Friday, March 29, 2013

Lowcountry Bribe by C. Hope Clark

LOWCOUNTRY BRIBE by C. Hope Clark has the best opening line I have read in quite some time: "O-positive primer wasn't quite the color I had in mind for the small office, but Lucas Sherwood hadn't given the décor a second thought when he blew out the left side of his head with a .45." I was hooked.

Hope's descriptions don't end with that beautiful Tarantino-esque opening. In what sounds at first like the last thing I would ever read - an agricultural mystery in the Deep South - Hope delivers fast paced, easy reading, absolutely compelling prose. Her sense of place and people put you there, and the tension and twists don't let you put the book down. I read it in one sitting, and I don't do that often. I loved the characters, and the edge. And this is coming from someone for whom mysteries are just not in the wheelhouse.

Carolina Slade Bridges is a strong female protagonist, a good woman drawn from equal parts Dashiell Hammett, Patricia Cornwell, and Elmore Leonard. She's tough, she's harsh, she's by the book, and quite often, she's Hope Clark herself - or at least the woman, mentor, and friend I have come to know after a decade of interviewing her at The Writer's Chatroom. It's no secret the book is loosely based on real events, but how close, no one's talking. Any way you slice it, Slade (don't call her Carolina) rocks, and I can't wait for the next installment - TIDEWATER MURDER, due next month. Four stars out of four, highly recommended.

Buy the book here, and be sure to come by The Writer's Chatroom this Sunday evening for a chat/interview with the author.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Eurovision 2013 - More from the First Semi-Final

Denmark - "Only Teardrops" by Emmelie de Forest

Hmmm… someone needs a new conditioner. Seriously, this one is a contender. Catchy tune, part ballad, lotsa drums, traditional flute, and a beautiful woman, and not too outrageous - if there was a formula for Eurovision, this would be it.

Estonia - "Et Uus Saaks Alguse" by Birgit

Estonia is usually a fierce competitor, but this year we just get a ballad.

Ireland - "Only Love Survives" by Ryan Dolan

No Jedward or Dustin the Turkey this year, Ireland gets a bit more serious about the competition with this Ryan Dolan entry that continues to grow on me every time I hear it.

Lithuania - "Something" by Andrius Pojavis

I'm not sure which is more bizarre, the background dancers, or the Abraham Lincoln drag… craziness in the Eurovision tradition, love it.

Moldova - "O Mie" by Aliona Moon

Wow, that is some outfit, and a lot of hairspray… pretty song though.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

House of Cards

I'm about a month late to the party on this one, but there's still time for the rest of us. This fabulous Netflix exclusive TV series starring Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright, and Kate Mara, is probably the best thing I've seen outside of pay cable in a while. And that's probably the coolest thing about it - it's not cable at all - it's only available on Netflix. Welcome to the future.

"House of Cards" is based on the book(s) by Michael Dobbs, and the BBC miniseries that followed by Andrew Davies. Originally set in British Parliament, show developer and producer Beau Willimon adapted the concept to Washington DC and the US Capitol for American viewers. Spacey is an ambitious Congressman manipulating his way to the top with almost demonic precision and sly fourth wall breaking asides to the viewers at home. There are Emmy caliber performances by all involved, but I wonder if it will be eligible for the Emmys?

Netflix, observing viewing habits and trying to keep ahead or at least abreast of cutting edge technology, has gone into the entertainment business, creating their own shows. Seeing that many folks will watch an entire series at once, sometimes a season at a time - a practice called 'stripping,' Netflix created shows meant to adapt to that. In that spirit, the entire first season of "House of Cards" was released all at once on February 1st.

The compelling characters, I tense stories, and terrific performances will keep you coming back episode after episode. It also has the likes of David Fincher, James Foley, and Joel Schumacher in the director's chair.  This is a series worthy of HBO, Showtime, or AMC, yeah, it's that good. I highly recommend it. I just don't know what I'll be doing until season two comes out...

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Eurovision 2013 - Five from the First Semi-Final

Austria - "Shine!" by Natália Kelly

"Shine!" has a slow build, but it's got more energy than the usual Eurovision entry. I like this one, and in a year with so many beautiful and sexy women competing, Natália Kelly is no slouch.

Belarus - "Solayoh" by Alyona Lanskaya

Go, Belarus, pretty girls, drums, and dancing is what Eurovision is all about. Another strong entry - what did I say about this being a good year?

Belgium - "Love Kills" by Roberto

Not a happy song, but the music is upbeat, and he's cute.

Croatia - "Mižerja" by Klapa s Mora

Sort of a man band as opposed to a boy band. Zzzzz…

Cyprus - "An Me Thimase" by Despina Olympiou

I was surprised to see Cyprus competing this year, considering that nation's financial problems. Most likely, if they win, they would not be able to host the following year. Although, it's just another Eurovision ballad with little to differentiate it from the rest - I don't think they have to worry about winning…

You can see all the Eurovision entries for 2013 here.

The Hatchet Man

The Hatchet Man ~ This 1932 Warner Bros. classic, from the heart of the pre-code gangster era, has an all star cast - Edward G. Robinson and Loretta Young in the leads, along with J. Carroll Naish and a pre-Ming the Merciless Charles Middleton. In fact, it may have been his performance here in Asian make-up that won him the villainous role in the "Flash Gordon" serials.

Even with the terrific cast, a script based on the popular play The Honorable Mr. Wong, and the brilliant direction of William Wellman, there is much to shame this film by today's standards. Besides the non-code depictions of narcotics and adultery, the politically incorrect use if the word Oriental, and violence typical of this era, there's the fact that this is the equivalent of an Asian minstrel show - the majority of the actors are whites portraying Asians.

Nevertheless, the direction and performance of the cast are exemplary. Loretta Young shines through her make-up, and we see both the hard side and the little seen soft side of Robinson. Edward G. plays the 'hatchet man,' the fist of justice among the tongs in Chinatown, San Francisco. While some of it is misperception, much is a tale of the old ways giving way to the new world.

When the tongs go to war, it's not like a John Woo or Ringo Lam flick, but it does match up to the gangster films of its day, and you do get to see some fancy hatchet work. If you can get past the make-up and the stereotypes, this one's worth watching.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Arrow: The Huntress Returns

I am sure that I've mentioned several times what not-a-fan I am of Jessica De Gouw, so I guess you all know how I feel about her character's return to "Arrow." I must admit to being puzzled by this episode's title, because, even though most comics fans know that Helena Bertinelli is the Huntress, they have never yet called her that on the show. At least Oliver was referenced as Green Arrow once, even if it was a throwaway comment.

In the opening sequence, Helena corners her gangster father's lawyer in a strip club. She's looking for her father who's in an FBI safe house. In a nice touch, Helena is wearing a pseudo-stripper costume quite similar to one of the costumes the Huntress wore in the comics. And of course, she still has her crossbow. And like former flame Oliver, her taste for blood.

Filed under subplots and soap opera, Laurel's mom, played by genre favorite Alex Kingston, is back in town after a long absence, and she insists that her dead daughter, and guilt foundation for Oliver, Sarah, is still alive. Quentin, over-reactionary as always, isn't buying it.

Also in that folder, Oliver's club is about to open, and he's getting more than serious about McKenna, sounds like the perfect time for psycho ex-girlfriend vigilantes to come calling. Oh yeah, and Mia ran into Roy again, and tried to get him employed at the club. Is there a romance between the two potential Speedies brewing? It's funny, but they'd be perfect for each other. They like all the same stuff...

Helena is in town to kill her dad. Apparently he cut a deal and will be getting a new identity. She drops in on Oliver just as he starts looking for her. She says she needs his help to get her father, as she can't do it alone. Helena as a character here on "Arrow" is certainly unstable, and sadly Jessica De Gouw's acting has not improved. Remarkably, she's become even less likable now. Appropriately, Oliver and Diggle are treating her as a villain.

Tommy is having a bad day. He's on the outs with Oliver cuz he can't trust him any more. Helena beat the crap out if him. And Laurel has called it quits cuz he can't be honest with her. Whereas at first I thought that Tommy becomes Merlyn the Magician, now I'm thinking perhaps his death is what cements the enmity between Arrow and Merlyn. Thoughts? Let's face it, no matter what happens, Tommy is no Jimmy Olsen.

Nice touches this episode include the name of Oliver's club (Verdant means green), Roy Harper being afraid of needles, the shout out to Coast City, and of course the all too short cameo of DJ Steve Aoki. And at last, somebody (Quentin Lance in this case) finally calls Helena the Huntress. Finally also, spoilers for those who haven't seen the episode yet, but I'm gonna miss McKenna a lot.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

James Herbert 1943-2013

Stephen King may have always been the king of horror since his emergence in the mid-seventies, but for a while at the same time, there was one man who outsold King in horror in the UK. I discovered James Herbert around 1980, and found him to be a suitable rival to King. Where King took his time, Herbert seemed to go right for the jugular. He was a similar writer but with a more canny sense of the horrific and the repulsive - a true master of the genre.

His books, The Fog (unrelated to the James Carpenter film), The Rats and its sequels, and especially The Dark were early influences on my writing just as much as King in that genre. He was extremely prolific, pumping out a book a year during the 1980s and slowing down as the years went on.

Author James Herbert passed away yesterday at the age of 69. The man will be missed, but his work will live on. If you're a fan of King, I urge you to seek out Herbert's books, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised, and horrified.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Duck and Cover

Duck and Cover ~ Everyone knows about the classic civil defense film from 1951, but how many of us have actually seen it? I admit that while I have seen huge chunks of this thirty-two minute documentary, I don't think I had seen it in its entirety until recently.

At the beginning of the Cold War, our greatest fear was nuclear attack from the Russians. This was a short subject shown in theaters to teach folks what to do in case the unthinkable happened - they dropped The Atomic Bomb. Talk about hysteria! They'd never do anything like today, it might upset someone's sensibilities. Thank goodness for political correctness. Sarcasm mode off.

It's got some great animation with Bert the Turtle, a very cautious (and very hysterically paranoid) fellow very good at ducking and covering. Very good at it, because, well, he's a turtle. The thrust is if you heard the air raid sirens, you should duck and cover. This film urged school kids to crawl under their desks and cover their heads in case of attack. We did know what atomic bombs were capable of, right? That's not going to keep anyone from being vaporized.

This instructional film is definitely a product of its time, so filled with paranoia and hysteria that it probably was a self-fulfilling prophecy, causing as much paranoia and hysteria as it itself was filled with. Probably the scariest thing for me was how scared the kids in this film looked. Both an entertaining and frightening time capsule.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Bates Motel

I've never been big on secret origins, except when they are shorter than a sentence or two or a minute or two. Just tell us what we need to know about the character or the situation and start the story. As a matter of fact, one writer rule states that you should always start in the middle of the story - beginnings are for suckers. Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 Psycho is a near perfect classic of the horror thriller genre, did we really need an ongoing prequel TV series? Why do we need A&E's "Bates Motel"?

While it might not be the first to do such, I do blame "Smallville." It's the story of Superman, before he was Superman. If you're a comics person, your first instinct is probably Superboy, and that's really the problem with "Smallville." All of the names are the same, but nothing else is. "Smallville" bears very little resemblance to Superboy. In the series, there is no Superboy, we see the looong journey of Clark Kent growing to manhood, and in the last moments of the last episode of the series, he finally becomes Superman. Over a decade later. Yeah, that long. And the whole time, all you really want from this show is to see him as Superman.

And that is why I hate secret origins, especially when they disguise themselves as ongoing TV series. I have to wonder, is that what "Bates Motel" will be like? Will we be waiting forever for our young protagonist Norman Bates to begin showing signs of the sociopath he is by the time the events of Psycho roll around? Will it take a decade?

The other obstacle (or perhaps it's a good thing, for the new show at least) is the many folks who are watching who have no point of reference for Norman Bates. I know it's hard to believe, but it's a factor. After all, believe it or not, there were teenagers watching "Smallville" who didn't get the Superman (or Superboy) references and thought it was just a cross between "The X-Files" and "Beverly Hills 90210." Certainly that worked. Half the audience was there for the soap opera, and half for the pseudo-superhero stuff. Perhaps "Bates Motel" might just work as a show about a gawky kid with a overbearing mother who run a creepy motel, period.

"Bates Motel" is set present day, we begin with Norman's dad dead, and Mom rushing them away to start over again, a habit she seems to have. The two are a little bit too close, and Vera Farmiga is just as overbearing as Norma Bates, as Freddie Highmore is creepy as young Norman. She's a bit too pretty for my tastes, even as a young Norma Bates, but her paranoid craziness fills out the rest of her character well.

On their latest 'start over,' they buy an old motel foreclosed on by the bank. When a even creepier neighbor starts to harass them because the motel and property had been in his family for decades, well, things escalate. He breaks in, rapes Norma, and Norman saves her, after which Mom finishes the job, killing the attacker. Don't call the police, we'll cover this up ourselves is Norma's battle cry. We kinda start to get the vibe maybe Dad's death wasn't quite what it seemed.

As creepy as the killer and the collaborator are, Nestor Carbonell is even scarier as Sheriff Alex Romero. If you locked me in a room with the three of them, he's the one I'd be most scared of. There are some genuinely chilling moments here, as well as some "90120" caliber teenage soap moments. There's also a cliffhanger that is very tempting to keep me watching, but I have to wonder, will this drag on forever and take a decade to get to the point, or will it surprise me. We'll just have to wait and see.

For a different view, be sure to check out my friend and fellow writer Marie Gilbert's review over at Biff Bam Pop!.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Paul Williams Still Alive

Paul Williams Still Alive ~ I saw this great little documentary on Showtime one night when I couldn't get to sleep, and I'm glad I did. I remember Paul Williams. He was everywhere in the 1970s on TV and movies. I knew he was a singer, and more importantly, a songwriter. A serious songwriter. If you listened to the radio in the early seventies, you heard dozens of Paul Williams songs. In a way, he was the seventies.

What immediately pulled me in about this documentary was that the narrator seems to think that as well. As a matter of fact, his perspective and sense of time and space were mine. That commonality made this doc somehow more personal.

By the time the documentarian is actually accepted by Paul Williams, I was hooked and in for the whole ride. Really I would have watched anything at this point, but man, what a treat that it was really good. Writer/director Stephen Kessler is that good, I would have watched a doc about squid if that's what it became.

The actual doc subject however is Paul Williams. The thing is, this isn't just a bio of an amazing songwriter, singer, and pop culture icon - it's also a tale of his fall and redemption. At the time if this doc, Williams was not only on tour, but also twenty years sober and a licensed drug rehab counselor. And it's also the story of the friendship between the filmmaker and his subject.

Whether you watch it as a Paul Williams fan, as a time capsule of the 1970s, or just as a darned good documentary, Paul Williams Still Alive is definitely worth watching. Check it out.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Avengers on Biff Bam Pop!

For more than a decade I wrote monthly reviews of the current Avengers title from Marvel Comics at the Avengers Forever website. When that site closed up a few years ago, it left a void in my life as well as in the lives in many of the folks who hung out there. A version of Avengers Forever does exist on the Facebook here, but it's just not the same.

This month at the Biff Bam Pop! pop culture website, it's Mighty Marvel Month, and to celebrate, I have jumped back onto the Avengers bandwagon with a vengeance.

Here's just a sampling of what you'll find:

Avengers NOW!, an overview of the Avengers franchise in the Marvel NOW! era.

Age of Ultron: Book One and Age of Ultron: Book Two, writer Brian Michael Bendis' final storyline for Earth's Mightiest Heroes as their greatest enemy finally wins and takes the Earth.

Avengers Assemble Annual #1, a special spotlight on classic Avenger, the Vision, and his return to greatness.

Avengers #7, and how the New Universe fits into writer Jonathan Hickman's plans for his eighteen member roster of Avengers.

And finally, there's the new trailer for Iron Man 3 right here.

It has felt very good getting back into the driver's seat. If you're not into the Avengers, or comics, you could also check out my reviews of the latest albums from Adam Ant and David Bowie, and of course, you can find all of my Biff Bam Pop! work here!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Soap Revival

We have talked now and then here at Welcome to Hell about the death of the soap opera. It is simply a genre and a style of television that has seen better days, and perhaps a lost audience. However, sometimes, I get proved wrong.

Just a few day ago verification of rumors popped up with the announcement that "All My Children" and "One Life to Live" were coming back. Maybe not to their traditional ABC afternoon time slots, but to the internet. Beginning April 29th, at 12 PM, new half-hour episodes of "All My Children" will be available on iTunes, on Hulu, and on Prospect Park's The Online Network.

Welcome back!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Going Overboard

Going Overboard ~ I used to use Adam Sandler as a litmus test for how bad a movie was. I really hated his early work that much. This flick is his earliest, his first, and the one that Adam Sandler wants you to forget. I really don't blame him.

Sandler is a gawky cruise ship waiter with a bad jewfro who wants to be the ship's comedian after the real one drops dead. His routine is that of a bad Catskills comic from the sixties, and he acts like a whiny and unfunny Jerry Lewis clone when off stage.

Billy Zane, Milton Berle, Terry Moore and in an early cameo, Billy Bob Thornton all embarrass themselves in this mess that was filmed entirely on a cruise ship, with the wrong lenses. Thankfully for them, and unluckily for me, Sandler and Burt Young are on the screen the most. The 'heavy metal' band, I think called Croaker, that sings "I'm gonna slap your cat, upside his head" is probably the only real laugh in the whole movie.

Wow, this sucked. Now I remember why I hated Adam Sandler so much years ago.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Why "Avengers Earth's Mightiest Heroes" Was Canceled

I have written at length elsewhere about why and how much I love the latest animated incarnation of Marvel Comics' the Avengers on Disney XD - "The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes."

Much like the comics they were based on, Disney took great care to create and build a continuity and a universe around the characters. They even started before the show even got on the air officially with mini-episodes, detailing the solo pre-Avengers careers of the Avengers, and giving viewers new to the Marvel Universe a taste of how things started and fit together. It was actually a quick short-form, but orchestrated, version of how Paul Dini and Bruce Timm slowly built the DC Animated Universe from its beginnings in "Batman The Animated Series" until it blossomed in the last version seen in "Justice League Unlimited."

In Marvel and Disney's case, we had small vignettes that introduced us to Ant-Man, Captain America, Thor, the Hulk, and Iron Man (and their various villains as well). The last one there was based solidly on Marvel's Cinematic Universe, and the others more comic book versions shoehorned into that world. This was a good thing, making the show accessible, as many new viewers felt like they were coming in on the ground floor. And while the events seemed a bit out of order in places, most things were pretty accurate to the comics, more so than any other comics-to-TV project previous to this.

I loved this series, and now it's over. The word is it was shut down because it did not fit in with the continuity Jeph Loeb had set up with his later "Ultimate Spider-Man" cartoon. He had a mad Hulk, a teenage Power Man and Iron Fist, and other bits like that. Have I mentioned how much I hate the "Ultimate Spider-Man" cartoon? It has its merits, don't get me wrong, but it has more wrong with it than right with it. And maybe I'm just old, but the anime and videogame references annoy me.

So a silly teenaged version of the characters, or one based on the movies and the comics - guess which one gets jettisoned? Bingo, goodbye, "Earth's Mightiest Heroes." Mainly because one old man wants all the animated series under his hat to match? Yep, that's why. Do "Mike and Molly" and "The Big Bang Theory" exist in the same universe, and have to adhere to the same continuity rules? No, but if Loeb was in charge, they'd have to.

This is probably a good time to mention while Loeb has done some good work, like "Hush" and "The Long Halloween," he is also responsible for ruining "Heroes," The Ultimates, Superman, and the Challengers of the Unknown. And while he wrote Teen Wolf, any good will there was erased by Teen Wolf Too, which he also penned.

The new replacement series, "Avengers Assemble," might be a continuation of the "Earth's Mightiest Heroes," and then again, it might not. The voice cast is different, and it features new member, the Falcon, joining a team composed of the heroes from the 2012 hit movie, Marvel's The Avengers. Who wants to take bets that Hawkeye will be in his drab, unexciting, movie uniform? You'd win.

"Avengers Assemble" gets a sneak preview on Disney XD on May 26th, and then premieres in its regular time slot on July 7th. I will withhold my opinion until it airs, but I'm betting there's no way it can be as good, as one of the best superhero cartoons ever made - "Avengers Earth's Mightiest Heroes." It certainly can't be worse than "Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H." Don't even ask...

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Eurovision 2013 UK

It's that time of year again - Eurovision is coming. The United Kingdom just announced that Bonnie Tyler, of "Total Eclipse of the Heart," will represent them at Eurovision this year.

The song is "Believe in Me," and it's not bad. Hopefully it will be good for more than two points this year.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Arrow: Dead to Rights

Didn't Deadshot take an arrow to the eye rather nastily waaay back in the third episode? Well, he's back. How exactly does one live through something like that anyway?

The episode begins with a bang. Guillermo Barrera, known to comics fans as Nightwing villain, the knife wielding Brutale, shows up in Starling City via helicopter only to be immediately confronted by The Hood. He's got his knives but no costume or bad guy codename. Maybe that's why he lasts less than a minute with our 'hero' before he takes an arrow in the chest.

More scenes with Tommy and Laurel interacting with Oliver and a date, in this case, McKenna - it works out better this time, even though Tommy's dad AKA Merlyn the Magician AKA Captain Jack shows up to spoil the fun. There's also a great bit where Laurel shows McKenna a photo of her sister as a little girl... with a black canary. Other shout outs to the comics this episode include Deadshot living at the Bludhaven apartments, and of course... the first appearance of Riversong herself, Alex Kingston, as Laurel's mom, Dinah Lance.

There are also some nice moments with Oliver and Tommy as they celebrate the latter's birthday at a Chinese restaurant (a front fir the Tongs, but that's beside the point). For once we get a real sense of why they are friends, and also why Tommy always seems to be at the Queens' home. It's all blown to hell when Tommy finds out Oliver's big secret. I really wonder where they're going with this character, is he being groomed to become the next Merlyn the Magician? Or simply a casualty in the war between The Hood and the Dark Archer?

Last episode Moira hired China White to kill Merlyn, and this time, it seems that she's farming that work out to Deadshot. Not dead, but blind, however she provides him with a vision boost eyesight that more properly resembles his comic book appearance. And China White sure can kick ass in an evening gown and heels. Go, Kelly Hu!

Back on the island, Slade and Oliver continue their Odd Couple routine, get a radio working and learn more about Fyers' Odyssey obsession. Next time on "Arrow, " three weeks from now, why does the Huntress return (groan), did Malcolm Merlyn meet Ras al Ghul in Nanda Parbat, and who doesn't know Oliver is the vigilante?

Monday, March 04, 2013

Jack the Giant Slayer

Jack the Giant Slayer ~ Fairy tales are hot in Hollywood right now. Whether it's the two Snow White flicks last year, Hansel and Gretel with guns a few weeks back, or the hit TV series "Grimm" and "Once Upon a Time," or even the Fables comic books - fairy tales are big business. Now it's Jack's turn.

This weekend, The Bride and I saw Jack the Giant Slayer at the fabulously remodeled AMC Marlton 8 Theatre, and it wasn't just the great reclining lounger seats that made for a great movie experience - the flick was pretty good too. The big budget CGI send up of the 'Jack and the Beanstalk' story had adventure, horror, romance, and even comedy. I might go so far as to say it reminded me a bit of The Princess Bride. Now let me be clear, it's no Princess Bride, but it had all the hallmarks.

Bryan Singer's take on 'Jack and the Beanstalk' is filled with CGI giants all in need of serious dental care and repair, and a fabulous cast of character actors. Ian McShane from "Deadwood" is excellent as the King, and Ewan McGregor as the protagonist who's not the hero of this story is terrific. However, the leads are only adequate and the actors behind the CGI giants are pretty much unrecognizable. This doesn't stop the flick from being enjoyable, despite the story's simplicity and predictability. There are surprises, and that helps.

This is a great popcorn flick, moves quickly, never bores, and was the perfect film to test out a terrific new theater. Thumbs up all around.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

The New AMC Marlton 8 Movie Theatre

I admit I was a bit hesitant when I heard the plan. The AMC Marlton Movie Theatre was going to jettison hundreds of seats in order to install new reclining loungers. I thought it was the last gasp of an already dying, perhaps on its last gasp, local theater. My friends and I called it literally 'the dead theater.' There was never anyone there, you always got a parking spot in front, and when the news came that they had finally closed, no one would be surprised. Not in the least.

Allow me to swallow those words.

Twenty, thirty years ago, the Marlton 8 as we called it, because it had a multiplex of eight theaters, a novelty at the time, was the happening place to be on the weekend. It was the place to be seen, and the place to see all the latest movies. Every date happened here. Welcome to the 1980s. Die Hard, The Breakfast Club, Amadeus, Batman, Weird Science, Robocop, Dirty Dancing, even Silence of the Lambs, I saw them here, and so did everyone else I knew.

There was a time, with the T.G.I.Fridays and the long forgotten ice cream parlor in the strip mall, every parking spot was taken and police had to direct traffic within the shopping center, sometimes blocking areas off to kids and other foot traffic. Three months ago, and as far back as maybe a decade ago however, the place was a ghost town. Business had moved elsewhere, into Voorhees with the Ritz, now Rave, and into Cherry Hill with the airport terminal sized and customer unfriendly AMC Loews with a whopping twenty-four theaters.

This weekend, The Bride and I had date night, On the Border for dinner and then Jack the Giant Slayer for movie. As this was the first week the Marlton renovation was complete, we chose there. I was stunned when we pulled into the nearly full parking lot. This was the Marlton 8 of old. Things got better as we went inside.

The lobby got a nice repaint and remodel as well. The refreshment area is a bit different too. Besides new menu items like chicken fingers, chicken sliders, pizza, and oh yes, French fries, there were also two Coca-Cola Freestyle machines. Color me impressed.

We did have to wait a while for them to clean the theater before we could go in and sit. I'm thinking it takes more time to clean individual seats than it did previously to just do a quick sweep. The line of impatient folks waiting to get in were not so understanding. I guess no matter how nice a theater is, there will still be jackasses who complain, and talk during the movie, use their cellphones, and bring toddlers to 10 PM showtimes - no way around it. Damn mankind, we're doomed.

The new seats are incredible, reclining loungers that come in pairs where can pull up the arm between them and cuddle. They also come with three cup holders each and touch controls to go up and down. Sooo nice. I did notice the theater's current occupancy was now 115 where it used to be between 200 and 300.

This is an incredible risk for the theater financially, especially when you consider we paid a very reasonable price for two prime time 3D tickets, nearly a third less than we would have paid at the Rave or Loews. I hope it succeeds.

I loved this movie experience. I have a new favorite theater. I can't wait to go back.

Friday, March 01, 2013

RIP Bonnie Franklin

The first time I watched "One Day at a Time," I didn't get it. Maybe it was because it was a more female focused show, or maybe because its themes were just a little bit above my head. It was a different kind of Norman Lear show.

Bonnie Franklin, former Tony Award winning Broadway star played the divorced mom raising her two teenaged daughters alone with occasional help from her building's super. It later got and held my attention a couple years later when my hormones refocused on a budding Valerie Bertinelli as one of the daughters.

"One Day at a Time" had a tumultuous nine year run filled with behind the scenes turmoil, but Bonnie Franklin stood tall through it all, winning multiple awards including the Emmy and the Golden Globe. Her portrayal of a single mom was a pioneering role of the time. Since then she has appeared rarely on television, her most recent gig was in an episode of Betty White's "Hot in Cleveland."

Bonnie Franklin passed away this afternoon at her home in Los Angeles from complications of pancreatic cancer. She was 69. She will be missed.