Monday, August 29, 2011

Short Reviews - August 2011

Paul Krugman: great economist, lousy movie buff. I mean, can anyone tell me what's wrong with that picture? Anyone at all...

And they say nothing happens in August. Why, all the stuff I've written in my file has already achieved adolescent obsolescence! Which is why even I must turn to the Bible in times like these. For me, the hidden lesson of Adam and Eve getting kicked out of the garden of Eden is not to avoid apples, or to blame girls for the evils of the world. Mostly, it's that man is a f... screw-up machine, capable of messing up even the most perfect situation. If Man were in a situation where all his earthly wants and desires are satiated for the rest of eternity, and all he had to do was not eat something he was told not to eat... eventually, he will get bored and do just that. No wonder God can't put up with it. And for me, the hidden lesson of the Ten Commandments finally hit me in this Internet-based era we live in... make lists. Lists of things. What's more Godly than that? The IMDb's got lots of lists now. Real nobodies can become a somebody if they make the right list. Unusual numbers of the usual topics often helps. For example, I saw a list of "242 of the most beautiful women on the planet"... something like that. Just remember: Bruce Willis in The Fifth Element said he only wanted one. And this, coming from Luc Besson! He knows the American market better than the Americans do. Mistresses have no place officially in American culture.

The Onion's also got lots of lists. There's 24 Great Films Too Painful to Watch Twice. For me, 1999's The Talented Mr. Ripley belongs on the list, but there's no brutal rape sequence in it, so I guess it stays in the obscure middle. And, for some, I'm sure seeing that gaping wound on Jude Law start to bleed is probably one of life's little pleasures. How many hits on YouTube did it get? There's also 13 Failed Attempts to Start a Film Franchise. Of course, a real failure like Brainscan, Shocker or Tank Girl doesn't make that kind of list. No, the kind of list those would be on is "13 Films Never to Mention in Polite Conversation, Unless One Wants to Be an Outcast For Life." Okay, arguably maybe not Tank Girl.

More important than any of this, of course, is staying on the bleeding edge of slang and shortened words. 'Documentary' is now "doco." Apparently "docu" just didn't trend well in focus group testing. And "doc" is still short for doctor... for now. That's sick. Again, I jotted this down at the beginning of the month, so the whole meme's probably extinct and in amber by now. A toast to the eventual monosyllabization of everything!

There's only one question in my mind, though: is Gina Gershon too old to play Amy Winehouse? I'll bet Gina doesn't think so!

Mr. Popper's Penguins - Well, it took Jim Carrey over 25 years, but he's finally gone from the duck factory to the penguin factory!

Fright Night - Colin Farrell will make a fine replacement for hunky Chris Sarandon

Honeymoon Academy - Some people have to recover plates for counterfeiting U.S. dollars.. wow! What a great plot. But where have I heard that before? OH RIGHT.....

The Garden of Eden - From the director of Raw Deal and Next of Kin... well, Irvin can't make stinkers all his life!

Waltz Across Texas - WILL NO ONE REVIEW WALTZ ACROSS TEXAS?!!! Maybe L. Ron Hubbard can, and it'd be nice if he liked it. I'm just saying...

World War Z - How could you, Brad? How could you?... Incidentally, what did you do, Brad? People are talking.

War of the Worlds 2: The Next Wave - Somehow, I have a feeling the special effects aren't as good as Scary Movie 4. I saw this at the pawn shop on Blu-Ray and somehow I kept forgetting to include it here.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World - I dare say I was wrong about my first impressions of this film! Coolest video game I've ever watched.

Blade Runner - Ridley Scott's directing a new Blade Runner sequel, reboot, whatever... slated for 2014. I guess that means it's set in the year 2051.

The Substitute: Failure is Not an Option - ... but I guess putting the Substitute series out of its bloody misery is, thank God!

Brooklyn Rules - Somehow, Alec Baldwin's set the bar very low for returned favours.

Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown - You know, everyone points to The Simpsons as great subversive entertainment, or Dr. Strangelove, or Jersey Shore... I don't know what the cutting edge of subversive entertainment is these days, but for fans of Peanuts, RFYLCB just might be it! Case in points. Exhibit A: the title alone. Exhibit B: the ending. As Charlie Brown gets ready to go home, standing next to the bus entrance, he muses on the lessons learned over 77 minutes... I mean, that fateful summer. Suddenly, the bus door closes and leaves without him. That's about as subversive as Charles Schulz gets, but it's a nice lesson for today's blockbusters that seem to spend way too much time telling the audience to make the most of the time they have left. GET ON THE DAMN BUS, ALREADY!!!!!! Exhibit C: But all is not quite so lost for good ol' Charlie Brown, as Snoopy pulls up in his Harley and takes his master home. They get lost in the avant gard mist of the ending credits, but still, Snoopy as a Hell's Angel. What's not to like?

The Boyfriend School - You'll always be "Don't Tell Her It's Me" to me... but I guess MGM knows what they're doing! Oh, right...

Drive - ...Angry?

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter - It's exactly the kind of project an A-lister newbie like Bekmambetov would spearhead, so to speak

Season of the Witch - Nah, still vampires.

Colombiana - There's gotta be a way to combine this with Syriana. What would be the result? Colombosyra? Syricolomba? Anaiana?

Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star - Welp, after Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star... what difference is another one going to make? Me myself, I'm just not ready for the Nick Swardson Experience to begin.

The Marc Pease Experience - Speaking of which... okay, all you hoity-toity critics hatin' on this movie. You made Dick cry. Happy? High Fidelity? Hel-LO?!!!

Brides Maids - Welp, they said it again. Brides Maids was the surprise summer hit... Judd Apatow was the producer. I'm not surprised.

The Rum Diary - Why does Johnny Depp like Dariusz Wolski so much? What... is Darius Khondji chopped liver?

Jurassic Park 1 - The reviews of the time say that the people are too broad, just archetypes... I dunno! Sam Neill seems to bring some eccentricity to the big dance. People are just so damn picky. I mean, it's not like Spielberg's just using the cast of Jersey Shore.....

On Golden Pond - Best movie about incontinence ever made

The Three Musketeers - Damn, this movie's getting more remade than Spider Man!

I, Alex Cross - This just in: Matthew Fox is in hot water... or is he? I think not. It's all about the coverage. For example:

BAD - Matthew Fox arrested for assaulting a woman
NOT SO BAD - Matthew Fox arrested for punching a woman bus driver in the chest and stomach after being denied entry onboard a private party bus.

Why, these days, in the post-Jersey Shore apocalypse, that's better than a signature! That bus driver lady can sell her chest and stomach on eBay, netting a small personal fortune. I mean, FOR GOD'S SAKE! A PRIVATE PARTY BUS!! Who wouldn't get more than mildly upset about being denied entrance into Paradise on Earth?

I wanna go to Coppola's retreat in Belize! Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeez? I'll just sit in the back, won't say a word... I'll just stake out a spot at the craft services table with my back to the action

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Dogs and Babies and Stooges... oh my!

Parenthood. An inevitable stage of human development, or just all that stuff that the "breeders" do? Even the Stooges weren't invulnerable to such deep, philosophical questions, and as much as a nightmare as it would be for about 99.9% of humanity to let a Stooge near a young child... it did happen on several occasions. But at least it appeared to be an accident... Let's start from the beginning of this shaggy dog story, so to speak, shall we?


