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PCR #500 (Vol. 10, No. 43). This edition is for the week of October 19--25, 2009.
Mike's RantMike's Bust
Hello gang! A sad week in the Smith house as our beloved Brody passes away. Shall we begin?

"Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant"  by Mike Smith
First a Word About My House .... Happy 500th Issue Nolan! ... The Fabulous Architecture of the Tampa Bay Region- Part 11  by William Moriaty
Welcome Back to the Grindhouse  by ED Tucker
Special Edition: Spooky Empire 2009  by Chris Woods
The Top 30 Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Horror Actresses, #20-17  by Lisa Scherer Ciurro
J-Horror: Special Halloween Edition  by Jason Fetters
The Great Fox Distraction From The Real War .... Now We Have Maoists .... 1500?!?! .... Up In The Sky...it's A Giant Muffin .... .... .... ....  by Brandon Jones
Happy 500th!!!!! .... New England Patriots In London Vs. The Bucs .... It's The Yankees Vs. The Phillies .... .... .... .... ....  by Chris Munger
Brody .... Passing On .... Introducing The A-team .... Happy 500! .... .... .... .... .... My Favorite Films, Part 2  by Mike Smith
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It is with great sadness that I tell you that our new dog, Brody, passed away on Monday. He was 4. Some background. We adopted Brody on August 20 from a rescue shelter that assured us he was healthy. Sadly, that was not the case. After a couple of weeks he began to move slowly. No longer would he dash out into the back yard and chase the rabbits that live under our deck. It was a strain for him to even stand up. We took him to our vet and she ran some tests and took some X-rays. We were shocked to see that Brody had a bullet in his leg, an old injury that had healed up. Despite numerous tests and medicine he wasn't getting better. Monday we took him to a specialist who told us that he had cancer. Worse, it had started to spread to his lungs. The doctor only gave him a few months to live. How could this happen? We were still grieving Elvis and now we were back in the same damn nightmare. After much discussion Juanita and I made one of the hardest decisions we've ever had to make. I held Brody in my arms until he was gone, and then for a few minutes more. I had found him on line, the first thing drawing me to him were his eyes, which I joked "were like mine." I have asked myself over and over why God only gave him to us for 60 days and I think the answer is best summed up by our vet, who wrote the following to us: "You provided Brody what he needed - you were able to love him in the short time he lived in your home. We know your heart is heavier still with his loss. But Brody would say thank you for being the family he needed at just the right time."

Brody Smith 2005-2009 We love you and miss you, Big B.

It was certainly a rough week for the famous, especially in the "JAWS" world:

Collin Wilcox, actress whose career spanned five decades, died this week at the age of 74 after a long battle with brain cancer. After appearing opposite Burt Reynolds in the 1961 Broadway show "Look We've Come Through," she moved to Hollywood, where television roles soon followed. She first gained notoriety as Mayella Ewell, the woman who falsely accuses a black man of raping her, in "To Kill A Mockingbird." She worked steadily through the late 1970s, appearing as the marine life expert in "Jaws 2." She retired briefly in 1980 to care for her ailing mother, returning to work after she died.

The "JAWS" community recently lost two more members. Henry Carreiro, age 75 and Dick Young age 74, both passed away this past month on Martha's Vineyard. Hired by the production, the two became known as the Abbott and Costello of the film thanks to their quick wits. In the film, Richard Dreyfuss, standing on a dock, asks a group of fishermen where he can find a good restaurant or hotel. Carreiro ad libbed "You walk straight ahead," which director Steven Spielberg thought was funnier then anything that had been written. Young is the fisherman who approaches Dreyfuss after the tiger shark is caught and, when Dreyfuss tells him it's a tiger shark, he asks "a whaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?"

Joseph Wiseman, best known for playing the title role in the first James Bond film, "Dr. No," passed away this week at the age of 91.

