What I’ve Done This Week #19…

I’m halfway home with Jack and Patrick’s latest adventure – A Rabbit, A Fairy, and a Fat Man in a Red Suit – and it’s looking good so far. It may be the best one yet. Give me a few more days and I’ll have the framework of a first draft.

I’ve been thinking some more about the possibility of, one day, connecting all these Jack and Patrick stories with some kind of through-line – thereby making each short story a chapter in a longer work.

I know it will be difficult because each piece stands alone; a vaccuum within the larger world of the friendship of those two young boys. Although all of their stories share the same two protagonists, there is very little in the way of character development or plot movement between beginning and end.

That’s fine for what these pieces are at the moment, but it may feel like it lacks depth if I ever wave my magic wand and turn them into a novella.

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The Gender Swapping Thing…

Now let me get this out of the way from the start: I love women. I really do. Most of them smell nice; and a lot of them look pretty good too. Women are, generally speaking, nicer people to be around than men are. It’s just a fact. Sure, there are some women out there who are bitches; but there are just as many men out there who are bastards. So let’s not get caught up in that whole discussion.

That being said… I’m fed up with Hollywood feeling that it’s necessary to remake or reimagine old ideas and franchises that starred men, just because there’s a widespread belief that it’s necessary to do the same thing with women.

No. It isn’t.

Equality is a good thing – of course it is; it’s silly to argue otherwise – and women should absolutely have the same opportunities that men have, but that’s a separate discussion for a different day. This is about the fascination Hollywood has had over the last few years of taking properties that used men in the leading roles, and simply sticking women in there… without any story-related reason to do so. It seems as though that is what constitutes a good idea these days.

I am on record as being generally ambivalent to remakes in the first place, and I believe they are often just a cash grab to trade off the back of the original iteration, but I especially don’t enjoy those in which the only thought of the production team is: let’s do this exact same story, but with women this time. How is that any good?

Spoiler: it’s not.

This rant comes as The Hustle is released – a con-artist comedy starring Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson; two actresses I have enjoyed in other movies, so I have no axe to grind with them. The thing is, The Hustle is a remake of the Michael Caine and Steve Martin con-artist comedy from 1988 called Dirty Rotten Scoundrels which, although far from the most celebrated entry in either of their ouevres, is considered to be a good movie. And I happen to like it quite a bit.

I have not seen The Hustle and I don’t intend to do so any time soon either, so feel free to consider this as an entirely biased breakdown. And yes, for all you clever clogs out there, I am aware that Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is itself a revision of the sixties movie Bedtime Story, but as I have previously accepted, there are always exceptions.

The one saving grace is that The Hustle is currently being fed to the wolves by the critics so I suppose I’m happy about that, because if these films continue to be lambasted then perhaps the public will begin to lose interest and there will be a time in the not too distant future when we don’t have to put up with these thoughtless travesties.

Earlier this year What Men Want was released; last year we had a role reversal in Overboard; and a couple of years before that there was the much maligned Ghostbusters (a movie that was always fighting an uphill battle). I’ve heard rumblings of a Splash remake too (yes, with a merman), and even an all female version of Lord of the Flies.

Seriously? It’s just too much.

If you give me a worthy movie I promise I’ll go with it every time, but I don’t see any of these standing the test of time.

And before you ask – no, I don’t want to see a Pretty Man, in which Zac Efron plays a low-rent streetwalker purchased by rich business woman Sandra Bullock for a few days of conversation; or a sitcom about four geriatric men talking about life over cheesecake called The Golden Boys.

Console Memories: Sega Mega CD…

The Mega CD was, strictly speaking, not a console at all. It was a fairly cumbersome attachment for the Mega Drive that was released in Britain in 1993. It was notable however, not only because it was larger than the bloody console it was an addition to, but also because it was the first mainstream video game system to boast CD storage, and therefore… offer deeper and more graphically intense games than ever before. Well, that was the theory anyway.

maxresdefaultMy Sega love was intense and unshakeable at this time, but the Mega CD was the turning point for me. Games like old-fashioned arcade-shooter Sol-Feace didn’t dazzle me the way those on my prevous consoles had. Perhaps, at seventeen years old, I had already become jaded with video games. They were yesterday’s news for me and I had started to think about girls and wonder why they only looked at me when they wanted something from a high shelf in the supermarket.

