Saturday, April 25, 2009

Dance with them what brung ya

Watching the 2009 remake of "Friday the 13th"
recently, I noticed something:

A trio of young former music video directors, given their chance at feature films, have gone on to varying degrees of success in various genres.

But something they all have in common: Sticking to what they know.

For instance, Marcus Nispel, the director of "Friday the 13th," has made what amounts to three movies. And two of them are remakes of horror classics: "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre"and "F13." (The third is the Indians-vs.-Vikings swordfest "Pathfinder,"also a remake.)

Zach Snyder, another director who remade a horror Hall of Famer in "Dawn of the Dead,"has done two comic-book films out of three movies: "300"and "Watchmen."(The third being "DOTD.")

And Len Wiseman, maybe most notorious for stealing his leading lady (Kate Beckinsale) from his lead actor (Michael Sheen), has made three movies. One is "Underworld,"
and another is its sequel, "Underworld: Evolution."(The other is "Live Free or Die Hard,"the fourth John McClain "Die Hard" movie.)

Now, of those nine films in the combined oeuvre, I've seen all but one ("Watchmen," not yet on DVD). And I think I like most (thumbs-down to "Pathfinder" or "Evolution"), with something to like in all (even "Pathfinder"). Befitting ex-MTV types, they're all certainly stylish (even the gritty horror and Wiseman's "Die Hard" entry).

I guess when you have success with something, it's best - and probably safest - to stick with it, whether that's high-gloss, big-budget comic stuff or high-gloss low-budget horror stuff.

My favorites, in some semblance of order:

1. "Dawn of the Dead"
2. "300"
3. "Underworld"
4. "Friday the 13th"
5. "Live Free or Die Hard"
6. "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre"
7. "Underworld: Evolution"
8. "Pathfinder"
9. "Watchmen" - have not seen

Friday, April 24, 2009

Inappropriate commercial thoughts

Perhaps you've heard me rant about the commercials they play on the News Radio I listen to on the way to work.

Like the ones with slogans that just don't make sense.

You know, the life insurance that pays "even if you don't die!" Um, I'd like to buy that one.

And just who the heck is Patricia McCann and why do I care what she endorses?

Anyway, the latest commercial to get me laughing in that "wrong" way is for the DUX bed, which apparently lasts forever.

The commercial stars Boomer Esiason, who tells the story of how some woman named Toula (presumably not this one) bought a DUX bed umpteen years ago, and despite her kids jumping on it, has never had to replace it.

Boomer then points out he and Toula have something else in common...

And my inappropriate instinct is to respond:

"No Super Bowl rings."

It's apparently really that he also is a longtime DUX bed owner.

I don't know if this Boomer owns a DUX bed, but she's got zero Super Bowl rings, too.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Terror under the sea!

So the other night, I was watching "DeepStar Six,"and I was reminded of the heady days of my youth, back when VCRs were novel and the only video store in my hometown was a little indie place full of forbidden horror movies.

My buddy Aaron and I got lured in by the excellent video box for "DeepStar Six," but every time we hit the new-release rack, the lone copy was out.

So we went on an undersea-horror kick.

We rented such flicks as the very-similar-looking "Leviathan"and "The Abyss,"(which turned out not to be horror at all).

Ironically, by the time we got to "DeepStar," it turned out to be the worst of the lot.

(Aside: We were sci-fi/horror junkies, thanks to "Aliens,"which he got to see in theaters and I, banned by my overprotective but well-meaning parents, got to see when it made its HBO debut. One highlight: We saw an "Alien"-ripoff film called "Creature"on TV, then rented it, and discovered - in front of his startled parents - that there was a nude scene which obviously had been censored from the network broadcast. (Response to their shock: "That wasn't there when we saw it before!") "Creature" helmer William Malone went on to direct the "House on Haunted Hill"remake and got dubbed a "Master of Horror" for it.)

Looking back, these undersea creature features are some of my favorite movies, despite some stretches of awfulness.

(I should perhaps use the term "undersea" loosely, as while Jim Cameron's "The Abyss" was shot in a huge tank of water, the DVD insert for "Leviathan" confesses they faked all the underwater scenes with filters and particles in the air.)

But what struck me the other night was... for B-movies, "DeepStar" and "Leviathan" have some pretty strong casts!

For comparison, Cameron's "Abyss" has:
Stars Ed Harris ("The Right Stuff"), a four-time Oscar nominee, and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio ("The Perfect Storm"), herself an Oscar nom, with Cameron favorite Michael Biehn ("Aliens") in the biggest supporting role. Others of name include John Bedford Lloyd ("Super Troopers"), J.C. Quinn ("Copycat") and comic Chris Elliott ("Groundhog Day").