We see the Stooges on the right side of the law at the start, as they operate their Rube Goldberg designed dog washing business. Actually, we start with the customer who makes his way to their shop with the smartest, most tolerant dalmatian in the world. Bess Flowers stars once again as the long suffering high society wife... hmm! Interesting resumé. Wonder if it's worth it to look her up in all them old movies... Palm Springs Weekend? Probably not worth it. As for the husband... there's something unsettling about that guy. I just can't put my finger on it. Lane Chandler, I think it is. Being a nerdy film critic, I guess I just can't handle all the machismo.
Anyway, so we head to the dog washing business, where the poor mutt's manhandled from the start, falling down a chute onto a conveyor belt. The first indignity is a contraption with feather dusters on it. Then, the dog goes past a circular device with six gloves on it to Larry who uses a cake froster to apply soap to the dog. Then, in reverse, back to the gloves which suddenly, through movie magic, have human arms in them! They scrub the dog, flip it on its back, continue scrubbing, and generally humiliate the dog as much as possible without actually killing it. Curly operates a stationary bicycle that powers the dog's rinse water. Curly complains that he's "not getting anywhere" in his job. Moe provides meaning to his work by operating a hand that slaps Curly in the ass. Damn near half of the first reel is squandered on this conveyor-belt-based dog washing operation. Final charge for services? Fifty cents!!! Well, it was the Depression, and fifty cents was actually worth something. And their business was relatively eco-friendly! They didn't have coal to burn to power anything.


Continuing the eco-friendly theme, the Stooges' car is Curly powered. As for the non-Stooge part of the film involving the rich white family, well... there may be a weaker film than this out there, probably one with Joe Besser. The wife is going to get revenge because she thinks the husband's gone ahead to Palm Springs without her. She goes back home, forgets her key, and leaves the baby by the front door as she goes around to the back to see if there's a window to crawl in through. Not as bad as, say, 3000 Miles to Graceland in terms of plot contrivance, but whaddayagonna do. The Stooges, in their car being pushed by Curly, just happen by the house when the baby's left on the doorstep. Thinking it's been abandoned, they take it to give to the police... but maybe they'll take care of the cute little fella a while before they go to the police. That'll pad out the film a bit more! At this point, Moe has a very rare moment to himself. Sounding a bit like Shemp, Moe muses "I dunno... it was my idea, but I don't think much of it." Okay, so that can be said about every Stooge film ultimately, but tis a rare occasion indeed when they achieve lucidity. The car, pushed by Curly, slowly trudges on, but they're out of frame, so the mother comes back in front of the house and, in utter horror, finds the baby gone. Fortunately, the husband's car is driving off and she at least has the comfort of thinking that husband took junior to Palm Springs. But what is she to do at this point? We'll leave that aside and get back to the Stooges, who are busy smuggling the kid into their apartment in A BAG OF GROCERIES. There's a sign on the door of their apartment complex that says "No dogs or babies", but it's all good because they're smuggling the kid into their place INSIDE A BAG OF GROCERIES. Vernon Dent has an all-too brief scene as the tough but fair landlord. The kid, INSIDE A BAG OF GROCERIES, starts to cry. Curly pretends that he's crying. The boys get him inside as quickly as possible, and I assume to GET THE KID OUT OF THE BAG OF GROCERIES. I'm trying very hard to censor myself here... Oh! They also rig the kid up to a Goldberg-esque pulley system so they can HIDE THE KID INSIDE A BASKET FROM THE LANDLORD. They have a little trouble putting the kid back in. Too bad the ASPCA can't get redress on old films like this.


Admittedly the line between acts two and three is awfully blurry, but I suppose it begins in earnest with a newspaper with the banner headline screaming "Manning Child Abducted"... something like that. The boys quickly put two and two together... rare for them... and make plans to return the kid as quickly as possible. Curly gets dressed up as the boy's mother. He fits the part except for his ugly, stick-thin legs. You'd think, being a fat man, that he'd have fat legs, but a good premise is a good premise. Sponges are used to pad out his legs, covered up by pantyhose or God knows what.
Now we come to perhaps the film's sole redeeming feature: Bud Jamison as a very VERY Irish cop. He takes an immediate liking to Curly and the kid. "Ah, a fine brat of a boy, Mrs. O'Toole." Curly makes a poor choice of place to stand: in front of a sprinkler. Water fills up the sponges, making his legs unsightly in a new way. Bud Jamison puts two and two together, and the chase begins. The scene I love is where Bud starts running, screaming "Come back here! Ya can't get away with that!" I love it because he runs away from the microphone, and his voice sounds far away. God bless them for not re-dubbing it in. It's downhill from there, so to speak, even though the altitude doesn't change. Moe and Larry duck into a Chinese laundry... hoh boy. Yup, you can tell what's coming. Now, apparently, Wikipedia's all over the gobbledygook that Larry says and was able to make sense of it. I guess the closed captioning on the DVD is just that good... I hope. Even though it's offensive, the last third of the plot hinges upon Moe and Larry as ethnic laundrymen, so in it stays. They run with Curly and kid inside of a wheeled hamper. That the film and sound are sped up doesn't help much. To cut to the end of the chase, everything turns out all right, but some of the cops don't seem too happy about it. Mom's happy to be reunited with baby, "...but you're the dirtiest baby I've ever seen!" Well, just as the car companies were turned into tank companies for the war effort, so too do the Stooges modify their dog washing operation for young kids. Curly wants to do something to help, but ends up ruining everything. Maybe it's too subtle, but the baby ends up getting spanked by the six-hand part of the dog washing contraption. Frankly, it left me feeling a little dirty.

Good double bill with: The Way Things Go

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - Sid and Marty Krofft

Welp, it seems that The Onion will kiss anybody's ass if they show up in person to do an interview. That sure seemed to be the case when they interviewed Paul Verhoeven, arguably one of the most obnoxious filmmakers to hit the American market since... since Paul Verhoeven! Well, maybe Jody Hill. But God bless 'em, they've found niche markets, and why not. Adam Sandler caters to the mainstream teenager in all of us; someone's gotta give a shout out to the teenagers with headless Barbie dolls in dominatrix dioramas in the basement, walls plastered with photographs of nuclear explosions...
On the other hand, it's probably not good to bash these two, the same reason it's probably not good to bash Jerry Weintraub. They're corporate! They could have me whisked away to a REAL black site! Not those ones always talked about during the Dubya presidency. Judging from the Onion interview, I'm going to say Sid's the alpha dog of the two, but Marty's not exactly a slouch either. Neither will go down without a fight. Such long résumés. Why, The Onion didn't even mention The Bugaloos! Or D.C. Follies in the late 80s when it was okay to make fun of Reagan? Most of us don't often see this sight, but Fred Willard here looks like he's in Hell. Or maybe it was Moving Violations I was thinking of. (In the same photo, Leslie Nielsen looks like he's giving the finger with his pen... a sight we frankly don't get enough of these days) Clearly the 70s are the decade of choice, when the shows were the wildest. They apparently weren't on drugs when making their shows. As Sid explains, "But hey, three presidents said that they smoked pot. It was the ’70s. It was a psychedelic period." When you're high on the wacky weed, apparently the only thing one feels like making is a run to the store for some snacks.
You do gotta hand it to them Krofft boys. Okay, maybe not, but I will anyway. I saw some of the Land of the Lost movie, and the part where the dinosaur hears Will Ferrell talking about how dumb dinosaurs are... SPOILER ALERT. The dinosaur rolls its eyes, turns around, and proceeds to scare the ... stuffing out of Will. Damn near priceless. Just one problem: Danny McBride? Really? I thought the Kroffts tried to surround themselves with the best of the best! I hate Bust-Ass, I'm sorry. Maybe I'll get my mind changed about that. In fact, I know I will, especially if I drive through the wrong parts of Georgia. I'm kinda interested in their movie Side Show ... maybe not. It's based on Sid's adventures working for the circus, but it sounds like the subplot about witnessing a murder was tacked on to either a) make the story more palatable, or b) Sid actually shot a man in Reno just to watch him die. Show biz, baby! The first one's always free. One last thing: the Kroffts are consummate showmen, even during interviews. They don't want to give anything away, but they're still good at surrounding themselves with the best people, and in their new role as producers of the upcoming Krofft-property-based movies like Lidsville, The Bugaloos, and The Altered State of Drugachusetts, they're working with someone who's won eight Oscars! No, not Rick Baker, someone who's won for music. I can't imagine who that would be. Usually people like Rick Baker really clean up at the Oscars, or Colleen Atwood. Or Katharine Hepburn! She won four of the little beauties. Then again, she tied in 1968 with Barbara Streisand, so it's more like 3.5. Why, she didn't even show up to get her statuettes in 1982 OR 1934! OR 1968! Why, it's like she didn't win them at all! She's still got the most wins for an actor. Sorry, Kirk Lazarus, but no actor's made the big five. For the most part, a good actor's lucky if they get two or three, usually for roles based in the big stages of life: childhood, young adulthood, and senior citizen age.