Cobra_Command_256pxDon’t misunderstand me: I enjoyed my time with the Mega CD, but I only owned a few games for the machine. Cobra Command was one of those games. I actuallly think it came bundled in with the system, because it’s not the kind of thing I would have bought. It’s an on-rails shooter in which you pilot a helicopter, so you really just have to point and press the button before the bad guys get you. At the time it was one of the best looking things out there. It looked fantastic, and I had a lot of fun with it.

case_front-640x504The most controversial game in the life cycle of the Mega CD was Night Trap. It utilised full motion video (albeit grainy and sometimes indistinct) at a time when that fad was beginning to take over. I had the game, and the outcry was (typically) overblown and unjustified, but the notoriety probably helped to sell about half of the peripherals that were bought. The most frightening thing about it was the fact that Dana Plato of Diff’rent Strokes fame was the protagonist.

I also remember having Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective and Sewer Shark. Both of those were also FMV-heavy games. It seemed like every second title back then was jumping on that particular bandwagon. It’s a form of entertainment that has largely disappeared, but for those couple of years at the start of the nineties, it was all the rage. It wasn’t my thing though, and I couldn’t get into it.

For that reason… the Mega CD was the last Sega system I ever purchased.

Potted Film Review: I Feel Pretty (2018)

Starring: Amy Schumer, Michelle Williams

What’s it all about?
Renee (Schumer) is like a lot of women – a lot of people, really – in that she struggles with a low self confidence. The plot presents her as overweight and somewhat unattractive, although both of those things are to some degree subjective.

One day she has an accident at the gym and gives herself a concussion, and from that point on the reflection she sees in the mirror is beautiful and she is rocking a perfect body. As a result her life changes for the better, because she has found confidence in her appearance.

One of the problems with I Feel Pretty is that Amy Schumer just isn’t a large enough girl to find the comedy in the plot. There are funny moments here, and I know that everyone has a different relationship with their own body shape, but it’s difficult to buy the pain and frustration of constantly being overlooked by men, when the central character is really just an average-sized girl. In the end… well, I’m sure you know where this one goes.

Watching it with the kids…
There’s not much in here that will offend the eyes and ears of the little ones. The language and sex references are fairly mild – standard for this kind of flick – and, of course, there is no blood for the squeamish either.

Verdict…
At the heart of this movie, there’s a good message, but it is trapped somewhere underneath a script that just isn’t as funny as it really should be. And it’s not the talent, because Schumer is a funny girl. I think if you chisel away some of the rough edges, this could be pretty good, so I’ll give it a pass for the destination… even though the journey to get there is sometimes a little heavy-handed.

Recommended

What I’ve Done This Week #18…

I haven’t done too much new writing this week, but I’ve thrown a couple of other childhood tropes into my latest Jack & Patrick tale, and it’s now rocking the rolls-off-the-tongue title of A Rabbit, a Fairy, and a Fat Man in a Red Suit. I think those three childhood ‘superheroes’ will work better as part of one story, than my initial plan to give them each their own narrative… and if you are struggling to figure out who I’m talking about, I really don’t know what to tell you!

I’ve (unintentionally) got into the habit of making each of these episodes two thousand words long – give or take a hundred – and this one looks like it will fit right in to that pocket. The nice thing about all of these Jack & Patrick stories is that I know if I get some time to myself and find the right rhythm, I could knock this piece out in an evening.

I still have to find the time (make the time) to send off some stories as well, and – more importantly – to hunt around for representation for Slipwater, because sooner or later I will hit upon someone who likes what they are reading, and sees the value in it.

Eagles, Chapter I – Eagles (1972)

Members: Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Bernie Leadon, Randy Meisner

The Eagles’ debut album sees the band at their most stripped back – before ego and indulgence, although both would come before they ended their run.

Every member is allowed to shine vocally here, with each of them holding the mic for at least one track – a feather which is certainly atypical for many other bands, and a risky move that shows their desire to present the ensemble as equals.

