Tuesday TV Testimonials #9…

My Secret Identity (1988 – 1991)

MSI03I think most people will have a fondness for certain TV shows from their younger days that they don’t really remember all that much about. It’s like a protected nostalgia. You know – shows where most of the details are gone, but there’s just something (for some reason) that your memory clings on to. My Secret Identity is one of those shows.

Other than its catchy (yet cheesy) theme, the basic premise of the show, who starred in it, and the fact that I distinctly remember enjoying my time with it, I couldn’t break down any episodes for you with any real degree of accuracy. Hell, it’s only recently that I found out it was Canadian. I could easily lie to you, hit Google, and tell you all about it, but you can do that yourself if you really want to, and besides, that would defeat the purpose.

It’s hard to believe Jerry O’Connell signed on for this kid’s show a couple of years after his turn in Stand By Me, yet here we are. He plays a teenager who trips down his basement stairs and into a photon beam which – in true comic book fashion – bestows him with super powers that he manages to find a use for in every episode.

If you have never heard of it, or just want to remind yourself of its (admittedly eighties) charm, here’s the pilot episode. It actually holds up surprisingly well.

Monday Movie Mentions #9…

Step Brothers (2008)

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I would never claim that Step Brothers is  highbrow entertainment, because it’s most definitely not. In fact, it’s possibly one of the silliest movies you will ever see… but it’s also extremely funny, and a comedy that makes you laugh has done its job, regardless of where it finds its punchline.

Will Ferrell and John C Reilly play the titular forty-year-old step brothers who still live at home, which causes friction once their parents decide to tie the knot. Of course, they are only related by marriage, so there’s no logical reason why these two should look like each other. However, as they arrive together for a job interview as a toilet attendant wearing matching tuxedos, all while sharing that preternaturally goofy hairstyle… somehow everything falls into place and you buy in to this forced sibling rivalry.

Yes, Step Brothers is home to a number of cheap sex jokes, and yes, there is a lot of profanity, sometimes (it seems) just because bad words at inappropriate times are funny, so if that kind of thing offends you, you should probably give this one a miss, but it also has a surprisingly large heart at its core, as the two frenemies find a way to get along with each other. Thankfully there is no typically safe Hollywood ending, and the script maintains its bite right up until the credits roll.

Dale: Hey, you awake?
Brennan: Yeah.
Dale: I just want you to know I hate you. And so does my dad.
Brennan: Well that’s fine. Cause guess what? I hate you too. And this house sucks ass.
Dale: Well the only reason you’re living here, is because me and my dad decided that your mom was really hot, and maybe we should just both bang her, and we’ll put up with the retard in the meantime.
Brennan: Who’s the retard?
Dale: You.

Look, I told you: it ain’t Shakespeare… but it is damn funny.

Sunday Song Suggestions #9…

Vision of Love – Mariah Carey

This song was so memorable that I remember when I first saw the music video for it, back in the first half of 1990, before it had even been released as a single. The world didn’t know who Mariah Carey was then, but with an introduction like this, I knew it wouldn’t be long.

I was no music industry expert, but even at thirteen my finger was close enough to the pulse to know that this girl was going to be a big star, and I said as much to anyone who would listen. My mum just thought I fancied her, but as partial as I am to young women with a proclivity for a good ol’ fashioned perm who know how to handle a microphone stand, it was about more than that.

Over the years, as Mariah’s career and subsequent style has progressed, my love for her output has dissipated. In fact, nothing she has released this century has moved me in any way. But from those soaring vocals on this her debut single, to the ease with which she reaches that upper register and just nails it, Vision of Love is gold, and Mariah’s voice (for the best part of a decade) was money.

As for her descent into disrepute in later years – I blame Tommy Mottola for that. But that’s a rant for another post on another day…

Friday Fiction Fixes #8…

Misery by Stephen King

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The cover that stole my attention in 1991.

I have read dozens of King novels over the years, but Misery was the first one to catch my attention, when I was fifteen. The popular Hollywood interpretation with Kathy Bates’ Oscar winning lead performance had been released the year before, so the story was still quite fresh at the time, and that was probably the catalyst that took me to the library.

Misery is one of King’s most well-respected stories, and for good reason.  It’s claustrophobic, atmospheric writing at its finest, and a very simple idea, told extremely well. Paul Sheldon is a best-selling romance author who crashes his car in a snowstorm, only to be rescued by his self-proclaimed ‘number one fan’ – the soon to be revealed – psychotic Annie Wilkes. She dislikes that Paul has killed off Misery Chastain in his latest entry to her favourite series of novels, and forces him to write an entirely new story – eradicating what she has just read – for her eyes only.

The infamous hobbling scene from the movie, where Annie breaks both his ankles with a sledgehammer, plays out a little differently in the text… where she chops off one of his feet with an axe instead. It’s more violent, bloody and immediately visceral – not that one way is better, or would be more pleasant. I guess it’s like choosing between the Devil and the deep blue sea.

