Saturday, November 24, 2012

Have Title, Will Travel

Oh boy!  Another Western.  And it's called.... Out West?  That's it?  Sheeeeesh...

ACT ONE

I'm a little disoriented, because usually these films open with some sort of scene setting.  For example, No Census, No Feeling starts off at the clearly-marked Square Deal Swap Shop, and Three Little Pirates clearly states that it takes place in 1672 on Deadman's Island.  Out West offers no such comfort, except from the main title sequence, which should suggest the period and genre.  We have to pick it up in bits and bobs from the opening sequence, where Shemp is being examined by Dr. Vernon Dent.  I hope he's as good as his facial hair would suggest!
Diagnosis: Shemp has a bad leg.  Moe's bedside manner's not exactly helping, either. (Alas, no "bonk" sound effect to accompany it)  This scene is rather strange, as it involves Dr. Dent drawing a picture of Shemp's "enormous" vein in his leg.  Dent says "I've never seen a vein like it in all my life!"  I was expecting an exchange like this: Moe asks "Well, how long have you been a doctor?" and Dent saying "Oh, about two weeks now... I used to do horses!"  Of course, horse docs used to just shoot a horse if it got ill back then.  How far we've come since the Old West.  Shemp's not going to lose the leg, but he does have to go out West for a couple months to be as good as new.  We don't know where they are now, but it's probably not too far from the Columbia lot.  Anyway, what a relief.  Why, Shemp's feeling 100% better already!  At least 'til that second step.  This could fit right into a YouTube mashup of epic fails.  Fade to black.  Notice that the audio doesn't fade out as well.  DAMN YOU, CANNERY ROW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
Next scene: the Red Dog Saloon... hey!  There it is above in the jpeg!  Scene after that: the boys are dressed up in the tackiest cowboy duds ever, and come charging through those swinging saloon doors.  Shemp slaps his leg for good measure.  He feels better already!  Of course, one stray bullet and it's all for naught, but things are calm for now.  But just then... some rowdy dude at the bar wants some stronger stuff than what that stingy barkeep's got.  "I'm TOUGH!" he cries.  Professor Moe goes to work: monkey see, Stooges do, so the boys gotta be tough, too.  They're lucky they don't get shot.
First conflict: the "tough" guy at the bar says to his friend, "Shoot you for the drink!"  The friend throws a coin into the air, and the "tough" guy shoots the coin.  Apparently, the coin disappears, or gets embedded into the ceiling.  Looks like the friend's paying.  Shemp taps the "tough" guy on the shoulder, and says "Shoot you for the drink!"  The "tough" guy says "Throw!"  Shemp searches through his pockets, and has a bit of a struggle with it.  Shemp tells the guy, "You throw!"  Shemp's on the road to either toughness or rudeness, hard to say.  The "tough" guy throws a coin.  Shemp says "Hold it!" and the coin stops in mid-air.  Shemp now struggles with drawing his gun, but he eventually removes it from the holster.  Shemp takes his sweet time to aim, as well.  LOL.  Finally, Shemp's ready to fire and he tells the coin "Okay!"  The coin drops.  Shemp shoots, and a bunch of coins land on the counter in front of the barkeep.  Hmmm!  Looks like that guy from Spook Louder!  No, apparently that was Lew Kelly.  The bartender is Heinie Conklin.  No relation to Chester Conklin, apparently.  Anyway, back to the instant case.  Shemp gives the "tough" guy the change, and the three of them down a shot of "Old Homicide."  Moe and Larry feel the effects first.  Shemp teases them for being such newbies, but feels the effects himself soon enough.  Same thing happens when they're at sea.  Shemp gets seasick last... yup, a Curly remake.  Shemp says "Shoot you for the drinks!" again, but he's in no condition to try anything.
And then, the plot thickens... or just plain congeals.  Fresh characters are tossed into the mix.  We see a dude that looks like the arch-bad guy, or at least one or two degrees separated from the arch-bad guy.  And he's got a flunkie as well.  The arch bad guy calls over the fetching Christine McIntyre, playing another damsel in distress, and she's in much more distress than she was in Micro-Phonies, that much is true.  The arch bad guy sends McIntyre over to the Stooges to find out who they are... or else.  Another hostage crisis, apparently.  McIntyre approaches, saying "Hello, boys!"  And it goes south from there.
This is one plot development I truly, honestly hate to spoil, but since I'm going over the whole film entire, I must.  Needles to say, McIntyre was involved in a similar misunderstanding in that one about Curly's flycatcher.  She asks the boys, "What brings you to Coyote Pass?"  Shemp says, "It's my vein.  Biggest vein you ever saw."  See what they've done?  It drags on.  McIntyre asks "Where is it?"  Shemp begins to point to his leg, but goes for Dr. Dent's diagram instead.  I'm assuming he's not going to go into great detail about that, either.  McIntyre stops him before it happens, yup.  The bad guy rushes over and takes her place.  His name is "Doc" Barker, and he's played by a fellow named Norman Willis.  He seems very nasally to me.  He also reminds me of Dick Curtis, who was apparently unavailable at the time.  This "Doc" Barker's just as crazy as the Stooges, going on and on about how they'll have to use twenty men with picks and shovels or, failing that, dynamite.  Despite no locations on Shemp's map, the "Doc" tells his flunkie that the vein's worth "millions."  The Stooges exit left.  No wonder this one's not among the classics.  On the other hand, perhaps maps of gold mines were ambiguous on purpose back then.  It'll leave you wondering that.

ACT TWO

As good a place as any for an act break, as it's time for America's Next Big Plot Development.  The always fetching Christine McIntyre reappears, and asks the Stooges to come with her.  Next scene: a jail cell with some young handsome dude who can't act in it.  His name's "The Arizona Kid," on top of everything else, or maybe he just goes by Johnny.  No time for small details like that!  McIntyre lays out the situation: "Doc" Barker killed McIntyre's father and stole the Red Dog Saloon from her.  He probably landed the young guy in the jail cell as well!  He's the proverbial Teapot Dome Scandal of the Old West: tentacles in everything... something like that. 
As usual, McIntyre has to do the heavy lifting.  She devises a plan... well, an outline of a plan.  If they can find a key to the jail cell door, they can let "The Arizona Kid" out!  Simply genius!  This will transform civilization as we now know it!  The Stooges punctuate her plan with "Yes"es in increasing numbers... all the way up to three!  That's kinda rare.
Next scene: back on the saloon floor.  McIntyre says to the Stooges, "He (Barker?) keeps the key in his coat pocket."  Oh boy!  Mission Impossible time!  McIntyre disappears, and the Stooges exchange some light quips before the "doc" comes over.  Barker invites Shemp over to their poker game.  It becomes clear at this point that Barker's got a very strong back slap.  Shemp roughly lands in his chair.  Meanwhile, Moe and Larry supplant themselves as bartenders, and begin to mix drinks!  Good thing they're the only ones in their world who understand the Pig English.
And so, the alchemy begins.  Moe helpfully lists out his ingredients for us: "Old Homicide," molasses, Tabasco!!!  Each ingredient is punctuated by an "Aah" from Moe.  Meanwhile, Shemp's playing some serious poker.  He starts by taking off his boot, revealing his comical socks that don't cover his toes.  Alas, it's all part of the larger puzzle.  Two bad guys flanking Shemp try passing cards to each other, but Shemp's foot intercepts the card.  Shemp has a massive stroke... I mean, does a massive double take after seeing that he's now got the ace of diamonds, and he just as quickly swaps it out for the two of clubs.  And by quickly, I mean rather slowly.  You could learn a thing or two from all this, Phil Hellmuth!  And stop consorting with your wife during gameplay so much!  You're making us all sick!  And, in accordance of one of Newton's Laws transposed to comedy, (the Second Law?) the bad guy does a double take of his own after seeing he's one card short of a Royal Flush.
Back to the ingredients.  Larry tops the bucket off with a shpritz of sheltzer... I mean, seltzer.  And then... perhaps it's all worth it to see what Moe does with two eggs.  Laugh of the day that I'm not too proud of myself for.  Now, even though Lawrence quite literally has egg on his face, he can still tell the truth afterwards, and notices that Moe dumps paint into the bucket.  Finally!  Something that usually goes into a bucket is finally in the liquor bucket!  Larry says "Hey!  You dumped paint in there!"  Moe, drunk from his own power, dumps something else in after it.  Larry asks what it was.  Moe replies, "paint remover."  This sounds a bit like Joaquin Phoenix in The Master, no?  More timely than ever!
Back to the poker game, next hand.  Everyone takes three.  Barker takes one.  Subtle, but we all know why, tee hee hee.  Same thing happens: Shemp intercepts the ace of diamonds again, and passes on the four of spades this time.  As often happens in these games, the low man needs some extra money to call.  Shemp's the low man, but Barker offers to give him $5,000 in exchange for that diagram of his leg... I mean, the map to El Dorado, as it's now known.  Shemp eagerly accepts.  He takes the $5,000 and raises to $1,000.  Prudent!
Back to Moe and Larry.  Moe grabs a boot, and Larry pours some of the foggy bucket concoction into it.  And back to the poker game!  Barker's changed his fortunes and now has a king-high straight... and he says it, too!  Meanwhile, Shemp has intercepted the last ace, and with four aces he wins the pot.... for now.
Back to Moe and Larry, who are finally pouring their poison into mugs and are getting ready to take it over to the table.  Moe asks for a bottle of sasparilla... it's for Shemp!  And of course... Moe gets distracted on his way over to the table and gets some liquid spilled on his shirt.  He puts down the tray of glasses, and rather instantly forgets which glass is which.  No time to inspect the glasses too closely, as Barker barks out for a drink.  See how I did that?  You could cut the dramatic tension with a knife.  Moe places the glasses down in front of Shemp.  Shemp and Moe exchange signals about which drink's for Shemp.  Unfortunately for Shemp, all Moe can do is silently shrug.  To make matters worse, McIntyre comes over and one of the boys offers her a drink.  IS IT THE SASPARILLA?  Also, how do you spell sasparilla?  Blogger Spell Check doesn't seem to like my spelling...  how about sarsaparilla?  Ah.  That's more like it.  Thank you, Yahoo! Search Results.  Where were you when I needed you for my spelling test back in the day?  Epic!  Iconic!  Game changer! 
Anyway, back to the movie.  McIntyre drinks the drink, says "Thank you.  Excuse me," and walks away.  And they say there's no good parts for women in movies.  Bosh, I say!  Bosh... did she drink the whole thing?  Dang, she did!  What a lush!  Shemp holds his ears while she drinks, making that time-tested gulping sound only Columbia shorts seems to have.  And now, it's Barker's turn.  He takes a big gulp and sits back down.  Everything seems fine, until the sizzling sound starts, lasts a few seconds, and then boom! of the bass drum.  He's been poisoned!  Either that, or it had too much Tabasco in it.  Barker starts screaming "Water!! WATER!!"  Not so funny.  Even though he's the bad guy and deserves it.  Never mind, it's downright hilarious.  It gets better.  Shemp runs to get water, and goes over to the industrial-strength fire hose they've got in the Old West bar.  He runs over with it, and his stunt man takes a triple-lutz-worthy fall in the process.  Eventually, the hose turns on, and Barker gets water on every part of his body, instead of a simple drink of it like he asked for in the first place.  Moe and Larry spring into action: "Quick!  Get that wet coat off, you'll catch pneumonia!"  Genius!  They quickly find the keys and toss them to McIntyre, who runs off with a winning smile on her face.  How she got stuck in Stooge shorts I'll never know, but God bless her for doing so.  She goes to release Johnny, who's itching for revenge.  As always, she has to be smarter than the rest, and tells Johnny to fetch the U.S. Cavalry.  And so he does.... is he doing an impression of John Wayne?
Anyway, back to the thoroughly drenched "Doc" Barker and his three droogs.  Gunshots are heard.  It's Johnny firing as he escapes, the big dummy!  Barker quickly puts two and two together, and looks over at Moe and Larry, with Shemp by their side... holding Barker's coat!!!  Barker says "Ickey-may!!" and the scuffling begins.  Perfect time for an act break.

ACT THREE

Alas, it's a short-lived scuffle.  The Stooges go behind the bar, are surrounded, then leap over the bar and out.  Larry, however, doesn't make it, the big porcupine-haired doofus.  "We'll take care of your pals later.  Lock him in The Arizona Kid's room!"  Larry couldn't be more scared! 
Next scene: back at the jail cell.  Not only is Larry locked up tight, but he's going to get shot at sundown!  Still, all the bad guys have to leave now.  In economy of gesture, the camera pans left, and McIntyre, Moe and Shemp emerge from behind some warehouse crates.  Didn't we just see them in Fright Night?  Well, maybe they're different ones, who knows.  They go over to free Larry from his dungeon, and wonder aloud how The Arizona Kid's doing.
Next scene: The Arizona Kid walks into the local branch of the U.S. Cavalry and tells them about the trouble in Coyote Pass.  Apparently, the Kid isn't a fugitive from the law after all!  That helps.  The Cavalry is instantly dispatched, and you know why?  Because the Kid says so, that's why!  It gets better, or worse, depending on your point of view.  The Arizona Kid says to Stanley Blystone, "Colonel, I hope you're not too late."  Blystone says "Son, never in the history of motion pictures has the United States Cavalry been too late."  I'll give you all time to slap your forehead.
Back to the Stooges, hard at work on freeing Larry without the aid of a key.  McIntyre excuses herself so the boys can start hitting each other again instead of the jail cell door.  Moe gets to hit them both with the chisel hammer this time.  McIntyre reemerges in the main room of the saloon.  We can hear the clanging sounds, but a little bit quieter now.  Lol.  She goes over to the piano man and says "Play something, I feel like singing."  She and Ana Gasteyer have the prettiest singing voices ever.  I guess technically this is one of those parts that stretch out for time, but I don't notice it!  It's all too exciting!!!  Meanwhile, back to the boys who are doing more damage to each other than to the jail cell door.  Here's the part that inspired Quentin Tarantino and the ear removal scene from Reservoir Dogs.  Fortunately for us, the Stooges don't do it as tastefully.  And now, time for some stock footage of the U.S. Cavalry.  I get the feeling we'll see it a few more times before the pic's over.
Cut between McIntyre and the Stooges.  I think McIntyre needs to sing a louder song... and she knows it!
I KNEW IT!!!
Anyway, back to the liberation of Larry.  As it turns out, the cell is directly underneath where Barker's sitting.  We know this, because Barker gets hit with one of the jail's iron bars that the Stooges just cut loose.  Barker and the boys head downstairs.  Barker's a little slow but there's no stopping him once they get going.  Larry is removed by C-section from the jail cell.  Success!  Time to go... at least, until Barker and his troupe of hooligans shows up.  Moe says to them, "We don't need any help, fellas... NYAAAH!!!"  The second scuffle begins.
Next scene: another chase through the rolling fields of warehouse crates.  Now, you might be thinking to yourself, this looks awfully similar to the chase we just saw in the last film, Fright Night.  And you'd be all too right, except for one crucial difference: there's a few barrels added to the mix this time.  You know, the Old West!  Great production design.  Movie making is a team sport, my friends.  Don't forget that.
Two of the bad guys run into each other.  Moe and Larry help pick them up and help dust them off, then run away at about 18 fps or so.  Now, maybe it's just me and my jaded ears, but the audio here sounds like the audio there!
Tis a short scuffle, and the Stooges are quickly cornered.  Shemp grabs a stick of dynamite and holds it on high... and the fuse is lit by a lantern over his head.  The bad guys quickly disperse.  The Stooges rejoice in their small victory, then remember Nell!  I mean, McIntyre.  They go to join her, while Shemp continues to hold the lit stick of dynamite.
Next scene: the main floor of the bar.  The bad guys all hide behind the bar.  The Stooges emerge through the door without fighting over who goes first.  Everyone sees the stick of dynamite and runs.  Everyone except the three Stooges, that is.  It eventually gets down to Moe saying "What are you hissing at?"  They've done this bit many, many times, but I think this is the first time they've done it with a lit stick of dynamite.  They figure it out when Shemp holds up his hand and says "Listen, you..." and they finally realize that there's a lit stick of dynamite in their midst!  The game of hot potato begins, and goes on a little too long.  How come no one ever thinks to just, I don't know... put out the fuse with their fingers?  Turns out it's a good thing they don't, because one of them throws the dynamite behind the bar, and all the bad guys get all blowed up.  Blowed up good!  Blowed up REAL GOOD!  Heh heh heh...

EPILOGUE

The Cavalry finally show up... or, at least, The Arizona Kid and Stanley Blystone.  Blystone assesses the situation and says "You mean we made this nasty trip for NOTHING?"  Guess it's someone else's job to take care of the bad guys.  Blystone dismisses the Cavalry, and they show the stock footage of the Cavalry in reverse.  Blystone does a double take in response.  But love conquers all, including the meta-jokes and the rampant fourth-wall-breaking of this pic, ending on a shot of McIntyre and the Arizona Kid embracing.  As usual, you can't go wrong wearing a time-tested genre thin, but there's some pretty good stuff here!  Three and a half stars.

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

Friday, November 23, 2012

Auteur Watch - Kasi Lemmons

If you're like me, you know Kasi Lemmons from The Silence of the Lambs, and you know her hubbie Vondie Curtis-Hall from Falling Down as the ... the "outsourced" guy?  In other words, I'm white.  But I think I once burned The Caveman's Valentine onto a DVD when I went through my notorious DVD-burning phase... from CABLE!  Off of cable, I mean.  Now it's all computer files!  Apparently, even Blu-Rays are already going to be phased out.  Lord help us all when gigabytes fly through the phone lines in mere seconds.  But Ebert took a shine to her 1997 film Eve's Bayou.  But Vondie's the main bread-winner in that household, and as long as he's directing, she'll get roles in his films.  After all, she's sleeping with the director!!  Oh, that's not a nice thing to say, even if it's true.  So Kasi does more of the art-house stuff, and Vondie does the fluff, like 2001's Glitter.  Well, we never expected much from Mariah Carey in terms of the acting.  Whitney Houston was still moderately better at that.  Anyway, Kasi's got two big films on her plate: Agaat and Black NativityAgaat sounds pretty epic, as it covers the entirety of Apartheid.  As for Black Nativity, well, it sounds like it'll do for the Bible what The Wiz did for The Wizard of Oz.  I wonder which church is going to protest Black Nativity, and will it mean the kiss of death at the box office as it did for The Last Temptation of Christ.  After all, even with the Bible, once you go black....

Box Office 11/23/'12... Twilight 4.5 again?

Yes, Twilight 4.5 again.  Although... it's only made about 45 million this week!  Quite the dropoff, no?  Tee hee hee.  Meanwhile, the other big holiday movies are yapping at its heels.  James Bond, Lincoln, and the four debuts this week: Rise of the Guardians, Life of (the) Pi, Red (of the) Dawn, and Silver Linings (of the) Playbook.  That dawg!  Bradley Cooper's already dumped Renee Zellweger for her younger incarnation, Jennifer Lawrence!  And David O. Russell seems to be stealing Darren Aronofsky's visual schema of following a character for a long time and only showing the back of their head.  Pretty neat trick!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Million Dollar Baby Huey

What is it about boxing and new beginnings?  The Stooges' second short, Punch Drunks, also revolved around a boxing subplot.  The first Shemp short, Fright Night, does as well.  Now, the title sounds more like a Halloween pic, but perhaps they're related after all, if you think about what boxing does to the average boxer, and the shriveled-up used husks of people that they become... oh, I finally get the title!  A play on "Fight Night."  Makes sense now.

ACT ONE

The opening credit music is held over from the last Curly shorts and has yet to evolve to the lighter, peppier version so often associated with Shemp.  First scene: Muscle Manor... I don't get it.  The Stooges are in the action right away, training their fighter "Chopper," who's sitting on a couch in the ring, lazily lifting a small dumbbell and reading the tawdry "Love Tales" magazine.  He's tired, damn it!  As are we all, guys, as are we all.
But if the Stooges have learned one thing in this life, it's that you just gotta keep going.  Persistence pays off every time.  Insistence, even!  They insist that "Chopper" must do some serious training.  "You can start on the dummy."  He gets up and goes over to Shemp.  Chopper gets a good look at Shemp's ugly kisser, is scared at first, but grabs Shemp's collar and pulls back his fist like a hammer on a pinball machine.  "Wait a minute, wait a minute!  He means the other dummy," says Shemp.  Is he not one of the gang at this point?
Next scene: the dummy proper.  One of those padded numbers on a hemispherical base.  At this point, it's time to stretch out some time.  "Chopper" gives the dummy one hit, then steps back and becomes the proxy for the audience, who is hopefully laughing at the Stooges' pained antics.  The Stooges spend a few seconds grappling with the dummy and lose.  "Chopper" declares 'Oscar the Dummy' the reigning World Champion.  It's hard to keep track of this fight, as half of it happens off camera, but Moe gets the most implied hits to the dummy, and the most on-camera hits (3).  The dummy hits Shemp six times, once while Shemp sticks out his tongue.  Ouch!!  Shemp also seems to be having sinus trouble during the fight.  Larry fails to land a punch, and gets hit twice by the dummy in spectacular fashion.  Larry's clearly the big loser this time.
And yet, "Chopper" still needs more training.  A dummy on the half-ball just won't do, however.  A real-life sparring partner is what's needed now... all turn slowly to look at Shemp, as though he were thinking "Niagara Falls!"  This is the kind of thing that can make a boxer worse, mind you.  "Chopper" is clearly a lemon of a boxer, agreeing to spar with a certified non-boxer like Shemp.  "Chopper" reassures Shemp, saying "Aw, don't be a baby!  It's all in fun!"  Shemp says "I HATE fun!!"  He's worse than Angry Smurf!
Time for an example of Shemp's strength as a Stooge.  Moe and Larry run over to Shemp's side, and Shemp says "What, are you surrounding me, fellas?"  JMHO.  Shemp gets geared up to go into the ring, which of course takes a good long while.  They put a helmet on Shemp, and he immediately says "Where'd everybody go?"  Of course, Larry gets hit on his bald head with the helmet first, for good measure and on G.P.  After that, in the grand tradition of all physical comedians, Shemp has trouble negotiating the boxing ring's ropes.  Moe and Larry use the brute force approach to remove Shemp.  Shemp's already putting his honorary stuntman status to work!  Geez Lew-weeze!
We're about overdue for a fresh wrinkle in the plot... or at least one that's had the top layer of mold brushed off.  A dame called Kitty comes in.  We know someone comes in because we hear a door opening.  Kitty seems to be a friend of Larry, as Larry rushes over to greet her, and he makes the mistake of introducing her to "Chopper."  "Chopper" falls instantly in love, and forgets about the friendly spar with Shemp.  Now he's got to prove himself by knocking out a 52-year old man.  "Chopper" gives Larry a nice big shove in the face for reminding him about the deal.  Meanwhile, Moe's lacing up Shemp's boxing gloves.  Larry helps out with the lacing, and screws that up, too... I mean, sets up the plot dominoes for later on.
The fight begins at 3:57.  Shemp tries to move in to the center of the ring, but can't for some reason.  "Chopper" moves in as well, but stops to look at Shemp's predicament in confusion.  As Shemp struggles with the glove, "Chopper" gets his killer instinct back, and moves in.  He works Shemp over like a one-man version of the Stooges' "two-men in a coat" fight sequence.  He ends up just using Shemp's head like one of those punching bags.  "Chopper" turns to flirt with Kitty.  But then... Shemp finally gets his fist loose from the tied-down glove, and hits "Chopper."  "Chopper" makes a gong noise and delicately drops to the canvas.  DOWN GOES "CHOPPER"!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Unfortunately for Shemp, "Chopper" is not down for long.  "Chopper" gets up and continues wailing on Shemp, opting now for the head-gut combo, repeated often.  I'm reminded of this for some reason.  Shemp's beating culminates in the poor S.O.B. ending up upside down in the corner.  For my own sake, I hope they filmed that backwards.  And so, "Chopper" reigns triumphant, and Kitty looks on dreamily.  And "Chopper" either goes back in to finish Shemp off once and for all... or it was some sloppy editing.
But what's this?  Shemp gets back up and seems to get his second wind!  However, it's all for naught, but Moe gets to have some fun with sentences... okay, might as well spell it out for you.  Moe calls the play-by-play: "There goes Shemp with a left jab!  There goes Shemp with a right uppercut!  There goes Shemp with a haymaker!!!"    "There goes Shemp!"  Shemp may have been K.O.'d before, but this time he ends up tangled up in the ropes, with his head in a bucket.  If he gets knocked out a third time, I plain don't wanna see it.  Moe and Lawrence go to Shemp's side to bail him out a second time.  Shemp appears to be very, very tired, to say the least.  This is another one of those parts they used to stretch out the time to 16 minutes.  Why do I get the feeling that they went off script at this point?

ACT TWO

Next moldy-old plot development... In come the Mob enforcers: the guy who looks left, and someone else.  They've got a message from "Big Mike," and you can figure what it is.  "Chopper" has to throw the fight!  Bastids.  Shemp's still got some fight left in him, saying "They can't do this to us!  I'll call the Police!  I'll call the Fire Department!  I'LL CALL THE MARINES!! I'll..."  Moe says "Shaddup!"  Shemp says "That's what I mean, I'll... I'll shaddup."  Time for Plan B.  According to Larry, they bet their "every last cent" on the "Chopper."  Plan B is debated at this juncture.  Larry's plan is the one that wins: he'll keep bringing Kitty around, and the boys will soften "Chopper" up with rich foods, like cream puffs and other pastry items.  Shemp tries to fill Curly's shoes, saying "That's a great idea!  I'm glad I came up with it..."  Something like that, to which Moe lavishes swift physical pain upon Shemp.  The very idea.  Fade to black.
Fade in on "Chopper" sitting at a table, eating rich foods and swooning over Kitty.  Kitty wasn't born yesterday, however, and says to "Chopper" "Don't you think you oughta do some training?"  Moe's the lead persuader for the rich foods-path, and persuade he does.  Why, even Kitty seems to be partaking of the fare at hand!  Kitty tries again to convince "Chopper" that he's wrong, but "Chopper" says "Aw, the way I feel now, I don't wanna hurt nobody."  My God!  My Whole Foods book is right!  Another variation of "you are what you eat" is that your mood is influenced by what you eat.
The Stooges leave the happy couple alone to talk briefly about how their plan's succeeding.  Shemp has the best part, of course.  He's holding a white piece of cake, and says "(Chopper) sure is making a pig of himself," and takes a big bite of cake.  Moe says "Look who's talkin'!" and hits Shemp in the face with a dark-colored pie.  Moe ups the ante and says "GIMME THAT CAKE!"  By that point, Shemp's only got a small piece of it left, but Moe takes that and eats it.  Shemp, even with pie on his face, gets the last laugh, of course, saying "If I only had some coffee!"
Cross-fade to the "Majestic Fight Arena."  All three of the Stooges are pacing back and forth outside as though they're waiting for the doctor to tell them some bad news.  They're pacing back and forth, and just barely missing each other, until at 0:59, when they bonk heads, but there's no noise!  How will we know if they really bonked heads without the sound effect?  Must've been an off week at Cannery Row.  Oh, and I should probably note that their footsteps sound voluptuous, much like in A Bird in the Head.  Must be soft floors!  At 1:08, Moe asks Shemp "What does your watch say?"  The answer is much like this other one.  Larry, meanwhile, is trying to gin up a whole supply of dramatic tension, and doing a fine enough job of it that Moe has to calm him down.  Only with words, though, not his fists. 
Just then... "Chopper" finally shows up, and he's pissed!  Turns out that Kitty dumped him for his opponent, "Gorilla" Watson, the guy he's supposed to take a dive to.  Probably wouldn't help to tell him that now, of course.  He's in no mood for cream puffs, either, and he takes the one that Shemp offers him and sticks it in Shemp's face.  Me myself, on the other hand, I could go for a cream puff right about now.  Maybe even a cream horn or a nice bienestich!  No nanaimos, though.  Too sweet... okay, get a hold, Movie Hooligan.  We got movies to review here.  No time for fatty, salty, sweet treats.  Aren't the movies delectable enough?  (Spoiler alert: the answer is "no")
Oh, I just hate it when Moe's anger moves the plot along.  Taking the cream puff from Shemp, he throws it, missing Shemp by a mile, but he does hit "Gorilla" Watson who just happens to be walking up.  I think he was going to laugh!  Still, the outrage is on, and "Gorilla" takes a swipe at Moe.  Moe dodges out of the way, and "Gorilla" misses him by a mile, but hits the brick wall with his fist instead. 
And so, here's the philosophical question: is the fight called off?  If a fight is called off in the forest and no one's around to hear it, does it make a sound?  Well, Big Mike and his two assistants think so, or they must of heard it.  They join the Stooges outside at the perfect moment, just as Moe says "I'd like to see the look on Big Mike's face when he finds out what we did!"  They do this bit quite a bit, but they cut it short this time by at least half, as there's too much plot to get to.  Big Mike and his two thugs each grab a Stooge, and whisk them off stage.  The Stooges may stand to lose money on this fight, but probably not to the tune of $100,000, like Big Mike.  The black market has spoken.  Cross-fade to exterior shot of a warehouse.

ACT THREE

It sure seems like a lot more Stooge films take place in a warehouse than actually do.  I should know, as I've seen most of them by now... but they all have blended together into one long knuckleheaded river.  I think barns have been used more than warehouses, but perhaps that's going to change now with the rise of the automobile and the interstate highway, and the fall of the family farm.  As for the Stooges themselves, well, Big Mike's lining them up against the wall firing-squad style, and they're a far cry from Vulgaria.
As the "new" Stooge on the block, Shemp's got some more heavy lifting to do.  He becomes the Pleader-for-their-Lives in Chief, saying he's too young and good-looking to die... well, too young, anyway.  Oh for Two, Shemp my friend, Oh for Two.  His spiel, however, seems to be working on the guy who turns left, as he's in tears!  Some mobster he's turned out to be!  There's no crying in the mob.  Shemp weaves his spell for as long as he can with the "little brother this high" bit, and breaks it with the "great big brother THIS HIGH" capper.  Genius.  Good luck forgetting that one.  The scuffle begins in proper.  The audio's sped up too for good measure.  NYAAH!!! WHOA!!!!  EEP-EN-AAAH-PENANAH!!!  You get the idea.  God bless You,Tube!  My friend who doesn't like his intelligence insulted would seriously doubt that Moe had enough strength to knock a giant beefy mobster backwards, let alone get a gong sound out of it, but it is what it is.  It's on film now, and has only to be put in to the Library of Congress.  I know we're not supposed to say it, but Larry's sneaking up on the gangster chasing him is so gay.  Shemp does some mime, and gets a chance to have his own quiet episode with his respective gangster, before pulling the guy's hat down over his face and running off.
Now, using my crackerjack audio analysis skills, I've determined that the sound editors used the same 14-second clip of background noise to make it seem like there's more going on than there really is.  At 4:04, 4:18, 4:32 and 4:46, we hear the same "Whoa!" sound.  That's what I get for using Windows 95 so much.  But back to Moe trying to dodge the guy who turns left.  Moe throws two bricks into the air, and where they land he does not care, but fortunately for him, they fall on the head of the guy who turns left after he sits down to take a rest.  The bricks make a fine anesthetic, and the guy who turns left is now out cold.  He's soon joined by Big Mike, who stops to enjoy a rest as well.  Now, some of you cynical types might call this one of those times where they stretch out the film on purpose, but not me.  Anytime is the right time to use a guy who's been knocked out by two bricks as a puppet, especially the bad guy.  The only equivalent I can think of is when Harpo answers the phone in Duck Soup and uses his horns to talk... hmm!  Wonder if the YouTube's got that one...... GOD BLESS YOUTUBE!!!  If they don't have YouTube in Heaven, it's really only Hell in disguise.  Anyway, back to the Stooges... As with Waikiki Wabbit, Moe eventually loses control of his puppet, and ends up grabbing Magic Mike's... I mean, Big Mike's nose, which makes a stretching rubber sound.  Time for some more scuffling.  Big Mike's no dummy, and he ventures behind the curtain with Moe.  I was going to provide a link to Mr. Dibley's If..., but YouTube charges for that one.  DAMN YOU,TUBE!!!!  The guy who turns left, aka "Moose", gets to hit two heads for the price of one.  He ends up apologizing profusely to the second head, as it's the boss, Big Mike.  This guy's a born Stooge, I tells ya!  At 5:57, we get a small taste of why Cy Schindell's The Guy who Turns Left.  Better find a better example.  Moe has a strange reaction at the end of 5:57 and into 5:58, which gets cut out when this is shown on TBS.  After that, we get a brief second helping of Shemp starting his mime routine. 
And then, the stuff Stooge legends are made of.  It all takes place around a medium-sized stack of warehouse crates.  Larry and Moe sneak up on one another simultaneously.  Larry, however, is armed with a giant board, as decreed by the 2nd Amendment.  Larry strikes first, hitting the head he sees, and running away, laughing gleefully, no less.  He runs around the stack of boxes to find Moe, slumped on the floor, writhing in pain... damn, it's not it.  Different one.  They re-do this gag later, with better dialogue.  But Moe does describe himself as a "short, fat fella with dark hair."  Go figure.  But there's no time for Moe and Larry to beat each other up; here comes two of the mobsters!  Time for another crow's eye view of the warehouse floor, and the six of 'em running around like blooming idiots.  Shemp sneaks up on Larry in the trash bin.  Larry's unable to escape, as Shemp hits the top of the bin with the flat end of an adze.  He boasts of his accomplishment to one of the bad guys, then realizes what he's doing and runs off, the bad guy in tow.  Moe helps a dizzy Larry out of the garbage bin that he should've left him in.  They go through a heavy-looking door, with Shemp close behind, but not close enough to get through with them.  Shemp cries like a baby to be let in, but is soon surrounded by the three gangsters.  Shemp tries to launch into the "little brother this high" routine again, but Big Mike quickly puts a stop to it.  "Find something to break the door down!" says Big Mike.  Just as they all turned to Shemp early in the First Act, the three gangsters turn to Shemp late in this Third Act and use him as a battering ram to break the door down.  They dub Shemp in later saying "You're crushing my eyebrows!"  Kids: never try that at home.
And so, having used Shemp as a human battering ram, they just as quickly drop him on the ground and leave him, and go to get Moe and Lawrence.  The stuntman they drop tries covering his face so we can't tell that it's not Shemp, but the damage is done.  The real Shemp, wordlessly, picks himself up and hatches a plan of revenge against the bad guys.  In the eyes of every coward burns a straw dog... or so I'm told.  I don't know where I heard that before.  If only there were some sort of massive virtual library that could be accessed through the phone lines... anyway, much like the first ape that picks up a bone to use it to smash, Shemp too picks up an axe off the floor, and heads over to the side of the door.  The camera pans on a prominently-placed box marked "MOTH BALLS."  Good direction!  And so, like Flounder, Shemp figures out a second use for moth balls, and he grabs a few dainty handfuls of moth balls and drops them on the ground.  Eventually, though, he goes for the whole box.  You know, just to build the dramatic tension.  And furthermore, it's no longer child's play when it comes to the axe!  He's got it blade-side down now, and is ready to do some serious choppin'!  Kids: never use an axe like this on your friends. 
And so, Shemp's aim has never been truer as in this, his debut Stooge short, and he lands the first axe chop on the first unlucky bad guy's head at 8:03.  The other two bad guys must be too pumped up on adrenalin to notice this plot development, as they come through the door as unprepared for what's about to happen to them as the first guy.  Down goes the second at 8:07, and the third, Big Mike proper, at 8:09.  No hitting Moe by mistake this time.  Now is the time for heroes.
The moth balls don't discriminate between good and bad guys, however, and Larry slides around at 8:10 until running into a stack of crates.  Larry catches Moe soon after that, and soon Shemp's right there by their sides.  I've never seen comraderie like this since Blue Collar TV... is that still on the air?  Nope.  Probably for the best.  Besides, it was more of a George W. Bush-ear phenomenon anyway.  Shemp's still so excited from his triumph, he takes a swing with his trustworthy axe at the space where Moe's and Larry's heads were a second earlier!  Moe's about to give him the eye-poking of a lifetime for it, when.... footprints are heard!  It's the cops!  Finally!  We could use some non-Stooge authority figures at this point.  Stanley Blystone, I presume!  He was in one before where he played the Stooges' drill sergeant, and he'll show up later in Slaphappy Sleuths, one of my fave Shemp shorts.  But the celebration's a little premature, as one of the bad guys reaches for his gun on the floor next to him.  I think it's the third bad guy who does it.  The guy misses by a miracle mile... nah, make that a moonlight mile, and ends up shooting a prominently-labeled can of red paint.  God bless potential comedic energy, pent up in such things as moth balls and cans of red paint on high!

EPILOGUE

The bad guys get whisked quickly away after that gunshot, and the Stooges are left all alone.  Why, the ending of this film is the perfect metaphor for Death, and manifests itself in Shemp getting shpritzed with a light smattering of red paint, just like Curly before him in An Ache in Every Stake, only with ketchup, and Yosemite Sam with red ink in Hare Trigger.  A rich tradition, to be sure.  Well, YouTube don't have everything yet.  I can't help but notice that the floor seems to be covered not so much with moth balls now, but with a lot of moth ball powder.  I guess marbles do the trick better after all.  Since it's Cannery Row, the Stooges probably have to help sweep all that up before the next film starts... oh, right.  The star rating.  I'm going to say three and a half, what the hell.

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

The Shemp Years

Time for a changing of the guard, so to speak.  These Howard boys are breeding like rabbits!  So, Shemp was only going to step in for Curly temporarily, and eight years later Shemp himself had to step down.  Someday in the future, if any of this stuff survives, historians will confuse all TV shows and film for reality TV, and wonder why these "Stooges" didn't have a better retirement package.  They all basically worked until they died.  But we've plenty of time to delve into morbid subjects later on.  I know there's at least one of you out there who doesn't like Shemp, even though I tried my best to persuade them, saying "He was Moe's and Curly's brother!"  Nope, no dice.  But I think we can all agree: Joe Besser's pretty unbearable, to put it kindly.  The problem is: we all know the Stooges' humor is aimed at children, but it doesn't mean a Stooge himself is a child, as Besser pretended to be.  And so, with that in mind, on to the Shemp shorts.  First up, Fright Night... where have I heard that before?

Auteur Watch - ??

I need to make out another list of these guys and gals

Happy now?

Oh, right.  That damn Twilight saga's finally over, and wow!  Not a bad opening weekend at all!  The economy must be doing better now, as it didn't totally sap the money from all the others.  Normally when this kind of thing happens, the #2 movie will make a small amount, like about $9.6 million dollars or so.  Not so this time!  Skyfall comes in second with 41.5!  The other debut, Lincoln, third with 21 million!  That new Indiana Jones movie better be real good, that's all I'm sayin'.  Pitch Perfect and Hotel Transylvania are in their eighth week in the Top 10, Pitch Perfect having dropped out of the Top 10 altogether the weeks of Oct. 28th and Nov. 4th.  Learn from that one, indie filmmakers!

Friday, November 09, 2012

January 9, 1947 (one film remains)

This is it, folks.  The last Curly Stooge short.  Pardon me while I wipe away a tear.... Actually, the tears are really going to start flowing when we get to the Joe Besser years.  YEESH!

ACT ONE

And so, it's time for a Stooge short called Half-Wits Holiday.  Must be a play on words.  Nevertheless, 69789Darius is right when he says it's a reboot of Hoi Polloi, which starts off similarly if I recall correctly, but don't have time to go back and actually check.  We get two eggheads going back and forth on the old heredity v. environment debate.  The Stooges are, of course, bad guinea pigs for any experiment, really.  As Mumford said, most people's problems are too complicated, too deep-rooted by the time he hears about them.  The Stooges' roots go deep.  Several hundred shorts deep.  But who knows?  Maybe HWH will offer a surprise or two along the way.  Christine McIntyre was wise to stay away from this one.  She preferred director Edward Bernds, because he wouldn't besiege people with pastries in the visage.  Jules White is a Pie Fight man through and through.
The bet is made.  A mere $1,000.  Amateurs.  Right, Romney?  Personally, I think Vernon Dent, on the side of environment, has the right theory, but the wrong amount of time.  He's going to take two months to transform someone from the lowest strata of life, Middle Class America, and transform them into a high society twit.
And then... in come the candidates.  Butler Emil Sitka says "The three plumbers are here."  Clearly, the two learned men are of a pretty low class themselves, ending up in the same room as the Three Stooges, plumbers or otherwise.  Let's see... the Stooges are in the room at 1:13.  How long before they destroy something?  The more priceless, the better.  Well, Moe's foot gets hurt at 1:33, a cracking start.  The 'heredity' guy gets hit in the stomach with a sledgehammer at 2:23.  Close enough... ah-hah!  No wonder my right-click wasn't working!  Paint Shop Pro was waiting to capture a screenshot.
Anyway, despite the physical abuse upon distinguished Professor 'Eugenics' Sedletz, the offer is presented to the Stooges.  Strangely enough, they refuse at first to becoming gentlemen.  Lawrence says "There hasn't been a gentleman in our family for 50 generations!"  But the economic incentive trumps all.  I guess Vernon Dent's going to donate his $1,000 to charity... vis-a-vis, the Stooges themselves.  And so, Moe takes charge of the situation by drooping his head in shame, and saying "Okay, for a thousand bucks, we'll even become gentlemen."
The training begins.  First test: that... you know, that test where you cross your knee and a guy hits you in the tendon with a soft hammer... close enough.  God bless Wikipedia!  Suck it, encyclopedia salesmen!  The Stooges have a delightful variation on the actual test.  One guy gets hit in the knee, and another kicks.  Good thing they're staring at each other's legs for that one!  Curly, as always, is the special exception.  His leg doesn't kick when hit in the patella.  Professor Sedletz goes in for a closer look at the foot.  Vernon Dent goes in for a closer inspection of Curly's bald head, much like in A Bird in the Head.  Must be an homage.  Dent hits Curly on the head, and Curly kicks, kicking Professor Sedletz in the jaw.  The Professor's jaw is hurt a little bit, but at least he doesn't spit out a lot of loose teeth.  So lowbrow and lacking of the dignity.  The Professor's no worse for the wear, and cheerfully insults the Stooges right to their Lower Class faces, calling them morons.  They all stand up, clearly angry, and Moe says "Yeah, but we're organized!"  I dare say they're making fun of unions!  For shame.  You'll never guess what Local they are.  Six and seven eighths, that's right.  What a shock.  They even have a catchy slogan.

ACT TWO

The training begins in earnest.  Better make the Act Break here, in that case.  Moe's got a cigar in his mouth.  So lacking in dignity.  Professor Vernon Dent... oh, apparently his character's name is Quackenbush.  Similar to Dr. Hackenbush of A Day at the Races, dont'cha think?  Anyway, Professor Quackenbush makes the mistake of introducing these three non-gentlemen to his daughter Lulu.  She's not bad.  I mean, she's no Clara Bow, but she's pretty enough, if a little too tall.  God, I'm a chauvinist pig.  Anyway, the boys haven't heard the old adage about not eating where you... well, it's just not kosher to make a pass at your professor's daughter.  Right, The Paper Chase?  There!  The perfect example of what I'm trying to get at!  Curly goes way overboard, but Moe brings him back in line in a rather extreme way.  Curly leans back and opens his mouth, and Moe taps his cigar's ashes into Curly's mouth.  Curly spends the next few seconds choking.  Choking on cigar ashes!  I can't say as I blame him.
Their first lesson with Lulu is table manners.  The Stooges haven't grown weary of high-class food yet, and they run down butler Emil Sitka on their way to the table, leaving a dirty footprint on his face.  Lol.  Geez!  Had to watch that again.  Larry steps on Emil's chest, and Moe really does put his dirty shoe on Emil's face.  The beginning of a long career of abuse.  Speaking of career enders, apparently Monsieur Verdoux killed off Lulu's career, or maybe it was working with Curly for the last time that made her sick of Hollywood.  Sorry, bad segué.
Anyway, next scene: the dining room table, where Curly and Moe jockey for the chair next to Lulu.  Moe pulls the chair out from under Curly, the opposite of Three Little Pirates where Moe tries to stick a chair to Curly's ass.  Curly sits next to Moe, but doesn't have to be happy about it.  Vernon demonstrates good napkin etiquette, but without the napkin.  The boys are confused at first, but play along ne'theless.  Curly missed half of the sentence and tries to tuck his imaginary napkin near the neck, or the chin lap.  This episode goes off without a hitch.  Now it's time for a real comedy setup: Vernon instructs the boys to "do as Lulu does."  Which is good, because she's applying lipstick at this point.  But Moe and Larry aren't trying to do as Lulu does!  Will no one placate this literal audience?  HURRAH CURLY!  Lulu sets down her lipstick, and Curly grabs it like the metaphorical baton it is to become.  Meanwhile, Larry and Moe pitch some serious woo at Lulu.  Good Lord!  Worse than that, she seems to be into it!  Well, the Stooges were big stars at one time, I suppose.  Moe promises to cover Lulu with "furs and automobiles."  He eventually has to stop and rein in Curly who's taken quite a shine to the lipstick.  Curly sticks out his tongue at Moe, and Moe gives Curly's tongue a lipstick stripe.  Curly recoils, but at least it's not sand.  Eventually, he seems to be into it!  Boy, Firefox sure makes it tough to get those links.  It is with this close-up that we can see Curly's missing teeth.  He's as bad as Leon Spinks!  Curly likes the taste of the lipstick so much, he buys the company... I mean, he goes for a second helping.  Moe looks on in horror as Curly eats the rest of the lipstick... rather daintily.  Not like a working man would have, anyhow.  Curly looks over to see an angry Moe and does a double take, but does not receive a beating.  Moe's a gentleman for once.  Moe and Larry continue to pitch woo, and both go in for the proverbial kill to grab Lulu's hand.  They end up grabbing each other's hands.  Lulu at this point uses both of her hands to fix her hair.  Moe is the first to realize what's happening, while Larry is still in the throes of his schoolgirl crush.  Moe plucks a hair from Lawrence's hand.  Scandalous.  Simply scandalous.  I'm surprised the Hays Board let this slip through the cracks.
The mime lessons continues.  Emil Sitka (Sapington, the Butler), brings in trays of imaginary food.  Larry crunches some imaginary celery quite loudly.  Curly pops some imaginary olives quite loudly.  Moe gives Curly a karate chop in the throat.  Curly loudly drinks an imaginary glass of water.  Curly complains that all this imaginary food is giving him real hunger pangs.  Moe must be getting hungry too, as he tries to take a bite out of Curly's nose.  What an uncultured savage.
Then, the soup arrives.  This receives more reactions of shock than even the celery and olives.  But, the boys dig in anyway.  Larry burns his mouth on his imaginary soup.  Moe and Curly slurp up their imaginary soup as loudly as possible.  This part would be fun to watch with your rich friends as they recoil in horror at the lowbrow-ness of it all.  Vernon, thankfully, intervenes, saying "Boys!  BOYS!!!"  Oh, I forgot the S.J. Perelman joke: Curly cries out "There's a hair in my soup!"  Moe says "Well, that's neither hair nor there."  I cut right to the chase on that one; sorry.  Anyway, now it's time for lamb chops.  Curly digs into his main course, but is able to sneak away from the table to get some actual food: he drinks from the cat's bowl of milk!  Awwww.... he rudely pushes the cat aside.  They got two cats!  Lucky.
Cross-fade to next scene: the reading lesson.  Moe begins.  His book's upside down, and he reads "Tar yttridae eth say glug zap snorglotz rammatz.  Ranasance keberetz.... OH!"  Lmfao.  That's as close as I can get, I'm afraid.  Vernon turns the book the right way.  On to more English-sounding words.  "See the cat.  Does the mouse see the cat?  Yes, the doity rat!"  Larry says "Don't get personal!"  Curly reads a passage as well.  Larry goes in for the punchline, and gets the ol' backhand fist in the forehead.  Hard to miss Larry's forehead.  Moe doesn't even have to look!  Now it's Larry's turn.  "Oh see the pretty cat.  Does the pretty cat have chickens?"  Vernon says "That's 'kittens.'  A cat does not have chickens."  Dude, Vernon's pissed now!  Larry doubles down: "Well, I had a cat that got into the chicken house, and that cat had chickens!"  It's the straw that breaks Vernon's spirit.  He rips his hair out and says "I don't know why I ever took this onto myself."  Curly tries to put Vernon's ripped-out hair onto his own head.  Moe gives Curly a slap just before the fade to black ends.

ACT THREE

Scene: the big dinner party where everything turns to sh... "No thank you, Sapington," says Lulu.  And then, the Stooges emerge from behind the magic curtain with Professor Quackenbush in the lead.  The Stooges seem to have been miraculously transformed into erudite high society types!  It can't be!  Is this the end of the Stooges as we know them?  Is it nothing but fancy wordplay from here on out?
Fortunately for us, the façade begins to crack, and it's all thanks to Curly, who hasn't quite mastered the art of the thesaurus-enhanced vocabularyTwice he screws up.  The boys quickly exit Stage Right away from the two battle axes they got introduced to.  The two learned men talk briefly.  "I hope you've got your checkbook ready," boasts Professor Quackenbush.  Missing the early warning signs, Professor 'Broken Jaw' Sedletz says "It's a miracle... but the evening's still young!" 
The Stooges go over to Lulu, who introduces Mrs. Smythe-Smythe (Symona Boniface).  Moe says "Very very happy happy!"  Curly, meanwhile, is well on his way to slip-sliding away, going for the easy thrills and unable to hold out for the economic incentive at the end.  Daniel Goleman's worst nightmare.  He pockets a whole bottle of "Shap-pag-knee" all for himself.  Quackenbush must've used the "austerity only" plan to turn the Stooges into gentlemen.  Larry mentions the reform school at about 4:11.  He held out as long as he could, but it's one of his trademark memes.  It can't be helped.  Moe sees what Curly's up to and says, sternly, "Oh, Curlington!"  Curly comes over to Moe's side, saying "Yes-ington?"  Moe introduces Smythe-Smythe to Curly.  She offers Curly her hand.  Curly goes to kiss Smythe-Smythe's hand, but instead opts to bite the giant stone off her ring.  She totally doesn't notice.  I guess it's only natural when fresh faces are introduced into the same old boring high society.  The Stooges find a curtain to hide behind.
Next scene: behind the curtain, where the gentlemanly façade quickly drops, as does the load of silverware Curly's hiding under his jacket.  Animal Crackers, anyone?  I can't understand what's keeping that coffee pot!  A few seconds later, Moe kicks Curly right in the champagne bottle, and Larry gets sprayed with it for about two seconds.  He looks pissed.  Moe grabs a throw rug to quickly cover up the silverware, and knocks a guy over who's trying to light a dame's cigarette.  Vernon Dent finds the Stooges and takes them back to the killing floor... I mean, the party proper.  Party pooper?
Curly continues his slide down the slippery slope back to his normal self when he grabs a pie from Emil Sitka's tray.  He goes in for a bite, but Moe of course stops him at the last second, calling him a "petty larceny Stooge."  Moe sends Curly away, and takes it upon himself to dispose of the pie.  He's about to gently place it under the couch cushions, but decides against it, deciding instead to throw it up against the ceiling where no one will ever see it ever again.....
Next scene: Mrs. Smythe-Smythe tells Lulu that she wants to speak to one of these "young men" who have undergone this bold experiment.  Of course, she picks Moe first, who's still sweating over the tell-tale ceiling pie.  Moe tries to warn Smythe-Smythe about the impending pastry-related danger, but she doesn't pick up on Moe's very subtle hints.  Did you catch that she mentioned earlier that she's allergic to pastry?  It kind of dampers the comedy to come, but I'm still a sucker for the sounds a person makes when hit in the face with a pie.  In this case, they don't come much better than Smythe-Smythe's hit at 6:30 which sets off a veritable pie-throwing orgy.
Not yet, though.  Not enough kindling to start this fire.  Moe's standing next to a different gal, and he sees Larry eating a pie in the same manner Curly tried to earlier.  Moe gives Larry a swift kick in the ass, and hits his pie-holding hand.  The pie flies away into the face of Stooge regular Al Thompson.  Al goes over to the pastry table and tries to hit Larry with a pie.  Larry ducks, and Moe gets a pie on the left side of his face.  The pie fight's slowly reaching critical mass.  We hear the sounds of girls screaming, as though they've just seen Godzilla. 
Several more people get hit with pies, including Stooge regular Victor Travers, who doesn't wake up.

EPILOGUE

The two professors have missed all the fun until now, and once they emerge from behind the curtain and see the pastry-fueled mayhem, Sedletz gets a pie in his face.  Quackenbush is quick to give back the check, conceding to the 'heredity' argument once and for all.  Professor Sedletz wipes the pie off his face and says "And I've learned something too!"  Professor Quackenbush asks, "What's that?"
As for the Stooges, well, the show goes on without Curly.  He doesn't get to do his usual routine where he winds up to throw a pastry, only to get hit in the face.  Does it only happen in the Hoi Polloi remakes?  If only someone was keeping track of these things.  Needles to say, this pie fight was so good, I have a feeling we'll see it a few more times down the road, especially the very last scene, where Larry gets a little payback.  He hits Moe in the head with a pie.  Moe goes for a pie, and Larry ducks.  Moe ducks down, too, and hits Larry with the pie anyway.  Moe then proceeds to wash his face using the punch bowl.  Even the high society types gotta do that sometimes themselves.

****
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Good double bill with: Trading Places.  At least, for the philosophical shouting matches that will result afterwards

Auteur Watch - John Putch

So who do the Powers That Be get to direct Atlas Shrugged II: The Quickening?  Spielberg?  Soderbergh?  Quentin Tarantino Incorporated?  Or maybe I should say... look! Up in the sky!  Descending in his private jet to direct A.S. Part 2.  It's King Vidor the Second!  It's Brian de Palma! 
No.  It's... John Putch?  Now, if you're like me, you might be asking yourself, who the f... who is John Galt?  I mean, Putch?  Well, according to the IMDb, he's the son of actor/producer William H. Putch and actress Jean Stapleton.  Or, in wise-ass terms, Fred Hogan from Family and Edith from All in the Family.  I don't know exactly how Atlas Shrugged II qualifies as a family picture, but I'm sure it does somehow.  Even Ayn Rand... I'm sorry, Alissa Zinovievna Rosenbaum, was part of a family at one time or another, as much as she might like to deny it.  Yes, this veteran TV director known for his work on everything from Son of the Beach to Scrubs runs the gamut of low comedy and high drama.  Plus, he works cheap.  But would it have killed him to get his mom to do a cameo?  Even as Edith?  Slap Norm MacDonald in a white wig, and he can tell Edith to stifle with the best of 'em!  Might've helped at the box office.  It'd be the only clip they'd show in the TV spots, that's for sure!

11/11/'12... damn. So close.

I suppose the new Bond film's going to dominate the box office this weekend, but I just wanted to give one last visual homage to Wreck it Ralph, and also because it's directed by a Simpsons alum that's not David Silverman!  He's finally sharing with others.  I should probably count Chuck Sheetz and that Recess movie he directed, but... ah, skip it.  They can't all be winners.
...yup, the Bond film.  Go figure.  The cross-marketing with Heineken and some cell phone company worked.  They would all like to remind you to enjoy responsibly, and please don't drunk dial your ex-girlfriend while driving.  In other news, Pitch Perfect rises from the depths and returns to the top 10!  O happy day in the Kendrick household.  Cloud Atlas hangs in there, as do Kevin James' two films.  How's Lincoln going to do against the last Twilight film?  That must be why Spielberg is nervous.  He should've released it before the election, but he wanted to wait til the election is over.  Zemeckis wanted to wait until a few days before the election to release Flight lest the Tea Party hail it as the perfect metaphor for Obama: a coked-up airplane pilot who saves the economy by landing it upside-down... something like that.  Actually, that might have helped the box office returns!... then again, maybe not, seeing as how Clint Eastwood's 2012 fare is long, long gone.  Gone, baby, gone.  It was so two months ago.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

December 5th, 1946 (two films remain)

Donnie Darko, anyone?  Oh no.  Nostalgia's confined to 1988, I'm afraid!  But the Tears for Fears song was from 1985!  It's an improper 1988, my friends!  You're being lied to.  Guns 'n Roses!  INXS!  Debbie Gibson!  Terrence Trent D'Arby Roast Beef Sandwich!  But I digress.  You can digress further here at this website.  God bless the web, and may it always be free and open.  Reminds me: time for the next Stooge film, Three Little Pirates.  Something tells me I'm not going to like this one very much..................................

ACT ONE

Setting: Deadman's Island, the year of someone's Lord 1672, where we find King Vernon Dent being given some surely troubling news.  Two guards with metal knight hats and Pilgrim outfits waddle in with a piece of wreckage from a ship that crashed into the island.  Fortunately for the plot, it's got some words on it, saying it's a garbage scow from N.Y.C.  What else can be said?  NYC's been #1 in garbage for hundreds of years.  It gets worse... there were three survivors.  The guards bring them in.  Would you believe it?  It's the Stooges!!!  To stretch the time a little bit, Moe gets into a manliness contest with the guard, and loses.  Badly.  Man, I'm getting shallow!  Moe makes an interesting noise at 1:13.
It's apparently supposed to be the year 1672, but the Stooges are dressed in modern sailor outfits.  Vernon Dent remarks on this anachronistic inconsistency, saying "I never saw seafaring men dressed like that.  I don't believe they're sailors!"  What a strange line!  But then, the always fetching Christine McIntyre comes in, wearing a flowing dress with a generous decolletage.  She reacts to the Stooges with shock.  They turn, look and whistle.  Vernon says "They're sailors, all right."  Why do I feel so dirty?  Curly starts flirting with McIntyre in earnest, but he gives her the hand move usually reserved for Moe that causes Moe's head to follow said hand... hmm!  Wonder what that's called.  Anyway, Curly steps over the line by putting his hand under Christine's chin, playing with her lack of jowls.  Vernon's had enough.  "Seize them!" he tells the two guards.  The camera has a wide shot of the room at this point, and we dolly in a little closer on the Stooges, who are in deep sh... trouble now.  "For your insolence to my betrothed, YOU SHALL DIE!"  The Stooges beg for redemption.  Vernon the Merciful says "Very well, you may choose the manner in which you will die."  Larry pipes up "That's easy!  OLD AGE!!!"  Oh, c'mon, Moe.  You gotta like that a little bit!  No dice.  Moe goes to hit Larry, but the guard does instead.  Moe thanks the guard.  Who's the alpha Stooge now, bitches?  But Curly's the proverbial Raymond Stantz in this final showdown, and he ends up picking the Stooges' final demise... sorry, but I never paid attention during Greek and Roman Mythology class in high school.  I can't even remember what class they taught it in.  English?  History?  Probably English.  We had enough trouble learning domestic names and dates as it was.  And so, between burning at the stake and beheading, Curly picks burning at the stake because... no, I dare not spoil his punchline.  The delivery's tinged with melancholy as it is.  The Stooges are hauled off, despite Moe's troubles with walking.
Next scene: the jail cell proper.  So many Stooge films end up here at one time or another.  Curly can see from the window that firewood's being gathered for the big fire.  Moe takes hombrage with a skull on the wall that's "staring" at him.  And just then... even in Hell, an angel sometimes appears, and McIntyre comes floating in with that same purdy dress.  She bribed the guards to help the Stooges get away.  She gives the backstory of the mounted skulls on the wall.  I guess Vernon's a Catholic.  Tough, but merciful.  And then... just when you thought this jail break wouldn't involve tools... whoomp!  (There they are...)  McIntyre lifts up the mattress to reveal a whole bottom mattress full of tools.  So much for the year 1672.
Now, as even the most casual Stooge fan can tell you, the Stooges never pass up an opportunity to speak in unison.  Case in point: the West Wall which leads to the outside of the palace.  About as weak a reason as you can get, arguably.  But they have to go through their closet to get to it.  Convenient!  And so... in to the closet they go with armfuls of tools.
Next scene: the inside of the closet proper, where Curly takes it upon himself to pick the wall they start breaking through.  He uses the old reliable "Eeny Meeny Miney Moe" system, and yes, they're doing it for the self-reference.  Moe just doesn't appreciate anything.  And then, Larry gets hit in the head three times with a sledgehammer.  Worse than that is the effect it has on Moe: pure exasperation to the point of confusion, or at least going off-script.  I just realized!  They're more interested in hitting each other than trying to escape.  They're stretching out time, aren't they?  They eventually fire up the power-drill, and Larry ends up getting lightly choked.  Looks great, though.  Eventually, the three of them erupt through the wall... and end up back in their own cell.  Nice work, guys.  Plan B is thrust upon them by the fetching McIntyre, who may as well abandon her plans of leaving the island, at least as far as the Stooges go.  She's probably better off alone.  Nevertheless, the seeds of Act Two are planted.

ACT TWO

At some point between then and now, the Stooges get fancy-schmancy costumes, and are reintroduced to Vernon the Terrible as three men from a far-off land, probably the Orient.  This affords them an opportunity to stretch time out further, bridging the wide culture gap between Deadman's Island and Pig Latin.  As it turns out, McIntyre makes the mistake of telling the plan out loud for all to hear, which includes this other gal, Vernon's secretary/mistress.  The quartet tries to act cool, but the damage is done.  They go ahead with the deception nevertheless.  I don't know why, but Curly with those glasses makes me think of John Lennon.  More clumsy, of course.  Curly earns some post-stroke stuntman credits on this one, bashing into one wall after another.
McIntyre introduces the dressed-up Stooges to Vernon proper.  Much like in Uncivil Warriors, the rightmost Stooge gives a salute and hits the adjacent Stooge in the face.  They've got great comedy names like "The Gin of Rummy."  Vernon cuts to the chase.  I could learn a thing or two from him!  He says "Can we dispense with the formalities and make with the gifts?"  What a pig.  Curly wastes some time trying to find a chair, and then misses it when trying to sit down.
And now, the real meat of the time-wasting practices.  The Stooges go into an elaborate Vaudeville routine, where Moe walks from Vernon's side over to Curly, rudely brushing Larry aside in the process.  First iteration: Moe asks Curly if he has any gifts for the ... for Vernon.  Curly says no or, rather, "Nyah-tink!"  I think I'm spelling that correctly.  Moe goes over to Vernon and says "The Maha..." and Curly launches into the routine a second time.  Moe thankfully cuts it short.  As it turns out, Curly does have something: a heart-shaped lollipop.  Vernon confuses it with a ruby.  I don't know if that's fortunate or unfortunate.  It eventually provides a "raspberry" joke that you'll never forget... no matter how hard you try.  Vernon puts the lollipop into a pocket, giving us plenty of time to finish laughing, and says "What other rarities does the Raja have for me?"  Back to business.  And time for a second iteration of the pattern I outlined before.  I hate to give my enemies any more ammunition than they already have, but the phrase "asky-tasky" is like fingernails on the blackboard, or makes it seem like child's play.  Curly pulls out a ball-point pen.  Or rather, its late 1940s equivalent.  As we all learned from 2008's Doubt, the ball-point pen was another bad consequence of the 60s.  The point being, Vernon confuses the pen for "the tusk of the black walrus."  And that, my friends, was how Pier 1 Imports was born.  Curly launches into his routine prematurely again, and Moe tells him to cram it.  To which Curly replies "Oh, shut up!  I don't have to."  Curly sits down, but ends up hitting the floor, then standing on his head.  I gotta see that again!  I couldn't do that, and I haven't even had a stroke yet!  I'm telling you, double credits for Curly.  I mean, Chris Farley got stuntman credits on one of his bad films.
Moe and Larry rush to Raja Curly's side to pick him up, and physically thrash him about the neck and shoulders.  Moe returns to Vernon's side, and Vernon asks "Are there fair damsels in the Raja's domain?"  God bless the sanctity of marriage between a man, a woman, and any number of mistresses.  I'm just glad McIntyre's not around to hear that part.  Moe's rage gets amped up at 2:07.  I love it.  Again, Curly replies "Aw, shut up, I don't have to!!!"  Moe finally gives a funny answer: "The Raja says that, in his domain, on the islands of Coney and Long... there are some fair chickadees."  Then, the plan is hatched: the Stooges will go fetch some of these girls and bring them back.  McIntyre's back to hear this part!  Women's lib has only recently come to Deadman's Island.  The Stooges leave the room, but Curly adds at least ten seconds to their departure time, falling over his chair again and going out the wrong side of the door for our visual pleasure.
And now, it's time for Vernon's Spanish secretary to shine.  She tells the boss that the castaways are headed to Black Louie's place.  (I skipped over a part)  Vernon sends a note to Black Louie about his impending three guests, and to give them a "warm reception."  Might as well make the Act Break here.

ACT THREE

Next scene: Black Louie's Café.  Pretty swank for a place on a 17th Century island if I do say so myself.  Maybe it's just me.  Larry cuts himself out of the main plot action when he gets distracted by a pinball machine.  He says "Look!  A game of skill.  Shall we play?"  Moe shuts down that idea, but Larry sticks to his guns and starts playing the pinball game.  Moe and Curly end up meeting Black Louie.  He sounds a bit like Richard Fiske, but it's a different guy.  I can't believe it!  Fiske's top four doesn't include any Stooge films!  Tis the rare actor that breaks away from the Stooges rolling stock company like that.  Whoever plays Black Louie doesn't get credit on IMDb so far.  Frankly, it's probably for the best.  But Black Louie (a white guy) is nothing if not all business, and he launches right away into explaining that they've got a target practice game going, albeit temporarily on halt.  Louie relieves Curly of his gold and invites four-eyed Curly to throw some knives.  But what would make a suitable target to ramp up the dramatic tension?  Back to Larry, who's losing the pinball game.  He looks both ways, then tries to tilt the machine.  The machine starts making whooping noises.  Did I mention that it's 1672?  Now where have I heard those whooping noises before?  Okay, bad example.  That came a few years later.  Better ask Jerry Beck.  Anyway, Larry gets hit on the head by a giant oversized mallet, providing the best visual joke of the whole film.  Or maybe the best is yet to come.  In his concussion-induced stupor, Larry makes his way over to Black Louie, who says "Now all we need is a live target."  Bump!  Right into Black Louie, who grabs Larry by his curly locks and says "You'll do!"  Now it's personal.  Only Moe's allowed to do that.  But we'll leave that aside for now.  On with the contest.
A tough looking dude brings over some knives to Curly.  Moe's tolerated Curly's weakened eyesight up until now, but tells Curly to be careful and not hit Larry.  Curly can't see where Larry is.  Moe says "Take off the glasses... he's right over there by the wall."  Curly, sans glasses, says "What wall?"  Moe says "Nyaah!  PUT THE GLASSES BACK ON."  Just then, McIntyre shows up in a costume of her own; a little Gypsy number, if my stereotypes are correct.  She shows her face to Moe, and Moe finally figures out it's her.  She tells them of Black Louie's real intentions.  Curly says "We gotta call the cops!"  Moe says "We gotta call the Marines."  McIntyre hides behind the counter, and Larry's in place, ready to have knives thrown at him.  Or, have knives stuck around him, and pulled away slowly with the film run backwards.  Let's see how skilled the filmmakers are with dramatic tension... not bad!  Gotta hand it to Black Louie.  He's at least a sport.  The first one to hit Larry loses.  A second one lands next to Larry's head.  Dayamn!  They must've got the same guy that Ernie Kovacs got... phooey.  "Mack the Knife" keeps coming up.  Might have to post the damn thing myself.  Curly throws his first knife and... needles to say, it ends up nowhere near the target; on the opposite wall, in fact.  After that, the knife hits come fast and quick, for lack of a more adequate term.  Black Louie throws another winning near-hit, but Curly almost hits Larry with two knives at once!  Good thing Larry got out of the way.  Curly almost hits a "painting," then he hits a bad guy in the side.  Bad sportsmanship!  Then he hits a chandelier which makes a bullet ricochet noise.
The gloves are off now: "Foul play, eh?" cries Black Louie.  So much for his chance at foul play.  A big-ass fight breaks out.  Even with his diminished eyesight, Curly manages not to lose a swordfight with this other dude.  Larry manages to use the pinball machine on someone else for a change!  Moe uses the fake painting to his advantage!!  There's just too much action to play-by-play, I tells ya.

EPILOGUE

I hate to spoil the ending, but I guess I have to.  I'm practically contractually obligated at this point.  With the bad guys all lightly incapacitated, except for the guy with a knife in his side, it's time to escape.  McIntyre reminds the Stooges that they can flee the island, etc.  Moe, however, has an unpredictable change of heart, and decides he wants to be king of the island himself!  Unfortunately for him, he's standing right in front of that pinball machine....
***

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Short Reviews - October 2012

Another slim week!  I apologize.

The Girl Next Door (2004) - comedy

The Girl Next Door (2007) - Not so much a comedy

Snow White and the Huntsman - They keep having these Facebook ads lately, saying "Learn how an unknown sold a $3.2 million screenplay!"  Must be Evan Daugherty, because John Lee Hancock's certainly known, as the other guy probably is... Hossein Amini.  Well, he's busy too, anyhow.  Here's a tip: prequels are the new sequels.  Or do like this, and write a variation on an old fairy tale.  Better yet, write a movie about the moon, walk along the craters in the afternoon....................

Hearts in Atlantis - good double bill with Orphans (1987)... or Stand By Me

Wreck-It Ralph - Movie SAT time: Wreck-It Ralph is to video games what Roger Rabbit was to the animated cartoons of the '30s and '40s.

Auteur Watch - Bouli Lanners

This is what I get for not having a long-term Auteurs plan.  Jumping from film to film like some ADD-afflicted mosquito.  This is no way to live.  But I did watch his Eldorado tonight and, while I don't feel like I made it to quite that level of promised land, I'm slightly the richer for it ne'theless.  I guess.  I'm just trying to place this guy.  The Village Voice called him a French Kevin Smith because of his warddrobe, which I think is selling him very, very short.  No, to me he's more of a cross between Julian Schnabel and Billy Bob Thornton, maybe because I read that painting is in his background.  Apparently he and Julian were self-taught, God bless 'em.  With maybe just a dash of Rade Serbedzija, the second most interesting man in the world.

Game Over

My God!  Facebook's down!  I'm starting to get the shakes.  Might as well get this ready for next week.
And so, the ad campaign worked.  Wreck-it Wralph is lord of the heap at #1, with BoZem's Flight coming in strong at #2.  The only other debut this week is the Tarantino-recommended The Man with the Iron Fists.  I just noticed that End of Watch lasted only one week, despite debuting at #1!  Strange.  I haven't seen anything like it since 2008's Bangkok Dangerous, and that at least lasted two weeks.