MUST LISTEN Audio Books for BLACK HISTORY Month and every other month! :) Part 2 of 2

The 2nd must listen audio book for Black History Month or any month is the mind breaking MUMBO JUMBO by the great Ishmael Reed.

Ishmael Reed, who was honored with the MacArthur “genius” award, is a Pulitzer Prize finalist and two-time nominee for the National Book Award. Mumbo Jumbo, a literary masterpiece, is an ironic and unconventional detectivestory infused with African-American cultural heritage. A strange psychic epidemic called “Jes Grew” is spreading through the country, affecting millions. PaPa LaBas, a HooDoo detective, is trying to find the origins of the JesGrew – not because he wants to cure it, but because he’s ready for a new kind of society.

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Composed of the memorable personalities and the little remembered tragedies and triumphs of the roaring 20s, MUMBO JUMBO weaves these truths into an overarching fictional narrative that goes from the beginning of civilization to the fall of man.

But the fiction is so peppered with essential truths, like the best of all fiction, that it will change fundamentally how you look at everything, from museums to curse words to bull fights. If MIDDLE PASSAGE is my favorite audio book, MUMBO JUMBO  I think , in opposition to its name, is the most enlightening and powerful audio book I’ve ever listened to, for the  way it opened up my mind to… broader definitions of history and broader definitions of ourselves. Magnificent.

Version:

Unabridged
Author: Ishmael Reed
Narrator: J. D. Jackson
Genres: Fiction & Literature
Publisher: Recorded Books
Published In: July 2005
# of Units: 8 CDs
Length: 8 hours, 30 minutes

Get your copy here:

 

Mumbo Jumbo

MUST LISTEN Audio Books for BLACK HISTORY Month and every other month! :) Part 1 of 2

I first became familiar with these two novels, both by master writers, as novels proper. And both blew my mind in ways both stunning and lasting. Later I listened to the Audio Books. Audio Books, if you get the right reader, for the right work, can be rewarding experiences, even to lovers of the novel.

I love me some Walter Moseley EASY RAWLINS mysteries, I’ve read just about everyone of them, and I have to tell you the pairing of Moseley’s iconic words with a formidable actor such as Michael Boatman, is to have those works enriched, and nuances discovered that may have been skimmed over by even the most loving reader.

A great Adaptation, a great marriage of words and performance can do that, can alchemize into something more than the sum of its parts. Something magical. And an audio book avoids the constraints of time and budget and indeed visuals, that a film or TV show runs into. An audio book has the biggest theater of the world, and the biggest budget, in which to breathe life into the writers words,… the theater of the mind.

So Audio Books when they get that mixture right, become part of a sacred line of story and storytelling, going back to the cradle of not just Black History, but all history.

 

This 2 part post, honors two of the best, that should be loved and listened to and cherished by everyone.

They are:

Charles Johnson’s seminal and National Book Award winning novel, MIDDLE PASSAGE. It is an American epic, a rousing seafaring saga, blisteringly funny at times, deeply harrowing at others, both poetic, prosaic, and magical all at the same time. As someone who has read Melville, and Dickens, and Hemingway, and Crane and Poe and Bradbury and King and Baldwin, all the quintessential American masters, this is the novel I would save when everything else is burning.

 

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I give the hardcover out as presents. I consider it, in an imperfect world, an arrow toward a more perfect union. So having it on a pedestal that high the audio book has to bring it. It was made into an audio book twice, the first was an abridged and hence flawed cassette version, but read by the author himself, I quite liked it. He brought something… wonderful to it.

The 2nd time was on CD, unabridged thankfully. The performer Dion Graham, gives a different performance than Charles Johnson, that I slowly warmed to. And as the story drew you deeper so did his voice. It’s a wonderful way to be introduced to this great novel.

I would say both audio book versions are indispensable. Start with the unabridged CD version, and then follow up by listening to the Abridged version. And have a copy of the paperback or hardcover, to read over especially loved passages.

In an America where folly holds sway, the words of men who both remember history and learn from it, is of the highest value.

Check them out at the links below:

Middle Passage Cassette Audio Book read by the Author!

Middle Passage Audio CD Unabridged!

