Song of the Day: The Thrill Is Gone (by B.B. King)



“When I sing, I play in my mind; the minute I stop singing orally, I start to sing by playing Lucille.” — B.B. King

The blues is a music style that has always pulled me in from the very moment I first heard it. I probably didn’t even realize it was the blues, but as I got older it became the one type of music that would always spoke to me.

So, it’s one of profound sadness when I read that B.B. King, one of the giants of the blues, has passed away at the age of 89.

B.B. King stands tall and his influence on electric blues and blues rock musicians over several generations looms large. He now joins the other two Kings, Albert King and Freddie King, who with B.B. King were called the Three Kings of the Blues Guitar.

The thrill is gone. The thrill will live on forever.

The Thrill Is Gone

The thrill is gone
The thrill is gone away
The thrill is gone baby
The thrill is gone away
You know you done me wrong baby
And you’ll be sorry someday

The thrill is gone
It’s gone away from me
The thrill is gone baby
The thrill is gone away from me
Although, I’ll still live on
But so lonely I’ll be

The thrill is gone
It’s gone away for good
The thrill is gone baby
It’s gone away for good
Someday I know I’ll be open armed baby
Just like I know a good man should

You know I’m free, free now baby
I’m free from your spell
Oh I’m free, free, free now
I’m free from your spell
And now that it’s all over
All I can do is wish you well

Embracing the Melodrama Part II #74: Perfect (dir by James Bridges)

PerfectOkay,before reviewing the 1985 film Perfect, I have three things to say.

Number one, I nearly captioned the picture above “John Travolta, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Little Xenu.”  And then I laughed and laughed.  But, in the end, I resisted temptation because I’m an adult now.

Number two, Perfect came out in June in 1985, a few months before I was born.  As a result, I have no idea what the 1985 reviews looked like.  However, it still seems to me that you’re taking a big risk when you give a movie a title like Perfect, especially when the movie itself is far from perfect.  How many reviews opened with, “Perfect fails to live up to its name…”

And finally, as a result of seeing both this film and Staying Alive, I have to say, “What the Hell, John Travolta?”  Seriously, what the Hell was going on?  John Travolta gave a great performance in the 1970s, with Saturday Night Fever.  And then in the 1990s, he was good in Pulp Fiction, Get Shorty, Face/Off, Primary Colors, and a few others.  (For our purposes here, we shall pretend that Battlefield Earth never happened.)  Even though most of Travolta’s recent films have been forgettable, his performances have generally been adequate.

So, seriously, John — what was going on in the 80s?  Because judging from both Perfect and Staying Alive, John Travolta apparently totally forgot how to act during that decade.  When I reviewed Staying Alive, I said that Travolta’s performance managed to create a whole new definition of bad.  But he’s actually even worse in Perfect.  It helped, of course, that in Staying Alive, Travolta’s character was supposed to be stupid.  In Perfect, on the other hand, he’s actually supposed to be a brilliant reporter.

Or, at the very least, he’s supposed to be brilliant by the standards of Rolling Stone.  Travolta plays Adam Lawrence, an award-winning reporter for Rolling Stone.  The magazine, by the way, plays itself and so does its publisher, Jann Wenner (though his character is technically named Mark Roth).  What’s interesting is that the film itself doesn’t necessarily paint a flattering picture of Rolling Stone or Jann Wenner, though admittedly a lot of that is due to the fact that Wenner himself gives a performance that is even worse than Travolta’s.  It’s impossible to watch Perfect without thinking about the fact that Adam is writing for the same magazine that would eventually put Dzokhar Tsarnaev on the cover and publish the UVA rape story.

Anyway, if I seem to avoiding talking about the exact plot of Perfect, that’s because there’s not really much of a plot to describe.  Adam, a hard-hitting investigative journalist, is doing research on a story about how people are hooking up at gyms.  Wenner agrees.  “We haven’t done L.A. in a while!” he says.  Adams joins the a gym called the Sports Connection, which he is soon calling “The Sports Erection” because he’s a super clever reporter.  He falls in love with an aerobics instructor, who is played by Jamie Lee Curtis.  She doesn’t trust reporters but is eventually won over by Travolta’s … well, who knows?  Mostly she’s won over because the plot needs some conflict.  She gets on Adam’s computer and she types, “Want to fuck?”  Adam says sure but then tries too hard to dig into the dark secret from her past.  “You’re a sphincter muscle!” she shouts as him.  Adam writes a compassionate and balanced article about the Sports Connection.  Wenner edits the article and turn it into a sordid hit piece.  (And again, you wonder why Wenner agreed to play himself.)  Feelings are hurt, issues are resolved, and eventually everyone takes an aerobics class.

Honestly, the entire movie is mostly just a collection of scenes of Jamie Lee Curtis and John Travolta working out.  And, in all fairness, Curtis does about as well as anyone could in this terrible film.  Travolta, on the other had … well, just check out the scene below and maybe you’ll understand why I had a hard time concentrating on Travolta’s acting.

Perfect fails to live up to its name.

Film Review: Maggie (dir by Henry Hobson)

Maggie_(film)_POSTERMaggie is a terrific and sad film about a father who finds himself helpless as his teenage daughter slowly dies.  It’s a thoughtful and heart-rendering film and it’s one of the best of the year so far.  Unfortunately, you wouldn’t necessarily know that from looking at some of the reviews.

Of course, there’s nothing new about a good film getting bad reviews.  I’m actually surprised that anyone even bothers with reviewers anymore, considering just how often they get things wrong.  There are any number of reasons why good films get dismissed.  Some movies are genuinely ahead of their time.  Some critics prefer to judge based on genre than by what they actually see on screen.  Occasionally, a critic feels obligated to like or dislike a movie based on the politics or culture of the moment.  The fact of the matter is that most film critics like to feel important and the easiest way to feel important is to hop onto a bandwagon with all of the other critics.

So, what’s the excuse as far as Maggie is concerned?  Why does Maggie, one of the best films of the year so far, only have a rating of 51% on rotten tomatoes?  In Maggie‘s case, it’s a combination of genre (Maggie is a zombie film and there’s a lot of critics who still feel guilty over liking The Walking Dead) and star.  Maggie has been promoted as being an Arnold Schwarzenegger film, even though his role is essentially a supporting one.  The majority of critics have been willing to admit that Schwarzenegger gives a good performance but they always have to qualify the praise.  As a result, you have critics at both Hitflix and the A.V. Club writing that Schwarzenegger’s performance works because his character is designed to take advantage of Schwarzenegger’s limitations as an actor, as if all good performances aren’t, to some degree, the result of good casting.  In order to make up for praising Schwarzenegger (who is not only an action star but a Republican as well, which is a combination that many reviewers — especially those who work exclusively online — will never be able to see beyond), many critics undoubtedly feel obligated to be overly critical of Maggie.

(What does that 51% mean anyway?  That Maggie is 51% good?)


As for the film itself, it tells a simple story, one to which a lot of people will undoubtedly relate.  As the film opens, we learn that the zombie apocalypse has already begun.  The world has been hit by a virus.  The infection spreads slowly, forcing the victims and their loved ones to watch as the infected are gradually transformed into mindless and cannibalistic zombies.  However, the U.S. government has reacted with swift and ruthless efficiency.  Martial law has been imposed.  The infected are allowed to say with family up until the disease enters its final stages.  At that point, they’re taken into quarantine and are euthanized.  Though we never actually see a quarantine center, we hear enough about it to know that there is nothing humane about it.  (Indeed, one reason why Maggie is so effective is because we know that the real-life government would probably be even less humane than the film’s government.)  Society has contained the plague but it’s done so at the cost of its own humanity.

College student Maggie (Abigail Breslin) has been infected.  She was bitten by  a zombie and, as a result, she now has a grotesque black wound on her arm.  As the virus moves through her body, her eyes grow opaque.  Her veins blacken.  When she breaks a now dead finger, she reacts by chopping it off with a kitchen knife.  As there is no cure, all Maggie can do now is wait until she is sent to quarantine.

Her father, a farmer named Wade (Schwarzenegger), brings Maggie back to his farm with him so that he can take care of her during her final days.  Wade knows what quarantine is like and he has no intention of forcing his daughter to go through that.  With government doctors and police officers constantly and, in some cases, forcefully demanding the he give her up, Wade protects Maggie as best he can.  He sleeps with a rifle at his side, knowing that eventually he’s going to have to use it on his own daughter.

And I’m crying again.  Between this review and the one I did for Terms of Endearment, my face is going to be a mascara-smeared mess.


Maggie is a low-key and thoughtful film, a meditation on life, love, family, and death.  Though the film does feature Schwarzenegger fighting zombies, most of the action happens off-screen.  Instead, we just see the haunting aftermath.  Schwarzenegger doesn’t deliver any one liners in this film and the film deliberately plays down his action hero past.  He’s still got the huge body and the muscles but, in Maggie, they’re not intimidating.  Instead, they’re evidence that Wade has spent his life working the land and they actually emphasize just how helpless Wade is in the face of Maggie’s disease.  Director Henry Hobson makes good use of Schwarzenegger’s heavily-lined and weather-beaten face.  His sad and suspicious eyes communicate everything that we need to know.  When he cries, you don’t consider that you’ve never seen him cry before.  Instead, the moment captures you because the tears and the emotions behind them are real.


But really, the film ultimately belongs to Abigail Breslin.  It’s appropriate that the film is named after her character because the film really is her story.  Maggie is about how she deals with knowing that she’s going to die and how she searches for meaning in her final days.  It’s a good and heartfelt performance, one that reminded me of Brigitte LaHaie’s poignant work in Jean Rollin’s Night of the Hunted.

So, ignore the critics.

Ignore that stupid 51% on Rotten Tomatoes.

See Maggie.