the internet. And if you have never heard of it, give it a look.

Video Game -

1.) "Portal"

It's such a simple, yet engrossing game. I wish it was 100 levels, or 1000 for that matter-- I simply could not stop playing it. And the creepiness factor was very high with this one. I can't explain exactly why, but this game creeped me out-- I think it's because I didn't quite understand the storyline-- but I do believe that was by design. If you haven't played it, you really need to check this one out. It's not your run-of-the-mill video game-- it's really a transcendent video game experience. Or, at least it was for me.

2.) "Fable 2" - It was good, certainly not great, but good. I suppose it's hard to live up to 4 years of hype, but it really fell well short of a masterpiece. That's not to say it sucked-- after all, I played it pretty much straight on through for a few weeks, so it definitely deserves a mention here. It's a solid fantasy game, which you'll beat pretty quickly and probably not play again.

Internet Discovery-

1.)Blogging - What a feeling, to write regularly and see your readership slowly grow. I love my blog, and it keeps me in the writing habit, even when I really don't feel like it. And even when I have a deadline that I'm ignoring-- like right now.

2.) Senuti- It's a Mac app (and iTunes spelled backwards...) that lets you take music off of other people's iPods and put it on yours with no hassle. It's awesome.

3.) BitTorrent - Or, as I call it, the program that saved me hundreds upon hundreds of dollars this year on music, software and anything else that can be downloaded. Sure, it's like stealing, but you can do it from your couch, so it can't be wrong, right?

Gadget -

1.) Blackberry Storm--

The much maligned touchscreen Blackberry is not nearly as bad as some people (i.e. iPhone fanboys) would have you believe. Is it as good with games and some apps as the iPhone? No. But it's a solid phone and the suretype screen is my favorite part of it. It's my connection to everyone and everything I need throughout the day, and I love it.

2.)My MacBook-- 

My first foray into the world of Mac has been absolutely wonderful. Everything works so effortlessly... and it doesn't crash! What a novel idea! To be fair, my first computer ever was a mac, but that was a Performa 450 back in the days of 2400 baud modems. This thing is sleek, sexy and... aluminum. Yeah, it's supposed to be the "greenest" Macbook ever. If by green, they mean expensive, they are correct. But it was worth it. This thing has quickly become my favorite ( I don't consider my wife and cat as belongings, so...), and I can already see I am slowly becoming a lifelong Mac user. I'll be selling my sperm and blood plasma to buy my next one, but who cares! Also, y'know, being a screenwriter and all, I had to kinda look the part... fake it til you make it, right?

Random celebrity happening -

1.) The Death of the Unbiased Media. Enough said.

2.) Celebrity "Pseudo-Retirement" 
The fad of Actors and Actresses threatening(?) to retire from acting is just ludicrous. I'm looking at you, Joaquin Phoenix, Emma Watson, Keira Knightley. Go ahead and do it. No skin off our collective asses. Why would you retire? You're a celebrity-- the most helpless, skill-lacking breed of human going. You will retire and do what, exactly? Plan your comeback? Please. You know you are of the luckiest .01% of the human race, and you know damn well that the only thing that will stop you from acting is if you overdose on drugs or crash your sports car.

What's that? Bitter? Me? No, I'm not bitter-- why do you ask?


So, there you have it. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it will certainly suffice, considering it's New Year's Eve. Also-- the movies that I listed were not my top three overall, but simply three that I thought should be mentioned. I'll probably compile a list of the best films near Oscar time. Until then, I wish all of you a Happy New Year, and a hope that you'll pass on the news about my trusty little blog. Be safe. -- Jon

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Song of the Week: "Funny Little Frog" by Belle and Sebastian

This is the first installment of what will (hopefully) be a weekly feature on the blog. I'm not going to go too deep into my selections, beyond saying that it'll be songs that I think are great, that I think you should give a listen.

My first selection is from the band Belle and Sebastian, and it's called "Funny Little Frog."

So go ahead. Give it a listen.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Movin' on up...

So, I've been a bit lax in the posting department. Good reasons all around, I assure you. I mean, the end of the semester, holidays, a trip to Disney-- all of that notwithstanding, the hold up has more to do with the fact that I'm in the process of moving the ol' blog from Blogger to Wordpress. Essentially, I'm moving from one to the other to increase the amount of customizable options available for my posts. That's right-- I'm a grown up now. Writing some HTML, even.

Anyway, I do have a few good posts brewing, though. Within a couple of days or so, you'll be redirected to the kinda new, ever-so-slightly improved I hope.

Until then, I guess I'll catch you all surfing on the information super highway.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Game on

See that, right there to the left?

That's my XBOX avatar. A recent update to the XBOX 360 dashboard has taken (read: stolen) a page out of the Nintendo Wii's book, and enabled online users to create a personalized image for themselves. My first attempt at an avatar kind of made me look like an ultra-hip lesbian, so I thought I'd take another shot. This is what I came up with-- I think it's slightly better.

I'm able to share my avatar on my blog with this neat little trick from Sean Dwyer over on his blog, Media Bytes. If you have an XBOX avatar, simply plug your gamertag into this bit address:

Obviously you'll simply place you gamertag in the space where it says (gamertag).

And if you do have one, friend me-- my Gamertag is JonRocks62. Though I'm rarely online on my XBOX because my router is far away from my system, and I refuse to pay $100 for the XBOX wireless receiver. Truth be told, I rarely get to play it at all anymore. But, I'll get on eventually, and accept any and all friends. So, game on... at some point in time.

Monday, December 1, 2008

I'm turning...

My friends, I write these words from the humble keyboard of a budget priced Gateway laptop. It's treated me well over the past few years. However, during the final days of my thesis, it averaged about 4 crashes a day. Two of those crashes saw me lose over two hours worth of work each. Not cool.

So, I've decided to do it. I'm going to remortgage my house, sell my blood plasma and visit the sperm bank a few times so that I can afford to treat myself-- I'm getting a Mac.

That's right-- I'm going to be one of those people now. You know, the people you see at the coffee shop who look upon your Gateway or Dell with a mixture of pity and disgust. I'll be joining the cooler-than-you set, which is odd because, in 99% of cases, I am not cooler than anyone. Trust me. And I do feel compelled to say that I hate-- no-- loathe those bullshit Justin Long Mac commercials. It is perhaps the most arrogant ad campaign I have ever been privy to. Those commercials alone almost made me not even want a Mac.


What can I say-- I'm an aspiring writer. A Mac is what I've wanted all along-- and sometimes you have to look the part, right? So Apple gift cards will dominate my Christmas list this year, in hopes that they will soften the blow at the bottom line of a Mac purchase. Not likely.

So, my friends, I'll still be the same old Jon. I'll still write this blog for an audience of about 4. If you see me in a coffee shop or book store, say hello. And if I give you a smug eye-brow raised look when you plug in your PC, rest assured-- I'm just keeping up appearances. I'm still PC friendly at heart.

So, now, let me try out some snobby mac-user lingo...

Ciao, babes.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Check it Out: "Mulholland Falls" (1996)

Tonight, while flipping through cable channels, I came across the film "Mulholland Falls." Initially, I had it confused with David Lynch's "Mulholland Drive," but when I realized that I was actually able to follow the story, and it had a cohesive plot, I realized my mistake. Zing.

I'd never seen the film, which is surprising, because I'm a huge fan of the films that clearly influenced it-- the noir films of the 40's and 50's. It stars Nick Nolte (when he was younger, slightly more sane) as a Detective on L.A.'s  famous "hat squad" police force. As one would expect, there's a murder, a mystery, a conspiracy, and even some radioactive material thrown in for good measure.

I ended up watching, and thoroughly enjoying, the entire film. I could go into a lot of reasons why you should check it out, like the great cast (Nolte, Malkovich, Chazz Palminteri, Jennifer Connelly, et al) and the many very cool fedoras, but I'd rather just refer you to one line that comes about 3/4 of the way through the film.  Nolte's hard ass Detective delivers it to a Federal Agent who's been horning in on his case. It comes right after Nolte's mopped the floor with him.

"This is L.A. This is my town. Out here, you're a trespasser. Out here I could pick you up, burn your house, fuck your wife and kill your dog. And the only thing that would protect you is if I can't find you-- and I already found you."

If that doesn't make you want to see this flick (as well as talk like that in every day life) your machismo must be at an all time low.

If you get a chance, give this one a look for sure.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Cool Commercial

I've grown weary of major companies advertising with viral marketing campaigns. At a certain point, it's just no longer cool or hip when every company out there is doing it. Having said that, this is one of the coolest commercials I've seen in a while. It's not necessarily a viral video, but it sure as hell isn't a traditional commercial-- at least in a narrative sense. 

Maybe it's just because I'm a cat person, but I thought it was pretty awesome. Enjoy.

I had no idea that mice lived that long.

This week marks the 80th birthday of the one and only Mickey Mouse. I'm actually a pretty big Disney fan, myself. Not so much a fan of the brand, or it's now ubiquitous partnership with Pixar-- but more of Walt Disney himself, and the classic 2d animation that he revolutionized. Call me old fashioned, but "Steamboat Willie" ranks among my favorite animated films of all time. That probably doesn't surprise the people that know me well-- I'm sort of old-fashioned that way.

Most of my other favorite animated films are all of the 2d variety as well, with one exception-- "Monster's Inc." And, if you remember, last year I posted one of my other all time favorite Disney cartoons right in it's entirety here on the trusty blog-- "Mickey's Christmas Carol." I'm surprised Disney didn't have me silently assasinated for copyright infringement. Yet. And yeah-- you can look forward to me recycling that post this Holiday season.

I've often wondered how the image of Mickey has remained so popular when, as a character, he's not been in a major release in years. I guess when a character is branded into our psyche as a young child, it tends to stay there for a while.

So, Happy Birthday, Mickey.

(Coincidentally, I just found out that my lovely wife, Diana, has reserved a trip for us to Disney World for next month to celebrate our first wedding anniversary. We were engaged there about two and a half years ago. Bonus.)

Monday, November 17, 2008

News from the Monster-Mania Magazine front...

Some of you may remember that I had an article published in the premiere issue of Monster-Mania Magazine. And to some extent, I feel like I'm beating a dead horse here, because it came out over a year ago, but there is some fresh news...

Monster-Mania has now secured distribution through most major book stores. That means, within a month or two, you should be able to get yourself a copy of the mag, complete with the article written by yours truly, nationwide. That, in and of itself, is very cool. But, I have even more great news.

I've been commissioned to write two more articles for the Magazine-- one for each of the next two issues.  First up will be an article tracing the history of the "Friday the 13th" films, from the first time that we saw Crystal Lake, all the way up to the new, Michael Bay produced remake. (Which isn't really a remake, bcause we all know Jason wasn't even in the first film, but I digress.) That will appear in the March issue. Later, in June, I'll give the "Nightmare on Elm Street" series the same treatment. I just hope more info is available about the new "Nightmare" film by then.

So, keep an eye out-- the magazine should be on store shelves relatively soon. And, of course, you can always order it online here.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

♪ ♫ And I would walk 5000 miles... ♪ ♫

♪ ♫ ... And I would blog 5000 hits... ♪ ♫

This week marked my blog's 5000th hit. Not that amazing, considering that some blogs get more than that in a day... or an hour. But what the hell, I thought it was pretty cool.

