Posted in Freedom Friday, Other Things

My Childhood

When I was twelve, I looked forward to Friday nights. I lived in Toronto’s Little Italy where our neighborhood featured markets, shops and cafés specializing in Italian goods and cuisine. Our neighborhood also had a theater featuring movies shipped directly from the old country. It was there my dad would take me every Friday night to enjoy some one on one time away from the family. I believe it is also there my fondness for films emerged.

Movie theater
Movie theater

For today’s Freedom Friday, allow me the liberty to tell you about this part of my life.

Before the age of ten, I grew up in some of the roughest neighborhoods in the city. The school I went to was once voted the worst school in all of Toronto by a group of concerned citizens. My family eventually moved out of there and took up residence in Little Italy. It was a great place to live, school nearby, lots of places to play, and I had plenty of friends.

My dad made it a habit to build traditions in our family as a means to bond us to certain times of the year. Saturday nights were big at our house. It was Hockey Night in Canada night and should there have been a game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens, God forbid, it would have been the most epic night of the week.

The other big night was Friday night. My favorite. My mom would make something quick for us to eat—typically a soup, a plate of sandwich meats and bread, or simply a bowl of pasta—so that we could leave as soon as we finished eating. The theater was down the street from us and it took about fifteen minutes to walk there.

My mom always made sure I brought a sweater; even if it was during the hot summer months. She always said it would get cold in the theater. She was right. I still remember that to this day where I sometimes bring a sweater with me to the theater—yes, even in the sweltering months of summer.

I loved the walk there with my dad. We talked about silly things a nosey kid like me liked talking about. A thing like where we would sit when we got there was a hot topic. I wanted to sit to the side and he wanted to sit in the middle. So imagine where we sat. Nowadays, I love the middle. It’s the best seat in the theater.

The Spaghetti Western
The Spaghetti Western

Once we arrived, we’d check the movie posters. If any of them were a spaghetti western, I’d be jumping on the spot with excitement. It wasn’t hard for him to figure out which one we’d see.

From there, the other events are a blur. I remember the popcorn he’d buy me, the seats we sat in and the waiting in anticipation. Sometimes the theater would have a cartoon showing before the movie, which made the evening even more exciting.

After the film, and having found our way outside, the fresh air that hit my face was incredible. I can never forget the sensation of walking back home with gunslingers on my mind. My dad always got a kick from seeing me excited talking about the best parts of the film. How can I forget such a memorable evening?

I suppose I should have given this article a title like, “My Dad,” or “Movie Night,” but in actuality, calling it anything else other than “My Childhood” wouldn’t have made sense to me. Although it’s a snippet in time, I think you get a good idea of what my early life was like reading this.

I was an ordinary kid with my whole life ahead of me. Isn’t that the way childhood should be?

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RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale now.

Do you have fond memories of your childhood you’d like to share?

Posted in Wednesday Warriors

Man with No Name

Growing up, I had a hero. He wasn’t a sports hero, a superhero or a musician. Nor was he a TV or movie star. He had an unassuming walk, and he seemed quite harmless—that is if you look at him for what he represented. I always thought of him as enterprising. But that’s just me.

Clint Eastwood
Clint Eastwood

I’m talking about the Man with No Name, the character Clint Eastwood portrayed in 1964 that made him an international superstar. What would Wednesday Warriors be if I didn’t feature this taller-than-life character for my weekly series?

Directed by Sergio Leone, A Fistful of Dollars brought to life a character so rich in detail and so vivid in breadth that Leone had to direct two other movies (For a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly) to solidify the Man with No Name’s legend in the annals of the great American Western.

Known as Joe, Manco and Blondie, based on chronological appearance in the films, Clint Eastwood’s interpretation of a man who happens to wander in the middle of a feud turns into a battle cry for opportunity. The character pits families and armies against each other all in an effort to gain a profit from the animosity created.

Smoking cheap cigars and wearing a Mexican shawl, anyone else would consider him a regular nobody. But his adversaries can’t help but notice how he towers over them at six-foot-four and carries under his shawl a peacemaker called a Smith & Wesson.

Man with No Name
Man with No Name

In his first gunfight, he asks the local undertaker to prepare three coffins. He then strolls to the center of town challenging a group of hoodlums to apologize to his mule for scaring it with their errant gunfire. They were only teasing. He understands, but you see, the mule didn’t take kindly to the suggestion they were only fooling. Now if they’d apologize, like he knows they would, everything would be fine.

They don’t apologize.

When the Man with No Name passes by the undertaker once more he simply says, “My mistake” and holds up his fingers, “four.”

In the second and third movies, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly being the most popular, the character establishes his gunfighter prowess by eliminating one gang after another with a mission to gain as much gold as he can in the shortest possible time. His nicknames range from The Stranger, The Hunter to The Bounty Killer. However, if you think the character is all rock and no velvet, he does have a soft side. He reunites a little boy with his mother and sends them away, to the chagrin of the local gang who had held the boy for other nefarious intents.

Clint’s character also suffers brutal beatings at the hands of the gangs when he tries to do what he feels is best for everyone in a situation.

What I like most about the character Man with No Name though, is how the strong and silent type became a template for other actors in future films, even up to this day. To the merit of Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood, the character typifies that not every situation in life deserves words.

Sometimes, all we need is action.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale now.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale now.

Have you seen any of the Man with No Name movies starring Cling Eastwood? What do you think of them?

Posted in Monday Mayhem

Zombie Movies I’d Like to See

I’ve been a fan of genre crossing for a long time. I love it when movies bend the rules in order to tell a different type of story. I enjoy the challenges a hero faces when all of a sudden the plot flips from ordinary Horror to something altogether unpredictable. For today’s edition of Monday Mayhem, I’d like to have a look at zombie movies I’d love to see at the theater. If someone already came up with these ideas, let me know. I’m always in the mood for another zombie movie.

Aliens Attack!
Aliens Attack!

Zombies in Space—How about a zombie outbreak that takes place on a space station? Even more so, how about a zombie apocalypse taking over a human colony on another planet? We’re always wondering about what would happen if a zombie virus hits earth. What about astronauts on the space shuttle? No one can deny the close proximity of everyone involved would prove to be the worst aspect of the scenario. How would zombies react in zero gravity? I can see it now, the undead attempting to bite a floating human and it can’t quite grasp the concept of catching its food while hovering over it. I’d find it comical as well as challenging for the zombies. I’m sure humans would win.

Zombies of the Round Table—You know this was coming. The Knights of the Round Table going up against the zombies that have taken over the land. This movie would come complete with fire breathing dragons and the princess in the tower the knights had to save from the horde of undead trying to make a meal out of her. I can picture it now, sword battles and an archer’s dream. The logistics behind a movie like this would make any accountant’s head spin. Weapons, setting, zombie costumes, battle scenes, castle configuration, CGI, the list would go on and on. I’d go see it, for sure.

The Spaghetti Western
The Spaghetti Western

Zombies of the Wild, Wild West—I can hear you guys now, “Really, Jack? Really? Haven’t we learned anything from Cowboys & Aliens?” Okay, this may be a stretch. I would still enjoy a story like this. I would. Imagine a spaghetti western crossing with a zombie apocalypse. The Good, the Bad and the Zombie. Who doesn’t want to watch something like this? Show of hands? Believe me, a gunslinger sitting at a poker table in a saloon will beat six zombies bursting through the doors without breaking a sweat. This movie would raise the bar for zombie kills done in a one-hundred minute film.

Zombies vs. Vampires—I saved the best for last. Who wouldn’t want to see a movie where zombies and vampires tear each other apart? I know I would. When Underworld released, I was one of the first fans to hit the theater. In this case, vampires battled Lycans (werewolves). Not as genre crossing as the rest of the lot, zombies vs. vampires would prove a challenge even to seasoned producers. For instance, an astute writer will ask the question, “Who would be strong enough to win?” As an aside—zombies would win out of pure numbers. Vampires would win out of pure cunning. It would be an amazing movie, nonetheless.

I’m hoping one day that some of these ideas will become movies. I would totally spend money to see them. I must say though, if a bright young producer decided to create a zombie musical to satisfy the craving of all the middle aged folks old enough to remember Michael Jackson’s Thriller video, I’d probably skip it. One video with dancing zombies is enough in my book. Besides, no one could do the zombie walk quite like Jackson could—not including Jennifer Garner in 13 Going on 30.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, now on sale.

What kind of movie would you like to see incorporating zombies?