Sunday, April 29, 2012

Auteur watch - Bonnie and Terry Turner

What are these two up to lately?  The Saturday Night Live writing room didn't used to be a family friendly place til Tina Fey changed all that.  Before her, Bonnie and Terry seemed to be the only ones who somehow survived the coke-fueled all-nighters, landing themselves some sweet gigs, especially the Wayne's World movies, and of course, Tommy Boy, everybody's favorite.  Somehow, the world of the silver screen wasn't interesting enough.  They first took off in television, and they wanted to stay in television.  And damn it, they had some good ideas.  I can't help but admire their track record!  3rd Rock from the Sun, That 70s Show... okay, it's just those two, but still!  The Turners know better than anyone that the 70s will be the nostalgia decade of choice for decades to come.  The 80s, not as fun, but out of necessity the powers that be will keep foisting it back upon us.  Normally I'd ask what the auteurs are up to lately, but after That 70s Show and 30 Rock... I mean, 3rd Rock, what are they doing now?  Enjoying life, for God's sake!  I think they're well overdue for that.  Good work, guys.

The pirates who do some Box Office

While Think Like a Man continues its reign at the top of the box office pile, the latest bout with Pirate fever comes courtesy of Hotels.com and the Wallace 'n Gromit folks.  I guess the shoestringers over at Big Idea can't afford the large upfront cost of 3D, the poor things.  Someday, Jesus... someday.  Everyone but Ricky Gervais does a voice for The Pirates! Band of Misfits.  Meanwhile, in even sadder news, producer Judd Apatow's influence is clearly waning as his latest The Five-Year Engagement merely debuts at #5.  Well, Jason Segel could probably use a break anyway.  He's got a Muppets sequel to ruin!  Right, The Onion?  The box office fickleness claims Jason Statham as its latest victim as well, as The Transporter April 2012 debuts at #6, taking in a mere 7.72 million.  And last but not least, John Cusack has to face the fact that just because he swallowed his pride and went on the Jimmy Kimmel show, Kimm's audience ain't buying it.  They can smell a non-starter a mile away, and The Raven debuts at #7.  Come back when you've got Hot Tub Time Machine 2 in the can.  Don't let it be a DVD premiere starring the Doofer, for God's sake!

The first Bourne Identit....hello! What's that?

And you thought American billboards were racy!  Good Lourdes.  Welp, we've got the damn DVD, so sometimes you just gotta see it a second time.  The Talented Mr. Ripley, not so much.  Well, my viewing companions might of, but left me out of the fun.
You know, some guys just find their calling in life.  John le Carre does spy stuff, Stephen King does horror stuff, William Peter Blatty does Exorcist stuff, Michael Crichton did the blockbuster stuff... do you have anything by Robert Ludlum?  Moleman, even Robert Ludlum doesn't have anything by Robert Ludlum.  But if there's a three word title with a "The", a name, and an adjective, chances are Ludlum's on top of it.  The Osterman Weekend, The Rhinemann Exchange, The Holcroft Covenant, The Hades Factor... seeing a pattern yet?  Crazy white people.  As for the director, Doug Liman, I've followed him with some interest... at least, I think I have.  I consider this one redemption for unleashing Vince Vaughn on an unsuspecting public with Swingers.  Yup, student workshops aside, he was clearly ready for the big time with this one.  And Damon needed a hit kinda badly.  I think he's doing pretty well now, but that's probably not a stretch.  He can afford to be a liberal publicly!  That's gotta mean some serious bankroll... just checked his IMDb bio.  Lucky bastid.
Well, my viewing companion was disappointed that some of the fight scenes looked sped up, but not enough to boycott the movie outright.  I tried to tell him that it's the modern style now.  Jumpy action!  Fast dolly shots!  Cars don't just drive down the road anymore, they quasi-pixellate.  This is Day of the Jackal on steroids... I'll get to that one someday, I swear.
On to the plot... is there any better conceit in movies than amnesia?  Total Recall, The Long Kiss Goodnight, The Night Before with Keanu Reeves... I know, is there any other?  A few, actually!  Body Shots.  Sheesh.  I'll bet The Onion didn't like it.  Well, what else do you expect from the guy who directed Gia and Original Sin?  If Jolie's not in it, I don't wanna see it... unless it's a cult classic.  Is it yet?  Now I'm slipping into attention deficit syndrome!  To get back on track, as far as I can remember, Keanu didn't turn out to be a professional assassin, but pretty much everyone else is.  Add Unknown to the list.  The joy of discovery as we unwrap the plot onion without our eyes watering too much.
While Matt's regaining his muscle memory, taking out bad guys and authority figures in his wake, he finds he can't make it in this crazy world alone.  Much like Redford in Three Days of the Condor, he needs a partner.  His choice ends up being a great one in terms of connection to society at large.  The authorities are baffled.  A chance encounter?  I liked the fact that the CIA's office in which they're tracking Damon isn't the alpha office, and they clearly don't have the alpha computers.  Surely some existed in 2002.  Apparently this project is hush-hush, but the stakes couldn't be higher.  At the top of the command chain, Brian Cox is very worried about this, but at the end of the movie he barely spends any time on it at all when he's called before the panel.  Go figure.
While the editing of the movie is only headache-inducing in the big action sequences, I still consider the big Mini Cooper chase sequence the big action setpiece of the whole show.  Maybe I'm wrong about that.  It happens near the middle of the movie, anyhow.  Doesn't happen often enough in America... and maybe that's a good thing.  This chase sequence is handled much better, much more realistically than the big chase at the beginning of Transporter 1, if I may say so.  America rules!... duh!  I forgot to add that I recognized the music they used during this chase sequence... I don't know the name of it, but they also used it in Collateral, which was playing in a nightclub that Tom Cruise ends up shooting up.  Where's MY Peabody?  Waaaaa......................................
Matt Damon's kind of a strange movie star.  For me, he's the gamma dog of the Ocean's 11 crew.  For my viewing companion, he's the man.  Smart, handsome, makes good project choices, and thought that he really sold the Bourne character.  I didn't see it back in the day at the time, but I do now.  And shame on me, I thought the girl ended up dead at the end of this one... sorry, SPOILER ALERT.  But Lola ran far enough away for the happy ending on this one, at least.  Yeah, we've come a long way from the fanciful CIA of the 1979 In-Laws.  Why anyone would want to be a part of that is beyond me.  And clearly Damon's no friend to them.  We got the Bourne trilogy, we got The Good Shepherd... damn!  I got that one, too!  I'd be surprised if we're going to rewatch that one any time soon... but we did recently rewatch Casino, so anything's possible.  I guess my friend was trying to cleanse his cinematic pallet after that; not so much getting ready for Bourne 4 with a DIFFERENT GUY...  Oh, and a brief shout out to Clive Owen.  I thought Closer was his big American debut.  Not so!  Niiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiice.

***1/2
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Moe Larry Confidential

Damn.  Procrastinating again, when the movie review's the important thing!  Well, I got a few hours til the deadline.  Fortunately, Dizzy Detectives contains a portion of an earlier Stooge short, Pardon my Putch... I mean, Pardon my Scotch.  Therefore, this review oughta go more quickly...

ACT ONE

So Moe falls through several floors after Curly uses a power saw on the door that fell over on Moe... eight years later, Curly and Larry join Moe on the first floor.  "Aw, c'mon, Moe!  You only fell twenty feet!" proclaims Larry.  I'm reminded of a similar tactic used by the Looney Tunes people who routinely spliced their one-reelers together to cobble together feature length pics with new footage.  Daffy Duck gets mistaken for a goose that lays golden eggs, and is kidnapped by evil mobsters: the smart small one, and the dumb giant one.  Daffy Duck gets shot and lays a golden egg.  Cut to the new footage, where the mobster shoots Daffy several times, and Daffy lays several golden eggs.  The cops fortunately save Daffy... eventually.  "Can we get you anything?" they ask Daffy.  Daffy says "Yes.  Get me a proctologist."  The point being, the screenwriters are clearly bored and seeking a challenge.  But before we get to that, a brief shout out to my friend who loves the screeching noise the door makes at 2:41.  Fine, groaning.
Upon second viewing of the post-fall footage, let me rephrase.  Moe hits Larry and Curly.  Larry says "Aw, you only fell 14 feet?  Why are you getting sore?"  This, of course, merits Moe using Larry's and Curly's heads against each other.  Suddenly, an insurrection, as Curly and Larry double team Moe.  Thank God for the plot contrivance to save Moe from certain death at the hands of Curly's stomach and Larry's foot in Moe's ass.  The Stooges have won the big jackpot!... I mean, their job applications have been accepted, and they're going to be police officers, of all things.  Obviously, the police haven't seen any Stooge shorts before this one.  I mean, somehow all of this explains the rise of Daryl Gates.
And the Stooges couldn't have joined the force at a more urgent time.  A mysterious Ape Man has been committing burglaries across the city.  The head of the Citizens League is breathing down the Police Chief's neck right to his face, and cracking walnuts for Curly at the same time!  What a multi-tasker.  Good thing for that guy constantly hitting the desk, as even Curly's cavity-ridden teeth are no match for walnut shells.  Curly, of course, throws away the edible part of the walnut and happily wolfs down the wooden shells.  Good fiber!  Good enough for that tapeworm, of course.  In case you couldn't tell, this is one of those time-stretching moments.  Why, even the dialogue between the chief and the Citizens League guy stops to wait for the laughs!  We, on the other hand, move on.  There's a nice stunt where the Citizens League guy, Mr. Dill, knocks a glass of water into Curly's hat; Buster Keaton-collaborator Clyde Bruckman didn't work on this script, but Keaton's presence is at work in this gag somehow.