Vic Mizzy, composer of many television show themes including "The Addams Family" and "Green Acres" died this past weekend at his California home. He was 93. Not only did he compose the famous finger snapping song for the "kookie and ookie" Addams clan, he also sang it. The studio did not want to pay for studio singers to record it so he overdubbed himself three times to make it sound like a group was singing.

Daniel Melnick, former head of production at both MGM and Columbia Pictures died in Los Angeles. He was 72. Television shows he helped develop include "The Fugitive," "The Untouchables," "Get Smart," "77 Sunset Strip" and "The Flintstones." As a film producer he was responsible for such Best Picture nominees as "All That Jazz," "Network" and "Kramer vs Kramer," which won the Best Picture Oscar in 1980. Among his other films: "The China Syndrome," "Footloose" and "Roxanne."

Dickie Petersen, lead singer and bassist for the San Francisco band Blue Cheer passed away while touring in Germany. He was 63. The band had a top 12 hit in 1968 with their cover of Eddie Cochran's "Summertime Blues."

And as the Rant was going to press news came of the passing of television funny man Soupy Sales, who died today (Friday) at the age of 83. The host of a popular children's program, Sales was known for his knack of hitting guests in the face with a pie. In 1964 he was suspended from the show for a week when he jokingly asked his young viewers to "take some of those green pieces of paper with pictures of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Lincoln and Jefferson on them" and mail them to him. He promised those that did a free post card fro Puerto Rico. To his surprise many children DID send in money, which was returned. He had a small radio hit in 1965 with the song "Do the Mouse." Among the most famous of television bloopers took place during a filming of his kids show. He answered a "mystery" knock on the door and was shocked to find a naked, gyrating woman on the other side, shaking her money-maker while the music to "The Stripper" blasted across the studio speakers. Sales was mortified because he thought the image of the stripper had gone out over the air (it hadn't). Sales leaves behind musician sons Hunt and Tony Sales, who played with such artists as Izzy Pop, Todd Rungdren and with David Bowie during his "Tin Machine" years.

Back in June I speculated about the possible cast for the film version of "The A-Team." I'm happy to announce that I was 2 for 3 in my picks. Both Liam Neeson and Bradley Cooper WILL star in the film as Hannibal Smith and Templeton "Faceman" Peck, respectively. I had considered rap star Common for the role of B.A. Barracus but the role has gone to UFC fighter Quinton "Rampage" Jackson. Also starring: "District 9" star Sharlto Copley as Howlin' Mad Murdock and Jessica Biel, rumored to be playing reporter Amy "AAA" Adams, a character who was written out of the show in it's second season.

HAPPY 500!
I can't believe that the PCR has reached it's 500th Issue. An amazing feat for ANY publication, especially one that started out so small. My first columns ran in the "Letters and Commentary" section. Issue #3 saw the first officially titled "Mike's Rant" and I didn't begin my patented "Hello gang" greeting until issue #17. My openings before included: "Howdy," "Hello all," "Hello from the land of prisons," (I lived in Leavenworth, Kansas at the time). Issue #8 began with "Greetings," followed by "Hello Folks" and the even simpler "Hey." Somehow "Hello gang" stuck. In these pages I have recounted some great memories (our band "the HATS," movie going memories) and some sad ones. I have mourned the loss of friends, family and, this week included, pets. I have been given free reign to write from my heart and I'm happy to say that Nolan has never edited me for content.

Speaking of Nolan, I want to ask you readers how long you have known your longest friend? A few years? Maybe a decade? I have known Nolan and proudly called him my friend for MORE THAN 30 YEARS! And not just a passing friend...someone you see every once in a while, but a true friend. Long before email and the Internet there were phone calls and letters, constantly keeping us close over the distance of time and miles. I am proud to say that I have been blessed with a few friends who have kept me around for 30 plus years, a very rare achievement that I don't take lightly.

Yesterday I found an old cassette tape that had broken (the tape had come off one of the reels). It was labled "The HATS - May 1979." I painstakingly took the cassette apart and repaired the tape. I put it in my player and broke into a smile when I heard the following, "Hello, this is Don Kirschner," which is how Nolan would often begin our jam sessions. We then do our "signature" numbers: "I Want You To Want Me" and "Surrender." In listening I can see why Matt replaced me as lead singer! A lifetime of memories came flooding back as I listened to our band. Note: next time don't put the tape recorder RIGHT NEXT to the drum kit.

For the readers of the PCR and, especially, Mike's Rant, thank you for a wonderful ride. # 1000 - here we come!


The Natural
Starring: Robert Redford and Glenn Close
Directed by: Barry Levinson

FIRST SEEN: JF Campus Hills Twin Theatre, Churchville, MD
FAVORITE SCENE: Roy strikes out "the Whammer"
FAVORITE LINE: "Pick me out a winner, Bobby."


1985 Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actress (Close), Best Art Direction - Set Direction, Best Original Score and Best Cinematography

1985 Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Kim Basinger)

1985 Writer's Guild of America nomination for Best Screenplay from another medium.

Baseball. America's game. So when word came that a movie about America's game starring America's most popular leading man, men and women anticipated great things. And they were not disappointed. Based on the popular novel by Bernard Malamud, "The Natural" tells the story of Roy Hobbs, a young man with the skills to be the greatest baseball player ever. After a tragedy sidetracks him he makes it to the majors as a 40 year old rookie, leading the New York Knights to the top of the league.

Actually, the anticipation wasn't that great. Redford was thought to be "too old", turning age 47 during filming. However, Redford had played college baseball and was able to look the part of an athelete. The casting of the film included several great character actors in major roles: Robert Duvall, Wilford Brimley, Joe Don Baker, Robert Prosky, Richard Farnsworth and an uncredited Darren McGavin. This was director Levinson's 2nd feature and many in Hollywood wondered how he would do on a major, large budget feature, his earlier film, "Diner," being a small ensemble piece filmed on location in his native Baltimore. Again, the worries were unnecessary. Levinson is and was a writer first and foremost, and writers know how to tell a story. "The Natural" flows smoothly, like the great novel it was based on. Of course, one of the endearing qualities of the film is the musical score written by Randy Newman. You can't watch a sports highlight show or an incredible sporting moment without Newman's uplifting music being heard in the background. Newman's score was, in my opinion, easily the best that year (sorry John Williams..."Temple of Doom" was a lot of redone "Raiders" themes) yet the Oscar went to Maurice Jarre for "Passage to India." This was the first sign of the Academys' backlash against Newman who had boldly declared that his score for 1981's "Ragtime" was not only Oscar worthy but the best musical score that year hands down. Guess who didn't win an Oscar for "Ragtime?" In fact, despite some brilliant work Newman did not win an Oscar until his 16th nomination, Best Original Song for "If I Didn't Have You" from "Monster's Inc." The audience gave him a standing ovation and Newman took the time to make amends by being humble. In his acceptance speech, he thanked the music branch of the academy for giving him all those chances "to be humiliated." Ah, a happy ending.

Speaking of happy endings, the film ending (Roy hits a game winning home run into the lights, sending sparks down upon the crowd) is much different then the novel. In the book, as in the movie, Roy is offered a bribe to throw the world series. However, in the book he takes the bribe. However, circumstances cause him to rethink his decision and he decides to play the game the right way. In the deciding game he is at bat when the opposing team sends in their young ace. In the movie Roy takes him yard. In the book he strikes out.

Next week, just in time for Halloween, I'll take a look at the granddaddy of all cult films, Richard O'Brien's "Rocky Horror Picture Show."

Well that's all for now. Have a great week. I'm off to a legislative conference in Washington D.C. but don't worry, I've already got an invite to the D.C. critics screening of "This Is It," so all of you Michael Jackson fans (you know who you are) be sure to tune in next week. See ya!

"Mike's Rant" is ©2009 by Michael A. Smith.  Webpage design and all graphics herein are creations of Nolan B. Canova. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2009 by Nolan B. Canova.