Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Follow me....

To http://marklaflamme.wordpress.com/

Saturday, March 25, 2006

The end of the world as we know it

Welcome Street Talkers. If any of you are left roaming the charred ruins of the Lost Sole, you can find safety and comfort here. All that is left of our old home is a mushroom cloud over a blackened pit in the earth. They blew us up, man. Blew us to smithereens.

For fear that no one will find this place, I'll keep it short. But should one of you wander by, drop a line and we'll get things started. There is much to discuss. There is rebuilding. There is repopulating our society. There is seeking retribution of the loathsome one who caused this apocalypse. Yes, there is much to discuss.

I've gotta get moving. There are noises outside and you can't trust that everyone is friendly around here. It's a savage new world we exist in. We've got to be careful.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

The Hills Have Yawns

A family stranded in the desert, surrounded by cannibalistic mutants left over from the Atomic Age. Spooky desert nights and hideous things that lurk in the dark. The claustrophobic confines of a mobile home in dramatic contrast with the vastness of the New Mexico desert. These are the makings of one hell of a chilling movie.
Unfortunately, the hills may have eyes, but the biggest challenge for you will be keeping your own open while this predictable yawner rolls on for two hours. It's not that the movie is bad. It's just no friggin' good. If you've seen just a few classic horror movies in your time, you will predict each new scene before it arrives. This is a formulated script written according to a tired cinematic playbook.
Sometimes glaringly, sometimes not, Hills is a composite of several older movies. The theme and many of the scenes flagrantly rip off the more disturbing "Texas Chainsaw Massacre." The setting is reminiscent of a lesser known but infinitely creepier movie titled "Race With the Devil" from the 1970's. Save your $7.50, skip this one, and rent one of those earlier flicks. Or get your hands on an episode of the X-Files called "Home." In one hour, the X-Files creators deftly present a truly unnerving look at genetic freaks and the disturbing dynamics of their society. You will remember it a long time. With "The Hills Have Eyes," you will forget the movie and all of the characters ten minutes after you walk out of the theater.
Like the original 1977 version, Hills of 2006 tries to sneak in a few political messages about the consequences of government testing in the Cold War era. Politics and horror sometimes pair up well, but not here. The message is as weak as the back story of the atomic freaks, whom you never get to know very well. Should we sympathize with them at all? Feel guilty about our own history as Americans? Nah, screw 'em. Pitchfork right between the eyes!
A few saving graces: pay close attention the role of the father in the movie. Roughly twenty minutes in, I recognized his voice. It's Ted Levine, the troubling, twisted serial killer Jaime Gumb from "Silence of the Lambs." Sadly, he doesn't plant anyone in a deep hole and insist that they rub the lotion on it's skin.
Also, there is some superb acting in the movie. None by a star listed in the credits, however. The only award caliber dramatics in this clunker comes from a German Shepherd, whom the producers do not use nearly enough.
"The Hills Have Eyes" has roughly 30 minutes of fun in the form of gratuitous violence and a fair share of gore. If you're hankering for an old-fashioned stake burning, you will find one here. Otherwise, the reality of the Atomic Age is far scarier than anything shown in this movie. In fact, the biggest failure of all in this film is that they show too much. They should have stuck with the strange noises from the desert night and left the rest to the imagination.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Life, at last

Imagine my surprise. I was about to switch off the evening news when Flamette said: "You might want to keep that on. They've been teasing to a story about water discovered somewhere in the solar system."
Many of you know me well. But not that well. Few of you know how passionate I am about all things cosmic. The discovery of liquid water anywhere in the universe would cause me to take off my pants, light firecrackers, and then quickly realize the dangers associated with lighting firecrackers without pants on.
Why was this not the lead story on CBS, NBC, CNN, ABC, FBI, PDQ, WTF and all the affiliated stations when NASA pointed announced their possible find? Why is it not on the front page of the paper today? Liquid water found on another planet or moon will almost certainly indicate life other than us in our solar system. If alternative life is found in this puny little solar system, then it almost certainly abounds throughout the universe.
Imagine it. We are not alone. The world is full of beings and creatures we have not even imagined. Everything you thought you knew about life, death, religion or science is about to change. Is there a God? Did he create it all, or just us? And if you believe in God, do you believe in multiple gods, one for each population of critters throughout all of space? Explain here in 100 words or less.
It's a joyous thing to imagine that, within our lifetimes, scientists might come forth with conclusive evidence that life exists out there. That the stars aren't just twinkling, dead things to be admired by poets and lovers. I've made arrangements to live 900 years just to be sure I'll be around for that day. But I wonder if it will be front page news, even then. LIFE DISCOVERED ON TITAN on page A-17. VICE PRESIDENT SHOOTS SEAHAWKS MASCOT IN FACE on A-1.
I'm a total science geek. I'll admit that now. Just the hint of this possible news from NASA provoked me in a way nothing in sports, politics, music or Hollywood ever could. Maybe water. Maybe life.
Possible water found on one of Saturn's moons is huuuuuuge news, people. Join me. Take your pants off. Light some firecrackers. Get some bandages and have your wife drive you to the emergency room. Apply balm as needed.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Brushes with greatness

My brother still talks about the time he ran into former Gov. Michael Dukakis in downtown Boston. This brush with greatness was so profound, he alerted friends he had not seen or spoken to in years. He told the story with wild gesticulations, even if he happened to be on the phone.

As time went by, more details clung to the story like lint to a new sweater. Minute details of the conversation were recalled and shared. My brother told of meeting the one-time presidential candidate as though the two of them were old friends who had met for many drinks.

The poor, wide-eyed schlep. It was the same when we met John Travolta back in the '70s. And when we met Donny Most from "Happy Days" fame. It was life-changing fate for my brother when we got a few minutes to talk to Ron Palillo, the wormy guy who played Horshack on "Welcome Back, Kotter."

And when relief-pitching great Dennis Eckersley nearly mowed my brother and me down outside Fenway Park, well ... that's a story to be unleashed at just the right moment of a party.

My brother will tell complete strangers about the impromptu conversation we had with the Eck. I'll nod a lot and back up his every word. But what I remember most about the incident was that the hurler was running across the street toward the ballpark and almost ran right over us. I remember the conversation going like this:

Eckersley: "Sorry about that, guys."

Us: "Quite all right."

Celebrities don't do much for me. If the stars in the Hollywood tabloids jumped from the pages in a grocery store line, I would have no other reaction than to check to see if they had 10 items or less. No, really.

OK, I'll admit it. There are a few megastars who might make me stutter. I'd probably stammer a bit if I came face-to-face with Robert DeNiro, because I'd be trying to muster the courage to call him Bob. Martin Scorsese might set me back a few minutes, but I'd regain my voice soon enough. These are just people. They get colds, dandruff, skin eruptions and embarrassing stomach disorders just like everyone else. No reason to fan yourself and swoon.

I know what you're thinking: that I'm lying because you recall the piece I wrote about my first meeting with Stephen King. You remember that I described the first word I uttered to the great one as something like: "verymuchbigfanthankyou."

I will ask you to stop your snickering. It was a big moment for me. It's one thing to run into simple celebrity. Greatness is a different matter altogether.

So you can imagine my distress when I was asked to sign a copy of my novel for Mr. King. You can imagine the word-evaporating horror at trying to muster just a few simple lines to impress a longtime hero.

Not that the big man was anywhere in sight, mind you. No, I was at the Book Burrow in Auburn and the owner of the place asked for the signature so she could send King a copy later. I'm not telling you what I wrote, because I know how you are.

I've decided there are two kinds of people: those who regard the famous as godlike creatures worthy of all the hysteria, and those who have deduced that even the most esteemed celebrities are still made of flesh and bone. I am of the latter group, those temporary lapses notwithstanding.

And yet, I'm willing to wager that even the steeliest, most cynical people have one or two heroes capable of striking them dumb. If you're an airline buff, it might be Chuck Yeager. If you're a geek, it's probably Bill Gates. If you golf more than twice a week and wish you could do it more, an introduction to Tiger Woods might give you goose bumps.

My brother is easy. Michael Dukakis made his day, and how many people can say that? Frankly, I'm glad it wasn't Bruce Springsteen or Joe Torre he encountered that sunny, warm day in Boston. Either of those guys might have done him in for good.