Thursday, January 30, 2014

Short Reviews - January 2014

Labor Day - What is this?  I was expecting the completion of the Garry Marshall holiday trilogy, or even the latest crappy Nicholas Sparks novel!  Instead, I get this!  Plus, the IMDb page is all fancy for it!  Yecccch!!!

Inspector Gadget - Okay, the movie's pretty bad, but the car is totally awesome!!

Inspector Gadget 2 with French Stewart - Oh, puh-leeeeeeze... hmm!  Wonder whatever happened to him?

A Fall From Grace - Indeed

Falling for Grace - I don't remember this from Lewis Black's book!

Falling from Grace - Okay, so it won't be inducted into any halls of fame any time soon, probably.  Better make the hyperlink for it, as IMDb has a little trouble finding it, amidst all the other falls and all the other Graces out there

If Lucy Fell - ...she'd land on her face?  Oh s'z'nap!

Trancers - Oh, Santa can't be the bad guy!

Trancers II - Helen came back for the sequel?  That's... kinda sad!

Failure to Launch - The best friend of the protagonist... is there any more reliable archetype?

(500) Days of Summer - The best friend of the protagonist... is there any more reliable archetype?

When In Rome - The protagonist's two chatty assistants... is there any more reliable archetype?

Enter the Dragon - A martial artist goes undercover to spy on a reclusive crime lord, using his invitation to a tournament as cover... from the director of Gymkata, that's all I'm saying!

Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment - In our current political climate, any red-blooded American will tell you that the protagonists' unhealthy obsession with Communism is by far more troubling than the protagonists' unhealthy obsession with... let's say the works of Pierre Boulle.

Oh, you know what I keep forgetting to do?  I keep forgetting to celebrate those films of last year that spent only one week at the box office!  Let's do that now.

Promised Land - Bad promise

The Last Stand - I think it's the one with Ahnold Schvazanegga

Movie 43 - It's the '60s all over again!  All the rude, grotesque parts of course

Argo - ... Argo?  It apparently resurfaced the week of Feb. 10, 2013.  That hardly counts.

Dead Man Down - I guess the title sounded too familiar to folks or sumpthing

Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani - Titles that rhyme... a box office killer every time

Fruitvale Station - In this case, it's a complement, of course.  The new way to get your 'indie creds.'

Jobs - No Oscar for Jobs?  Ouch!

You're Next - I don't think so!

Getaway - Exactly

Battle of the Year - Well, it must've been short, anyway.  That's the problem with modern warfare technology.  See Baron Munchausen for a treatise on that!

The Wizard of Oz 1939 - It did a little poorer than the Jurassic Park 3D release

Pulling Strings - To what end?

Machete Kills - Don't worry, nothing will stop the trilogy's completion.  Not even Mel Gibson.

The Fifth Estate - Better stick to your day job, Sherlock

Black Nativity - No love for Langston?  You vicious heartless bastards!

...okay, that's done.  Back to everything else.

Dead Man - Classic

Dead Man Walking - Depressing classic

Dead Man's Shoes - A homeless dude staple

Dead Man on Campus - You know, it wasn't so long ago when Tom Everett Scott's scared face could sell anything... and this is the proof

An American Werewolf in Paris - Ditto

Bulletproof - You know, a lot of movies will simply talk about one character sticking a gun up another character's ass and pulling the trigger.  Usually two guys.  You got your Lebowskis, your 2004 Ladykillers, your Buffalo Soldiers, what have you... but it's a rare movie like Bulletproof that actually shows what it might at first look like!

The January Man - Holy $#!  John Patrick Shanley created the British Best Friend!

A Month in the Country - Feels more like ten boring years

Sweet November - Let me tell you something about the films of Pat O'Connor.  These are the kinds of movies you go to see that you get dressed in your finest suit, you go and rent a limo, maybe go to dinner beforehand, then the opera after... and then you go home and blow your brains out.  BUT BEFORE THAT, seeing a Pat O'Connor movie will be the classiest thing you'll ever do your entire life.  Even this one with that surfer dude from Point Break.  This is the kind of film that all filmmakers want to make.  Forget Spielberg and George Lucas; child's stuff.  Childish stuff.  No, Pat O'Connor's the one.  Nice, decent films about nice, decent people, falling in love, damn it.  Love.  Remember love?  Hel-LOOO?????

Child's Play 1 - Kewl!  I didn't know Elisabeth Shue was in that!... oh, right, it's Catherine Hicks.  Never mind.

Year One - Alas, Harold Ramis has passed on at the age of 69.  Anything to get out of doing Ghostbusters III...

Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song - I hate to be critical of a cultural landmark and all, but there's too many experimental film-type moments in this movie.  I mean, taking your wind-up Bolex and going around town, shooting two seconds here, shooting two seconds there... I've made that movie!

So I Married an Axe Murderer - Well, it's been over 20 years, so I guess the proverbial statute of limitations is up on this one.  Here's what's wrong with this movie: the direction.  Take, for example, the scene where Mike Myers goes to hug his fiancée's girl friend in his bath towel.  The towel drops to reveal his naked buttocks in mid-hug.  The girl hugging Myers then grabs his naked buttocks.  Next scene: Myers awkwardly puts the towel back on and apologizes like hell.  But why is no one laughing?  Because first of all, only Rob Schneider can pull that gag off, and second, the girl grabbing Myers's ass ruins the whole scene.  That's sloppy direction.  No wonder Nigel Powers hates the Dutch!

Reckless - Hey, Reckless!  Risky Business called... wants its font back!!!!

Due Date - Okay, a more current example.  Hey, Due Date!  The Social Network called.  Wants its poster back!... damn.  Can't find it.  Never mind.

Guardians of the Galaxy - Just read a thing saying that this is Marvel's latest blockbuster, but that it's not going to be a ... let's say a Joss Whedon-sized blockbuster.  Unfortunately for director and co-writer James Gunn, the TV ads might not get to say "From the maniac who brought you Super and Slither (2006)".  But the super-geeks like me: oh, we'll know!!!