Not again...

Oh, the Oscar whisper campaign has begun in earnest. But to really improve your chances with the Little Golden Man(TM), you gotta make at least 200 million dollars these days. The Help's halfway there. I couldn't help but do some half-assed research behind that quote that gets tossed around here in this age of internet lists: Margaret Mead's extra quotable "Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." Why, did you know that the 2006 music video for "If Everyone Cared" by Nickelback ends with her quote? My good friend Wikipedia told me so! But I am part iconoclast, and I couldn't help but read the rest of the Wikipedia entry, and ran across this:

"Occasionally a message carried by the media finds an audience so eager to receive it that it is willing to suspend all critical judgment and adopt the message as its own. So it was with Margaret Mead's celebrated 'Coming of Age in Samoa.'"

Sometimes you gotta get both sides of the story. Not global warming, though. We've definitely screwed ourselves. Cars are fun! In other box office news, the latest Luc Besson/Robert Mark Kamen juggernaut, Colombiana, makes the U.S. box office its bitch. See? This is exactly the kind of thing that The Help has to put up with! Such a lack of civility. Not exactly a surprise coming from the French, of course. At #3, Guillermo del Toro applies the Pan's Labyrinth family formula to a reboot of the 1973 TV movie Don't be Afraid of the Dark. Our Idiot Brother is the last of the debuts this week at #5. Judd Apatow didn't officially produce this one, but Paul Rudd has been in scads of Apatow films, as you might know. Apatow's got the second-hand golden touch! But the real interesting story this week is that The Smurfs is back! For two weeks it was hovering at 11 and below, but popped up again like a buoy that someone was trying to drown. Usually these overloaded Hollywood vehicles are like giant sponges, and they never stop soaking up the water.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Tyler Perry's Meet the Stooges

Something just occurred to me... why didn't Rob Schneider lobby a little harder to play Larry in the up-and-coming Farrelly brothers Three Stooges movie? Shame. Probably because Adam Sandler wasn't offered the Moe part. What could've been. Thank God some of the cast of Jersey Shore is in it, though! Stooges, time to meet herpes!
Well, you've got to hand it to those Stooges: they never had any pretensions about their place in the heavily stratified world of show business. Here they start off as three cleaning men about to lose their jobs cleaning the office of... wait for it... B.O. Botswaddle, head of Columbia Pictures... I mean, Super Terrific Productions, a studio that probably could've bought up Columbia at the time. For some reason, that comedy name makes me think of Billy Gilbert's name in The Music Box, which was... hold on while I look it up... I think it's Theodore von Schwarzenhoffen, ADA, DDS, FLD, FFF&F... something like that. Man, that dude was pissed. Pissed off, not drunk. Anyway, back to Three Missing Links. One thing I know for sure is that parts of Act One are featured in Lethal Weapon 2, when Mel Gibson rightly throws away the remote when he finds a Stooge film on the ol' boob tube. Only Richard Donner could broker that deal, showing parts of a Columbia pic in a Warner Bros. flick... or maybe Spielberg made the call.


James C. Morton plays long suffering studio head B.O. Botswaddle. He's having trouble with his leading lady, Mirabel Mirabel and his new pic set in Africa. He paces up and down his office with the director by his side, screaming "Where is Mirabelle Mirabelle?" Only James C. Morton could pull that line off. Mirabelle squared eventually shows up, and the three of them get to work rehearsing before heading off to "Africa." The Stooges show up with their office-cleaning gear, ready to destroy... I mean, clean the office. Botswaddle tells them to be quiet. Boy, he must've fallen off the turnip truck. Larry helpfully offers, "We'll be as quiet as a mouse." Curly says "Yeah! A deaf and dumb mouse." The political incorrectness escalates from there, needles to say. The producer, director and Mirabelle Mirabelle must have a very, very high tolerance for noise and disruption, because the Stooges end up very far from quiet. Moe delivers an Oscar-worthy performance when he bursts into a rare rage, screaming "GIMME THE BUCKET! GIMME THE BUCKET!" He throws the bucket at Curly, but it instead goes through the nice pristine glass door. In any other business, they'd end up fired or worse, but this is showbiz, and Curly ends up eventually impressing the producer and director. At first, after experiencing Curly's imitation of a chicken with its head cut off (the camera wisely is up high off the ground and far back to show Curly in all his velocity-driven glory), the director says "Let me kill him... Just once, it won't cost much." Curly then launches into dog-gorilla fighting mode... just what the Africa pic needs. The six of them end up toasting their new-found venture... Curly gets the gin and ink drink he prepared earlier.
You might've noticed that some of Curly's noises during his headless chicken dance were repeated. This is a Stooge film! That's merely the beginning of the repeating sounds...


The Stooges and crew end up in "Africa," or a moderately-dressed set on Cannery Row. It's big enough so that the boys can do some damage over a good distance. Curly helps the boys find some water... in a water-drenched tree. Moe and Larry, enraged, chase Curly into another tree. Curly slows down before hitting it. The three knuckleheads make their way to a medicine man's hut. There must be a special place in Hell for African American actors who've appeared in Stooge films... I mean, besides the Stooge films themselves. Anyway, the medicine man's a cannibal, and sets his sights on Curly first. Well, apparently the mosquitoes love the big, fatty Americans that travel abroad. Quite tasty! As George Carlin once mused, how do you decide who to eat first? Do you pick on the skinny guy because he can't fight back, or do you all gang up on the bodybuilder because he's got a lot of steaks and chops on him? The Stooges helpfully offer up each other to the medicine man, citing their own unique animal spirit guides in the process. That's loyalty for you. Was I the only one who thought of Rob Schneider's capering in Judge Dredd when he and Sly ran afoul of some cannibals? It's probably a 99.7% chance with a Confidence Interval of 95, but hey, that's just elementary statistics. Fortunately for Curly, he happens upon some love candy. The medicine man describes its effect: "Love candy. Make big strong love." I don't know how that got past the Hays Office, but God bless them for missing it. In the end, capitalism made its way to the heart of darkest Africa, and the medicine man takes payment for a handful of love candy, and puts it in a cash register. Hooray, small business! And now, back to the cannibalism... poke in the medicine man's eyes, exit stage left.


