Monday, January 2, 2012

Books and Albums Reviewed (73)


Tijuana Bibles: Art and Wit in America's Forbidden Funnies by Bob Adelman

Hollywood Babylon II by Kenneth Anger

Aperture 154: Explorations: Nine Portfolios (capsule)

Interpersonal Communication: Relating to Others by Steven A. Beebe (capsule)

Clinton: Portrait of Victory by P.F. Bentley

Ghost Towns of the American West by Raymond Bial

Relax, It's Only a Ghost by Echo L. Bodine (capsule)

The Seduction of Hillary Rodham by David Brock (capsule)

Harms Way: Lust & Madness, Murder & Mayhem by Stanley B. Burns (capsule)

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff...and it's all small stuff by Richard Carlson

Uncle Vanya by Anton Chekhov (capsule)

Gothic: Four Hundred Years of Excess, Horror, Evil, and Ruin by R.P.T. Davenport-Hines

The Civil War: Strange & Fascinating Facts by Burke Davis

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Modern Spirituality Series) (capsule)

Turn Back the Night by Jennifer Drew

Love and Desire: Photoworks by William A. Ewing

The Horror Film Handbook by Alan Frank

Shot in the Heart by Mikal Gilmore

Movie Monsters in Scale: A Modeler's Gallery of Science Fiction and Horror Figures and Dioramas by Mark C. Glassy

Which Lie Did I Tell?: Or, More Adventures in the Screen Trade by William Goldman

Theater: A Crash Course by Rob Graham (capsule)

Cat and Mouse by Gunter Grass (capsule)

Edward Albee: A Singular Journey by Mel Gussow

More Church Chuckles by Dick Hafer (capsule)

You'll Never Nanny in This Town Again! by Suzanne Hansen

Young Goodman Brown and Other Short Stories by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Ghosts by Henrik Ibsen (capsule)

H.N.I.C. by Albert "Prodigy" Johnson with Steven Savile

Inside the White House by Ronald Kessler (capsule)

Rich Dad's Retire Young, Retire Rich by Robert T. Kiyosaki

The Little Guide to Your Well-Read Life by Steve Leveen

Out of Bondage by Linda Lovelace (capsule)

Guam (Let's Visit Places & Peoples of the World) by William Lutz (capsule)

An American Dream by Norman Mailer

Leonard Maltin's Movie and Video Guide 1999 (capsule)

Robert Mapplethorpe: Pictures by Robert Mapplethorpe (capsule)

VideoHound's Horror Show: 999 Hair-Raising, Hellish, and Humorous Movies by Mike Mayo (capsule)

Blondie, From Punk to Present: A Pictorial History by Allan Metz

How to Judge Motion Pictures, and How to Organize a Photoplay Club by Sarah McLean Mullen

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (capsule)

Opportunities in Religious Service Careers by John O. Nelson

Mike Nelson's Movie Megacheese by Michael J. Nelson (capsule)

How to Write Horror Fiction by William F. Nolan

Star Wars: R2-D2's Mission by Jane Paley

The Freedom Principle by Lansing Pollock (capsule)

Come Swiftly to Your Love: Love Poems of Ancient Egypt Translated by Ezra Pound and Noel Stock

Bush Must Go by Bill Press

Red Lobster, White Trash, and the Blue Lagoon: Joe Queenan's America by Joe Queenan (capsule)

Guide to Home Video and Movies by Ryan Reed

Holy Hilarity by Cal Samra (capsule)

More Holy Hilarity by Cal Samra (capsule)

On Writing Science Fiction: The Editors Strike Back by George H. Scithers (capsule)

Famous Movie Stars and Directors by Joseph Stewart

I Hate You, Don't Leave Me: Understanding the Borderline Personality by Hal Straus

The Stupidest Things Ever Said by Politicians (capsule)

Verses That Hurt: Pleasure and Pain from the Poemfone Poets by Jordan and Amy Trachtenberg

Drummer Boy: Marching to the Civil War by Ann Turner

VideoHound's Golden Movie Retriever 2000 (capsule)

Legends & Lies: Great Mysteries of the American West by Dale L. Walker

The Prostestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism by Max Weber (capsule)

Edward Weston (Aperture Masters of Photography) (capsule)

Edward Weston: Nudes (capsule)

The Wit and Humor of Oscar Wilde (capsule)

An Underground Education by Richard Zacks

"A Man Called (E)"- E
"Marvelous Sauce"- Marvelous Sauce
"Nightlife"- Pet Shop Boys (capsule)
"Release" (with bonus CD)- Pet Shop Boys
"Laundry Service"- Shakira
"Party"- Nick Swardson
"Get in Touch With Yourself"- Swing Out Sister
"This is Techno Volume 6: UK"- Various Artists
"Dare to Dream"- Yanni

Bawdy and Slow: "Body and Soul" (1981)

Inspired by the original 1940's film, Leon Isaac Kennedy both pens and stars in this deeply flawed remake.

Leon plays Leon, a cocky amateur boxer. His angry mother (Kim Hamilton) wants him to continue his medical studies at college, but his little sister (Nikki Swasey) is diagnosed with sickle cell disease. Leon decides to cash in on his boxing talent, morphing into Leon the Lover, much to the chagrin of his trainer (Michael V. Gazzo, doing his best Burgess Meredith impression) and fragile hanger-on/manager Charles (a terrible Perry Lang).

Leon's success also crosses over into his love life as he takes up with sports reporter Julie (underrated beauty Jayne Kennedy). The villainous Big Man (Peter Lawford) is introduced, and Leon falls in with the shady character, losing his girlfriend and Charles (in a laughable near-fatal drug overdose scene). As with most boxing films, the climax involves a big fight, where Leon takes on the seemingly indestructible Ricardo (Al Denavo).

Kennedy's screenplay portrays Leon as a jerk right off the bat, and I had trouble liking him. His "transformation" into Leon the Lover is merely physical, and Kennedy cannot seem to garner any sympathy until his involvement with Big Man. Leon's canoodling with awesomely hot hookers, when he has Julie waiting for him, is a huge foreshadowing to some infamous athletes today.

Director Bowers' tone in many key scenes is also wrong. Leon's medical school ambitions are touched on but not explored, failing to offer the viewer and Leon any alternative to the easy money and fame. Poor Swasey gets planted in a wheelchair and must tear up on cue, her character eye-rollingly annoying. While Ricardo is a first-class dirty fighter, his opening scene is so over-the-top (he throws a child!), he turns into a buffoonish character with little menace. You can add two training montages and Muhammad Ali poorly portraying himself to the mix.

The film's greatest strength is its fight sequences. Choreographer Bob Minor does an excellent job, backed by effective sound effects editing and makeup. Unfortunately, once Kennedy finally finds his way, the viewer has given up and waits for the inevitable.

This is not the worst film the Cannon Group put out in the 1980's (it may actually be one of the strongest), but in this era of sequels, reboots, franchises, and reimaginings, you sometimes cannot beat the original. No split decision here. (* *) out of five stars.