Friday, August 31, 2007

Miscellaneous: The August Stuff-I-Didn’t-Get-To Post

Forever Cool, Dean Martin. Enough with the albums where dead singers “duet” with contemporary artists. Dino did more than enough entertaining when he was with us. Let the man rest in peace. That said, at least this album includes some of Dean’s in-studio banter and revives the movie theme “Who’s Got The Action?,” performed here with Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. Robbie Williams again shows he knows his way around a standard. And Kevin Spacey earns points for chutzpah – or something – for singing with Dino as Dino.

Stalin’s Ghost, by Martin Cruz Smith. I never miss an Arkady Renko book. In this latest outing, the good-hearted Russian detective is assigned to investigate subway sightings of the title specter only to find himself drawn into post-Soviet politics and the repercussions of Chechnya.

Ask The Dust. Colin Farrell is terrific in Robert Towne’s adaptation of the John Fante novel. The bantam rooster strut, the self-doubt expressed as hostility; I actually believed I was watching a struggling writer in 1930s Los Angeles. The movie never fully escapes its literary origins, but that’s part of what makes it interesting. Also excellent: the letters Farrell’s character receives from his mentor H. L. Mencken, read in the vinegary rasp of film critic Richard Schickel.

This Is Tom Jones. No sooner had I picked up the first disc in this series of variety shows than Tony Kay recapped ‘em all, proving great minds really do think alike. The women’s lib sketches with Anne Bancroft alone make this worth a rental. I was struck by how much the 1969 Tom Jones looked like one of those deadly clotheshorse thugs that turn up in U.K. gangster films like Get Carter and The Long Good Friday. Time-Life should have done a better job of editing the shows. It’s not nice to promise Joey Heatherton and then not deliver. Not nice at all. So here’s Joey doing her all to sell mattresses.