Sunday, March 23, 2014

Ten underrated, obscure movie songs

“For Always” (2001) from “A.I. Artificial Intellignce”
Music by John Williams
Lyrics by Cynthia Weil
Steven Spielberg channels his inner Kubrick in this deeply affecting film—a criminally underrated masterwork. The bearded one is at his absolute best as he boldly takes his artistry to a whole new level—as does his long-time musical collaborator John Williams. “For Always” is an exquisite song rendition of John William’s haunting, melancholy theme from the movie—not really so much of a love theme—but a heart-breaking longing theme as the film’s protagonist David embarks on epic search to find all the matters to him, his mother’s love.
“The Dream Within” (2001) from “Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within”
Written by Elliot Goldenthal and Dick Rudolph
Performed by Lara Fabian
2001 was quite the year for outstanding Lara Fabian vocal performances in relatively unknown movie soundtrack songs with haunting melodies. Another superb soundtrack song from a master composer—this time Elliot Goldenthal. “Final Fantasy” is somewhat of a mixed bag as a film experience—the technology of rendering motion captured regular people just wasn’t quite there yet to overcome the creepy factor. But wow, what a soundtrack. Goldenthal’s epic score for “Final Fantasy” is in the same league as Howard Shore’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy—truly epic.
"A Dream Worth Keeping" (1992) from “Ferngully: The Last Rainforest”
Written by Jimmy Webb and Alan Silvestri
Produced by David Foster
Performed by Sheena Easton
“Ferngully” had the misfortune of opening during the early years of the Disney animation renaissance. A misfortune because this is a 20th Century Fox film and at the time Fox had no idea had to properly market this underrated gem—a gorgeous, magical film with a powerful bittersweet story. It is every bit as good as the Disney masterworks of the era—as is this song—a pitch perfect emotional ballad sung with bravado and heart by Sheena Easton.
If you are fan of James Cameron’s “Avatar”, then you will love “Ferngully”.
Written and performed by Frank Stallone.

The consensus is that the reviled “Staying Alive” is an epic bomb and one of the worst films ever made. Well, the consensus is dead wrong. This much maligned “Saturday Night Fever” sequel is wonderful, melodramatic, irresistible pop entertainment anchored by a charismatic cast and a terrific soundtrack featuring the Bee Gees again, as well as director Sly Stallone’s crooner brother Frank. The original was true ‘70s cinema—a bold, realistic drama with an art film sensibly. “Staying Alive” is very much a product of the ‘80s—glossy music video styled junk. But like “Flashdance” and “Footloose”, it is really good junk.
This exciting piece of ‘80s pop music is all but forgotten today, but this tune actually did get a substantial amount of airplay in the summer of 1983 and the song received an Academy Award Nomination for Best Original Song.
“I'm Never Gonna Give You Up” (1983) from “Staying Alive”
Written by Frank Stallone, Vince DiCola and Joe Esposito
Performed by Frank Stallone and Cynthia Rhodes
A great ballad from the above mentioned guilty pleasure. One of the pleasures of “Staying Alive” is Cynthia Rhodes. Not only is she a great dancer, but as this ballad showcases, a pretty good singer too. She even showed she could play an action hero a year later when she co-starred with Tom Selleck in Michael Crichton’s “Runaway”. She had such a warm on-screen presence. Too bad the talented actress did not make more films.
“Cindy” (1970) from “Cindy and Donna”Now on to the obscure part of this article’s headline. “Cindy and Donna” is a glorious, kitschy—and surprisingly effective—sexploitation film from the glorious grindhouse days. About the only the place this movie can still be seen is on the “Drive-In Cult Classics” movie collection—a bargain to purchase and a must own for serious film buffs and retro pop culture fans. The far out ballad that plays over the opening credits is an irresistible guilty pleasure that screams 1970. Unfortunately nowhere in the film’s credits does it give any information about who wrote or performed this song, but I am guessing the movie’s composer Robert O. Ragland at least wrote the music.
“I Want To Spend My Lifetime Loving You” (1998) from “The Mask of Zorro”
Music by James Horner
Lyrics by Will Jennings
Produced by Jim Stenman
Performed by Marc Anthony and Tina Arena
Granted this song is not obscure, but it really only got noticed in Europe back in 1998 and has been all but forgotten since. It is a wonderful, energetic love theme and a perfect complement to James Horner’s sensational score. The music from “The Mask of Zorro” is exciting stuff—powerful, fluid, suspenseful, emotional, vertical, and always light in its feet. One of the best adventure soundtracks of all time.
"Listen to the Wind" (2005) from “The New World”
Written by James Horner and Glen Ballard
Performed by Hayley Westenra
Another knockout piece of musical magic from James Horner. A beautiful, soaring, meditative, moving song exquisitely performed by Haley Westrena. Horner’s soundtrack—as well as this film can be seen as an “Avatar” precursor and this song a prequel to the Leona Lewis performed “I See You”.
"Rejoice in the Sun" (1972) from “Silent Running”
Written by Peter Schickele and Diane Lampert
Performed by Joan Baez
When I took a science fiction class in college the professor screened two films for the class—“Blade Runner” and “Silent Running”. Arguably one of the three or four greatest science fiction movies of all time, “Silent Running” is a filmmaker’s film and its influence of the a generation of artists has been all encompassing. At its core, this is independent, irreverent, art-house movie-making and having legendary counter-culture folk singer-songwriter Joan Benz perform the wonderfully depressing songs is a perfect touch.
“Love Lives On” from “Harry and the Hendersons” (1987)
Music by Bruce Broughton and Barry Mann
Lyrics by Cynthia Weil and Will Jennings
Performed by Joe Cocker
After it disappeared from empty theaters back in 1987 both the film and this amazing song faded into oblivion despite (or because of) a misguided attempt to turn the movie into a syndicated sitcom. But the big guy is making a comeback thanks to home video and now—like many of the ‘80s Amblin stuff—has a minor cult following. “Harry and the Hendersons” is a moving and entertaining reworking of the “E.T.” formula. “Love Live On” ends the film on a perfect, bittersweet note over a cool animated credit sequence.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Eva Green energizes an Empire in ‘300’ sequel

“300: Rise of an Empire” had all the warning signs of a cash grab sequel set up to disappoint; the original star missing, the name director stepping upstairs into the ill-defined “Executive Producer” position, and a dramatic push back in the original release date from last summer.
I am happy to report “300: Rise of an Empire” has bucked this trend in favor of another—movies (and books) with “Rise” in the title are always good; “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” (2011), “The Dark Knight Rises” (2012), and now “Rise of Empire”.

This is a wildly entertaining, smashing sequel that takes the original film’s much praised stylized visual effects to the next level and delivers a crackerjack, action-packed sword and sandal/sword and sorcery story at the same time. It does it all without compromising. After a decade of suffering through movies that should have been rated R muted down into PG-13 blandness to capture the kiddie cash, it is wonderful to see a movie stay true to the material and deliver genre story with passion and guts. This is a movie with an edge as sharp as the blade of the swords it showcases.
Sullivan Stapleton may not have the name recognition of Gerard Butler, but the charismatic actor does a fine job of taking over as the alpha male and has the athletic body and rugged good looks that play well to the camera. The screenplay by Zack Snyder and Kurt Johnstad (based on as-of-yet unpublished graphic novel by Frank Miller) blends history, myth, and fantasy to perfection. But what truly makes “Rise” work, and elevates what could have been a routine sequel in memorable greatness, is the outstanding performance by Eva Green.

Eve Green made a spectacular debut by delivering a brave performance in acclaimed director Bernardo Bertolucci erotic drama “The Dreamers” (2003) and was the best Bond girl of the modern era in “Casino Royale” (2006). The statuesque actress owns every frame of “Rise” she is in and every time she is off screen the movie loses energy. Her smoldering presence must be seen to be believed. Not only is she the fiercest on screen action femme fatale we have seen in years, she possess a primal sexual charisma that is unmatched. Amid all of the violent swordplay and stylized beheadings, “Rise” contains the hottest sex scene seen in a mainstream genre movie in decades.
Bottom line, “300: Rise of an Empire” is a knockout, entertaining, action fantasy anchored by Patrick Tatopoulos’ gorgeous production design and a sensational performance by Eva Green.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Readers weigh in on the dramatic action of "Caitlin Star"

Here are a few customer reviews of  "Caitlin Star" from Goodreads and Amazon.

“Caitlin Star” by hot-now voice, James Caterino, is sure to rock your reading world. The author’s voice thunders over the countless YA fiction books on the shelf, soaring high above the standard.

Caitlin Star is a worn down foster kid… that’s why the brilliantly sculpted character, Gunner, is here to help. After being rescued by Gunner, Caitlin transforms into the powerful woman begging to come out that’s been trapped inside her. Join her on a heart-racing journey to defeat the humanoids known as the Bull Mongoni.

This story delves deep into the human psyche, as we see the world through Caitlin’s eyes altering as she learns new philosophies, and broadens her horizons. She and Gunner will embark on a world-wild, cultural movement that will leave your heart racing and screaming for victory! The politically corrupt world that surrounds them is dangerous: The line that separates church and state has been brutally demolished, national parks have been taken over by the oil industries, free-thinking is outlawed, and if you dare object to anything, the Moral Authority WILL find you! As if that wasn’t enough reason for a revolution, Caitlin Star won’t stand for women’s rights being taken away: after all, it’s not fair for women to be owned and defined by a tracking probe.

The plot-line is outstanding, well developed, and an emotional yet thrilling ride. Caterino carefully sets the stage and keeps the fast pace throughout the entire novel. One of the most difficult things to do in writing dystopian fiction, is set up the world in a consistently believable way; Caterino flawlessly showcases this as he exposes his unbelievable skills as writer.

The characters are golden! Caitlin Star’s voice is prominent, never fading, and strong. She is certainly an inspiration to humanity. She has mad fighting skills, a powerful mind, an independent nature, and a determined attitude. Her character is so diverse and well sculpted that it’s as if she’s a memory in my mind: I remember her as if I’d met her in actuality. This book will be an empowering read for all women.

But if you think this is merely a feminine movement, think again. While women would certainly enjoy this book, it has something for everyone. Men will instantly become enthralled in the action, a bit of gore, and gripping storyline. Diabolical characters and plans are everywhere and it’s up to Caitlin and Gunner to put a much needed end to it all!

For fans of James Caterino, this book will satisfy your craving. For new readers of the Caterino phenomenon, this is the perfect place to start. Beware: once you begin this literary journey, you can never get enough! Luckily, he has several books out and is still typing away!

Politics, breath-taking warriors, epic to-the-death battles, a touch of romance, hot sex, and some satire for good luck: this book holds it all and much, much more! Caitlin Star is the woman of the generation, a fresh new voice waiting to be heard. If the next generation is HALF the woman she is, we will be in good hands.

"Caitlin Star" is one of those books that does not fit neatly into any one category or genre.

The setting is a contemporary/near future North America where an oppressive government rules by way of fanaticism and enforces its will by means of a militant storm-trooper styled police force known as "The Moral Authority". Question them at your own peril.

But in all tales of oppression there must be an underground resistance of sorts and this time they come in the form of a ruthless band of Samurai style warriors known as "The Bull Mongoni". They are led by a mysterious man named Gunner Star and his latest protege, the title character Caitlin.

The Bull Mongoni make their move via the latest sporting event craze in this dark world - bloodthirsty Gladiator styled battled to the death known as "The Stadium Games".

I really liked how the author gave us some chapters from the villain's point of view, the President of The Moral Authority, and let's us see how his mind works and how he believes he is doing the right thing.

To say more would spoil the fun and this fast moving, wild tale is, above all else fun! The writing is very visual and very vivid, like a graphic novel in prose form. Keep in mind, there is violent sword play, blood-lust, sex, and lots of adult language. The Bull Mongoni are a fearsome group of anti-heroes and they play rough.
1 like ·

As I read the first chapter of this book I could not help but thinking aspects of it linked to the plight of Native American's. As the scene was set for the first big battle between the Bull Mongoni and the Moral Authority I could not help think about a quote I had read:

When all the trees have been cut down,
when all the animals have been hunted,
when all the waters are polluted,
when all the air is unsafe to breathe,
only then will you discover you cannot eat money.
~ Cree Prophecy ~

This first chapter draws you into the book and you don't leave it until you have turned over the last page. This is a stunning read with excitement and character development all in equal proportions. The fighting scenes are brutal but not drawn out to the extent that you lose what you are reading. The book is so well written it was only after I had finished that I realised there were others in the Bull Mongoni series that precedes this one. As a stand alone novel it is more than adequate.

The book comes with a warning from the author of bad language but I have to admit I hardly noticed this and am intrigued that some reviewers thought this spoilt the book. The language is used in the context of the characters and the situation. The middle section of the book is detailed and develops the characters well. I am hoping that we meet them again in later novels. If I was to find one negative it would be that every time Gunner Star is introduced to the story we are told he had a strong baritone voice. After the first couple of references, this began to grate on me. That really is the only negative I can find for this simply stunning novel.

It has been a long time since I have enjoyed a novel as much as this one. It has left me wanting more from the Bull Mongoni, Caitlin Star and this author.


When you wish upon a Star

By Archer Moore on August 27, 2013

The man named Gunner Star returns in the latest action packed adventure from author James J. Caterino. But this time Gunner plays a supporting role as his blossoming warrior princess takes center stage - Caitlin Star. For those unfamiliar with Caterino's Gunner Star novels, Caitlin Star is the perfect place to start. The world is a darker place than ever; with corruption and oppression run rampant and live televised beheadings sold as mainstream entertainment. Yet hope springs eternal as a rebel movement takes hold, a movement led by Action Heroes trained in the art of hand to hand combat mastered by an ancient race of hominids known as the Bull Mongoni. Caitlin Star chronicles the rise of a girl more wondrous than Wonder Woman, stronger than Sheena and braver than Merida. Caitlin Star is her own woman who follows a moral compass to restore goodness and humanity to a world gone mad. Packed with political intrigue, breathtaking battles and biting satire, Caitlin Star is the written equivalent of a video game, a graphic novel where the words are the pictures, a triumph for Caterino. I can only pray that my own daughter grows up to be half the woman Caitlin Star is.

Great imagination, good story well told.

By John T Greeley on October 4, 2013

Format: Paperback Amazon Verified Purchase

Jim draws you straight into the fantasy and holds you there until near too-predictable the end. The action charges at you like a Bull Mongoni Warrior. The scenes between the action scenes keep the plot on track. In most of his books, Jim takes you to the center almost immediately. Jim could write a masterpiece with a little editing help. Or, he could turn the Star and Bull Mongoni books into graphic novels. What a hit he would have on his hands.

I loved Jim's imagination, plotting and pace. The main characters were, in the context of the story, believable, but most of the secondary characters we cardboard cutouts or pop-ups.

I admire Jim's ideas, plots and the meter of the story. He has all the creative tools for success. What he lacks in craft can be learned.

Obi the poet