The book was so good that I went on to read another eighteen King novels in a row before I even so much as looked at another author. My writing style in my young adult years was certainly influenced  – and probably hindered to an extent – by my desire to read so much of his stuff, and I sometimes wonder how things would have changed had I decided to vary my reading habits at such an impressionable age.

Many years later, and Misery still ranks very highly in his oeuvre, and if you wanted to make a case for it being the best thing he’s done, I wouldn’t put up much of an argument.

Tuesday TV Testimonials #8…

Chuck (2007 – 2012)

chuck-tv-series-wallpaper-05Chuck had a very chequered history, and as a result is a show that a lot of people missed on its original rotation, and it was even going to be cancelled after its third season until fans stepped in and made themselves heard. The noise gave them two more years, and the show ended in a manner more befitting its stellar run, but it is still destined to be one of the forgotten gems of the last decade.

Chuck was an action comedy show about a nerdy young guy (played by Zachary Levi) who works as a computer hardware support assistant. One day he becomes exposed to an email virus which implants in his brain a program that turns him into the world’s greatest spy. It sounds complicated, but it’s really not. Essentially it’s a superhero show without the cape, or James Bond for those who don’t really want everything shaken or stirred.

YvonneStrahovski_Chucks04e14hdtvOf course – as is often the case with these kind of things – there is a will-they-won’t-they romance running through the entire run, and yeah, Chuck (the show) was never the same once Chuck (the character) eventually got together with Sarah, the CIA agent who had been tasked with keeping him under control… but if you’ve seen Yvonne Strahovski, you’re probably wondering why it took him so many episodes to finally get his act together. I’d have made a fool of myself within the first forty-three minutes of the opening episode.

Chuck sometimes forgot the rules of its own premise, and it often replaced what was plausible for what was funny, but it was always a joy to watch, and the nature of the show meant that it was never predictable. The cast always looked like they were having blast, and it was infectious, and I was genuinely disappointed when it came to an end. Still, there are talks about a movie that may be in the works, and Chuck has the potential to be great on the big screen.

Monday Movie Mentions #8…

Teenwolf (1985)

189.1I’ve always been a fan of Michael J Fox, but even I can admit and accept that Teenwolf is not one of the greatest movies on his resume – hell, it wasn’t even the best thing he put out in 1985. It’s fun, and as entertainment Teenwolf is certainly harmless enough, but it gets by on its central performances rather than the tightness of its script and plot.

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Pretty cute, right?

Fox plays Scott Howard, a teenager who finds himself showing signs of lycanthropy, while going through the usual issues that any other hormonal high school kid has to endure. James Hampton plays Scott’s father, in perhaps the cutest and least intimidating interpretation of a werewolf in the history of cinema.

The story – if you try to forget about the whole wolf thing – is fairly standard eighties comedy fare, but there’s nothing wrong with that. A lot of my favourite feelgood movie moments were produced in that decade. Teenage boy has a crush on (blonde) teenage girl, but he is oblivious to the fact that other (brunette) teenage girl likes him. Spoilers: by the end of the movie, teenage boy swaps his desire for light to dark.

Scott: Stiles, I got something to tell you. It’s kind of hard, but…
Stiles: Look, are you gonna tell me you’re a fag because if you’re gonna tell me you’re a fag, I don’t think I can handle it.
Scott: I’m not a fag. I’m… a werewolf.

It’s hard to believe that back then, they got away with dialogue like this. These days, there would be an entire internet noticeboard devoted to shutting the movie down and firing everyone on staff, but in the eighties people were a little less serious about things like that.

There’s a school basketball story wrapped up in there as well, and a great supporting performance from Scott’s best friend, Stiles, but try not to take this too seriously and you’ll probably enjoy it for what it is.

Sunday Song Suggestions #8…

Tender Surrender – Steve Vai

There are few songs which give me chills the first time I hear them, and even fewer that continue to do so several times over. Tender Surrender, from 1995, is one of those songs, and Steve Vai is one of the artists who inspired me to convince my sister to buy me a guitar for Christmas and try to teach myself how to play many years ago.

Of course, back then I was young and stupid, and I would have had about as much success trying to crack the Enigma Code as I did fingering the strings with any degree of competency. I was terrible. But my inability to play little more than a really bad (and slow) rendition of The Star Spangled Banner gave me a lot more appreciation for the deities of the guitar genre such as Vai.

Guitars are often viewed as sexy instruments, and the way Vai caresses his it’s easy to see why. He performs this as if he’s making love to the damn thing. Starting off very calm and mellow, the song soon builds to a technical crescendo that is difficult to disregard, even if you’re not a fan of the style.

I don’t know if this kind of skill can be learned, or if some people are just born with it in their DNA, but watching Steve Vai bring his guitar to orgasm on stage here, I’m inclined to believe the latter.