The Man with Two Brains - Classic

Letters to Architectural Digest (9 films remain)

Weird when plots converge like this!  Just as Olive was engrossed in a romance novel, the Stooges are in the male equivalent: a triumphant return to the Woman Haters Club!  Just as Olive swoons when reading about romance, the Stooges derive deep psychological satisfaction out of discussing how they got royally screwed over by a gold digger whilst enjoying a frothy mug of ale in a shabby substitute for a collegiate library reading room.
The boys finally meet their match in a purdy gal named Jane.  Well, you know how these purdy girls are.  it's like Chief Wiggum once asked: why are all the pretty ones crazy?  Something about how all the guys lust after them, and all the girls are jealous.  It's like if you've got a name like Wildstein.  I mean, they didn't hire a guy named Non-Corrupt-Stein or Normal-Stein or Calmstein!  They wanted a Wildstein and they got one, by gum!  But I digress.
And so, this Jane gal finds herself positively up to her eyebrows in Stooges.  She's married to Moe, but she puts an ad in the paper that Larry answers while he's getting his hair done in his own home salon.  LOL.  Now we know how he keeps his locks so curly!  And even though the ad asks for a man 35 years old and handsome, 53-year old homely Larry answers anyway.  This is a Stooge film, after all!
That's the first act.  In the second act, our beloved Jane hooks up with Shemp.  Moe comes back early from his vacation.  "I thought you were separated!" complains Shemp.  "my husband's on vacation1  That's separated, isn't it?" quips Jane.  No it's not, Jane.  No it's not.
This is another one of those films where the Stooges don't know each other... rather, pretend to not know each other.  Well, Lawrence and Shemp become friends, but Moe is now a stranger to them.  But the old Stooge instincts kick in as always, and hitting on each other, well, it's like riding a bicycle for them, and hitting each other with the bicycle horn or the tire pump, what have you.  This one's got more than the average good scenes.  Shemp breaks the fourth wall by asaying to the audience "There's got to be a way to get that ring back without getting in trouble with the censor."  And I like the part where Emil Sitka introduces Moe to Larry and Shemp in the woman haters' club.  Moe's standing there keeping hthe back of his head ot the camera like a mannequin before the big reveal!  Love it.  Then they end up hitting Sitka by mistake.  Wotta victim of circumstance... how to properly misspell that?  Soicumstance?

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

You got me high, You got me low, You make me go go go out of control...

That's right, young people... I'm still down with it!  Actually, I used to be with it.  Then they changed what it was.  Now what I'm with ISN'T IT!  And what is it seems weird and scary to me... it'll happen to youuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu!!!!!!!!!
Always gotta like a Simpsons reference.  Anyway... ah, the Harlequin novel.  See, there used to be these things called bookstores before everything went online.  Most of these stores were filled to the brim with two genres that weren't selling: science fiction books and romance books.  One for the boys, one for the girls.  Boys get the book covers with robots and aliens, and girls get the covers with a photogenic man and woman, usually outdoors, usually scantily clad, usually in the breeze, preferably on a Northeastern cliff with a nice house in the background.  And then, inside the book, are tales.  Tales that flirt with the edge of naughtiness, and fill young peoples' heads with truly impossible notions.  Why, I'm surprised that modern civilized society still tolerates books at all!  We need a king to take the throne and ban all printed material.  No more putting ideas into heads.  Too dangerous.
And so it is with Olive, who we find has gotten sucked into a non-descript Harlequin book titled "Love Stories."  Poor Olive, forced to use the generic brand of Harlequin novel.  No Louis L'Amour for her?  Needless to say, the mindless entertainment has taken hold, and she's flipping through the pages faster than someone who's got one of them fancy readin' abilities, who can absorb whole books in minutes... and yet, something's missing.  Also, Olive eats chocolates in almost the same voracious manner as I do!
And so, Popeye knocks on the door, and Olive says "Come in!" from afar in the living room.  She can't even be bothered to answer her own door, she's so wrapped up in the story.  Soon enough, Popeye, in all his realness, soon finds he just can't compete with the fantasy of Olive's romance book.  Popeye's ebullient mood quickly gets a stake driven into its fragile heart, and Popeye slumps down onto the couch next to Olive, in what is nothing short of one of the Top 5 worst funks I've ever seen him in!  And no Bluto in sight to fight with, either!  But his portrait will suffice; Olive shows Bluto's picture to Popeye and says "Here's my new boyfriend."  I know, I know... apparently, Bluto's some kind of Etch-a-Sketch.  Really, the whole Popeye cartoon enterprise is kind of an Etch-a-Sketch.  With each new short, the reset button is set, and Bluto forgets all about the spinach and the beatings.  Ah, the price of immortality.


Am I really doing this?  Might as well give the Act break like the old days.  Desperate, Popeye fakes illness to get Olive's attention.  Olive buys it hook, line and sinker.  Would it be too non-PC of me to say that Olive's maternal instincts kick in?  Okay, then I'll skip it.  Needles to say, Olive gets so concerned, she breaks the fourth wall and asks the audience... wait for it... "Is there a doctor in the house?"  There's not!  She goes to the phone and summons an ambulance.  As in a previous show, the ambulance men make that "Meep meep meep" sound as they walk.  Which one was that, by the by? ...SPOILER ALERT: Hospitaliky.  Another spoiler: that's not their only scene!  They're also all over the hospital that Popeye gets taken to, as they transfer him from room to room in what for anyone else would be a Kafka-esque nightmare, but Popeye manages to keep his spirits up, safe in the knowledge that he's putting one over on all those smart, bearded doctors.  Where's a good old fashioned death panel when you need one?  Am I right, Tea Party?  I mean, Popeye's committing fraud!  He's engaging in a felony-level act of fraud!  Somehow I feel like I should've made a reference to The Death of Mr. Lazarescu in the banner headline.  I mean, why should I suffer alone?  2.5 hour epic, my ass.
Anyway, Act Two bleeds into Act Three, as Popeye goes to the big room with doors from Bimbo's Initiation.  Olive brings the doctors some spinach to administer to Popeye and, much to my dismay, Popeye doesn't go into a frenzy and pound the crap out of everyone with a beard.  He kinda did that while "unconscious," anyway, turning them into a veritable line of doctor dominoes.  The doctors pronounce Popeye dead, and Olive starts sobbing.  Wait a tic... spinach is now being used like Romeo's death potion?  This may be a first and last!  Anyway, Olive's crying.  Time for Popeye to reveal the truth, with a big something-eating grin on his face.  Needles to say, telling the truth isn't always rewarded, especially if it's about a falsehood that you yourself have perpetrated.  Here's a similar, and perhaps more potent example.  And here's another example that I really need to stop listening to in my car, but I'm too lazy to listen to another tape.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - D. Channsin Berry

Let me tell you something... this guy is DA MAN!!!!!  Sure, he hasn't done a whole lot, but he's one handsome bastid, and he's got two web sites, according to his IMDb profile: a main web site, and a production web site! ..oh, wait.  Seems to be the same web site.  Oh well.  Now if he could just get a little more work outputted to justify a whole web site!  Well, it's early yet in 2014.  Like me, I think things will pick up for Mr. Berry by the end of 2014.  Maybe sooner.

P.S., We Love You

A life cut too short, but we've still got Hoffman's role as Caesar Honeybee in the next two Hunger Games movies... I'm sorry, it's... Plutarch Heavensbee?  What kind of name is that?  The era of Dr. Strangelove is back!  Murkin Muffly!  General Jack D. Ripper!  Plutarch Heavensbee?  Must be Greek or something.
Of course, we'll all remember Philip as Truman Capote in Capote, and to a lesser extent, his playing  way against type in The Big Lebowski.  But Capote's not even in his IMDb Top 4!  For now, that would Be M:I-III, Moneyball, that sex scene from Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, and Lebowski.  I gotta be honest here: I haven't seen, say, The Savages or sat all the way through Synecdoche, New York.  I'm kind of burned out on the whole indie genre right now, not just his.  I wonder how Joel Schumacher feels about all this.  He praised Hoffman for his work in Flawless, and said something about how he'll always get work as a character actor... in a nice way, of course!  Personally, I'll always cherish his Chris Farley impression in Twister, but that's probably just me.
Anyway, back to business.  We've got two debuts this week at the box office.  First up: it's that awkward Hollywood film after a fresh new star like Miles Teller kicks complete ass in an indie film, and it's appropriately called That Awkward Moment.  Ah, my fellow nerds.  Why don't girls find us attractive?  Is it the high whiny voice?  Is it the short limp penis?  What is it about that combination that's so very unappealing?  What plan does God have in store for us?  Are we all just the genetic defectives doomed to be cast aside by Darwin's perpetual "survival of the fittest" machine?  Or are we the veritable Mystics destined to bond with the jock Skeksis at some rather specific place and time in the future?  If only Earth had two more moons.  So many questions... Anyway, the other debut this week is Labor Day, the Nicholas Sparks-ish story of... whatever.  Redemption, I guess.  Here's my problem: the casting.  Titanic Girl and Brolin Boy?  Really?  These are the two vessels through which we as a society have decided to express our need for love?  Well, it's a little better than, say, Ben Stiller and Kristen Wiig.  Let's just say we look at Labor Day and see who we'd like to be, and we look at the Walter Mitty remake and see more like what we actually are.  Ah, Valentine's Day.  The holiday you love to hate.  More romantic than Labor Day, anyhow.  Incidentally, what does Labor Day have to do with Labor Day, if anything?  And for all you stand-up comedians out there who still don't understand the apparent paradox of Labor Day being a day off from work... it's because our job sucks.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Passion of the Kirk

Somehow, I don't feel worthy to watch the 2009 Star Trek reboot.  I don't know why, exactly.  Must be the extremely expensive-looking special effects.  And since J. J. Abrams is involved, I'm assuming the script is very, very faithful to the original TV show.  Which is probably not as hard as it could have been, since there were only three seasons of it.  Maybe it's all the young, photogenic people in the cast that alienates me from this film... no pun intended.  But no matter how expensive these things get, you can always count on the good old-fashioned bar fight.  I think there's at least one.  The first, of course, is the important one.  Young Captain Kirk practically becomes a member of Project Mayhem on that one!  He gets the crap beat out of him, and his face all cluttered up with fake bruises.  It is then he gets the invite from Bruce Greenwood to follow in his father's footsteps, much like Flounder following in his older brother's footsteps in Animal House.  I'm reminded of the story arc of Starship Troopers 1 for some reason, except that Johnny Rico wanted to join up against his father's wishes.  A slightly different cast of characters here.
We sat in eerie silence this evening while watching the Blu-Ray, but the time travel element snapped my viewing companion out of the spell.  I told him that in Timecop, we learn that you can't touch your other self from an alternate timeline, or you both end up getting destroyed in an ugly disappearing flesh amalgam.  They stayed true to that, oddly enough!  I think we're overdue for the sequel.  My viewing companion did want to see it; me myself, I've got other fish to fry.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Six foot Two and Shirtless as Hell, I gotta get him in the boat before he starts to smell... My name is Mud

Greetings from my mother's basement.  I have actually seen some films lately, so it's probably time to talk about that.  First up: Matthew McConaughey's latest, Mud.  Now, it's probably no Killer Joe, and it's a step up from The Lincoln Lawyer, no question.  Somewhere in that classic-ish area, but auteur extraordinaire Jeff Nichols needn't worry.  He's got the four films under his belt... and, why look!  They all made it into his IMDb Top 4!  He should quit while he's on top, because that fifth film's going to knock one out of his top 4.  Something tells me that Shotgun Stories is going to take the fall.
Anyway, the cinematography's great, as it doesn't look like crappy digital video.  Maybe it's digital video 2.0.  And the locations are all right, just down the street from where Beasts of the Southern Wild was filmed.  Still... the spell gets broken for me by a couple things.  First off, I know McConaughey's possessed by magic of some kind, but when he makes his first appearance, he must've snuck up awful darn quick or something!  How come I can never pull off a sleight of whole self like that?  And don't even get me started on the footprints that lead to nowhere.  The comparisons to Jesus are ripe for the making.
Second... SPOILER ALERT.  On an island just off of what I'm assuming is the Mississippi Delta, there's a boat in a tree.  A boat big enough to live somewhat comfortably in.  And it's got cans of Beanee Weenee in it.  I couldn't help but be reminded of Martin Sheen's 1990 silver screen directorial debut called Cadence.  Apparently, directing his son was such an unpleasant experience, he swore off ever directing again.  But in the movie itself, Charlie sees his goal... I forget what it is.  Probably escape from the army stockade.  But Charlie sets his sights on that goal early, and his obsession occupies the rest of the movie, like a stick of dynamite with a 90-minute-long wick on it.  So too with 1998's Small Soldiers.  SPOILER ALERT: the Gorgonites set their sights on the toy ship in the toy store, and by the end of the movie, they're sailing away to freedom on it... or they're about to get sucked into a sewage drain, one or the other.  And so it is with Mud.  The quest for the boat will occupy the whole rest of the movie.  Apparently, in this day and age, no one is looking for the boat, and the boat has no licenses to speak of.  Not quite like the plane in A Simple Plan.
The film also stars Ray McKinnon as the embattled, embittered father who doesn't want to give up his crap shack on the river.  If you're like me, you remember him best as Vernon T. Waldrip in O Brother.  Why, I'll bet you anything it's in his IMDb Top 4!
Also, there's a big shootout at the end, on the very same crap shack I spoke of earlier.  I'll commend the direction of that, as I thought I was watching an episode of Person of Interest.  It was just that intense!  A tad improbable, but still intense.
And that's about all I have to say about that... except that die-hard McConaughey fans will especially appreciate his "protected" shirt.  SPOILER ALERT: the shirt eventually does come off.  Alas, he's not as in shape as he could've been.  But give the guy a break!  He's 44 years old already!  Time for some flab to set in.
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Fickle Barrel of Fate (10 films remain)

What a sad state of affairs.  Now I'm back to plucking screenshots off YouTube.  Still, God bless Darius69789!  May Sony keep you in business forever and a day.  Anyway, tis another bloody remake, and both the IMDb and Wikipedia swear it's just Shivering Sherlocks they've recycled footage from.  Somehow it feels like another film's involved here.  Anyway, I hate to be cynical at a time like this, but if a Stooge is holding a milk bottle, and a (comical) shooting spree breaks out... well, it's basic screenwriting arithmetic, ain't it?
And so, after a run in with the lie detector from Hades, the Stooges get back to the business of running the Elite Café.  Larry tries talking customers out of what they order (that's his gag, apparently), and Shemp steals Curly's exploding hotplate gag!  The bastid.  How does he do it?
The two endings are slightly different.  At the end of Shivering Sherlocks, Shemp accidentally drops a barrel full of flour onto Larry and Moe.  And since there's only a few seconds left, and Shemp's well out of reach, Moe is forced to slap the flour off Larry.  Revenge deferred is revenge denied!  At the end of our instant case, Shemp kisses up Christine McIntyre as though he's back in Cuckoo on a Choo-Choo with an electric razor down his back.  Alas, tis the last fresh footage of McIntyre.  Off to real estate you go!

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Next Popeye: hoh boy....

As with I Yam What I Yam, this next Popeye cartoon's about Native Americans.  Yup.  And as you probably guessed, it's a bit less than flattering at best and outright racist at worst, so I should probably skip over this one entirely.
On the other hand... circumstances thrust Olive Oyl into the spotlight.  As it happens, Big Chief Ugh-Amugh-Ugh's tribe apparently is just a sausage fest.  They need a "princess"... are there princesses in the Native American culture?  I mean, besides Irene Bedard.  As it turns out... Olive likes the way she's treated!  She is lavished with gifts and given her own headband.  But her trip to the honeymoon teepee is cut short by Popeye, who instead must prove himself to be as manly as the rest of the Indians.  With the help of his spinach, Popeye puts his own spinach-induced spin on their feats of strength, and hits the Chief hard enough to earn his respect without killing him.
Alas, it's the last cartoon with the great Gus Wickie as the voice of Bluto, or in this instance, the Bluto-type.  The improvisation won't ever quite be the same.  So while I can't speak to the racial overtones and undertones of these cartoons like an intellectual, they're at least more respectful than some of those Warner Bros. cartoons where Porky Pig fights Indians!  At the very least, Popeye likes the headbands.  In his world, those are worth winning.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - Teco Benson

Well, you gotta hand it to this guy: prolific as f... I mean, he keeps busy.  One complaint, as usual: he's directed the whole Explosion trilogy, that I understand, but check out the titles.  The first installment's called Explosion: Now or Never.  The second one's called Explosion 2: Now or Never.  The THIRD one's called Explosion 3: Now or Never.  If they do make a fourth one, I think it should be called Explosion 4: Now or... Wait Just a Little While Longer.  Alas, Teco's slowing down a bit since his 2004-2006 period of high output.  Apparently Nigeria's got the old studio system, where a director could make five films a year!  Contract players!  24-7 shooting schedules!  What's not to like?

I, Box Office

Let me ask you a question.  The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is already gone after two weeks in the Top 10.  Doesn't anybody dream anymore?  Doesn't anybody want to achieve greatness AND get the girl anymore?  The cover of Life magazine?  Being part of the iconosphere?  Doesn't anyone even attempt a spectacular fail or two?  Where's the next Chevy Chase?  Where's the next... I CAN'T REMEMBER THE NAME!!!!!  That woman whose son wrote one big book, then he died and she spent the rest of her life trying to convince everyone in the iconosphere that, damn it, she belonged there too!  All the non-luminescent old fogies already in the iconosphere just couldn't handle her blazing awesomeness.
Anyway, the only debut this week is something called I, Frankenstein.  Debuting at #6, what I can only assume are far, far below the filmmakers' expectations.  Oh well.  Director Stuart Beattie will work again.  This is his punishment for Pirates of the Caribbean 3, am I right?
...A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES!!!!  tHAT'S IT!!!  Sorry to shout.  That's the guy whose mother just wanted to be the next Dorothy Parker, trading quips with ... whoever.  The modern equivalent of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway.  None of that Salvador Dali crap.  Too weird.  Or any of that Henry Miller crap.  Too profane and sacriligious.  Sacrilegious?  God bless you, auto-spell check!  May the nerd(s) who created you make America's next billion dollars.  No, it's smooth sailing in show business now, with everyone being someone's kid.  A confederacy of nepotists.  Emily Osment!  Emma Roberts!  Jake Kasdan!  Gwyneth Paltrow!  Ireland Basinger Baldwin!!  None of these people are going to make any unnecessary waves.  They've got too much at stake as it is.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Million Dollar Shempie (11 films remain)

My Volume Seven finally ran out!  And I thought it would last forever... whew.  Saved by the innertubes.  According to this... and I'm assuming this is a reliable source... our next Stooge short is called Fling in the Ring.  Sounds like a remake of Fright Night, if you ask me... and it is!  We start with some exposition about the bad guys, unlike with Fright Night, but right after that, we get right into the Fright Night action, starting with the battle royale of Stooges vs. Oscar the Dummy.  Alas, this epic struggle is cut short, due to time constraints.  But Shemp's training fight with Chopper is altered slightly, and Larry places a bet on Chopper during this sequence, unlike Fright Night.
After the Stooges find out that "upper management" wants Chopper to take a dive, Chopper's training changes to the Tarnauer Diet.  And they left in my favorite part!  "If I only had some coffee," says Shemp with a face full of pie.  Next scene: the "Majestic Fight Arena."  Perhaps you've heard of it?  Me neither.  Only in a Stooge film.  This thing has more plot twists than a Coen brothers pretzel!  I mean, movie!  As with Fright Night, Chopper's mad because Kitty dumped him for the other fighter.  In the midst of Chopper's alpha rage, the Stooges forget to tell him that he's supposed to take a dive.  Shemp offers Chopper a cream puff, but it ends up on Shemp's face.  SPOILER ALERT: the cream puff from Shemp's face soon ends up on the opponent's face: "Gorilla" Watson.  Now, "Gorilla" is about as mad as "The Chopper."  Watson tries to punch one of the Stooges, but hits the brick wall of the Magestic Fight Arena instead.  The fight has to be cancelled!  See what I mean?  Plot twist upon plot twist.  Screenwriters take note.  Boy, would the Stooges like to see the look on the mob boss's face when they hear the fight was cancelled!  You'll never guess what happens next.  They had to re-shoot that part to account for the new bad guys.
But before we get to the thrilling warehouse chase, there's a brief homage to Loose Loot, where the arch bad guy's head gets stuck in the warehouse door!  Moe goes to work on the bad guy's head with some paint, and by pulling out some of the guy's hairs.  Dayamn!  Who's the gangster now?  And then... the chase is on, with slightly sped-up audio.  They all sound like chipmunks now.  And then... ah, it's the guy who turns and looks, Cy Schindell.  I miss that hammy bastid.  They leave in his big part where Moe turns him into a ventriloquist's dummy.  Say!  Isn't that Terry Hargan?  It is!  But he doesn't get credit for this one!  Only for Fright Night!  You cut me deep, IMDb.  You cut me deep.
But I digress.  To cut to another chase, as with Shemp being volunteered to fight Chopper, the gangsters volunteer Shemp as a battering ram to knock down a giant metal-looking door, behind which are the other two Stooges.  Shemp's got one shot to save his buddies.  With the help of some moth balls and an axe, Shemp saves his fellow Stooges from a deadly fate.  He's practically MacGruber!  And as with Fright Night, Shemp's out for blood when he uses the blade side of the axe on the bad guys' skulls.  After the excitement dies down, the ending of Fling in the Ring diverges slightly, and is less morbid than Fright Night.  Shemp knocks himself out with his own axe... don't ask how... I guess he thought he was graduating from lumberjack school or something... and his fellow Stooges try to revive him.  Moe splashes the bad guys with water instead of Shemp, so Moe and Larry end up trying to drag Shemp away.  They rip Shemp's clothes off instead.  "He's getting light!" observes Moe before realizing what has happened.  Oh!  Almost forgot.  Another Stooge first: Moe gets his fingers hurt, and he actually explicitly states that he's broken his, and I quote, "eye-poking fingers."  Larry laughs at this, which leads Moe to figuratively "scoop" up his eye-poking fingers by positioning his arm so that his hand's pointing upward, and from there he's able to make the poking gesture from his apparently damaged fingers.  A move he's done before.  I think it's a yoga thing as well!  For this gained self-awareness, you get three and a half stars instead of just three.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Mr. Popeye Builds Olive's Nightmare House

This one could very well begin where The Two-Alarm Fire ended.  Alas, Bluto seems to be out of the picture, as Popeye heads to the scene of the fire with his trusty sidekick Wimpy.  And by trusty, I mean that you can trust Wimpy to do nothing but eat hamburgers.  If J. J. Abrams ever makes a Popeye movie, he'll have Wimpy save the day with a plot that involves saving the world through consumption of beef.  You can bank on it.
Anyway, here's a bargain that no fireman in their right minds today would ever agree to: since Popeye got to Olive's fire, or "house warming" as he jokingly calls it, a bit too late, finding Olive and all her pets on the front porch sobbing their eyes out, Popeye agrees to build Olive a new house.  Arguably, Popeye probably doesn't do that for all his customers.  And so, a good setting for a great comedy is bourne: you can never go wrong with a construction site when it comes to gags, can you?  You know, like when Steven Seagal pushes that one guy's shoulder into a band saw blade in Under Siege.  Frickin' high-larious.
And so, the spiral wipe is born, as you can see from the image.  Bet that was a pain to do for the aminators!  Anyway, various gags abound as Popeye, Olive and Wimpy try to put the house back together again.  For the most part, Wimpy acts as the agent of chaos, but his heart is sort of in the right place, as clogged as it is with beef fat.  And I'm pleasantly surprised!  He manages to hit nails with a hammer without eating a burger simultaneously!
To cut to the chase, suffering the same fate as Ned Flanders' rebuilt house after Hurricane Barbara, Olive's house ultimately crumbles to the ground.  On the plus side, the roof goes first.  Maybe I wasn't in the right mood for this one, but I had a sneaking suspicion that Popeye was going to eat his spinach and rebuild the whole house by himself.  Alas, Mother Nature herself functions as the proverbial Bluto in this particular outing.  What I didn't quite see coming... SPOILER ALERT... was the house that spinach built also falling apart.  Olive is once again reduced to tears, and Wimpy starts up his favourite hobby right then and there.  Well, burgers do taste better with a little sawdust and asbestos on the side!  Even Bourdain knows that.  In Popeye's ending song, he vows to keep trying.  Again, maybe I just wasn't in the mood for this one, but I thought that that was the whole point of Popeye's spinach-induced frenzies!  He makes things better.  This is why we need Bluto back.  Popeye's mending skills involve kicking Bluto's ass.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - Alphonse Beni

I don't get it!  This Alphonse guy stars in a bunch of pictures he directed, and yet the IMDb has no photo of him!

bo 1-19-...14!!!

Hah!  Got the year right this time.  Well, the non-stop ad campaign worked and the new Jack Ryan movie debuts at... #4?!!!  Oh, this is not right.  Not right at all.  So much wasted treasure, so many wasted lives.  On the bright side, Ride Along was #1!  If only Kevin Hart's concert films were as profitable.  What's he thinking?

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Last Stooge of Scotland

Aye, 'tis another bloody remake.  But Columbia and the Stooges always try to add some fresh footage to the old gal, so to speak.  They're still detectives on the case, but this time they graduate from a detective school rather than just being atypical detective groupies.  And even though they graduated last in their class, the detective school is still dedicated to finding them jobs, no matter where.  Imagine that level of dedication today by any organization!  People expect computers to do everything, I guess.  The physical people themselves be damned.
Personally, I was a bit disappointed that they cut McIntyre's "Hello!" from The Hot Scots out of Scotched in Scotland, but I guess that's what the original is for.  Somehow the original is richer by far, but all the high points are included: Larry in bed screams and covers himself with sheets, the big ending where the four dudes crash through the window, what have you.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

My Fair Popeye

Alas, we're close to the passing of Gus Wickie as the voice of Bluto.  Casting stability will return during the Famous Studio years... but I'm just going to ignore those.  Besides, we've got two more volumes of Fleischer Popeye toons to do!  Anyway, Olive once again finds herself longing for something more, and when she and Popeye pass by Professor Bluteau's School of Etiquette, she wants Popeye to enroll rather immediately.
Olive quickly takes a liking to this Professor Bluteau, and Popeye does what he can to keep up with the lessons.  Alas, Popeye is such a country-fed rube.  Touching at times, but not in the hallowed halls of an institution of higher learning.  Unfortunately, Olive learns some lessons herself about gentlemen when they don't get their way.  It's all right there in GQ magazine.  You just gotta read between the lines!  As usual, Popeye has to save the day before Prof. Bluteau totally wrings out Olive's neck.  He invites Bluteau to step in the other room before the ass-kicking takes place.  The film's first act is ultimately probably my favourite part, as it features a patented Fleischer 3D background of Bluteau's offices.  Also, we see Bluteau eating a banana much like Homer Simpson might.  A banana might be far too healthy for Homer's tastes, however.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - Jean-Pierre Bekolo

He was nominated for a British Film Institute award in 1993.. ooh!  As those of us in the know say, a Beefie!  That's a big deal.  Long term, however, this guy falls between Jim Jarmusch and Terrence Malick in terms of total output... okay, probably a bad example.  Still, five films in twenty years?  He must live very well in the meantime!

bo 1-12-13

Look at that!  I'm still writing these as 2013.  Silly me.  At least I'm doing the checks right.  Anyway, it's Marky Mark's triumphant return to the top of the box office where he belongs.  Does it really matter what the movie's about?  Exactly.  The ads say that it's the best war movie since Saving Private Ryan.  That must be to make the director feel good.  All Marky Mark cares is that it's at #1.  He would've done The Legend of Hercules but he's got nothing to prove yet.  In 2021 when he turns 50, he'll be ready to get ripped to work with Zack Snyder.  At #7 it's August: Osage County.  What, is Dermot Mulroney chopped liver?
Meanwhile, the latest installment of Paranormal Activity drops from #2 to #9.  Good Lord!  And Frozen just crossed the 300 million dollar mark.  I guess the PA folks should of waited until Valentine's Day.  That seems to be the new go-to date to release horror movies for some reason.  Maybe it's always been that way, for all I know.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

The W.C. Fields Code

Well, it just had to happen, didn't it?  I don't know when it came out, but we just got the 10 movie collection of W.C. Fields' movies.  Now, I hate to pit comedians against each other, but here goes.  Say what you will about the Marx brothers; at least W. C. Fields tweaked his formula a little bit now and again.  In You Can't Cheat an Honest Man and The Old Fashioned Way, Fields doesn't end up suddenly making a ton of money as in The Bank Dick and It's a Gift.  And Man on the Flying Trapeze contains one of the testiest run-ins with the cops that I've ever seen.  Life lesson: if a cop pulls you over, make sure you park in a legal parking spot!!!  I'll probably never get to see My Little Chickadee, which might be for the best.  Poor Mae West; she probably should've stood by her material a little harder or something.
So while we wait for Dennis Quaid to put on heavy latex makeup to play W.C. Fields, the originals will just have to do.


As we say in our little clan, It's a Gift is W.C. Fields' best movie... or is it?  Maybe it's just that it's about family, or that it's the most normal family he's a part of.  But it's a love letter to the American Dream, no question.  Fields doesn't do any juggling here, but he does walk a tightrope between the harsh now of operating a corner grocery store and the golden future of California oranges.  My favorite part is probably still the coconut that almost steals the whole show.  I also still like when Fields says "YOU TOLD HIM YOU WOULDN'T DO IT IF YOU WAS HIM!"  Poor guy just can't win.  I wonder if this one was his favorite.  Hard to say, as he probably preferred his bit in David Copperfield.  Fields seems to fancy himself a product of Dickens' heyday, and he got a chance to relive the world of his childhood in such period pieces as The Old Fashioned Way and Poppy.



I hadn't seen this one in a while, so when I recently rewatched it again, I immediately glommed onto the scene where he's in Snoopington's ... Snoopington!  Good Lourdes... hotel room, and he taps a cane four times.  Fields was no dummy, and he knew that in these talkies, you just gotta have the funny sound effects.  Just gotta.  Any and all chances you get.  Also, I'm apparently like Fields, and I tend not to pay much attention to what the other characters say, because I finally picked up on what the bank president said!  He goes something like "We want a special officer of the bank, or in the underworld slang, a 'bank dick'".  See?  Fields was a man of the people after all!
Here he plays a family man much like the patriarch of It's a Gift but without a steady job to speak of.  But he does know the importance of keeping a regular schedule, and he spends his 9 to 5 mostly at a place called... hoh boy... the Black Pussy Cat Cafe, run by Shemp Howard, no less!  And even though Fields' penchant for characters with comedy names is probably at its wildest here, he nevertheless takes a big swipe at Hollywood and the drunken British directors who thrive in it.  Part of his big financial reward at the end comes from a Hollywood producer, and part from the bounty on a bank robber's head.  As I've been saying more and more lately, God bless the criminals and the big bounties upon their heads!  Well, somebody's got to keep this unstable economy of ours afloat!



Fields did what he could to make his films as naughty as possible, and Hollywood clamped down on him hard for it.  Meanwhile, that Edgar Bergen's just downright nasty!  Where was the Hays Code on his ass?  Vomiting puppets!  Puppets hocking loogies!  Also, he's trying to marry a girl 17 years his junior!  She just turned 18, for God's sake!  Ah, celebrities.  But it is indeed worth it as a foil for Fields, who says to Charlie McCarthy (one of Bergen's puppets) "I'll send over a couple of beavers to you!"
And so, the Fields formula's tweaked a bit.  As in The Old Fashioned Way, Fields lords over a showbiz enterprise that's doing everything it can to stay one step ahead of the police.  This time, it's a circus in hock.  And you can't help but notice that Fields is awfully jumpy.  The first... second scene takes advantage of that right away, as he tries to sell tickets amid interruption after rude interruption.
Fields' family situation is also a little different this go round.  He has two kids: a boy and a girl, and they're both college age.  Their dear old mother has passed on, as W.C. mentions more than once.  Well, I guess he needed a break this time.  The boy's trying to pressure the girl to marry the rich doofus she's been going with, but she doesn't love him.  Meanwhile, Bergen is trying to be her suitor!  Fields sure ain't too happy about that, and doesn't particularly want Bergen as a son-in-law.  I don't understand why; he could eventually be his own grandpa!
Also, Eddie "Rochester" Anderson works at W.C.'s circus... Rochester!  But... what about Jack Benny?  Great film.  Spoiler alert: love triumphs in the end, W.C.'s still on the run from the cops... but on the bright side, Bergen has yet to become W.C.'s son-in-law!  There's one part where Fields gets spritzed with water from an elephant that I particularly liked... you can probably guess which one.



Meh.  However, Fields regular Jan Duggan steals the show as Cleopatra Pepperday.  I think the screenwriters are toying with us, because they keep saying she's the richest woman in town!  So naturally, you'd expect Fields to sweep her off her feet to bail out his failing stock company on the verge of insurrection.  Anti-fans of Fields may be pleased at this film's ending.  Spoiler alert: he doesn't end up on Easy Street with Pepperday!  The film ends with him selling bottles of tonic that cure hoarseness.  I hate to say it's where he deserves to land, because for him it's probably a short hop, skip and jump to the Senate.  Oh, and he kicks Baby LeRoy in the ass, but it's okay because no one was looking.  Just the camera!

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Stooge sans frontières (13 films remain)

Actually half decent Stooge Western short.  From its official IMDb page, apparently the iconic, game-changing Western called High Noon served as the inspiration.  And since Lionel Chetwynd's not here, someone else has to say that now it's TWO films that Stanley Kramer almost TOTALLY RUINED!!!  Nice going, Kramer!  Shot in the Frontier is also one of the last Shemp shorts with all new footage.  It's not that they weren't dedicated to their jobs or anything.  No, it's that Columbia cut their budgets, so make do with old footage they would!  Kinda surprising that they manage to do a whole Western short with no stock footage!
"Hold hands, you lovebirds!" are almost the words uttered by Justice of the Peace Emil Sitka as he officiates at the Stooges' Reverend Moon-esque wedding.  Alas, there's only one wedding ring for the three couples.  As usual, their brides are old enough to be their granddaughters.  However, in the Old West, the sanctity of marriage was apparently second to bravery in a gunfight, and when the Stooges' new brides find out that the Stooges are kinda yellow, they split!  The ink not even dry on their marriage licenses, for Gawd'z zake!  Dames is fickle, I tells ya.
And so, the Stooges find the cojones to face off with the three Noonan brothers.  ...get it?  High Noon?  Noonan?  I didn't at first, either.  I guess it's like the Beatles' name: you laugh at first at the pun, and then get annoyed.  Icon overload, I guess.  Say what you will, those dastardly Noonan boys cut dashing figures in their matching all-black suits.  I wonder if they're... never mind.
Now maybe I was in a good mood when I saw this one, but there's a lot of good gags here.  I particularly enjoyed the gallows humor of the tombstone place where the Stooges hide.  Now, maybe it's just me, but there's one tombstone with two serrated pieces on it.  One gets shot off by the bad guy, on its right side.  The left side stays intact.  I thought for sure they'd both get shot off, and one of the Stooges would wear it as though it were a jersey / jerzee.  I must be reading too much into it.  Another interesting gag, probably unique: Larry's loading a shotgun, and doesn't watch what he's doing, of course.  He ends up stuffing the shotgun with hot dogs.  You might be surprised at the effect this has!
And so, it comes down to Moe vs. one Noonan brother.  They get in a wrestling match and start rolling around on the dusty, dusty ground.  Looks kinda... anyway, this leads to the ol' switcheroo where Larry or Shemp tries to hit the bad guy on the head, but ends up hitting Moe instead.  Oh, and there's an old songbird playing a guitar throughout the pic.  Kinda reminds me of the Mariachi owls in Rango.  Another fine Shemp cocktail!

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Popeye New Year!

Damn, but do I have great timing!  This kind of thing is about all it's been good for up til now, however.  This week's Popeye cartoon is called Let's Celebrake, and it's about a New Year's celebration in the land of the Thimble Theatre.  Not often do Bluto and Popeye keep their fighting civil, but New Year's is one time when even they can let bygones be bygones.  They go to pick up Olive to go out a'celebratin', and they're going by horse-drawn carriage!  Terribly fancy, in an old-fashioned sorta way.  No horseless carriages on this night, especially with the snow and all.  They gave the 3D turntable a rest that week and went for the endless loop of houses instead, half taking the easy way out.
Grandma answers the door for the two strapping young lads and goes back to her knitting.  Olive runs down the stairs and almost slips and falls on the strip of carpet in the living area.  I guess Disney didn't sue to have the whistle sound effect of that removed; they've made cases out of less against the Fleischers.  Brutus!  SHEESH!
Anyhow, just before our three favorite movie stars of all time go out to celebrate New Year's, Popeye takes a stand.  "I can't stand to see your Grandma sit home alone on New Year's Eve!" he sez.  Yeah, we used to go out and do stuff in Tacoma on New Year's Eve, but that was near the approach of the new millennium, and we used to feel like going out and doing stuff like that.  Alas, but Tacoma's going to be the next Detroit at this rate.  As someone on the YouTube pointed out, Popeye's gesture was sweet and heart-breaking, and kinda makes you want to do more charitable acts.  Still, there's always room for improvement, isn't there?  I submit into evidence Exhibit A: the big dance contest.  Popeye invites Grandma to dance, but she's kinda slow, you see.  Olive and Bluto are already dancing, and there's a nice moment when Olive asks Bluto why he didn't invite Grandma to dance.  Bluto weasels his way out of that one quite nicely, of course.  It's what he does!  And then... the big announcement.  Wimpy says that there's going to be a dance contest, with a prize and everything.  Not quite like in They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, but still.  And there's a cup and everything!  And for once, Wimpy's not stuffing his fat face with hamburgers!  That may be the one and only, folks.
There's a double twist this time on the spinach!  Popeye gets a can not from his shirt, but from a waiter's tray, and he doesn't eat any himself, but feeds it to Grandma.  Can you even doubt they'll win the dance contest?  ...oh, wait, Popeye ate the other half of the can himself.  I missed that the first time I saw this.  It would've been funnier if Grandma tired out Popeye, but I guess that's just me.  Wimpy hands the cup to Popeye and Grandma... and he's STILL not stuffing his face with the demon beef!  Where is Wimpy and who's the evil fiend that took his place?
And so, let me end this review by saying, Happy New Year, and let's all resolve to eat more spinach!  And maybe win more dance contests, I guess.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Auteur Watch - Angela Bassett

Wait... who?  Angela Bassett?  One of the most gorgeous women ever, and she wants to direct?  Well, it's understandable.  After doing two films with John Sayles, just about anyone would think to themselves, "Geez.  If that bozo can do it..."  Well, she's just got the one film so far in pre-production called Book of the Year.  The plot: a guy writes a book that becomes a success, and he doesn't know how to deal with said success.  Oh, please.  A film about books?  Who's got time to read anymore?  Kinda reminds me of the tall crook from Home Alone 1 and 2 who directed a movie called Rookie of the Year.  It was a humbling way for Daniel Stern to deal with the success of the first two Home Alone movies.  Poor guy; he only directed television after that.  But here's hoping Angela has a long and successful directing career... just as long as she doesn't stay behind the camera too long!!

Update: Book of the Year is apparently gone, and has morphed into a TV movie about Whitney Houston called Whitney.  Welp, I just hope it's not completely like Ray or Jersey Boys, but it probably should try to be.  She did have a hell of a lot of #1's!  Sure, maybe I'm just saying that to dig a thorn into the side of my Beatles friends, but I sort of grew up with her music.  It's a shame how her life turned out.

I'm very disappointed in you, IMDb!!!

And I'm still writing 2013 on my checks!  Can you believe that?
Well, here it is, Sunday, 2pm, and the IMDb top 10 is still from last week!!  What's going on over there, anyway?  Don't make me go to!  I'm not hip enough for that!

(9:58pm) Okay, the official results are finally in, probably a little bit earlier.  Apparently, Variety tallies the whole week or sumpthing.  They had all the top movies making, like, 50 million and such!  The only debuts this week are the latest installment of the Paranormal Activity franchise... seems like only yesterday when The Blair Witch Project fever was sweeping an entertainment-starved nation.  Now we're full to bursting with entertainment, and no Blair Witches to be found for miles!  Variety, anybody?  The other debut this week, opening January 17th (..I'm sorry, that's Ride Along... THEY'RE ALREADY WORKING ON A SEQUEL!!!!), is Grudge Match, the latest entry in the new Stallone-fueled Grumpy Old Men series.  Screw Jack Lemmon and Walter Matuschanskayasky!  They weren't buff!  Roided-up Stallone and De Niro, now that's where it's at!  It's not your grandfather's grandfathers anymore, my friends!  70 is the new 30.  But as with Jason Statham and The Expendables, the old guys understand that they need a young guy to pull in the young audience.  That guy is comedian Kevin Hart.  He's already had one concert movie / documentary come and go, and he's busier than a one-legged man at an ass kicking contest.  Now, maybe I'm through the looking glass here, but what the hell happened to Bill Bellamy?  Wasn't he the hot young thing once?  Didn't MTV love him?  Don't the ladies look at him and think to themselves, "Now THAT's something I can work with!"  Does Kevin Hart have that effect?  What's his secret?  So many questions... Is Sy Ableman me?  Or are we all one or something?  What is Hashem trying to tell me?