Sean S. Cunningham's "DeepStar Six" has, in addition to the creator of "Friday the 13th":
Stars Greg Evigan (TV's BJ from "BJ and the Bear") and Taurean Blacque ("Hill Street Blues") plus "That Guy" superstar Miguel Ferrer ("Robocop"), soap star Nia Peeples, Matt McCoy (the star of "L.A. Confidential's" TV-series-within-a-movie) and Cindy Pickett (best known as Ferris Bueller's Mom). Even "Riptide's" Thom Bray shows up.

And George P. Cosmatos' "Leviathan" has, in addition to the director of "Tombstone":
Stars Peter Weller ("Robocop" himself), Richard Crenna ("First Blood") and Amanda Pays ("Max Headroom"), with Daniel Stern ("Home Alone"), Ernie Hudson ("Ghostbusters"), Lisa Eilbacher ("An Officer and a Gentleman"), Meg Foster ("Masters of the Universe") and Hector Frakkin' Elizondo ("Pretty Woman"). That's almost the entire cast!

Bend it like Beckham? Blow a knee out like B-who?

I've signed up to play soccer for the Lenape Valley Soccer Club's adult spring season.

I'm both excited and scared out of my mind.

Scared out of my mind because I get winded just climbing the stairs (four flights!) to my job these days.

Excited because I dedicated nine years of my life to soccer, but haven't played in years. My two minutes of high school varsity time are probably the highlight of my organized athletic career.

I would've made varsity my senior year for sure, but as I like to say, soccer is the sport I love so much I gave it both my knees and just a tiny bit of my spleen.

I always like to say after my last AYSO game in 1991 (warm up for the Fall 1992 high school season), my teammates carried me off the field.

And then I drove straight to the emergency room. That was blowing out the "good" knee.

I did play intramurals in college (on a short field) and I got in an indoor session a couple of years back with the LVSC. (Where I pulled two muscles and watched another guy break an ankle.)

So even if I'm worried about either a) humiliating myself, even if it's a league for over-30 men; or b) dying right there on the field of a heart attack, stroke or other misfortune... I'm still pretty stoked.

I bought all my gear the other day (yeah, I haven't played in so long I had to buy everything from cleats to shinguards; I'm going to show up with a price tag on me somewhere, I'm sure of it)... and then our first game got rained out Monday.

There's another game next Monday, though, so wish me luck! And safety!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Save a "Life"

It's Wednesday night, and I've got nothing to watch.

I'm hoping that'll change come the fall. But my favorite show on TV (on Wednesdays at 9) is in dire jeopardy of not getting a 2009-10 renewal.

NBC, save "Life"!

I'm begging you!

I'd like to think I've made my case in the past. But after an awesome Season 2 finale, I'm hoping even more for a Season 3. I know I should have more important things to worry about, but still...

I'm just going to say it again: Choose "Life"!

Munkees demand vaccine choice!

Munkees demand vaccine choice for New Jerseyans!

I'm not saying I'm opposed to vaccines, and I accept that my years in New Jersey Business journalism have made me very wary of the pharmaceutical industry. But I want the chance to make an educated choice, and not suffer the mandates of a government that proudly touts our state as "America's Medicine Cabinet."

So I'm urging all of you to support the conscientious objection exemption to mandatory vaccination of babymunkees. Nineteen (19 out of 50!) other states have it. Why can't we?

Are you listening, District 24 representatives? I think you are, and I'm proud of you!

Inform yourself, and make your own choice, yes or no. I don't want vaccines banned. I don't want them recalled. I don't want pharmaceutical industry workers to lose their jobs. I haven't even decided yet what I want to do when the baby comes. What I want is the right to decide as an intelligent, involved (soon-to-be) parent what's best for my Sprout.

A random bit of naming trivia

Something that just occurred to me amid a bout of insomnia:

Although Jews don't traditionally name children after living relatives, if we go with the name "Emma" for Sprout - a random name, not for anyone - it will mean:

• Three generations of my family will have first names starting with "E": My mother, Elizabeth; myself, Eric; and my daughter, Emma.

• And three generations of Marisa's family will have first names starting with a form of "M": My mother-in-law, Miriam; my wife, Marisa; and our daughter, "Em"-ma.

If we were having a boy, M was fascinated with the name "Stellan," which would have meant she was given an actress whose name her mother liked, and her son would also have the name of an actor whose name his mother liked.

Name graphic from Facebook's "Name Analyzer" Click here to make your own.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Our little alien?

I got to feel Sprout move the other day!

She's been increasingly active, and a couple of nights ago, Marisa excitedly called me over and we lay in bed, watching her stomach, until suddenly, there was a little poke upward, randomly.

We can find Sprout by feeling the hard spot in her tummy, and if you hold your hand there, sometimes you can feel a little push. Of course, sometimes, it's just her pulse or the pulsing umbilical, but sometimes...


I think that night was one of the best days of my life, up there with the wedding, the pregnancy and the first heartbeat and both ultrasounds. This is a wonderful experience, and I hope all of you who want to experience it can.

On the other hand, M has taken to calling our little Em her "little alien," which means I a) worry will give her a complex (but I worry everything will give Daddy's Little Girl a complex); and b) end up thinking of this:

Especially when Sprout pushes her stomach up a little. I told M I hope Emmamunkee won't be chewing her way out of her body, and just arrive the normal way.

Well, as normal as a midwife-led water birth is these days.

Slightly off topic, as nicknames go, which do you prefer:

Emmamunkee (mine)


Emmabean (hers)

Let me know!

Rats, foiled again

You know how I love surveys, right?

Well, last night, I saw I'd missed a call from the Quinnipiac Polls. But they said they'd call back.

So I waited all night. And sure enough, they did. (After 9 PM! The rotters!)

And they said they were polling random residents at random numbers. And they asked for the person whose birthday is next.

That would be Marisa. Who didn't even want to do it, and almost hung up on them before I told her how this is important.

Yeah, on the News Radio I listen to, they always mention the Quinnipiac polls.

So she got to take the poll on the New Jersey governor and his challenger in the next election.

I'm so jealous.

By the way, is it just me, or does Chris Christie look like Raider pariah Mike Lombardi?

Maggie's last spin

Sadly, this is the last season Maggie the Monkey is making her hockey playoff predictions!

Maggie, who is retiring after this 2008-09 postseason, is probably about as accurate as TSN's other "experts," and quite a bit cuter.

One can only hope Maggie enjoys the rest of her days at the Bowmanville Zoo, and TSN finds an equally entertaining replacement.


Monday, April 13, 2009

A strange "sad day"

Three famous people died today, in fairly rapid succession.

Harry Kalas, the voice of the Philadelphia Phillies and NFL Films (post-John Facenda), died in the press box before a game today at age 73.

Mark "The Bird" Fidrych, the eccentric 1976 American League Rookie of the Year, died on his farm in an apparent accident at 54.

And... Marilyn Chambers, the 1970s-era porn star, died in California at 56.

An odd combination, in terms of cultural trivia. Like the late Bob Clark's directing credits.

Condolences to their loved ones, of course.

Random bit of trivia: When my father was in college, he worked for a television station, and the arch-rival station's anchor was... John Facenda.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Joy and karma

Sprout's a girl! (Well, 99 percent sure, says the ultrasound tech.)

On the one hand, I'm thrilled to death. Daddy's Little Girl!

On the other hand, I'm aging in dog years.

It's funny. I thought at the start it would be a girl, then I slowly became more or less convinced it was a boy, maybe 70/30. But the last couple of weeks before the ultrasound, I was starting to waver. I just started feeling like it would be a girl. I was down to maybe 55/45 boy by the time the tech showed us the three little lines that mean it's got girl bits.

Marisa and I would have been thrilled either way, I imagine, but I know it's extra special for her being a girl. But it's special for me, too.

I have a buddy, Hawk, who has two adorable daughters (also half-Vietnamese) and he warned me: The trouble with having daughters is, you remember that jerk you were in high school, and all your buddies were? Now you're sending your little girl off to deal with those jackals.

And I've dated/known enough girls who have been messed up by their fathers (such as the one athlete whose father called her fat once, and had about a 1% body fat percentage and still worked out like a fiend so she wouldn't be "fat") that I'm just worried about what I could without meaning it.

So now, on top of praying for good health and happiness for Sprout, I've started praying for strength. I want to be a good father, a great father, but I know I'm even less equipped to deal with a girl than with a boy. I can only do the best I can do, and that's what I mean to do.

But I married the first girl I dated who didn't have more issues than a newsstand, and even she has told me some things that have happened that have hurt her and make me wonder.

She won't let me buy a gun, either. But I guess I'm torn between feeling like my parents loved me so much they were almost overprotective, and the instinct that I have to protect little Sprout no matter what.

It's a lot to think about between now and August. And you think I was worried before...

On the upside, a) little girls get the cutest clothes; and b) I have a great wife who will be able to help with all the things that arise - particularly the "girl" things.

And, of course, every time I think of my beautiful little girl, I smile. That helps.

Right now, we're learning towards Emma Claire. What do you all think?