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Luxury indeed

Published Friday, July 22, 2016 @ 9:55 AM EDT
Jul 22 2016

Well, we're going to take the plunge and see Star Trek Beyond at the discount matinee today.

Even mediocre movies (of which I sincerely hope this one isn't) are tolerable at Century Square Luxury Cinemas in West Mifflin. At the location of Carmike's old $1 discount movie house, this place is impressive. It features electric reclining leather seats, reserved ticketing for every seat, ticketing kiosks, Dolby 7.1 sound, a full bar (if the movie's really bad), and an "expanded" concession lineup.

You can select and purchase your seats online via the web or with their app for iPhone or Android. When you arrive at the theater, all you have to do is show your phone's screen to the usher, find the theater, and take your seat.

The presentation quality is superb. The digital projection is bright and in-focus, and the sound is balanced and takes full advantage of the enhanced Dolby 7.1 soundfield. Speakers are well-placed, and despite what's noisily bouncing around in the format's four surround zones, dialogue is always clear and easy to hear.

One caveat: at most local movie houses, the picture usually starts about a half-hour after the published showtime, due to commercials and trailers for upcoming features. At least for our last two visits, there were no ads and just a few trailers. (UPDATE: They do have the continuous ad reel playing before the start time of the movie. But at exactly 1:15, the house lifghts dimmed, and just three trailers were screened. The film started at about 1:20.)

The "luxury" comes with ticket prices significantly higher than non-luxury competitors. Standard 2-D matinee adult admission is $8 and regular admission (after 6 p.m.) is $11 on weekdays and $12 on weekends. 3-D pictures have a $3 surcharge. I feel the price is justified, given the extra convenience and comfort of the facility. No more waiting for 20-30 minutes at a Carmike theater to purchase tickets at the snack bar because they did away with the ticket kiosk (box office) to save money. There's no risk of getting non-adjacent seats in the first row or, worse, discovering the show's sold out.

The downside of those extra-comfy seats... if the action on the screen starts becoming a bit tedious, you can find yourself nodding off. But at least you'll be doing it in style.

Categories: Century Square Luxury Cinemas, Movies


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Outer space and Motown

Published Friday, August 08, 2014 @ 4:12 AM EDT
Aug 08 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy is the first film I've seen twice in a theater since the 1991 release of James Cameron's Terminator 2.

Accompanying my son- who was seeing it for the first time- I wondered whether it would hold up on a second viewing. It did, and the extra details I missed the first time around actually made it more entertaining.

Combining the wow of Star Wars, the optimism of pre-Abrams Star Trek, and the absurdist humor and over-the-top action of The A-Team, what really struck me was how great the music was in this film.

Compiled by the hero's mom, "Awesome Mix Vol. 1" the ten tunes on the apparently indestructible cassette span a decade, from 1969 to 1979. There are eight especially memorable songs from 1970-1976, when I was 15 to 22 years old and, like most kids that age, acutely attuned to popular music.

Every song on the mix evokes a fond memory and a smile: graduating from high school; getting hired as a newspaper reporter; getting married; painting the first apartment; the 3,000 mile road trip in a non-air-conditioned Pinto; working for Allegheny County in a non-air-conditioned storefront office on Ross Street; my son Doug's birth in 1976, daughter Sara's in 1977, and moving to and buying our first house in 1978 and 1979.

Scenes featuring the songs end up with a personal- and emotional- overlay. Not quite enough get pulled out of the story, but enough to infuse an unexpected empathic connection with the characters on the screen.

I doubt in planning the movie the filmmakers asked themselves, "What can we add to really hook the 60-somethings?" If they did, thank you. If it's just serendipity (and a restrictive music licensing budget)- well, thank you, anyway.

It's not often you leave a sci-fi/fantasy epic with a smile and a spring in your step, playing air guitar to a James Jamerson/Funk Brothers bass line.

I wonder if my granddaughter would like to see it...

Categories: Guardians of the Galaxy, Movies


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Quotes of the day: John Huston

Published Monday, August 04, 2014 @ 8:50 PM EDT
Aug 04 2014

John Marcellus Huston (August 5, 1906 – August 28, 1987) was an American film director, screenwriter and actor. He wrote the screenplays for most of the 37 feature films he directed, many of which are today considered classics: The Maltese Falcon (1941), The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948), Key Largo (1948), The Asphalt Jungle (1950), The African Queen (1951), Moulin Rouge (1952), The Misfits (1961), and The Man Who Would Be King (1975). During his 46-year career, Huston received 15 Oscar nominations, won twice, and directed both his father, Walter Huston, and daughter, Anjelica Huston, to Oscar wins in different films. (Click here for full Wikipedia article)


After all, crime is only a left-handed form of human endeavor.

Badges? We ain't got no badges. We don't need no badges! I don't have to show you any stinkin' badges!

(from The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, screenplay by John Huston from the B. Traven novel. )

Heavy. What is it? The stuff that dreams are made of.
(from The Maltest Falcon)

Hollywood has always been a cage... a cage to catch our dreams.

I don't try to guess what a million people will like. It's hard enough to know what I like.

I prefer to think that God is not dead, just drunk.

I've lived a number of lives. I'm inclined to envy the man who leads one life, with one job, and one wife, in one country, under one God. It may not be a very exciting existence, but at least by the time hes 73 he knows how old he is.

It's very good for a picture to have an ending before you start shooting! (on Apocalypse Now)

Most people never have to face the fact that at the right time and the right place they're capable of anything.
(from Chinatown)

Talk to them about things they don't know. Try to give them an inferiority complex. If the actress is beautiful, screw her. If she isn't, present her with a valuable painting she will not understand. If they insist on being boring, kick their asses or twist their noses. And that's about all there is to it. (on directing)

The directing of a picture involves coming out of your individual loneliness and taking a controlling part in putting together a small world.

We can make good movies or we can make bad movies. The bad movies cost a bit more, but if they give us enough money, we can make them just as bad as they want them to be.

Well, if you lose a son it's possible to get another. There's only one Maltese falcon.
(from The Maltest Falcon)

What to do when inspiration doesn't come; be careful not to spook, get the wind up, force things into position. You must wait around until the idea comes.

You walk through a series of arches, so to speak, and then, presently, at the end of a corridor, a door opens and you see backward through time, and you feel the flow of time, and realize you are only part of a great nameless procession.

You're a good man, sister.
(from The Maltest Falcon)

(August 5 is also the birthday of Peter McWilliams.)

Categories: John Huston, Movies, Quotes of the day, YouTube


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Published Monday, June 23, 2014 @ 5:29 PM EDT
Jun 23 2014

I was mostly ignoring a television commercial for the latest Transformers movie when I glanced at the screen and thought I recognized something.

I hit pause on the DVR, reversed it a frame at a time and- yes! There it is!

In this screen grab of aerial mayhem over Chicago's West Loop, you can clearly see the mothership- 101 North Wacker Drive, the home of my employer, Datalogics, Incorporated.

The arrow indicates the location of the employee lounge.

Too bad this is cgi. The lunchtime discussions would have been epic.

Categories: KGB, Movies, Photo of the day, Science Fiction


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Cartoon of the day

Published Saturday, August 17, 2013 @ 8:40 AM EDT
Aug 17 2013

Categories: Cartoons, Mike Twohy, Movies, The New Yorker


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Star Trek: Into Insipidity

Published Sunday, May 19, 2013 @ 12:14 PM EDT
May 19 2013

(A curmudgeon's review of "Star Trek: Into Darkness")

Star Trek: Into Darkness is aggressively, egregiously, purposefully, intentionally, maliciously stupid.

A certain suspension of disbelief is necessary in order to watch science fiction of any kind, and Star Trek is no exception. But Star Trek generally limited itself to extrapolations of existing technology and scientific theory, and the techno-babble whatsits still had to function within a known universe with well-defined laws of physics.

(Warning: there are spoilers ahead.)

One wonders if those responsible for this abomination took a copy of the script from Star Trek II, a script rejected from Lost in Space, shuffled them together, and filmed the result.

J.J. Abrams' original 2009 reboot also contained major errors, but that film was entertaining enough that the gaffes didn't come to mind until you were in your car, on your way home from the theater.

The plot holes is this stinker dragged me out of the movie in the very opening scene, and from that point on, things just got worse.

The movie starts on the planet Nibiru, which is also the name of the fictional planet that was supposed to kill us all during the Mayan Apocalypse.

"Hi, I'm J.J. Abrams, and we're starting off by naming this planet 'Nibiru' just to let you know we're deliberately thumbing our nose at science in general and Star Trek in particular, which we never liked. The whole movie is like this. This is one colossal in-joke. Don't forget to visit the concession stand."

They have to lower a guy on a rope into a volcano because some kind of magnetic interference from the volcano messes with the transporter. The rope breaks, and the guy and the doohickey that's going to turn off the volcano fall into the crater. The guy and the doohickey survive. Why not just drop the doohickey into the volcano in the first place and be done with it?

In the 23rd century, humans apparently have developed the ability to jump and/or fall 50-100 foot distances without sustaining injuries. They are also all long-distance runners.

The Enterprise is a space ship. Roddenberry's explicit design requirements were "no fins or rockets."

This Enterprise has more flaming ports than a busload of tourists eating at a Taco Bell.

It's probably safe to assume Roddenberry didn't envision starships and shuttlecraft would be interchangeable with submarines, either.

In the future, military experts charged with the safety of the planet will meet, unarmed, in buildings with no security, in rooms with large picture windows.

The bad guy may be superhuman and have lots of guns, but he can't hit the side of a Nibiruian barn. Too bad he didn't have another one of those magic fizzy explosive class rings.

Despite other advances in technology, firefighting still relies on hoses, strategically placed so they can be hurled into the turbine intakes of 23rd century shuttles.

Question: if you can use a super-duper transwarp transporter to beam yourself from earth to a planet light years away, isn't it kind of dumb to waste all that money building a star fleet? And lucky for him there were no magnetic volcanoes in the way?

We need to wake up this guy who's been in suspended animation for 300 years so he can design advanced weapons for us. Just imagine if we could somehow bring Thomas Newcomen from 1712 to the present. He could show us how to build a steam engine!

I swear that was a red-skinned Admiral Ackbar sitting at the station in the brig. Another Abrams joke? ("It's a trap. Also, wait until you see what I do to Star Wars.")

I'm a doctor and a scientist, which is why I injected blood from a 300 year old mutated human into a dead tribble for absolutely no reason, a species from a totally different planet with totally dissimilar biology and by the way, did I mention it was already dead? And why did we bring the movie to a freaking stop to point this out to you? It's a little thing we learned in writing school called "foreshadowing." Aren't we clever?

When Scotty disabled the weapon systems on the bad guy's ship he could have also disabled their shields, so Kirk and whatshisname could have just beamed on over instead of doing that dangerous space-suited jump between the vessels. Well yeah, but then we couldn't put in our homage to the asteroid scene in The Empire Strikes Back. And also, Mr. Smart Guy, the bad starship was powered by a cold fusion magnetic volcano that would have blocked the transporter anyway. Pbpbpbpbt.

"To really piss off the science nerds, we're going to make a reference about being 238,000 kilometers from earth and then place the ships next to the moon, which is 238,000 *miles* from earth. Later we'll make some clever joke about even NASA getting the two confused. Oh, and screw you, science fans."

Those 72 super-duper torpedoes which blew up simultaneously inside the bad starship were neither super nor duper, because not only did they not destroy the bad guys, they allowed the ship to make it through earth's atmosphere without burning up, take out Alcatraz, and mess up all those nice Bay-view apartment buildings. Yeah, the same folks in charge of Starfleet security also run Earth's planetary defense system.

Even assuming the ships were caught by Earth's gravity, one expects it would take slightly more than ten minutes for them to cover the distance between the moon and the earth. That would make their velocity 1.5 million miles per hour or over 400 miles per second. Objects entering the atmosphere at that speed explode and/or incinerate.

This Enterprise is designed like an 80s Hyatt hotel, with a big atrium and, one presumes, a food court that didn't appear because Orange Julius wouldn't sign the contract.

23rd century starships have engineering sections which apparently also have the ability to brew large quantities of beer in massive tanks.

Speaking of tanks, when the guys are hanging from one of the ubiquitous engineering catwalks and a big one goes whizzing past, my wife noted they had not only lost warp drive, but also had no hot water.

In the first movie, they were able to beam two people falling at escape velocity from the surface of a planet being imploded by the massive, constantly-changing gravitational field of a red-matter generated black hole. This time around, they couldn't differentiate between Dr. McCoy and a torpedo (both are blunt and explosive?) or pull Spock and the bad guy from a flying vehicle. Wait- is there a magnetic volcano near here?

23rd century matter/anti-matter warp drive engine design is a lot like that of 70s Volkswagen Beetle engines, in that you can get both to function optimally by repeatedly kicking them.

Hey, remember that we discovered there was something in this guy's blood that can cure incurable illnesses and bring people back from the dead? Shouldn't we be working on this? Or do magnetic volcano-resistant transporters get higher priority?

Note I haven't said anything about the lifted dialogue or the stolen and abused plot lines from previous movies.

One can only hope that some persons who see this film will decide to take a look at Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and realize Star Trek was intended to be entertainment for thinking grown-ups, not the burlesque Abrams perpetrated in what is hopefully his last dubious contribution to a once dignified franchise.

Categories: Movies, Star Trek


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I know it is coming, and I do not fear it...

Published Friday, April 05, 2013 @ 4:27 AM EDT
Apr 05 2013

I know it is coming, and I do not fear it, because I believe there is nothing on the other side of death to fear. I hope to be spared as much pain as possible on the approach path. I was perfectly content before I was born, and I think of death as the same state. I am grateful for the gifts of intelligence, love, wonder and laughter. You can't say it wasn't interesting. My lifetime's memories are what I have brought home from the trip. I will require them for eternity no more than that little souvenir of the Eiffel Tower I brought home from Paris.

I don't expect to die anytime soon. But it could happen this moment, while I am writing. I was talking the other day with Jim Toback, a friend of 35 years, and the conversation turned to our deaths, as it always does. "Ask someone how they feel about death," he said, "and they'll tell you everyone's gonna die. Ask them, In the next 30 seconds? No, no, no, that's not gonna happen. How about this afternoon? No. What you're really asking them to admit is, Oh my God, I don't really exist. I might be gone at any given second."

Me too, but I hope not. I have plans. Still, illness led me resolutely toward the contemplation of death. That led me to the subject of evolution, that most consoling of all the sciences, and I became engulfed on my blog in unforeseen discussions about God, the afterlife, religion, theory of evolution, intelligent design, reincarnation, the nature of reality, what came before the big bang, what waits after the end, the nature of intelligence, the reality of the self, death, death, death.

Many readers have informed me that it is a tragic and dreary business to go into death without faith. I don't feel that way. "Faith" is neutral. All depends on what is believed in. I have no desire to live forever. The concept frightens me. I am 69, have had cancer, will die sooner than most of those reading this. That is in the nature of things. In my plans for life after death, I say, again with Whitman:

I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,

If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.

And with Will, the brother in Saul Bellow's "Herzog," I say, "Look for me in the weather reports."

Raised as a Roman Catholic, I internalized the social values of that faith and still hold most of them, even though its theology no longer persuades me. I have no quarrel with what anyone else subscribes to; everyone deals with these things in his own way, and I have no truths to impart. All I require of a religion is that it be tolerant of those who do not agree with it. I know a priest whose eyes twinkle when he says, "You go about God's work in your way, and I'll go about it in His."

What I expect to happen is that my body will fail, my mind will cease to function and that will be that. My genes will not live on, because I have had no children. I am comforted by Richard Dawkins' theory of memes. Those are mental units: thoughts, ideas, gestures, notions, songs, beliefs, rhymes, ideals, teachings, sayings, phrases, clichés that move from mind to mind as genes move from body to body. After a lifetime of writing, teaching, broadcasting and telling too many jokes, I will leave behind more memes than many. They will all also eventually die, but so it goes.

O'Rourke's had a photograph of Brendan Behan on the wall, and under it this quotation, which I memorized:

I respect kindness in human beings first of all, and kindness to animals. I don't respect the law; I have a total irreverence for anything connected with society except that which makes the roads safer, the beer stronger, the food cheaper and the old men and old women warmer in the winter and happier in the summer.

That does a pretty good job of summing it up. "Kindness" covers all of my political beliefs. No need to spell them out. I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn't always know this and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.

One of these days I will encounter what Henry James called on his deathbed "the distinguished thing." I will not be conscious of the moment of passing. In this life I have already been declared dead. It wasn't so bad. After the first ruptured artery, the doctors thought I was finished. My wife, Chaz, said she sensed that I was still alive and was communicating to her that I wasn't finished yet. She said our hearts were beating in unison, although my heartbeat couldn't be discovered. She told the doctors I was alive, they did what doctors do, and here I am, alive.

Do I believe her? Absolutely. I believe her literally- not symbolically, figuratively or spiritually. I believe she was actually aware of my call and that she sensed my heartbeat. I believe she did it in the real, physical world I have described, the one that I share with my wristwatch. I see no reason why such communication could not take place. I'm not talking about telepathy, psychic phenomenon or a miracle. The only miracle is that she was there when it happened, as she was for many long days and nights. I'm talking about her standing there and knowing something. Haven't many of us experienced that? Come on, haven't you? What goes on happens at a level not accessible to scientists, theologians, mystics, physicists, philosophers or psychiatrists. It's a human kind of a thing.

Someday I will no longer call out, and there will be no heartbeat. I will be dead. What happens then? From my point of view, nothing. Absolutely nothing. All the same, as I wrote to Monica Eng, whom I have known since she was six, "You'd better cry at my memorial service." I correspond with a dear friend, the wise and gentle Australian director Paul Cox. Our subject sometimes turns to death. In 2010 he came very close to dying before receiving a liver transplant. In 1988 he made a documentary named "Vincent: The Life and Death of Vincent van Gogh." Paul wrote me that in his Arles days, van Gogh called himself "a simple worshiper of the external Buddha." Paul told me that in those days, Vincent wrote:

Looking at the stars always makes me dream, as simply as I dream over the black dots representing towns and villages on a map.

Why, I ask myself, shouldn't the shining dots of the sky be as accessible as the black dots on the map of France?

Just as we take a train to get to Tarascon or Rouen, we take death to reach a star. We cannot get to a star while we are alive any more than we can take the train when we are dead. So to me it seems possible that cholera, tuberculosis and cancer are the celestial means of locomotion. Just as steamboats, buses and railways are the terrestrial means.

To die quietly of old age would be to go there on foot.

That is a lovely thing to read, and a relief to find I will probably take the celestial locomotive. Or, as his little dog, Milou, says whenever Tintin proposes a journey, "Not by foot, I hope!"

-Roger Ebert, from his autobiography "Life Itself: A Memoir."

More at the Chicago Sun-Times.

Categories: Movies, Passages, Roger Ebert


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How "White Christmas" and "The Ten Commandments" begat "Star Wars"

Published Tuesday, December 04, 2012 @ 12:46 PM EST
Dec 04 2012

Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" was the first film shot in Paramount Pictures' proprietary VistaVision widescreen process. Twentieth Century Fox's previously introduced Cinemascope used anamorphic lenses to squeeze a wider image onto the film; the process was reversed during projection. When you see a film clip where everyone looks extremely tall and skinny, you're seeing a widescreen anamorphic print being projected in error by a normal lens.

The problem with all this image squeezing and unsqueezing was the effect on image quality. Distortion was introduced which couldn't be completely eliminated during projection. Color motion picture film in the 1950s was also rather grainy, and the fuzziness could be detected when the image was projected on the larger, wider screens.

Instead of using lenses to squeeze a wider image on the negative, VistaVision cameras moved the film horizontally past the lens, exposing the equivalent of two standard 35mm frames. This doubled the width of image without the introduction of anamorphic distortion and graininess. Think landscape vs portrait photo printing on your computer, and you'll get the idea.

Very few VistaVistion projectors were built, and they were used only at special previews and premieres. Since twice as much film was used to record the image, it had to move through the projector twice as fast, at a somewhat terrifying three feet per second. For regular exhibition at the local neighborhood movie house, the VistaVision negatives were printed down to standard vertical 35mm reels, while keeping the widescreen aspect ratio. A VistaVision print could be projected with a regular lens, which meant theater owners didn't have to buy special equipment or deal with switching lenses when the second movie on a double feature was shot in non-widescreen format.

Technology marched on; higher quality film stocks were created as well as better anamorphic lenses. VistaVistion's bulky cameras and high film costs doomed the format. After being used on about three dozen or so films, VistaVision disappeared for the most part in the early 1960s.

Jump cut to the mid-1970s. John Dykstra was looking for cheap motion picture cameras suitable for shooting special effects. Effects shots require multiple exposures and multiple printing steps, each resulting in increased film grain and loss of detail. The old VistaVision cameras, with double the negative size of a standard 35mm frame, were ideal-- and were dirt cheap, since no one had used them for 15 years. Even better, the lens mounts on the old cameras and printers could be modified to use readily available, high-quality Nikkor lenses from 35mm Nikon still cameras. (I vaguely recall an ad by Nikkor on the back cover of Popular Photography magazine boasting how their lenses made Star Wars possible, but the issue's long gone and I can't find the ad online anywhere.)

Dykstra bought the old equipment, added motion control hardware and software, and the VistaVision cameras that shot Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye in White Christmas and Charleton Heston in The Ten Commandments (a 1956 Paramount release) became the Dykstraflex system that made Star Wars' groundbreaking effects possible. The old VistaVision equipment carried Industrial Light and Magic's multiple award-winning efforts until the replacement of optical-based special effects with computer generated imagery.

Categories: Movies, Star Wars, Video, YouTube


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Sandy Frankenstorm

Published Saturday, October 27, 2012 @ 2:15 PM EDT
Oct 27 2012

Pittsburgh generally only gets remnants of hurricanes, but sometimes they do wreak havoc. The heavy rains and flooding from Agnes in 1972 and Ivan in 2004 come to mind. And we've been nailed by large cyclonic storms, like 1993's "Storm of the Century." But I don't think we've ever had to deal with a hybrid beast like this one, especially one with high winds over a sustained period of a day more.

As a public service, here's something to take your mind off the coming apocalypse: one of the dumbest- and funniest- movies ever made. Absurdist humor at its best.

Bob: I didn't know you smoked.
Nick: Just after sex, Bob. I'm trying to give it up.
Bob: Well, at least you don't smoke that much.
Nick: About a pack a day.
Bob: That'll kill ya!
Nick: Bob, it won't kill ya. But it will make you very sore.

(YouTube video: "Real Men" (1987) with John Ritter and Jim Belushi)

Categories: Movies, Video, Weather, YouTube


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Remembering Chuck

Published Thursday, October 04, 2012 @ 1:35 AM EDT
Oct 04 2012

When I think of Charlton Heston (October 4, 1923 – April 5, 2008), I can't help but recall his performance in the 1974 disaster epic, Earthquake.

At the end of the film, Heston's character; his soon-to-be ex-wife, portrayed with delicious villany by Ava Gardner; and his stunningly attractive mistress, played by Geneviève Bujold; are trying to escape from a sewer being rapidly flooded by a deluge from the earthquake-shattered Mulholland Dam.

Geneviève Bujold's character has already climbed to safety. On her way up the ladder, the totally unsympathetic Ava Gardner falls into the raging torrent and is swept away.

In probably the best display of stereotype self-awareness ever committed to film, Charlton Heston first looks up the ladder, to safety and the braless Bujold, who is reaching out to him.

He then looks over his shoulder to see the rushing water carrying away the überbitch Gardner.

Watch Heston's face. This is a man in torment, a man struggling with the most important and painful choice he will ever make.

He doesn't utter a word, but his decision and internal dialogue is nonetheless writ large upon his handsome face:

"Oh, God damn it. I'm Charlton Heston."

And he hurls himself into the rapids, where he, Gardner, and countless extras are washed into oblivion.

I remember seeing this in its original release at the Warner Theater in Pittsburgh (remember "Sensurround"?). The cries of disbelief and despair when Heston made the plunge rose easily above the loud subsonic rumbling.

"Chuck! You're an idiot!"

No, he wasn't.

He made the only choice available to him.

He was, after all, Charlton Heston.

(YouTube video of Charlton Heston being all Charlton Heston-y in "Earthquake.")

Categories: Charlton Heston, Movies, Video, YouTube


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The King

Published Thursday, August 16, 2012 @ 6:42 AM EDT
Aug 16 2012

(Video:"Viva Las Vegas")

(Video:"In The Ghetto")


Elvis Aaron Presley (January 8, 1935 – August 16, 1977) was one of the most popular American singers of the 20th century. A cultural icon, he is commonly known by the single name Elvis. He is often referred to as the "King of Rock and Roll" or simply "the King".

Presley is regarded as one of the most important figures of 20th-century popular culture. He had a versatile voice and unusually wide success encompassing many genres, including country, pop ballads, gospel, and blues. He is the best- selling solo artist in the history of popular music. Nominated for 14 competitive Grammys, he won three (surprisingly, all in the gospel genre), and received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award at age 36. He has been inducted into four music halls of fame.

Presley was scheduled to fly out of Memphis on the evening of August 16, 1977, to begin another tour. That afternoon, he was discovered, unresponsive, on his bathroom floor. Attempts to revive him failed, and death was officially pronounced at 3:30 pm at Baptist Memorial Hospital.

Presley's funeral was held at Graceland, on Thursday, August 18. Outside the gates, a car plowed into a group of fans, killing two women and critically injuring a third. Approximately 80,000 people lined the processional route to Forest Hill Cemetery, where Presley was buried next to his mother. Following an attempt to steal the singer's body in late August, the remains of both Elvis Presley and his mother were reburied in Graceland's Meditation Garden on October 2.

Graceland was opened to the public in 1982. Attracting over half a million visitors annually, it is the second most-visited home in the United States, after the White House. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 2006. (Click for full Wikipedia article.)


It was one of the handful of "where were you" moments that occur in a lifetime. In August, 1977 I was working in a now-defunct typesetting shop in Bethel Park, less than two miles from my current home. At the time, though, we were living hand-to-mouth in West Mifflin, with a 17-month old baby and another due in about two months.

I was getting reading to leave to catch the trolley to downtown when the phone rang. This could not be good news. A bill collector? A baby deciding to arrive ahead of time?

No- the voice on the line said The King was dead.

The trolley and bus ride home, usually a solitary activity, was instead a rolling conversation with fellow riders about Elvis' unfortunate demise and how a major contributor to the soundtrack of our lives was gone.

That was 35 years ago, and Elvis- who paved the way for all the one-name wonders that followed- is still The King.

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Quotes of the day

Published Tuesday, August 14, 2012 @ 6:44 AM EDT
Aug 14 2012

Quotes of the day- Steve Martin:
Stephen Glenn "Steve" Martin (born August 14, 1945) is an American actor, comedian, author, playwright, producer, musician and composer. Martin came to public notice as a writer for the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, and later became a frequent guest on The Tonight Show. In the 1970s, Martin performed his offbeat, absurdist comedy routines before packed houses on national tours. In 2004, Comedy Central ranked Martin at sixth place in a list of the 100 greatest stand-up comics.

Since the 1980s, having branched away from stand-up comedy, Martin has become a successful actor in both comedic and dramatic roles, as well as an author, playwright, pianist, and banjo player, eventually earning Emmy, Grammy, and American Comedy awards, among other honors. (Click for full article.)

A day without sunshine is like... night.

Boy, those French. They have a different word for everything.

Chaos in the midst of chaos isn't funny, but chaos in the midst of order is.

Despite a lack of natural ability, I did have the one element necessary to all early creativity: naïveté, that fabulous quality that keeps you from knowing just how unsuited you are for what you are about to do.

How many people have never raised their hand before?

I believe entertainment can aspire to be art, and can become art, but if you set out to make art you're an idiot.

I believe in equality. Equality for everybody. No matter how stupid they are or how superior I am to them.

I believe that sex is one of the most beautiful, natural, wholesome things that money can buy.

I think I did pretty well, considering I started out with nothing but a bunch of blank paper.

I would assign every lie a color: yellow when they were innocent, pale blue when they sailed over you like the sky, red because I knew they drew blood. And then there was the black lie. That's the worst of all. A black lie was when I told you the truth.

I've heard lots of people lie to themselves but they never fool anyone.

If you've got a dollar and you spend 29 cents on a loaf of bread, you've got 71 cents left; But if you've got seventeen grand and you spend 29 cents on a loaf of bread, you've still got seventeen grand. There's a math lesson for you.

It's so hard to believe in anything anymore. I mean, it's like, religion, you really can't take it seriously, because it seems so mythological, it seems so arbitrary... but, on the other hand, science is just pure empiricism, and by virtue of its method, it excludes metaphysics. I guess I wouldn't believe in anything anymore if it weren't for my lucky astrology mood watch.

She had destroyed whatever was between us by making a profound gaffe: She met me.

Some people have a way with words, and other people... not have way, I guess.

Talking about music is like dancing about architecture.

Thankfully, persistence is a great substitute for talent.

Through the years, I have learned there is no harm in charging oneself up with delusions between moments of valid inspiration.

You want to know how I think art should be taught to children? Take them to a museum and say, 'This is art, and you can't do it.

(YouTube video: "Be A Dentist", from "Little Shop of Horrors")

Categories: Little Shop of Horrors, Movies, Quotes of the day, Steve Martin, Video, YouTube


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Quotes of the day

Published Monday, August 13, 2012 @ 6:36 AM EDT
Aug 13 2012

Quotes of the day, and murder in a shower- Alfred Hitchcock:
Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock, KBE (13 August 1899 – 29 April 1980) was an English film director and producer. He pioneered many techniques in the suspense and psychological thriller genres. After a successful career in British cinema in both silent films and early talkies, Hitchcock moved to Hollywood. On 19 April 1955, he became an American citizen while remaining a British subject.

Over a career spanning more than half a century, Hitchcock fashioned for himself a distinctive and recognisable directorial style. He pioneered the use of a camera made to move in a way that mimics a person's gaze, forcing viewers to engage in a form of voyeurism. He framed shots to maximise anxiety, fear, or empathy, and used innovative film editing. His stories frequently feature fugitives on the run from the law alongside "icy blonde" female characters. Many of Hitchcock's films have twist endings and thrilling plots featuring depictions of violence, murder, and crime, although many of the mysteries function as decoys or "MacGuffins" meant only to serve thematic elements in the film and the psychological examinations of the characters. Hitchcock's films also borrow many themes from psychoanalysis and feature strong sexual undertones. Through his cameo appearances in his own films, interviews, film trailers, and the television program Alfred Hitchcock Presents, he became a cultural icon. (Click for full article.)

Blondes make the best victims. They're like virgin snow that shows up the bloody footprints.

Dialogue should simply be a sound among other sounds, just something that comes out of the mouths of people whose eyes tell the story in visual terms.

Drama is life with the dull bits cut out.

Give them pleasure- the same pleasure they have when they wake up from a nightmare.

I am a typed director. If I made Cinderella, the audience would immediately be looking for a body in the coach.

In the documentary the basic material has been created by God, whereas in the fiction film the director is a God; he must create life.

It's not true that I said “actors are cattle.” I said “they should be treated like cattle.”

I'm frightened of eggs, worse than frightened, they revolt me. That white round thing without any holes- have you ever seen anything more revolting than an egg yolk breaking and spilling its yellow liquid? Blood is jolly, red. But egg yolk is yellow, revolting. I've never tasted it.

I'm not against the police; I'm just afraid of them.

Never judge a country by its politicians.

One of television's great contributions is that it brought murder back into the home, where it belongs.

Puns are the highest form of literature.

Seeing a murder on television can help work off one's antagonisms. And if you haven't any antagonisms, the commercials will give you some.

Self-plagiarism is style.

Television has done much for psychiatry by spreading information about it, as well as contributing to the need for it.

Television is like the invention of indoor plumbing. It didn't change people's habits. It just kept them inside the house.

The length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder.

The only way to get rid of my fears is to make movies about them.

There is no terror in a bang, only in the anticipation of it.

There is nothing quite so good as burial at sea. It is simple, tidy, and not very incriminating.

There's nothing to winning, really. That is, if you happen to be blessed with a keen eye, an agile mind, and no scruples whatsoever.

This paperback is very interesting, but I find it will never replace a hardcover book- it makes a very poor doorstop.

(YouTube video: The infamous shower scene from Hitchcock's classic "Psycho." Happy Monday!)

Categories: Alfred Hitchcock, Movies, Psycho, Video, YouTube


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"Too Big To Fail"

Published Sunday, July 08, 2012 @ 12:14 AM EDT
Jul 08 2012

This scene from the 2011 HBO film succinctly explains why financial markets collapsed in 2008. The film pops up from time to time on HBO and various online sources. It's worth watching.

(YouTube video: pivotal scene from "Too Big To Fail")

Categories: Dialogue of the day, Movies, Too Big To Fail, TV, Video, YouTube


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Happy birthday, Mel!

Published Thursday, June 28, 2012 @ 12:00 AM EDT
Jun 28 2012

Quotes of the day- Mel Brooks:
Mel Brooks (born Melvin Kaminsky; June 28, 1926) is an American film director, screenwriter, composer, lyricist, comedian, actor and producer... [and]; is a member of the short list of entertainers with the distinction of having won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony award. Three of his films ranked in the American Film Institute's list of the top 100 comedy films of all-time: Blazing Saddles at number 6, The Producers at number 11, and Young Frankenstein at number 13. (Click here for full Wikipedia article)

Anybody can direct, but there are only eleven good writers.

As long as the world is turning and spinning, we're gonna be dizzy and we're gonna make mistakes.

Bad taste is simply saying the truth before it should be said.

Critics are like eunuchs at an orgy. They just don't get it.

Every human being has hundreds of separate people living under his skin.

Everything we do in life is based on fear, especially love.

He who hesitates is poor.

Hope for the best,
expect the worst.
Life is a play.
We're unrehearsed.

Humor is just another defense against the universe.

I only direct in self-defense,

I've been accused of vulgarity. I say that's bullshit.

If God wanted us to fly, He would have given us tickets.

If Shaw and Einstein couldn't beat death, what chance have I got? Practically none.

Look at Jewish history. Unrelieved lamenting would be intolerable. So, for every ten Jews beating their breasts, God designated one to be crazy and amuse the breast-beaters. By the time I was five I knew I was that one.

Rhetoric does not get you anywhere, because Hitler and Mussolini are just as good at rhetoric. But if you can bring these people down with comedy, they stand no chance.

Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die.

Usually when a lot of men get together, it's called war.

What is the toughest thing about making film? Putting in the little holes. The sprocket holes are the worst. Everything else is easy, but all night you have to sit with that little puncher and make the holes on the side of the film. You could faint from that work. The rest is easy. The script is easy, the acting is easy, the directing is a breeze... but the sprockets will tear your heart out.


[Mel Brooks] was approached by a woman who offered condolences on the passing of his beloved wife, Anne Bancroft. "I know how you feel. I just lost my mother," the woman said. "How old was she?" asked Mel. "Ninety-six," the woman replied. "Well," Mel said, "she was asking for it."
-New York Post, August 23, 2005


George Anthony, chief of entertainment programming for the CBC, remembers that Bancroft and Brooks were a "genuine bonafide love match, in the early years almost as famous for their public battles as Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Todd." He recalls one of their fights when he grabbed her arm and she pulled away from him. Anthony's story:

"Don't you dare touch my instrument!" she raged, in her highest Actors Studio dudgeon.

"Oh, so this is your instrument?!"

"Yes. This is my instrument!"

"Okay. Play Melancholy Baby."

-Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times, June 8, 2005

(Clip rated "R": discretion advised.)

(YouTube video: Mel Brooks and Harvey Korman in "Blazing Saddles.")

Categories: Anne Bancroft, Blazing Saddles, Harvey Korman, Mel Brooks, Movies, Quotes of the day, Video, YouTube


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"I'll have what she's having..."

Published Wednesday, June 27, 2012 @ 6:57 AM EDT
Jun 27 2012

Nora Ephron (May 19, 1941 – June 26, 2012):

Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.

And then the dreams break into a million tiny pieces. The dream dies. Which leaves you with a choice: you can settle for reality, or you can go off, like a fool, and dream another dream.

Any dish that tastes good with capers in it tastes even better with capers not in it.

Beware of men who cry. It's true that men who cry are sensitive to and in touch with feelings, but the only feelings they tend to be sensitive to and in touch with are their own.

Destiny is something we've invented because we can't stand the fact that everything that happens is accidental.

I always read the last page of a book so that if I die before I finish I'll know how it turned out.

I am continually fascinated at the difficulty intelligent people have in distinguishing what is controversial from what is merely offensive.

I don't think any day is worth living without thinking about what you're going to eat next at all times.

I look as young as a person can look given how old I am.

If pregnancy were a book they would cut the last two chapters.

In my sex fantasy, nobody ever loves me for my mind.

Insane people are always sure that they are fine. It is only the sane people who are willing to admit that they are crazy.

My mother wanted us to understand that the tragedies of your life one day have to potential to be the comic stories the next.

Polls show that 30 percent of Americans will believe anything.

Sometimes I believe that some people are better at love than others, and sometimes I believe that everyone is faking it.

The big cities of America are becoming Third World countries.

The desire to get married is a basic and primal instinct in women. It's followed by another basic and primal instinct: the desire to be single again.

The main result of feminism has been the Dutch Treat.

There's a reason why forty, fifty, and sixty don't look the way they used to, and it's not because of feminism, or better living through exercise. It's because of hair dye. In the 1950's only 7 percent of American women dyed their hair; today there are parts of Manhattan and Los Angeles where there are no gray-haired women at all.

When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.
(From When Harry Met Sally)

When you're attracted to someone, it just means that your subconscious is attracted to their subconscious, subconsciously. So what we think of as fate is just two neuroses knowing that they are a perfect match.

When your children are teenagers, it’s important to have a dog so that someone in the house is happy to see you.

You always think that a bolt of lightning is going to strike and your parents will magically change into the people you wish they were, or back into the people they used to be.

You can't retrieve you life (unless you're on Wikipedia, in which case you can retrieve an inaccurate version of it).

(YouTube video: The restaurant scene from "When Harry Met Sally"))

Categories: Movies, Nora Ephron, Quotes of the day, YouTube


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Father's Day

Published Sunday, June 17, 2012 @ 7:34 AM EDT
Jun 17 2012

It's become a bit of a tradition- the day before Father's Day, my kids take me to lunch and a movie. Last year we saw Green Lantern, which was ok, but nothing spectacular. Yesterday, we saw The Avengers.

I was not a Marvel fan as a kid, didn't (and don't) follow the Marvel universe, so I went into the show with no preconceptions, other than liking Robert Downey, Jr.'s first Iron Man film.

But I am a fan of Joss Whedon, specifically his Buffy The Vampire Slayer, so I had somewhat elevated hopes.

I wasn't disappointed.

Here are the four brief, almost throwaway scenes that made the whole thing worth the price of admission:

And what do you do after all the credits have rolled, and you've finished battling extraterrestrials and Norse demi-gods? Why, you stop off with your co-workers at the local restaurant for some shawarma:

The movie's made $1.5 billion worldwide so far. And they deserve every penny of it.

And thanks to my kiddos Doug and Sara, daughter-in-law Angela, and granddaughter Leanna for the cards, the lunch, the movie, and the always-scintillating conversation. You guys are the best.

Categories: Avengers, Joss Whedon, KGB Family, Movies, Video, YouTube


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Where were you in '62?

Published Friday, June 15, 2012 @ 12:19 AM EDT
Jun 15 2012

George Lucas' classic American Graffiti opened in New York City on June 15, 1973. Trivia: the high school teacher/dance chaperone was played by former KDKA Radio personality Terry McGovern, whom George Lucas credits with inventing the word "Wookiee."

Categories: Classic, George Lucas, Movies, Star Wars, Trivia of the day, YouTube


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