Monday, October 29, 2007

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

This weekend I went to see The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Before seeing the movie I knew little to nothing about how Jesse James died. The highest compliment I can pay this film is that I left it with the desire to read more about both Jesse James and Robert Ford. The emotions of the film and the nature of the characters have also stuck with me long after I left the theater.

As a film, it is beautifully shot and features breathtaking landscapes that capture the feeling of the unpopulated, untamed west. The acting performances are strong as well. The true stand-out is Casey Affleck as Robert Ford. Without spoiling too much, Ford was one of America's first obsessed fans. He grew up idolizing Jesse James and dreaming about what it would be like to be a member of the James Gang. He gained all his knowledge through stories in pulp novels and frontier legends. In other words, he was enamored with the media created image of Jesse James. As he would come to know the real man and found that he didn't live up to his preconceived image, Ford grew more and more cold and angry towards James. There is one scene where Ford proudly tells James that he has read about all his exploits and knows them all by heart. James then tells him that those stories are all lies. You can see Ford's heart sink as he hears this. Casey Affleck gives Ford both a sense of pathos where you can truly relate to the enthusiastic young man, and a generally creepy quality where you know he's just not quite right. He is just perfect in this role.

Robert Ford reminded me most of Mark Chapman, the man who killed John Lennon. It's an amazing byproduct of the culture of media created celebrity that some people believe they can usurp another man's fame by killing him. Ford attempted to make a living off of being the man who killed Jesse James. He thought people would think he was a hero. Instead, people hated him and saw him as a coward. He had, after all, shot Jesse James in the back of the head as he dusted a picture! But, worst of all, he had killed an American folk hero.

The movie plays out very slowly and is not for everyone. It doesn't have much action in terms of gunfights but is till well worth watching. The strong acting, poignant story, and haunting images and characters make it a great film. The fact that before this movie I had never heard of Robert Ford but, of course, had heard of Jesse James, goes to show that cowards like Ford and Chapman can take a man's life, but they can never kill a legend.

Friday, October 26, 2007

HBO Feature Presentation

I am sure that many of you out there will remember the old HBO intro. This is the longer version which didn't show as often. In this one, you fly over the model town before it goes into space where you find the giant HBO logo. Typically, the intro would start off in space. I can't even begin to tell you how many movies I watched in my youth that were preceded by this intro.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Dancing Sir . . . Mostly Dancing

Here is a look at the poster for one of the greatest comedies of all time. Enjoy!

When Johnson Met Harryhausen

The day I met Ray Harryhausen in Richmond was a momentous occasion in my life for many reasons. The first reason is pretty obvious, I got to meet Ray Harryhausen! The other reasons are known to but a few . . . until now.

On this day, my friends and I wandered into a joke and novelty store called The World of Mirth. While browsing the store a song came on. It was "Hanky Panky" by Tommy James and the Shondells. For those of you who aren't familiar with the song, the chorus goes "my baby does the hanky panky." Typical of the times, it purported to be a song about a dance but was, in fact, a thinly veiled metaphor for sexual activity. In the 60's, bands couldn't just come right out and say what they wanted. Well, upon hearing this song, a creative thought entered my mind like a bolt of lightning on a metal roof. It was as if the heaven's themselves opened up and poured inspiration into the empty vessel known as my mind. The idea was so forthright that it instantly came from my mouth . . . "My Leeman Does the Hanky Panky!" I sang it as if those were the words intended all along by the writers, and perhaps they were. Leeman is known for his bedroom prowess and so adding his name to this classic song seemed as right as rain. Since that day, the Leeman version has gone on to be a classic amongst those who have had the privlidge of hearing it. If only Leeman had been there to witness the birth of his song.

This day also was highlighted by my ears hearing two monumental phrases for the first time. After hearing them, it was as if I had been born a deaf man and was now hearing for the first time. Before we left Portsmouth we stopped at a local 7-11. As my friend Craig exited the Jeep SUV, I asked him what he was going in the store to purchase, as Rob was pumping and buying the gas. He responded with one word . . . "provisions." For those of you unaware, provisions are snacks easily procured at convenience stores nationwide. Examples would be items such as Slim Jims, potato chips, Little Debbies, Goobers, et al. That was an educational experience for me as I had never known the true meaning of that word until that very moment.

The other phrase that fell on my ears that day was to become one of the all-time great catch phrases in human history. We stopped at another 7-11 prior to returning to Portsmouth. Once again, Craig got out to go into the store. I asked him what he was getting and he said . . . "Antacids Brother!" My life has never been the same.