The division of labour would certainly shift as the band progressed, but here at the beginning, the Eagles were just four young guys sharing the workload.
Take it Easy (Glenn Frey / Jackson Browne)
Lead – Frey
This is the first track on their first album, and some will say that they hit the ground running with this and never really improved. It’s hard to hate on it because it’s such a feelgood tune… and I’m not going to try. I wouldn’t go so far as to claim it’s the greatest thing they ever did, but it’s certainly a top tier Eagles song, and deserves its place in any collection of favourites. 8
Witchy Woman (Don Henley / Bernie Leadon)
Lead – Henley
Henley’s raspy plea struggles to fit in with the rest of this album because it’s a world away from anything else around it. This song feels like it’s split from the same seed as One of These Nights, and it would have fit nicely on that album, but its inclusion here is a sign of where the Eagles would head musically over the next few years. A great song. 9
Chug All Night (Glenn Frey)
Lead – Frey
This is a little known track, but a solid early rocker, at a time when the Eagles were primarily producing softer, easy-going songs. Frey wouldn’t have been my first choice to sing this kind of track, but then he did write it. He is (mostly) comfortable on the microphone, but it is evident that he’s learning how to perform the harder stuff. 6
Most of Us Are Sad (Glenn Frey)
Lead – Meisner
It’s hard not to feel reflective when listening to this one. It’s the kind of sombre song that encourages you to take out your lighter at a concert… or go buy one if you’re not a smoker. This is the weakest of Meisner’s vocal contributions to the album. 5
Nightingale (Jackson Browne)
Lead – Henley
An inoffensive up-tempo Henley number that I imagine would sound great in the car with the top down. There’s nothing particularly wrong with it – and I usually give Don a little more rope than I would others – but it’s probably about a minute longer than it needs to be. 5
Train Leaves Here This Morning (Bernie Leadon / Gene Clark)
Lead – Leadon
Six songs in and all four Eagles have been given a shot in the spotlight. This simple and mellow campfire-ballad fits Leadon’s lower register well, and is the better of his two efforts here. 6
Take the Devil (Randy Meisner)
Lead – Meisner
A good Meisner number that shows a different side to his vocal style. It has an excellent guitar sound, and is musically reminiscent of their follow-up album, Desperado. 6
Earlybird (Bernie Leadon / Randy Meisner)
Lead – Leadon
The weakest song on the album. It starts with irritating bird chatter and segues into some banjo music… so right away it’s a hard sell. Thankfully it’s very short, so it doesn’t leave too much of a stain. 4
Peaceful Easy Feeling (Jack Tempchin)
Lead – Frey
Along with Take it Easy, this is widely considered to be the second classic from their debut album. Frey did not have the strongest voice in the band, but he had a knack for presenting these mid-tempo tracks believably that would have left every other Eagle floundering. 7
Tryin’ (Randy Meisner)
Lead – Meisner
I should go on record as saying that Meisner was the most underrated Eagle. His voice soars on this final upbeat track, and it’s a fine way to end the album. 7

Overall: 63%
That feels a little low, but the numbers don’t lie. Debut albums are often a case of a band finding their musical feet, and that’s what’s happening here. There are some bright spots along with a couple of forgettable tracks, and their sound is helped immeasurably by the fact that they use all four members of the band behind the mic. It’s notable too that at this early stage, Henley’s only credit is a co-writing gig for Witchy Woman.

Potted Film Review: The Bodyguard (1992)

Starring: Kevin Costner, Whitney Houston, Gary Kemp

What’s it all about?
Someone is sending creepy messages to Rachel Marron, one of the biggest movie stars in the world (played by big screen virgin, Whitney Houston). Kevin Costner is the titular bodyguard, Frank Farmer, who is hired to protect her.

At first Frank and Rachel don’t like or even respect each other, but in time they share a bed and begin to bond, but the entirely predictable romance ends before it even gets off the ground… before fate and circumstance brings them together for one more kiss. No spoilers – you all know how this works.

The irony of Whitney Houston playing an Academy Award nominated actress is not lost on me, as she is the most wooden performer in this movie, although thankfully she doesn’t have to deliver any great monologues. Costner is not far behind because he sleepwalks through his role, and I can’t help but wonder how much better this movie may have been with someone like Tom Cruise or Denzel Washington at the helm.

Watching it with the kids…
There’s a smattering of bad language, and the violence is all gunplay with a minimal amount of blood. Oddly for a romantic thriler of this era, there’s no sex.

Verdict…
This is an excruciatingly average movie, centred around a love story that I don’t really buy. It has run-of-the-mill thrills, and seems to meander along with little regard for the two-hour-plus running time. It plays more like a TV movie than one of the biggest box office hits of 1992, and it has a far greater reputation than it deserves. Trust me, there are far better examples of this contrived genre out there if you’re looking for a fix.

But, there is something comforting about a movie that is so familiar the first time you see it. It has an intangible quality that is maybe borne of nostalgia for the time; perhaps also because I know The Girlfriend© likes it, and she will disown me if I don’t give this the thumbs up. The Bodyguard didn’t speak to me, so I’ll never watch it again, but for those of you in the dark, it’s worth watching.

Once.

Recommended (but only just)