By Charles Richard Johnson Middle Passage (Reprint) [Mass Market Paperback]

 

If you like this blog please support it by using the links above and by leaving comments! And come back for the 2nd part where we discuss the 2nd, must own, Black History Month (and other months) Audio book!

BLU-RAY Movie of the Day : Antoine Fuqua’s EQUALIZER

“Progress. Not perfection.”

The Equalizer Movie Poster

I know in this day of streaming it’s all the rage to herald the death of physical media.

Allow me to be the voice of dissent.

Streaming is fine for sampling things, and trying things, but for things you love, and intend to watch again, revisit again, give me that feature rich DVD or BLU-RAY any-day, and twice on Sunday.

I love film. And I love cast and Director’s commentary. For films I love, after I consume the film, I like to go back and hear about the process, the experience of making the film.

For a beloved film, it just adds to the enjoyment.

And for cinephiles or hopefuls one day looking to work in some capacity crafting these once celluloid marvels, a commentary by Michael Mann or Ridley Scott or the late great Tony Scott is like being part of the best film school in the world.  It’s enjoyable AND informative.

My favorite movies I might get introduced to on streaming, but providing they have that commentary and special features, I will always buy in Blu-ray/DVD format.

The Equalizer Movie Poster

Antoine Fuqua’s THE EQUALIZER is one of those movies. First the Blu-Ray picture and sound quality is stellar. No buffering issues, or making sure you haven’t gone over broadband quota issues, or weather related or ‘time of day’ issues that can all affect your enjoyment with streaming. No the Blu-Ray, as long as you have your player and power, will be there for you, in the same spectacular quality.

Now moving on to the film itself, while I liked the TV show well enough, I too was incredulous when i heard about a remake. Add to that the odd choice of Denzel Washington to helm a big screen version of a mid-tier show, best known for the Britishness of its protagonist.

But I’m happy to say AntoinE Fuqua and the writers and Denzel Washington do the impossible in making this 80s small screen show, into galvanizing big screen entertainment. From the first frame the story is told, of a man of regimented routine, of  necessary order. Peace, found in the adherence to the space between seconds. A dragon allowed to sleep. Until one day something shatters that routine, that peace, and the dragon must wake.

Fuqua is a director, whose first couple of efforts left me cold, but I have to say he has grown into a great Director. There is such a beautiful patience in this film, that it makes the action scenes when they come, so much more devastating. And a large part of that is Denzel Washington, he brings a laconic, measured weight to the doors he steps through, a gravitas, that really sells the moments he must… wake.

Coming out the same time frame as JOHN WICK, both films share a common theme of men of extreme skillsets being forced back into using those skills. It’s lovely how the same theme of vengeance can be handled so differently, and so well in those differences.

JOHN WICK is a balls to the wall, action extravaganza,  EQUALIZER offers a bit more measured approach, but somehow manages to make every person’s fall more personal for that measured response. Fuqua’s EQUALIZER takes the time to watch the light go out of a man’s eyes. And there is something sobering and frightening about that. I love JOHN WICK, and looking forward to JOHN WICK II, but I love EQUALIZER just as much. The only misstep to EQUALIZER is the poor choice of a rap song for the closing credits, but other than that a home-run of a film.

It is a phenomenal film. Made even more so by the VENGEANCE MODE that the Blu-Ray offers. All in all a grade ‘A’ film, well deserving of owning in Blu-Ray.

 

Get your copy at the link below:

The Equalizer [Blu-ray]

10 BEST CAR CHASE/ACTION SCENES of all Time!!

https://i1.wp.com/imgc.allpostersimages.com/images/P-473-488-90/40/4031/LWBLF00Z/posters/bullitt-french-movie-poster-1968.jpgBULLET – A classic, and on everyone’s list for a reason.

BORDER COP – The first few minutes of this 36 year old movie had my mouth agape. As It sports an unexpected and insane car chase sequence by anyone’s definition. Whatever they were paying the stunt man/men was not enough. The only car chase sequence in the film, it’s good enough on its own to earn a place on any list. BORDER COP is so many different and warring things together, it jumps genres so unexpectedly from a jaw dropping car chase movie in the first few minutes, to a low key drama, to a harrowing expose of business and cruelty both of the animal and human variety on the bloody US/Mexican border. A nearly 40 year old movie that sadly, and disgracefully is as relevant today as the day it was made. A solid movie.

