Monday, July 24, 2017

7 Days in May | Planet of the Apes and Noir Galore

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

Wanted to rewatch this and Dawn before seeing War. I'm still amazed by how much this works. Which is to say that it works completely and wonderfully, fully connecting me to its characters regardless of species. And what a great, cathartic finale as everyone gets their comeuppance. In the best Planet of the Apes movies, I should always feel conflicted about where my loyalties are and this is probably the best at accomplishing that in the history of these movies.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

I still care about the humans in Dawn - especially Keri Russell, Jason Clarke, and Kodi Smit-McPhee - but they're ultimately MacGuffins in the movie's real conflict between Caesar and Koba. It's a brilliant clash of ideologies and what I love most about this trilogy is the battle between compassion and hate. Which leads directly to the third film...

War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)

In Dawn, the compassion-hate conflict is between Caesar and Koba, but in War it's within Caesar himself. His conflict with the human Colonel (Woody Harrelson) has led Caesar down a dark path and threatens the beliefs that he holds most dear. War handles this in a beautiful, emotional way and it's a great conclusion to what's easily my favorite science fiction trilogy of all time (at least until the current Star Wars trilogy is done... fingers crossed).

Grease (1978)

Rewatching Back to the Future for an upcoming Mystery Movie Night got me in the mood for something else from the '50s. And this has been on the list for a while since a couple of shots from it are in that great 100 Movies Dance Scenes Mashup video that my family and I can't stop watching.

And it really is all about the music in this one. The story is mostly bunk and I don't like Danny, Sandy, or really any of their friends except Frenchie. The ending is stupid. But dang those are some great songs and I always forget how awesome Olivia Newton-John's voice is.

The Cowboy and the Lady (1938)

Trying to clear out some room on my TiVo. I recorded this on a lark, because there's a John Denver song with the same title and I'm nostalgic for John Denver. That's a dumb reason to watch a movie, but I also like Gary Cooper and Merle Oberon, so what the heck.

I love this movie so much. Oberon plays a wealthy, young woman named Mary Smith whose widowed father is trying to get a Presidential nomination. Mary's not especially troublesome, but she's under especially tight scrutiny, so her dad sends her to the family's house in West Palm Beach to get her away from the New York paparazzi. There she cute-meets a rodeo cowboy named Stretch (Cooper), but she's pretending to be a lady's maid at the time and... well, you've seen a romantic comedy before, so you know how that goes.

There are some modern romcom tropes, but I found that refreshing in a '30s film. And I love that the story is told from Mary's point of view with Stretch being the love interest. The movie also has some nice things to say about the value of people, with both Mary and Stretch needing to adjust their ideas about what kind of people they're interested in.

Five Came Back (1939)

This one popped on my radar because a bunch of people crash in a jungle. And it's very early Lucille Ball and I'm always interested in her serious roles.

I love this one, too. It's sort of a proto-Lost with a varied group of passengers on a downed plane trying to survive until they can rescue themselves. There are three airline personnel, a young couple in love, an elderly couple in grumpiness, a bounty hunter (John Carradine) and his prisoner, a man escorting a young boy for mysterious reasons, and Lucille Ball's character: a beautiful, but ostracized woman.

What's great is that every one of these characters finds themselves challenged and changed by the ordeal in the jungle. Some for the better, and some not so much. As the title spoils, not all of them make it out, but that's a fascinating and touching story, too.

It was remade in 1956 as Back from Eternity with Anita Ekberg and Rod Steiger, so that also just went on my list.

Murder, My Sweet (1944)

I'm a huge fan of The Big Sleep, both the Raymond Chandler novel and the 1946 movie based on it. But I'm enough of a fan of the movie that I haven't been that interested in seeing other actors in the role of Philip Marlowe.

And here's another thing: my love of the novel is all about the mood and the dialogue. Chandler's an awesome writer, but - at least in The Big Sleep - he's not an awesome mystery writer. There are huge dangling plot threads and red herrings that don't make sense. Maybe he fixed that in subsequent books, but I haven't read them yet to find out. If Murder, My Sweet (based on Chandler's Farewell, My Lovely) is faithful to its novel, though - and I understand that it is - I still have concerns. For most of its run time, the story spins around without going anywhere. It relies on all the things I like about Chandler (mood, dialogue, and Marlowe himself) to keep me going, but the central mystery is kind of dull.

Phantom Lady (1944)

After enjoying The Web, I started looking for other Ella Raines movies to watch and this is a big one. She plays another secretary, but this time her boss is the one who's in trouble for murder, not the one trying to cover it up. And she's great in it, but neither her boss nor the story itself deserve her. The villain is easy to deduce as soon as the character is mentioned, but then the movie still confirms it way too early. The villain's motivation is super flimsy, too, and the scheme to cover their tracks is even shakier. This is a classic only because of Raines herself and an unforgettable scene with a ridiculously lewd drum solo.

Frontier Gal (1945)

Before she was Lily Munster, Yvonne De Carlo had a prolific film career. She made a lot of Westerns, so I wanted to check some of them out. I shouldn't have started with Frontier Gal, though, because hoo boy. Her character's unlikability in this movie is only surpassed by her co-star's.

Rod Cameron plays an outlaw who visits a saloon run by De Carlo. He takes a liking to her, but she insults him, so he kisses her against her will. She slaps him, so he kisses her again. She slaps him again, so he kisses her again. Repeat several times until she falls in love. And that sets the tone for the entire movie, which might as well have been called No Means Yes.

I'll watch more De Carlo Westerns, but yikes... this one.

Spellbound (1945)

One of my favorite Hitchcock films, partly because I love its two leads, but it's also a great story that keeps turning into something new. Showed it to David this viewing and he wasn't that interested to begin with. I asked him to give it 15 minutes and then decide if he wanted to keep going. We kept going.

That awesome dream sequence designed by Salvador Dali is a highlight, but it's the central mystery and the plot twists (and Bergman and Peck) that make Spellbound so rewatchable.

Shock (1946)

Phantom Lady wasn't the only movie I watched this week inspired by The Web. I wanted to see some more Vincent Price noir, too, so that's where Shock comes in. Price plays an adulterous psychologist who accidentally kills his wife. Unfortunately, he's seen by a woman (Anabel Shaw) who's already under a lot of mental stress. Watching the murder sends her into a catatonic state. When Price is called in to minister to her, he discovers that she's a witness to his crime. Under pressure from his girlfriend, he realizes that if Shaw never recovers, he's off the hook.

It's not my favorite kind of Price role. He's still great, but he's too much a victim of circumstance and his girlfriend to thoroughly relish his performance. Give me wicked and conniving - or at least charmingly caddish - any day.

Song of the Week: "Seagulls! (Stop It Now)" by Bad Lip Reading

This doesn't just crack me up; it gets stuck in my head for a week and I don't even complain.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Southern Charm | Rodney Crowell, Southern Manners, and Pimento Cheese

In the latest episode of Southern Charm, Jody and I talk about country musician Rodney Crowell, his new album Close Ties, and the interview with him in Texas Monthly. Then the conversation turns to etiquette and the differences between Southern manners and what's considered polite in other parts of the country. Ma'am/Sir, holding doors, handshakes, and eye contact all come up. And finally, we close with Jody's recipe for pimento cheese and I get some homework.

Intro Music: "Kill Jill" by Big Boi, featuring Killer Mike and Jeezy

Outro Music: "Good Enough" by Molly Tuttle

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Nerd Lunch | Star Wars Panel: Ewok Movie Drill Downs

Pax put the Star Wars panel back together this week to cover the two, made-for-TV Ewok movies. I'm glad he did for a couple of reasons. First, we hadn't gotten together since talking about Rogue One and I'm glad not to have to wait until Last Jedi for our next get-together. I love talking Star Wars with this crew.

But also, I'd never seen the Ewok movies and this was the push I needed to finally do that. As I explain on the episode, I missed them when they came out and would have been too old to enjoy them anyway. It was fun to finally see them; especially Battle for Endor, which I liked more than the rest of the group did. It's not a great movie, but I see its charm, especially for people who were kids when it came out. Caravan of Courage is a whole other story, though.

So we talk about that and weird fan theories and where these fall into continuity and Burl Ives and Wilford Brimley and all kinds of other stuff. It's a fun episode.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Dragonfly Ripple, Episode 15 - Bone and Alpha Flight

The most recent episode of Dragonfly Ripple is all comics Comics COMICS! Carlin and I start off talking about how we got into collecting comics, what we imagined it would be like to pass our collections on to our kids, and whether or not that's really how it's going. Then Annaliese and David join in to talk about Jeff Smith's Bone and John Byrne's Alpha Flight. In the Jetpack Tiger segment, Dash and Carlin cover The DC Comics Encyclopedia, then we all wrap up with a dinner table discussion in which we create regional superhero teams for Florida and Minnesota.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Introducing the 'Casting Off podcast

This is gonna have to be the last one, but I needed one more podcast in my life to talk about nautical and island stuff. Movies mostly, but probably some TV shows, books, and comics, too. This one is just David and I, so scheduling will be super easy. It'll still be a monthly show, though.

In the first episode, we talk about the difficulties of choosing a name for the show, our fondness for oceans and islands, and then dive deep into Disney's classic adaptation of the Jules Verne novel, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

Oh, and even though this is the last podcast to squeeze onto my plate, it won't be the last new one you'll hear about. There are a couple of others brewing that haven't been announced yet. I'll have a total of eight.

Monday, July 17, 2017

7 Days in May | Spider-Man vs. Will Smith

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

Amazing. Spectacular. The ultimate. Web of, even.

I'm not going to call it my favorite Spider-Man movie, because there's some apples-and-oranges going on here. But it's exactly the Spider-Man movie that I needed right now. No origin story and not even any universe building. In fact, it's the opposite of universe-building, because the whole point is to explain why Spider-Man needs his own special corner of the MCU. And I love that the explanation is built on the phrase, "Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man." It makes sense, it's what the character needs, and it's exactly where I want to see him go.

Also, what a great, funny, diverse cast of supporting characters. And Michael Keaton is brilliant. Best movie interpretation of a Spider-Man villain so far, and I'm not forgetting about Doctor Octopus.

Collateral Beauty (2016)

I was warned, but wanted to see it anyway. Here's a written review that told me what I was getting into. Here's a whole podcast episode. David Chen of the Slashfilmcast describes it as "morally reprehensible," which I have to admit made me even more curious to see it. Nor was I dissuaded by having the entire story described to me, beat by beat, twist by weird and ill-advised twist.

"Morally reprehensible" is probably too strong, because I'm not as convinced as Chen that the movie endorses the truly abominable behavior of Edward Norton, Kate Winslet, and Michael Peña's characters. But it certainly doesn't punish them for it either and it does seem super ignorant about just how awful they're being. That's the real problem with the movie: it's oblivious to the huge questions - both moral and logical - that it raises.

But great cast and Will Smith in particular is acting his ass off. It's a fascinating film to watch and try to figure out what happened to make it go so horribly, horribly wrong.

Kongo (1932)

This is an adaptation of a 1926 play by the same name, which had already been made into a movie by Tod Browning in 1928 called West of Zanzibar, starring Lon Chaney and Lionel Barrymore. I've seen West of Zanzibar and it's good. Chilling, but good. 1932's Kongo is, too.

Walter Huston (Chaney, in the first adaptation) plays a cruel, truly evil ivory trader who's looking for revenge against an old enemy. His plans have been brewing a long time and involve luring his enemy's daughter (Virginia Bruce) into the jungle with a forged letter supposedly from her father. Once she's in the villain's power, he does horrible things to her both onscreen and off. It's hard to watch, frankly, but then things get interesting when a doctor (Conrad Nagel) - outcast from society presumably because he's an alcoholic - shows up. He wants to help the woman, but is challenged by his own weaknesses as well as her hopelessness and lack of cooperation. And then there are revelations that turn the whole thing upside down and introduce all new threats.

It's dark stuff, but crazy compelling. It covers some of the same themes as Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, but I like it way more.

The Narrow Corner (1933)

Based on a novel by W Somerset Maugham, who was a popular writer of the '20s and '30s. He specialized in melodramas set on tropical islands, particularly ones about British people trying to adjust to island life. He was one of Ian Fleming's favorite authors and "Quantum of Solace" is an homage to Maugham's stuff.

I liked The Narrow Corner well enough. Douglas Fairbanks Jr is a handsome dude and looks great tooling around in island wear. Patricia Ellis is super cute, too, and I liked them as a couple. I wasn't totally invested in the shenanigans going on around them - conspiring to keep them apart - but the setting is great and well-photographed and there are some cool special effects involved in getting a boat over a dangerous reef.

Jam of the Week: "After the Disco" by Broken Bells

Hard to pick one song - of even a few songs - from Broken Bells' After the Disco album that I like better than the others. Usually after listening to a record this many times, I've whittled down the playlist to a handful that I still want to hear over and over again, but with After the Disco it's still the whole album. The title track is representative, though. Deeply infectious and pleasant pop.

Monday, July 10, 2017

7 Days in May | Nocturnal Animals and Rules Don't Apply

Nocturnal Animals (2016)

I was on a Movie Year in Review panel at CONvergence last weekend and a couple of movies came up that I had similar reactions to. One was Nocturnal Animals and the other was Hail, Caesar. I didn't like Hail, Caesar as much as I expected to and that's because the trailers for it led me to believe that it was going to be a crazy kidnapping movie instead of just a quirky series of vignettes loosely tied together by some common characters. I suspect that when I get around to watching it again, I'll like it better the second time.

The marketing for Nocturnal Animals was similarly misleading. The trailer makes it look like a thriller in which Amy Adams receives a draft of her ex-husband's (Jake Gyllenhaal) novel and suspects from reading it that he's out to kill her. She does receive the draft and it does effect her deeply, but I kept waiting for the part where her ex turns murderous and it never happens. That's not even a spoiler, because that's not what this movie is. What it is is cool and beautiful and personal and haunting. Get past the weird-for-its-own-sake opening credits and the rest of the film is pretty great with some really effective performances by Adams, Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson.

Rules Don't Apply (2016)

Rules Don't Apply is another one that defied expectations, but not as successfully for me. IMDb describes it as an "unconventional love story" and that's sort of accurate, but whatever image that put in my head, it was more fun than what the movie actually is. The romance between Lily Collins and Alden Ehrenreich simmers a super long time before anyone does anything about it. I found that very realistic, as I also did the problems that popped up to keep them apart after they admitted that they liked each other. That makes their relationship a compelling drama, but it's also rather somber.

Alongside of that is the film's examination of Howard Hughes. Warren Beatty is great in the role and I can see why he picked this as a subject to write about and direct. He boils everything down to Daddy Issues, which feels overly simplistic, but then uses that - and Hughes' relationship with the other two leads - to make a beautiful comment on aging and parenthood. He's not at all subtle about it though, so while I like a lot of what the movie's doing, I don't love the way it does it.

The Sure Thing (1985)

Marketing seems to be a theme this week. The people in charge of getting you to go see The Sure Thing sure wanted you to think that it was a sex comedy like Porky's or Hardbodies. Not remembering details about it, I was a little nervous showing it to David, but my memory was that it wasn't that raunchy. And since we recently watched Better Off Dead, I wanted to revisit some other, early John Cusack.

Sure enough, it's a sweet (and really good) romantic comedy like you might expect from the guy who went on to direct When Harry Met Sally. It's not as zany as some of Cusack's other movies from the same era like Better Off Dead, One Crazy Summer, or Hot Pursuit, but it fits well somewhere between those and Say Anything. Cusack is hilarious in it and Daphne Zuniga is fantastic. I don't know why she didn't become a bigger star than she did, but I'm going to blame Mel Brooks.

Beverly Hills Cop (1984)

There are some jokes in Beverly Hills Cop that wouldn't get told today, but I'm shocked by how well it holds up otherwise. Eddie Murphy is at his funniest, the relationships are sweet, and I like the questions it raises about Right vs. Proper. Also: Bronson Pinchot being way funnier than he ever was in Perfect Strangers.

Aliens (1986)

Hey, between this and Beverly Hills Cop we had ourselves a little unintentional Paul Reiser film festival. I love this movie so much. It's perfect. Even better than the first one.

And I know there's growing appreciation for the third one among fans, but I'll never forgive it for the way it unceremoniously dumps the characters I love so much from this one. I'm going to wait a while before seeing if David wants to watch it. I'm in no hurry. (Though I would like to get through it and move on to Resurrection, because I love most of that movie up to the last ten minutes or so.)

Jam of the Week: "My First Rodeo" by Whitney Rose

Some rockin' country.

Friday, July 07, 2017

This Weekend is CONvergence. Here's my schedule.

The Twin Cities' big science fiction/fantasy convention, CONvergence, is this weekend. I had such a good time getting my feet wet last year, so I'm back this year on some more panels. I'm on fewer than last time, but I'm moderating all of them. Here's my schedule, so I hope you'll come see me!

Saturday, July 8

2:00pm - Movie Year in Review (DoubleTree Bloomington)
Panelists: Alex Musial, Matt Gamble, Michael May (mod), Norman Cates, Melissa Kaercher
From indie darlings to foreign films to big-budget blockbusters, let's discuss everything from the last year of film.

3:30pm - Dungeon Apprentice: How to be a Great Dungeon Master (DoubleTree Plaza 3)
Panelists: Brian Casey, Michael May (mod), Kenneth Justiniano, Nat Morse-Noland, Kristin Daley
Ever wanted to run your own D&D game but never dared take on the role of Dungeon Master? Experienced dungeon masters will provide beginner tips for hosting a great night of D&D and share their stories of how and why certain campaigns went terribly wrong.

Sunday, July 9

9:30am - Parenting in Troubled Times (DoubleTree Plaza 3)
Panelists: Anj Olsen, Vetnita Anderson, Michael May (mod), Peter Larsen, Katarina Larsen
Our world seems beset by unsolvable problems and unwinnable battles, from Global Climate Change to the rise of Fascism. How can we, as parents, raise socially aware children without passing along our fears and worries to the next generation?

3:30pm - Aging Poorly: Pop Culture and the Test of Time (DoubleTree Atrium 6)
Panelists: Kevin Eldridge, Rick Ellis, Dana Baird, Michael May (mod), AlysshaRose Jordan
Is Seinfeld as funny as you remember? Is The Dark Crystal really that good or is it just the nostalgia talking? Why do The Beatles persist while Falco falters? What makes something timeless and how can today's pop culture avoid aging poorly?

Monday, July 03, 2017

7 Days in May | More Hughes and Cruise

Weird Science (1985)

It had been a while since I'd seen Weird Science and I wasn't sure how I was going to like a movie about a couple of teenage boys who create their own woman to do whatever they want with. And there's some weirdness about it, to be sure. It's a total nerd fantasy, so even when Lisa isn't doing the boys' exact bidding, she's still acting in their best interest: trying to improve their lives by boosting their confidence.

Taken for what it is, though, it's still very funny and even sweet. Anthony Michael Hall and Ilan Mitchell-Smith are loveable nerds who aren't as socially awkward as they are just unpopular. They like technology and aren't that good at sports, so kids at school don't like or know what to do with them. The boys have accepted this, so the movie is about Lisa's helping them get past it.

Bill Paxton has a great role as Mitchell-Smith's obnoxious older brother and Robert Downey Jr is one of the bullies who ruthlessly taunts the leads. It's a fun movie with a lot of imagination, and David - who is exactly the target audience of early teenaged boy - enjoyed it a lot.

Pretty in Pink (1986)

I'm moderating a panel this weekend (more on that later) about the concept of "timeless" art, so it's been a topic of conversation around the house and on Facebook lately. The John Hughes movies are especially appropriate to look at in that context. Breakfast Club feels timeless to me. Sixteen Candles feels very dated. And it's not about fashions or music.

Pretty in Pink is another one that doesn't feel timeless, though for different reasons than Sixteen Candles. It's not offensive to modern cultural mores, but there's something off about it and it's been off since 1986. So much so that John Hughes basically rewrote it with Some Kind of Wonderful.

I've always had a hard time identifying what it is that I don't like about Pretty in Pink, because there's so much more about it that I love. Molly Ringwald brings her usual earnestness and sincerity to Andie and I always like that about her characters. I identified with Jon Cryer's Duckie more than I'm comfortable admitting, but I love that he never plays the Nice Guy card by using his loyalty to Andie to shame her into liking him back. Oh sure, he gets pissed at her and behaves badly, but it's clear to me that he's doing it because he wants what's best for her and thinks she's making a huge mistake; not just because he's jealous.

Annie Potts is awesome as Iona, but easily my favorite character in the movie is James Spader's Steff. He's such an irredeemable cad, but I love that about him and I totally understand why he's popular. With most "popular bully" characters in teen movies, I don't get why people like them other than that they're just rich or skilled at sports. But Steff has an easy-going charm that pulls me in and even though he's evil underneath, there's also an element of humanity that sometimes peeks through. Spader's one of my favorite actors and that starts right here.

Andrew McCarthy I can take or leave, but he's perfect for the role he's given. Like in Mannequin, he just has to look pleasant and sincere. It's around his character Blane that the movie doesn't quite work, though. The conflict between his feelings for Andie and his loyalty to his friends is fine. But his redemption at the end is lame. To begin with, it's stupid that she has to show up at the prom by herself in order for him to apologize. If she hadn't done that, I assume that he would never have had the guts to fix things himself and that they'd have stayed apart. And then his weird apology is ruined by his claim that Andie didn't believe in him, either. It's possible that he's technically correct, but that's the wrong time to bring that up and tries to lay the blame on her when he's clearly the one who broke the relationship. I like Blane and I like that Duckie isn't rewarded for his obsession, but I like Blane less at the exact moment that I'm supposed to be excited that he and Andie have worked things out.

Better Off Dead (1985)

David's known about "I want my two dollars!" his entire life, but we just now got around to seeing the movie that that comes from. Better Off Dead throws a lot of jokes around, so not all of them work, but most of them do and are still funny all these years later. Just a lot of goofy fun.

Legend (1985)

Went back a little further in time for the next movies in our Cruiseathon. I often hear Legend as the punchline to jokes about bad '80s fantasy, but that's ridiculous. It's an awesome, gorgeous movie with a masterful performance by Tim Curry and a killer soundtrack by Tangerine Dream (with great, additional songs by Bryan Ferry and Yes' Jon Anderson). It's totally off model for Tom Cruise, but that's part of the fun. And I'll never complain about Mia Sara being in anything. Also: extremely quotable.

Top Gun (1986)

I don't know that this holds up quite as well for me, but it's still big, dumb fun. I get a little bored with the overwrought emotions, but the humor, dogfights, and volleyball are always worth revisiting.

Alien (1979)

Alien: Covenant gave me a reason to finally share the Alien movies with David. He’s known about them since like second or third grade, because a friend of his was all about Aliens and Predators, so he and David would play AvP during recess. Eventually - I don’t remember how many years later - I decided that David could handle the PG-13 movie from 2004 and he liked it quite a bit. But it only took about 10 minutes of AvP: Requiem to figure out that I was pushing him too fast. I mean, really no one should be made to watch Requiem, but it was especially inappropriate for whatever age David was at the time. We let the series sit for a few years.

The main thing that was concerning to David was the face-huggers. He can handle gore, but he has a real phobia about anything that attaches to or burrows into your body. Covenant got him interested in seeing Prometheus, though, so we did that and he handled it well. Even the part where a snake-like creatures crawls down a dude's throat. He hasn't seen Covenant yet, but we decided to go back and watch the original first. Which I think is best, because part of what's cool about Alien is knowing nothing about what these creatures are or where they come from. He had to leave the room right before John Hurt looks in that egg, but he loved the rest of it. As do I.

A Room with a View (1985)

John Hughes and Early Tom Cruise marathons have inspired me to revisit other of my favorite '80s movies with David. A Room with a View was too big a tonal shift for him to fully enjoy, but I was reminded of how much I love it. And it was something I was going to rewatch anyway, since I finally read the novel this Spring.

Room with a View not only started me on a major Helena Bonham Carter crush (and maybe a smaller one on Rupert Graves as well), it also launched my interest in period films in general; a genre that I still love to this day.

Diane asked me why I love it so much (besides Helena Bonham Carter, whom she totally knows about). I think it has something to do with my being able to relate to repressed British people who are desperate to drop convention and let themselves be themselves.

Zorro (1957-61)

Season Two of Zorro ended in 1959, but Walt Disney kept Guy Williams on salary and made four more episodes (hour-long this time) to run on the anthology series Walt Disney Presents. The first two ran in Autumn 1960 and formed a single story about a group of Mexican bandits who show up in Los Angeles to challenge Zorro's supremacy as local outlaw.

The next episode ran in January 1961, featuring Annette Funicello, who was back as a different character: a family friend of Diego's who's trying to elope with the wrong fella. And saving the best for last, an April 1961 episode had Ricardo Montalban and Wild Wild West's wonderful Ross Martin as a pair of scoundrels who know enough about Diego's past to suspect that he's Zorro. It's a great finale and makes me wish that there'd been a whole series just about those two characters.

Jam of the Week: "Secret" by Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark

In honor of Pretty in Pink. I love "If You Leave," but "Secret" was the first OMD song I ever heard and it made me an instant fan. I said that I identified with Duckie; I identified with this song for the same reason.


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