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    Thursday, August 05, 2004

    Book: Sunset and Sawdust, by Joe R. Lansdale (2004)

    The champion mojo storyteller’s latest is a corker, set in a Depression-era East Texas lumber camp. The beautiful Sunset Jones shoots her no-good husband in the head with his own gun during a cyclone, then inherits his job as constable. Things get a mite twisted from there.

    If the plot synopsis isn’t enough to pique your interest, I’ll let Joe’s words do the job. A spider walks across water “as if imitating Jesus in a hurry,” and one of the characters is “big enough to go alligator hunting with strong language.” I’d cite a few other examples, but they’re a tad, um, earthy.

    TV Movie: Bet Your Life

    Billy Zane has one of the stranger résumés in Hollywood. He’s the secondary villain in TITANIC, after the iceberg. (Talk about sad ends to careers. Somebody should have told that ‘berg that a dip in the grotto at Hef’s pad isn’t always a good idea.) And now Zane is appearing in a TV movie with contest winners.

    This umpteenth variation on ‘The Most Dangerous Game’ is the culmination of NBC’s NEXT ACTION STAR, a series I did not see one minute of. My policy on reality TV: finales only. I saw everyone get fired on THE APPRENTICE, but I have no idea if it was for cause. Joel Silver produced ACTION STAR as a way to bring back the halcyon days of the ‘80s, when he-men heroes like Van Damme and Seagal were a separate and inexpensive breed.

    The male winner, Sean Carrigan, does not understand the concept of eye contact. The female winner looks like a fembot version of Tori Spelling, as redundant/terrifying/intoxicating as that may sound. She has been blessed with the name Corinne van Ryck de Groot. Which is even fun to type. Corinne van Ryck de Groot. I want her to become famous so I can continue saying it. I want to spend the next several years baffling video store clerks with the query, “Do you have the latest Corinne van Ryck de Groot movie?”

    Zane fares well here, but so would any pro acting opposite amateurs. I always thought his performance in TITANIC was amusing. He was asked to do a Snidely Whiplash-style caricature, and he delivered. (His valet was David Warner, for God’s sake. How many hints do you need?) I may be the only person who enjoyed the 1996 movie THE PHANTOM, with Zane as Lee Falk’s costumed hero.

    Here’s a free tip for NBC executives: switch the prizes on your reality shows. The winner of LAST COMIC STANDING has to outrun fireballs in a slapdash TV movie about a stolen microchip, while the beefcake crowned NEXT ACTION STAR must do five minutes of observational humor. The one who fares worst has to marry my dad.

    Miscellaneous: Titles

    Thanks to Michael Mann’s latest, I can now program a second night in my Interlocking Titles Film Festival.

    Night #1: Basic, Instinct, Basic Instinct
    Night #2: Collateral, Damage, Collateral Damage

    Let me know if there are any I’ve overlooked.


    As usual, you and I like some of the same movies. I loved THE PHANTOM (and so did another writer I know, Walter Satterthwait). I'll admit that the climatic scene was a little much, but aside from that I had nothing to complain about. Zane was great, and you have Kristi Swanson and Catherine Zeta-Jones. What's not to like?



    Glad you gave Joe Lansdale some ink. Fantastic writer. Fantastic book.



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