 

Extra Large Movie Poster Image for The Raid 2: Berandal (#4 of 6)RAID 2 – Written, Edited and Directed by Gareth Evans there is much to recommend RAID 2. It’s a great Martial Arts movie, sporting some of the most brilliantly choreographed fight and knife scenes ever put to film, it is also an incredibly violent (and convoluted) crime/gangster movie. In addition it also showcases one of the most bad-ass car chase scenes. Starting at about the 1hour 50 minute mark, when most movies have already finished, RAID 2 is just warming up.

Dirty Mary Crazy Larry Movie Poster

DIRTY MARY, CRAZY LARRY– The quintessential 70s American Car Chase movie, this whole film is one long chase. A great car chase film, and a great film.

 

Cotton Comes to Harlem Movie PosterCOTTON COMES TO HARLEM – Predating Friedkin’s FRENCH CONNECTION by a year, Director Ossie Davis’ 1970 Action/Comedy Adaptation of Chester Himes COTTON COMES TO HARLEM showcases a great car chase scene. The scene, that involves a van and a bail of cotton, originates some chase sequences that Friedkin would appropriate for his own film, and filmmakers have been using since. Age not withstanding the car chase scene in COTTON COMES TO HARLEM is better than its imitators… and a lot more fun,

 

https://thisisnotadvertising.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/hire_wp-728059.jpg?w=444THE HIRE– What do you get when one of the most respected car companies gets together with some of the most respected action directors to craft a series of ads/short films…. you get THE HIRE, iconic short films that revive and improve upon the heyday of the car chase film. Short Films that would inspire the feature length TRANSPORTER series. Arguably the short films are better.

 

The Seven-Ups Movie PosterTHE SEVEN UPS – Philip D’ Antoni’s film, seen as something of an unofficial followup to FRENCH CONNECTION, sporting many of that film’s cast and crew and themes, is by far the superior film to the Academy Award winning FRENCH CONNECTION. The fact that the mediocre FRENCH CONNECTION has an Academy Award reiterates my thesis that the Academy has a tendency to reward films that reinforce or refresh for a new generation these racist mindsets and mentalities, often in heroic lights; From A BIRTH OF A NATION to THE JAZZ SINGER to GONE WITH THE WIND to MONSTERS BALL to FRENCH CONNECTION, the Academy is always happy to reward Minstrel Shows, films with Black Faces that are there to reinforce and present White Messages. THE SEVEN UPS Thankfully is not that type of film, and concerns itself strictly with telling a compelling crime film. Which it does in spades, complete with a car chase that starts around the 52 minute mark, and runs 12 minutes, that is easily the superior to the one in FRENCH CONNECTION; and THE SEVEN UP car chase can easily be ranked as one of the best of all time.

Extra Large Movie Poster Image for Sabotage (#3 of 13)SABOTAGE – One of the latter day, post-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger movies, SABOTAGE is surprisingly a home run. David Ayer, a director I tend to feel is too heavy handed, here finds a story and actors and a co-writer that tend to ameliorate his often too unlikable protagonists and world view. Here Schwarzenegger leads a DEA strike force, up against their deadliest enemy. Besides being a solid action thriller this film also sports an insane 10 minute car chase scene. The actors really sell this 10 minutes and make this a chase scene that holds up.

 

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation Movie PosterMISSION IMPOSSIBLE ROGUE NATION – As much as James Bond in its 50 years is known for car chases I couldn’t find one strong enough to surpass the car chases in the MISSION IMPOSSIBLE franchise. Notably this one from ROGUE NATION is the best MISSION IMPOSSIBLE car chase. From cars to bikes, just an astounding and fun 8 minute sequence.

 

Bad Boys II Movie PosterBAD BOYS II – Michael Bay is often vilified, for reasons that seem to me to amount to people upset that his movies are populist entertainment. Of the 13 feature films he has done in the last 22 years, five are devoted to a toy franchise, and the majority of the rest standard summer action fare. But action fare done really, really well.