ACT TWO

We're at about the Act Two mark, so let's go to the phones.  The first call is so the boys can do their three part harmony: Larry first, then Moe, then Curly.  The second call sets the rest of the movie into motion.  Moe uses great movie acting to let us know the nature of the phone call: "You say the Ape Man's robbing a store?  Where? ... Yes?  The Brooklyn Building!"  Or is it the Bruckman Building?  Wow!  We were just blogging about him... and so, just as the telephone has made life better for society, it's made life harder for the Stooges as it proves to be their greatest obstacle to leaving the building and catching the Ape Man.  Moe gets so upset with the phone, he throws it as hard as he can... just as the chief walks into the room.  We'll leave it at that.
Cross fade to Gypsom Good Antiques, where the Ape Man apparently is at.  The Ape Man locked the door behind him, so the Stooges need to find the "pass key."  I'd hate to spoil what happens next, so I'll just say it's similar to what happens with Daffy Duck in A Pest in the House.  God bless you, YouTube!  Warners is finally willing to risk letting people see Looney Tunes for free in a smaller picture with not-as-crystal-clear image quality.  We'll have to wait for A Bird in the Head for the "gorilla breathing down my neck" gag, sadly.  Sorry, we're back to the Stooges now.  Moe says "I'll lead the way... go ahead!"  You know, Bill Murray did something similar in Ghost Busters during their big final confrontation.
And now... time for another time waster.  Curly gets the orders to stand guard, while Moe and Larry go off and do their own thing.  Curly finds a rocking chair to stand guard in.  A strange-looking cat is seated in semi-loaf form flush with the rocking chair.  Curly uses his normal voice: "I'm not afraid... What's there to be afraid of?  Babies are afraid!  I'm no baby..."  Why, it's like Bobcat Goldthwait using his regular voice... just not right.  Okay, so we got a cat and a rocking chair.  The cat's tail appears to be hooked up to a wire... sorry, I probably shoulda said SPOILER ALERT.  What's the point of giving an ASPCA Alert?  This is the comedy exemption.  And so we have the ballet of cat's tail and the rocking chair for several seconds.  Somehow, something's missing... enter the cigar.  Curly takes a lit cigar stub out of his hat and starts smoking it.  Finally, that awful moment happens when chair beats tail.  The cat starts screeching.  Curly swallows the cigar and gains his footing.  Curly lets out his own screech at 9:17.  Sometimes that's all you can really ask of a Stooge film: a good moment like that.  It might not go viral, as the kids say nowadays, but it should.
Curly finds Moe and Larry and lays out his ordeal.  Curly says that a woman screamed and scratched him on the leg.  Now, the modern touch that even Maxim magazine might appreciate: Larry says, very salaciously, "Is that bad?" and straightens his tie.  Moe says "Is she pretty?" then comes to his senses.  They investigate.  Nope, no lady by the rocking chair.  Curly swore she was there; well, he could swear, but Moe reminds Curly with a slap that it's a bad habit.  Always with the jokes.  Moe asks if Curly has a gun... Moe asks Curly if he has a gun.  Is that too confusing?  Do I have to say "Moe asks Curly if Curly has a gun"?  Do I need to get to bed?  Yes.  Better forge ahead anyway.  Curly has a long, belabored explanation of where his gun went to.  The NRA should be proud.  The NRA will like this next part even more: Moe hands Curly his gun and says "Maybe it'll give you some courage."  Before that, we see the Ape Man picking up a female mannequin... so cynical.  The Stooges are more of a checkers kinda comedy team, as opposed to chess... the Marx brothers aren't exactly chess, but they're at least Grand Masters of checkers.  Officer Moe's laying down the law, while the Ape Man's laying down the mannequin on the floor.  "Don't let anybody comes in, don't let anybody come out.  You get it, dontcha?  All right.  Now no more of your screwy ideas.  THERE'S NO DEAD WOMAN IN HERE!......NYAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!!"  Moe and Larry jump up onto Curly.  Sadly, their fear is short lived.  Moe figures it out.  "It's a dummy, like you!"  Moe THROWS THE DUMMY INTO THE OTHER ROOM... and it lands on the Ape Man.  The Ape Man throws the dummy right back.  Just before it hits Moe, Moe says "A dummy can't hurt you!"  What a strange thing to say!  Larry finally gets one line: "Say!  For a dummy she sure gets around!"  Moe takes charge again, saying "There's something rotten in Denmark, and we're gonna find it!"  Curly gets excited.  "Oh boy!  We're going to Denmark!"  Moe should've hit Curly at this point, but instead he says to Curly, Damon Runyon style, "We are searching for more clues, and don't disturb us!"  Curly displays more inappropriate gun etiquette, but doesn't scare Moe with it.  No time for that now!  We gotta catch up to the plot!  For some reason, Moe and Larry leave Curly alone a lot.  Must be part of their secret comedy formula.
Curly wanders around a bit.  It seems aimless at first, but his feet manage to find the cat's tail again.  Curly gets scared, and hides under what looks like a bearskin blanket.  He gently kicks a hat stand.  The hat stand falls against the wall, and drops a hat loudly onto Curly's foot.  How come plots aren't this ambitious anymore?  What happens next is arguably another time stretcher, but for me it was absorbing enough to not be.  Curly confuses the hat on his foot for a stranger.  The third time he's ready with his gun and... DOWN GOES CURLY'S FOOT!  No, let's get serious here.  It's not all comedy violence.  Curly's agony dies down a bit when Moe and Larry show up.  Curly forgoes the explanation about what he thought he saw and goes right into that his big toe's been shot off.  Moe says "Next time you handle a gun, shoot yourself in the head."  Curly asks "I'll make a note of it... how do you spell 'head'?"  Moe says "B.O.N.E. head!" and hits Curly in his bone head with the handle of the gun... destroying it beyond recognition, of course.
Suddenly... the Ape Man backs into the room.  Moe and Larry point their guns at him and tell him to stick 'em up.  The Ape Man growls and bends the gun barrels, rendering them as useless as cartoon guns with their barrels bent... well, arguably, that's not always the case.  When Elmer's gun gets bent by Bugs in The Unruly Hare, it works fine!  It still fires, anyway, just in reverse.  Check it out: 3:11!  Love that toon.  I haven't heard the DVD commentary on that one, but I think the guy would say it now looks like a Bugs Bunny cartoon made in the 1980s.  JMHO.  Anyway, the Stooges realize they're dealing with an actual ape.  Not bad for non-biologist knuckleheads!  Curly yells "A chim-a-nee-panzee!"  Larry gets another line: "That's no chimp, you chump!  That's a gorilla!"  The boys run away ... but before that happens, listen to Moe's reaction at 3:08, more ape-like than human, JMHO.  Anyway, the boys run away with the gorilla in pursuit.  Now, THAT's an Act break!  Good teaser.  I should do the news!

ACT THREE

I hate to be tawdry, but I think the gorilla's junk is visible at 3:22... anyway, the boys run through some doors.  Apparently, the gorilla gets hit by the doors and decides to go the other way... getting the opportunity to scare the Stooges a second time.  The boys ... Moe and Larry hide behind a crate.  Moe whistles at Curly, who immediately goes into the Curly spiral on the floor, then he waddles his way over to Moe and Larry.  Uh, way to kill some more time!  I hate to drone on too long about this one, but it's an interesting exchange.  I'm easily interested, anyway.  They're all trying to catch their breath.  Larry says "Boy, we've sure been running!"  Curly replies "Yeah.  And when we catch our breath... we're sure gonna run some more... all the way home!"  But before that happens, the plot rears its ugly head.  Turns out this Mr. Dill from before is actually the chief thief!  Figures.  These citizen leagues oughta be outlawed.  Especially that Peace Fresno thing from Fahrenheit 9/11!  Anyway, turns out the ape is a former circus ape, now being trained for larceny, petty or otherwise.  Wait, it gets worse!  Dill's planning on becoming Police Commissioner!  The Stooges, ever the impatient heroes, decide to take down this crime triumvirate then and there... with bent guns.  Moe quickly uses the ol' gun finger in the coat pocket trick... do I really need to hyphenate all that?  In this era of global grammatical errors?
Anyway, moving on.  They confront the crooks.  Moe gets to call the guy "Dill Pickle"!  I love it!  In his eagerness, however, his finger pokes through the coat pocket.  The gambit is compromised.  A half-epic fist fight breaks out.  Fists flying everywhere!  Three individual Stooge-crook fist fight pairs waltz away, leaving us once again focused on Curly.  Curly's bad guy hits him rapidly in the face seven times, but Curly stops him by saying "WAIT A MINUTE!  This is getting monotonous!"  Must be part of Man Law or something.  Alas, Curly stops his fight only temporary.  At least the crook is a good listener, and rectifies Curly's complaint by hitting him in the stomach instead of the face.  Don't count Curly out yet.  He's got some length of brains yet, and uses Moe's ancient "See that?" trick, and ultimately gets the better of his bad guy.  Triumphant in victory, Curly turns and, Punch Drunk style, revs up to help out his fellow Stooge in the midst of his pummeling.  We find out it's Larry, who is failing miserably against the NBA-sized goon working him over.  Curly has trouble with this guy, too, and lands ass first on a sword.  Standing up, no less!  Something vaguely gay about that, but we won't explore that here further.  Curly's able to take that ordeal, however, and have it happen to the bad guy!  The guy bounces quickly back from the sword, and Curly takes him out in style with a final punch to the kisser.  Curly's celebration is much quicker this time, as Moe's rolling around on the floor with his bad guy.  Curly grabs a giant-ass wrench and tells Moe to roll the bad guy over so he can hit him in the head with the wrench.  Yup, you guessed it...  The bad guy gets it in the head with the wrench anyway... I dare not spoil it.  Victory to the Stooges!  Moe and Larry give each other two kisses on the cheek, European style.  Curly grabs Moe's head and kisses him on the lips.  Ah, sibling rivalry.  But just before Curly and Moe get their gay wedding, the gorilla returns, and he doesn't want to be the ringbearer.  Moe eases the fear of the other two and says "Don't be scared... don't be scared... just RUN!"  And run they do.  Curly called it before.  But this is no mere cartoon!  There's no long horizontal background to run against!... too many examples.  The next room has a giant trunk in it.  Moe and Larry claim it for themselves.  Curly has to fend for himself again.  Curly hides behind the replica guillotine, then manages to get his head stuck in it.  Maybe if he pulls the string, he can get his head out... Moe and Larry emerge from the trunk.  The blade falls.  Moe passes out.  Larry tries to catch Moe on the first bounce.  Curly yells "I don't want to be dead!  There's no future in it!"  Must be a Greatest Generation thing.  After The Hunger Games, who knows how people feel anymore.  Curly has a downright Cartesian moment, or maybe like Roman Polanski in The Tenant.  He says to himself "How can I be dead?  I'm talking!"  And perhaps because of this realization, he stops talking.  Cut to the gorilla, playing with the mannequins again.  This time he knocks the head off one, causing it to fly over to Moe and Larry.  They both faint and fall back into the trunk.  I dare say Larry gets his own head injury at about 7:43!  I hope I'm wrong.
Next scene: back to the gorilla.  It finds something other than mannequins to play with this time: a bottle of nitroglycerin.  The gorilla takes an interest in it, uncorks the bottle, smells it, then starts to drink.  The gorilla likes it.  We've got a gorilla with a taste for nitroglycerin on our hands, folks.  Thank God there's just the one bottle.  Back to Curly who emerges from the fake guillotine intact.  And much like Screwy Squirrel in Happy-go-Nutty... do I have to hyperlink everything for you people?... Curly champions the plotting power of rubber, but is still scared of the guillotine nevertheless.  Damn French.  (I should know!  I've got French relatives on my mother's side)  The Stooges are reunited.  All preconceived notions erased, we're back to a clean Stooge slate.  Enter the gorilla with a bellyfull of nitro.  Again, gripped by the fear, but Curly's had enough.  Much like the shell-shocked America of today, there's nothing left that the establishment can throw at us.  Curly charges that gorilla head first and... fade to white, just like Syriana.

EPILOGUE

Fade to white like Syriana, but unlike Syriana, the Stooges give us the loud boom.  The dust settles.  The boys emerge from the rubble.  Moe declares that they got the ape man.  Curly declares that it was a solo effort, and holds up the gorilla head to prove it.  The severed gorilla head has got one last trick up its sleeve, and the boys start up their running ways once again... is it just me, or do they run off making chimp-type noises?  Get those knuckleheads some bananas!

***
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

I dunno, Ainge, I kinda like it...

Maybe I'm just having an off day, maybe I haven't seen enough of these kinds of pics.  I burned a DVD of The Squid and the Whale (back in the day), which one of the hipster reviewers compared this to.  But I did think of Wes Anderson and rigid stylization at times, if only because Gwyneth Paltrow was in that Tenenbaums debacle.  That's right, I called it that.  Nice pink DVD box, though!  Bottom line: if Annette Bening has ever given a bad performance in a movie, I just plain don't want to know about it.
But seeing as how I've become a flaming name-ist, I'm all over the fact that autobiographer Augusten Burroughs was born CHRISTOPHER ROBISON.  Richter!  Christopher Richter Robison!  Well, I'm obviously just jealous, because I'm not gifted.  As with Alissa Zinovievna Rosenbaum, some people learn in this life that if you want to make it onto the world stage, more often than not, only a different name will do.  And just like Ayn Rand was 'born,' Augusten knew that he'd have to take a more colorful nom de plume if he was to survive another New York winter.  The next step of course is alter ego.  Stephen King has his Richard Bachman, Garth Brooks has his Chris Gaines, only time will tell if Augusten has THAT much talent to give the world.  So far, nothing.
But I will say that the film itself, well, the ads I've seen for it didn't do it justice for me.  They used all the scenes of Alec Baldwin talking in those little ads.  Quite different from the movie as a whole.  Generally, the acting is above par by everyone.  I guess Brian Cox steals the show as the opposite of Mumford; he's hiding the wrong things about himself.  When you get right down to it, all films are comedies these days, but for some reason I found it effective as a family drama.  Thank God for Cox and Paltrow who bring a few laughs to the proceedings.  I also finally see why Evan Rachel Wood is a star, utterly wasted in Whatever Works.
...okay, I'm back.  Had to brush and floss.  Somehow I feel like I've spent too much time on this one, so let me just wrap up by saying that it seems like the dude's parents fell apart because Mom was a lesbian, but she realized it too late.  Apparently, according to the end credits, reconciliation with Dad was easier.  And maybe I'm just a cynical old fart now, but when Augusten was on the phone telling Natalie that he was scared about moving to New York, I couldn't help but think to myself, dude, after what you've been through in this movie so far, New York will be a piece of cake.

Good double bill with: Albert Brooks' Mother... the film, not the parent

***1/2
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Auteur Watch - Bill, Brett and Mark Hudson

To be honest, I ran across these three researching the image for the box office report this week.  I was looking for that Kate Hudson romantic comedy with the same font as Think Like a Man and He's Just Not That Into You, and came across these three..............................

Happy Earth Day, everybody!

The earth turns 10,000 today... something like that, right?  As for the box office, well, we're all expecting Think Like a Man to do big business... it's a Tyler Perry movie, right?  Also, I'd like to give a shout out to my man Sean Hayes, currently being enjoyed by audiences as the latest reincarnation of Larry in the Farrelly's Three Stooges movie.  I only mention it because I finally watched the CBS Sunday Morning profile about it.  Obviously for brevity and journalistic efficiency, they said that the Farrellys finally went with 'relatively unknowns' to play the Stooges.  RELATIVELY UNKNOWNS?!!  SEAN FREAKING HAYES?!!!!  If it were an NBC story, they'd get it right!  Uh, how long was Will & Grace on the air?  Let me check.... Eight years!  EIGHT YEARS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  What is that, chunk change?  I mean, chump change?  Show some respect here!  My God!  As for the other two, well, that I can understand.  The guy who plays Moe, however, this should set him for life.  He really nailed the part from what I've seen so far.  And I love Will Sasso from Mad TV.  What a nut!  Steven Seagal, The Sopranos... he won't have to do things like Awesomest Maximus anymore if he plays his cards right after this... wait a second!  It's 1am, Sunday morning!  The box office totals don't come out for another 10 hours!  I gotta hit the hay!

Michael Douglas as 'The Dude' in The Treasure of the Sierra Costco

I just don't know why I choose movies like this.  I'll try not to spoil too much of the plot, but by the time the end credits rolled around, I saw Alexander Payne's name there.  Seriously?  Alexander Payne?  Lousy Greeks.  Truly Alex is the real king of California... and maybe Hawaii now, too, to a lesser extent.  He's entered Spielberg territory, being able to produce stories he himself wouldn't touch with a ten-foot directors' pole.  Unlike Spielberg, however, he doesn't demand the same high level of quality, much like Adam Sandler's producing adventures.
For some reason I hate to say it, so I'll just get it off my chest off the top.  Somehow, Michael Douglas in this role didn't work for me.  I have no idea who would have been perfect for this role... Beau Bridges?  No.  Norm MacDonald?... sorry, I don't know where that came from.  We had Dirty Work TiVo'd but now it's gone from the list!  Probably for the best.  Maybe Sean Connery would have been right for this role.  Then again, I thought he was right for The Ghost and The Darkness, but why nitpick.  At one point, my viewing companion openly complained that the Michael Douglas character's not sympathetic.  I couldn't help but think to myself, yeah, but it's Michael Douglas!
Frankly, I didn't think the Evan Rachel Wood character was too sympathetic, either.  Thank God for the plot to carry us through to the bitter, bitter end.  It almost made me lose track of the time.  At about the one hour mark, though, I couldn't help but think to myself, Geebus!  We've got a long, long way to go!  Heard all I wanna hear today...
I probably need a spoiler alert here, so quit reading and go see the film if you dare.  It's a modern day take on the heist / buried treasure genre, to be sure, with some dashes of the modern day lament of progress, a very slight nod to overcrowding.  Michael Douglas and daughter Evan Rachel Wood live in a house that would normally be considered the middle of nowhere in the California desert.  Off in the distance, however, are many, many houses and condos.  There are new condos and/or townhouses being built right behind them, for God's sake!  The Dude... ahem, the Douglas character is given as rich a backstory as possible, upstaging the daughter at every turn.  To explain the black dude at their house, Douglas used to be a jazz musician, playing a mean bass.  The bass serves as a metaphor, probably for dignity, but in this age of practicality and lack of upward social mobility, it's a metaphor for just trying to hang on to your last scrap of individuality.  My viewing companion thought that the filmmakers were trying to shoot for the moon of the Coen brothers.  Somehow, the filmmakers failed.  Sure, the film's got that indie feel to it, but the Coens are a lot more careful about their plotting, and they at least try to disguise that indie feeling in their films.  Take The Ladykillers, for example, another heist / treasure pic.  Say what you will; at least they didn't stretch credulity too much.  Also, what does it say about the indie genre when Costco and McDonald's play large parts in your 'indie' film?  Well, the 2000s were a big decade for Costco: Employee of the Month, Idiocracy... that turd on ABC about 9/11.  The terrorists got good bargains at Costco, apparently!  Also, you can't just waltz in to Costco without showing a membership card.  Believe me, I've tried.  Only one guest per member, too.  Little bit of a plot device.  Also, you can't just waltz on in and get a job there like the girl does.  Believe me, I've tried.  You probably don't get to choose the branch you want to work at, either.  It's a seniority thing.  Companies deliberately make people commute these days.  Low seniority, longer commute.  That's the rule.
Where was I?  I dunno, but I guess I better wrap this up.  At least The Onion knows how to write an efficient movie review: three paragraphs every time.  Efficiency!  When they skewer something, you'll know why, and you'll remember the grade.  So while the Michael Douglas character wasn't sympathetic, at least he tried to reform his ways.  He was somehow able to sell his daughter's car, but he was somehow just as able to get it back, because he saw how much it meant to her.  And while the corporate world may have backed this pic up, it's still an indie treasure pic because of the ending.  Ever the showman, Douglas apparently hides the treasure he's found inside that dishwasher the daughter always wanted, and apparently he hid the treasure right under the cops' noses and everything!  Hah!  Don't need to go back and rewatch the whole movie.  The father's choice of treasure hiding place has extra significance, as the major postmarks in the daughter's memories are the constant piles of dirty dishes in the sink that she had to take care of.  Spoiler alert: Mom was a hand model, and Dad was always exhausted from a night of playing jazz, so the daughter had to grow up fast in this cruel world that grinds on without you, and the price she paid was getting stuck with having to do the dishes.  When she finally opens up that dishwasher and is lit up with a golden glow, much like from the Pulp Fiction suitcase, we can only assume from her reaction that it's some sort of treasure in there.  Not for us to see, of course, so that our imaginations are stimulated.  But somehow it's symptomatic of the age.  Kids these days wouldn't know what to do with treasure if they got it... myself included.  Redemption in his daughter's eyes doesn't exactly come for Jack Nicholson in About Schmidt, but Douglas gets it here with the mysterious strangers showing up on the beach, if only from beyond the grave.  Another mystery to be resolved in the sequel or webisode, I guess...

**1/2
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Friday, April 20, 2012

Mr. Johnson goes to India, or Take it up with the great Deceiver, who looks you in the eye...

I decided to risk the Paul Simon reference after all; oh, I feel so old and out of touch.  But I do hear Ke$ha all the time at the gym!  That's got to count for something!
Ah, the 80s.  A big year for "The" movies.  1987 brought us The Believers.  And was I the only one who thought of 1991's Deceived?  Goldie Hawn's Extremities?  Then of course, this came up as I was typing into the IMDb.  Alas, we're stuck with 1988's The Deceivers, a Merchant Ivory production without the Ivory.  And even though most movie critics worth their weight in salt probably shouldn't like this movie, I thought it had some moments where it tries to reach for greatness.  Of course, ultimately, the only movie about the Thuggee cult worth watching is Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, even though it's slipped through the cracks of the internet as of late.
The plot: Pierce Brosnan plays a dude who's about to marry well in nineteenth century India, occupied by the ... the British East India Company?  One of those conglomerates back then.  The opening episode is how Brosnan deals with a woman about to commit the act of "suttee," or ritual suicide in response to her husband's death.  Brosnan comes up with a plan to stop the woman.  As it happens, Brosnan himself kinda looks like the woman's husband.  Will this plan involve some sort of... deception?
I hate to spoil the movie's surprises, and I guess I was enjoying myself because I didn't see them coming.  I just like to think that I'm not that cynical about human nature yet, job hunting aside.  Actually, now that I think of it, there's an initial opening sequence, and there's Brosnan's introductory episode.  Both tie in to the rest of the plot.  Sorta unusual... or maybe not.  Seemed unusual at the time.
Since James Ivory's not in the director's chair on this one, you'd expect the quality to dip a little bit, or a lot, depending on your point of view.  I hate to give away the plot further, but the film's credibility hangs on the notion that Brosnan can blend in well enough to infiltrate the Thuggee brotherhood, armed only with his English accent and some face paint.  As it turns out, he's quite successful at it, even though he seems to adopt an Indian accent in only one crucial scene.  But what price deception?  How many indignities must he suffer?  After getting strung out on some blood and falling into the "Black Sleep"... oops, I mean tasting the "consecrated sugar," he starts to change, man!  He used to be so uptight.  Now he gets cool, starts clapping his hands, and actually seems to ENJOY the Thuggee lifestyle!  In one bid for artistic greatness, Brosnan starts to find parallels between his native Catholicism, and the Thuggee rituals.  In the film's metaphorical 'climax,' so to speak, Brosnan is making love to a strange woman, but he begins to see his wife, then the wife of the man he's imitating.  I haven't seen anything like it since Point Blank! ...okay, YouTube doesn't seem to have it, but they do have that epic slap fight between Angie Dickinson and Lee Marvin.  Icons fighting icons!  Not enough of that these days.
One last thought.  I didn't recognize much of the cast or crew, except for the production designer, Tony Adams.  Love that guy.  Classy-looking film, that's for sure.

***
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Not-So-Defiant Ones

From our "When the People You Love make the Movies you Hate" Dept. ...then again, for a guy like me who remembered the trailer for this, featuring a cop car sailing through the air... or just over the top of the camera and landing in a garbage barge, actually..( did they show that in the trailer?  It's probably on IMDb, but frankly, I'd rather not find out that way) ..yup, it's nostalgia time, too.  When Gene Wilder does his German accent, I can't help but think Young Frankenstein and clap my hands... and then cringe at the next four scenes.
The big "Where Were They Then" factor, of course, is Kevin Spacey.  Just after Rocket Gibraltar, just before Henry & June, and then into the cinematic heights with Glengarry Glen Ross... and to a lesser extent, The Usual Suspects.  Do people still like that one, or have they turned on it yet like they turned on American Beauty?  Here he plays an English fop with a gun and a giant welt on the side of his face.  He'd probably go to the cast reunion of this one; Rocket Gibraltar, not so much.  Roger Ebert had a thing for Joan Severance at the time; wonder what he'd say now?  Checking her bio, it makes sense that she was a model first, and the acting showed it.  She plays The Woman in Red this time.  As with Robert Redford, it's a contractual thing; besides, there's damn few Jewish heartthrobs these days.  Joan's blatant nude scene was a bit of a risk, frankly... fans of naked breasts may spend less time being aroused, and more time wondering where the makeup artists went wrong.  Too much time in the tanning booth?  Maybe that's it.  But with a name like Joan Severance, you'd think she'd get more work, but at least she's not in Victoria Principal territory!
And now, on to the crew.  Director Arthur Hiller to me is one of the god-like directors.  The original In-Laws and Silver Streak place him there for me.  Arguably, there are quite a few more that should counteract it... Carpool, for example, but I'll let his reputation stand.  He has a knack for spitting out two films in the same year, then taking a break.  Must be the Canadian way.  His cameraman here is New Yorker Victor Kemper... okay, a Jersey boy, but with a film like Dog Day Afternoon under his belt, he's used to working harder and planning more setups than he should.  Lately films like this double as travelogues for me, which means it fails at the plot level.  More chefs do not make a better soup.  Five worked on Borat, not here.  Still, there are spots in New York you don't typically see on display here.  And this film proves that New York can host a damn fine car chase as well as the next crowded city.  Stewart Copeland of The Police provides a soundtrack vaguely reminiscent of some of The Police's work.  He's no Danny Elfman but he stays damn busy, and reunited with Hiller on 2006's Pucked; God knows why.
And now, let me dwell some more in the House of Usher that is my fascination with Adam Sandler comedies.  Thanks to the world wide web, thoughts like this more and more tend to invade every last corner of my brain.  But few other comedians have made so absolutely crystal clear the need for bullies in the movies.  They're like strep throat, in a way: apparently the body is never completely rid of strep throat, and every once in a while it takes over the body, leaving you in a state of hot sweats, unable to move, barely able to lie in bed and have liquids like the doctor says you should.  As near as I can remember, there's just the one blatant bully scene.  To be fair, it takes place in a bar, the place for pointless fights.  I should probably mention that Richard Pryor plays a blind guy, and Gene Wilder a deaf guy.  Stir Crazy 2, here we come!  Again, Ebert misses the point.  True, Gene Wilder should have been throwing the punches, and would have been better at it, obviously.  But that's just bias.  Also, I'm just blatantly trying to get him to notice me.  The point is, damn it, the BLIND guy wants to fight, too!  Is he not human?  If he is pricked, does he not bleed?  If he makes the guy he's fighting bleed, is he not a prick?  Zach Greiner has a nice bit part as the guy who fights Wilder in the same fight... does that guy ever age?  He looks like he did in Fight Club!
I don't know what else to say... frankly, I've said too much.  But I should mention Anthony Zerbe, because there are no small parts, only small actors, and he makes quite an impression for being basically in just one scene.  Must be all that EST crap he does.  It got him in the Matrix sequels, right?  Here he plays... oh, I dare not spoil the surprise, but if this film were made today, he'd definitely be the father of Gene Wilder or Pryor.

***
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

At Play in the Fields of Icons of Infamy

Okay, I got a little time in the midst of my job search and rampant playing of Tetris Battle, so let's look at the next Stooge film: They Stooge to Conga.  Oh boy!  What could it be about?  More island racism?  More Hitler imitations?  So much to learn about folksy sayings, so little interest...

ACT ONE

The boys hit the start button and end up as cut-rate fix-it men.  Does Moe actually say what I thought I heard him say?  'Fraid so.  "Cut-rate repairing while you wait!"  Ah, puns.  They march giddily down the street peddling their lack of wares without a care in the world.  Only one thing can distract them: a gorgeous customer.  They were going left, she's going right.  Curly starts going right.  Moe's next, followed by Larry.  What is this, a cartoon?  They follow the woman to her door, and she gives them the ol' triple slap.  The woman's door says she's a mind reader, so she spares herself the wrath of the Stooges' handiwork.  Here's a sequence worth noting: Larry's wearing a wooden sandwich board.  Moe goes in for the punch, but Larry raises the sandwich board just in the nick of time.  Moe cradles his injured fist.  Larry, triumphant, lowers his defenses and indulges in a jolly laugh, but Moe gets him with the other fist.  Larry threatens to strike a laughing Curly, until.... another customer!  She doesn't appear to be a kindly old woman about to be shut down by the government, so whatever happens to her is nice and deserving, and possibly comedic.  Mark the Stooges' words here, as ye will hear them again at least once with Shemp.  The stern customer who scared Curly announces "The doorbell isn't working.  Can you fix it?"  Moe asks mockingly "'Can we fix it?'!"  Larry, ever Moe's lap dog, does the same.  "'Can we fix it?'!"  The very idea.  Curly asks, "Can we?"  Why can't problems ever be solved easily?  Why is that part of God's design of the universe?  Hard problems?  The way the woman does a 180 and marches back into the house only compounds her need for retribution, Stooge style.  Before that happens, there's some comedy when Larry and Moe try to get through the door at the same time, Larry with his sandwich board doubling nicely as a Curly surrogate.  Curly uses an anvil as a battering ram to force all of them through the door at the same time, falling down flat in the foyer, making the noise they use in Gymkata. (0:23:15)  ...at last!  The big plot reveal at 2:05... I hate to spoil it, so maybe you better watch the film first before you bother with my ramblings.  God bless you, 69789Darius!  May you be a thorn in Crackle's side forever... okay, back to my ramblings.  The Stooges have once again indeed invaded a Nazi den, and Vernon Dent plays one of the chief Nazi denizens.  We follow him back into his chambers, where he's plotting with a... hoh boy, I'm assuming he's supposed to be a high-ranking Japanese officer, and the other one is supposed to be one of Mussolini's best and brightest.  At least the Japanese guy has a better accent!... never mind.
Back to the Stooges.  Curly makes like a human cartoon and follows a cord under a rug while la-leeing to his heart's content.  This should eat up some time!  Curly finds his way to a radio.  He turns on the radio.  Angry Moe comes over to assess the situation.  Curly hears a little snippet of a game show (the $64 question, announced by Stooge regular Eddie Laughton).  Moe takes over for the announcer.  Nice setup for a knock on the head.  Remember, screenwriters: it's not about the knock on the head!  It's how you set up for it!  Much like Lucy with the football: always a fresh, new, cutting-edge seduction to lull dumb ol' Charlie Brown into flying through the air and cracking the back of his skull.  God bless him, he never did learn how to punt properly.  Speaking of questionable setups, Moe tells Curly to go away and take the radio that doesn't belong to him.  Curly, ever the literalist when it comes to Moe's orders, takes the radio to the limit of its electrical cord.  Electrical cords must've been made of really, REALLY elastic rubber back then, because... yup, you guessed it, the radio bounces back, bouncing off Moe's head.  Only in the Stooge-iverse.  Moe then takes this radio THAT DOESN'T BELONG TO HIM and breaks it over Curly's head.  The radio never had the snowball's chance.  Did I mention that it wasn't his radio in his house?  I mean, I hate the Nazis as much as the next guy, but man!  A little respect for the radio!
Larry finds the wire... well, 'a' wire that he thinks is the right wire, that's the important takeaway there.  Curly approaches Larry.  Larry's in a happy mood, perhaps still triumphant from his discovery.  Love Curly's reaction at 3:50, 'nuff said.  Curly goes to work destroying the wall.  Curly pulls the wire and dislodges a framed picture from the wall, which lands on Larry's head.  We hear the sound of shattering glass.  Didn't that also happen two pictures ago?  Meanwhile, Moe's standing by a light switch, and is he looking ready to be hit with something.  Curly, not content to create destruction in two dimensions, finds an endless wire to pull on... how long will this go on?  Longer than the wire from A Plumbing We Will Go?  Lamentably, no.  There's a phone at the end of this wire!  It erupts from the wall.  It rings in Curly's hands.  Curly yells into it "This line is busy!" and throws it at... yup, Moe.  Moe throws it back.  Curly appears really traumatized by this, but gets over it quickly.  He grabs the next wire and says to the camera "Another one!"  LOL...shh!  Don't want to wake the neighbors.  (Curly 5:01)  What will be at the end of this one?
We're close to an Act break, I can feel it.  Enter... hoh boy.  Enter Dudley Dickerson.  Now, normally a brother shouldn't take getting shoved away by Moe, but maybe it's a blessing in disguise this time.  Still... dude!  WTF?  We hear a loud crash after Dudley exits stage left.  That doesn't make matters worse at all!  Moe pries the doorbell off the wall... I hate to call it, but I think I know what's coming.

ACT TWO

I need to see some Nazis soon or I'm going to lose faith in the plotting on this one!  Moe pries the doorbell off the kitchen wall, and it makes those very VERY loud prying noises we sometimes hear.  Somehow it doesn't fit the size of the object, but that's just a lover's complaint... something like that.  Yup, I think I guessed it... time for Moe's Adventures through the Kitchen Wall.  Don't worry, this won't be the last time.  Curly asks Larry to give him a help.  This is of course the turning point in the battle.  Moe wins the battle against the table he's standing on, and Dudley of course is collateral damage.  Moe finally enters the wall at about 6:37.  Someone seems to think that the giant 4-by-6 that lands on Moe's head is real... I seriously doubt it.  Moe's feet give the kitchen wall a few last kicks for good measure, and mere seconds later Moe ends up where Curly and Larry are.  Curly confuses Moe with a dandruff-stricken termite far too quickly.  Moe confuses Larry with a termite with big blue eyes later on... at the PROPER PACING!  Sheesh.
Now, each time Curly says nyaah-nyaah in panic is different.  At 6:58, it's especially so, knowing that Moe's not going to take what he just went through very well at all.  Alas, Moe's powerless to pull Curly into the wall on his own, so he just beats him over the head.
Next scene: outside by a power pole... hoh boy, I think I know what we're in for.  As a prelude, Curly drops a heavy object on Moe's foot.  Moe goes to work on Curly's nose with what looks like an airplane propeller!  Apparently it's some sort of industrial-strength two-handled wrench for the big nut jobs.  Moe then puts Curly's nose on a big metal wheel that generates lots of sparks... guess I should learn what some of these things are called, huh?  No time, we gotta forge ahead to what some have called the most violent sequence in Stooge short history: Curly going to town on Moe's head with his spiked shoes.  There's just the one spike, but it's enough to cause emotional damage for all of us.  The fact that there's a plunger noise when it's "pulled out of Moe's head" accentuates it nicely.  Moe loses the battle with Curly's armed leg, reduced to a mere shell of his former civilized self.  Moe is in primal fight or flight mode, and says "Lemme at him!"  It's full-on fight mode now.  He goes at "Curly" with a flame thrower, causing "Curly" to scramble quickly up the pole.
Time to switch to Part Two.  Curly's at the top of the pole in some sort of swing.  All part of the New Deal, apparently.  Curly goes to work snipping some wires.  Of course, these wires are special, and for the sake of the children out there, they generate big sparks when cut.  Don't want to give kids the wrong impression about everything, now!  Curly drops a tool, of course, and it lands on Moe.  Moe takes out his frustrations on Larry, but does he really have to karate chop Larry in the neck?  The grand jury's still out on that one.  Curly confuses the wire he's holding with threading a needle, and he wets the tip of the wire with his tongue!  He gets shocked, causes a small explosion, falls out of his swing, and causes a big explosion of his own on the ground below.  They're perfectly okay in the next scene, of course.  Alive, anyway.  Curly, however, has some leftover electricity from his ordeal, so Moe sticks a light bulb in Curly's ear, of course.  The light bulb starts going off and on, of course.  To counteract this, Larry sticks a screwdriver in Curly's non-light bulb-filled ear, of course.  There's an explosion, of course.  Everything's okay after that, but Curly doesn't say "Ready for testing!" and we don't see a sign on the door that reads "Please nock." (sic)  Listen, judge...

ACT THREE

The comedy of repetition is a tricky business.  I was young at the time, but Saturday Night Live once did this so well.  I think the biggest laugh I've ever had in my life was from that split second when we first saw Dana Carvey as Mickey Rooney the SECOND time they did the "Theater Stories" bit.  The makeup was so much better, and he had short stumpy legs... freaking hilarious.  The other big laugh I had once was ... well, it kinda doesn't relate in this situation, but I'll tell you anyway.  Homer Simpson was trying to get rid of a trampoline.  He throws it into a canyon, but it bounces back, and smashes Homer into the cliff edge he's standing on... like the Road Runner and Coyote.  Homer says, "If this were a cartoon, the cliff would break off now!"  It was daytime when he said this.  Cut to nighttime, and he's still stuck in the cliff, with a trampoline over his head.  The indignity of it all.  Homer whimpers, "I'm thirsty!"  The cliff immediately starts breaking off, and he plummets to the canyon below.  Biggest belly laugh I've ever had.  Well, it was pretty damn memorable, anyway.  It's best to leave things alone for a while and come back to them later.
Anyway, we start Act Three here with a fade-in from black, and we fade in on Curly back up in his swing amongst the wires.  There's more wires this time.  Not bad.
Curly's become more of ... I hate to say a master, but less of an apprentice when it comes to messing with the wires up high.  Cut to a montage of people on the phone, complaining about their lack of service.  There's a siren noise that they used later on in Listen, Judge, when Shemp is in the throes of extra-electricity-induced agony.  Operators are going crazy.  Things are spinning around.  Back to the Nazis, whose radio service is out.  The stern woman is sent to have someone fix the radio.  Let the dramatic tension begin.  Back to a singing Curly in the sky with radio wires.  Curly tries to get decent phone service while up there, but no luck.  Dudley Dickerson's phone service is strangely okay... but we'll fix that.  Wait for the laugh!
Back to Curly.  Moe and Larry are starting to wonder what exactly he's up to.  So am I, for that matter.  Turns out his swing can traverse the length of the power cable, so he starts to roll.  He goes to the window of the Nazis' comm center.  He swings back, gets shocked, swings violently forward, and Curly's double smashes onto the floor of the comm center room, and nearly loses his balance, on top of it!  Time to inadvertently be a hero for your country, Curly.
Meanwhile, Moe and Larry enter the hallway.  Moe rightly asks "Where is that dumplinghead?"  Great question.  Moe and Larry enter a room and eventually see the picture of Hitler on the wall with the giant swastika flag next to it.  Moe hits the picture of Hitler in the head and says "It's Schicklgruber!"  According to Wikipedia and some historians, Schicklgruber was the name of Hitler's mother.  Hitler's father was named Hitler, though!  Ah, the sins of the father.  But we'll leave that for now.  Moe's line seems to be dubbed in at 3:30.
Moe and Larry start to leave the room, but they see Dent and one of his flunkies (the Japanese guy) approaching.  Larry steps back into Moe's chin at about 3:34, and Moe seems to get pretty hurt by that.  They proceed to hide.  Dent and the Japanese guy enter the room.  They heil the picture of Hitler...which seems to be different somehow, but I can't quite place it.  I never was good at those things in the paper with the six visual differences between the two same panels.  Moe gets another chance to trot out his Hitler impression, while Larry comes from behind with the mallet and knocks out some bad guys.  Back to Curly, fiddling with his radio.  Cut to a bad looking model submarine.  Curly finally realizes what's going on and goes into panic mode.  Footprints approaching!  He hides behind the door.  Moe Hitler and Larry the J... Japanese guy march in.  They only get one line in and then BOOM!  Right on the head.  See, Curly didn't know who it really was.  He goes to the window.  He walks back toward the door.  Hitler Moe and Japanese Larry are standing up, and they ain't happy.  Curly says "Heil!  Heel!"  Moe hits Curly.  Curly finally realizes "It's Moe!"  Time for a little exchange of violence.  Moe hits Curly in the mouth with the hammer Curly used to hit them, then Curly hits Moe in the head twenty-two times.  You can tell from the sound effects.  Back to the submarine captain trying to call in.  The Nazi captain, speaking in English, tells the boys to take over the sub through remote control.  The boys gleefully oblige, causing the submarine to jump up out of the water like a flying fish trying to reenact a sine wave.  Radio noises abound as the Stooges' busy hands turn knobs and dials like nobody's business.  Cut to a bunch of planes in the sky.  Cut to one pilot realizing he's looking at a Nazi sub doing a comedy jig in the water.  Time to drop some bombs.  Cut to a submarine filling up with water.  Definitely stock footage from another, better movie; they don't seem to be Nazis.
Next scene: the Stooges are satisfied that they've saved the day.  We'll leave that alone for now.  Triumph quickly turns to horror as they realize that the bad guys have come to and are staring them down.  Vernon Dent says "FBI, huh?"  Curly brilliantly, or not so brilliantly, retorts "No!  I be Curly!"  Cue to hit him on the head.  Vernon falls backwards on a man holding a box of explosives.  Box of explosives, meet floor!  Floor, meet Giant Explosion!  Take that, The Way Things Go!

EPILOGUE

Well, guess I better wrap this up, so after the giant explosion, the Stooges have four bad guys trapped under a giant girder.  Time to have a little fun turning them into a human xylophone.  Only in the Stooge-iverse, where all heads have perfect pitch when hit with any kind of mallet substitute.  The Stooges have plundered this territory before, the territory of the iconography of WWII fascism, but a little more successfully in my not-so-humble opinion.  Here, they focus on havoc fundamentals, and lay the groundwork for future shorts, perchance to even lift footage from the old films to do it that much quicker!

***1/2
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur watch - Michael, Stephen and Neil Tolkin

As with the Koepps, this is how it happens.  You use your brother to break into the big-time screenwriting, then toss him aside like a napkin at a picnic for the ants to carry away with the rest of the food.  But at least David Koepp's bringing home the bacon.  The Tolkins did that rapture movie, then went the opposite career direction into obscurity.  Michael Tolkin seems to be on a decade-long hiatus and longer.  Who can blame him?  If you remember the 2000s, you weren't in the White House.  Now he and Henry Jaglom are drinking in a bar someplace, reminiscing about working with David Duchovny. 

Neil Tolkin's apparently not related.

Monday, April 16, 2012

You Panem-heads!

I'm fascinated by this new web page view stats feature of Blogger.  Clearly, things have been going downhill for me since I started profiling Stooge shorts, but I can feel vindicated, at least for one week.  Of course, the The Hunger Games juggernaut rolls on... Geebus!  It's past the 300 million mark!  That usually happens during the summer... and that's just the film's budget!  Drumroll, please... Director Gary Ross should feel proud, and maybe he can use his new-fangled clout to get his next one-word-titled film into theaters.  Pleasantville, Seabiscuit... complete the trilogy, man!  Get Tobey Maguire out of retirement... he'll do it for you!  Anyway, the Farrellys did what they could: wall-to-wall adverts, phony Lunesta-style adverts, webinars... it was a close second, guys.  Kudos to you.  This makes up for last year's Hall Pass.  May your next one be the juggernaut, the next Something About Mary.  Really look for that special project that'll get you to god-like status once again.  The other debuts this week are a coupla clunkers: The Cabin in the Woods, and Lockout... I'm assuming they're clunkers.  They just don't do anything for me right now... I'm taking a cue from Homer in this latest episode.  He really gets into a TV show after it's off the air, but even more so when he's watching it on his web-enabled TV on the treadmill in the basement.  Apparently it would kill him to walk while watching TV.  Me, I might be able to do both (hint hint.......)

Friday, April 13, 2012

Time Bandits 2

While I'm still trying to gear up and review this week's Stooge film, in and amongst a million other things I have to do, there was that time I saw the highlights of Terry Gilliam's 1988 disasterpiece "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen."  Shunned by critics and the public at the time, it surely has gone on to achieve cult status, and of course the poster of which was featured prominently in the video store of his next feature, 1991's The Fisher King.  It's these sort of connections that I tend to dwell upon, as loyal readers of this blog will already know, which is why it was a little disheartening to watch it again and only see those connections.
Which is why I fondly think of Munchausen as Time Bandits 2.  As in Time Bandits, the audience is drawn into the story vis-a-vis a young child, Sarah Polley in this case.  But she's got no Polaroid camera this time, just her plucky determination to convince the world that the Baron is who he says he is, and that he's a magnet for the fantastical, as well as the babes.  At every major stop on the Baron's journey, there is inevitably a lady, and he inevitably falls in love, or at least takes up the task of pitching some woo; the lady's official caretaker gets jealous, and conflict ensues.  Well, there's the King of the Moon and Oliver Reed, anyway.  At least we can see the budget upgrade at work here.  A $46 million and up price tag gets you an upgrade from a square cage to a spherical one... with a basement compartment, no less!
In addition to homages to Time Bandits, Gilliam expands to pay homage to all his life's work.  He once animated Venus on Monty Python after a hand turned her nipple like a radio switch, but goes for the real deal here, giant clamshell rising from water and all.  SPOILER ALERT: when the Baron and Sally arrive on the moon, they are greeted by large cutouts and annoying music.  Gilliam himself of course pioneered the art of animation with cutouts.  They were used sparingly during the golden age of cartoons, but Gilliam changed all that.  And, of course, JibJab and others owe him a debt of gratitude in the computer age... The Baron's horse spins around at one point, much like David Warner's Evil did in Time Bandits in the big final battle.  A battle station on the back of an elephant falls over much like the Punch and Judy show in the Napoleon sequence.  The giant fish with a ship inside of it reminded me of the giant that emerged from the sea with a ship on his head.  Sally, Berthold and the Baron fall back to Earth from the Moon much like Kevin and the dwarves were always falling out of the sky.  I could go on and on... actually, I think that's all the similarities I can come up with.  No Jim Broadbent in this one!  That's different!
I guess I ultimately just wasn't in the mood, but like The Hudsucker Proxy, sitting down to watch The Adventures of Baron Munchausen for me takes a certain amount of self-discipline, and general gearing up for the task.  Alas, they are already relics of a lost era of filmmaking: risky budgets, risky stories, analog mediums.  Now it's all reasonable budgets, bland stories, filmed in 3D and smeary digital video, but every once in a while someone tries to do a film in a similar vein.  Scorsese's Hugo is close, but Munchausen at least doesn't end up being an ad for The Film Preservation Society.

***1/2
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Sunday, April 08, 2012

I've been Rock and Roll and Disco, won't you save me, Bullet Train to Osaka?

...something like that. Well, as long as it's dangerously past my bedtime, why not comment on a feature-length film for a change? Sadly, I've been letting down the craft of film reviewing lately. As David Mamet might have Sean Connery from The Untouchables say: "The first rule of film reviewing is to stay awake during the whole picture!" A task I've been unable to do with two Richard Linklater pictures in particular: Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly... if I could only figure out what both have in common... Keanu Reeves! That's it! Anyway, I have to give credit to my viewing companion whose opinion I trust. He scooped out this one showing on Turner Classic Movies, swear words and all. Akira Kurosawa's 1963 pic High and Low. A mere seven years after Ransom!, but with a couple twists. It's apparently broken into two distinct parts, I found out later, but sort of suspected at first. It starts out as a domestic drama of a lowly member of Japan's one percent, a man who takes pride in his work making shoes at the Sunshine Happy Feet Shoe Manufacturing Company... I'm sorry, National Shoe Company. Just National Shoe Company. Gondo, the main guy, has invited the other bigwigs of said company to his house for a powwow. The powwow fizzles, much like the beginning of Kurosawa's 1985 masterpiece, Ran (a retelling of Shakespeare's "King Lear"). Suddenly, the incident that will consume the rest of the movie: a phone call. Gondo's boy has been kidnapped, and the kidnapper wants 30 million yen in non-consecutive bills. This was back when the yen was worth something. And then, a brief comedic twist worthy of the Coens: someone else's boy has been kidnapped! Well, not exactly a random boy, of course. Gondo's chauffeur's boy was kidnapped by mistake, but the kidnapper still wants the money, or the kid gets it. This was back when kidnapping of a kid was taken more seriously. Maybe things have always been this way, at least for the rich. I hate to spoil the rest, but what follows is a rather taut police procedural, the kind of thing I like, even if I fall asleep briefly during it. I was able to get back up to speed, fortunately. There seem to be about 50 cops working on the case, but about 5 or 6 of them emerge as characters. It reminded me of The Day of The Jackal which I rewatched recently. While not as good as that film, High and Low holds its own rather well, and I see that the IMDb community think it's at least one of the 250 best films of the last 100 years or so, so that's something! Yeah, Kurosawa's got a lock on both ends of the top 250, his own personal high and low, if you will..................................

***1/2
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

...and down will come Stooges, plot device and all

We'll skip the Stooges' appearance in My Sister Eileen for now and go right into the next Stooge short, Sock-a-Bye Baby... hmm! Ain't there a Popeye short called that?  Why, of course!

ACT ONE

All right, time to go to work.  As with the premise of the new Farrelly brothers Stooge movie, a baby is left at a doorstep.  Bear in mind that this is strictly a Hollywood creation... the typical mother leaving her baby in a basket on a doorstep is probably not going to be decked out in designer fashions.  Anyway, the odds are good that mother and infant will be reunited by the time the movie's over, and you're probably not going to like the explanation... I'm just saying.
The baby starts crying.  Poor thing.  That eats up a good chunk of 16 minutes.  Next scene: the boys in bed.  They snore like a locomotive.  Moe and Larry are awoken by the baby outside.  They assume it's Curly.  Then they assume it's a cat... we'll just skip that for now.  They proceed to get their shoes to throw at the tomcat.  Let's just hope they look first.
They discover the baby, and the maternal instincts kick in.  Yes, even Stooges can have them.  I dare say the boys' voices were dubbed in at 1:36!! To help establish the plot, Moe reads the note aloud that the mother left.  And now that the formalities are over, time to try and make the kid laugh.  Professor Moe goes to work.  He does his time-tested "Zip-Boom-Cuckoo!" routine.  I swear I've seen it before.  Larry tries his scary face routine... then Curly uses the old World War II rah-rah racism to make the kid laugh.  NOTHING WORKS!  I'd just hate to spoil what does make the kid laugh... can you make a crying baby laugh by tickling its feet?  Or is that just abusive?  I'd make a terrible father.
Next scene: the boys are asleep again, and Curly gives us a preview of his post-stroke performance.  They wake up in the usual manner and run to take a look at the kid, trying not to wake him.  Larry observes, "When the kid wakes up, he's going to be hungry!"  They get dressed and go to procure some food.  But what do kids eat?  Professor Moe answers that: "Soft stuff.  No bones, no potato chips."  Close enough.  Larry runs off to the market, while Moe looks in the fridge.  Curly illustrates the potential dangers of daydreaming by sticking out his arm and closing the refrigerator door on Moe's neck.  Stooge pattycake time ensues; an especially violent one at that!
Next scene: the kitchen, where Moe is preparing something with Worcestershire sauce and onions.  You know, baby food.  Curly brings in some mousetrap cheese but forgets to leave and disable the mousetraps.  Bedlam ensues.  Larry saves the day by returning from his trip to Whole Foods... I mean, their World War II equivalent.  Probably not as expensive.  Among the groceries is artichokes and beer.  His choice of groceries is not questioned.  Curly makes sure the beer is okay first.  He puts one of the rubber nipples on the bottle that Larry got from the store.  Curly ends up making the beer shoot out of the bottle on its own.  Hollywood magic!  Moe goes over to teach Curly a lesson, but Curly knows Moe's weakness: vanity.  And when Moe gets a faceful of that beer stream, he's powerless to hit Curly.  Moe orders Curly to wash the celery.  Curly starts to, but has to keep nursing his beer geyser.  He'd be a terrible office worker today.  What self-respecting state agency would hire such a non-multitasker?

ACT TWO

Welp, we're overdue for an act break, and there's no sign of a fadeout on the horizon, so we might as well start here.  Man!  Moe has got a thing about that celery!  This must be one of those portions that stretches out the film to 16 minutes.  Nevertheless, I'm spellbound.  After Moe is satisfied that Curly's genuinely working on that damn celery, Moe takes the self-dispensing beer for himself and sneaks a taste.  Larry steps in and keeps the boys in line.  For once, Moe is too ashamed of himself to hit Larry, but Larry's about to do Moe's job for him.  Larry sneezes while holding a loaded flour sifter.  As Larry's gearing up to sneeze, Moe is powerless to stop him, and mouths the act of pre-sneeze agony on his own!  (Moe 6:54)
We hear the baby crying.  Moe tells Larry "Take care of the kid.  He wants room service."  Meanwhile, Curly's really getting into this celery scrubbing racket.  He starts singing a song about growing on a tree in Brazil... somebody else do the due diligence on this one, okay?
Next emergency: how to delicately broach the subject of changing diapers?  They don't, that's how!  They just go to work.  The boys proceed to turn the tablecloth into a diaper.  Larry ends up stabbing Moe in the ass with a scissors.  Just one scissors, not a pair.  There's an edit, of course, so that they can swap in the rubber scissors... or did they?  I'll leave that for you to decide.  I report, you decide, that's how it works.  Larry ends up cutting that little bit of cloth left before delicately stabbing Moe in the ass with the scissors.  There's no padding over Moe's ass; he has a regular curved butt instead of the square one that ends up getting tacks in it later on.  There's an edit before Moe uses the scissors to turn Larry into a V-8, so they DEFINITELY swapped in the rubber ones for that.  Curly laughs, but doesn't say that Larry looks like a V-8.  That definitely came later with Corny Casanovas.
At this point, prepare to leave half of your logic behind.  The boys don't know how to make a diaper out of a cloth, so they use Curly as a model before trying it on the baby!  I guess it wouldn't eat up as much time if they just went ahead and put the diaper on the baby.  Time for a time stretcher.  This one I object to.  They mercifully move quickly on to the actual baby.  As it turns out, the diaper fit Curly just fine, but the baby falls right through it.  Too bad the ASPCA or Amnesty International can't object to this part after the fact, because the baby takes an actual small tumble onto the mattress.  And so, the Stooges go into alteration mode, not at all dissimilar to when they go into surgery mode.  Alas, the only tools they'll be using this time are scissors and pins.  No anacanapana, no e-nah, no... whatever the hell else they use.  Lots of "Scissors!" and Moe saying "Pin!" followed by Larry saying "Pin!"  It's brutal, I tells ya, just brutal.  Moms might want to skip this part.  Me as well, for that matter.  A total of ten pins are used, and the baby ends up with a pair of pants.  Not bad for a trio of morons!
Next scene: meal time!  Larry gives a shout out to America's airplane workers, working hard to defeat the Axis powers.  Apparently, they're better than kings, but probably sweat a lot more.  Meanwhile, Moe and Curly are busy making the spaghetti and artichokes, respectively.  Moe does a little rap, rattling off the meal's ingredients.
Anyway, now for the big payoff of cuteness, as the boys give the baby different foods to eat.  First up: a nice radish.  Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww......  Larry starts looking sleepy at about 1:53.  Moe gives the baby an olive.  The baby ends up shooting the olive pit into Moe's eye.  Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww.......  Thankfully, Moe knows better than to hit a baby, even after that.  Curly says it's time for an artichoke.  Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww.....  The artichoke makes the baby cry at 2:48.  Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww........  The sequence from 3:04 to 3:14 is just damn fine, world-class filmmaking, no matter how you slice or dice it.  The baby wrangler on this one was a genius.  Also, Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww...............
While all this is going on, Larry helps move the plot along with the newspaper.  The artichoke ends up in a very artful arrangement on Moe's face.  Spaghetti's next; an even better throwing food.  Just look at Income Tax Sappy!

ACT THREE

As it turns out, Larry's the brains of this corporation after all.  He's the only one that can read, anyway.  Moe has an interesting reaction to all this news at about 3:38.  Even he can get tired of all this filmmaking.  How to keep it fresh?  How?  The newspaper reports that there's been a kidnapped baby, yada yada yada.  It's all a misunderstanding, of course.  I tell you what, though: there's one unhappy baby at about 3:58, that's for sure!  Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwww.....
The doorbell buzzes.  Time for the plot to kick into high gear.  But how to get that spaghetti into Larry's face?  Genius!!!  Curly answers the door to find two coppers and the mother who left the baby in the first place.  Curly's too slow, and the cops wedge their feet into the door.  The cops fall down inside the house, buying Curly enough time to tell Moe and Larry, and to hightail it out of there with the baby.  Moe's voice is dubbed in at about 4:36, I swear it.  Moe hands the baby to someone outside the window... he better have, anyway!  The boys take off.  The cop's voice is dubbed in at 4:45.  What's going on here?  Legions of fans must've been mobbing the set that day.
In this brief instant, Larry loses the baby.  We see the baby climbing into the Stooges' getaway car.  Larry tells Moe and Curly "The baby's disappeared!"  Moe says "That's exactly what we're going to do."  Sometimes you just gotta force these things at the script level.  Good writing.  We see the cops watching the boys get into their getaway car at 12 fps, and drive off at 24 fps.  A mighty chase ensues.  You might think you couldn't have a decent chase scene with a mere three minutes to go in the pic, but we'll see what the boys can do.
The Stooges turn off onto a dusty road.  They must have been travelling pretty damn fast, because by the time the two motorcycle cops get there, there's absolutely no trace of the Stooges!  The cops split up.  Bud Jamison takes the dirt road, and the other guy takes the highway.  Bud drives past a not-at-all unsuspicious looking car-sized tent and keeps going.  The tent starts driving away at 12 fps, then stops.  The other motorcycle cop is approaching.  Larry discovers the baby in the back back seat of the car, but not before they confuse the baby's crying for yet ANOTHER animal... pigeons!  Pigeons, for God's sake.  Maybe I wouldn't be such a terrible father after all.  Curly leans over to cut a hole in the canvas, and presses Moe's face onto the car horn.  Genius.  Absolute genius.  The cops approach.  Just as the cops are about to grab onto the car with their bare hands, the car takes off and the cops fall to the ground.  The boys drive off at 8 fps, leaving dust plumes in their wake.  They hit the paved road.  They drive past a black gentleman and... well, it's still better than A Plumbing We Will Go, anyway.  Wonder if it's the same dude... ah, I'm not that curious.  We see the tent driving through some California backroads that look like the spot where many a TV western was filmed... turns out they're just going back to the same spot they just were!  Must've been a pretty tight filming schedule.  No time for quality, or some semblance of geographic accuracy.  The cops close in on the tent.  Bud's voice is dubbed in again at about 8:03: "Get your gun.  They may be violent."  Armed to the teeth with eye-poking fingers.  You have no idea what you're heading into.

EPILOGUE

The mother pulls up in a taxi.  The baby is returned to her unharmed, even though the cops just pointed their guns at it.  Is this a case of The Sixth Sense?  Do we have to watch the whole film all over again to see if the big revelation at the end changes the tone of the film during a second viewing?  I'll let the Stooges themselves answer that one, which they do by running off in three giant haystacks...

*** (**** for the baby)
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - Jim and John Thomas

No, really! That's their names! Think of them as a turbo-manly Coen brothers, responsible for such gems as Predator 1, Executive Decision, and 1999's Wild Wild West, directed by brief Coen collaborator Barry Sonnenfeld! ...I don't know what else to say about them.

American Easter

So much for family entertainment.  The latest installment of the American Pie franchise debuted behind The Hunger Games.  According to the IMDb, there are now a total of four theatrical American Pies, and four that have gone directly to video.  Eugene Levy did indeed make a wise career choice.  At this point, we might as well go the 7UP and beyond route with the American Pie troupe.  It's the only thing that will keep Tara Reid normal!
The other debut this week is a 15 year old film.  Titanic.  Well, look at it this way: even E.T. had a 20 year reunion, and it's not even based on an old shipwreck!  So many films to give a 3D treatment, so little time and resources...

Monday, April 02, 2012

Short Reviews - March 2012

Welp, for the sake of my loyal fan base, I'm DEFINITELY going to have to get on top of the hyperlinking of this one...


The Legendary Life of Ernest Hemingway - PONICSAN!!!!!!!!!!!!

The Hand that Rocks the Cradle - Featuring Solomon, the magic ..... I mean, Solomon the Wise yet Retar... uh, never mind.

John Carter (of Mars) - The critics AND studio heads agree: it looks very expensive.

Beverly Hills Chihuahua 3 - FINALLY! A sequel that even Raja Gosnell won't do! Like X-Men 3, is Brett Ratner going to do this one? tee hee hee...

Kick Buttowski: Suburban Daredevil - Probably not as good as the title

Suburban Commando - Meh

Kick-Ass - I saw that one!

All Fall Down - Barry-Barry... the Berry idea!!!

The Campaign (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1790886/) - My Fellow Americans 2? (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0117119/)

The Only Living Boy in New York - See, Simon? You'll be a Dylan-worthy icon in no time!

Morgan Stewart's Coming Home - Love that movie!!... okay, you got me. I've never seen it. And neither have you, I'm betting

Welcome Home Roxy Carmichael - Why does everyone hate on this one?... okay, you got me. I've never seen it my own self.

Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins - I've got to run out sometime!

Welcome Home, Brother Charles - ...there's too many of these! I've run out of snarky comments!!!

Welcome Back Cotter

Welcome Home, Johnny

Welcome Home, Johnny Bristol

Welcome Home Patrick

Welcome Home the Airman

Mama's Gone, Welcome Home

Welcome Home, Bobby

Welcome Home America: Spirit of Venice

Thank you, India, thank you, Providence... no, wait, that's that Alanis Morrisette song...

Daddy's Dyin'... Who's Got the Will? - Love that title...

Play it to the Bone - Woody and Lucy bone it to the play?... that sorta makes half-sense...

Goofyfoot - GREAT title!

American Flyer(2010) - Dude! There's only ONE American Flyers, and that's 1985, Kevin Costner, and the guy picking up his bicycle and running with it across the finish line. Take THAT, Floyd Landis!

All Fall Down - Augusten Burroughs saw this and wrote Running With Scissors in response

What About Bob?

What About Brian - What about Life of Brian?!!

A tiny bit D.O.A.


Man, but are there a lot of Stooge films I've never seen before! Joe Besser's infamous 16 aside, I still can't believe it! Take this week's film, for example, called Even as I.O.U. ........

ACT ONE

We start as does Boobs in Arms, only this time the boys are peddling racing forms instead of greeting cards. Racing forms were a lot more common in films like this back in the day. Cars leased from the studio drive by the Stooges as they stand on the sidewalk. Unlike Boobs in Arms, Curly gets hit in the face instead of Larry, and in the long shot, not the close-up like Lawrence. The boys talk loudly to no one as cars go by in front of them, pedestrians behind them. Suddenly, Curly gets temporarily hypnotized by Moe's fast sales pitch, so much so that he offers to buy what Moe's selling. This, of course, merits a slap in the face, but with racing forms. ...good Lord! It's Saturday already and I'm only at 1:13 in the proceedings. What a Stooge. Professor Moe lays Curly in the road to get the flow of cars to stop. Smitten as the boys are by all this modern trick photography stuff, time for a little fun. I mean... not only does Curly NOT get a speeding car to stop, he ends up in a manhole... I mean, gender-neutral sewage maintenance entrance portal. Curly sticks his head up but quickly retracts it for car #2. Curly sends his hat up by itself to reconnoiter (1:17). Ultimately, it's no use. A speeding car gets stopped by the back of Curly's head. And unlike Ted Raimi in Darkman, Curly's got a stronger head, and in this game of 'Rock, Paper, Scissors, Car, Curly's head' Curly's head beats car. It's VERNON DENT!!! Ever the non-litigious gentlemen, the Stooges immediately go into hard sell mode with Vernon. This time, Vernon accepts. Lamentably, Curly sold Vernon a day-old racing form. This and AIG might give capitalism a bad name. Vernon starts calling for the police. Curly helpfully says "Hey, there's one over there!" It's BUD JAMISON! We skip the formalities between Vernon and Bud and go right into the chase. Whew! All this running around's got me winded. Time to take a break to pad out the time of this film. Cue the mannequin gag... hmm! Am I getting deja vu, or was there a similar scene in the far superior A Plumbing We Will Go? (2:30... ah! They're cracking down on YouTube because of the new Stooge movie, methinks...damn Farrellys.) Police officer Bud Jamison is fooled briefly by the Stooges' miming, but he quickly apprehends Curly once Curly lets down his guard. But he's got at least one trick up his sleeve... 2:43 - good Curly line reading! And the chase is on again, with Bud doing what he does best: screaming "Hey!! Come back here!!!" SPOILER ALERT: To Bud's credit, he damn near steals the movie when he's chasing the Stooges while dragging a store mannequin behind him. Next scene: a billboard that looks like a house, featuring a fully functional door. The boys hide, Bud Jamison runs by with mannequin in tow, and then we hear Curly get bonked in the head, but for once we don't see it! Surely, this is a Stooge moment that must be savored. I'm loathe to call it iconic for several reasons, but it still gives one pause. We eventually move behind the billboard with the Stooges, and notice a bunch of furniture spread out in the open, as though someone's been freshly dispossessed. Thank God that doesn't happen anymore! Moe quickly makes himself at home on the couch, and Larry pulls a Moe-style prank on Moe! The rivalry continues. Meanwhile, Curly eats up a good minute and a half arguing with a tuba, or "a bazooney." In the game of "rock paper tuba", tuba beats Curly every time. Curly's got a thing about gobbling like a turkey lately! If you got it, flaunt it. Warning: if you have young children watching this, you might want to skip 4:24, just on general principles.

ACT TWO

Alas, it's not enough to watch the Stooges by themselves for 16 minutes a shot. They've always got to bring in one plot device or another. And here at the 5:03 minute mark, here they come: a young girl and an woman who looks to be in her late 20s, early 30s if I had to guess. You know, the kind of bride the Stooges are always marrying, no matter what age they themselves are. The lady has to tell the boys that they're using and destroying her furniture. The young girl asks (her mother) for milk. Curly, of course, has to procure some milk. Just to drive the point home, Moe puts a bucket on Curly's head, then punches the bucket in the face for good measure. Curly falls backward, and begins the process of destroying the rest of the woman's furniture. Curly's out cold, so they do the talking doll gag... personally, I think Emil Sitka did it better in Scrambled Brains. Next scene: Curly's alone in the world, looking for milk. He's standing next to a bottle of milk on a windowsill, but that'd be too easy, of course, and his hand gets lightly crushed, just to add insult to injury. But then... we spy a good comedy solution! Goats! And as there are three Stooges, there's three goats: a male adult, a female adult, and a young goat of indeterminate gender. At 6:45, Curly does some ad-libbing with the goats... I'm just assuming it wasn't in the script. Take that, Jim Breuer! Just to add a little Shakespearean pretensions to this scene, the male goat with two big horns charges at Curly. Curly, in response, charges right back, just like Popeye taking on the angry moose in Wild Elephinks at 3:08 (oh, they shouldn't have these on YouTube! After all the trouble they went to to booby trap the DVDs?). Back at the homestead, it's a situation similar to G.I. Wanna Home; makes sense, given the letters in this title. The cute little girl finally gets some milk. Me myself, I can personally attest to the fact that if you drink goat milk, you make goat noises. I can personally attest to this. It's just logic. The kind of logic Newt Gingrich uses. Next scene: Curly's a terrible cook. He loses a perfectly good fish, and replaces it with a wooden one. For those of you expecting the dog to make a tuba noise... sorry, that's a comedy dead end at this point. Don't worry, though; this'll turn into a shaggy dog story yet. Curly plops the steaming wooden fish on the table. Moe tries to cut it with what looks like a butter knife. Moe asks Larry "What kind of a fish did you say this was?" Larry says "saw." We'll leave that alone for now. Moe gets a saw and starts cutting the fish. Curly uses this opportunity to say "See?" as often as he can, knowing that Moe can't attack him with a REAL saw. Moe hands out portions of the 'fish.' The older woman gets the tail, of course. They all start chewing. We don't see the little girl any more for some reason! I guess she's spared the agony of eating pieces of wood. Curly finds a ring-shaped piece of wood, looks at it, seasons it, and keeps chewing. Moe tries to spit out his piece of wooden fish, but ever the gentlemen, and seeing that the older woman's watching, he waits. Cut to a wide shot of the table. We see everyone chewing. Curly drops the ring-shaped wood out of his mouth. The scene just fades out. On to Act Three.

ACT THREE

Seeing as that domestic situation's going nowhere fast, we see the fa├žade of what appears to be a soulless, soul-crushing government building. It looks like no horse track I've ever seen, but apparently it is, because that's where the boys end up in the next scene. Come to find out that Curly's smuggling the child's piggy bank! The very idea. But Curly's a persuasive guy, and he uses logic to convince the other two that going in to the race track and betting on a horse is a good idea. But how to avoid the large upfront cost entrance fee? Cue the ol' moldy "Press" gag. Feels like we've seen it five or six times already. The boys are in and examining the horses now. I guess it was the law back then, that the public should be able to see the horses before and after they race. Damn you, FDR! Next scene: we meet two crooks in sharp suits. Cue the interesting plot twist: the one guy's considering going back into Vaudeville with his ventriloquist act. Must be Jeff Dunham's great great great grandfather or something. As it turns out, he can use his power to make it seem like a horse is talking! Mr. Ed is born! Almost sounds like the same voice, too! The "horse" tells Curly to bet on him. Horses, goats, this film's loaded with animals. Curly's overcome with joy, finds the other two, tells them about the hot tip, runs off to place the bet, and doubles back again for good measure at 5:10. Look fast for this gag, you're bound to miss it... and it's probably best that you do. Next scene: the horse race proper. Cue the wacky horse names. Shortest race in Stooge history! Twenty-three seconds! Savor it if you can. What's-his-face is doing the play-by-play... let me look... Laughton! That's it. Eddie Laughton, not Charles. The Stooges' horse, Bearded Lady, wins, of course. Now, whenever and wherever there's big horse race winnings, there's vultures waiting to swoop down and steal them. I learned that from Dreamscape a long time ago. But this time, there's no deal to cut later on when Dennis Quaid's getting chased by higher-level bad guys. No, the two crooks in sharp suits mean to collect. Curly gets the money from the cashier, Moe gets the money from Curly, and the bad guys get the money from Moe. (But they do get a horse for their money! God bless FDR.) No point in questioning the jurisdiction of the crooks, it's all about the money money money, the Stooges gotta dance, so pay attention to the price tag. It's a financial booty call and our three fools must be parted from their money. One last chance for the older bad guy to do his ventriloquist act. Just when Curly's starting to think he's going insane, all three of the Stooges get to hear the horse say "Just for that, I'll never speak to you again." The three back away slowly.

EPILOGUE

The Stooges, having long since abandoned the lady and girl... and they're probably ultimately better off because of it; at least, they get to destroy their own furniture instead of the Stooges doing it for them....... where was I? Oh, right. The Stooges are now in the dog house, or the horse stable with the horse. The Stooges are busy sleeping, and the horse is awake, nudging Curly. The horse bites Curly in the ass, and they all wake up. Time for the horse's pill! The horse is named Sea Basket, by the way... I should've mentioned it earlier, of course, but frankly, I've spent too much attention on this one. The boys prepare to give the horse a pill. Curly says "You hold his mouth open and I'll blow this pill down his throat." ANOTHER gag from Scrambled Brains! What is it about those two, and all the same gags? Next scene: Moe and Larry are pacing back and forth in front of a veterinarian's door. How are they ever going to wrap this up in the next 45 seconds? With a baby horse, of course! Curly asks "I wonder if you can talk?" The horse apparently goes "da da da da" sounding vaguely like the time Elizabeth Taylor voiced Maggie Simpson. The Stooges are overcome with joy. I wish I could share in it... I really do........
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-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan