Avatar, Vampires, Rats and Other Assorted Media Bridge 2009 to 2010

phil-spector As the N.E. Patriots show real heart with Tom Brady in the game in the 4th quarter they are seen as true champions. There’s an excellent story on the web by Doug Farrar about how football fans want games at the end of the year to mean something. When the Colts “protected” themselves instead of going for it they lost some momentum. And they looked like lightweights. The N.E. Patriots have lots of momentum as we head into the 2010 playoff picture, hopefully Wes Welker will be there with them…but as film critic here at TMR Zoo it is time to talk about my current favorite subject…Avatar!

Is it a perfect film? No…but I’ve yet to see a perfect film…even some of my very favorites – Boris Karloff in The Bride of Frankenstein, Mick Jagger in Performance, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, The Matrix Trilogy, all of them have areas that could have been enhanced. Maybe the original Star Wars comes closest to the bar in my mind, that mark many critics believe was set by Citizen Kane and Gone With The Wind – but let’s talk about what is right with Avatar…the mystical world James Cameron creates is lovely and the 3D enhances the escapism. Sam Worthington’s understated performance and Sigourney Weaver’s presence all add to the many layered story. Though there’s no Heath Ledger Joker performance (that’s left to the special effects, the main focus of and in this major event) Avatar is a very special film. What will be very exciting is if the film studios spend the 30 million on the 3D technology for the original 1933 King Kong (unlikely), for the Matrix series, Star Wars, Lord Of The Rings, Terminator films…now that will make things very interesting…

Ian Hunter, Mott The HoopleMOTT THE HOOPLE reunion

Ian Hunter and Bad Company’s Mick Ralphs have done very well in the 35 years since the original Mott The Hoople disbanded…and though they didn’t get the airplay in America that they truly deserved, “All The Way To Memphis” and “All The Young Dudes” their most significant hits (only Dudes breaking the Top 40, and just marginally), they have an aura that cannot be denied…and are still a cult item in the worldwide scheme of things. Angel Air in Europe has released numerous Mott and Mott-related products including one of my all-time favorite discs Brain Capers featuring classics that may find new life on You Tube – “Death May Be Your Santa Claus”, “The Moon Upstairs”, “The Journey”, “The Wheel Of The Quivering Meat Conception”…pure genius. Seek out the 10 track bonus disc…Mott The Hoople’s September and October shows caused quite a stir in the U.K., where they have received more airplay than in the states over the years…It’s just nice to see the animosity put aside so that the fans (those of us still alive) can enjoy this phenomenal group.


Willie Nile has a new CD “House of a Thousand Guitars” following-up his excellent “Live From The Streets Of New York” DVD and “Places I Have Never Been” and “Live In Central Park” CDs. TMR Zoo will have a full feature on Nile soon…his show at Passims in November of 2008 was brilliant, and his storied career is a nice platform for this artist to reach the wider audience he deserves.


David Kubinec of Mainhorse Airline has reissued the second RATS album and it looks like the first Long Player…an identical cover except that it says RATS SECOND RECORD instead of RATS FIRST RECORD. Ten tracks recorded in 1974 at Trident Studios in London feature Kubinec on vocals, acoustic guitar and keys, Graeme Quinton-Jones on lead guitar and keys, Colin White on drums and Peter Kirke on bass.

RATS AND VAMPIRES: Blood Ties 4 DVD Box set

Vampires have always been a quiet rage…Bela Lugosi’s Dracula was the true prototype that took decades before Lugosi could emerge from behind Boris Karloff’s shadow. They are pretty evenly matched these days as the two major icons of the horror motion picture, the 1994 Ed Wood bio bringing Lugosi a strange cache’ via Martin Landau’s wonderful performance. But isn’t it strange there’s not been a significant bio pic on Lugosi or Karloff? Absent that we do have the “new vampire kids on the block”…the Twilight Series, Blood Ties and True Blood.

A gorgeous 4 DVD box set of Season One Blood Ties – A Crime Series with Bite is out on the always reliable Eagle Vision. The 13 full-hour television episodes are here, a behind-the-scenes documentary and a trailer all in a nice package. This is the kind of item that makes collectors drool…is the single DVD like the 45 RPM with the dawn of multiple disc sets? As media gets smaller and “normal people” rent or download instead of having thousands of cds, books and dvds surrounding them (like some of us), how can companies make a DVD an “event”? The Blood Ties 4 DVD set with 4 page liner note is a very nice step in the right direction.

garymooreGARY MOORE Essential Montreux

Expanded reviews may show up on TMR Zoo, and Gary Moore’s little box is also a collectible worth giving a tip of the hat too. 5 CDs with over six hours of classic tracks and unreleased performances are enhanced by the very professional packaging (each disc comes in a nice little sleeve) and a gorgeous 16 page booklet featuring excellent James McNair liner notes crafted in April of 2009. This is something for Moore fans to dive into as the former Thin Lizzy musician’s Montreux sets from 1990, 1995, 1997, 1999 and 2001 are explored throughout this handy package. This is something fans of Lou Reed, John Cale, Ian Hunter and other key artists deserve, a package of 5 or more concerts in a box so that those who appreciate their efforts can absorb them in a uniform setting that is easy to handle.


The late Ike Turner is a much maligned rock & roll figure, but his musical importance cannot be overstated and perhaps when his volatile nature takes a back seat to his creativity the world will have a better handle on his influence. Certainly Tina Turner’s majestic rise to worldwide fame is a testament to his vision and MVD Visual’s release of the North Sea Jazz DVD “Ike Turner & The Kings Of Rhythm Live In Concedrt At The North Sea Jazz Festival, 2002” along with its many extras should keep his name out there until the time when the music he created can rise above the caricature. This is a no-nonsense disc with the approx. 69 minute concert taped five years before his 2007 passing.


Author Mark Ribowsky has done a phenomenal job putting together the definitive biography on the biggest girl group (so far) of all time. The Supremes, Mary Wilson, Diana Ross, Cindy Birdson and Flo Ballard, certainly have a compelling tale beyond the Dreamgirls persona, four distinct personalities that, like Mott The Hoople above, couldn’t put aside their squabbles to entertain their fans from the stage after selling so many records. Ribowsky knows how to dig deep into the mist – the complex pile of personalities that tug and pull at the girls as their remarkable climb to fame and fortune gave the audiences around the world some of the most wonderful pop music of the 60s and 70s.

Like Karloff and Lugosi this group, The Supremes, became larger than life, and like 30s film stars and sports stars, their public lives became points of interest for those who appreciated their work as well as those who can’t escape the media blasting their names into your consciousness repeatedly. Ribowsky does some good investigative work piecing the story together from the perspective of an objective party who wasn’t involved in the business, the writing of someone who first found them as we all did…on the radio and as a fan.

philspector276He’s a Rebel: Phil Spector: Rock ‘n’ Roll’s Legendary Producer by Mark Ribowsky

For years we only had Rob Finnis’ The Phil Spector Story and other smaller tomes that told of Spector’s glory years. Now in the aftermath of the death caused by Phil’s affinity for guns there are lots of books available on the man who created “The wall of sound” and did such a great job on The Beatles’ Let It Be album. Ribowsky’s Da Capo book was published before the tragedy and reissued with more information after Spector’s legal troubles put a line in the sand on where his life was before and after the gun went off.

Other than Avatar, which tidied up 2009 and launched us into 2010, there was, of course, Michael Jackson and The Beatles, two big names (like Karloff and Lugosi in the 1930s) that can’t seem to get away from each other. The Beatles™ launch of Rock Band™ was already on the docket before Michael Jackson’s passing…we covered his exquisite documentary, This Is It, in the Halloween edition of TMR Zoo last year…so I won’t go into great detail on the three Beatles books by W. Fraser Sandercombe (The Beatles Press Reports, The Beatles Encyclopedia and The Beatles Books from Genesis to Revolution)…his amazing work is essential for Beatles collectors and TMRZoo will have full reviews and an interview with Sandercombe later this month. Ditto for Dave Schwensen’s excellent The Beatles in Cleveland and DVDs on Z.Z. Top (Double Down Live 1980-2008) and Michael Jackson: The Life & Times Of The King Of Pop 1958-2009 featuring excerpts and tributes from the Memorial Service in L.A.

And a full story on Sky Saxon, the immortal leader of The Seeds who passed away on the same day as Michael J…meaning his obscurity became all the more obscure. We want to keep the man who sang the song “Pushin’ Too Hard” in the public consciousness…he was a unique individual who was an important part of a pivotal time in garage / power pop music.

This Year End wrap up may be the start of a monthly or so column from me because so much media is arriving in the mailbox (and on the movie screens).

2010 will be an interesting year for media and we’ll be covering it here at TMR Zoo.