Unfortunately Google analytics is so accurate these days that I was able to track 4,677 of those hits directly to my Mother's work computer. She's just so proud of her son, "the writer."

But it still counts.

Anyhow, thanks for whoever is out there 
reading this. (read: Thanks Mom.)

Preview: "John Carpenter's Riot"

Anyone who knows me will tell you, I'm unabashedly a John Carpenter fanatic. I think the guy is a tremendous filmmaker and, even more than that, someone who makes movies that always deliver just what I'm looking for. Usually it's equal parts character,  story,  practical effects (i.e. light on the CG) and, of course, a terrific, if slightly recycled, score.

For a while now he has been rumored to have been working on a film entitled "L.A. Gothic", which was supposedly an episodic horror like his previous collaboration with George Romero, "Body Bags." However, there has also been another project in the works that had been referred to as "Scared Straight." Well, it seems like that's the one that got the green light, and it's now going to be his next film, "Riot." Oh, excuse me, "John Carpenter's Riot."

Not much is known about the film other than, obviously, it stars Nicholas Cage. One other tidbit-- it takes place during a prison riot. Sounds good, right? I think we could all use a proper update of his "Assault on Precinct 13." (Let us not bring up the abomination of a remake that starred Laurence Fishburne and Ethan Hawke, please.) Anyhow, from the very little that I've heard about this film, I choose to believe that it's going to deliver. After all, it pains me to see Carpenter relegated to shooting only 2 episodes of "Masters of Horror" per year. This guy really is a master, and he deserves better!

Now, I know that Nicholas Cage is a questionable choice for a starring role these days. Especially considering Carpenter's go-to guy, Kurt Russel, was primed for a return to the big time after "Death Proof." But let us not forget, Cage has some bona fide genre-film chops. Forgetting for the moment "Ghost Rider" and "The Wicker Man", think back to a film like "Con-Air." He was terrific! And I'd like to think if anyone will know what to do with a hammy Nicholas Cage performance, it's John Carpenter.

So, you can count on me to keep you updated on this project, because it has quickly become one of my most anticipated films of next year. As soon as a trailer or synopsis hits the web, I'll dutifully steal the link, and post it here as a scoop. Until then, let's all give "Assault on Precinct 13" another whirl on the old DVD player.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

R.I.P. Michael Crichton

Legendary sci-fi author Michael Crichton has passed away at the age of 66. He was the man behind such terrific books as "Jurassic Park" and "The Andromeda Strain", as well as the hit TV show "E.R."  Needless to say, he was a damn good writer, and I was truly saddened to see that he had passed at such a young age. I mean, a death at any age is a shame, but 66 just seems so very young these days.

And for anyone who thinks seeing the film version of "Jurassic Park" was enough, I say you're wrong! His novel was every bit as entertaining, and even more in depth. It's really a quick, fun read. If you've never read Crichton's work, this is where you should start.

So, Mr. Crichton, wherever you are-- I tip my drink for thee.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Free Coffee. That is never a bad thing.

As a sort of gesture of goodwill, Starbucks will be offering anyone who voted today a free tall coffee. Against my better judgement, I get Starbucks all the time, and I still don't know the difference in the way they name their coffee sizes. Tall, Venti... just give me a medium, black coffee please. Anyhow, it figures that the one day I won't be anywhere near a Starbucks, they would choose to give away free coffee. There really aren't any Starbucks in my area anyway-- in fact there aren't many (any) real coffee shops in the area at all! Thank God for Wawa, I guess.

The legality of this publicity stunt has been called into question, as it's seen as some sort of bribe for voting. But it's not based on voting for any one candidate, so I don't see any harm in the deal-- other than the hair that Starbucks coffee will put on your chest. (Read:It's very strong coffee.)

Anyway, if you're in the vicinity of one of their 8 million locations outside of Northeast Philadelphia, make sure you do your civic duty, and get your free java.

Oh. And do that other civic duty today, too.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Why vote? Because Arnold told you to, that's why.

But, in all seriousness, everyone should vote tomorrow. Anyone who knows me, knows precisely where I stand on the issues (I'm not one to keep mum about that.) But, as I have always refrained from partisan talk on my blog, I'll just say this: get off your ass and go vote tomorrow.

If not, you sacrifice your right to do the one thing everyone, of every party likes to do: bitch about politicians.

So go vote, and let's just say, I hope you've paid attention this election season, and make the right choice.

God Bless America.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Review: Midnight Meat Train

 These days it seems like certain films achieve a "cult" status before they've even earned a legitimate fan-base. I'm thinking of films such as "Donnie Darko", "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" and "Hatchet." I'm not saying they're not good films-- but they seem to bestow the cult status upon themselves before audiences have a chance to decide for themselves. Or, in the case of "Midnight Meat Train", before audiences even get to see the film.

The film is an adaptation of a short story by horror legend Clive Barker. And I think therein lies the problem. Sometimes a story is written in short form because that is simply the correct format for it. This seems to be the case with "Midnight Meat Train"-- there simply wasn't enough, uh, meat to fill out the story.

The plot is simple enough-- a late night train, usually only inhabited by one or two commuters, has become the slaughter-ground for a silent maniac (Vinnie Jones) whose weapon of choice is a brutally blunt meat tenderizer. Oh, and some meat sure gets tenderized, believe me. In fact, the gore factor is probably the saving grace of this film for many horror fans. It's a pretty graphic flick. But in this reviewers opinion, the filmmakers fell victim to the trap of using CG gore and blood effects all too often. I would like to think that most true horror fans would rather have a good film that may have a few questionable practical effects, rather than a mediocre film that uses shiny digital blood for most of it's real money-shots. But, we live in the digital age, and I guess digital gore is going to be increasingly prevalent in the genre-- let's just hope it improves... soon. As far as the story itself... it was okay. The main character is a photographer, which has now become a tired cliche in horror films. When the silent killer inadvertently becomes the subject of the photographer's work, he's drawn into trying to discover exactly what's going on in the late night train the man takes every night.