Every once in a while, a Stooge makes a genuine noise of complaint when getting hit. In this case, Curly's plaintiff wails of thwarted love ring true when, after Curly tells Moe he's going to give Mirabelle Mirabelle some love candy, Moe orders him back to work with a slap to boot. Larry has a similar moment when Moe winds up to hit Curly and gets hit his own damn self. Curly runs afoul of some comedy stakes he's trying to keep in the ground. The boys have a special tent that needs double tethering... oh no. Not the lion licking their bare feet gag! Larry gets a positively Shakespearean moment before the big reveal: he says "I do not snore! Why, I stayed awake all last night to see if I snored, and I didn't." Why, that's got to be the biggest speech he's ever given!


The day of the big shoot, and we see the director moving some stuff around the set. Boy, what a shoestring production this is. Moe and Larry play cavemen in this pic, and Mirabel Mirabel looks positively fetching in a leopard-skin outfit. James C. Morton must be a white glove producer, for he's nowhere to be found. Curly's getting dressed up in his gorilla costume when... wait for it... a "REAL" gorilla shows up. COMEDY!!! Then again, if this were a drama, would not the same thing happen? I wonder if Woody Allen has ever considered this possibility, possibly with Will Ferrell in the cast... Anyway, you can imagine the comedic possibilities of two gorillas in one pic, but I'm just going to mention one that reminded me of the movie Ronin when Sean Bean gets kicked out of the group for his Stooge-like idea, because Moe and Larry implement it here. They're each at the mouth of a cave with guns pointed at each other's hats. Curly, imbued with powerful temporary psychic gifts, hits the ground as he's running out of the cave. Moe and Larry end up shooting each other's hats off. The love candy ends up closing the pic.
All in all, I gotta say... I think this is a four-star Stooge pic! You got the bare essentials, and just enough uneasiness to offend today's P.C. crowd. What's not to like? Probably the Stooges' ad-libbing, but their laughter seemed real when the lion was licking their feet.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - Stephen and David Koepp

God Damn! Are we ever going to get out of the 'K's? Probably not. Anyway, on to the next sibling team. Well, clearly David is the alpha Koepp in this equation. All Stephen's done in the last 20 years is The Paper and go on The O'Reilly show on Fox News.... Someone wants royalties!!!
So let's get back to this David guy. Which do you think is his favorite decade? Was it the 80s, the lean, hungry decade? Mohawks and Sally Cruikshank, in the wake of All That Jazz, and Koepp was working with a bloke by the name of Martin Donovan, clearly in the apprentice role... well, who's the apprentice now?
And then came the 90s and, just as Spielberg claimed Dean Cundey as his own from protegé Zemeckis, so too did Koepp get swiped up for Jurassic Park, no less! Good move on Koepp's part. Not long before he was a damn director in his own right, directing a West-coast Fargo, so to speak... The Trigger Effect, it was called. Certainly more handsome people than Fargo, and more of the kind of bullying behaviour that the American public can understand and appreciate. He musta did something right as 1999 brought his version of The Sixth Sense with that six degrees of Kevin Bacon thrown into the mix for good measure... what was that damn thing called? Stir of Echoes, that's it.
Or maybe the 2000s is Koepp's fave decade. Higher screenplay salaries, and he still gets to play director. 2004 brought his O Brother Where Art Thou to the screen, or Secret Window. Turturro goes from getting redress for a watch stolen from his kin to a story stoled'd from his own damn self! And this time, Turturro's not playing Larry to George Clooney's Moe: he's the whole damn show his own damn self... or so I've been told. And then, 2008 gave us Koepp's The Sixth Sense meets About Schmidt with a touch of Brit, called ... Ghost Town? That's it.
But perhaps the 2010s will be the bestest decade of all for David Koepp. The stench of Indiana Jones 4 behind him, he's ready, willing and able to bring his version of 16 Blocks to the big screen, and it's so far called Premium Rush, the story of a bike messenger being chased by a dirty cop. It's all well and good, but David knows what's coming: the next phone call to his mom, and he's gotta collaborate with Stephen again, even though Stephen went on Fox News. Try and get along with your sibling!

Heaven "Help" Us

Every once in a while an important Southern movie comes along to us big-city types way up North, teaching all of us damn Yankees a thing or two about life. But while we're waiting for that movie to come along, we've got something here in the meantime called 'The Help.' Hollywood is powerless to compete. I mean, if even Planet of the Apes can't beat this thing... from the director of Pretty Ugly People, Tate Taylor, comes The Help... I can't help but mention. Maybe I'm just a closet racist myself, but the dude's name is too cute to be a serious director. And he probably wears jeans. Right, Spike Lee? ...see, Shelton once told a girl in jeans that she couldn't be a director, mostly because she was wearing jeans. And that girl's name was... Troy Beyer! Seriously, though, I don't know who the girl was, and so far the Internet's been powerless to corroborate the story... ah, skip it.
Sorry, folks, gotta cut this short. I know, tragic loss, right? The other debuts were: El Mariachi's latest, a Conan the Barbarian reboot in 3D, a Fright Night reboot in 3D... if there was just some way to make Robert Rodriguez an honorary 80s icon... and something called One Day, a rom-com NOT featuring shirtless Matthew McConaughey and Goldie Hawn's kid! Go figure. As God is my witness, the genre will always be fresh.

Friday, August 19, 2011

B-A-Bay Ruckus

The directors of Three Stooges shorts often don't get held aloft in the directing pantheon, unlike, say, some of the Warner Brothers cartoon directors; usually Bob Clampett and Chuck Jones. But Charley Chase is perhaps an exception. Some of his Hal Roach shorts were pretty inventive. They showed a few of them a few odd months ago on Turner Classic Movies, along with the Taxi Boys and other mostly forgettable ones. Boyfriends? Puh-leeze Having worked with the likes of Laurel and Hardy and... well, what more does one need, really? Charley brings a slightly more academic sensibility to the Stooges with Violent is the Word for Curly. Ah, God bless Wikipedia. Yes, the title is a play on something else. In this case, a parody of a film called Valiant is the Word for Carrie. Now I'm as culturally ignorant as the next internet movie reviewer, but I confess I don't know what that is. Clearly the Stooge film has stood the test of time a little more sure-footedly. But let's just dive right into the plot.


As usual, haute couture is about to get a trident stuck in its ass. Three professors from somewhere in Europe are due to arrive at Mildew College... great comedy college, up there with Huxley and Faber. Meanwhile, the Stooges find themselves not in jail, but in the private sector, with one foot in the cell. Boss Bud Jamison's going to go across the street to get a sandwich and leaves the boys with some rah-rah motivational talk. Up pulls a fancy car with a lewd hood ornament on it. Curly will fix that later. Still, my God! Fox News was right! Damn overpaid teachers flaunting their wealth. The three professors sit smugly in the back of their expensive car, but, boy did they pick the wrong gas station to pull into. The chauffeur goes across the street to get a sandwich too. That must be one hell of a sandwich place. The Stooges set immediately to work destroying the car. Up pulls an ice cream truck in need of repair work. Moe makes an unusual proposition: "Well, we're busy right now, but we'll give you some tools and you can get to work on it yourself!" Something like that. I can't go back to double check it right now. I... just can't. The driver of the ice cream truck goes across the street to get a sandwich; he disappears, anyway. Larry throws the professors' suitcases into the ice cream truck to make room for himself. Curly looks at the bald head of one of the professors, and asks Larry to throw him a bottle of polish. Curly starts pouring polish on the guy's head. Moe goes over to reprimand Curly... then proceeds to buff the professor's bald, polish-covered head with a towel. Worse than that: the professor seems to enjoy it! Curly's job now is to inflate the car's tires. Curly has a little trouble with the air hose as it's whipping around like a cascabel that's eaten one too many Mexican jumping beans... sorry, I was channeling Dan Rather there for a second. Anyway, to cut to the Chase, so to speak, the car explodes, and the Stooges decide to take off in the ice cream truck. Curly has to make a run for it as the truck leaves without him, and he climbs in the back of the truck... hmm! Is this plot development going to come into play later on?


The boys are driving in the ice cream truck. The truck runs out of gas. They remember that Curly's in the back of the truck. They open the back of the truck and find that Curly's frozen stiff. Only one thing to do: thaw Curly out over an open flame. Ah, childhood memories. I remember that one sticking pretty well. Moe makes an awfully snide comment, even for him: "40 minutes to the pound! We'll be here all month!" Good thing Curly was unconscious, and never watched his own work. Curly comes to, and starts freaking out about being tied to a spit over a campfire. What a weirdo! He runs into the nearest puddle he can find. He gets a little short term revenge when he pulls Moe and Larry in with him. Plot device #2: Larry says "Hey! I'll bet there are some dry clothes in those suitcases..." Obviously they have little faith in the power of fire to dry out clothes. Well, being the Stooges, they could mess up a baked potato.
A few hops, skips and jumps later, they find themselves hitchhiking in graduation outfits. The snooty lady from the beginning of the film stops her car and picks them up. They find themselves in a classroom in the next scene. Larry gets a bad case of the blues, and Moe snaps him out of it.. rather, slaps him out of it. And then, to avoid an actual student question, Stooge song history is made with "Swinging the Alphabet." I find the song kind of irritating myself, but I can't deny something its iconic place in icon history. Icon! As usual, Wikipedia's on it better than I ever could. As they rightfully observe, for some reason Curly sings his part faster than the other singers. What a dope. Must be another plot device. Ah hah! But even Wikipedia doesn't know everything! They don't say who wrote the Swinging the Alphabet song.


What Stooge film would be complete without a big dinner scene? The boys make their best dinner entrance yet, and rather quickly make huge asses of themselves. Curly runs afoul of a comedy cucumber. And then... the three REAL professors show up at the college. Now, if it were Vernon Dent, his first order of business would be to take off his coat and vow to murder the Stooges, but this isn't Scrambled Brains. The snooty lady calls the real professors impostors, and the three real professors announce their resignation. On their way out, they spy the laboratory and the ringleader says "We'll give them a going away present they'll never forget!" This was just before World War II started to heat up, so I'll try to keep the German-baiting to a minimum. Besides, they do have a legitimate grievance, but still they leave the door open to get what's coming to them. It's around about this point of the film when I realized that "Super Service" is the theme that's going to come full circle. The boys try to patch things up by tackling the snooty lady in an impromptu game of football using a basketball filled with just a drop of nitroglycerine. What I like about this film is that it's slightly different than the usual Stooge ending. Instead of the cops chasing the Stooges down, the snooty lady tells the Stooges to just get the real professors back and PLEASE GO AWAY!!! Something like that. Finally, someone in a Stooge film makes the ultimate realization: the Stooges just aren't worth all the attention they get.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Sunday, August 14, 2011

DAMN DIRTY APES, PART TWO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I hate to do this hasty box office follow-up, but apparently this is the biggest story to hit Yahoo! News in, like, forever and ever, so it obviously behooves me to blog about it. It's beyond my control at this point.

...Okay, that's it.

Auteur Watch - Alek and Aleen Keshishian

It's a sad, sad story, oft repeated in Hollywood. One sibling leads the way, only to be superseded by the one not currently in the biz... I can't think of any good examples right now that fit that mold. For some reason, Glen and Darin Morgan come to mind. Glen was the alpha brother for a while, working on The X Files, but brother Darin came in and wrote some crackerjack scripts. And I tells ya, when Darin's name came up in the credits, one just KNEW they were in for a good episode. As for the Keshishians, well, they're currently the toast of the E! reality show set... damn! I mean, the Kardashians. Well, that certainly doesn't help things if your name is that similar to someone bigger and more famous in your industry, but let's try to focus here.
The Keshishians are the biggest thing to come out of Beirut since... since the attack on the U.S. base? Since Keanu Reeves? Yeah, that's more positive. Since Keanu Reeves. And Dom Joly, Austin Powers cinematographer Peter Deming and Terminator producer Mario Kassar. But Alek was a kid with a dream and a brother, and he soon found himself rising to the top of his craft, directing such classic music videos as "My Prerogative"... the Bobby Brown original, not the Britney Spears cover. At which point, Madonna thought he would be the perfect director she could really push around for her documentary debut, Truth or Dare... oh! There's two directors! Well, a subject as big as Madonna certainly merits at least two directors, I'll give you that.  With Madonna directing herself as well, no doubt.  After that, it was time for the cookie cutter flic With Honors. Patrick Dempsey had yet to start the second act of his career, and people wanted to see Joe Pesci just go f-ing nuts again... like he did in JFK! They'd have to wait for Casino for that to happen, I guess. Anyway, Alek must've gotten fed up with the biz at this point, because it's 12 years to his next pic! Unfortunately, he's not exactly Terrence Malick, and his comeback feature wasn't exactly The Tree of Life.
Oh, did I mention that Aleen is a chick? Oh well, who cares. Too late to go back and change it now. As it turns out, Ben Geisler from Barton Fink was right. "Writers come and go... we can always use a few Indians!" As it turns out, directors come and go, but casting agents are forever. According to her IMDb entry, Aleen's clients are Jennifer Aniston and... whoa! Stop right there. I dare not list any more clients in the same sentence with Jen-An! Am I right? And yet, for Aleen, that 10% of that green, green Jennifer Aniston money just isn't enough. I know I wouldn't be able to pull that one off, that's for sure. As you can further see from Aleen's IMDb entry, she clawed her way up through the ranks through the 90s, the 00s and is clearly at the top of her craft now, right alongside Lynn Stalmaster, Ellen Chenoweth, Mali Finn and... some others, I'm sure. I know! How about Martin Bregman? He gets credit for all those Al Pacino pics, anyway, lucky guy. But I tell you what: any time I see Keshishian's name, which is not that often, I still can't help but think of that guy that got screwed over by Madonna. And apparently it's all going to happen all over again to poor Alek. I guess W.E.'ll just have to wait 'n see!
...oh, I think I see why this is getting a bunch of hits.  It must be confusing the Google spiders.  They look at it and go "Oh!  Kim Kardashian!  I hope it's a picture of her ass!"

The Continued Franchising of the Planet of the Apes

Welp, in honor of the continued kick-assedness of that damn dirty ape movie, I'm using the same jpeg from last week. No apology from Chennai necessary. In other James Franco-related box office news, another film pops up from outta nowhere, and it's called The Help, and it features Ahna O'Reilly, who apparently used to date James Franco. Well, can't blame a girl for trying! I hate to always be the first to say this, but... Oscar nom time for Bryce Dallas? I mean, what's a girl gotta do these days? She did her time with M. Night Shyamalan! She's in the Oscar-ish neighborhood, if nothing else. She'll go slumming if she has to... does she have to? Ick. She hopes not. So homeless people exist! So what; what else is new.
In other B.O. news, Final Destination 5 came in third. They're turning into the Final Fantasy video game series. Who knows what it's up to now: Final Fantasy 23 or something. Some video games are just way too needy. Meanwhile, as I suspected, the stoner comedy 30 Minutes or Less didn't debut at #1. Oh, Jesse Eisenberg, how could you let this happen? This is twice now in 2011 that Danny McBride "helps" out his fellow auteur, only to create a box office embarrasment of iconic proportions... I mean, epic proportions. Well, they're trying to go the Hostage route: a Trojan horse within a Trojan horse. Even the Coens don't get this convoluted. Finally, as seems to be the case these days, there's another concert movie. This time, it's the probably un-Disney-affiliated Glee concert movie. I better make the hyperlink to it, or it will get lost in the shuffle forever... wait a second! Jane Lynch's scenes DELETED? Oh, no wonder this didn't do well. BOO! That's why it's just a PG movie. They're trying to indoctrinate our youth into the Glee lifestyle. Why can't they just keep it for the die-hard fans, unlike myself? I think we finally have our next entry into the one-week club! The Smurfs deserves an honorable mention, because it was #1 the first week, #2 the second week, and POOF! Totally gone now. Gotta start looking at Variety's web site, I guess...

Saturday, August 13, 2011

"Get this Henry the Eighth off my neck!"

Finally! One I've seen before. Go figure. Why, I've almost got all the major plot points memorized: the big contest, the glue on the table, the buckets of water... No, it's not A Missed Fortune, although I'm told that's, like, a total remake. It'll take about a year, but we'll get to it later on. For now, we're stuck with the classic Healthy, Wealthy and Dumb. And it just gets dumber from there, just the way we like it. And the opening credits music is still quite regal for Cannery Row.

In A Missed Fortune, Larry's an epicurean who doesn't believe in the "less is more" maxim, but here in HWD he plays a ruthless card shark, but he's become complacent in concealing his deceptive play, and his winning streak is about to end. Be careful when you cheat Moe out of a hotcake breakfast, as you're in for a pummeling accompanied by comical sound effects. You got to hand it to Larry, though, as he seems to have more aces than Las Vegas. Meanwhile, the big plot point this time is that Curly has entered a slogan contest. In A Missed Fortune, this goes the way of the dodo and is replaced by a quiz show on TV. And as would only happen in a Stooge film, Curly paints his envelope shut with maple syrup, while Moe lathers his pancakes with Stix Fast brand glue. Moe's mouth is glued shut, but he's able to get the other two into Emergency Mode to fix the situation. Larry at least springs into action and does something about it... oh, it's just too gruesome to blog about. Meanwhile, Curly, swelling with pride, manages to get his mouth glued shut as well. His rehabilitation is much more drawn out, and he ends up getting one of his teeth pulled instead. Moe makes a Curly-esque noise when he realizes what he did. To cut to the chase, Curly wins the contest, with a cash prize of $50,000. That was back when a dollar was actually worth something; needles to say, they get more than they bargained for, as do most lottery winners or, frankly, just about anyone who engages in an act of social mobility.

The boys check in to the Hotel Costa Plente, and are shown to an extra fancy suite by the greatest actor ever... to come out of Helena, Montana, James C. Morton. Well, second only to Gary Cooper and Rebecca Ferratti. The boys horse around a little bit and discover the bathtub in the bathroom. Curly and Larry apparently hadn't seen a bathtub before, but Professor Moe gives them the school of hard knocks, and learns their unlearned asses right quick. James C. Morton pointed out two expensive antiques in the boys' suite, and it's not long before they're at work destroying them.

The plot was a bit thin, so we have three gold diggers in the hotel that have discovered that the big contest winners are just a few doors down. The Hays code demanded that there be three of them. After running afoul of several bottles of champagne, the boys find themselves in a big mess of trouble, and the only weapon they have to defend themselves with are several buckets full of ice-cold water that the champagne had been cooling in. Various federal and local taxes and levies have reduced the contest money drastically, to an amount far less than would be able to pay for the damage to the bathroom... and to the two priceless antiques. James C. Morton rushes off to draft a bill. The boys do the only economically reasonable thing to do, which is fleeing the hotel, but they're stopped by Bud Jamison as the house Pinkerton. To cut to the chase, it's the three gold diggers who end up delivering the Stooges' final blow that will end the film.

I dunno. Maybe I'm just not in the mood, maybe it's the homework deadline, or maybe it's that I just can't look at myself in the mirror anymore after all these Stooge films I've been reviewing, but somehow HWD just doesn't cut the mustard anymore. Which is sad, because so much of it gets recycled in A Missed Fortune, including actual clips from the original HWD. But that's just how timeless the Stooges are.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Monday, August 08, 2011

Auteur Watch - Alex and Stephen Kendrick

When you hire Alex Kendrick, you're not just getting one of the most promising Christian directors in the biz, as I'm sure the pages of Watchtower or some other publication would tell you. As you can see from Alex's IMDb page, you're also getting a writer, producer, editor, composer, cinematographer, soundtrack, thanks and self. It's like you're hiring nine people in one! But Craft Services only has to feed one: he probably doesn't eat a whole lot. As any actor will tell you, gluttony is indeed one of the seven deadly sins. Once you stray from the Protein Shake golden path, well, there's just no coming back. Anyway, you're getting quality when you hire Alex Kendrick to make you a film, possibly starring the kid from Growing Pains. But Man is not satisfied for long, and soon he's reaching for the apple off the proverbial Tree of Knowledge, and once Alex Kendrick is on board with your project, you can't help but ask yourself "Any more like him back home?" Actually, there is! There's also Stephen, who makes a fine doorstop. Okay, so he's no Alex, but he's trying. He's a writer, a producer, and he played "Marine at Wreck" in Fireproof! Clearly, Alex has set the bar far too high, but not without good reason: he's poised to make his biggest splash yet with 2011's Courageous. As you can see from the poster, the tag line is "Honor begins at home." Silly me. I always thought it was 'charity begins at home.' Shows you what I know. For me, honor is that thing I keep away from home, since there's just so much of it I have to display when I leave the house. Which is precisely why I've gotta see this movie!... oh, they don't have it for free yet on Hulu or Crackle or Courageous' official IMDb page (see link above). I'm afraid it's going to have to wait. Speaking of waiting, when is Alex Kendrick going to break out into the mainstream like a burst vessel? Surely he's not content to be stuck so close to Sherwood for funding and stardom! Or using the same typeface font in all his movie posters! Where's his role as the token white dude in a Tyler Perry production? When does he get to be an O'Doyle in the next Adam Sandler flic? When is Richard Gazowsky going to produce one of his films?... oh, wait, that might be a step backward. At least the Kendricks get films made.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

DAMN DIRTY APES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Well, the choice was to go either with the iconic quote, or say "SERKIS!!!!!!!!!!" in honor of the hardest working actor/MoCap primate in the biz. A couple more months, and it's back to the precious! And I don't mean the Tyler Perry one. As you can see from the headline, the latest Pierre Boulle novel to hold the box office hostage SMASH competition with fist, as Hulk might say! It raked in 54 million dollars its opening weekend... the only problem is, it cost 80 million to promote. And James Franco went to all that trouble to prove he's a Renaissance Man on the Colbert Report, and not just because he's worked with Sam Raimi of Renaissance Pictures fame. Where does College Boy find the time?
Meanwhile, the other debut this week, The Change-Up, lands with a thud at #4. Boy! Even the bodily-function-centric rom-coms are doing poorly this summer. Friends With Benefits, Crazy Stupid Love, all falling terribly flat. Certainly not making Harry Potter 7B money or Transformers 3 money. I guess Harry Potter's going to win this race, even though Transformers 3's at #10 already. Hard to say. Never underestimate Michael Bay. The guy could buy tickets in bulk just to inflate the numbers at this point in his career. You're going to grow up someday and do that movie about the train wreck in the coal mine! It'll be the awesomest spectacle ever, just as long as the cast is photogenic enough. None of this "real people" crap that the Coen brothers do all the time. Isn't life short enough?

Monday, August 01, 2011

Short Reviews - July 2011

Sorry, folks, another short, harried month for me. But, given the recent unfortunate, untimely death of Amy Winehouse, there's only one question in my mind: is Gina Gershon too old to play Amy Winehouse? I'll bet Gina doesn't think so! Now, I hate to comment on facebook dialogues behind their back, but someone was pointing out that Amy Winehouse was getting all the attention, and yet no one was paying attention to the recent horrific events in Norway. I think it might be because Amy Winehouse's death, we can understand. Norway, not so much. But I'm sure all the right-wingers out there are claiming a victory in the war on peace. Right wings have come to Canada, etc. But where are they going to find someone as dynamic as Charlton Heston, and get a new man to go around the globe wherever gun-related tragedy strikes, hold up a rifle and say "I've got just five words: From my cold, dead hands!"? I'm thinking Chuck Norris. You know, when Chuck Norris does push-ups... ah, skip it.

What else? Oh, right. More important than any of this, staying on the bleeding edge of slang and shortened words, documentary is now "doco." Apparently "docu" just didn't trend well in focus group testing. And "doc" is still short for doctor. That's sick.

Fierce Creatures - They tried to warn us about Murdoch!

The Game - Still deservedly negle, lost somewhere in that giant gap between Se7en and Fight Club

Beer - This is the first and last time that the movie Beer will ever be featured on a Top 25 list.

Beerfest - Oh, c'mon, Maxim magazine! Don't be such uppity, up-turned-nose film snobs. A damn classic.

Friends with Benefits - Didn't this film come out in January?

The Oxbow Incident - You got to go to that lonesome valley

O Brother Where Art Thou? - You got to go to that lonesome valley

The Champ - Scientists have determined that this movie is the ultimate tearjerker. Personally, I can't get enough of Jon Voight dying in a movie. Still, just what is it about Ricky Schroeder appearing in movies that no one wants to see? Where or what is the correlation? Take The Earthling, for example. Man, but do the waterworks start flowing for me after the RV crashes into the canyon.

Our Idiot Brother - Can't get much funnier than the title, but it probably is, even though it doesn't appear to be an Apatow production. The plot synopsis describes the idiot brother as an 'idealist.' There you have it, folks: idealism is the new idiocy.

Cash Cab - I was going to say, Finally! A game show that even MGM can afford to put on the air... guess the guy was texting and driving at the same time or something. A teachable moment for us all, really.

Furry Vengeance - Brendan! Dude! Hit the treadmill!

K-19: The Widowmaker - See, what these "green energy" types will never understand... nuclear is exciting! And it GLOWS green!

Video Documentaries of the Saved

Oh, I GOTTA review this one. Like most of my pending reviews, it's been sitting for a while. Really gotta jump on these things while they're fresh, like a REAL movie reviewer! But I did get back into the Onion's feature of "Commentary Tracks of the Damned" DVD reviews. They reviewed the most recent Adam Sandler pic, and apparently Sandler says of his own commentary "We hope you hated it." Oh, Sandler. You just don't understand! This is not about like or hate, about liking or hating what happens. This is about noticing what DOES happen, not even wanting it to happen... something like that. I guess in his next commentary track he should get more specific and deliberately say "Hope you O'Doyles over at The Onion get a nice Commentary Track of the Damned segment out of this commentary, you hipster a-holes." Don't be so subtle, man! Or are you going to turn your back on your devoted fan completely?
But back to the Sandler type that is the subject of Audience of One. Now, I'm sure you're probably saying to yourself, but The Movie Hooligan! How could this fat, white son of a preacher mom be ANYTHING like an Adam Sandler character? Well, he's kinda nerdy, kinda put upon by the world, kinda pushed around by the local and global O'Doyles of the world. Why, this part Sam Kinison, part Glenn Beck, all Holy Man of Jesus even says at one point that the world of religion is more clique-y than even Hollywood, so there you go! Hollywood is better than the religious types... nah, that can't be right. The religious types would be the first to admit that.
Anyway, so Audience of One starts out amiably enough, promising to not make the same mistakes that "The Devil's Candy" made with its all-access pass to the set of "The Bonfire of the Vanities." We see people hard at work making costumes, designing sets, preparing for a big trip to Italy to film the big scene... a few big scenes of what is surely destined to be the greatest movie ever produced by a church. Hear that, Kendricks? You're about to become chopped liver in the eyes of the Lord! You're the O'Doyles in this equation to Richard Gazowsky's Sandler, Alex and Stephen! And so, they arrive in a small town in Italy to begin production of what we're told is to be the greatest 200 million dollar feature ever to be produced, second only to Titanic and Spider Man 2 and ... several others at this point. 200 million just doesn't go as far as it used to.
Now, for those of you who haven't seen a lot of making-of documentaries before, there are plenty on the DVDs and Blu-Rays that your movies now come on. For my money, the gold standard seems to be the Coen brothers. No one can kiss their ass hard enough, and I mean that sincerely. A glowing cast, a glowing crew, no one who works with the Coens is ever sorry for the experience. Clint Eastwood is perhaps a close second. People are just afraid of disappointing Steven Spielberg, but he's making strides. Then, there's the film being chronicled in Audience of One. This is a good study of some of the red flags one should watch out for: if your experience of working on a film is anything like what you see in this documentary... bail as soon as possible. We hear from a disgruntled stunt man who needs some time with the director alone, especially after he's smoked some adrenaline-accelerating drugs, probably speed or, God forbid, cocaine. I guess marijuana wouldn't make one that tense. Then there are the stars of the movie. It is all about the look, but I guess "the look" doesn't have to do with dental hygiene. Gazowsky isn't about to let the Godly duties of casting the picture out of his hands in the slightest on the one hand, or on the other hand he's not about to let some outsider "actor" into his inner circle.
As for the supposed $200 million we keep hearing about, well, that might be a problem as well. Apparently, cast and crew are trudging along on a shoestring in the meantime. Now, here's my problem: where's the funding coming from? Germans! Hey, buddy! Let's get some domestic funding over here, huh? But I guess he learns his lesson the hard way: never trust German funders. Oh, sorry, I forgot: SPOILER ALERT.
And so, Gazowsky's problems kind of snowball at an ever-faster pace, but I tell you what: cast and crew have their priorities straight. They work hard, and they play hard. Sometimes they take a break to wheel themselves around in chairs with wheels on them, but more importantly, they always take a break to get their Jesus on with a song. This happens at least three times in the documentary, if memory serves. Which is good, because they'll need many miracles to save this sinking ship. After a disastrous vacation in Italy, in which barely one scene gets filmed and legitimate crew member Jens Klein gets injured by a malfunctioning wire crane shot, it's back home for Plan B. Good luck going back to Wolfgang now, buddy! The ragtag crew takes over a studio in San Francisco, if memory serves. They manage to shoot some green screen shots of screaming girls. It's really all about the look. And then, time marches on, indeed it do, and the city starts complaining about unpaid rentals on the studio. The filmmakers try to reason with the city, but God has hardened the city's heart, and the godless heathen bureaucrats triumph against the humble filmmakers. The man himself, the big Gazowsky, takes his cause to the people who can help him the most in this time of crisis: his congregation. Second wind! Second wind! Second wind!!! There's some more singing and praying.
Act Three. At one point, we see the cast and crew appeal to God almighty to get this damn film done... or at least, started. One woman asks God to just take over completely. They're so exasperated and out of ideas, that they'd be willing to sacrifice their essential liberty and temporary safety, if God would just take over and make everything all right: you know, finish the film, buy off the critics, make cast and crew all millionaires in gated communities. I wonder what the finest of the Godless thought about those who would give up their essential liberties for some temporary safety... I should look that up sometime.
Of course, my mere film review can hardly do this journey justice. You just might have to take the journey for yourself... but I'll tell you how it ends up anyway. The deadbeat cast and crew get kicked out of the studio... I forget if they have to pay the bills or not. Probably not, because they're white. But even though this one film didn't get made, Gazowsky unveils some new plans to his dwindling congregation. It's an ambitious plan with several bullet points in handy PowerPoint format. They're going to create a whole movie studio now, that will churn out exactly 47 films a year, I guess one for each of the ronin. Most major studios can barely do 20! Go figure. They also plan on making an Epcot-esque theme park and colonizing space. If my ears weren't deceiving me, some of Gazowsky's congregation were laughing at him, not with him. The plan is gloriously unveiled, and what better way to celebrate than with one last song. And preacher/industrialist Gazowsky, who betrayed the principles of his religion and watched his first movie at the age of 40, is seen openly weeping during the song, and one is left wondering whether he's crying for the glory of God, or for his own earthly failures. (Hint: it's for himself and his earthly failures)

Good double bill with: The Last Shot

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan


I set my chin a little higher, hope a little longer, build a little stronger tassels in the air... Ah, how the high and low of society come together. Endlessly fascinating phenomenon. As for the Stooges, even they had to acknowledge crackerjack casting, as the same high-class dame appears again here as she did in Bugs of 1938... I mean, Termites of 1938. Some might think of her as the Stooges' Margaret Dumont... and they'd be right! For me, though, that one chick proved to be their comic equal time and time again, ol' what's her name... Symona Boniface! That's the one. Great name, too.

Anyway, here's the setup for Tassels in the Air: some nouveau riche types want their house redecorated by a famous French designer. Well, the lady does, anyway. The guy just wants to sit in a chair, smoke cigars and read the funny papers. As a former letter carrier myself, I know all too well the desire to rest. A phone call is placed to this French guy, this Omay person... wait for it! The call is rudely sabotaged by noises coming from the hallway... you guessed it! The Stooges pass themselves off as qualified to work on a hallway. Curly and Larry are playing "Paint Can Draughts." Will something get spilled? Could it be paint? Moe kicks Curly in the ass, but they dubbed in the groan later on. Moe stubs his foot, and the boys proceed to mock him, as he jumps around to a groovy beat. I guess the writers felt the plot was a little thin on this one, because once again Curly has a comedy affliction. This time, it's not that Weasel tune or seeing a mouse. This time, if Curly sees a tassel, he starts barking like a hellhound. The only way to get him to stop is to paint his chin with a brush. My French is a bit rusty, but I think the guy says "I'm living in a crazy house!" Couldn't make out that first part.
And then, the trigger that sets off the comedy. Vernon Dent, the boss, gives Moe a direct order. Moe gives the others perhaps the best piece of advice ever uttered by a Stooge, "It's the boss. Show a little interest in your work." And then, Stooge immortality is bourne anew. Moe's orders are quite simple: stencil in some lettering on the doors in the hallway. There's two piles of stencils: these go on this side, these go on that side. Well, you really gotta see it for yourself to truly appreciate it. ( Curly must've been having a bad day when he barks at Larry. Which one is right, the one that's left... the very idea. Such levity.

Now, for those of you with a good ear for comedy names, you might have guessed that Omay might be a French name, but there's still something not quite right about it. The Pig Latin angle is introduced. Curly doesn't understand. Larry helpfully says, "Anybody can understand it! It's very simple." Curly retorts, "Well I can't, and I'm simple!" The other two wait for the laugh. Moe's School of Hard Knocks, Pig Latin 101 continues. Curly helpfully gets into a listening pose, for which he gets a slap. For getting a laugh, Moe starts to grab the bluntest object to hit Curly with. Curly himself becomes a blunt object, for just at that moment the high society type lady starts to go through the door mistakenly labeled "Omay." The lady is knocked down on her ass, but her desperation for social mobility trumps this temporary setback. Moe unfortunately leads this poor nouveau riche woman down the primrose path, and plays along. Curly has another tassel attack, and gets his chin painted a color this time. The boys are summoned into the hall by Vernon Dent. On his way out, Curly grabs one of the lady's tassels! An unacceptable breach of his comedy affliction, but never mind. Long story short, the boys lose their day job, so they continue the charade. Vernon Dent, in his fury, forgets where his office is. This time, it costs him dearly. But he goes out with a dash of style, copying the Frenchman's rage at his office door being mislabeled the janitor's closet. An especially painful slight to any designer, I suppose.

The boys get to work destroying the lady's house. They start painting a big table. The butler tells them "You can't paint this table! It's an antique. It once belonged to Louis the 16th!" Larry rightfully observes, "Oh! Second-hand, eh?" This is America, damn it! We eat FREEDOM fries!... oh, right. That was last decade. Moe must really be getting into his part as an artiste, because he takes an instant disliking to Bud Jamison when he tries to horn in on their game. Bud says, "Boy, I wish there was something I could do to help you guys. I haven't held a paintbrush in years." But Moe's got the perfect ruse. "Sure! Go out and mix us a batch of spotted paint!"
Then, a very strange thing happens. Moe makes a Curly mistake. He's... okay, I'll keep going. He's painting the side of the table, and Larry's behind is at the end of it. He paints Larry's behind in addition to the table. Larry wonders what's going on. Moe does it again. Larry gets suspicious. Realizing what's going on, Larry explodes in anger, Moe style! The very next scene, Larry does the same thing to Curly's head. The comedy escalates from there. Explaining it further would just ruin it. Curly gets pissed off at Larry. He must've been late for his golf game... wait, wrong overweight comedian. The long-suffering butler brings the boys lunch. Moe says, "We'll eat while we work! C'mon." Well, a good idea's a good idea.

Guests arrive. The boys are painting the stairs. Alarm bells are starting to ring. The high-class dame introduces Moe to the woman who recommended Omay's work in the first place. Okay, so she doesn't know what Omay looks like. Why split hairs now? While all this is going on, Curly was busy painting the folding chairs in the card room. Curly comes out of the room, sees the high-class dame. The high-class dame looks worried. Brilliant directing. Even though she has no visible tassels, Curly starts going into his frenzy. The lady runs into the card room. Curly is subdued. Having no brush handy to tickle Curly's chin, Moe grabs a big fistful of Larry's hair instead. We go back to Bud Jamison, still hard at work trying to make spotted paint. He's got a colender now, and he's doing what he can. Jackson Pollock, eat your heart out!
The ladies set about to playing cards. The high-class dame gets more and more uncomfortable with the Stooges as the seconds pass. Curly proceeds to destroy the clock: first, by trying to eat part of the clock that looks like a corn on the cob, then secondly when Moe tells him to paint the cuckoo bird. Curly paints the bird, then takes a break. "It won't be out for another hour!" Moe helpfully turns the clock ahead an hour behind Curly's back. The cuckoo bird sings, and Curly sings along with it, freaks out, and gets back to work. Larry goes modern art on the wall with a stencil saying "No checks cashed." Almost on a par with "Smash Capitalism" from The Magic Christian.
There's two minutes left! WHEN IS THE BIG PIE FIGHT GOING TO BREAK OUT?!!!! Sigh. I guess it's not going to happen. The original Omay manages to barge his way into the card room and confronts the woman who recommended him to Mrs. Smirch. Might as well use her name at this point. Good comedy name. The woman recommender looks guilty, but why? Somebody's confusing the plot. The Stooges go into either revenge mode, or panic mode. Hard to say. The three guests leave with folding chairs stuck to their asses. The Stooges mean to get Stooge-style revenge and hit them with paint cans. It doesn't go as planned, and frankly they don't land the ending either. Well, it's not as good as Yes, We Have No Bonanza, anyway.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan