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Now in our seventh calendar year!

PCR #353. (Vol. 7, No. 52) This edition is for the week of December 24--31, 2006.
Mike's RantMike's Bust
Hello, gang! The year ends with some sad passings and I look back at one hell of a year. Shall we begin?

Casino Royale, The Book and The Movie: An Appreciation  by Greg Van Cott
MOVIE REVIEW
"Dreamgirls"  by Mike Smith
ODDSERVATIONS
Crappy Anniversary: 20 Years Without Cult Movies  by Andy Lalino
MIKE'S RANT
That Time of Year....Blowing Our Horn....Passing On....Top 10 Movie Lines....Next Year....My Favorite Films, Part 52: "Die Hard"  by Mike Smith
LETTERS
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THAT TIME OF YEAR
Once again, the last week of December is upon us and those of us here at the PCR take a look back at the last 12 months and try to make sense of all that happened. This year has been a series of adventures but two moments will stand out forever.

In March I tracked down my birth family. Yes, as the result of one very exciting phone call I gained 10 brothers and sisters. Easter weekend was a blur as I traveled to Minnesota to meet brothers Jim, Nick, Joe and Dino along with sisters Debbie and Kelly. It was truly one of the greatest moments in my life EVER. Sadly, in September I lost one of my sisters, Kimberly, who passed away in Cleveland. I had never gotten to meet her face to face but we had talked on the phone and shared email notes. While attending her services I met brothers Anthony and Rocco and sister Terri. It's very funny how things happen sometimes. I've always been a believer in the notion that the good lord above has a plan for all of us and that things happen for a reason. In the 25 years I tried to find my birth family, a million thoughts went through my mind. My main concern was not to be a burden or a cause for discomfort for them. Things were much different 46 years ago when I was born. I don't fault my birth mother for the tough decisions she made. I was adopted by great parents who have both been very supportive in my discovering my family and for that I am greatly thankful.

Experience #2 took place in June when I finally got to see Matt perform on stage to a wildly enthusiastic group made up of friends and strangers. The last time I saw Matt "live" was during a band rehearsal in 1984 so to see him sing and play with such authority was something I had wanted to be a part of since he and I used to sit by the water's edge in Tampa. I was also proud as heck to help distribute Matt's first CD. Bigger and better things await him in Maine and I hope to be there to see them as well.

And now for my end of the year thank you's:

Nolan B. Canova, my editor and friend, who each week gives me the opportunity to speak my mind and share my thoughts. We've come a long way from that little newsletter with the Oscar picks. It seems like only yesterday I was mocking M. Night Shyamalan.....oh wait, it was.

Matthew Drinnenberg, my brother. This past September marked 30 years that Matt and I have been friends. In that time he and his family have done more for me than I can ever repay. I'm so proud that you finally got your music heard this year. Can't wait for CD #2.

Phillip Smith, my son. As you continue on the path you create daily, I am always there with you. I am so proud of the achievements you have already made and know that I will be just as proud of the ones to come. I moved to Kansas to be a full time dad when you were a young boy of 11. Now you are a man of 22 and making your own strides in the world. I love you, son.

Juanita Craft, my honey. You are the final piece in the puzzle of my life. Thank you for your love and your trust. And for letting me turn the basement into "the JAWS room." I love you.

The Gammello Family. Anthony, Jim, Nick, Joe, Dino, Rocco, Terri, Debbie, Kelly and Kimberly. That I found you was truly a miracle. In the few times we have been together, it felt like we had never been apart. Thank you for welcoming me with open arms. I love you all.

Antwone Fisher. It was the film of your story that truly inspired me to search for my family. Thank you for that inspiration.

And, finally,

the readers of the PCR. Every Thursday I gather my notes and thoughts together and spill them out on this web site. Thank you for all of the feedback, both positive and negative. Whatever your thoughts, you took the time to read mine and for that I am eternally thankful.

BLOWING OUR HORN
Happy to report that this web site was chosen #1 by a fan that searched the web researching the film JAWS. Out of the 23 sites he studied, he found that last years series on JAWS "...deserved the top award....your professional quality writing and a fans approach are both what make it deserving of number 1." Thank you.

PASSING ON
As the year comes to an end, we mourn the passing of the following:
James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, who was often referred to as "the hardest working man in show business," passed away on Christmas day at the age of 73. His musical career spanned more then 50 years and his influence stretched across all kinds of music. Artists from the Rolling Stones to Prince, from Michael Jackson to the Beatles, even today's rap stars, owe Brown a debt of gratitude. Born in Barnwell, South Carolina in 1933, Brown was abandoned by his parents and sent to Augusta, Georgia to live with relatives. Constantly in trouble as a young man, Brown had already served 3 1/2 years in reform school by the age of 16. Where in reform school he met Bobby Byrd, who persuaded his family to take Brown into their home. Byrd also had a musical group, the Gospel Starlighters, and he asked Brown to join them. After changing their name to the Fabulous Flames, the group signed with King Records and within a few months had released their first top 10 hit, "Please, Please, Please." Among his many hits were "I Got You (I Feel Good)" and "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag," which earned him a Grammy in 1965. He won a second Grammy in 1987 for "Living In America" and was awarded a lifetime achievement Grammy in 1992. In recognition of his influence on rock and roll, Brown was part of the inaugural class of inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, alongside Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry.
Gerald R. Ford, the 38th President of the United States, died on December 26 at the age of 93. History will show that he was the only man to hold both the office of vice president and president without being elected to them. Born Leslie King, Jr in Omaha, Nebraska on July 14, 1913, his parents divorced two years later. His mother, Dorothy, moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan and married Gerald R. Ford. He was renamed for his stepfather. A top athlete in high school, Ford earned a football scholarship to the University of Michigan, where he played center on their two undefeated, national championship teams. In 1935, he accepted a position as an assistant football coach at Yale, where he also attended law school. In 1941 he returned to Grand Rapids to practice law. The next year Ford entered the US Navy, where he served on the aircraft carrier USS Monterey. He returned to Grand Rapids in 1946 after having reached the rank of lieutenant commander. In 1948, while campaigning for Congress, Ford married Elizabeth Anne Bloomer. Ford won the election and served 13 terms in the house. Following the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963, Ford was appointed by President Johnson to the Warren Commission. When Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned in October 1973 due to pending income tax problems, Ford was nominated by President Nixon to replace him. He was sworn in on December 6, 1973. On August 9, 1974, Nixon resigned under the pressure of the ongoing Watergate investigation and Ford was sworn in as the 38th President of the United States. A month later, Ford granted Nixon an absolute pardon. While looking back now the pardon seems to have been the right thing to do, it is thought that it cost Ford the 1976 election to Jimmy Carter, who won by less then two million votes. In September 1975, Ford survived two assassination attempts, one by Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme in Sacramento and the other, 17 days later, by Sara Jane Moore in San Francisco. Fromme pointed a gun at Ford but didn't fire. Moore did fire one shot but missed.
Mike Evans, best known as son Lionel on television's "The Jeffersons," passed away on December 14 at the age of 57. No cause of death was given. While appearing on "The Jeffersons," Evans teamed with friend Eric Monte to create the show "Good Times," which was one of the first shows on television to feature an almost exclusively black cast.
Dennis Linde, songwriter who wrote for some of country's biggest stars, died last Friday in Nashville. He was 63. His country hits included "Calling Baton Rouge" for Garth Brooks and "Goodbye Earl" for the Dixie Chicks. He also wrote songs for Alan Jackson and Sammy Kershaw. He scored a hit on the pop charts with Elvis Presely's "Burning Love."

TOP 10 MOVIE LINES
Here, in no particular order, are my favorite lines from the past year in cinema:

"Enough is enough! I've had it with these mother fucking snakes on this mother fucking plane!"
Neville Flynn (Samuel L. Jackson) - "Snakes on a Plane."

"You wrote that the world doesn't need a savior but everyday I hear people crying for one."
Superman (Brandon Routh) to Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) - "Superman Returns"

"Please, God, don't let there be a "Jackass 3."
A very bruised and battered Bam Margera - "Jackass 2"

"Hakuna Mutata, bitches!"
Jean Girard (Sacha Baron Cohen) - "Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby"

"I wish I knew how to quit you."
Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) - "Brokeback Mountain"

"Now the whole world will know you died scratching my balls!"
James Bond (Daniel Craig) - "Casino Royale"

"May George Bush drink the blood of every man, woman and child in Iraq."
Borat (Sacha Baron Cohen) - "Borat"

"Just a minute, I hear people wanting something...ME!"
Ramon the Penguin (Robin Williams) - "Happy Feet"

"I can say what I want. I've still got Nazi bullets in my ass!"
Grandpa (Alan Arkin) - "Little Miss Sunshine"

What? You haven't peaked yet?
Paulie (Burt Young) - "Rocky Balboa"

NEXT YEAR
After much thought, I have decided to devote next years series to some of my favorite performers. But rather then feature the big stars I plan to concentrate on those that maybe you aren't too familiar with. I'll begin next week with an actor who left us far too early, Tim McIntire. Which takes us to...


MY FAVORITE FILMS - CHAPTER 52
DIE HARD
Starring: Bruce Willis, Reginald VelJohnson, Bonnie Bedelia and Alan Rickman
Directed by: John McTiernan

FIRST SEEN: Columbia Palace 9, Columbia, Maryland
FAVORITE LINE: "Yippy ki-yay, Mother Fucker!"
FAVORITE SCENE: Adios, Hans...
AWARDS:

  • Academy Award nominations for Best Sound Effects Editing, Best Visual Effects, Best Film Editing and Best Sound.

    In 1987, Hollywood reeled at the news that 20th Century Fox had signed television actor Bruce Willis to star in a feature film for an unheard of $5 million. Willis, currently hot because of his role of David Addison on "Moonlighting," had appeared in two earlier films, "Blind Date" and "Sunset," which had done only nominal business. That Fox had invested that much money into Willis was joked about for months until the film he signed for was released. That film was "Die Hard."

    It's the holiday season. New York detective John McClane has just arrived in Los Angeles to spend Christmas with his wife and family. He heads to his wife's office, which is located in the newly built Nakatomi Building. Given a place to change his clothes, McClane soon discovers that all is not well. And so it begins.

    "Die Hard" is one of the most influential films in recent memory. The concept of one man against great odds was perfected here and carried over to other projects. "Speed" is basically "Die Hard" on a bus. "Under Siege" is "Die Hard" on a boat. Get the point? The film is filled with explosions and enough gunfire to make Charlton Heston smile. Part of the reason for the success of the film was the cast. No one plays "smirky" like Willis and that reputation was cemented here. Whether sarcastically replying "Glass?" to a big wig on the ground or informing him that he "wasn't the one who just got butt fucked on national t v," Willis gives the film an edge that it wouldn't have if you didn't find his character so believeable. John McClane is a man who believes in what he does and the possibility that he could fail never occurs to him. Cast as main bad guy Hans Gruber, Alan Rickman makes an impressive American film debut. All slick and smooth, Hans can charm people with the rest of them. However, make him mad and he slips into an evil monster who has no problem killing people. The rest of the cast is just as good. Bonnie Bedelia is strong as McClane's wife, Holly while VelJohnson is a cop that draws the assignment of his career. William Atherton gives journalism a bad names as TV reporter Dick Thornburg, a newsman who will do anything to make the news. With only two films to his credit ("Nomads" and "Predator"), McTiernan redeveloped the action film with "Die Hard." He found a way to make the audience part of the action, almost making them an extension of McClane. When McClane is hanging on a fire hose 80 stories above the ground, the audience is hanging with him, kicking along with him as he tries to break a window. He even managed to spoof his talents later with the over the top film "Last Action Hero."

    "Die Hard" went on to make $81 million, making Fox's investment in Willis look like a steal. Willis made two more appearances as McClane in "Die Hard 2: Die Harder" and "Die Hard: With A Vengeance" and is currently filming a fourth film, "Live Free or Die Hard." 20 years later when there is trouble afoot, it's nice to know that John McClane is still around.

    Well, that's it for this week AND this year. Please have a safe and Happy New Year. See ya!



    "Mike's Rant" is ©2006 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 ©2006 by Nolan B. Canova.