Michael Bay at the top of his game is a great filmmaker, and I think nothing highlights this as well as his first feature BAD BOYS and his last 13 HOURS.

BAD BOYS II however is neither of those films, being neither popular nor successful. It is definitely a misfire, it is too long and the comedy misses more often than it hits, leading to overlong cringeworthy scenes you want to fast forward past rather than laugh at. Trying to emulate the success of the first film, they get the mixture of comedy and action wrong. That said, even when the comedy fails, the action and visuals never do. I have always loved Michael Bay’s use of the camera, he uses a lovely panning, roving style that is simply exquisite. Michael Bay understands the essence of the Heroic and is able to convey that in the panning of a camera. And arguably it is in this flawed film that Michael Bay crafts some of the best and most beautiful action set-pieces of his career.

Woody Strode who spent a career in films directed by legends such as John Ford and Fernando Di Leo and Richard Brooks and Stanley Kubrick, always considered his favorite director and his favorite moment on screen, was his wordless, almost cameo appearance, in the opening of Sergio Leone’s ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST.

Michael Bay is that type of director, a painter of romanticized heroism, of images that galvanize and rouse, and unfortunately a lot of that talent was buried for the last decade filming CGI robots, BAD BOYS II is a great reminder of what Bay can do when filming captivating actors and captivating places.

BAD BOYS II is a flawed movie, but it has moments of greatness in it. And the 10 minute car scene alone is worth marveling at more than once and is Michael Bay at his blockbuster best. And more than than is one of cinema’s best car chase scenes.

THE LAST WORD : SUPERMAN II Richard Lester Theatrical Version vs SUPERMAN II Richard Donner Cut!!

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Netflix is showing the theatrical cut of SUPERMAN II. Anyone who tries to tell you the Richard Donner cut of SUPERMAN II is better than the Richard Lester theatrical version is quite frankly deranged.

Okay maybe that’s a bit harsh (no it is not) but while there are pieces of the so-called Donner Cut that would be nice added into the theatrical cut, most notably the Marlon Brando scenes in the fortress of Solitude are essential, and the extended scenes with Luthor and Ms. Teschmacher are just a lot of fun (I strongly recommend getting the DVDs of both and cutting those scenes into the Theatrical cut to create something I call the improved cut. It will wow you).

as a whole the theatrical cut of SUPERMAN II is vastly superior and more satisfying then the Donner cut. Full stop.

The opening is vastly superior in the theatrical cut, as is the reason for Zod’s escape from the phantom zone. And the ending of the Donner cut, SUPERMAN turning back time again, is just lazy and stupid, from a creative level, and makes the memory wiping kiss in the theatrical version look like a stroke of genius.

And yes the theatrical version takes liberties with Superman’s powers, force beams, mirage powers, using the shield on his suit as a net, but I never had a problem with these scenes… because they were fun. And really, in for a penny… in for a pound, once you sign off on heat vision and cold breath, then mirage powers, and force blasts, and memory wiping… seems like just enjoying the ride.

Both versions skate over the final reckoning of the defeated villains, so neither version is perfect, but of the two the theatrical version is head and shoulders better. In my opinion Donner wanting to end the 2nd movie with the same unsatisfying gimmick he ended the first film with, like I said, is just lazy writing and unimaginative thinking. I could clearly see based on that, why the studios replaced him.

Final verdict?

The Richard Lester SUPERMAN II theatrical film, trounces the Richard Donner SUPERMAN II Cut by a mile.

Get your copy here:

 

Superman II (Two-Disc Special Edition)

Currently Listening and Addicted to : YOURS TRULY JOHNNY DOLLAR

I have these episodes of Johnny Dollar on CD, that I purchased off of Ebay many moons ago, and I’ve lately taken to listening to them in the morning when driving to work. They are such an enjoyable alternative to what usually is available on radio these days. And most of the CDs I never listened to (they would always take a backseat to other great, but more garish shows… such as THE SHADOW, SUSPENSE or ESCAPE). Reevaluating it now, in my more seasoned years, the show has a compelling modernity and universalness that transcends its 6+ Decades of age.

And I have to say, this show in particular, because of its still innovative format of using an Insurance Investigator’s expense account as the hook into these narratives, is surprisingly addictive. All adults to some extent are part and parcell of the Insurance world, either as an occupation or a customer, so the films slant is familiar and well worn.

A few talented actors played Johnny Dollar, but the episodes with Bob Bailey… read as the show at its best. Starting in 1955 around episode #185, those are the shows to start with.

And because the shows are public domain you can burn to CD or copy to your media player and listen to as you travel or work.

Listen to some here:

https://archive.org/details/OTRR_YoursTrulyJohnnyDollar_Singles

Highly Recommended!

What I’m Watching : SUPERMAN RETURNS (2006) Revisited after 10+ years!

Dracula Movie Poster

Recalling this is Frank Langella’s Birthday and how much I’m enamored of his performances (particularly his DRACULA I think is hypnotic and astounding), I went looking for films courtesy of streaming/VOD and I came across SUPERMAN RETURNS.

 

Superman Returns Movie Poster

Unlike the vocal few, I’ve always liked Bryan Singer’s SUPERMAN RETURNS. It is not perfect but its weaknesses are minor, and its strengths… deserving of praise.

Watching it today, over 10 years after its release, the film holds up. It is visually stunning to look at, gorgeously filmed and sumptuously framed, outright beautiful. Going for and achieving that feeling of awe, that particularly the first Richard Donner Superman was able to achieve, And it has that romanticized feel, and familial pacing, and doe-eyed optimism that both of the first two Donner Superman movies were able to achieve. But all of this lensed through Bryan Singers unique and ambitious take, his more otherworldly, take on the Man of Steel.

Where some people only saw ‘stalker’ Superman, those of us acquainted with reason, saw an obvious moral quandary tackled head-on. You want a being that can hear you when you call? The price and burden of this means he is always listening and always watching. So the film plays wonderfully with this idea of mensh unt Ubermensh. Of Man and Superman, and the burdens and trials of both.

The film does lose itself toward the end, but not enough to keep the journey from being rewarding, and memorable and fun.

This film falling in solid Bronze medal contention as one of the best Superman Movies of all time, beat out only by those two films that it is a natural sequel and follow-up to, Richard Donner’s SUPERMAN and SUPERMAN II.

MAN OF STEEL, as well as the other post Donner Christopher Reeves films are all left far in this films wake.

My grade after revisiting SUPERMAN RETURNS after 10+ years?

Well, Great Bryan Singer Direction, excellent visuals, stunning production design by Guy Hendrix Dyas, great performances by Brandon Routh and Kevin Spacey and Tristan Lake Leabu as Lois’s son.  Also the flying scenes (all of them but particularly, That flight with Lois, a definite homage to the iconic scene in the first film, and I think it’s great),the plane scene, the yacht saving scene,the Daily Planet globe scene, the eye scene, the car scene that is a homage to a classic comic book cover, the mensh unt ubermensh overtones, and just the sheer fun of it, all of that is a solid A.

If you watch those scenes and don’t feel a sense of awe, possibly you shouldn’t be watching a film called SUPERMAN or there may be something fundamentally broken in you. 🙂

Now in the minus column you have that the Lois Lane performance sometimes grates and the general denouement/climatic battle/wrapup didn’t quite work for me (through I appreciate it more on re-watching then when I initially saw it in the theaters), those are a C- at best.

So averaged together the film as a whole is still a solid B+.

[possible spoilers]Too bad Bryan Singer didn’t get to follow this up, as I would have liked him exploring the dynamics of a SUPERMAN with a family, and a kryptonian impervious to kryptonite, and just some of the other ingenious ideas touched on in this film.[spoilers done]

Revisit it yourself on Netflix or better yet get the Blu-ray with Directors Commentary. The film will stand the test of time against the cynics, romance always does. STRONGLY RECOMMENDED.

 

 

Superman: The Movie / Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut / Superman Returns [Blu-ray]

Superman Returns (Two-Disc Special Edition)

Drácula (Blu-Ray) (Import Movie) (European Format – Zone B2) (2013) Frank Langella; Laurence Olivier; Donald P