Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Keith Richards on "Life," Love & The Blues...

Today's recommendation: "Life" written by Keith Richards (with journalist James Fox), is a frank, moving account of the rocker's life, from his youth in Dartford, an industrial suburb of London, to his rise as guitarist and co-leader of The Rolling Stones. Keith doesn't flinch from writing about the darker aspects of his life as a rock star (alcohol & drug abuse, personal losses), but there is a great amount of tenderness, humor and intelligence in this memoir. And you'll get to learn a lot about his musical style & philosophy as well. Parts of the book are virtually a Keith Richards guitar clinic. You'll also get some insider's insight into the some of the Stones classic songs, including an in depth look at the recording of the classic album "Exile on Main Street."

But what really comes through in this memoir is Keith's passion for performing and what it 's really about for him. As he says at one point "I'm here to touch other people and say sometimes in a cry of desperation: Do you know this feeling?" For all the tales of partying & drug use, what really resonates is Keith's love for music, whether it's Chuck Berry, the blues, or talking about jamming with the members of his solo band, The X-Pensive Winos. You'll enjoy this book if you're a Stones fan, or a fan of the rock music scene of the 60s & 70s. Richards really shows us what the creative process is like for a musician, and tells a lot of great stories in the process. Highly recommended. The Amazon link for the book is here:

Monday, April 25, 2011

Enzo's World....A Dog's Life?

Today I shift gears to recommend a book, The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein. This unique 2008 novel is told from the point of view of a dog named Enzo, who is owned by race car driver Denny Swift and his family. It's Enzo's belief that he will be reincarnated in his next life as a human, according to a Mongolian legend. Enzo narrates the story and relates his observations on life, love and being human. Along the way, we learn a lot about our human world as it's seen through Enzo's eyes. There are moments of joy, love, laughter & tears through this excellent novel.

To say too much more would spoil your enjoyment of this heartfelt, moving story. Enzo watches as the family goes through good times & bad, and is ever loyal, faithful and intelligent. Since Denny is a race car driver, there are a lot of metaphors for life viewed via the prism of racing. If you're an animal lover, this book will have additional resonance for you. But even if you're not an animal person, this spiritual and engaging story will touch your emotions and tug at your heartstrings. Highly recommended.

For more on the novel and its author, Garth Stein, please visit his site at:

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Candyman can....

Recently revisited one of my favorite horror films of the 90s yesterday. Candyman stars Virginia Madsen as a Chicago grad student doing a thesis on urban legends, who gets more than she bargained for when she looks into the story of a hook-handed killer called the Candyman, who appears to be terrorizing the residents of the Cabrini Green housing project. Based on Clive Barker's story "The Forbidden" this 1992 film, written & directed by Bernard Rose, co-stars Xander Berkeley as Madsen's husband and Kasi Lemmons a fellow grad student.

The film is well directed and while it has some predictable elements, is genuinely eerie and unsettling. Madsen effectively conveys the the growing confusion & fear of her character. Tony Todd gives a memorably creepy performance in the title role (which he reprised in two inferior sequels). It's well worth a look of you're a fan of Clive Barker (Hellraiser, Nightbreed) or like intelligent horror. One caveat: it is a bit gory, though it's not gratuitous. And remember, don't look in a mirror and say his name 5 times....:) You can find the DVD here:

Source for this post:
Internet Movie Database:

Movie Quote of the Day: "A man's got to know his limitations." Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry in Magnum Force (1973).

Friday, April 22, 2011

Wolfmen Old & New....

I just caught up with then 2010 version of The Wolfman, directed by Joe Johnston, who also directed The Rocketeer. This update stars Benicio Del Toro as Lawrence Talbot, who returns home to his father's estate after the mysterious death of his brother. When he starts looking into his brother's death, he is attacked by a mysterious creature. Soon, he realizes he is the victim of a horrible curse. Emily Blunt co-stars as Talbot's brother's fiance, and Anthony Hopkins chews the scenery like it was salt water taffy as the father (that's a good thing, he's excellent as usual). Hugo Weaving is quite effective in a supporting role as Inspector Abberline (based on a real life person who investigated the Jack the Ripper case), and Geraldine Chaplin (Doctor Zhivago) has a small role as the gypsy Maleva.

While this remake has good some aspects, namely great make-up by Rick Baker (An American Werewolf in London, Men in Black), an appropriately retro score by Danny Elfman (Beetlejuice, The Nightmare Before Christmas), and excellent production design, it's a bit too gory for a mainstream horror movie. I think Del Toro is a fine actor,  but he isn't very effective in this role, and it feels a bit underwritten.

This film also had a troubled production history; it took a long time to finish, and reportedly some re-shoots were done after the film was initially completed. It's worth a look if you're a fan of the genre, but it's ultimately a missed opportunity.

You'd be much better off seeking out the original version from 1941, entitled The Wolf Man, starring Lon Chaney, Jr, Claude Rains, Evelyn Ankers, Bela Lugosi and Maria Ouspenskaya as Maleva (best movie gypsy, ever). For those of you who aren't classic movie fans, it may seem a bit dated, but it's a great movie with spooky atmosphere, a good performance by Lon Chaney, Jr.  and the classic makeup by Jack Pierce (who also created the makeup for the Boris Karloff versions of Frankenstein and The Mummy). The 2010 film is available on DVD,, and Blu-Ray: The Lon Chaney version has been released multiple times, but the most recent release is at the following link:

Other werewolf tales to check out: The Howling (1981), An American Werewolf in London (1981), Curse of the Werewolf (1961), Werewolf of London (1935)

Source for this post:
Internet Movie Database:

Movie Quote of the Day: "That's no moon, it's a space station." Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars (1977).

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

RIP Sarah Jane

Today I'm sad to report the passing of Elisabeth Sladen, best known as Sarah Jane Smith on the long running BBC series Dr. Who and its spinoff, The Sarah Jane Adventures. I started watching Dr. Who back in the late 70s/early 80s (in syndication and on PBS) and the first episodes I saw were those featuring 4th Doctor Tom Baker (he of the long scarf and floppy hat) with Sladen as his feisty, independent traveling companion. I loved the show, and have been a fan ever since. My sincere condolences go out to her family, friends & colleagues. She will be missed. You can read more about Elisabeth Sladen in the link below.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Film Noirs - Cigarette Smoke, Tough Guys and Femme Fatales

So let's start with a couple of recommended film noirs. If you like tough guys, femme fatales, snappy dialogue and lots of cigarette smoke, I'd suggest the following:

Out of the Past  (1947) - Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer and Kirk Douglas star in this Jacques Tourneur directed classic. Jeff Bailey (Mitchum) is living in a small town in California, until his past (personified by very bad girl Greer and gangster Douglas) catches up with him. Great atmosphere, performances and dialogue. It's also got a twisty plot, great cinematography by Nicholas Musuraca (who also did fine work on Tourneur's Cat People) and a nice supporting turn by Rhonda Fleming. One of the best films in the genre. The film is available on DVD from Turner Home Entertainment. The Amazon link is here for the standalone release: It's also available as part of the Film Noir Classic Collection, Vol 1: with several other noir titles, including The Asphalt Jungle and The Set-Up.

Double Indemnity (1944) - Billy Wilder directed this archetypal noir about insurance rep Fred MacMurray getting tangled up with femme fatale Barbara Stanwyck (excellent performance) in a murder scheme. Edward G. Robinson plays MacMurray's friend & colleague, and the warm nuances of their friendship are well played by these two fine actors. Based on the novel by James M. Cain with a screenplay by Wilder and Raymond Chandler, this is a sharp, tough, cynical film that warrants repeated viewings. The film is available in a 2-disc "Legacy Edition" from Universal Home Video. You can view it here on Amazon:

Those are only two brief examples of one of my favorite film genres. Also recommended: The Big Sleep (1946), The Maltese Falcon (1941)Phantom Lady (1944), Touch of Evil (1958), The Third Man (1949), Laura (1944), The Killers (1946) and The Asphalt Jungle (1950).

Source for this post:
Internet Movie Database:

Movie Quote of the Day"I haven't lived. I've died a few times." Bud Cort as Harold in Harold & Maude (1971).


Welcome to my blog. I'm a lifelong movies, music and books fan, and I'm going to post some recommendations, reviews & observations. This is a work in progress (and a first attempt at blogging, so it will be a bit old school) for me, so I hope you'll enjoy it. Happy Reading!

Disclaimer: Please note all that all images, photos and links to other sites are provided for informational purposes only, and are not intended to infringe on any copyrights.