Now, without treading into spoiler territory, I'll just say that the ending of the film was somewhat rushed, and a bit vague for my liking. I don't need everything laid out for me, but I do want a reasonable amount of time devoted to ending a film in a satisfying way.

Overall, the film was a disappointment. Was that because of the months and months of waiting for it's release? Probably. Had I never heard of the film, and just picked it up on DVD, I may have had a different reaction. But that's not how it happened. If you're looking for something creepy that you haven't seen this Halloween, this movie may do the trick. But I do believe I'm justified in telling most horror fans out there-- don't believe the hype.

(P.S.-- The film is now available to watch on FearNet for free! Even I can't argue with that price.)

My rating: 2 out of 5

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

It's over!

Amen. Hallelujah. Thank God, or the Baseball gods, or whoever it is that is responsible for the outcome of Phillies games, because for a few moments there, I did get kinda scared. But, alas, the curse is over, and the Philadelphia Phillies are the 2008 World Series champs. 

Philly... has a winner. That, my friends, feels very good to say. 

I'm glad that I got to finally see what a championship team looks like. And I'm also glad for my Grandpa who, despite being the biggest Phillies fan I know, still curses Phillies manager Charlie Manuel's every misstep-- even in the championship game!

This was a great end to a great season.

And if any of you reading this are Met fans, I hope this sticks so far into your crawl, the handle breaks off and you have to get a doctor to pull it out.

Go Phils.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Disposable Art. Literally.

I came across this video in one of my "research" breaks while writing my script. An artist in New York uses typically disposable materials-- literally the guy uses trash bags-- to create very interesting, vibrant pieces of art. The bags are attached to sewer grates, and simply look like garbage strewn across the sidewalk. But, when the occasional subway train passes underneath, the resulting gust of air fills the bags, and the works of art come alive.

This is one of those videos that really struck me as amazing. I didn't know that there were any videos left on the internet that could do that. Anyway-- I just thought this was so neat, I felt compelled to share.


Can this wretched championship curse continue? Only in Philadelphia.

Of course this would happen in Philadelphia. A mere 3 innings from our first professional championship in 25 years, and the first World Series championship in 28 years, and the game has been postponed, twice. Just to be clear, this is a first in World Series history, and yes, it's happening to our Phightin' Phils.

I have to believe that this is just a cosmic joke, and we are being toyed with one last time before we finally catch up to the dollar-bill-on-a-string that is this World Series championship.

I also wanted to showcase the photo on the left. I love this fan-made "Do it for Steve" campaign! Some of you may know, I am a huge animal fan, and as such was a big fan of the late Steve Irwin. Some may say, "He deserved what he got!" I hate that type of thinking-- he brought a lot of informational and conservation efforts to fruition through his work and , in my eyes, was the man. 

We need three innings. Three F-ing innings. So I concur, do it for Steve, and let's BEAT THE RAYS!

Friday, October 24, 2008

You can quote me on this...

Okay, I'm about to get esoteric and drop some knowledge and inspiration on your asses. During a bout of self-importance, I was perusing my Facebook profile and took a look at what I had listed as my favorite quotes. Now, I know how it is, when someone looks at your facebook profile they don't give a damn about your quotes, or the books you like or any of that crap. They want to see embarrassing pictures of you, say, dancing half-nude at somebody's wedding. But, I have to say, that I put some time into which quotes that I listed, and would hate to think that the effort put forth was all for naught. So, in a continuation of that self-aggrandizement, I present to you my own personal favorite quote.

It comes from Theodore Roosevelt and, while not originally meant for this reason, it holds a certain value for writers, artists and anyone else who puts themselves out there to be, well, judged. I consider myself an, ahem, writer. Still not used to saying that. But alas, it is what I strive to be known as. And this is a quote that I come back to time and again, when I feel like shit about my own work. I hope it means at least a small percentage of what it means to me for you. At the risk of sounding incredibly cheesy, I do actually get chills when I read it or, as Chris Matthews might say, a tingling up my leg. But I digress.

Anyhow, without further ado...

Take it away Mr. Roosevelt.

"It is not the critic who counts. Not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes short again and again, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause, who at best knows achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Let's go Phillies!

I know that I usually try to keep this blog on topic with film, writing and such. But I just want to quickly take the time to voice my excitement and support for my hometown ball club the Philadelphia Phillies. I couldn't be happier that this year they finally broke through and made it to the World Series.

However, in watching the games this post-season, I couldn't help but notice a few things:

1.) I know it's all in good fun when a team shows their unity through facial hair, sideburns, or any number of other unifying acts. But I cannot help but be annoyed when I see players and fans with the so-called "Ray-hawk." I hate the mohawk, and especially since it has become the "in" style for pseudo-hip Moms to give their toddlers. Didn't anyone tell the Rays that mohawks are completely and utterly passe? Worst of all--Now I have to watch Joe Maddon, the coach of the Rays and a 60+ year old man, sporting the look. They deserve to lose simply because of that. Mr. Maddon, have some dignity and self-respect as the authority figure and coach of a pro ball team, and while you're at it, try maintaining a coiffure befitting a man of your age.

2.) Not to rail on Joe Maddon, but is it just me, or is his purse-lipped, bespectacled face simply the most punchable face in the history of the MLB?

3.) I'm not trying to be a baby-- after all we won game 1-- but, that cowbell bullshit is damn near a violation of the rules, in my opinion. How about next year, it's the Phillies "thing" for all 50,000 fans in attendance to bring in air horns and blast them all game? Have some cajones as fans and use your voice (you know, "boo") to psyche out the other team. That or tell them their Mom is banging Squeak. (Bonus points for anyone who replies with what movie that's from in the comments section.)

Okay. That's enough. After all, I don't have too much more to complain about, given the fact that we took game one, and we're well on our way to winning the championship. Posting on sports probably won't be a habit, but if we win this thing, expect at least one more, so I can simply tell all the Mets fans out there to eat a fat one. That is, before their team buys out Cole Hamels next season and he lays us out all year...

But as for now, I'm focused on this year. Go Phils...

Monday, October 20, 2008

So, you're telling me things will get better...

Uber-screenwriter John August (who runs this awesome blog) posted about what it's like to write (and specifically to finish) you're first screenplay. It was a very concise and fitting description-- he says it's like the first time you have sex. Awkward, rushed, probably ends too soon-- you get the point. However, since I'm probably not as eloquent as I should be in communicating his article, here it is in full.

Your First Time
by John August

Your first script is like the first time you have sex. Yes, it’s exciting. You did it! High five!

But that’s not the best sex you’re ever going to have. In fact, it would be sad if it were.

In all likelihood, your first time was rushed and awkward, with some great moments but a lot of room for improvement. And the odds that your first experience will blossom into something life-defining are slim. So take it for what it is: a beginning. You will get better at it.

A mistake way too many screenwriters make is assuming that the first thing they write is The One. The One that will get them noticed. The One that will sell. The One that will transform their lives.

The fact is, there is no One. I can’t tell you what mine would be. The one that got me an agent? The one that got made? The one that Spielberg liked? Those are all different scripts, written years apart. I went from sleeping on the floor of my apartment to owning a house, but none of them changed my life in the way people would expect. Mostly, I just got a lot busier. It was less about the script, and more about the work.

Screenwriting is a career of continuous effort marked by occasional highlights, not unlike trial law or professional football: a single case or game might be notable, but it’s what you do on a daily basis that determines your overall success.1 And, like trial law and professional football, you may discover that you’re just not cut out for it. But you need to approach screenwriting with the same perspective as a lawyer or linebacker. Expect it to be very hard work, with long hours and continuous setbacks.

And in that aspect, the screenwriting/sex comparison fails, because if your lovemaking is hard work with continuous setbacks, you’re probably doing it wrong.

1.Even looking through credits on IMDb is misleading, because the movies that get made are a small percentage of what a screenwriter actually produces. I’ve written 27 screenplays, eight of which are movies with my name on them. And only three of them predate my first produced film, Go.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Halloween is almost here...

This is the beginning of my favorite season. From September to about New Years, for me, is the absolute best time of the year. Honestly-- I feel more excited and invigorated about things, and certainly feel more creative in the Fall. Something about the heat of the summer just saps all of my creative juices.

Anyhow-- as I did with Christmas last year, I'll be posting a few topics about this month's holiday-- Halloween. I love Halloween. The costumes, the candy-- and the TV specials! This time of year there are always some really good kids shows (Garfield's Halloween, The Great Pumpkin, etc.) and there are also some awesome all-day marathons of creepy TV shows. One in particular is "Tales from the Darkside." This show was on in the mid to late 1980's, and was somewhat overshadowed by shows like "The Twilight Zone" and "Tales from the Crypt"-- but it's still a really good show.

So, I caught a few of the episodes that they've started to air, and one thing came rushing back to me-- the opening credit sequence is creepy as hell. First, it was the theme song that got me. Then the seemingly innocuous visuals-- a river, a farm, a covered bridge. Combine those with the devilish voice-over, and that just sends it over the top for me. It's terrific.

Like any horror series, the episodes themselves are hit and miss, but one thing I will say is that they aren't afraid to have ambiguous, and even some downright unhappy endings. It's not available on DVD yet, but If you get a chance, tune into SciFi this month to check this show out out. And I've posted the aforementioned intro to the show below-- see it for yourself. 

Hope to post again soon-- Until then.......

Monday, September 29, 2008

Ben Folds "Way to Normal"

The much anticipated new album from Ben Folds finally hit stores (um, and the Pirate Bay) today. Upon my first listen, I have to admit that I was waiting for that ballad-type song that I've become accustomed to from Folds-- they're always my favorite. But most of this album is quirky, poppy songs, containing both his unique melodies as well as his now trademark, spot-on lyrics.

It wasn't until the second time I listened to the album all the way through that I caught up with a track called "Cologne." This is what I was looking for. It's a great, somewhat melancholy ballad. And the final song on the album, "Kylie from Connecticut" provides a nice companion piece, for those of you who, like me, like to indulge in songs of the the morose, heart breaking nature. That's right, I cry myself to sleep at night. Got a problem?

But I digress...

This in not to say that the rest of the album should be overlooked. His first single, "You Don't Know Me" is incredibly catchy. And the official versions of "Brainwascht" , "Dr. Yang", "Free Coffee" and "The Bitch went Nuts" are good-- though in my opinion none quite stack up to their bogus, leaked versions. I would suggest that you purchase this record, but also seek out the "leaked" versions of these songs for a more complete version of the album. (Read more about about that here.)

All in all, the album is really great. It's probably not going not be considered his masterpiece, especially coming after his previous two albums, "Rockin' the Suburbs" and "Songs for Silverman", both of which were absolutely amazing. It is, however, a terrific album and most definitely a must have for anyone who fancies themselves a fan of Ben Folds.

Score: 4 out of 5 

Below: Ben Folds - "Cologne"

Saturday, September 27, 2008

R.I.P. Paul Newman 1925-2008

Sad news from Hollywoodland. Legendary actor Paul Newman has succumbed to cancer at the age of 83.  The very definition of a movie star, Paul Newman starred in some of Hollywood's most memorable films such as "Cool Hand Luke", "Hud" and "Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid." That's not to mention what was arguably his most enduring role-- the face on the many varieties of Newman's Own food products, the proceeds of which went to numerous charities.

For me, though, I'll always remember Newman as Fast Eddie Felson from one of my favorite films, "The Hustler." It's a fantastic film in which every performance (including Jackie Gleason's role as Minnesota Fats) is just knocked right out of the park If you've never seen one of his films, this is a terrific place to start.

So, here's to you, Paul. I don't really drink alcohol, but today I'll buy a 40oz. just so I pour some out for thee.

"The Hustler" - 1961 - Dir. Robert Rossen

Sunday, September 21, 2008

DVD Review: "The Love Guru"

Good Lord, where do I even begin?

Look-- we all know Mike Myers is a compulsive joke-recycler. And while it wasn't yet apparent during his SNL days, or in his early film career-- it's undeniable now. This guy is using jokes that he's been riding for well over ten years now, and seemingly expecting them to still fly. Well, they don't.

Let's see what elements make up a Mike Myers souffle.

1.) Over-use of an accent. Check.
While it's usually Scottish ("So, I Married and Axe Murderer", "Shrek") or British ("Austin Powers")-- in this case, it's Indian. And an awfully bad Indian accent, at that.

2.)Verne Troyer. Check.
At least in the world of "Austin Powers" there was a reason to have a midg... dwar... very small guy in the film. He's mini-me-- a punchline to a legitimate joke in the film. But here, it seems Myers is simply exploiting Troyer as a walking, talking sight gag. We're expected to laugh at him simply because he is extraordinarily small. In this film he plays the coach of a professional hockey team-- with no explanation given as to why or how. They didn't even go as far as to jokingly say that he was a former player. Nothing. And not only that, but Myers brings back one of the only jokes tat was new in "Austin Powers 3"-- the Mole joke. Only here, instead of Myers not being able to take his eye off of a melanoma, he can't get over the fact hat Troyer is small. Bravo, Mr. Myers.

3.) An unbelievably hot love interest. Check.
I don't mean to say that Jessica Alba isn't unbelievably hot-- she is. But what is unbelievable here is that she is supposed to be attracted, sexually, to Myers' guru Pitka. This is pushing the bounds of suspension of disbelief to horizons I never thought possible.

4.)Musical numbers. Check.
Hated the musical numbers in Austin Powers 1, 2 and 3. Hated them in Shrek 1, 2 and 3. Hated it in this film. It's filler, and not funny in the least. Enough said.

5.)Jokes recycled from previous skits, characters and films. Check.
Without bringing up the many instances of lifted material from other sources, I'll jst say this-- It's safe to assume 50-60% of the script for this film may very well have been copied and pasted directly out of other scripts. I'm just saying...

Then there are the new additions that make this film terrible-- namely Justin Timberlake. There is nothing worse than someone who thinks they are funny, and because they are surrounded by yes men and glad-handers, none of whom have the cajones to tell them they aren't funny. His small role alone damn near ruined this film, like he ruined "Alpha Dog" and "Black Snake Moan." I really wish he would simply go back to making awful pop music that I never have to hear.

Also adding to the tally-- the utterly inane concept that passes for a plot in this film. I won't go into the specifics of the plot, because it's simply not worth it. Let's just say the climax of the film involves a literal climax-- as in an elephant reaching orgasm while mounting another elephant on the ice at Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. I am not joking. This is offensive to the idea of comedy, and is retroactively taking away from my opinion of Myers' previous works.

All in all, I just think that whatever Mike Myers once had, he's lost it. He simply cannot craft a decent character any more. Even Goldmember in "Austin Powers 3" was a half-baked concept. I think what he needs to do now is either A.) Hang it up for good. B.)Do a drama, and stay away from comedy for a bit. or C.) "Wayne's World 3." I vote for C. I have always thought that there was more that could be done with Wayne Campbell, and at least he'd have a competent sidekick in Dana Carvey/ Garth Algar. 

But as far as this film is concerned-- avoid it like the plague. Avoid it as if it will give you an STD. Avoid it as if you gave it an STD, and now it wants to talk.

Just avoid it.

Score: 0 out of 5

Friday, September 19, 2008

James @ The Trocadero -- 9/16/2008

I got the chance to see one of my all time favorite bands, James, in concert this week. Let me tell you-- it's awesome to finally see a band that you've loved for so long in concert. And they certainly delivered a terrific show.

The band Unkle Bob opened the show, and they're a decent band in their own right, but James owned the night. Lead singer Tim Booth's unique voice and utterly bizarre dancing style made for quite an entertaining set. The highlight of the show was Booth's acrobatic climb onto the upper balcony. He made it all the way to the top, where he performed the song "Born of Frustration" a mere five feet from my wife and I. It was fantastic!

Another highlight came during the encore performance. As most bands who are associated with a hit song do, they reserved their most well known tine ("Laid"-- most of you will know it as the theme from "American Pie") for last. Not only did they jam out, but they also invited about the first three rows of fans onto the stage to dance with them. It was definitely a memorable scene.

 Check out the videos below to get a dose of the concert. They don't come to America often, but  if you ever get the chance to see them live-- for God's sake, do it!

James Trocadero Philadelphia Encore

James Trocadero Philadelphia Tim climbing balcony.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Trailer:"Fear(s) of the Dark"

For some time now I've thought that it would be cool to see an animated horror film. Given the advances that CG animation has seen in recent years, the possibilities of what could be done are seemingly endless. Now, thanks to IFC Films, we'll finally get to see what this new breed of horror will look like.

"Fears of the Dark" is an anthology film created by some very impressive French graphic artists and animators. It consists of three short films, all of which are black & white, and each is presented in its own unique artistic style, providing a different texture and feel to them. From the trailer alone, this does look like a very cool film, however, I am a bit hesitant to say that it will be truly scary. There is just something about the distance from reality that the animation brings forth that makes the "horror" of a horror film not quite translate. But then again, I've yet to properly see the film, so we'll see...

In any case, the film is definitely on my radar now, and should be on yours. Look for it in theaters this February. Right in time for... Valentine's day? Check out the trailer below.

Source: Film Junk

Monday, September 15, 2008

Jon Writes for the Screen is on Facebook

I went ahead and put together a little Facebook group in support of the ol' blog. Every little bit helps, right? So if you are on Facebook, and I haven't already inundated you with requests to join, you may do so right here.

Go on. Sign up.
Everybody's doing it.

On a serious note...

This past week, Hurricane Ike tore through Texas like, well like a hurricane. Thankfully, most residents were able to flee to safety before the storm hit, but a lot of animals were left displaced and in serious danger after the worst of the storm had passed. The Humane Society is now working to rescue many of these animals left in the wake of the hurricane, and could use all of our support. 

They are now accepting donations at their website here. Not feeling generous? Take a look at the photo of the cat stuck in that tree, you heartless bastard. You can't part with a few ducats to make sure the cats and dogs of Texas are okay? But seriously, if you can spare some bucks, they could use it.

Anyhow, just thought I'd pass that along.

The Bat's outta the bag? Not quite...

Ever since the (ridiculous?) success of "The Dark Knight", rumors have swirled about the next film in the series, and specifically which characters from the Batman universe would be portrayed by which A-list actors. Don't you just love today's film fans? We're not happy to just enjoy the films we have--  we choose rather to focus on what's next before deals are made and scripts are even written. Amazing. Anyhow-- of course they're going to make a sequel! If there's anything for absolutely certain, it's that any film that makes that much money in Hollywood will no doubt be treated to a sequel-- and probably more than one. (I know-- "The Dark Knight" itself is a sequel...)

Also, given the posthumous career bump that Heath Ledger received for his role as the Joker, what actor wouldn't want to be the next one to take on the reigns, and try to one-up the villainy in the next film. Some may consider trying to top the Joker a fool's errand, but I don't think so. As long as the character and portrayal are sufficiently different, this would be a prime role for any actor. Which brings me to my next point...

It was erroneously reported last week that Michael Caine let slip the fact that not only will there be a sequel, but the film will star Johnny Depp as the Riddler and Philip Seymour-Hoffman as the Penguin. And even though story has since been debunked and retracted, it still sounds on par with what Hollywood would try to force into the next movie.

My question is-- Do we really need Johnny Depp as the next Batman villain in the "Nolanverse?" Nothing against Depp-- hell, I'm actually a huge fan of his. I just think that it's enough already-- Johnny Depp is the ultimate actor of this generation. I get it! I'd rather they cast someone who goes somewhat against type, as they did with Ledger. Look back at the ire of the fanboy nation when he was announced as the Joker. Cut to a year and a half later, and he's the greatest Joker ever. Go figure. Casting Depp in Batman will do nothing more than surprise nobody, and make the goth/emo employees of Hot Topic cream their jeans. What about an actor like Guy Pierce (who starred in Nolan's "Memento") or even maybe a relative unknown. Okay-- that won't happen. But Depp is too easy. I thought the same thing about Angelina Jolie being rumored as Catwoman. Too obvious and too boring.

Now, of course, this should all be taken with a grain of salt. After all, there have also been reports of actors ranging from Brain Austin Green, Cher, Tera Patrick and several others being up for roles. I'm just saying, I hope this series doesn't get out of the hands of the man who has made it what it is-- Christopher Nolan. I'd like to think that he'd rather not make another film in the series than ruin it with forced casting. But, then again, who could turn down the type of money he'll be getting for the next movie.

Eh... I'm just talking shit now. I'll see it regardless. But you get my point, right?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Not for nothing, but...

Would it be too much to ask for Apple to include an AM/FM tuner in the iPod? After all, I can watch "Lawerence of Arabia" on the 2.5 inch screen, but I can't tune in to an AM broadcast? I mean, this is a method of audio transmission that's been going strong for, oh, about a century now. I'm pretty sure it's here to stay. So, Mr. Jobs, can you throw that feature in, straight out of the box, for the $299 price tag. Maybe?

That is all.

Essential DVD: "Grand Illusion"

Criterion has always been known for releasing some of the finest, and most well preserved films available on DVD. In fact, their name alone pretty much ensures that you've got a quality film, and the best possible print you're likely to find. And if you've ever wanted to get into classic film, but didn't know where to start, they've now made it rather easy for you with their  five film "Essential Art House" collection. This set caters almost specifically to film fans who may otherwise be reticent to jump into classic films. They are hand picked to ease you into a world of truly wonderful film that isn't exactly widely discussed in the mainstream.

The set includes Jean Cocteau's "Beauty and the Beast", Akira Kurosawa's "Rashomon", Roman Polanski's "Knife in the Water", William Golding's "Lord of the Flies", Ingmar Bergman's "Wild Strawberries", and Jean Renoir's "The Grand Illusion."

Boy, don't you feel more like a film snob just reading those names? I know I do. But I digress...

My personal choice as to where to start is with Jean Renoir's "Grand Illusion." The synopsis according to TCM is as follows:

"During 1st WW, two French officers are captured. Captain De Boeldieu is an aristocrat while Lieutenant Marechal was a mechanic in civilian life. They meet other prisoners from various backgrounds, as Rosenthal, son of wealthy Jewish bankers. They are separated from Rosenthal before managing to escape. A few months later, they meet again in a fortress commanded by the aristocrat Van Rauffenstein. De Boeldieu strikes up a friendship with him but Marechal and Rosenthal still want to escape..."

Okay, so it's not the most captivating synopsis, but it's a fantastic film nonetheless. It's also usually,
unfortunately, left of off most lists of the best war films of all time. Tsk Tsk.

The full set is available, at quite a low price, at
Amazon and even more reasonably priced from the Criterion Store. And if you're really on a budget, the films are available separately for about $15 each. Not a bad price to buy you some culture and bona fide film-nerd street cred.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Passing on the Podcasts

In the year and two months since I've had my iPod, I've become something of an obsessive podcast listener. Maybe it's the fact that there is never anything good on FM radio these days, or maybe it's the lack of movie oriented talk radio pretty much anywhere. But, for whatever reason, I've really come to love podcasts.

From the more serious, critique related shows, like Filmspotting and Battleship Pretension, to the more fun, pop culture oriented shows like the Slashfilmcast and Scene unseen-- I love them all. But I'd have to say my favorite of all of the podcasts out there is the fine Canadian movie podcast FilmJunk.

If you know me personally, I've probably (unsuccessfully) recommended this show to you. Well, I'm going to do it again-- listen to this podcast! It's the best weekly podcast about movies and pop culture going, and it's free! I've included the 2007 year end video podcast if you want to give it a look. This will give you some idea what he weekly podcast is like, though the weekly show is audio only.

It's a funny show, and the hosts usually have some insightful thoughts about the week's top stories and their reviews. So check it out-- you may end up liking it as much as I do. And if not, there's always Top 40 radio, right?

NOTE: The actual show begins at 3:20. Up to that point is the intro, which I happen to think is pretty funny. But if you want to just check out the show, skip to 3:20. Peace.

Film Junk Year End Video Podcast from Jay Cheel on Vimeo.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Hoo-ray for Blu-Ray-- (this format better last)

After the debacle that was HD-DVD, I decided to hold off for a while before diving back into the high def realm. At least I thought I would. Turns out I'm a movie nerd-- who knew? So I finally took the plunge and got myself a blu-ray player.

Now, I'm not as blown away by the image and sound as I was with the HD player, simply because it's not the first time I'm seeing an HD image. But, man is it nice. Anyone who says that the difference between DVD and blu-ray is negligible needs to get their eyes checked.

Unfortunately, my schoolwork has put my free time at a premium, so I haven't had the chance to fully enjoy any films. But believe me, I have a few lined up in my queue (namely, "Pan's Labyrinth" and "Dark City") that I can't wait to fire up. For now, I've relegated any movie watching to the weekends only, at least until I have a draft of my script that I'm happy with.  Ahhhh-- there's nothing like buying a new toy, only to force yourself to not play with it.

So, I should have some blu-ray reviews to be posted in the next few weeks. And, hopefully, I'll get around to posting my review of last month's MonsterMania 11 sometime soon.

Until then, don't forget to check out Mike Lizzio's new blog. Peace.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Trying out Google "Chrome"

I'm a sucker for new internet-tech stuff. So, when I heard that the folks at Google were trying their hand at a new web browser, set to compete with Microsoft's Internet Explorer, I was definitely up for trying it out.

So far, it's pretty damn intuitive. The basic home page displays thumbnail images of all of your most frequently visited sites, which is really convenient. And the program stores your passwords, which is actually a huge help. For instance-- it remembers your password for MySpace and has it waiting for you in the password box, so that when you log on to the page, you simply have to hit the "log on' button and you're in. It's simple, I know, but I've always hated that MySpace doesn't allow you to save your password.

Other than a few glitches that have to do with flash plugins that aren't yet available, Google Chrome is pretty awesome. And a few bugs are to be expected-- it is only a beta version, after all.

So if you're up for trying something new to spruce up your web browsing experience, you can downlioad the beta version here.

Notice: With Google Chrome, some blogs that use analytic software to track who is visiting the site will give you a prompt that says the site may contain "Malware." I assume his will be addressed, but in the meantime, at least on my site, disregard it. I use MadKast analytics software, and there is no threat of malware from my site. I swear.

Now enter your Credit Card number and Social Security Number in the comments section.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

R.I.P. Don LaFontaine -- The King of Voice-Overs

You may not know his face, but if you've seen a movie trailer during the last 25 years, you certainly know his voice.
Don LaFontaine, whose deep, throaty voice provided the description for thousands of movie trailers, passed away this weekend due to complications from a collapsed lung.

This was the guy when it came to voicing a commercial advertisement. He was even the one who coined the now-cliche trailer catch phrase "In a world..."

LaFontaine was a giant in a section of the industry that often goes unnoticed, but his presence will surely be felt now that he's gone. He was that good. I assume that a load of imitators will be vying for the jobs he would have had, but let's face it-- this guy wrote the book on voice-overs.

Anyway, check out the video below to learn a little bit more about the man-- who seemed like a pretty damn cool guy.

I tip my forty for you today, Don.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Whitest Kids You Know

I know that "The Whitest Kids You Know" has been on for a while, but I'm just catching wind of the show now, and I must say-- it's pretty damn funny. I was actually teetering in the brink of sleep the other night when the show happened to come on. So, with heavy eyelids, I watched only one skit, and that skit made me laugh so hard, and for so long, that I had to get up out of bed and rewind the skit to watch it again. I had to be sure it was as funny as I thought it was.

Now, of course, I had to share with all of the faithful (if any) who still check my humble blog. The skit I have posted here is actually the one that got me out of bed, and it still gets me in tears when I watch it. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did.

And if not, watch it a second time, but this time be happier and with your mouth open.

Just watch the video.