I have saved the best story for last. Stay tuned for the next installment . . . Trundling.

Joey Bishop 1918-2007

My friends, it is with great sadness and a heavy heart that I report the death of Joey Bishop. He was the last surviving member of The Rat Pack.

A funny story I know involving Joey Bishop comes from my dentist Dr. Smith. In 1967, ABC gave him his own late night talk show that aired opposite Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show. When Dr. Smith was in college, he and his buddies once saw Carson en route to a public appearance. To be funny, he yelled out "Hey Joey! How are you?" pretending like he thought Johnny Carson was his competition, Joey Bishop. He said Carson laughed and then waved them off dismissively. Hahaha Really, no disrespect, Joey should have known he couldn't take on the King of Late Night!

Joey Bishop also holds a special place in my heart because he is the adpoted personality of my friend Craig Eckrich AKA Moonpie AKA Pie AKA Devlock AKA Blue Demon. When it was decided that we would all be members of the Rat Pack, he took Joey and then proceeded to give me Sammy. I have come to terms with being Sammy because Hayley says he was, in fact, the most talented member of the pack.

I think Joey is at his most entertaining in Ocean's Eleven.

The world is somehow a lot less cool without The Rat Pack. If only I could have been able to go to Vegas in their heyday.

For a full article on Joey Bishop click on the following link . . .

Earth-like Planet Found

This is some truly wonderful and fascinating news. One of my dreams has always been to live long enough to know other Earth-like planets exist. Just imagine, if we find another one just how common they must be. Awesome. Can we go ahead and adopt Class M for their designation?

Star Trek - TOS Cast 2

Well, the casting of the main TOS crew is now complete. We are still waiting to hear about Pike but the big seven are in place. Here's a rundown:

James T. Kirk - Chris Pine
Spock - Zachary Quinto
McCoy, Leonard H. Son of David - Karl Urban
Scotty - Simon Pegg
Uhura - Zoe Saldana
Checkov - Anton Yelchin
Sulu - John Cho

Of course, the one and only Leonard Nimoy will return as the older Spock. Let's all cross our fingers that Bill also returns as older Kirk. I am anxious to see what this cast can do. My biggest hang-up is Simon Pegg. But, I am going to practice what I preach and keep an open mind. As Kirk himself once said,"Come come Mr. Scott. Young minds, fresh ideas."

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Star Trek Continuity Humor

Watch this. It is laugh-out-loud funny! It showcases some of the best continuity goofs of all time. I didn't realize the existance of most of these errors until I saw this.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Powermaster Optimus Prime

I wanted to post a couple of pictures of my newly graded and cased Powermaster Optimus Prime. I now own one of only two AFA 85 graded ones out there. Also, there are no examples graded higher than 85. As you can see in the sencond picture, there is no flap crease at all! :) The window is still crystal clear and the styrofoam is as white as snow. I have had this particular Transformer for many years but just now got around to getting it graded and cased. It is a real beauty. This is one piece of my collection of which I am very proud.

The New Kirk

It was confirmed on Ain't It Cool News today that actor Chris Pine has signed on to play the young James T. Kirk in the new Star Trek movie. I have never heard the young man utter a single word, only seen him in still pictures. He has some big shoes to fill but I trust that he was hired because JJ Abrams feels he is up to the challenge. Kirk is the one character that seems so intimately tied to the actor that it's hard to imagine anyone else other than Bill playing the role. But let's face it, Bill is not a young man anymore. I want to see Kirk live and breathe again. Those characters still have so many stories left to tell. It was, after all, supposed to be a five year mission. Rather than joining the crowd of negative people who are always looking to find fault with anything in Trek, I want to welcome Chris to the fold and give him the chance he deserves. To those of you who like to accuse every handsome young man of being a "WB Guy", I say don't judge a book by it's cover. Ability is not dictated by being too handsome or not handsome enough. Open your minds and give the man a chance. You might just be surprised how much easier it is to enjoy something if you take the chips off your shoulders.

Transformers DVD out today!

Just in case you are living in a cave, the DVD of the 2007 live-action Transformers movie came out today! I went to Wal-mart on my lunch break and bought the Two Disc Edition. Almost all of the copies there had discs that were loose in the cases. I had to get the lady to open a new case and get me one that wasn't loose. I doubt the special features will be as much fun as those on the newest version of the original 1986 movie, but they should be interesting.

For the record, I really enjoyed this movie. Anyone that knows me knows that I am a big-time, life-long Transformers fan. Transformers is not some "nostalgia property" for me. I have been a fan since 1984 and have followed every incarnation since. Generation One will always be my favorite but I also love Beast Wars, Superlink, and this new movie. Do the characters look different than we have seen them before? Sure. But any long-time fan is used to seeing them look different. Are there too many humans in the live-action movie? Of course there are. But I knew going in to this movie to expect a lot of humans and not an all robot movie. Bottom line is, we got some awesome robot fights and transformation sequences. We also got the voice of Peter Cullen. With those things done right, do you really need anything else? I don't! I was kind of bummed out that they implied that Cybertron was uninhabitable because I would love to see more action take place there in future movies. But who knows, this is science-fiction after all. They may find a way to regenerate the planet.

Word from Michael Bay is we can expect to see Soundwave, Shockwave, and a gestalt team in the second film. Let's hope he reverses his opposition to mass shifting for Soundwave. But a live-action gestalt? Sign me up! I vote for Predaking.

Till All Are One!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Across the Universe

There are some aspects of what people call "pop culture" that I believe should be considered culture. Drop the pop. One of those aspects is the music of The Beatles. There never has been, nor will there ever be in the future, a band like them. They created a body of musical work that will last well into the future. That brings me to the movie I saw this past weekend, Across the Universe. It was simply amazing. It was a beautiful, sincere love story told through the music of The Beatles. It was also a story of the times in which the music was created. Hearing these songs in the movie really drives home just how powerful the lyrics of The Beatles can be.

All of the characters are named after characters from Beatles songs. The main characters are Jude (Hey Jude) and Lucy (Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds). We also have Sadie (Sexy Sadie), JoJo (Get Back), Max (Maxwell's Silver Hammer), Prudence (Dear Prudence), Dr. Robert (Doctor Robert), and Molly (Ob-la-di Ob-la-da). There are also numerous references to other aspects of Beatles culture. I won't spoil them because they are so much fun to discover on your own when you watch the movie.

As time has gone on, I have become much less cynical about the movies. I am not a "cautiously optimistic" sort of guy. I still see a trailer and react with excitement in my gut if it hits me the right way. I remember when I saw the trailer for this movie I knew I HAD to see it. I just couldn't wait. As a matter of fact, I drove to the theater directly from work on Friday to go see it. The movie registered with me emotionally in the same way that music hits you emotionally. I fell in love with the characters right off the bat. They were such likable people. I wanted to jump into the movie and go on adventures with them. I defy anyone to listen to Lucy, played by Evan Rachel Wood, sing If I Fell and not have a tear in their eye. It is that moving. Likewise, to hear Jim Sturgess sing Something is to be reminded of why Frank Sinatra considered it the greatest love song ever written.

The director Julie Taymor has done the most wonderful job in taking a beautiful story, some of the best music ever written, and stunning imagery and making the best movie I have seen all year. Sometimes you see a certain movie and it just stays with you for days. This is one of those movies. I honestly can't recommend it enough.

There is something else that really struck me after I left the movie. I have become very sad about how jaded our current culture has gotten. Across the Universe evokes memories of sincere young love, just living and enjoying life, and the belief that you could change the world. It seems like things nowadays have to remain emotionally detached. If you are sincere you run the risk of people making fun of you for being "corny" or, in the case of movies and TV, "campy." This movie, like the music of The Beatles, wears it's heart on its sleeve and is all the better for doing it. It also contains a simple message from The Beatles that is needed just as much now as it was in the 60's . . . All You Need is Love.

Brand New!

After looking at the various options out there for keeping an online journal I have decided on this one. I saw that Jim was using this format for the Phantasmo journal and so I thought I would follow suit. This is meant to be a fun, drama-free place for me to get stuff out of my head about all of the stuff I like and don't like in the world. Anyone can feel free to comment and participate in the discussions. If you have a serious comment, cool! If you want to be silly, cool! Heck, if you want to start your own jokes like the talkbackers on Ain't it Cool News do, be my guest. This is the People's Journal. That statement, of course, does not imply an endorsement by Duane Johnson!

It's kind of weird that I am doing this because there is so much about internet culture I can't stand. But, you will never see me using internet slang on here. Hence, the reference to this as a journal.

I will mainly stick to talking about things like movies, toys, TV shows, comic books, and music. But, anyone that knows me knows I love history. From time to time I will be writing about significant days in history. I also love politics but I have found discussing politics causes too much controversy. I may discuss politics from a more "Meet the Press" point of view. You know, not so much me spouting opinions but speculation and commentary.

So, welcome to the new Journal de Johnson. All I can say is, thank God it isn't My Space!